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September 22, 2017

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UN observers suspend Syria mission as group says at least 36 more killed

DAMASCUS/BEIRUT -- The U.N. military observers sent to Syria to monitor an April 12 cease-fire that never took hold have suspended their mission, veteran peacekeeper Norwegian Major General Robert Mood said on Saturday.

Speaking of intensified violence over the past 10 days, the risk to observers and the "lack of willingness by the parties to seek a peaceful solution," Mood said the mission is "suspending its activities."

"There has been an intensification of armed violence across Syria over the past 10 days," the mission chief said in a statement.

"This escalation is limiting our ability to observe, verify, report as well as assist in local dialogue and stability projects — basically impeding our ability to carry out our mandate.

"The lack of willingness by the parties to seek a peaceful transition, and the push towards advancing military positions is increasing the losses on both sides: innocent civilians, men women and children are being killed every day.

"It is also posing significant risks to our observers.

"In this high risk situation, UNSMIS (United Nations Supervision Mission in Syria) is suspending its activities," Mood said.

The observers will not conduct patrols and will stay in their locations until further notice," he said, adding that "engagement with the parties will be restricted."

Mood said the suspension will be reviewed on a daily basis, and that "operations will resume when we see the situation fit for us to carry out our mandated activities."

"Let me be very clear, UNSMIS is committed to the people of Syria. We stand ready to work with all parties to assist in bringing an end to the violence and promote political dialogue. A return to normal operations remains our objective."

Mood had already said on Friday that the escalating bloodshed was hampering the ability of observers to carry out their duties.

Syrian troops shelled several rebel strongholds overnight and on Saturday, including Douma in northern Damascus and the central city of Homs, with a watchdog reporting at least 36 people killed nationwide.

Three women were among seven killed in the bombardment of the opposition bastion of Douma, the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

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