Skip to main content

U.N. observer mission in Syria ends, violence continues

By the CNN Wire Staff
August 19, 2012 -- Updated 2245 GMT (0645 HKT)
  • NEW: At least 170 are killed across Syria on Sunday, an opposition group says
  • A Jordanian child is hurt as Syrian shells land in Jordan, Jordanian state news reports
  • The U.N. vows to maintain a presence in Syria after its 300 observers leave
  • Syria's vice president is absent from Eid prayers in Damascus; rebels say he's defected

(CNN) -- The mandate of the U.N. observer mission in Syria ended Sunday, with the country no closer to a lasting peace than when monitors arrived four months ago.

Even after the 300 observers leave, the United Nations will maintain a presence in the war-torn country in the form of a new liaison office supporting "efforts for a political solution."

"We will continue the search to move from violence to dialogue," said the mission's leader, Lt. Gen. Babacar Gaye of Senegal.

The U.N. monitoring mission itself clearly did not go as hoped. International observers first arrived in Syria in April, on the heels of a cease-fire ostensibly agreed upon by the government and rebels. But the cease-fire never took hold, and violence soon surged.

Over the past month, opposition activists have reported upward of 150 deaths a day. That violence continued Sunday, when much of the country was celebrating Eid al-Fitr holiday marking the end of fasting during Ramadan, Islam's holiest month.

In this photo provided by the anti-government activist group Aleppo Media Center, Syrian men help survivors out of a building in Aleppo after it was bombed, allegedly by a Syrian regime warplane on Saturday, February 8. The United Nations estimates more than 100,000 people have been killed since the Syrian conflict began in March 2011. Click through to see the most compelling images taken during the conflict, which is now a civil war: In this photo provided by the anti-government activist group Aleppo Media Center, Syrian men help survivors out of a building in Aleppo after it was bombed, allegedly by a Syrian regime warplane on Saturday, February 8. The United Nations estimates more than 100,000 people have been killed since the Syrian conflict began in March 2011. Click through to see the most compelling images taken during the conflict, which is now a civil war:
Syrian civil war in photos
Syrian civil war in photos Syrian civil war in photos
60 bodies reportedly found near Damascus
U.N. names new special envoy to Syria
Syria conflict spills over to Lebanon
Syrian regime attacks hospital

At least 170 people were killed Sunday throughout the nation, the opposition Local Coordination Committees reported.

This figure includes 51 killed in the province of Daraa, among them 20 new charred bodies discovered in Hirak and a boy and his mother killed by "fierce shelling" in Daraa al-Balad. Government forces "executed" 14 people in that province hours after they were detained, the LCC said.

The same group reported another 51 deaths in and around Damascus, among them a number of people killed by "indiscriminate mortar shelling" in Theyabeih. As dusk settled in Sunday, residents of another Damascus suburb, Housh Arab, were in the dark because of similar shelling, the LCC said.

Caught in middle, people of Aleppo frantic for peace

Explosions and "intense gunfire from heavy machine guns" were also heard Sunday night in the west-central city of Hama, according to the LCC. And five people reportedly died when two residential buildings collapsed in the Aleppo neighborhood of Sakhour because of shelling.

Earlier in the day, clashes erupted between government and rebel fighters when regime forces tried to take over the Damascus suburb of al Qadm, the opposition Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

The bloodshed may not be confined to Syria.

A child in Jordan was wounded Sunday by shrapnel from shells fired from Syria, Jordanian government spokesman Samih Maaytah said, according to that nation's official PETRA news agency. Gunfire also went into Jordanian territory as Syrian forces and rebel fighters clashed nearby, he added.

Afterward, Jordan's government called in Syria's ambassador and handed him an official letter of protest, according to Maaytah.

Meanwhile, state-run TV aired footage of Eid prayers in Damascus attended by Syrian leaders, including President Bashar al-Assad.

Vice President Farouq al-Sharaa, who rebels say has defected from the regime, was noticeably absent from the service.

Louai Miqdad, a spokesman for the rebel Free Syrian Army, said Saturday that al-Sharaa has fled the regime. Opposition fighters were trying to get the vice president -- who Miqdad said left Damascus a week ago, heading to his home province of Daraa -- across the border into Jordan, despite government attacks.

Inside Syria: Nobody imagined it would turn into this

Syrian state-run TV did not explicitly say if al-Sharaa had defected, but said the vice president's office issued a statement saying al-Sharaa "has never at any moment thought of leaving the homeland to whatever direction."

As of Sunday, al-Sharaa's location was not known.

If al-Sharaa did defect, it would mark the highest-level departure from al-Assad's regime yet.

Such a defection would follow a stream of resignations by Syrian officials in recent weeks, including Republican Guard Brig. Gen. Manaf Tlas and Prime Minister Riyad Hijab. Like al-Sharaa, the men are Sunni Muslims who held top posts in a government dominated by the country's Alawite minority.

Observers view al-Sharaa's power and influence as more significant than that of the prime minister, who only served in his post for weeks.

Al-Sharaa has more clout as a prominent member of the regime's old guard who served as foreign minister under al-Assad and his late father, Hafez, for more than 20 years.

Andrew Tabler, a Syria expert at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, said al-Sharaa may have defected "because the battle now has become so sectarian," with an opposition dominated by Sunnis fighting against pro-regime Alawites.

Rafif Jouejati, a spokeswoman for the LCC opposition network, said al-Sharaa's defection could suggest "the regime is collapsing very quickly."

"If confirmed, (this) represents yet another high-level official who sees that the al-Assad regime is a sinking ship," she said. "I expect to see additional defections in both the military and civilian sectors in the coming days."

Complete coverage of CNN Inside Syria

CNN's Joe Sterling, Holly Yan, Salma Abdelaziz and Nic Robertson contributed to this report.

Part of complete coverage on
Syrian crisis
September 9, 2014 -- Updated 1448 GMT (2248 HKT)
As a 10-year-old, this boy first hit the headlines in 1982 when he saved his cat from a fire. This year, he was reported to be a suicide bomber.
September 5, 2014 -- Updated 1803 GMT (0203 HKT)
Aqsa Mahmood,19, would listen to Coldplay and read Harry Potter books. Then this Glasgow girl became an ISIS bride.
August 29, 2014 -- Updated 0823 GMT (1623 HKT)
The little boy looks barely old enough to walk, let alone understand the dark world he's now inhabiting.
August 29, 2014 -- Updated 0422 GMT (1222 HKT)
ISIS has released video of the aftermath of a mass execution. Another video shows alleged captured Peshmerga soldiers.
August 30, 2014 -- Updated 0933 GMT (1733 HKT)
The number of people who have fled Syria and registered as refugees amid the country's civil war will surpass 3 million Friday.
August 29, 2014 -- Updated 1849 GMT (0249 HKT)
Douglas McAuthur McCain, 33, grew up in the Minneapolis area, but died more than 6,000 miles away in Syria, fighting for ISIS.
September 1, 2014 -- Updated 2054 GMT (0454 HKT)
If the United States is serious about thoroughly defeating ISIS, it must, somehow, go through Syria.
June 26, 2014 -- Updated 1243 GMT (2043 HKT)
Jihadists have kidnapped over 140 Kurdish boys to "brainwash" them. But a few boys made a daring escape.
June 26, 2014 -- Updated 1248 GMT (2048 HKT)
Reports that Syrian warplanes carried out a cross-border attack on Iraqi towns is further evidence of the blurring of the two countries' borders.
June 24, 2014 -- Updated 2133 GMT (0533 HKT)
CNN's Atika Shubert speaks to a father whose teenage son joined the Jihad movement in Syria.
June 23, 2014 -- Updated 1141 GMT (1941 HKT)
At the start of Syria's civil unrest, Omar would rally against the government alongside his schoolmates, later taking to the streets in his hometown of Salqin.
June 23, 2014 -- Updated 2117 GMT (0517 HKT)
Atika Shubert looks at the rise of European jihadists traveling to Syria and whether they soon could join ISIS in Iraq.
June 23, 2014 -- Updated 1453 GMT (2253 HKT)
The final stockpile of Syria's chemical weapons has been shipped out of the country, according to the OPCW, the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons.
June 25, 2014 -- Updated 2025 GMT (0425 HKT)
The US isn't doing airstrikes in Iraq. Is there a vacuum for Syria and Iran to step in? CNN's Fareed Zakaria weighs in.
June 10, 2014 -- Updated 0804 GMT (1604 HKT)
CNN's Nick Paton Walsh reports on Syrian rebels using underground explosions against the better-equipped regime.
June 9, 2014 -- Updated 1151 GMT (1951 HKT)
CNN's Nick Paton Walsh returns to the besieged rebel areas of Aleppo, a pale skeleton of a city that has had the life bombed out of it.
June 2, 2014 -- Updated 1151 GMT (1951 HKT)
Syria may be embroiled in a brutal three-year civil war, but that's not stopping the government from holding presidential elections.
June 3, 2014 -- Updated 1123 GMT (1923 HKT)
CNN's Nick Paton Walsh meets an ISIS defector in hiding and gets a rare look into the group's recruitment process.
June 5, 2014 -- Updated 1610 GMT (0010 HKT)
Over a thousand Syrian refugees have turned an abandoned shopping mall in Lebanon into makeshift living quarters.
October 14, 2014 -- Updated 1616 GMT (0016 HKT)
More than 100,000 people reportedly have been killed in Syria since a popular uprising in 2011 spiraled into a civil war.