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UN rights official concerned over Syria relief access

A UN rights official expressed concern [UN News Centre report] Tuesday regarding humanitarian aid access to Syrian cities where armed forces have been trying to put down anti-government protests. Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and UN Emergency Relief Coordinator Valerie Amos [official profile] issued a statement after the proposed relief mission to Deraa, the city where protests have been most extensive, failed to move forward on Sunday despite repeated entreaties to Syrian authorities for access. "The main objective of the mission was to independently assess the situation and plan a response if needed," Amos reported in her statement, but even a direct phone call from UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon [official profile] to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad [Al Jazeera profile] last week regarding the proposed assessment proved unavailing. Citing reports of Syrian tank deployment and shelling of residential areas, the humanitarian relief chief said she was worried that security operations in the cities could be preventing supplies of basic social services, especially hospital access for the many wounded civilians. Amos admitted she had no confirmation of the numbers, but Syrian human rights groups claim that hundreds of civilians have been killed and thousands more have been arrested or wounded.

Syria has struggled violently to end anti-government protests which began earlier this year. At the end of April the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) [official website], in an emergency special session, publicly condemned the violence [JURIST report] used by Syrian authorities against peaceful protesters. Also last month UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay [official profile] called for Syria to immediately halt the killings [JURIST report] and violence against civilian protesters in response to the fatal shootings of peaceful anti-government protesters. Assad has recently ended the 48-year-old state of emergency [JURIST report], an event of significant historical note, but protests have continued.

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