|U.N. humanitarian chief granted invite to Syria|
After days of trying to obtain permission from Syrian authorities to travel to the country, Valerie Amos, U.N.
under-secretary-general for humanitarian affairs and emergency relief coordinator, will arrive Wednesday in Damascus, she said. Syria decided to permit the two-day planned visit.
"As requested by the secretary-general (Ban Ki-moon), my aim is to urge all parties to allow unhindered access for humanitarian relief workers so that they can evacuate the wounded and deliver essential supplies," Amos said in a statement.
Syria said Amos will arrive Tuesday evening. She will meet with Foreign MInister Walid al-Moallem and "will pay visits to some areas in Syria," state-run news agency SANA reported.
Amos was denied access last week by the government, which said it was not a "suitable time" to visit, Syrian state-run TV reported.
Kofi Annan, the former U.N. secretary-general who is now special joint envoy to Syria for the United Nations and the Arab League, will fly Saturday to Damascus, an Arab League official said.
He will be accompanied by his deputy, former Palestinian Foreign Minister Nasser al-Kidwa. Their goal will be to persuade President Bashar al-Assad to stop the killing, the official said.
SANA reported that Syria "welcomes the visit of Kofi Annan, envoy of the U.N. secretary-general."
The announcement came as government troops broadened their lethal focus from the western city of Rastan, which was pummeled over the weekend, opposition activists said.
The news of diplomatic movement came as the body count continued to mount. At least 15 people were killed on Monday, including two in Daraa, two in Aleppo, two in Idlib, two in Homs and one in the suburbs of Damascus, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, an opposition activist group.
One of those killed in Idlib was a 14-year-old child targeted by sniper fire near a factory, the group said.
The Syrian regime has ramped up raids and arrests across the country, detaining hundreds of civilians in the past two days, the network said. It said Syrian journalist and blogger Rafaa Masri was among those recently detained.
For its part, the Syrian government said 12 "martyrs" from the army were buried Monday.
The U.S. Treasury announced Monday it was identifying the Syrian General Organization of Radio and TV as subject to sanctions imposed against Syria in August.
"The General Organization of Radio and TV has served as an arm of the Syrian regime as it mounts increasingly barbaric attacks on its own population and seeks both to mask and legitimize its violence," the director of the Treasury's Office of Foreign Assets Control, Adam Szubin, said in a statement. "By taking this action today, Treasury is sending a clear signal that it stands with the Syrian people. Any individuals or institutions supporting its abhorrent behavior will be targeted and cut off from the international financial system."
As many as 2,000 Syrians have crossed into Lebanon since Sunday, according to Dana Suleiman, spokesman for the United Nations' refugee agency UNHCR in Beirut. They came from Homs province, she said.
Explosions and gunfire could be heard Monday in the Jib Jandali neighborhood of Homs province, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
Rebel forces said they drove out the army from Rastan -- but acknowledged that most of their fighters had retreated from the besieged area, which is located between the flashpoint cities of Homs and Hama.
Capt. Ammar al-Wawi said the Free Syrian Army's withdrawal from Rastan "was strategic to save the people's lives."
"We don't want to give the regime any excuse to kill more civilians," Wawi said Monday. "It was a tactical withdrawal in order to create better circumstances and to get ready for the next step."
Though they are outnumbered and out-armed by the Syrian military, members of the Free Syrian Army managed to attack an air force intelligence building in Harasta, near Damascus, with machine guns Sunday night, FSA deputy head Malek al-Kurdi said.
Wawi said a growing number of defections from Syrian troops are affecting the government's tactics.
"The regime is avoiding direct confrontations with the FSA fighters, so they attack and bomb the cities using artillery ... and rockets because when they fight us on the ground, we always end up getting more defectors joining our sides," he said.
Meanwhile, residents in the devastated Baba Amr neighborhood of Homs endured another day with scarce or no access to running water, electricity and medical supplies, as the humanitarian toll of the nearly year-old Syrian conflict escalates.
Carla Haddad Mardini, spokeswoman for the International Committee of the Red Cross, said Monday that aid workers still were not allowed to enter Baba Amr.
Mardini said the ICRC and the Syrian Red Crescent were delivering food and hygiene kits in two neighborhoods adjacent to Baba Amr -- al-Tawzee and al-Inshaat.
"We were supposed to be there yesterday but we were not allowed," Mardini said. "A convoy of aid materials arrived today to Homs from Damascus and it contains food supplies to cover the needs of several thousand people."
According to SANA, the state-run news agency, authorities were busy Sunday "removing the destruction and debris left by the armed terrorist groups" in the Baba Amr and Inshaat neighborhoods of Homs."
The Syrian regime has consistently blamed violence on "armed terrorist groups" and portrayed its forces as trying to protect the public interest and security.
CNN cannot independently confirm reports across Syria because the government has severely restricted the access of international journalists.
But the vast majority of reports out of Syria indicate al-Assad's forces are slaughtering civilians in opposition hotbeds in an attempt to wipe out dissidents.
The United Nations estimates more than 7,500 people have died since the beginning of the Syrian conflict almost a year ago, while the LCC says more than 9,000 people have been killed. The Syrian government says more than 2,000 security personnel have been killed in the violence.