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Syria Crisis: U.N. Monitors Spend Night Under Fighters' Protection After Visit To Khan Sheikhoun

Reuters  |  Posted: Updated: 05/16/2012 5:52 am

Syria Un Monitors
A United Nations monitors convoy prepares to leave the UN headquarters in Damascus on a new tour of Syria's flashpoint areas on May 15, 2012. (LOUAI BESHARA/AFP/GettyImages)


BEIRUT, May 16 (Reuters) - The United Nations aims to collect a monitoring team from the Syrian town of Khan Sheikhoun on Wednesday, the head of the monitoring mission said, after they spent the night in the hands of rebels following an attack near their convoy.

The Free Syrian Army said on Tuesday the monitors, whose cars were damaged in an attack which killed at least 21 people in Khan Sheikhoun, were under FSA protection.

"We have spoken to them on the phone. They are telling us that they are happy where they are and they are safe," the head of the monitoring mission, Major-General Robert Mood, told reporters in Damascus.

"We are going to pick them up this morning."

An FSA rebel in Khan Sheikhoun contacted by Reuters said the monitors were attending a funeral on Wednesday for people killed in Tuesday's violence.

"They slept well and now they went with people taking part in the funeral to bury the martyrs," he said. "We provided a phone for them and they spoke to Mood and he promised them cars from Damascus to pick them up."

An internal U.N. document obtained by Reuters at the United Nations said that a total of six monitors were under rebel "protection" in a "friendly environment".

Ahmad Fawzi, international mediator Kofi Annan's spokesman, said the U.N. convoy was hit by an improvised explosive device in Khan Sheikhoun on Tuesday.

"Three U.N. vehicles were damaged but no U.N. personnel were hurt in this explosion. The mission has sent a patrol team to the area to help to extract those U.N. military observers," he said in a statement.

Around 200 observers are in Syria to monitor implementation of an April 12 ceasefire agreement intended to stem the bloodshed in a 14-month-old uprising against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

Rebels and government forces alike have violated the ceasefire deal and activsts say hundreds of people have been killed since the middle of last month. (Reporting by Mariam Karouny; Editing by Louise Ireland)

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syria car bomb Syrian policemen inspect the site of a car bomb explosion on Mazzeh highway in the capital Damascus on July 13, 2012. AFP PHOTO/STR (Photo credit should read -/AFP/GettyImages)


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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.

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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.

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The Associated Press obtained a video that purports to show the aftermath of an alleged massacre in the village of Tramseh, near Hama.

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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.

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syria This citizen journalism image made from video provided by Shaam News Network SNN, purports to show a victim wounded 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. The accounts, some of which claim more than 200 people were killed in the violence Thursday, could not be independently confirmed, but would mark the latest in a string of brutal offensives by Syrian forces attempting to crush the rebellion. (AP Photo/Shaam News Network, SNN)


syria 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)


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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.

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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

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@ Reuters : UPDATE: DEATH TOLL IN SYRIAN FORCES' ATTACK ON VILLAGE IN SYRIA'S HAMA REGION IS MORE THAN 200, MOSTLY CIVILIANS - OPPOSITION ACTIVISTS

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@ Reuters : At least 100 killed in Syrian village: opposition activists http://t.co/FG3fJwu8

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Filed by Eline Gordts  |