They've been pushed around, shot at and ignored for four months and now they're finally calling it quits. On Monday, the United Nation's observer mission in Syria pulled out of the country citing the escalating violence. "Both parties have obligations under international humanitarian law to make sure that civilians are protected," said General Babacar Gaye, head of the UN Supervision Mission in Syria, said at a press conference in Damascus. "These obligations have not been respected." By now, the U.N. mission observers have been reduced to spectators as rebels and security forces have categorically ignored the ceasefire agreement outlined by special envoy Kofi Annan, who announced his resignation earlier this month. (He was recently replaced by Lakhdar Brahimi.) It hasn't helped that world powers in the U.N. Security Council have failed to reach agreement on a path forward for the U.N. (China and Russia have repeatedly vetoed resolutions to clamp down on President Bashar al-Assad). As a result, the observer mission's mandate expired at midnight.
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Meanwhile, fighting continues to rage despite the Muslim holiday of Eid, which brought about a rare public appearance by President Bashar al-Assad over the weekend. As the AFP reports, "despite the religious holiday, his forces were still in deadly action on the ground, shelling several rebel hubs and clashing with opposition fighters in Damascus itself, a monitoring group said." At least 18,000 people have been killed and 170,000 have fled the country since the conflict began.