Syrian government forces reportedly opened fire on a crowd in a northern town that was being visited by UN monitors on Tuesday.
Several people were killed.
The UN also said that vehicles in the observers’ convoy were also damaged during the visit.
Anchor Lisa Mullins speaks with The World’s Laura Lynch, who was in Syria last week and at times was allowed to travel around the country following UN monitors.
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Lisa Mullins: I’m Lisa Mullins and this is “The World”. United Nations monitors in Syria found themselves in the midst of violence today. It happened in the northern town of Khan Sheikhoun. Opposition activists say while a group of observers was visiting the town, government troops opened fire on a funeral procession. Several people were reported killed, and then the UN convoy was hit by a blast. The UN says three vehicles were damaged, but none of the observers were hurt. The World’s Laura Lynch was in Syria all last week and at times was allowed to travel around the country following the UN observers on their visits. There is a video posted online of today’s attack. We can’t confirm though who the source is.
[Clip plays] [Speaking Arabic]
Mullins: Laura Lynch, so we’re hearing this big blast which apparently damaged at least the front of one of the white UN SUVs. We hear people screaming. What else is going on there?
Laura Lynch: Well, you can see four UN vehicles lined up one behind the other and when the blast goes off, it hits the very front vehicle in front of the convoy and that seems to be where most of the damage hit. And then people just start to scatter. The UN vehicles stay in place, the monitors stay inside the vehicles, but I’d say within a few seconds, they drive out of there very, very quickly.
Mullins: Now, before we get to the perpetrators, when you were in Syria last week you followed, as we said, the UN observers. How exposed in general are the UN envoys to violence like this?
Lynch: Well, you think about this, Lisa, these monitors are driving into areas where there is still very live conflict going on, and I went with them into one town where the army did not accompany them inside, the Syrian army, because said it wasn’t safe. It wasn’t safe for them because it was a rebel stronghold, and they drove into the middle of town. I turned back before they did with my crew. When those monitors came out the rear window of one of their cars was smashed and the mirror of another car was smashed. We do know that another convoy was hit by a bomb last week. None of these monitors are wearing anything more than a bulletproof vest and they’re in cars that are not armored and they’re wearing soft hats. So these are people who are exposed to a degree and are vulnerable and they are going into the middle of this.
Mullins: The government of Syria and the opposition to the government in Syria routinely blame each other for this kind of violence against the monitors. We don’t know who caused it in this case. Who generally gains from harm being inflicted on the UN monitors?
Lynch: Oh, Lisa, that is the difficult question to answer here. You hear all kinds of conspiracy theories. I have talked to people who support the opposition, who say they don’t trust the UN monitors, that they think they are actually acting as a little more than spies for the regime and that they will simply and tell the regime what people are telling them. If you talk to government spokesmen, they want them there, but I have also heard from government supporters who don’t like the monitors there either. They see it as the rest of the world sort of looking down on Syria and they think Syria can take care of itself. So as the violence continues, all we know for certain is that the UN keeps getting caught up in the middle of this, the monitors, and it makes it increasingly challenging for them to continue doing their job, but they do keep saying that they are there to do the work and that they’re going to continue doing it.
Mullins: The World’s Laura Lynch in London. Thank you, Laura.
Lynch: You’re welcome
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— lauralynchworld (@lauralynchworld) May 15, 2012