United Nations observers yesterday inspected the site of a deadly explosion that flattened a block of houses in the central Syrian city of Hama a day earlier and killed at least 16 people. The government and the opposition traded blame for the blasts.
Syrian state-run media said rebel bomb-makers accidentally set off the explosives, while anti-regime activists said intense shelling by government forces caused the extensive damage.
It was impossible to independently verify the conflicting accounts because President Bashar Assad’s regime, facing a 13-month-old uprising, has restricted access for journalists and other outside witnesses.
The spokesman for the UN special envoy Kofi Annan, Ahmad Fawzi, said observers visited the site but there was no immediate word on what they saw. A pair of UN observers is stationed in Hama, part of an advance team of 15 that is to be expanded in the coming weeks to up to 300.
As the violence in Syria continues despite UN-led efforts to implement a cease-fire, the international community has become increasingly impatient with the Assad regime. On Wednesday, France raised the prospect of military intervention in Syria, saying the UN should consider a harsher measure if a peace plan by Annan fails.
Amateur videos said to be of Wednesday’s incident in Hama showed a large cloud of white and yellow smoke rising from a neighborhood surrounded by green fields.
In a later video, dozens of people are searching the debris, including huge chunks of cement and broken cinderblocks. Another clip shows the bloodied body of a little girl being carried through a crowd of wailing men.