UN Cease-fire Monitors Arrive in Syria, as Heavy Clashes Erupt on Border With Turkey

Advance team of six UN observers arrives in Damascus, 25 more expected later this week; Syrian forces bombard opposition stronghold of Homs.

An advance team of six UN observers arrived in Damascus on Monday to monitor Syria's 4-day-old cease-fire, according to a spokesman for international envoy Kofi Annan, as heavy clashes reportedly broke out on the Syria-Turkey border between the Syrian army and opposition forces.

Twelve people were reportedly killed in the fighting in the country on Monday.

An image grab taken from a YouTube video, allegedly of  smoke billowing in Damascus.

Spokesman Ahmad Fawzi said the remaining 25 observers are expected to arrive days from now. He said in a statement on Monday that the mission "will start with setting up operating headquarters, and reaching out to the Syrian government and the opposition forces so that both sides fully understand the role of the UN observers."

Syria's state news agency SANA said the country hoped that the team would witness the "crimes" being carried out by "armed terrorist groups."

The six-person team had a meeting scheduled at the Syrian Foreign Ministry early Monday, and "want to begin their mission in Homs, as it is still an area witnessing daily breaches of the ceasefire," a Syrian official told DPA.

The UN action comes as the cease-fire seems to be eroding, with President Bashar Assad's troops firing tank shells and mortar rounds at neighborhoods in the opposition stronghold of Homs.

Heavy clashes erupted Monday between opposition rebels and Syrian regular army units near the Turkish-Syrian border, as the first batch of a UN advance team were due to start observing the shaky ceasefire in the country, activists said.

"Fierce clashes are taking place in the northern province of Idlib, while shelling resumed on areas in Homs, amid attempts by government forces to take control of some areas inside the restive central province," the London-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said in a statement.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon on Monday called on both the government and opposition forces toabstain from any violence, calling the four-day cease-fire in the country "very fragile."

"Any small unintended gunfire may break this very fragileprocess," the UN chief observed.

UN observers who arrived in Syria on Sunday had "not yet" reportedback, Ban said. He urged Syrian authorities to ensure their safetyand freedom of movement, ruling out any plans to provide militaryprotection for humanitarian workers in Syria.

In the past four days, the opposition has registered 200 violations of the ceasefire by government forces. The Local Coordination Committees, which document violence across Syria, said 28 people were killed on Sunday.

More than 9,000 people have been killed in Syria since mid-March 2011, according to UN estimates.

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