Syrian forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad have kept heavy weapons in cities, and both the government and opposition have committed violations of a U.N.-brokered ceasefire, U.N. peacekeeping chief Herve Ladsous said on Tuesday.
The 34 unarmed military observers now in Syria have seen Howitzer guns, armored personnel carriers and other weaponry in cities, Ladsous told a press conference at U.N. headquarters.
Ladsous insisted, however, that the monitors were having an effect in cities where they have been allowed to go.
Withdrawing weapons and troops from Syrian cities was a key part of a six-point peace plan agreed by President Bashar al-Assad and U.N.-Arab League envoy Kofi Annan. Syria has told the U.N. that weapons have been pulled back.
“Regarding the heavy weapons, yes, our military observers do see a number of APCs, for instance, they see a number of Howitzers and other military equipment in most places where they are,” Ladsous said.
Syria has told the monitors that the armored carriers have been disarmed but this has not been verified, Ladsous added.
Ladsous said that government forces and opposition groups have broken the truce.
“All the parties need to take further steps to ensure a cessation of violence in all its forms,” he said.
“The important fact is that violations do come from both sides,” he said while refusing to say whether one side had committed more breaches.
Ladsous said that U.N. members have so far only offered 150 monitors for the 300 force and that Syria has already refused visas for three proposed monitors.
“We have 24 observers on the ground and I fully expect this number to increase rapidly over the next two weeks so that UNSMIS (U.N. Supervision Mission in Syria) will build up to full operational strength by the end of May,” Ladsous told reporters.
Violence appears to be rising again after a lull immediately after the ceasefire’s implementation.
More than 34 children allegedly have been killed in Syria since the shaky truce began on April 12, a U.N. envoy said on Tuesday.
“I urge all parties in Syria to refrain from indiscriminate tactics resulting in the killing and wounding of children,” said Radhika Coomaraswamy, special envoy for children and armed conflict.
The United Nations has been largely shut out of Syria during the conflict and most independent journalists have been barred, making it is difficult to independently verify details of attacks and casualties.
“Since a truce was agreed on April 12 ... and despite the deployment of United Nations ceasefire monitors, more than 34 children have allegedly been killed,” said in a statement.
The United Nations says Syrian forces have killed more than 9,000 people since the uprising against Assad began in March 2011. Damascus says rebels have killed more than 2,600 soldiers and police.