Syrian government troops shelled suburbs of the capital Damascus, killing at least 12 people in a stepped-up regime offensive on rebel areas around the country, activists said Saturday.
Most of the deaths occurred overnight in the restive suburb of Douma, where regime forces fired mortars that struck a residential building, killing eight people.
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Douma-based activist Mohammed Saeed and the British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which relies on a network of activists on the ground, said that four people were killed in the shelling of Arbeen and Tall suburbs.
"The regime is trying to purge the suburbs of the capital of all resistance," Saeed said. He said the fire on the suburbs was indiscriminate and that a man, his wife and their child died when a mortar shell hit their apartment in Arbeen.
Saeed said UN observers deployed in Syria to monitor the cease-fire, which never really took hold, have not been to Douma in over a week. "But anyway, all they can do is record what they see, they cannot help," he said.
Observers suspend mission
The chief of UN observers in Syria said Saturday that the mission is suspending its activities and patrols because of escalating violence in the country.
Maj. Gen. Robert Mood said in a statement that the bloodshed is posing significant risks to the observers and is impeding their ability to carry out their mandate.
He says the observers will not be conducting patrols and will stay in their locations in the country "until further notice." The suspension will be reviewed on a daily basis.
The suspension is the latest sign that a peace plan brokered by international envoy Kofi Annan is disintegrating. The regime and the opposition have both ignored the cease-fire, which was supposed to go into effect April 12.
Activists say some 14,000 people have been killed since the uprising against President Bashar Assad began in March 2011. The uprising began as a largely peaceful protest movement but has since morphed into an insurgency seeking to topple the regime.
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