BEIRUT – The United Nations Security Council on Saturday authorized a full monitoring mission of up to 300 observers in Syria as the advance team visited the battered central city of Homs for the first time.
Opposition activists said the bombardment of Homs, which has been shelled almost continuously for nearly three months, stopped before the monitors toured one of the hardest-hit neighborhoods, Khaldiyeh. State media reported that the team also toured the city’s devastated opposition stronghold of Baba Amr, but activists could not confirm the visit.
In addition to approving the monitoring mission, the Security Council also called for the urgent and immediate implementation of the peace plan to end 13 months of violence in Syria.
But the unrest shows no sign of ending: The cease-fire that the 300 unarmed observers will supervise has been broken repeatedly by the government of President Bashar Assad, with reports of rebel violence as well.
A week ago, the Security Council approved an advance team of up to 30 monitors, but only seven have arrived in Syria. On their visit to Homs on Saturday, online videos showed the monitors surrounded by residents and touring crumbled buildings.
The monitors were scheduled to travel to Homs’ old city, which in recent weeks has been a shelling target, but never made it. Abu Jabir, an activist in the old city, said he wasn’t sure why the team didn’t visit the neighborhood but that it might have been an issue of time.
Another Homs activist, Abu Fares, said opposition activists offered homes to stay in so the monitors wouldn’t have to return to the capital, Damascus, each night. The government, he charged, wants the monitors to visit the areas quickly so it can resume its operations.
The full U.N. mission was authorized for an initial 90-day period, but there were questions of when the observers would be deployed given the continued violence. On Wednesday, the monitors came under fire along with protesters as they visited a suburb of Damascus.
The resolution authorizes U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to deploy the additional monitors based on the situation in the country, “including the consolidation of the cessation of violence.”