UN frets over ‘sitting duck’ monitors in Syria
Friday, June 8, 2012
The UN Supervision Mission in Syria (UNSMIS) is caught between hostile troops accused of firing at its patrols and increasingly bitter Syrians who cannot understand why it has not halted the bloodshed, officials said.
Susan Rice, US ambassador to the United Nations, likened the monitors to “300 sitting ducks in a shooting gallery, one IED from a disaster,” at a recent UN Security Council meeting.
An Iraq-style Improvised Explosive Device, or roadside bomb, exploded in front of a convoy of UN ceasefire monitors last month, without wounding anyone.
On Thursday, shots were fired at another UN patrol as it tried to get to Al-Kubeir, a village near Homs, where a fresh massacre reportedly left dozens dead. No monitors were wounded, and they planned to try to return on Friday.
The Security Council has ordered a review of the mission to be ready before its 90 day mandate ends on July 20.
According to diplomats and UN officials, options being studied range from sending more observers with armed protection to a complete withdrawal if UNSMIS suffers casualties. All stressed that no decision has yet been taken.
UN chief Ban Ki-moon and UN-Arab League envoy Kofi Annan say government-inspired violence has been reduced in areas where monitors are present.
But neither wants to increase the force because of the threat to lives, diplomats said.
Ban highlighted the regular attacks and near-misses that the observers have endured at a Security Council meeting on Thursday. AFP