A roadside bomb has exploded in a suburb of Damascus as senior UN officials toured the area, the latest incident in which the unarmed observer mission has nearly been caught up in Syria's bloodshed.
The UN said there were no casualties in Sunday's blast, which occurred in Douma about 150 metres away from visiting UN peacekeeping chief Herve Ladsous and Major General Robert Mood, the head of the UN observers in Syria.
"It wasn't near the convoy. The convoy was not targeted, we were not attacked," Sawssan Ghoshe, a spokeswoman for the mission, said."It was a very small incident, very low sound, very little smoke."
She said the observer continued their trip in Douma without any problems.
Elsewhere in the country, at least dozens of people were reported killed, including 34 in an assault on Souran village in the central Hama province, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.
The UK-based activist group said troops stormed the village after shelling it and urged UN truce observers to deploy immediately in the area.
A UN observer team with more than 250 members now on the ground has failed to quell the bloodshed in Syria, although it says it has had a "calming effect" in certain areas. On several occasions, the team has come close to being caught in an attack, although there is no conclusive proof that it has been targeted.
Earlier this month, a bomb targeting an army truck exploded seconds after a convoy carrying Mood went past in the country's south. Last week, a roadside bomb damaged the mission's cars in a northern town just minutes after witnesses said soldiers loyal to President Bashar al-Assad gunned down mourners at a funeral procession.
'Military buses targeted'
It was not immediately clear what the target of Sunday's explosion was, but it occurred near a security checkpoint.
A security official at the checkpoint told UN observers that gunmen had targeted two military buses in Douma earlier in the day, wounding more than 30 security agents.
Ladsous gave a grim assessment of conditions for civilians in Douma, the scene of repeated clashes between security forces and opposition fighters in recent months.
"There's still some fighting taking place," he said. "It's absolutely imperative that all parties exercise restraint and don't engage into any more fighting. It serves nothing."
In Damascus, opposition groups reported fighting overnight to Sunday between government forces and rebels in the district of Kfar Souseh, a hotbed of dissent against Assad's administration. The district is a high-security area, housing the foreign ministry and several security and intelligence agencies.
It has also been the scene of frequent anti-Assad demonstrations since the uprising began.
The revolt against Assad started in March 2011 with mostly peaceful protests calling for political change. The deadly government crackdown led many opposition supporters to take up arms. Now, the regime is facing an armed insurgency targeting government installations, soldiers and security forces.
In March, the UN said that 9,000 people had been killed. Hundreds more have died since. Authorities say more than 2,500 members of the security forces have been killed.
A ceasefire that was supposed to begin in April has never really taken hold, undermining the rest of international envoy Kofi Annan's plan, which is supposed to lead to talks to end the 15-month crisis.
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|Timothy V. Gatto|
|William A. Cook|