Head of UN mission finally arrives in Syria
The head of the United Nations mission to Syria finally arrived in the country promising it would “rapidly” reach its planned strength of 300 monitors but accepting they could not solve “all problems in and of themselves”.
By Richard Spencer, Damien McElroy in Tripoli
9:01PM BST 29 Apr 2012
Maj Gen Robert Mood, an experienced Norwegian peacekeeper, said it was up to the Assad regime and rebel forces to stop the fighting. “We will be only 300 but we can make a difference,” he said as he arrived.
“Thirty unarmed observers, 300 unarmed observers, even 1,000 unarmed observers cannot solve all the problems. I call on everyone to help us and co-operate with us in this very challenging task ahead.”
There has been some sign that the presence of the 16 monitors who have arrived so far has made a difference. There have been fewer reports of attacks in the central city of Homs, the epicentre of the uprising, since two monitors took up permanent positions there last week.
They toured Khalidiyah, one of the most heavily shelled suburbs, on Sunday, while activists posted videos online of themselves using the lull to remove bodies from the streets.
The overall level of violence throughout the country has fallen, although there are still regular reports of clashes. The Syrian Observatory of Human Rights reported five deaths on Sunday, including two in Homs and two in Hama.
In parts of the country, including central Damascus, there is little sign of a military presence. But even in the capital soldiers told The Daily Telegraph that there were regular shoot-outs in the more rebellious districts like Harasta and Douma at night.
A ship carrying military supplies to rebel forces was stopped and impounded by Lebanese authorities at the weekend.
An overnight search uncovered weapons aboard the Lutfallah II including rocket-propelled grenades and rifles in three freight containers, security sources told local media.
Satellite tracking website showed the vessel had loaded cargo near Tobruk, a Libyan stronghold of Islamic fighters that spearheaded the overthrow of Col Muammar Gaddafi last year.
One of Libya’s most powerful bodies, Tripoli Military Council, headed by Abdulhakim Belhadj, has openly expressed its determination to assist Syria’s armed opposition as it struggles to overthrow President Bashar al-Assad.
Mr Belhadj is suing the UK government and Jack Straw, the former foreign secretary for complicity in his torture by Libyan intelligence during the Gaddafi regime.
He and fellow veterans of the Libyan Islamic Fighters Group have a long track record of using Syria as a launch pad for involvement in fighting jihad, or holy war, in Afghanistan and Iraq.
“We went to Afghanistan and Iraq for jihad, we fought jihad at home and now we are fighting jihad in Syria,” said one fighter.
At the Mitiga Airbase in eastern Tripoli, where Mr Belhadj has his headquarter, the commander was seen leaving for Turkey on Thursday night. Staff members said he was travelling to meetings with Free Syrian Army (FSA).