BEIRUT, Lebanon — The head of the United Nations observers' mission in Syria demanded Sunday that warring parties allow the evacuation of women, children, elderly and sick people endangered by fighting in the besieged city of Homs and other combat zones.
Maj. Gen. Robert Mood said the observers had been trying for the past week to bring out families and wounded trapped in Homs by heavily shelling of rebel-held areas. The offensive is part of a broader push by President Bashar Assad's forces to regain rebel-held villages and towns throughout the country.
"The parties must reconsider their position and allow women, children, the elderly and the injured to leave conflict zones without any preconditions and ensure their safety," Mood said in a statement.
On Saturday, the United Nations said its 300 observers based in Syria were suspending all missions because of concerns for their safety after fighting intensified over the previous 10 days. But the monitors said they were remaining in Syria in Damascus, the capital.
Regime forces have been waging a fierce offensive through towns and villages nationwide, trying to root out rebels by shelling urban areas with tanks and attacking from helicopters. Rebels also have attacked Syrian forces, mostly trying to burn tanks.
The activist group Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said at least eight soldiers were killed in a rebel attack, and about 30 Syrian civilians and rebels were killed across the country Sunday.
"The humanitarian situation in Homs is very difficult," said Rami Abdul-Rahman, who heads the British-based Observatory. "It is very clear that the army wants to retake Homs."
The Observatory asked the United Nations on Saturday to intervene in Homs to evacuate 1,000 families the group said were trapped by violence along with dozens of wounded people in rebel-controlled areas who could not get medicine or doctors to treat them.
On Sunday, clashes appeared intense in Homs and its surrounding provinces as well as in Douma on the fringes of the Syrian capital, said the Observatory and the Local Coordination Committees, another activist group.