Conflict & Justice

UN says Syrian civilians need urgent protection


Bodies of people killed by Syrian security forces during protests in Daraa city, stored in a mobile refrigerator, May 4, 2011.

A United Nations mission sent to investigate the violence in Syria has found there is an urgent need to protect civilians from "excessive force".

The findings come as media reports say security forces on Saturday wounded at least eight people protesting at a mosque in the capital, Damascus.

Witnesses said thousands of demonstrators hit the streets in the western Kafarsouseh suburb after early morning prayers.

Sound bombs and tear gas were used in efforts to stop the demonstration, Al Jazeera reported, adding that security forces responded with live fire after protesters threw rocks and the empty gas canisters.

Security forces reportedly stormed the mosque, damaging the interior, before arresting an estimated 150 people.

Although the U.N. team — the first permitted into the country by the government of Bashar al Assad — cited fears for the safety of civilians, it stopped short of declaring a humanitarian crisis.

U.N. spokesman Farhan Haq added that the “constant presence” of government officials had limited the mission's ability to independently assess the situation.

The U.N. has previously said that Assad's regime could be guilty of crimes against humanity.

It estimates that more than 2,200 people have been killed in the government's crackdown on protests, while the Security Council is divided over whether to impose sanctions against Assad and his inner circle.

(Read more on GlobalPost: Obama joins calls for Bashar al-Assad to step down)