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DAMASCUS - Major General Robert Mood of Norway will set foot in Syria on Sunday to lead a UN cease-fire observer mission aimed at bringing the 13-month crisis in Syria to a close, as mistrust has hit a new high between the UN and the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
A spokesman of the UN observers said here late Saturday that "Mood will be arriving in Damascus tomorrow afternoon and would assume command of the mission."
Currently, there are 15 observers on ground in Syria -- eight of whom were dispatched evenly to Homs, Hama, Daraa and Idlib. The number of the team is to grow to 100 within the next month and will eventually reach up to 300 in accordance to the UN Security Council's recent resolution.
A day earlier, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon announced the appointment of Mood as the Chief Military Observer and Head of Mission of the UN Supervision Mission in Syria (UNSMIS), according to Ban's spokesperson Eduardo Del Buey.
UNSMIS is a mission consisting of up to 300 military observers, assigned by the UN Security Council with the task of monitoring a cease-fire between the Syrian government and the opposition forces. The observers are also tasked with supporting a six-point plan for peace in Syria proposed by Kofi Annan, the UN and Arab League joint special envoy.
Annan's peace plan calls for the withdrawal of heavy weapons and troops from population centers, a daily halt in fighting for the delivery of humanitarian aid and treatment for the wounded, as well as talks between the government and the opposition.
The advance team of observers arrived in Syria 10 days ago to set the ground for the larger mission and to establish liaison with all concerned parties in the crisis. They also came to monitor the truce that practically went into effect on April 12.
However, since their arrival, the rate of violence has been notably amplified with reports of more assassinations, kidnappings and explosions, which had hit headlines almost every day.
On Friday, four bombings hit the capital Damascus -- the deadliest of which was carried out by a suicide bomber who blew himself up near a security forces patrol in a busy intersection in the central al-Midan neighborhood -- leaving 11 people killed and 26 others injured.
Less deadly blasts also ripped through some neighborhoods of the capital, leaving minor injuries and material damages, and raising panic among the residents.
The opposition, as always, blamed the blasts on the government, saying the Assad administration is trying to tarnish the opposition. They said thousands of people thronged to streets in several Syrian cities to stage anti-government rallies on Friday.
The oppositional Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights alleged that five protesters were killed Friday by fire of the security forces, including a 10-year-old boy. But the report could not be independently verified.
Also on Friday, UN chief Ban said Assad's continued crackdown on protests had reached an "intolerable stage," adding that the UN would try to speed up the deployment of up to 300 monitors to Syria.
Syria has repeatedly expressed discontent with the position of the international community and charged that the west does not want to recognize the existence of armed groups that foment anarchy in the country.
Ban in his statement did not condemn the latest string of bombings, a matter that has raised the ire of the Syrian government, which accused him Saturday of avoiding talks about the armed groups' violations and focusing his "outrageous" attack on Syria "as usual."
The state-run Tihreen daily editorialized Saturday that the constant overlooking by the international community as well as its cover to the armed terrorist groups is deemed as a direct participation in facilitating and carrying out the terrorism Syria is subject to.
"The Arabs, and the West in general, didn't favor maintaining silence but rather tried to cover the reality of those terrorist crimes, a matter which has encouraged those terrorists to repeat their crimes time and time again," it said.
However, Russia, a key ally of Syria, roundly condemned the latest attacks and said they "must be repelled decisively" and urged internal as well as external forces to follow the UN Security Council counter-terrorist resolutions so as not to support the terrorists.
The Russian Foreign Ministry accused the Syrian opposition of attempting to aggravate the situation in the crisis-torn country and provoke violence even at the cost of innocent lives.
While this drags on, a military unit stationing at the coastal city of Latakia thwarted at the early hours of Saturday an infiltration attempt by "armed groups," who were trying to sneak into Syria from the sea, according to state-run SANA news agency.
The Syrian troops clashed with those terrorists who were on board of rubber boats, forcing them to flee back, SANA said, adding that the clashes killed a soldier and wounding several others.
The foiled infiltration attempt came hours following the interception of a ship by the Lebanese Army in Lebanon's territorial waters loaded with weapons intended to be delivered to terrorists in Syria, SANA said.
The Lebanese al-Manar TV channel reported that the ship was sailing from Libya and called at Alexandria of Egypt, and that when the navy searched it, they found three containers full of weapons, including cannons and heavy machine-guns.
Meanwhile, Syria's mainstream media said at least five government troops were killed Saturday, adding that severe clashes took place in Damascus' suburbs of Douma, Harasta and Arbeen overnight Saturday.
However, the oppositional Local Coordination Committees said as many as 52 people were killed on Saturday.