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Syria observer mission chief to address UN

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The head of the now suspended UN observer mission in Syria is set to brief the UN Security Council amid concern that the escalating violence may spell the end of international envoy Kofi Annan's peace plan.

Major-General Robert Mood as well as Herve Ladsous, the UN peacekeeping chief, will meet the 15 council ambassadors in New York on Tuesday to give their assessment of the surge in violence in the country that led to Mood's suspension on Saturday of patrols and all other activities by the 300 unarmed observers.
More than 3,300 people have been reported killed in violence across Syria since the observers were deployed in Syria in mid-April.

Their 90-day initial mandate runs out on July 20.

Annan's six-point plan calls for an immediate cessation of fighting, first by the Syrian government and then the opposition, with the goal of launching a political dialogue.

Renewed shelling reported

Activists reported on Tuesday renewed government shelling of several neighbourhoods in the central city of Homs.

The Syrian government has said it was trying to evacuate civilians from Homs and blamed rebel fighters for obstructing efforts to get people out safely.

"Contacts have been made with the leadership of the international monitors, in co-operation with the local Syrian authorities in the city of Homs to bring out these Syrian citizens," Syria's foreign ministry said on Tuesday.

"But the efforts of the monitors were unsuccessful.... because the armed terrorist groups obstructed their efforts," it said, using a label Syria employs to describe rebels who have joined the 15-month uprising and seek to topple Assad by force.

It accused the rebels of using civilians as "human shields".

But Hadi al-Abdallah, an activist in Homs, said from Homs that the accusations of the regime are "ridiculous".

"We contacted the UN observers and Red Cross many times to come to the beseiged neighbourhoods in Homs, but they told us that the regime was preventing them from entering to rescue civilians," he said.

Exodus from Homs

Tens of thousands of people have already fled from Homs to other cities to escape months of bombardment and street fighting.

“It is wrong to assume that there are three parties to the conflict: the regime, the Free Syrian Army and the civilians," Abdallah said.

"There are only two parties. The criminal regime on one side and the civilians and Free Syrian Army on the other."

Abdallah said that civilians in Homs "have clearly expressed their support for the Free Syrian Army during anti-Assad rallies".

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said on Saturday around 10,000 families were surrounded in Homs and under fire from the army and security forces.

Dozens of wounded people were in danger because of a lack of medical equipment, the UK-based opposition activists' network said.

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