DAMASCUS: A rocket-propelled grenade exploded near a team of UN observers in a Damascus suburb on Sunday, the military said, as clashes between regime troops and armed rebels raged in and around the Syrian capital.
No one was hurt in the Douma blast, which came as UN truce mission head Major General Robert Mood and peacekeeping chief Herve Ladsous were leading a team of observers around the north Damascus suburb, an AFP correspondent at the scene said.
The device, a rocket propelled-grenade according to a Syrian army officer in the area, exploded just a few dozen metres (yards) from the UN team.
Fierce clashes between regime troops and rebels determined to oust from power President Bashar al-Assad had been underway in Douma and other parts of the Syrian capital since the early hours of the day, activists said.
The Britain-based Observatory said regime forces shelled the outskirts of Douma overnight with rockets crashing into the suburb during the day. A civilian was also shot dead in Douma by a sniper.
Sunday’s blast follows several other close calls for the UN monitors, who have been deployed to observe a fragile truce that came into effect on April 12.
On May 16, a convoy of UN observers was struck by a homemade bomb in the central city of Homs, damaging three vehicles but causing no casualties.
A similar convoy was hit by a roadside bomb on May 9 in the southern province of Daraa, wounding six Syrian soldiers escorting them.
Elsewhere across the country on Sunday, at least 21 people were killed, including 16 civilians who died when the army sent shells crashing into a village in central Hama province, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported.
The latest violence came after the G8 nations said a “political transition” was needed to end the crisis in Syria, where monitors say more than 12,000 people have died in a government crackdown since March 2011.
The AFP correspondent said the streets of Douma were deserted and most of its shops were closed, with pro- and anti-regime graffiti scrawled on the walls.
“When the observers leave, the armed men will come back to cause trouble,” one soldier told reporters at the scene, in a reference to the armed rebels.
Fighting also erupted during the night in the Kafr Sousa district of south Damascus, according to the Observatory, adding there were clashes in other parts of the capital which rang out with gunfire during the night.
“Gunfire was heard in Abbasiyyin Square, and Baghdad and Thawra streets,” said the Britain-based watchdog, referring to high-security areas of the city.
The Local Coordination Committees, a network of activists on the ground, said the army dispatched “huge reinforcements” to Kafr Sousa in the wake of the fighting.
And in the restive province of Hama, three children were among the 16 people killed when government troops shelled the village of Souran and opened fire indiscriminately, the Observatory said.
Meanwhile gunmen assassinated an official of the ruling Baath party in the city of Jisr al-Shughur, in northwestern Idlib province, the Observatory said, in the latest targeted killing of regime figures.
The victim, Adib Habb al-Rumman, was a teacher and head of the local Baath party chief. “He was targeted on his plot of farmland,” Observatory head Rami Abdel Rahman said.
“There is definitely an increase in assassinations targeting people associated with the regime, be they officials or pro-regime businessmen,” he added.
Also on Sunday, demonstrations took place in several parts of Syria, the Observatory said, include rallies in southern Daraa province to demand the release of activist and citizen journalist Mohammed al-Hariri.
According to Reporters Without Borders, Hariri was sentenced to death for “high treason.” He was arrested on April 16, RSF said, after he gave an interview to Al-Jazeera from his home in Daraa province.
The G8 — which includes long-time Syrian-ally Russia — called on Saturday for a “Syrian-led, inclusive political transition leading to a democratic, plural political system.”
“The Syrian government and all parties must immediately and fully adhere to commitments to implement the six-point plan of UN and Arab League Joint Special Envoy… Kofi Annan,” a joint statement said at the end of a summit in Camp David, outside Washington.