[JURIST] Head of the UN Supervision Mission in Syria (UNSMIS) [official website] on Monday expressed concern [statement, PDF; press release] about the growing number of civilian casualties in violent clashes between government forces and armed opposition groups. UN Military Adviser, Lieutenant General Babacar Gaye, told reporters he was disappointed with conduct on both sides of the conflict, criticizing the government for using excessive heavy weapons, and opposition groups for targeting heavily-populated areas. He urged both sides of the conflict to obey international law and consider negotiating an end to the conflict:
It is clear that violence is increasing in many parts of Syria. The indiscriminate use of heavy weapons by the Government and targeted attacks by the Opposition in urban centres are inflicting a heavy toll on innocent civilians. … I deeply regret that none of the Parties has prioritized the needs of civilians. The fighting continues and I continue to remind the Parties of their obligations to respect international humanitarian law and to protect civilians. The conflict has gone on too long and far too many people are suffering. … We will continue to the last minute of our mandate to urge the Parties to move from confrontation to dialogue. I call on the Parties to cease military operations and come to the table.
The UN mandate of the UNSMIS which was extended for 30 days [JURIST report] in July, is scheduled to expire in six days.
The UN Security Council extended the mission in Syria following a call [JURIST report] by Amnesty International and three other rights groups last month. The groups had insisted that human rights violations in Syria are on the rise and urged the UN to continue pressuring the Syrian government to end the violence. In July UN Chief Military Observer in Syria Major-General Robert Mood stated that Syrian authorities were committed to implementing the six-point peace agreement [JURIST reports] that was reached a week earlier. In June a UN commission stated that Syrian forces “may have been responsible” [JURIST report] for the killing of more than 100 civilians in Al-Houla in May. Syrian President Bashar al-Assad [JURIST news archive] had denied [JURIST report] the allegations stating that “not even monsters” would carry out the attacks.