#Syria, Assad tank destroyed in DEIR AL ZOUR
06/08/2012 #Syria: Mother from Deir Ezzor lost all her sons, one after another.
Bassem, Bassam and Fayez were all killed at once..
After 3 months, she lost their other brother Abood …
and after 10 days, she lost Faisal and Fawaz ..
It is to be noted that her eldest son was killed in Sidnaya Prison at the time of the late criminal Hafez Assad.
07/08/2012 Deir Ezzor, #Syria: Liberation of the Military Security Headquarters in Mayadeen in Deir Ezzor
BEIRUT — Syrian President Bashar al-Assad made a rare appearance with the head of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council on Tuesday in video footage broadcast on state television.
Assad has made one appearance since the assassination of four top security officials on July 18. In video footage broadcast the following day, he was shown swearing in a new defense minister.
Saeed Jalili, a top security official in Iran and the country’s lead nuclear negotiator, visited Damascus on Tuesday to discuss the fate of 48 Iranians captured by rebels just outside the capital on Saturday, as well as the ongoing crisis in Syria.
“Kidnapping innocent people is not acceptable anywhere in the world,” Jalili said, according to the official Islamic Republic News Agency. He said Iran would do what it could to “secure release of the 48 innocent pilgrims kidnapped in Syria.”
He also said the only way to resolve the unrest in the country would be to find a “Syrian solution.”
The Iranian government claims that the captives were Shiite pilgrims on their way to Sayida Zeinab, a Muslim shrine south of Damascus that is popular with Shiites. But rebels assert that the Iranians belong to their country’s elite Revolutionary Guard Corps and were on a mission to help the Assad government battle Syria’s persistent 17-month-long uprising.
Jalili’s visit came a day after Syria’s prime minister defected to Jordan, becoming the most senior official to quit Assad’s embattled government, according to rebels who claim they helped him escape.
The reported defection of Prime Minister Riyad al-Hijab buoyed the rebels, who saw it as a clear sign that top officials are abandoning Assad as he attempts
A statement attributed to Hijab and read on the al-Jazeera Arabic news channel Monday said he had resigned to protest his government’s harsh tactics in confronting the opposition.
“I am announcing that I am defecting from this regime, which is a murderous and terrorist regime,” the statement said. “I join the ranks of this dignified revolution.”
Real power in Syria is wielded by Assad’s inner circle of friends, family and the powerful chiefs of his security forces. But the defection of the head of Assad’s government nonetheless sent a strong signal that his support is rapidly unraveling even within the ranks of those assumed to still be loyal.
Hijab, a former agriculture minister and a member of the ruling Baath Party, is a Sunni Muslim from the eastern town of Deir al-Zour, which has been in open revolt against the government for more than a year.
Reuters news service quoted an unidentified Jordanian government official as confirming that Hijab had defected and taken refuge there. Syrian state television, however, reported that Hijab had been fired, less than two months after he was appointed to the job. Deputy Prime Minister Omar Galawanji was appointed as the head of a caretaker government, according to the official Syrian Arab News Agency (SANA).
Hijab’s departure followed an accelerating stream of defections from Syria’s armed forces, including that of Brig. Gen. Manaf Tlas, a former confidant and close friend of Assad’s who fled to Turkey a month ago, then went to France to join his father, a once-powerful former defense minister.
A senior State Department official traveling with Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton in South Africa said that the defection, if confirmed, would represent “further evidence that the Assad regime is crumbling.’’
“Its days are numbered, and we call on other senior members of the regime and the military to break with the bloody past and help chart a new path for Syria — one that is peaceful, democratic, inclusive and just,’’ the senior State Department official said.
The Syrian military blasted Damascus and at least half a dozen cities around the country Monday with artillery as fierce clashes rocked the northern city of Aleppo, the country’s largest. At least 116 people were killed across Syria on Monday, including 30 in Aleppo and 29 in Damascus and its suburbs, according to the Local Coordination Committees, an activist network.
In Damascus, a bomb exploded Monday in the state television offices, causing minor injuries, according to SANA. Photos taken after the blast, which hit the third floor of the building, showed a demolished roof with wires hanging down.
The complicated operation to get Hijab out of the country was completed in a series of carefully planned steps by the Free Syrian Army, according to Col. Malik Kurdi, a deputy commander with the rebel force.
“The prime minister and his family were transferred outside Syria to Jordan by separate vehicles and at different times,” Kurdi said. “The defectors cannot leave in an hour or a day. The process takes a long time, and there are many phases and routes.”
Jordanian authorities may not have initially known about Hijab’s entry into the country because he was brought via smuggling routes, Kurdi said. But Jordanian contacts eventually met him once he crossed the border. Kurdi predicted that the successful escape would lead to more defections among other top officials who have been thinking of leaving the country.
Sly reported from Antakya, Turkey. Anne Gearan in South Africa, Greg Miller in Washington, and Suzan Haidamous and Ahmed Ramadan in Beirut contributed to this report.
29/07/2012 Deir al Zour, #Syria *EXTREMELY GRAPHIC!!* : Massacre in Deir al Zour @UN
Real massacre in Deir al Zour. Children and women. These are the body parts of the children and women. Deir al Zour 29th July 2012. These are the women’s body parts. She is no more than 19 yrs old. This is the other part of a woman. A full day we could not manage to enter the location. These are children under 10. Look at this, you are the Muslims. The arabs. God is great. God is greater than you Bashar. These are kids for god’s sake. I hope that will happen to your kids Bashar. This is Deir al Zour. I ask every muslim to speak their mind.
Watch video here.
Syria’s envoy to Baghdad has defected to the opposition and, according to Iraqi officials, is in Qatar.
Nawaf Fares, the first senior Syrian diplomat to abandon President Bashar al-Assad, has urged other politicians and military figures to follow suit.
News of his whereabouts came from Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshiyar Zebari. His defection was first reported by Qatar-based TV channel al-Jazeera.
Syria has responded by formally dismissing Mr Fares from his post.
Meanwhile, government forces have shelled an area of Damascus, activists have reported.
- Head of Sunni Uqaydat tribe, straddling Syria’s eastern border with Iraq
- Served as top Baath Party official in Deir al-Zour province
- Appointed Baghdad ambassador 16 Sept 2008
- First Syrian envoy to Iraq for nearly three decades
- Resigns from Baath Party and as ambassador 11 July 2012
Mortar rounds were said to have been fired into orchards in Kafr Souseh in an apparent offensive against rebels.
One man died and a number of other people were wounded when tanks and armoured vehicles went into a built-up area, reports said.
Independent confirmation is impossible, as journalists’ freedom of movement is heavily restricted.‘Tribal chief’
Mr Fares’s defection comes just a week after a Syrian general from a powerful family close to President Assad also defected.
He confirmed his decision in a statement broadcast both on TV and on Facebook.
With Syrian revolutionary flags behind him, he read out the statement saying he was resigning both as Syria’s ambassador to Iraq and as a member of the ruling Baath Party.
The defection of Nawaf Fares is an embarrassing blow to the Syrian regime, and a clear sign of the stress the conflict is generating, but it does not necessarily herald a spate of similar desertions.
The government’s discomfort was reflected in an official statement from the foreign ministry in Damascus, lamely announcing that the ambassador had been “relieved of his duties”.
US and Syrian opposition officials seized on Mr Fares’s resignation as a sign that the regime is crumbling.
But the defection of the deputy oil minister earlier this year did not trigger a cascade of similar moves by officials, as he urged.
As with the case of Maj-Gen Munaf Tlas, who fled the country last week, the ambassador may have had specific reasons for turning.
He is a Sunni tribal leader whose area around Deir al-Zor has been heavily battered by government forces recently, as had Gen Tlas’s mainly Sunni hometown Rastan.
The defections are clearly a sign of the times, but given the gravity of what is happening, it is surprising they have been so few and far between.
“I call on all party members to do the same because the regime has transformed it into a tool to oppress the people and their aspirations to freedom and dignity.
“I announce, from this moment on, that I am siding with the people’s revolution in Syria, my natural place in these difficult circumstances which Syria is going through.”
Syria’s foreign ministry said he had made statements that contradicted the duties of his post and no longer had any relation to the Syrian embassy in Baghdad.
The BBC’s Jim Muir in neighbouring Lebanon says this is a highly damaging defection for President Assad.
Mr Fares, significantly, is also chief of a Sunni tribe straddling Syria’s eastern border with Iraq, our correspondent adds.
That area, around the city of Deir al-Zour, has become a hotbed of support for the rebels and has been heavily bombarded in recent weeks.
Syria has been convulsed by internal conflict since protests against President Assad began early last year. The protests turned into an armed rebellion and thousands of people have been killed.
Last week, senior army officer Brig Gen Manaf Tlas fled Syria via Turkey.
He was a commander of a unit of the elite Republican Guard and as a young man he attended military training with President Assad.
Gen Tlas had been under a form of home arrest since May 2011 because he opposed security measures imposed by the regime, sources said.‘Clear consequences’
In a separate development, Western nations are pressing the UN to threaten Damascus with sanctions as it considers renewing the mandate for its observer mission in Syria which expires on 20 July.
They want a 10-day ultimatum to be part of a Security Council resolution on the future of the UN’s observer mission in the country. A new resolution must be passed before the mission’s mandate ends on Friday next week.
The mission had a 90-day remit to monitor a truce, but fighting has continued largely unabated.
The truce formed part of a six-point peace plan brokered by UN-Arab League envoy Kofi Annan, who has called for “clear consequences” for the Syrian government and rebels if the ceasefire is not observed.
Chapter 7 of UN Charter
- Action in response to threats to peace, breaches of peace and acts of aggression
- Article 41 enables Security Council to decide measures not involving armed force
- Can suspend economic and diplomatic relations as well as rail, sea and other communications
- If Article 41 measures are inadequate, Article 42 enables Security Council to take action by air, sea or land forces for international peace and security
Russia has suggested a 90-day extension. But Western states say a simple rollover of the mission is not enough.
A draft resolution has been circulated threatening Damascus with sanctions within 10 days, if it fails to stop using heavy weapons and pull back its troops from towns and cities.
The UK’s envoy to the UN, Mark Lyall Grant, told reporters that Britain, France, the US and Germany would propose making compliance with the ceasefire mandatory under Chapter 7 of the UN charter.
Last week, more than 100 countries called on the Security Council to invoke Article 41 of Chapter 7, which stops short of military intervention.
Russia has said use of Chapter 7 is a “last resort”. China, which like Russia has vetoed the two previous attempts to impose tougher measures, has said it will support a rollover of the mission.
(08/07/2012) Deir Ezzor, #Syria: Martyrs Nasr Walid Al-Hiwan and Abdel Ghaffour Hammoud Al-Sheikh in Mayadeen
Ban Ki-moon calls for an expanded observer mission, saying Damascus has failed to adhere to agreed peace plan.
Unverified video shows what appears to be protesters surrounding UN observer vehicles in Damascus on Wednesday
Ban Ki-moon, the UN secretary-general, has called for a UN observer mission in Syria to be expanded, even though he says Damascus has failed to adhere to a ceasefire central to an agreed peace plan.
In a report to the UN Security Council on Wednesday, Ban called for 300 unarmed observers to be sent on a three-month mission, and also said it was “critical” for Bashar al-Assad, Syria’s president, to carry out his commitments.
The council called for Ban to report back when it passed a resolution on Saturday which sent an advanced party of 30 unarmed military observers to Syria.
His report, obtained by the AFP news agency, said that even though Syrian troops have not withdrawn from cities and violence has escalated since the ceasefire began, “an opportunity for progress may now exist, on which we need to build”.
The 300 observers would deploy over several weeks and go to about 10 different parts of Syria to monitor the fragile cessation of hostilities which officially started on April 12.
They would also monitor the implementation of UN-Arab League envoy Kofi Annan’s six-point peace plan, which Syrian authorities have agreed to support.
Ban said the proposed mission would “greatly contribute to observing and upholding the commitment of the parties to a cessation of armed violence in all its forms”.
The report will be discussed by the Security Council on Thursday and diplomats said a resolution allowing the full observer mission could be ready by early next week if there is agreement among the 15 members.
Meanwhile, a Syrian activist group says clashes between troops and army defectors in an eastern city have left at least one person dead.
The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says Thursday’s clashes in Deir el-Zour also wounded three civilians.
Activists say Syrian troops also shelled rebel-held areas in the central city of Homs and the nearby town of al-Qusair, which borders Lebanon.
The observatory says intense shooting and explosions could be heard in Homs’ al-Qarabis and Jurat al-Shayah neighbourhoods.
Al Jazeera is unable to independently verify reports of violence, as the Syrian government has placed strict restrictions on reporting.
The UN says well over 9,000 people have been killed in Syria since an uprising against Assad broke out in March 2011.
Activists says scores have died since the ceasefire started.
Ban said violence “dropped markedly” when the ceasefire began, but that Syria “has yet to fully implement its initial obligations regarding the actions and deployments of its troops and heavy weapons, or to return them to barracks”.
“Violent incidents and reports of casualties have escalated again in recent days, with reports of shelling of civilian areas and abuses by government forces,” he said.
Ban said only “partial” action has been taken on other parts of the Annan plan. “While difficult to assess, it does not amount yet to the clear signal expected from the Syrian authorities,” he said.
The UN secretary-general said it was “critical” for Assad to fully carry out his promise to “cease troop movements towards population centres, cease all use of heavy weapons in population centres, and begin the pullback of military
concentrations in and around population centres”.
At the moment there are six observers in Syria, led by a Moroccan colonel. The full mission would be led by an officer of at least the rank of major general.
Ban said the team has so far been refused permission to go to Homs, with Syrian officials claiming “security concerns”.
The mission went to Deraa, the revolt’s epicentre, on Tuesday, where “it enjoyed freedom of movement” and “observed no armed violence or heavy weapons”.
But Ban confirmed violent incidents when the UN observers went to Arbeen, in the Damascus suburbs, on Wednesday.
“A crowd that was part of an opposition demonstration forced United Nations vehicles to a checkpoint. Subsequently, the crowd was dispersed by firing projectiles,” said the report.
“Those responsible for the firing could not be ascertained by the United Nations military observers.”
One UN vehicle was slightly damaged, but no injuries were observed by the team.
Ban said the new mission, to be known as the UN Supervision Mission in Syria (UNSMIS) would include political, human rights, civil affairs, public information, public security, gender and other advisers.
However, it would not carry out humanitarian assistance duties.
BRUSSELS (AP) — Despite oft-repeated U.S. demands that Syrian President Bashar Assad step aside, the Obama administration’s policy now reflects a consensus that Assad has a firm hold on power and that nothing short of an outside military strike will dislodge him quickly.
With rebel forces poorly armed and disorganized, efforts to pay them by Arab Gulf states failing, and sectarian divisions looming in Syria, the U.S. and its allies seem prepared to leave Assad where he is. Even if he could be ousted, the near future in Syria would involve civil war among ethnic groups now under Assad’s boot, or a slow and bloody war with rebels or proxy fighters armed from the outside.
The U.S. has edged toward supplying the rebels with communications gear and other nonlethal aid but has ruled out either a military assault or a supply of heavy weaponry for rebel forces.
“We are at a crucial turning point,” U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said Wednesday.
Either a United Nations-brokered cease-fire takes hold “or we see Assad squandering his last chance before additional measures have to be considered,” Clinton said.
But even as she suggests further action, as she has many times before, Clinton is not expected to announce a shift in the U.S. stance during a diplomatic huddle on Syria in Paris on Thursday.
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said late Wednesday he believes there is an opportunity for progress in Syria and recommended the Security Council approve a 300-strong U.N. observer mission.
In a letter obtained by The Associated Press, Ban told the council he will consider developments on the ground, including consolidation of the cease-fire, before deciding on when to deploy the expanded mission, which is larger than the 250 observers initially envisioned. The Security Council was scheduled to discuss Ban’s letter and recommendations at a closed meeting Thursday morning.
The United States backs the cease-fire between Assad’s forces and rebels, but the deal also represents recognition that Assad remains in control of the armed forces and holds the power to suspend attacks on civilians and rebels.
The week-old cease-fire was supposed to allow greater humanitarian and other relief to enter the country.
Syria has violated key provisions. Tanks, troops and widely feared plainclothes security agents continue to patrol the streets to deter anti-government protests, while the regime resumed its assault on rebellious Homs, Syria’s third-largest city, over the weekend after only a brief lull.
The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said clashes broke out Thursday in Deir el-Zour, near the border with Iraq, killing one civilian and wounding three others. Syrian troops also began shelling rebel-held neighborhoods in Homs early Thursday, according to the Observatory.
U.S. officials regularly say Assad is no longer a legitimate leader, but they hold no direct leverage to make him leave, or even make him listen to international condemnation.
“Assad must step down,” U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said this week. “I mean, we continue to take that position. At the same time, I think, we believe that we have to continue to work with the international community to keep putting pressure on Assad.”
Even relatively harsh new sanctions on Syria are a tacit admission that Assad isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. And the rebels are no closer to ridding the country of him despite 13 months of fighting and 9,000 mostly civilian deaths.
Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Moallem said Wednesday that his country was observing the cease-fire plan laid out by special envoy Kofi Annan.
In a meeting in Beijing with his Chinese counterpart, Yang Jiechi, Moallem said the Syrian government would “honor and implement” its commitment to withdraw the army from cities and would cooperate with United Nations observers arriving in the country.
The U.N. insists the fragile truce is holding even though regime forces have been hammering Homs with artillery for days.
The Obama administration recently signed off on $12 million in enhanced communications, medical and other assistance to the opposition, but it is unclear what goods are making their way into Syria and by what means.
International sanctions on Assad’s regime have depleted its foreign currency reserves by half — and Damascus is actively trying to evade them, French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe said Tuesday as he opened a Paris meeting of some 57 countries, including Arab League states, to reinforce sanctions and denounce Assad. Clinton will attend a smaller gathering of “core” nations addressing the Syrian problem, also in Paris, diplomats said.
At a larger gathering two weeks ago, Saudi Arabia and other wealthy Arab states pledged donations from a multimillion-dollar fund designed to prop up Syrian rebels and entice defections from Assad’s army. Washington seized on the plan as a path forward even though the U.S. disagrees with Arab states that want to give weapons to the badly outgunned rebels.
Syrian opposition members and international officials say no money has been sent yet, in part because the Arab governments stepped into a logistical thicket when they began trying to figure out how to route the money to the right people.
There’s no way to monitor where the money goes as the country veers toward civil war. Because the rebels hold no territory and struggle even to maintain communications inside and outside Syria, there is no clear way to deliver the money.
The U.S. and other nations have tried a variety of ways to get Assad to ease a crackdown on antigovernment demonstrators inspired by last year’s Arab revolutions. The U.S. has long since given up hope that Assad would negotiate with protesters and peacefully give up power. But from the start last year, the U.S. rejected any call for a direct military response like the one mounted a year ago in Libya.
The reasons are simple and, like the current U.S. stance, they reflect the reality of Assad’s entrenched family dynasty.
Syria’s military is vastly more powerful and better-equipped than Libya’s was and is arrayed throughout cities and towns. Any air assault by the U.S. or other outsiders would probably kill many civilians.
The assault would have to be broad and sustained to knock out Syria’s heavy artillery and other defenses. That indicates a longer and far more expensive operation than the one in Libya, which was undertaken with NATO help.
Despite widespread disgust and anger at Assad, there is no international mandate for forcibly removing him. Syria was never the outcast that Libya under Moammar Gadhafi became, and it maintained trading and diplomatic relationships around the globe.
European countries are unlikely to get militarily involved without the United States, and Turkey has backed off from talk of creating buffer zones along the Syrian border. Any foreign military action could provoke anger from Russia and China, and open hostility from Iran, whose personnel have actively supported Assad’s government.
Russia and China have twice shielded Syria from U.N. sanctions over the crackdown.
Associated Press writers Slobodan Lekic in Brussels, Jamey Keaten in Paris and Bradley Klapper in Washington contributed to this report.
Annan says #Syria has accepted his plan to end violence
(CNN) — The Syrian government has accepted U.N.-Arab League envoy Kofi Annan’s plan to forge peace and end violence in the volatile nation, Annan’s spokesman said Tuesday.
Annan is urging the Syrian government “to put its commitments into immediate effect.” Annan’s six-point plan was the cornerstone of a presidential statement endorsed last week by the U.N. Security Council.
“Mr. Annan views this as an important initial step,” spokesman Ahmad Fawzi said.
“Mr. Annan has stressed that implementation will be key, not only for the Syrian people, who are caught in the middle of this tragedy, but also for the region and the international community as a whole. As the Syrian government acts on its commitments, Mr. Annan will move urgently to work with all parties to secure implementation of the plan at all levels.”
The plan calls for:
• “An inclusive Syrian-led political process to address the legitimate aspirations and concerns of the Syria people.”
• A commitment “to stop the fighting and achieve urgently an effective United Nations supervised cessation of armed violence in all its forms by all parties to protect civilians and stabilize the country.”
• Ensuring the “timely provision of humanitarian assistance to all areas affected by the fighting …”
• Intensifying “the pace and scale of release of arbitrarily detained persons,” including people who have been “involved in peaceful political activities.”
• Ensuring “freedom of movement throughout the country for journalists and a nondiscriminatory visa policy for them.”
• Respecting “freedom of association and the right to demonstrate peacefully as legally guaranteed.”
Annan, a former U.N. secretary-general, arrived in China Tuesday to rally support for the plan. His visit comes after a stop in Russia. Both countries have stymied U.N. Security Council attempts to take tough action again the Syrian regime.
During his two-day trip to China, Annan will meet with Foreign Ministry officials, China’s state-run Xinhua news agency said. Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei said China supports Annan’s mediation efforts and hopes to discuss political solutions for the Syrian crisis, according to Xinhua.
“We’ve had a very good discussion about the situation in Syria. They have offered me their full support,” Annan said.
Both China and Russia have said they want the violence to stop but argue that draft resolutions by Security Council peers were not evenhanded. Both countries have major trade ties with Syria, but have said they are not trying to protect a regime.
Annan has said the ongoing crisis in Syria cannot not be allowed to “drag on indefinitely,” but resisted setting any sort of timetable.
Many world powers want President Bashar al-Assad to step down.
But Russian President Dmitry Medvedev said removing the president won’t provide a quick solution, according to state-owned news agency RIA Novosti.
“The internal conflict currently tearing Syrian society apart will not disappear with the departure of one or another political figure,” said Medvedev, who is attending the nuclear summit in Seoul. “To consider that Assad’s departure would solve all the problems would be very nearsighted.”
Medvedev also said Annan’s mission could be a last chance to avert a “prolonged and bloody civil war,” the RIA Novosti report said.
Russia has vetoed U.N. Security Council resolutions on Syria, but has given full backing to Annan’s mission. And in an apparent hardening of Russia’s position on Syria, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said last week that Assad had handled initial peaceful protests “incorrectly.”
Violence has raged in Syria since last March, when the government launched a fierce crackdown against protesters. The United Nations estimates the Syrian conflict has killed more than 8,000 people; opposition activists put the toll at more than 10,000.
At least 20 more people were killed Tuesday, opposition activists said.
The deaths took place in Hama, Homs, Idlib, the Damascus suburbs and Deir Ezzor, according to the Local Coordination Committees of Syria.
Syrian State TV said al-Assad visiting the Homs’ city neighborhood of Baba Amr Tuesday, an anti-government bastion pummeled by government security forces. News footage showed him speaking and waving to residents there and surveying damage. For weeks, activists have reported constant shelling in parts of the city — attacks the government has attributed to terror groups.
There has been worldwide condemnation against al-Assad’s regime, with countries speaking out or severing diplomatic channels inside Syria.
A day after Turkey and Norway announced the closure of their embassies in Damascus, Turkish Airlines said Tuesday it has suspended ticket sales to Damascus and Aleppo as of April 1.
The Turkish government, which owns just under half of the company’s shares, has used the airline as an extension of its foreign policy. It has extended airline routes to countries shortly after high-level diplomatic contacts and bilateral trade deals are announced. With Syria, this pairing of Turkish Airlines and government policy is working the other way around.
The Syrian government routinely blames the vaguely defined “armed terrorist groups” for violence in the country, while most reports from inside Syria suggest the government is slaughtering civilians in an attempt to wipe out dissidents.
CNN cannot independently confirm reports from inside Syria because the government severely restricts access by international journalists.
Syrian authorities have banned men ages 18 to 42 from traveling abroad until they serve their compulsory military draft, a rebel army spokesman said Tuesday.
The ban “shows that the regime is preparing for the worst and they are suffering from heavy losses from our operations and the defections all across the nation,” Lt. Riad Ahmed of the rebel Free Syrian Army said. “We keep asking our brothers in the armed forces to abandon the barracks and join the revolution all over Syria because it is a matter of time before the regime collapses.”
Al-Assad’s regime did not immediately issue a statement confirming or denying such a travel ban.
But the Syrian Revolution website posted a memo from Syrian Air saying all men ages 18 to 42 must check with the recruitment office and receive clearance before traveling.
Two large suburbs of Damascus came under heavy tank bombardment on Wednesday following renewed Free Syrian Army attacks on forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad, opposition activists said.
Artillery and anti-aircraft gun barrages hit the suburbs of Harasta and Irbin, retaken from rebels by Assad’s forces two months ago, and army helicopters were heard flying over the area, on the eastern edge of the capital, the activists said.
Assad’s forces reasserted their control of Damascus suburbs in January after days of tank and artillery shelling that beat back rebels and lessened street protests against the 42-year rule of Assad and his father, the late President Hafez al-Assad.
The suburbs are a linked series of towns inhabited mostly by members of Syria’s Sunni Muslim majority, who have grown increasingly resentful at the domination of the Assads, who belong to the minority Alawite sect, an offshoot of Islam.
The Damascus assault and rebel fighters’ flight on Tuesday from the eastern city of Deir al-Zor mark the latest setbacks for the armed opposition, which also faced accusations of torture and brutality from a leading human rights body.
But as Assad made advances on the ground, he appeared to suffer a setback on the diplomatic front, with key-ally Moscow adopting a new, sharper tone after months of publicly standing by his government.
“We believe the Syrian leadership reacted wrongly to the first appearance of peaceful protests and … is making very many mistakes,” Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told Russian radio station Kommersant-FM.
“This, unfortunately, has in many ways led the conflict to reach such a severe stage.”
Lavrov also spoke of a “future transition” period for Syria but continued to reject calls from most Western and Arab states for Assad to resign, saying this was “unrealistic”.
It was not immediately clear if the change in language would translate into a tangible difference in the way international powers, hitherto divided on Syria, might deal with the crisis.
“The change in the Russian position is one of tone, not of substance. Moscow still sees its support of Assad as part of a regional game, but it is losing the support of the Syrian people, which could backfire on it if the Syrian regime falls,” said Najati Tayyara, a prominent Syrian opposition figure.
The uprising started with non-violent demonstrations last March, but the situation deteriorated rapidly amid a ferocious army crackdown and there are now daily clashes between rebels and security forces around the country.
The United Nations says more than 8,000 people have been killed so far, but the toll is rising rapidly, with at least 31 men, women and children killed on Tuesday, the British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported.
Lightly armed rebel forces have been forced into retreat across the country in recent weeks, with the army using heavy weapons to chase them from towns and cities, chalking up its latest victory in Deir al-Zor.
“Tanks entered residential neighbourhoods, especially in southeastern areas of Deir al-Zor. The Free Syrian Army pulled out to avoid a civilian massacre,” a statement by the Deir al-Zor Revolution Committees Union said.
After failing to hold significant stretches of land, analysts say the rebels appear to be switching to insurgency tactics, pointing to bloody car bomb attacks in two major Syrian cities at the weekend and the sabotage of a major rail link.
Car bomb attacks in the capital Damascus and second city Aleppo killed at least 30 over the weekend, while rebels also destroyed a railway bridge linking Damascus to Deraa, according to official Syrian media.
Diplomats warn the fighting could develop into a civil war pitching Assad’s Alawite sect and its minority allies against the majority Sunni Muslim population.
Assad may also be facing pressure from inside his government. Documents described as leaked from inside Syria’s embattled government show it trying to dissuade the president’s allies from defecting.
The government says 2,000 members of the security forces have been killed by foreign-backed “terrorists” and denies accusations of brutality and indiscriminate violence.
In a new twist, the advocacy group Human Rights Watch said the rebels were guilty of serious crimes, citing cases of kidnapping, torture and killings in cold blood.
Washington said it would “absolutely denounce” human rights violations by the rebels, but stressed that most of the abuse was being carried out by pro-Assad forces.
Russia has previously vetoed two Western and Arab-backed U.N resolutions condemning government violence, arguing that the actions of rebels should also be criticised.
In a fresh effort to form a united international front, France has circulated a Western-drafted statement for the sharply divided U.N. Security Council deploring the turmoil and backing peace efforts by U.N.-Arab League envoy Kofi Annan.
Russia announced it would back the text on two conditions – that there was no ultimatum imposed on Assad and that Annan release full details of his peace plan.
Annan dispatched a team of five experts to Damascus on Monday to discuss ways of implementing the peace drive, including a mechanism to let international monitors into the country. Syria has questioned the value of such a mission and talks continue.
Lavrov also dismissed media reports of Russian warships entering Russia’s naval facility in the Syrian port of Tartous as “fairy tales”. Some reports had said Russian ships were delivering weapons or special forces troops.
Lavrov said a Russian tanker with fuel for Russian warships involved in antipiracy operations in the Gulf of Aden was docked at the port. Russia has repeatedly said its arms sales to Syria violate no laws and it sees no grounds to suspend them.
Nazem Najar, 12, recovers in a hospital after being wounded by a Syrian Army sniper, in the northern Syrian city of Idlib, Wednesday, March 7, 2012. (AP Photo/Rodrigo Abd)
(AP) GENEVA - The Syrian government will allow the United Nations to assess the basic medical needs of Syrians in four areas where opposition forces have clashed with government troops and to also carry out a preliminary humanitarian needs assessment, officials said Friday.
But the rare access to strife-torn areas of Syria gained by two U.N. agencies for health and population needs depends on the cooperation of local medical students, Syrian Arab Red Crescent aid workers and other non-government organizations to conduct the survey.
A third U.N. agency, for humanitarian needs, announced Friday it had gained access for its own preliminary assessment.
For the past year, Syria’s government has engaged in a bloody crackdown on a popular uprising inspired by the Arab Spring movements in other countries in the region. The U.N. says more than 7,500 people have been killed. Activists put the death toll at more than 8,000.
World Health Organization spokesman Tarik Jasarevic says a “very preliminary and basic survey” overseen by his agency and the U.N. Population Fund will be carried out next week with the cooperation of Syria’s health ministry.
Medical students and aid workers will fan out in four areas affected by the crisis: the rebellious city of Homs, the southern town of Daraa where protests began, the northeastern city of Deir al-Zour and rural parts of the capital Damascus, he told reporters in Geneva.
“It is very difficult to assess needs and provide an independent evaluation in order to get a clear overview of the situation and the needs on the ground,” Jasarevic said. “The results will be analyzed by a technical committee composed of most of the agencies of the health sector.”
In particular, he said, local aid workers say they already know there is a critical lack of medical help ranging from not enough ambulances to sparse medicine and other supplies, particularly for trauma care and chronic diseases.
The U.N. health agency says that since the start of the crisis last year its office in Syria has been providing the nation’s health ministry and the Red Crescent with ambulances, surgery supplies, and equipment such as ventilators and incubators for newborn babies.
The, which has been negotiating for access in Syria, said Friday it has gained permission to take a “first step” toward providing badly needed medical help, food and basic supplies.
After a three-day tour of Syria that included Homs and parts of its devastated suburb of Baba Amr, OCHA head Valerie Amos said in Ankara, Turkey, that she was “horrified by the destruction.”
“Almost all the buildings had been destroyed and there were hardly any people left there,” she said.
Amos said in a statement provided to reporters in Geneva that she is “extremely concerned as to the whereabouts of the people who have been displaced from Baba Amr.”
She said her meetings with Syrian government ministers ended with an agreement for “a joint preliminary humanitarian assessment mission” that would be done in areas where people most urgently need help.
“While this is a necessary first step, it remains essential that a robust and regular arrangement be put in place, which allows humanitarian organizations unhindered access to evacuate the wounded and deliver desperately needed supplies,” she said. “A proposal has been submitted to the government of Syria, and I ask them to consider this matter with the utmost urgency.”