UK & World News
Syria: UN Observers Arrive In Damascus
The first six UN military observers who will monitor a shaky cessation of hostilities in Syria have arrived in Damascus, just hours after Syrian forces reportedly shelled the city of Homs.
"They've arrived and they will start work tomorrow morning," Kieran Dwyer, a spokesman for the UN peacekeeping department, told AFP.
The six are the first of 30 monitors who were approved by the UN Security Council on Saturday.
"The other monitors in the advance party are still expected in Syria in coming days," Dwyer added.
The first group will set up a headquarters and prepare routines so the mission can verify that a cessation of hostilities, which started on Thursday, between President Bashar al Assad's forces and opposition fighters was holding.
Syrian forces reportedly killed five civilians in shelling of rebel areas and clashes with gunmen in the hours before the arrival of the first monitors.
Mortar bombs and machine guns were fired into the Khaldiyeh and Bayada areas, residents said.
Head of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights Rami Abdel Rahman said: "The bombardment of Khaldiyeh intensified this morning with an average of three shells a minute."
He added that it was the fiercest bombardment of Homs since a UN-backed ceasefire came into force at dawn on Thursday.
UN leader Ban Ki-moon raised strong concerns about the continuing violence.
The security forces now control some 70% of the flashpoint city, which has seen some of the biggest losses of life of the 13-month uprising in Syria.
The UN says more than 9,000 people have been killed in Syria since an uprising against Assad started 13 months ago.
Rebel fighters remain entrenched in several mainly Sunni Muslim neighbourhoods of the Old City, Mr Abdel Rahman said.
Elsewhere, rebel fighters clashed with security forces in the town of Al Bab, in the northern province of Aleppo, close to the town's police headquarters, the Observatory said.
A police station in the town has also reportedly come under fire.
Thirty-two people have been killed since the ceasefire brokered by UN-Arab League peace envoy Kofi Annan took effect, most of them civilians, the Observatory said.
The death toll is sharply down on pre-ceasefire levels after Syria announced it was halting military operations against the rebels.
Syria blames the violence on "terrorists" seeking to topple President Assad and has repeatedly denied journalists access to the country, making it impossible to independently verify the reports.
Foreign Secretary William Hague told Sky News' Murnaghan programme that he hoped there would be a "day of justice" for Syrian people.
"I have sent teams of people to the borders of Syria, to help assemble the evidence, to document the crimes that have been committed so one day there can be a day of justice for the people of Syria" he said.
He added the UN resolution was a step forward.
"It's very early days for this plan so people are quite right to be sceptical about in particular the intentions of the Assad regime, a regime that used the period up to this ceasefire to continue to kill, torture and abuse people in their own country," he said.
"It's impossible to place any trust in them. Nevertheless this is an advance.
"It spells out the terms on which monitors... will do their work there."
UN-Arab League envoy Kofi Annan eventually wants more than 200 observers in Syria, but the Security Council has said the full mission can only go if the violence halts.