UNITED NATIONS – The head of the United Nations observer mission in Syria said Tuesday that U.N. forces have come under fire recently but are committed to staying in the strife-torn country.
Maj. Gen. Robert Mood said Tuesday that questions about canceling the mission were premature and noted, "We are not going anywhere."
The U.N. said Saturday its 300 observers based in Syria were suspending all missions because of concerns for their safety after fighting intensified over the previous 10 days.
"Shelling, small arms fire and other incidents are coming much closer, and we have been targets several times over the last few weeks," he said. It was not only dangerous to his observers, but made it difficult to carry out their mission.
Mood spoke after briefing the U.N. Security Council during a closed meeting on the situation in Syria, where shelling and clashes between rebel fighters and government troops in Homs have continued.
"The suffering of the Syrian people, the suffering of men, women and children, some of them trapped by fighting, is getting worse," Mood said.
Mood did not attribute the suspension of the mission to any single incident, but said that among the issues was the inability of the observers to get through an angry crowd that mobbed their motorcade in one city.
Reviving the mission would require a commitment from both the Syrian government and the opposition to "freedom of movement" for the U.N. observers, Mood said.
While the Syrian government had given him such assurances in the last few days, he said we "have not seen that yet from the opposition."
Opposition groups say more than 14,000 people have been killed since the Syrian uprising began in March 2011.