As shells fall, U.N. few say can save Syria truce

Reuters reports: A handful of soldiers in blue caps put a tentative United Nations presence on the ground in Syria on Monday, predicting success for their mission to stabilize a shaky four-day-old ceasefire even as shells continued to fall.

Charged with overseeing an end to 13 months of violence, the unarmed multinational squad of six professed their optimism.

“We are going to organize ourselves in order to be ready to do our task as soon as possible,” the leader of the advance guard, Colonel Ahmed Himmiche of Morocco, told reporters at a Damascus hotel before meeting Syrian officials in the capital.

“All peacekeepers are optimistic,” he added when asked if he was hopeful an observer mission that will be expanded to 250 could cement a truce that has been marked by persistent, sporadic violence.

Activists trying to topple President Bashar al-Assad said his army was still shelling targets in the battered city of Homs and rounding up opponents, despite its promise to U.N. peace envoy Kofi Annan to withdraw from cities.

Security forces in armored vehicles stormed the village of Khattab in Hama province and carried out raids, the activist Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported, and dozens of people were detained.

Activists said the army on Monday once again shelled the Bayada and Khalidiya districts in Homs with heavy mortars. A video posted by them on YouTube showed explosions followed by clouds of smoke and dust.

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