The convoy of Lieutenant General Babacar Gaye, head of the U.N. observer mission in Syria, was attacked over the weekend and only the vehicles’ armor prevented injuries, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said on Monday.
“Yesterday the convoy of General Gaye was attacked by armed attacks,” Ban told reporters in New York, according to a transcript of his remarks issued by the U.N. press office. “Fortunately there were no injuries.”
He gave no further details about the attack, though U.N. officials said on condition of anonymity that the convoy of five vehicles was hit with small arms fire in Talibisa, some 17 km (10.5 miles) from Homs. The officials said it was an opposition-held area.
Ban said that more than a dozen U.N. armored vehicles have been attacked and destroyed since the mission began deploying in Syria over three months ago.
“It’s quite fortunate that nobody got injured by these attacks,” Ban said. “It was only because of these armored vehicles which protected our mission.”
Gaye told a press conference in Damascus that he had been on his first field visit since his arrival one week ago to take charge of the U.N. Supervision Mission in Syria (UNSMIS).
He did not mention the shooting incident but told reporters: “During my visit to Homs, I was personally able to witness heavy shelling, from artillery and mortars, ongoing in the neighborhoods of the city.”
Although the mission suspended most of its monitoring work last month due to the increasing violence in the 16-month conflict, it continues to carry out limited activities. The mission’s 90-day mandate was renewed on July 20 for 30 days.
Ban made a new plea for President Bashar al-Assad to halt the “violent measures” of his forces in Homs and the city of Aleppo, which is the target of a major new assault.
“We are deeply concerned that they are using all sorts, all kinds of heavy equipment, including military airplanes and attack helicopters and heavy weaponry. This is an unacceptable situation,” Ban said. “The situation is getting worse and worse.”
Ban said that he convened a crisis meeting of senior U.N. officials on Syria on Monday, adding that the group would continue to meet regularly to discuss the conflict.
He repeated his previous demand that the Syrian government pledge not to use chemical weapons under any circumstances.
He was responding to reports that Syria said it would only use chemical weapons if it was attacked by foreign powers.