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As Violence Escalates, U.N. Suspends Monitoring In Syria

The U.N. said Saturday it was suspending its monitoring operations in Syria because of an "intensification of armed violence" over the past 10 days.

"Innocent civilians — men, women and children — are being killed everyday," Gen. Robert Mood, head of the U.N. Supervision Mission in Syria, said. "[The violence] also poses a significant risk to my unarmed observers."

Mood said observers would not be conducting patrols and stay in their locations until further notice. He said the decision would be reviewed on a daily basis and that the monitoring could resume if conditions improve.

NPR's Deborah Amos has been in Syria and has traveled with the monitors in recent days. They have had difficulty reaching some sites and have come under fire in a couple of instances.

The monitors have been in Syria since April and have been going to cities and towns where deadly clashes are taking place between rebels and the forces of President Bashar Assad.

However, the violence has not abated in the conflict that began in March of last year.

"This escalation is limiting our ability to observe, verify, report as well as assist in local dialogue," Mood said.

The former U.N secretary general, Kofi Annan, has been attempting to broker peace between the government and the rebels. But the plan has not been making any headway, and Saturday's announcement deals another blow to his efforts.

Update at 12:37 p.m. ET. U.S. Consulting With Partners:

National Security Council spokesman Tommy Vietor said the U.S. was now consulting with allies about "next steps toward a Syrian-led political transition," The Associated Press reported. "The sooner this transition takes place, the greater the chance of averting a lengthy and bloody sectarian civil war," he said.

Update at 9:25 a.m. ET. Army Offensive Continues:

The rebels have been making gains this month, and the Syrian army has responded with stepped up attacks that have included helicopter assaults and heavy shelling, NPR's Deborah Amos told Weekend Edition.

"The army has unleashed this blistering offensive," Amos said. "Overnight, the military offensive against the rebels has continued."

The U.N. blames both sides for the continued fighting and says neither has shown any real signs of observing a ceasefire, she noted.

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