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August 1, 2021

U.N. withdraws staffers as violence rages in Syria

Opposition takes Syria seat at Arab League summit.

The United Nations is withdrawing international staffers from Syria for the time being after shelling near their living quarters, a spokesman said Monday, according to CNN.“Yesterday and today, a number of mortar shells fell in close proximity to, and on the grounds of, the hotel in Damascus housing U.N. staff,” U.N. spokesman Martin Nesirky said.“The mortar fire caused some damage to the building and some cars, including one U.N. vehicle. The United Nations Security Management Team has assessed the situation and decided to temporarily reduce the presence of international staff in Damascus due to security conditions.”Nesirky said the agency is “temporarily relocating some of the U.N. international staff in Syria out of the country.” A U.N. diplomat who declined to be identified because he hadn’t been authorized to speak on the matter said the number is half of its roughly 100 international staff members.Most of the Damascus-based staff of the Office of the Joint Representative for Syria are being relocated to Beirut and the Joint Special Representative’s main office in Cairo. The national staff has been asked to work from home for now. “These measures are being undertaken solely for security reasons. The United Nations remains active and committed to helping the Syrian sides in their search for a political solution,” Nesirky said. “The U.N. will maintain inside Syria the number of staff and capacity required to continue running its critical humanitarian programs and deliver assistance to civilians in need. This is a priority for the U.N.”The move comes amid alarm about the presence of chemical weaponry in the country and the wounding of a top rebel. Also, at least 48 people died in the civil war Monday, including 25 people in Damascus and its suburbs, the opposition Local Coordination Committees of Syria said.

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