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Shelling hits Hama as more U.N. monitors expected in Syria

(CNN):  Heavy shelling hit the Syrian city of Hama on Monday, opposition activists said, days after the U.N. Security Council voted to send as many as 300 observers to monitor a tenuous cease-fire.
At least 60 people were killed Monday in Syria, 37 of them in Hama, according the Local Coordination Committees of Syria, a network of opposition activists. Dozens of people were wounded in the city, which was visited Sunday by international observers, the activists said.
Elsewhere in the city, security forces opened fire to disperse a demonstration, the Local Coordination Committees said.
Explosions also rocked the devastated city of Homs early Monday, shaking the neighborhoods of Baba Amr and Inshaat.
International pressure on Damascus has been mounting. European Union foreign ministers agreed to ban the export of goods and technology that might be used by Damascus to produce chemical or biological weapons. Also banned was the export of luxury goods to Syria, according to a news release issued Monday by Britain’s Foreign Secretary William Hague.The U.N. Security Council voted unanimously Saturday to authorize up to 300 unarmed military monitors to try to bring the Syria government into compliance with a cease-fire imposed this month.
A U.N. observer team visited Damascus with the goal of strengthening a cease-fire that has not ended the violence, which continues after more than a year.
“The team visited different parts of the city, met with all the parties, met with the people, drove around the city, stopped at locations to talk to people also,” said Neeraj Singh, the observer team’s spokesman, on Sunday. Two U.N. military observers were deployed in Homs, and at least two more were expected Monday, he said.
The cease-fire is part of a six-point peace plan laid out by U.N.-Arab League joint special envoy Kofi Annan and accepted by the Syrian government. The Annan plan calls for the government and the opposition to end the violence, provide access for humanitarian groups, release detainees and start a political dialogue.
Annan spokesman Ahmad Fawzi said last week that he expected the number of observers to reach 30 within a few days.
Annan applauded the Security Council’s decision to bolster the monitoring mission.
“The work of the mission should help create the conditions conducive to launching the much-needed political process, which would address the legitimate concerns and aspirations of the Syrian people,” Annan said Sunday in a statement.
Syrian security forces will exercise the “utmost degree of restraint” but remain prepared to defend their national interests against terrorists, Syrian U.N. Ambassador Bashar Jaafari said Saturday.
Syria has consistently blamed “armed terrorist groups” for the violence wracking the country.
The state-run Syrian Arab News Agency said an armed terrorist group bombed a bus carrying officers and soldiers along a road between Raqqa and Aleppo on Sunday, killing one and wounding 42.
Reports of bloodshed dropped in the days after the cease-fire deadline of April 12, but opposition activists have reported scores of deaths since then.
CNN cannot independently verify reports of violence and deaths, as the government has restricted access by international media.
Syria has been engulfed in violence since March 2011, when the government started a crackdown on demonstrators who were peacefully protesting the regime of President Bashar al-Assad, whose family has ruled Syria for 42 years.
The United Nations estimates that at least 9,000 people have died since the protests began, while activist groups put the death toll at more than 11,000.
Syria’s unrest has spilled into neighboring countries. In Tripoli, Lebanon, three people at an anti-al-Assad protest were wounded Sunday when “armed men” fired on the crowd, Lebanon’s state-run NNA news agency said.

Published Date: Monday, April 23rd, 2012 | 09:05 AM

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