BEIRUT — Syrian forces fired mortar shells into a farming village Tuesday, killing 10 people, among them two young children, and sending panicked residents running for cover, activists said.
U.N. peacekeeping chief Herve Ladsous deplored the ongoing violence and promised to put 300 observers in Syria by the end of the month, up from the 24 in place now, in hopes of calming the situation.
"The level of violence in Syria has been appalling," Ladsous said.
The attack on the village of Mishmeshan near the Turkish border highlighted the vulnerability of Syrian civilians, especially children.
Nine of the dead in the village attacked were from one extended family, and many of a dozen wounded were children, activists said.
Five mortar shells hit the village at around 1 a.m., and after daybreak, survivors wrapped some of the dead in blankets and placed them in the backs of three white pickup trucks. Amateur video showed hundreds of mourners lining a street next to the parked trucks and praying over the bodies ahead of the burial.
A senior U.N. official, Radhika Coomaraswamy, expressed alarm over "yet another wave of extreme violence killing and injuring children across Syria," referring to the mortar attack and other recent violence.
"I urge all parties in Syria to refrain from indiscriminate tactics resulting in the killing and wounding of children," said Coomaraswamy, who deals with children in war zones. She said more than 34 children were allegedly killed since an April 12 truce deadline.
In amateur video from Mishmeshan, a bearded man is seen storming a clinic. Counting on his fingers, he says the attack killed his mother, sister, two of his brothers and a nephew.
"That's my son!" he says, pointing to a wounded boy with white bandages on his legs, arms and back. "That's my brother and that's my nephew!" he says, pointing to a body on the floor in a pool of blood and another on a gurney. The wounded boy, who a narrator says is five, lies on his stomach and appears very frightened by the mayhem around him.
Another video shows a preteen girl whimpering when a medic tries to clean blood from wounds on her face and arm.
The U.N. says more than 9,000 people have been killed since the uprising against President Bashar Assad erupted more than 13 months ago. What began with largely peaceful marches gradually turned into an insurgency in response to a brutal government crackdown.
A cease-fire brokered by special envoy Kofi Annan was meant to end fighting by April 12. While the level of violence has decreased since then, Syrian forces continue attacking rebellious areas instead of withdrawing to their barracks, as required under the truce deal. Rebel fighters also kept up shooting attacks and roadside ambushes targeting troops.
In New York, the U.N. peacekeeping chief Ladsous said the observers already deployed in Syria are reporting cease-fire violations from the government and opposition.
He refused to say which side was responsible for the most violations. But he said the observers have seen heavy weapons of the Syrian military deployed in populated areas, including armored personnel carriers and Howitzers.
The U.N. has commitments for about 150 observers from member states, with new pledges coming in daily, said Ladsous, adding that he expects 300 observers on the ground by the end of May.
However, the Syrian government has denied visas to three observers and still opposes a U.N. request to let observers fly in their own helicopters, he said. Syria is slightly larger than North Dakota, and having air transport would make the mission more effective.
The observers' presence has tempered violence in some areas while the regime has launched attacks on other districts that have welcomed the team with anti-government rallies.
In all, 15 Syrian civilians were killed on Tuesday, according to the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, an activist group.
The 10 killed in Mishmeshan included a 5-year-old girl, a 7-year-old boy, four women and a man who died of his injuries as rescuers tried to take him to Turkey for treatment, said the head of the Observatory, Rami Abdul-Rahman. A village resident told Abdul-Rahman that five mortar shells hit the village, and that panicked residents tried to run for cover after the first shells hit. Abdul-Rahman said he was told that many of the 12 wounded were children. Three people with serious injuries were taken to Turkey, but one died on the way, he said.
The Observatory also said a 13-year-old was killed in the nearby town of Maaret al-Noman by random gunfire from regime forces.
"He was in his house when a bullet came in and hit him in the neck," area activist Fadi al-Yassin said via Skype.
Activist claims and videos could not be independently verified. The Syrian government rarely comments on specific events in the country and bars most media from independent reporting – despite agreeing to do so in accepting Annan's plan.
Associated Press writer Edith M. Lederer at the United Nations contributed reporting.
U.S. ambassador to the U.N. Susan Rice tweets:
|@ AmbassadorRice : #Syria regime turned artillery, tanks and helicopters on its own men & women. It unleashed knife-wielding shabiha gangs on its own children.|
Russia says international envoy Kofi Annan will visit Moscow on Monday to discuss the ongoing crisis in Syria. Russia also called for an inquiry into an alleged massacre that took place in the village of Tramseh on Thursday. "We have no doubt that this wrongdoing serves the interests of those powers that are not seeking peace but persistently seek to sow the seeds of interconfessional and civilian conflict on Syrian soil," Russia's foreign ministry said in a statement, according to Reuters. Moscow did not apportion blame for the killings.
Read more on Reuters.com.
The Associated Press obtained a video that purports to show the aftermath of an alleged massacre in the village of Tramseh, near Hama.
How do Syria's fighters get their arms? An overview put together by Reuters explains that there are three gateways to the country -- Lebanon, Turkey, and Iraq.
Syrian rebels are smuggling small arms into Syria through a network of land and sea routes involving cargo ships and trucks moving through Turkey, Lebanon and Iraq, maritime intelligence and Free Syrian Army (FSA) officers say. Western and regional powers deny any suggestion they are involved in gun running. Their interest in the sensitive border region lies rather in screening to ensure powerful weapons such as surface to air missiles do not find their way to Islamist or other militants.
Read the full report here.
This citizen journalism image made from video provided by Shaam News Network SNN, purports to show a man mourning a victim killed by violence that, according to anti-regime activists, was carried out by government forces in Tremseh, Syria about 15 kilometers (nine miles) northwest of the central city of Hama, Thursday, July 12, 2012. (AP Photo/Shaam News Network, SNN)
According to the Hama Revolutionary Council, a Syrian opposition group, more than 220 people have been killed in a new alleged massacre in Taramseh. Earlier reports said more than 100 people were killed. "More than 220 people fell today in Taramseh," the Council said in a statement. "They died from bombardment by tanks and helicopters, artillery shelling and summary executions."
Fadi Sameh, an opposition activist from Taramseh, told Reuters he had left the town before the reported massacre but was in touch with residents. "It appears that Alawite militiamen from surrounding villages descended on Taramseh after its rebel defenders pulled out, and started killing the people. Whole houses have been destroyed and burned from the shelling," Sameh claimed.
Read more on Reuters.com.
Syrian activist Rami Jarrah tweets that Syrian State TV has confirmed deaths in Tremseh. "Terrorists" is often the term used by the Syrian regime for opposition forces.
|@ AlexanderPageSY : Syrian State TV: clashes between security apparatus & terrorists in #Tremseh of #Hama leaves large numbers of terrorists killed #Syria|
|@ Reuters : UPDATE: DEATH TOLL IN SYRIAN FORCES' ATTACK ON VILLAGE IN SYRIA'S HAMA REGION IS MORE THAN 200, MOSTLY CIVILIANS - OPPOSITION ACTIVISTS|