UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has said there has been a "dangerous intensification" of armed violence across Syria. He demanded UN access to the bombarded town of al-Heffah as the US voiced fears of a new massacre.
In a statement released by Ban Ki-moon's press office on Monday, the UN chief warned that the Syrian military had stepped up its assaults on civilian centers. He added that opposition fighters were responding with increasingly coordinated attacks on Syrian government forces.
"The secretary-general expresses his deep concern at the dangerous intensification of armed violence across Syria over the past several days, and the grave danger facing civilians in areas under fire," the statement said.
The UNSMIS (United Nations Supervision Mission in Syria), has also been observing "planned and coordinated attacks [by rebels] on government forces and civilian infrastructure in multiple locations," it added.
Ban expressed concern over reports that the "intensive military operations," including government shelling of Homs province and firing from helicopters on cilivan areas, had resulted in heavy causalities and human rights violations.
He also joined the UN-Arab League envoy Kofi Annan in demanding that unarmed UN military observers be granted immediate access to the town of al-Heffah, near the border with Turkey. Residents and activists said on Monday that government helicopter gunships had strafed rebel positions in the town and tanks had been parked on the outskirts.
"The secretary general underlines the importance of unimpeded access by UNSMIS to al-Heffah, amid reports of a build-up of government forces around the town," said Ban's statement. Earlier on Monday Annan said monitors must be let in to the town "immediately."
Activists also reported the use of helicopters in assaults on the towns of Talbiseh and Rastan, in Homs province.
US warns of massacre
Ban's plea came as the United States voiced fears that Syria's government was planning a new massacre.
"The United States joins joint special envoy Kofi Annan in expressing deep alarm by reports from inside Syria that the regime may be organizing another massacre," US State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said.
Referencing the reports of helicopter assaults on rebel areas, she said the government was implementing "horrifying new tactics" as it became "increasingly desperate."
"What government voluntarily uses helicopters and fires from them on their own civilians if they're not desperate? What government depends on a bunch of thugs in trucks ... if they're not desperate?"
Meanwhile US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta admitted that there was "no silver bullet" to repair what he called a tragic, complex situation in Syria. He renewed calls for the regime to relinquish power.
According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights at least 106 people were killed in violence across the country on Monday, including 77 civilians and 23 Syrian troops. They reported that the clashes were mainly situated in Homs, Idlib and Latakia provinces.
The London-based activists group claims that more than 14,000 people have been killed since the uprising against President Bashar al-Assad began last March.
ccp/mr (AFP, AP, dpa, Reuters)