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September 27, 2017

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Violence hinders mission: Syria observer head

BEIRUT -- The head of the U.N. observers in Syria said Friday a recent spike in bloodshed is derailing the mission to monitor and defuse more than a year of violence and could prompt the unarmed force to pull out.

The observer mission is the only functioning part of an international peace plan that Kofi Annan brokered two months ago. Western powers have pinned their hopes on the plan, in part because there are no other options on the table. There is little support for military intervention, and several rounds of sanctions have done little to stop the bloodshed.

"Violence over the past 10 days has been intensifying willingly by the both parties, with losses on both sides and significant risks to our observers," Maj. Gen. Robert Mood told reporters in Damascus. "The escalating violence is now limiting our ability to observe, verify, report as well as assist in local dialogue and stability projects."

Mood also said there was a concern among the states providing observers that the risk is approaching an unacceptable level for continuing the mission. He did not provide further details.

Mood's comments were the clearest sign yet that Annan's peace plan is disintegrating. The regime and the opposition have ignored a cease-fire that was supposed to go into effect April 12.

On Friday, the Syrian regime kept up a ferocious offensive on rebel areas around the country in one of the most serious escalations in violence since Annan brokered the truce.

An activist in the northern city of Aleppo said troops backed by helicopters and tanks were engaged in "raging battles" in the rebel-held town of Anadan and several other locations in the province.

The violence did not stop thousands of Syrians in Aleppo city from taking part in demonstrations against President Bashar Assad on Friday.

An amateur video posted online from Aleppo showed screaming, crying men carrying a lifeless body. The men covered him in a Syrian rebel flag, face down in his own blood.

Activists said at least 10 people were reported killed when security forces opened fire on protests across the country, but the toll could not be independently verified.

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