15 dead in Syria as Norwegian general takes command of monitors

Another day in Syria, another 15 bodies to add to the butcher's bill. Cease fire or not, President Assad's forces are continuing their assault on civilians.


The Syrian government and opposition activists traded accusations of violence on Saturday, as a handful of U.N. monitors spread out across the country to assess compliance with a fragile cease-fire.

Rights groups say Syrian forces killed at least 10 people during raids in the Damascus area.  Activists also say clashes between government and opposition forces erupted in the Latakia region.

The state-run SANA news agency says a military unit confronted an "armed terrorist group" that attempted an "infiltration" from near the Turkish border. Separately, it says armed terrorists attacked and killed three law enforcement officers in the Aleppo region. The news agency says two "terrorists" were killed in the incident.

Norwegian Major General Robert Mood, the newly appointed leader of the observer mission, headed to Damascus on Saturday.

On Friday, the mission's Colonel, Ahmed Himiche, said the group had reached its goal of preparing for the eventual arrival of 300 monitors.

"We achieved one of our main tasks, which was liaison with the parties in order to prepare and plan for the arrival of 300 monitors that have been mandated by the Security Council. So, this step is a step forward," he said.

A Syrian government newspaper Saturday criticized U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, accusing him of encouraging rebel attacks.  The Associated Press says the Tishrin newspaper accused the U.N. chief of heaping his criticism on the government and not on rebel forces.

Actually, the government newspaper isn't too far off the mark. Terrorist attacks are increasing and we don't hear a peep from Mr. Ban. It could be al-Qaeda trying to ratchet up sectarian tensions, or it could be Assad's intelligence agency trying to make the rebels look bad. Either way, it's not good news for the people.

General Mood has a thankless and impossible task. He is set up to fail in monitoring the cease fire - which is a cease fire in name only. If the monitors are still in Syria by the 4th of July, I will be very surprised.