Syrian forces have bombarded Homs and attacked Aleppo, breaking the cease-fire that has been in place since Thursday, monitors say. The claims come only hours before UN observers are due to touch down in the country.
Syrian army forces heavily shelled the neighborhoods of Khaldiyeh and Bayada in Homs Sunday, hours before an advance team of UN military observers were due to arrive in Syria, according to monitors.
Rami Abdelrahman, head of the British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, said shells were being fired in Homs at a rate of one every minute. He said the attacks on Homs represented the most intense shelling of the region since a shaky cease-fire was implemented on Thursday, with UN support.
He added that overnight fighting in the town of Al-Bab, located in the northern province of Aleppo, had also taken place.
"People said they heard explosions and shooting after rebels attacked a police station and then clashed with police," he said.
UN monitors on their way
The allegations were made just hours before UN monitors destined for Syria are due to arrive in the capital, Damascus. About six of an advance team of 30 UN observers were scheduled to arrive Sunday evening, with a view to being deployed on Monday according to Ahmad Fawzi, the spokesman for UN-Arab League special envoy Kofi Annan.
"The first batch of six U.N. observers arrives tonight, they will be on the ground in blue helmets tomorrow (Monday)," said Fawzi.
Annan aims to send more than 25 altogether, but they will only be dispatched if the cease-fire can be maintained.
The UN Security Council approved the deployment on Saturday, when it passed its first resolution on the conflict in Syria. China and Russia came out in favor of Resolution 2042, after vetoing two previous attempts by the UN body.
The text calls on President Bashar al-Assad and his government "to guarantee the safety of the advance team without prejudice to its freedom of movement and access." France's UN ambassador Gerard Araud said sending the advance mission would "test whether Syria is serious about its engagements" before authorizing the full mission.
The resolution also calls upon the Syrian government to "implement visibly" all commitments made under a peace plan worked out by UN and Arab League special envoy Kofi Annan, including the withdrawal of all troops and heavy weapons from Syrian cities.
A new resolution would be required for a more comprehensive monitoring mission of more than 200 observers.
sej/gb (Reuters, AP, AFP, dpa)