Syrian forces were accused Wednesday of having "executed" 15 civilians, as the office of envoy Kofi Annan said members of a UN observer team were evacuated a day after a bomb blast hit their convoy.
"After regime forces raided the neighbourhood of Shammas (in the central city of Homs), 15 civilians were found summarily executed," Rami Abdel Rahman of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights told AFP, in what he branded a "massacre."
The overnight killings came one day after regime forces were accused of another massacre in the town of Khan Sheikhun in northwest Idlib when they opened fire on a funeral procession and reportedly killed 20 people.
Abdel Rahman said a 43-year-old Muslim cleric who had six children was among those killed in Homs. "Everybody loved this cleric, because he called for national unity," he said, adding the cleric had been involved in charity work.
The killings were reported hours after the Observatory said regime troops shot dead at least five people in a new assault in Khan Sheikhun and opened fire on a refugee camp in Daraa to the south, killing three civilians.
Four others died of wounds suffered on Tuesday during the funeral in Khan Sheikhun, according to the Britain-based group.
Regime forces on Wednesday also killed a young man in a raid on Mleiha al-Aatsh village of Daraa province, the watchdog said. And in Homs province, a civilian was killed in Rastan under regime bombardment, the Observatory said.
The watchdog updated its toll of people killed in Syria on Tuesday to 64.
During the funeral in Khan Sheikhun, a convoy of UN truce observers was struck by a homemade bomb, damaging three vehicles but causing no casualties, the UN said.
Six members of the team were forced because of blast damage to the car to spend Tuesday night with activists in Khan Sheikhun, which was under under regime shelling, an activist said.
"The UN Supervision Mission in Syria reports today that it has picked up the six UN Military Observers who had to stay overnight in Khan Sheikhun. They are now back in their team site in Hama," the office of UN-Arab League envoy Annan said in a statement.
The blast came as the observers made their way in a convoy of vehicles along a narrow street in Khan Sheikhun, said activists, rebels and the watchdog.
It was the second roadside bombing involving the military observers' vehicles in less than a week, after six Syrian soldiers were wounded in a May 9 bombing in Daraa.
The United Nations, which accuses both sides of violating an April 12 ceasefire, reaffirmed its condemnation of any violence against the monitors.
"This mission is there to help the people of Syria, to help ensure that the six-point plan is implemented," spokesman Martin Nesirky said, referring to Annan's peace plan.
"More time should be given to the Syrian government in order to make Kofi Annan's plan a success," Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi said, quoted by Iran's ISNA news agency.
Meanwhile, Annan urged Syria to stop delaying an agreement on allowing UN access to more than one million Syrians in need of assistance, saying the process had been "very slow."
Annan "remains extremely concerned about the plight of one million Syrians in need of humanitarian assistance," said Nesirky.
The bloodshed comes despite the truce brokered by Annan as part of a six-point plan aimed at ending violence that has swept Syria since March 2011 when the uprising against President Bashar al-Assad began.
The UN has accused both sides to the conflict of violating the ceasefire and warned that the country is edging closer to full-blown civil war.
More than 12,000 people, the majority of them civilians, have died since the uprising erupted, according to the Observatory, including more than 900 killed since the truce came into effect.
Officials in President Barack Obama's administration insist it is not directly supplying the weapons or providing funding, with Gulf states paying for the new arms, the newspaper said.
But Washington has stepped up links with the rebels and regional militaries allying with them, playing a role in the rebel's foreign support network, the report said.
In neighbouring Lebanon, several people were wounded as new clashes erupted on Wednesday in Tripoli between the army and rival pro- and anti-Assad neighbourhoods in the northern port city, a Lebanese security official said.
Three days of clashes between residents of the two neighbourhood that broke out last Saturday left nine people dead and some 50 wounded before the Lebanese army intervened.
Source: AFP Global Edition