UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon [official profile] called Monday for an immediate and impartial investigation [press briefing] into the killing of hundreds of civilians in Daraya, Syria. According to spokesperson Martin Nesirky, the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) [official website] is already looking into the incident. More than 200 bodies were found [UN New Centre report] in Daraya after pro-government forces raided the town on Saturday. The government claimed they were conducting an anti-terrorism operation, but opposition forces report that most of those slain were civilians.
The recent deaths in Daraya are indicative of escalating violence in Syria, where opposition and government forces have now been fighting each other for 17 months. On August 19 the UN Supervision Mission in Syria (UNSMIS) [official website] ceased its work [JURIST report]. According to UN Assistant Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations Edmund Mulet, the mission's work had to be stopped because the two conditions required by the UN Security Council to renew UNSMIS' mandatethe cessation of the use of heavy weapons and the reduction in violence from all sidesdid not exist. In mid-August the head of UNSMIS Lieutenant General Babacar Gayee expressed concern [JURIST report] about the growing number of civilian casualties in violent clashes between government forces and armed opposition groups. In July UN Chief Military Observer in Syria Major-General Robert Mood stated that Syrian authorities were committed to implementing the six-point peace agreement [JURIST report] that was reached a week earlier. In June a UN commission stated that Syrian forces may have been responsible [JURIST report] for the killing of more than 100 civilians in Al-Houla in May. Syrian President Bashar al-Assad [JURIST news archive] had denied [JURIST report] the allegations stating that "not even monsters" would carry out the attacks.