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UN says at least 3,500 killed in Syria crackdown

Posted by Admin on November 9, 2011

http://news.yahoo.com/un-says-least-3-500-killed-syria-crackdown-101719585.html

By JOHN HEILPRIN – Associated Press | AP – 21 hrs ago

GENEVA (AP) — Syria‘s nearly eight-month-old uprising has cost at least 3,500 civilian lives, the United Nations reported Tuesday, in a tally based on figures gathered outside the country.

That includes dozens killed since last week’s Arab League-brokered peace plan, and the passing of a major Muslim holiday on Sunday, according to the U.N. human rights office.

Ravina Shamdasani — a spokeswoman for the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights — said “more than 60 people are reported to have been killed by Syrian security forces since Syria signed the peace plan” sponsored by the league.

She told reporters in Geneva the tally includes 19 killed on Sunday during the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Adha, also known as the Feast of Sacrifice.

The U.N. figures are conservative and based on “credible sources on the ground,” though the agency itself has no one posted in the country, Shamdasani said.

The government has largely sealed off the country from foreign journalists and prevented independent reporting, but amateur videos posted online and details gathered by activist groups have been filtering out.

Damascus had agreed under the Arab League plan to pull tanks and armored vehicles out of cities, release political prisoners and allow journalists and rights groups into the country.

Despite the release of more than 500 detainees on the eve of Eid al-Adha, Shamdasani said “tens of thousands continue to remain in detention and dozens are reported to be arbitrarily arrested and detained.”

As a result, she said, the U.N. human rights office is “deeply concerned” that the violence continues unabated as the government continues to use tanks and armored vehicles to attack some areas.

Activists have reported that fresh attacks by Syrian troops on Tuesday morning killed two people in a rebellious neighborhood in the central Syrian city of Homs, as the military struggles to consolidate control over the district.

A key opposition group, the Syrian National Council, declared the city a “disaster area” on Monday and appealed for international intervention to protect civilians, as well as calling for Arab and international observers to oversee the situation on the ground. Homs has a population of some 800,000 and is some 100 miles (160 kilometers) north of the capital, Damascus.

Despite increasing international pressure, President Bashar Assad still has a firm grip on power and has shown no signs of moving to stop the crackdown on the uprising against his regime since mid-March.

He blames the bloodshed on “armed gangs” and extremists acting out a foreign agenda to destabilize the regime, portraying himself as the lone force who can ward off the radicalism and sectarianism that have bedeviled neighbors in Iraq and Lebanon.

___

Zeina Karam and Elizabeth A. Kennedy in Beirut and Maamoun Youssef in Cairo contributed to this report.

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Thousands killed in Syria uprising

Posted by Admin on November 9, 2011

http://news.yahoo.com/photos/protests-in-syria-1311336246-slideshow/

The death toll in the Syrian uprising has soared to at least 3,500 people, the United Nations said, the result of a military crackdown that has bloodied city after city but failed to crush the 8-month-old revolt against President Bashar Assad‘s regime.

In this photo released by the Syrian official news agency SANA, Syrian President Bashar Assad, right, waves to his supporters after he attended the prayer of Eid Al Adha, at the al-Nour Mosque in the

In this photo released by the Syrian official news agency SANA, Syrian President Bashar Assad, right, waves to his supporters after he attended the prayer of Eid Al Adha, at the al-Nour Mosque in the northern town of Raqqa, Syria, on Sunday, Nov. 6, 2011. Syrians in the restive region of Homs performed special prayers for a major Muslim holiday to the sound of explosions and gunfire as government troops pushed forward their assault on the area, killing at least several people Sunday, residents and activists said. (AP Photo/SANA) EDITORIAL USE ONLY

In this citizen journalist's image made with a mobile phone and provided by Shaam News Network, Syrian protesters stage a demonstration against the Syrian President Bashar Assad's regime at Mreidekh v

In this citizen journalist’s image made with a mobile phone and provided by Shaam News Network, Syrian protesters stage a demonstration against the Syrian President Bashar Assad’s regime at Mreidekh village in Edlib province, northern Syria, on Sunday, Nov. 6, 2011, according to the source. The crisis in Syria has burned since mid-March despite widespread condemnation and international sanctions aimed at chipping away at the ailing economy and isolating Assad and his tight circle of relatives and advisers. (AP Photo/Shaam News Network) EDITORIAL USE ONLY, NO SALES, THE ASSOCIATED PRESS IS UNABLE TO INDEPENDENTLY VERIFY THE AUTHENTICITY, CONTENT, LOCATION OR DATE OF THIS HANDOUT PHOTO

In this photo released by the Syrian official news agency SANA, Syrian President Bashar Assad, left, shakes hands with Syrian men, right, after the prayer of Eid al-Adha, at the al-Nour Mosque in the

In this photo released by the Syrian official news agency SANA, Syrian President Bashar Assad, left, shakes hands with Syrian men, right, after the prayer of Eid al-Adha, at the al-Nour Mosque in the northern town of Raqqa, Syria, Sunday, Nov. 6, 2011. Syrians in the restive region of Homs performed special prayers for a major Muslim holiday to the sound of explosions and gunfire as government troops pushed forward their assault on the area, killing at least several people Sunday, residents and activists said. (AP Photo/SANA) EDITORIAL USE ONLY

A Syrian boy plays with his toy gun, in the old city of Damascus, Syria, Saturday Nov. 5, 2011. The head of the Arab League warned Saturday that the failure of an Arab-brokered plan to end the violenc

A Syrian boy plays with his toy gun, in the old city of Damascus, Syria, Saturday Nov. 5, 2011. The head of the Arab League warned Saturday that the failure of an Arab-brokered plan to end the violence in Syria would have disastrous consequences, as new bloodshed fueled skepticism that the country’s autocratic regime is serious about halting its crackdown on dissenters. (AP Photo/Muzaffar Salman)

A protester joins demonstrations against the Syrian regime in London

A protester with his face painted in the Syrian flag colours protests against the regime of Syrian President, outside the Syrian embassy in London in October. Foreign Minister William Hague has called for “ever-increasing” international pressure, rather than military intervention, to end the violent repression in Syria

Children of Syrian ascent shout slogans as they wave the revolutionary Syrian flag and a Bulgarian flag during a rally against the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in front of the Syrian emb

Children of Syrian ascent shout slogans as they wave the revolutionary Syrian flag and a Bulgarian flag during a rally against the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in front of the Syrian embassy in Sofia, on Sunday, Nov. 6, 2011. The United Nations says 3,000 people have been killed in Syria in the seven months of protests against the rule of President Bashar al-Assad. (AP Photo/Valentina Petrova)

An unidentified protestor seen behind a Bulgarian flag has his face painted with Bulgarian and the Syrian revolutionary flag as he attends protest against the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assa

An unidentified protestor seen behind a Bulgarian flag has his face painted with Bulgarian and the Syrian revolutionary flag as he attends protest against the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in front of the Syrian embassy in Sofia, on Sunday, Nov. 6, 2011. The United Nations says 3,000 people have been killed in Syria in the seven months of protests against the rule of President Bashar al-Assad. (AP Photo/Valentina Petrova)

Sara, 12,  shouts slogans during a rally against the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in front of the Syrian embassy in Sofia, on Sunday, Nov. 6, 2011.  The United Nations says 3,000 people

Sara, 12, shouts slogans during a rally against the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in front of the Syrian embassy in Sofia, on Sunday, Nov. 6, 2011. The United Nations says 3,000 people have been killed in Syria in the seven months of protests against the rule of President Bashar al-Assad. (AP Photo/Valentina Petrova))

Fathi, 23, a Syrian refugee has his face painted with Kurdish and the  Syrian revolutionary flag as he attends a protest against the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in front of the Syrian e

Fathi, 23, a Syrian refugee has his face painted with Kurdish and the Syrian revolutionary flag as he attends a protest against the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in front of the Syrian embassy in Sofia, on Sunday, Nov. 6, 2011. The United Nations says 3,000 people have been killed in Syria in the seven months of protests against the rule of President Bashar al-Assad. (AP Photo/Valentina Petrova))

A protester faces riot police at Khalidia

A protester faces riot police at Khalidia, near Homs November 4, 2011. Syrian troops’ response to anti-government protests after Friday prayers will be a litmus test of the president’s agreement with the Arab League to stop shooting and open talks with the protesters, opposition leaders said. REUTERS/Handout (SYRIA – Tags: CIVIL UNREST POLITICS TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY) FOR EDITORIAL USE ONLY. NOT FOR SALE FOR MARKETING OR ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS

Soldiers are seen at an army checkpoint in Hula

Soldiers are seen at an army checkpoint in Hula, near Homs November 4, 2011. Syrian troops’ response to anti-government protests after Friday prayers will be a litmus test of the president’s agreement with the Arab League to stop shooting and open talks with the protesters, opposition leaders said. REUTERS/Handout (SYRIA – Tags: POLITICS CIVIL UNREST MILITARY) FOR EDITORIAL USE ONLY. NOT FOR SALE FOR MARKETING OR ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS. THIS IMAGE HAS BEEN SUPPLIED BY A THIRD PARTY. IT IS DISTRIBUTED, EXACTLY AS RECEIVED BY REUTERS, AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS

Soldiers are seen at an army checkpoint in Hula

Soldiers are seen at an army checkpoint in Hula, near Homs November 4, 2011. Syrian troops’ response to anti-government protests after Friday prayers will be a litmus test of the president’s agreement with the Arab League to stop shooting and open talks with the protesters, opposition leaders said. REUTERS/Handout (SYRIA – Tags: POLITICS CIVIL UNREST MILITARY) FOR EDITORIAL USE ONLY. NOT FOR SALE FOR MARKETING OR ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS. THIS IMAGE HAS BEEN SUPPLIED BY A THIRD PARTY. IT IS DISTRIBUTED, EXACTLY AS RECEIVED BY REUTERS, AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS

Demonstrators protesting against Syria's President Bashar al-Assad gather in Hula

Demonstrators protesting against Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad gather in Hula, near Homs in this undated handout released November 4, 2011. Syrian troops’ response to anti-government protests after Friday prayers will be a litmus test of the president’s agreement with the Arab League to stop shooting and open talks with the protesters, opposition leaders said. REUTERS/Handout (SYRIA – Tags: POLITICS CIVIL UNREST) FOR EDITORIAL USE ONLY. NOT FOR SALE FOR MARKETING OR ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS. THIS IMAGE HAS BEEN SUPPLIED BY A THIRD PARTY. IT IS DISTRIBUTED, EXACTLY AS RECEIVED BY REUTERS, AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS

Demonstrators protesting against Syria's President Bashar al-Assad gather in Hula

Demonstrators protesting against Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad gather in Hula, near Homs in this undated handout released November 4, 2011. Syrian troops’ response to anti-government protests after Friday prayers will be a litmus test of the president’s agreement with the Arab League to stop shooting and open talks with the protesters, opposition leaders said. REUTERS/Handout (SYRIA – Tags: POLITICS CIVIL UNREST) FOR EDITORIAL USE ONLY. NOT FOR SALE FOR MARKETING OR ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS. THIS IMAGE HAS BEEN SUPPLIED BY A THIRD PARTY. IT IS DISTRIBUTED, EXACTLY AS RECEIVED BY REUTERS, AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS

Soldiers are seen at an army checkpoint in Hula

Soldiers are seen at an army checkpoint in Hula, near Homs November 4, 2011. Syrian troops’ response to anti-government protests after Friday prayers will be a litmus test of the president’s agreement with the Arab League to stop shooting and open talks with the protesters, opposition leaders said. REUTERS/Handout (SYRIA – Tags: POLITICS CIVIL UNREST MILITARY) FOR EDITORIAL USE ONLY. NOT FOR SALE FOR MARKETING OR ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS. THIS IMAGE HAS BEEN SUPPLIED BY A THIRD PARTY. IT IS DISTRIBUTED, EXACTLY AS RECEIVED BY REUTERS, AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS

Demonstrators protesting against Syria's President Bashar al-Assad gather in Hula

Demonstrators protesting against Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad gather in Hula, near Homs in this undated handout released November 4, 2011. Syrian troops’ response to anti-government protests after Friday prayers will be a litmus test of the president’s agreement with the Arab League to stop shooting and open talks with the protesters, opposition leaders said. REUTERS/Handout (SYRIA – Tags: POLITICS CIVIL UNREST) FOR EDITORIAL USE ONLY. NOT FOR SALE FOR MARKETING OR ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS. THIS IMAGE HAS BEEN SUPPLIED BY A THIRD PARTY. IT IS DISTRIBUTED, EXACTLY AS RECEIVED BY REUTERS, AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS

Demonstrators protesting against Syria's President Bashar al-Assad gather in Hula

Demonstrators protesting against Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad gather in Hula, near Homs in this undated handout released November 4, 2011. Syrian troops’ response to anti-government protests after Friday prayers will be a litmus test of the president’s agreement with the Arab League to stop shooting and open talks with the protesters, opposition leaders said. REUTERS/Handout (SYRIA – Tags: POLITICS CIVIL UNREST) FOR EDITORIAL USE ONLY. NOT FOR SALE FOR MARKETING OR ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS. THIS IMAGE HAS BEEN SUPPLIED BY A THIRD PARTY. IT IS DISTRIBUTED, EXACTLY AS RECEIVED BY REUTERS, AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS

Demonstrators protesting against Syria's President Bashar al-Assad gather in Hula

Demonstrators protesting against Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad gather in Hula, near Homs in this undated handout released November 4, 2011. Syrian troops’ response to anti-government protests after Friday prayers will be a litmus test of the president’s agreement with the Arab League to stop shooting and open talks with the protesters, opposition leaders said. REUTERS/Handout (SYRIA – Tags: POLITICS CIVIL UNREST TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY) FOR EDITORIAL USE ONLY. NOT FOR SALE FOR MARKETING OR ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS. THIS IMAGE HAS BEEN SUPPLIED BY A THIRD PARTY. IT IS DISTRIBUTED, EXACTLY AS RECEIVED BY REUTERS, AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS

The UN says the crackdown has claimed 3,000 lives

Syrian anti-regime youths throw stones at security forces in the Damascus suburb of Qadam during protests against President Bashar al-Assad. Arab foreign ministers meet anew to step up pressure on Syria to end nearly eight months of deadly violence, as 14 more civilians were reportedly killed in the country. (AFP Photo/)

Indonesian activists hold posters during a rally against the government's crackdown on protests in Syria, in Jakarta, Indonesia, Friday, Oct. 28, 2011. (AP Photo/Dita Alangkara)

Indonesian activists hold posters during a rally against the government’s crackdown on protests in Syria, in Jakarta, Indonesia, Friday, Oct. 28, 2011. (AP Photo/Dita Alangkara

An Indonesian activist holds a poster during a protest against the government's crackdown on protests in Syria, in Jakarta, Indonesia, Friday, Oct. 28, 2011. (AP Photo/Dita Alangkara)

An Indonesian activist holds a poster during a protest against the government’s crackdown on protests in Syria, in Jakarta, Indonesia, Friday, Oct. 28, 2011. (AP Photo/Dita Alangkara)

Indonesian activists hold posters during a rally against the government's crackdown on protests in Syria, in Jakarta, Indonesia, Friday, Oct. 28, 2011. (AP Photo/Dita Alangkara)

Indonesian activists hold posters during a rally against the government’s crackdown on protests in Syria, in Jakarta, Indonesia, Friday, Oct. 28, 2011. (AP Photo/Dita Alangkara)

Crackdown on anti-regime protests in Syria since mid-March has left more than 3,000 dead, according to the UN

This photo, released by the Syrian Arab News Agency (SANA), shows Syrian security forces carrying the coffins of comrades, whom the agency said were killed in recent violence in the country, during a group funeral held outside the Tishrin military hospital in Damascus on October 24. (AFP Photo/)

US Senator John McCain addresses the second day of the World Economic Forum (WEF) meeting by the Dead Sea

US Senator John McCain addresses the second day of the World Economic Forum (WEF) meeting by the Dead Sea, 55 kms southeast of Amman. McCain raised the prospect Sunday of possible armed intervention to protect civilians in Syria where a crackdown on pro-democracy protests has killed more than 3,000 people. (AFP Photo/Khalil Mazraawi)

Lebanese security forces separate pro-Assad demonstrators in Beirut today from opponents of the Syrian regime

Syria’s under-fire president Sunday appointed two new governors in flashpoint provinces that have seen staunch protests against his regime, as security forces reportedly killed three more civilians. (AFP Photo/Anwar Amro)

Nabil el-Arabi, Secretary General of the Arab League

Nabil el-Arabi, Secretary General of the Arab League, pictured in July 2011. Arab foreign ministers on Sunday opened an emergency meeting in Cairo on the crisis in Syria where the UN says more than 3,000 people have been killed in a crackdown on anti-government protests. (AFP Photo/Mohamed Hossam)

William Hague and Lawrence Gonzi hold talks at his office at Auberge de Castille in Valletta

British Foreign Secretary William Hague (2nd L) and Malta’s Prime Minister Lawrence Gonzi (4th R) hold talks at his office at Auberge de Castille in Valletta October 16, 2011. Hague arrived in Malta on Sunday evening to thank the Maltese government and people for their help during the Libya crisis and to discuss eurozone problems, according to local media. He also strongly condemned the regime in Syria, saying it was responsible for an appalling number of deaths and the way it handled protests was unacceptable. REUTERS/Darrin Zammit Lupi (MALTA – Tags: POLITICS) MALTA OUT. NO COMMERCIAL OR EDITORIAL SALES IN MALTA

William Hague takes part in a joint news conference with Tonio Borg at the Foreign Ministry in Valletta

British Foreign Secretary William Hague takes part in a joint news conference with Maltese Foreign Minister Tonio Borg (not pictured) at the Foreign Ministry in Valletta October 16, 2011. Hague arrived in Malta on Sunday evening to thank the Maltese government and people for their help during the Libya crisis and to discuss eurozone problems, according to local media. He also strongly condemned the regime in Syria, saying it was responsible for an appalling number of deaths and the way it handled protests was unacceptable. REUTERS/Darrin Zammit Lupi (MALTA – Tags: POLITICS HEADSHOT) MALTA OUT. NO COMMERCIAL OR EDITORIAL SALES IN MALTA

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Syrian tanks shell Latakia, death toll reaches 34

Posted by Admin on August 16, 2011

http://news.yahoo.com/syrian-tanks-shell-latakia-death-toll-reaches-34-000950271.html

By Khaled Yacoub Oweis | Reuters – 2 hrs 16 mins ago

Smoke rises in the city of Latakia

Smoke rises in the city of Latakia August 14, 2011. REUTERS/Handout

AMMAN (Reuters) – Syrian tanks opened fire on poor Sunni districts in Latakia on Tuesday, residents said, the fourth day of a military assault on the northern port city aimed at crushing protests against President Bashar al-Assad.

“Heavy machinegun fire and explosions were hitting al-Raml al-Filistini (home to Palestinian refugees) and al-Shaab this morning. This subsided and now there is the sound of intermittent tank fire,” one of the residents, who lives near the two districts, told Reuters by phone.

The Syrian Revolution Coordinating Union, a grassroots activists’ group, said six people, including Ahmad Soufi, 22, were killed in Latakia on Monday, bringing the civilian death toll there to 34, including a two-year-old girl.

Assad, from Syria‘s minority Alawite sect, has broadened a military assault against towns and cities where demonstrators have been demanding his removal since the middle of March.

The crackdown coincided with the August 1 start of the Muslim Ramadan fast, when nightly prayers became the occasion for more protests against 41 years of Baathist party rule.

Syrian forces have already stormed Hama, scene of a 1982 massacre by the military, the eastern city of Deir al-Zor, and several northwestern towns in a province bordering Turkey.

Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu told Assad to halt such military operations now or face unspecified consequences.

“This is our final word to the Syrian authorities, our first expectation is that these operations stop immediately and unconditionally,” Davutoglu said in Turkey’s strongest warning yet to its once close ally and neighbor.

“If these operations do not stop, there will be nothing left to say about the steps that would be taken,” he told a news conference in Ankara, without elaborating.

Turkish leaders, who have repeatedly urged Assad to end violence and pursue reforms, have grown frustrated. Davutoglu held talks with the Syrian leader in Damascus only last week.

The Syrian Revolution Coordinating Union said troops also assaulted villages in the Houla Plain north of the city of Homs on Monday, killing eight people as they raided houses and made arrests. The organization said four people were killed in Homs during similar attacks.

FAMILIAR PATTERN

In a now-familiar pattern, tanks and armored vehicles deployed around dissident neighborhoods of Latakia and essential services were cut before security forces began raids, arrests and bombardment, residents said.

“People are trying to flee but they cannot leave Latakia because it is besieged. The best they can do is to move from one area to another within the city,” another witness said on Monday.

Thousands of people fled a Palestinian refugee camp in Latakia, some fleeing gunfire and others leaving on orders from the Syrian authorities, a U.N. official said.

“Between 5,000 and 10,000 have fled, we don’t know where these people are so it’s very worrying,” said Christopher Gunness, spokesman for the UNRWA agency which cares for Palestinian refugees. “We have a handful of confirmed deaths and nearly 20 injured.”

The Palestinian presidency in the West Bank city of Ramallah urged Damascus to safeguard the lives of Palestinian refugees in al-Raml camp in Latakia.

Another grassroots activist group, the Local Coordination Committees, said it had the names of at least 260 civilians, including 14 women and two infants, killed this month.

It said the actual toll was likely to be far higher with scant information so far from the hard-hit city of Hama, still besieged by troops and secret police.

Syria has expelled most independent media since the unrest began, making it hard to verify reports from the country.

Navy ships shelled southern parts of Latakia on Sunday, residents and rights groups said.

Nightly anti-Assad rallies after Ramadan prayers have drawn around 20,000 people in different areas of the city, said one witness, a university student.

The official state news agency SANA denied Latakia had been shelled from the sea and said two police and four unidentified armed men were killed when security forces pursued “armed men who were terrorizing residents … and using machineguns and explosives from rooftops and from behind barricades.”

The U.S. State Department said on Monday it was unable to confirm that the Syrian navy had shelled Latakia.

“However, we are able to confirm that there is amour in the city and that there is firing on innocents again in the pattern of carnage that you have seen in other places,” State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland.

ALAWITE ELEMENT

Unlike most Syrian cities, which are mainly Sunni, Latakia has a large Alawite population, partly because Assad and his father before him encouraged Alawites to move from their nearby mountain region by offering them cheap land and jobs in the public sector and security apparatus.

Latakia port has played a key role in the Assad family’s domination of the economy, with Bashar al-Assad’s late uncle Jamil having been in virtual control of the facility, and a new generation of family members and their friends taking over.

Assad replaced the governor of the northern province of Aleppo, SANA reported, after pro-democracy protests spread to the provincial capital, Syria’s main commercial hub.

“The minority regime is playing with fire. We are coming to a point where the people in the street would rather take any weapon they can put their hand on and fight than be shot at or arrested and humiliated,” said one activist.

“We are seeing civil war in Syria, but it is one-sided. The hope is for street protests and international pressure to bring down the regime before it kills more Syrians and drives them to take up arms,” he added, asking not to be named.

Rights groups say at least 12,000 have been detained during the uprising. Thousands of political prisoners were already in jail. Amnesty International says it has listed 1,700 civilians killed since mid-March. Washington has put the toll at 2,000. Damascus says 500 police and soldiers have been killed.

The assaults by Syrian security forces have drawn increasing condemnation from the West, Turkey and more recently from Arab countries such as Saudi Arabia and Jordan.

Washington wants Europe and China to consider sanctions on Syria’s vital oil and gas industry. Germany called for more European Union sanctions against Syria on Monday and urged the U.N. Security Council to discuss the crackdown again this week.

(Additional reporting by Tom Perry in Ramallah, Suleiman al-Khalidi in Amman, Reporting by Jonathon Burch, Tulay Karadeniz and Ibon Villelabeitia in Ankara; editing by Michael Roddy)

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Syrian troops move on restive town, West alarmed

Posted by Admin on June 7, 2011

http://news.yahoo.com/s/nm/20110607/wl_nm/us_syria

By Khaled Yacoub Oweis 1 hr 4 mins ago

AMMAN (Reuters) – Syrian troops with tanks moved on Tuesday toward a town where the government has vowed to quell a revolt after accusing gunmen of killing scores of security men.

Though accounts of days of bloodshed in Jisr al-Shughour ranged from an official version of gunmen ambushing troops to residents’ reports of an army mutiny, the risk seemed to be growing of even greater violence than that which has left over 1,100 Syrians dead since popular unrest began three months ago.

France took a lead in proposing U.N. moves against President Bashar al-Assad. But Russia, citing NATO’s inconclusive war on Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi, said it would veto intervention against Syria in the United Nations Security Council.

Despite enthusiasm for pro-democracy movements that have unseated dictators in Tunisia and Egypt, few Western leaders — let alone their autocratic Arab partners — have shown a will to intervene in Syria, an Iranian ally whose volatile mix of ethnic and religious groups sits astride a web of regional conflicts.

Assad’s family and supporters from the minority Alawite sect have dominated Syria since his late father seized power 41 years ago. He has responded with promises of reform, and a security crackdown on protesters in towns across the country.

The government has expelled independent journalists, making it hard to determine clearly what is happening in the country.

DIPLOMATIC MOVES

Tuesday, local residents said a column of armoured vehicles and troops, apparently heading for Jisr al-Shughour, had reached the town of Ariha, 25 km (16 miles) to the east, a day after Information Minister Adnan Mahmoud said army units would carry out their “national duty to restore security.”

Western powers have raised the alarm. British Foreign Secretary William Hague told parliament: “President Assad is losing legitimacy and should reform or step aside.” He said European governments were looking at further sanctions.

For France, Britain’s ally in the air war against Gaddafi and the former colonial power in Syria, Foreign Minister Alain Juppe said Paris was ready to ask the U.N. Security Council to condemn Syria: “The process of reform is dead and we think that Bashar has lost his legitimacy to rule the country.

“We’ll see what the Russians will do. If they veto, they will take their responsibility. Maybe if they see that there are 11 votes in favor of the resolution, they will change their mind. So there is a risk to take and we’re ready to take it.”

The United States has also said Assad should reform or go.

But in Brussels, Russia’s envoy to the European Union, Vladimir Chizhov, said: “The prospect of a U.N. Security Council resolution that’s along the same lines as Resolution 1973 on Libya will not be supported by my country … The use of force, as Libya shows, does not provide answers.”

Veto-holding Russia abstained on the Libya vote, allowing NATO to begin a bombing campaign that Western powers say saved civilians in rebel-held Benghazi from an onslaught by Gaddafi’s forces, but which has failed to dislodge the Libyan leader.

Just what has happened in Jisr al-Shughour, which lies in the northeast close to the Turkish border, remains unclear.

Official accounts say gunmen roaming the town and setting fire to government buildings had inflicted an extremely high death toll of over 120 on security men, said to have been killed in an ambush and attacks on a post office and a security post.

State television aired footage of at least five dead soldiers and police who it said were victims of an “ambush by armed gangs.” Voices are heard in the video cursing the dead men and describing how they were killed.

“I stabbed them, I stabbed the three of them,” said a man who was not seen on camera.

But residents and anti-government activists disputed the government account, saying the casualties followed a mutiny among forces sent to quell civilian protests. Assad loyalists and mutineers then fought each other around the town, they said.

Other footage posted on You Tube showed bodies of at least three soldiers and voices off camera say they were killed by fellow-security force members for refusing to fire on civilians.

PAST VIOLENCE

Fears of a sharp increase in the level of violence are informed by memories of 1982, when the forces of Assad’s father, Hafez al-Assad, crushed an armed Islamist revolt in the city of Hama, killing many thousands and razing the town’s old center.

Jisr al-Shughour residents said violence began when scores of civilians were killed in a crackdown on the hill town on a road between Syria’s second city Aleppo and the port of Latakia.

They said security men had raided homes and made scores of arbitrary arrests after the largest pro-democracy protest yet held in the town, Friday. At least five people were killed.

The killings enraged the townsfolk and prompted defections from security police and troops belonging, like most people in Jisr al-Shugour, to Syria’s Sunni Muslim majority, they said. Assad and many of his army and security commanders are Alawites.

Neighboring countries, including Israel and Turkey, worry about any chaos that could set off sectarian conflict and the emergence of violent, radical Islamists, as happened in nearby Iraq after the U.S. invasion of 2003.

“Military intelligence agents and security police stormed the town Monday. Snipers began firing at people who dared go out in the streets. Bodies lay in the streets. Around 100 police and soldiers defected and stood with us,” one resident said by phone, adding that six military intelligence agents were killed.

He said pro-Assad Alawite gunmen from neighboring villages, known as ‘shabbiha’, had been seen around Jisr al-Shughour.

Many analysts with close contacts on the ground inside Syria were reluctant to be identified when interviewed. One analyst based in Damascus said violence by security forces, who are also detaining and torturing people, was creating a violent backlash.

“Growing numbers of protesters have been pushed to take up arms, which are also being smuggled into the country at an alarming pace,” said the analyst, who works for an international organization.

The Syrian human rights organization Sawasiah said the 120 people killed were mostly civilians, or troops apparently shot dead by security agents who refused to join in the crackdown.

“The authorities are repeating their pattern of killings. They choose the town or city where demonstrations have been most vibrant and punish the population,” a Sawasiah spokesman said.

ARMY MUTINY?

Wissam Tarif, director of human rights organization Insan, said the fighting pitted rival army units against each other.

“An army unit or division arrived in the area in the morning. It seems then another unit arrived to contain the mutiny,” Tarif told Reuters. He said he had spoken to several people in Jisr al-Shughour who confirmed that account.

A Western diplomat in the region said he took the mutiny reports seriously, although he had no first-hand knowledge of events in Jisr al-Shughour. “It is plausible that the violent response to the protesters is causing widening cracks on sectarian lines within the army,” he said.

Rights groups say security forces, troops and gunmen loyal to Assad have killed 1,100 civilians since protests erupted in the southern city of Deraa on March 18. Unrest later spread to the Mediterranean coast and eastern Kurdish regions.

Assad has made some reformist gestures, such as issuing a general amnesty to political prisoners and launching a national dialogue, but protesters and opposition figures have dismissed such measures, saying thousands of political prisoners remain in jail and there can be no dialogue while repression continues.

Another resident, a history teacher who gave his name as Ahmed, said clashes had begun Saturday when snipers on the roof of the post office fired at a funeral for six protesters killed the day before. Mourners then set the post office ablaze.

State television said eight members of the security forces were killed when gunmen attacked the post office building.

It said at least 20 more were killed in an ambush by “armed gangs,” and 82 in an attack on a security post. It said the overall death toll for security forces topped 120.

(Additional reporting by Mariam Karouny and Yara Bayoumy in Beirut; editing by Alistair Lyon and Alastair Macdonald)

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Syrian tanks reach city where crackdown killed 65

Posted by Admin on June 5, 2011

http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20110604/ap_on_re_mi_ea/ml_syria;_ylt=ApEOPeh1TMz.kgBFSZUnVGFvaA8F;_ylu=X3oDMTJldDZ1cWZlBGFzc2V0A2FwLzIwMTEwNjA0L21sX3N5cmlhBHBvcwMxMQRzZWMDeW5fYXJ0aWNsZV9zdW1tYXJ5X2xpc3QEc2xrA3N5cmlhbnRhbmtzcg–

By BASSEM MROUE, Associated Press 27 mins ago

BEIRUT – Syrian tanks rolled toward a tense central city mourning the deaths of dozens of protesters, reaching the outskirts late Saturday hours after a funeral procession through streets lined with shuttered shops and uniformed security forces, witnesses said.

The government lifted its stranglehold on the Internet, which has been key to motivating people to join the 11-week uprising, but the crackdown that has left over 1,200 dead since March did not relent: Troops killed at least six protesters in the northern town of Jisr al-Shughour, according to the Local Coordination Committees, which helps organize and document the protests calling for an end to the regime of President Bashar Assad.

Syria‘s state-run news agency, SANA, said “armed criminal groups” attacked several police stations in Jisr al-Shughour, killing two policeman. It said the attackers captured weapons from the stations. The Syrian government blames armed gangs and religious extremists for the violence.

More than 70 protesters were killed across Syria on Friday, in what appeared to be among the largest demonstrations yet in the country. At least 65 of those were in Hama, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

The tanks at the entrance to Hama caused new alarm. The city rose up against Assad’s father in 1982, only to be crushed by a three-week bombing campaign that killed thousands, memories of those days are still raw.

“Dozens of tanks are reaching the southern outskirts of the city,” said an activist who lives in a nearby town. “They will probably lay a siege then storm Hama.”

A Hama resident confirmed tanks reached the outskirts of the city. He said he had not yet seen them, but others had.

“May God protect us,” the man said, his voice shaking.

The Local Coordination Committees says at least 1,270 people have been killed and more than 10,000 arrested since the uprising began in March.

The move toward Hama could mean that the army is preparing for a major operation there, similar to offensives in other areas in the past weeks such as the southern city of Daraa, the coastal city of Banias and the central town of Rastan where operations are still under way.

After noon prayers — and before the arrival of the tanks — tens of thousands of people streamed out of mosques carrying coffins of the dead and headed toward the two main cemeteries, said Rami Abdul-Rahman, the rights group’s director.

As they marched in the streets carrying the coffins, the protesters chanted “our souls, our blood we sacrifice to you martyr.” They later passed by hundreds of uniformed security members guarding a statue of the late President Hafez Assad, the father and predecessor of the current president, at the southern entrance of the city, witnesses said.

Some of the dead where from nearby villages and were taken for burial in their hometowns, they said.

The witnesses said that in addition to the tight security near the statue, hundreds of security agents guarded the local office of the ruling Baath party and the nearby police headquarters. But there was no overt friction between protesters and the troops.

Residents said most shops in Hama were closed since the morning to protest the shootings.

“People are in a state of shock,” a resident, who like many in Syria spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of government reprisal.

The Syrian government has severely restricted the media and expelled foreign reporters, making it nearly impossible to independently verify what is happening there.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights also said authorities released a leading opposition figure Saturday. Ali Abdullah of the Damascus Declaration Group had been jailed since 2007 and was among hundreds of political prisoners freed this week after Assad issued a general amnesty.

Assad also created a committee that he said would pave the way for a national dialogue, hoping the concessions would satisfy the revolt, which is posing the most serious challenge to the Assad family‘s 40-year rule. What began as a disparate movement demanding reforms has grown into a resilient uprising seeking Assad’s ouster.

Assad has invited officials from 12 outlawed Kurdish parties to meet him, said Mohammed Moussa of the Kurdish Leftist Party, whose group was invited. He said the meeting is expected in the coming days.

Such a move would have been unthinkable only a few months ago. Assad granted citizenship two months ago to stateless Kurds in eastern Syria — aimed at addressing protesters’ grievances.

About 1.5 million of Syria’s 22 million people are Kurds. Syria’s Kurdish minority has long complained of discrimination.

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Syrian government: 12 killed in seaside city

Posted by Admin on March 27, 2011

http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20110327/ap_on_re_mi_ea/ml_syria

AP – Pro-Syrian President Bashar Assad protesters, shouts pro-Assad slogans as they hold his posters, in Damascus
By ZEINA KARAM, Associated Press Zeina Karam, Associated Press 1 hr 1 min ago

DAMASCUS, Syria – The Syrian government says 12 people were killed in violence rocking a seaside Mediterranean city.

Syria’s state-run news agency said unknown armed elements on Saturday attacked neighborhoods in Latakia, shooting from rooftops and terrorizing people.

Ten people, including security forces, residents as well as two members of the shadowy “armed elements” died in the violence.

Some 200 others were wounded, most from the security forces, the report said Sunday.

Syrian army units deployed in Latakia Saturday night following a day of violence and chaos in which protesters and the government traded accusations of violence and incitement.

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Tension and Grief in Syria After Protests and Deadly Reprisals as Emergency Law Lifted

Posted by Admin on March 27, 2011

http://www.truth-out.org/tension-and-grief-syria-after-protests-and-deadly-reprisals68789

Saturday 26 March 2011

by: Michael Slackman and Liam Stack, The New York Times News Service | Report

 

Tension and Grief in Syria After Protests and Deadly Reprisals as Emergency Law Lifted
President Bashar al-Assad called Sunday for the United States to use its influence to revive negotiations between his country and Israel. (Photo: Tyler Hicks / The New York Times)

Cairo – Violence continued to plague Syria this weekend, as government forces killed more demonstrators in Latakia, protesters burned offices of the ruling party in the south and west, and mourners throughout the country buried the dozens of unarmed protesters killed a day earlier.

President Bashar al-Assad of the ruling Baath Party began the day in what appeared to be a gesture intended to ease the crisis, when he announced the release of as many as 200 political prisoners. But by sunset, Baath Party offices were burning in at least two cities, the military was deployed in Latakia and once again government forces opened fire with live rounds, witnesses said.

After more than a week of protests and human rights groups confirming that 61 people had been killed by government forces, there appeared to be no clear path forward for protesters, who had erupted in angry demonstrations around the country on Friday, or for the government, which has offered words of compromise at the same time that it has unleashed lethal force.

“People are afraid,” said a prominent religious leader from a community at the center of the conflicts, who was not identified to protect him from reprisal. “People are afraid that the events might get bigger. They are afraid there might be more protests.”

Exact numbers of the dead are hard to determine, as the official government news service denied the authorities’ culpability in new reports blaming criminal gangs. By nightfall, government officials were blaming a sectarian clash for the crisis, which was quickly dismissed by protest supporters, who said the goal was freedom for all Syrians and an end to authoritarian rule.

The protesters, according to the religious leader, want “freedom and their rights; they were making demands from the government for things to get better here and for an end to the state of emergency.”

The day broke over a landscape of grief as mourners set out for funerals in the southern towns of Sanamayn and Dara’a, in Latakia, in the central city of Homs and in the suburbs of Damascus. In each place, demonstrators had been killed hours earlier, shot by government forces in the most violent government oppression since 1982, when the leadership killed at least 10,000 people in the northern city of Hama.

But the mourning soon gave way to another surge of demonstrations, and then violence. At least two demonstrators in Latakia were killed after protesters set fire to the local headquarters of the Baath Party. Ammar Qurabi, the chairman of the National Association for Human Rights, said two witnesses reported seeing Syrian Special Forces open fire into a crowd.

One Latakia resident reached by telephone said 10,000 to 15,000 antigovernment protesters from the city and surrounding villages, some armed with knives, machetes and clubs, had taken to the streets. “The demonstrations have been peaceful, “ the resident said, “but after the violence yesterday protesters brought weapons.”

In the southern village of Tafas, near the protest movement’s epicenter in Dara’a, mourners also set fire to the local Baath headquarters.

Pro-government demonstrators were also out in Damascus, where about 200 people drove around the city on Saturday evening in a convoy of cars, trucks and minibuses. They carried portraits of President Assad and his father, former President Hafez al-Assad, and chanted, “We are national unity” and “With our soul and with our blood, we will redeem you, Bashar.”

A government spokeswoman, Buthaina Shaaban, denied to BBC Arabic that government forces had opened fire on protesters, blaming instead foreigners and an armed group of villagers. “We arrested outsiders in Syria charged with opening fire on the crowd,” she said. “They stole weapons. The authorities did not shoot protesters, but an armed group from Sanamayn” did.

Protests have taken place around Syria since the start of the tumultuous movement for change that has shaken the Arab world with peaceful protest and conflicts approaching civil war. But the political crisis blew wide open about a week ago when demonstrators took to the streets in Dara’a after the police arrested a group of young people for scrawling antigovernment graffiti, hauling them away without notifying their parents.

Syria is a resource-poor nation with great strategic influence in the region because of its alliances with Iran, Hamas and Hezbollah, and its location bordering Israel, Iraq, Turkey, Jordan and Lebanon. But it also struggles with a fragile sense of national unity amid sectarian tensions between its rulers, all members of the minority Alawite religious sect, and a Sunni majority. It also clings to a pan-Arab Baathist ideology.

“The events are developing and succeeding each other rapidly all over Syria,” Abdel Majid Manjouni, assistant chairman of the Socialist Democratic Arab Union Party in the northern Syrian city of Aleppo, said in a telephone interview. “They are going from city to city, and the ruling party is not being successful in its attempt to block the protests or the demands for democratic change in the country.”

The Syrian crisis has in many ways followed a course similar to those in Tunisia and Egypt, which ended with the resignation of each country’s president.

In Syria, there have been no widespread calls for President Assad’s departure, though as the anger mounts in the wake of protesters’ deaths, that view has started to gain voice.

“I am calling him to go to the television,” said Ayman Abdel Nour, a childhood friend of the president’s now living in the United Arab Emirates. “The people still respect him. First, he must deliver his condolences face to face to the people. No. 2, he must say there will be a multiple party system, a free parliamentary election in two months from now.”

Mr. Qurabi, the chairman of the human rights group, said that more than two dozen protesters were killed Friday, including 20 in the tiny southern village of Sanamayn, 4 in Latakia, 3 in Homs and 3 in the greater Damascus area. Mr. Qurabi blamed live ammunition for all those deaths on Friday.

“The protest in Sanamayn was very, very, very big,” Mr. Qurabi said in a phone call from Cairo, where he is attending a conference. “They killed them in the streets because there is not even really a square for the people to protest in.”

People in Syria were far more reluctant to speak, including one young man who said he had been detained by the police for three days after talking to the news media. “I was talking about the news of the protest with some reporters,” he said in a phone call to Damascus. “The police came for me at about 11:15 on Tuesday morning and took me off the street in front of my house. My phone calls are monitored, and I don’t want to say anything over the phone.”

An employee of The New York Times contributed reporting from Damascus, Syria.

This article “Tension and Grief in Syria After Protests and Deadly Reprisals” originally appeared at The New York Times.

© 2011 The New York Times Company

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