PARIS (dpa-AFX) - The United Nations announced Saturday it was suspending its peacekeeping mission in Syria because of danger to its staff on the ground. Violence, which has only escalated on both sides in recent weeks, has left at least 10,000 people dead since March 2011.
UN Stabilization Mission in Syria (UNSMIS) Chief Military Observer Major General Robert Mood said in a statement the UN would suspend all activities and patrols 'until further notice.' The suspension, which will be reviewed daily, came the day after Mood gave a press conference expressing concern over recent heightened violence in the country.
'Violence, over the past 10 days, has been intensifying, again willingly by the both parties, with losses on both sides and significant risks to our observers,' Mood said Friday in Damascus. 'The Syrian population, civilians, are suffering and in some locations, civilians have been trapped by ongoing operations.'
'The escalating violence is now limiting our ability to observe, verify, report, as well as assist in local dialogue and stability projects,' he added.
The UN Security Council established UNSMIS in April to carry out the implementation of UN Special Envoy to Syria Kofi Annan's six-point peace plan. Since then, 298 military observers and 112 civilian staff have entered the country to observe the plan's fulfillment.
But upon arriving in the country, UNSMIS staff has experienced repeated trouble gaining access to vital cities and towns in need. Three days ago, UN observers were shot at while exiting the rebel-held town of Haffa about 20 miles from President Bashar al-Assad's hometown of Kardaha.
No new plan was mentioned by Mood in his Saturday statement, but he did mention after the UN's mandate runs out in July, the mission could either be abandoned or strengthened with additional staff and equipment.
The international community is largely split on how to move forward in Syria, especially as the U.S. criticizes Russia for supplying weapons to the Syrian regime at the same time as France hints at providing communications equipment to the rebels.
The UN estimates around 10,000 people have died in the fighting since March 2011. Repeated calls for President Assad, who blames the violence on 'terrorists' spurred by outside powers, have gone unanswered.
Copyright RTT News/dpa-AFX