June 20, 2018
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6 U.N. observers arrive in Syria

By Los Angeles Times, Staff

BEIRUT — Six U.N. observers arrived in the capital of Syria on Sunday night to begin monitoring a cease-fire even as violence continued in parts of the country, further fraying the peace plan.

“They’ve arrived and they will start work tomorrow morning,” Kieran Dwyer, a spokesman for the U.N. peacekeeping department, told Agence France-Presse news agency.

The monitors are part of an advance team whose task is to ensure the implementation of a six-point peace plan designed to end fighting and a brutal government crackdown in Syria’s 13-month uprising.

“Within the next few days, they will be augmented by up to 25 to 30 as soon as possible from missions in the region,” said Ahmad Fawzi, spokesman for U.N. special envoy Kofi Annan, who negotiated the peace plan.

The six monitors will meet with Syrian authorities Monday morning to reach agreement on areas the team will visit, Fawzi said. “They will try to leave Damascus to other governorates as soon as possible,” he said.

The monitors are arriving ahead of a larger group, possibly as many as 250 observers, that could be authorized by Wednesday.

But since Thursday, when the cease-fire was supposed to have begun, there have been questions about the Syrian government’s commitment to the plan. Activists have reported instances of security forces firing on protesters, and troops and tanks are still stationed in cities and towns in violation of the truce. Shelling resumed on the battered city of Homs on Saturday and continued Sunday.

There were also reports Sunday of an explosion at a police station in the town of Al Bab in Aleppo province, followed by clashes between rebel fighters and government forces. But there were conflicting versions of what happened and which side may have attacked first.

At least 25 people were killed in Syria on Sunday as raids and shooting at demonstrations continued, with 12 of the deaths occurring in Homs, the antigovernment Local Coordination Committees said.

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