U.N. observers halt operations in Syria

(CBS News) The escalating violence in Syria has now forced United Nations observers to suspend their operations there. The deteriorating situation has all the hallmarks of a civil war.

The U.N. mission in Syria began badly nine weeks ago, and then got much worse.

Finally the escalating and unpredictable violence over the past ten days left the mission's head, Maj. Gen. Robert Mood, no choice but to suspend operations.

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"U.N. observers will not be conducting patrols and will stay in their locations until further notice," he said.

The 300 unarmed observers have gone to ground -- down, but not out -- yet.

The observers were sent into Syria in April to monitor a ceasefire. The ceasefire never took hold and the U.N. teams were often caught in the crossfire.

As CBS News' Elizabeth Palmer found when she reached some hard-hit towns, they also ran into angry civilians. Residents were upset the monitors could not do more to stop the violence.

Or rebels begging them to stay, fearing the government would resume its attacks as soon as the U.N. cars rolled out.

But now what? The U.N. says it will monitor the situation day to day. The current mission is only approved until the middle of July. Any new mandate will have to come from the Security Council, where the United States and Russia remain deeply divided on to any resolution to a crisis that has killed over 10,000 Syrians.

For now, it seems the only people to bear witness to the atrocities will be the Syrians themselves.

  • Charlie D'Agata

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