18/08/2012 Damascus, #Syria: Low-flying aircraft over Mazzeh
AFP - 20/03/2012
DAMASCUS — Security was tightened in Damascus Tuesday in the wake of deadly clashes, activists said, as the UN Security Council aimed to back up peace envoy Kofi Annan’s mission to end the bloodshed in Syria.
Fresh clashes broke out in the capital and security forces killed at least 30 people, all but two of them civilians, in violence elsewhere across the country, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.
Abu Omar, an activist in Damascus, said security forces were deployed in force in most districts of the capital, especially around Abbasid Square, and reported raids on several outlying towns including Douma and Dmeir.
Traffic around the square — on Baghdad, Qusayr and Tijara streets — was clogged because of checkpoints and sandbags blocking access to roads leading to government and security buildings.
The Observatory said gunfire rang out in the Qaboon and Barzeh districts, while the Local Coordination Committees, which organises protests, reported shooting around Arnus Square as well.
Abu Omar said the army backed by armoured cars had violently dispersed a sit-in by hundreds of Douma residents demanding the return of bodies of people killed several weeks ago.
The capital’s security clampdown follows deadly twin suicide car bombings targeting security buildings in Damascus on Saturday.
It also followed what activists said was a hit-and-run attack in the heavily guarded Mazzeh neighbourhood on Monday that killed at least three rebels and a member of the security forces.
The foreign ministry said the same “deadly hand” was behind the wave of attacks in Iraq on Tuesday that killed at least 45 people and the weekend car bombings in Damascus.
Elsewhere, four civilians were killed on Tuesday when a rocket hit their home in Homs and three others — a man, woman and their little girl — were killed in Rastan, both cities in central Syria, the Observatory said.
A total of 18 civilians were killed as security forces bombed the Khaldiyeh district of Homs, it said.
The Britain-based monitoring group said the army also raided a makeshift clinic, killing two civilians who were being treated for injuries in the city of Idlib, northwest Syria.
On the diplomatic front, Russia on Tuesday made it clear its support of any UN Security Council statement on the crisis in Syria would be conditional.
“We are ready to back the mission of UN and Arab League representative Kofi Annan and the proposals to the government and opposition to Syria,” Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told reporters in Moscow.
However, the council “should approve them not as an ultimatum.”
Lavrov’s comments came ahead of a Security Council meeting to discuss a draft statement urging President Bashar al-Assad and the armed opposition to “implement fully and immediately” Annan’s peace plan.
The Western-drafted statement, which France submitted on Monday, says the Security Council will “consider further measures” if nothing is done within seven days of any adoption.
Ahead of the meeting in New York, UN chief Ban Ki-moon warned: “We have no time to waste, no time to lose, because one minute, one hour of delay will mean more and more people dead.”
Monitors say a crackdown by the regime on dissent since last March has cost more than 9,100 lives.
Former UN chief Annan’s plan includes a halt to the year-long violence, humanitarian access, the release of detainees and withdrawal of security forces from protest cities.
Russia and China have since October twice used their powers as permanent members of the 15-nation council to veto resolutions on Syria. They said the resolutions were aimed at regime change and that they opposed any sanctions.
Before Lavrow’s latest statement on the UN draft, the United States had welcomed what State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland termed “an evolution in the Russian public position” on the crisis in Syria.
Her comments followed a meeting between Lavrov and international Red Cross chief Jakob Kellenberger in Moscow on Monday at which they called for a daily humanitarian truce in Syria.
Amid growing concern at the plight of civilians caught up in an increasingly armed conflict, a technical mission sent by Annan arrived in Damascus at the weekend for talks on a monitoring operation.
Separately, technical experts from the UN and Organisation of Islamic Cooperation are taking part in a Syrian government-led mission to assess the impact of the crackdown on protest hubs battered by security forces.
Human Rights Watch warned on Tuesday that the armed opposition was carrying out serious human rights abuses, including kidnapping, torture and execution of security force members and government supporters.
“The Syrian government’s brutal tactics cannot justify abuses by armed opposition groups,” it said.
In this Feb. 18, 2012 citizen journalism image provided by the Local Coordination Committees in Syria and accessed on Sunday, Feb. 19, 2012, anti-Syrian regime mourners carry the coffins of two protesters according to Syrian activists that were killed by the Syrian security forces during a demonstration, at Mazzeh district in Damascus, Syria. Syrian security forces fired live rounds and tear gas Saturday at thousands of people marching in a funeral procession that turned into one of the largest protests in Damascus since the 11-month uprising against President Bashar Assad began. (AP Photo/Local Coordination Committees in Syria)
By Bassem Mroue
Associated Press / February 20, 2012
BEIRUT—A Syria-based activist says three columns of army reinforcements including tanks are heading toward the restive central city of Homs.
Mustafa Osso says the regime appears to be preparing to storm rebel-held neighborhoods in the city before a referendum is held Feb. 26 on a new constitution.
Osso told The Associated Press Monday he does not think the regime will be able to retake Homs through military force as residents plan to fight until “the last person.”
His comments came as the government kept up shelling of the rebel-held Baba Amr neighborhood of Homs. It has been under assault for more than two weeks.
THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information. AP’s earlier story is below.
BEIRUT (AP) — Gunmen in Syria staged a guerrilla-style ambush that killed a senior state prosecutor and a judge Sunday in an attack that suggested armed factions are growing bolder and more coordinated in their uprising against President Bashar Assad’s regime.
The roadway slayings — reported in an opposition-dominated northern region by the Syrian state news agency — came a day after a deadly hit-and-run attack on a political figure in the heart of the pro-Assad city of Aleppo.
The targeted killings have not reached Assad’s inner circle, but they indicate a growing shift toward violent tactics by the opposition as it brings aboard more military defectors and seeks to tighten control over the small pieces of territory in its hands.
The fears of a looming civil war have neighboring Jordan racing to finish a refugee camp near the Syrian border to handle a possible exodus of people fleeing for safety.
Meanwhile, Egypt became the latest Arab nation to publicly snub Assad by ordering the withdrawal of its ambassador in Damascus.
The Syrian government has offered some concessions, including proposing a referendum next week that could allow more political voices to challenge Assad’s Baath Party. But the opposition demands nothing short of Assad’s resignation. And the regime has not eased off its attacks on the opposition forces, which it describes as “terrorists” carrying out a foreign conspiracy to destabilize the country.
In Homs in central Syria, government forces sent in reinforcements as they shelled the rebel-held Baba Amr district that has been under near constant barrage for nearly two weeks, said the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. The group said at least 14 people were killed Sunday across Syria, half of them by government troops.
“I’m worried that Syria is going to slide into a civil war,” British Foreign Secretary William Hague told the BBC on Sunday.
The U.N. last gave a death toll for the conflict in January, saying 5,400 people had been killed in 2011 alone. But hundreds more have been killed since, according to activist groups. An opposition group, Local Coordination Committees, says more than 7,300 have been killed since the uprising began more than 11 months ago.
There is no way to independently verify the numbers, since Syria bans almost all foreign journalists and human rights organizations.
The latest assassinations came on a road in the northwest province of Idlib, which has become a patchwork of areas held either by the government or mutinous soldiers who have safe-haven bases in nearby Turkey.
The state news agency SANA said gunmen opened fire on a car carrying Idlib provincial state prosecutor Nidal Ghazal and Judge Mohammed Ziadeh, who were killed instantly. The driver also was fatally wounded.
Idlib has witnessed intense clashes between troops loyal to Assad and army defectors who attack and then melt into the rugged mountains. In June, the town of Jisr al-Shugour became the first area to fall into the hands of rebels, who were accused by the government of killing scores of people and setting government buildings on fire. Syrian troops loyal to Assad retook the area shortly afterward.
On Saturday, SANA said gunmen shot to death Jamal al-Bish, a member of the city council of the nearby northern city of Aleppo. The city has been a center of support for Assad since the uprising began.
The back-to-back slayings follow the Feb. 11 killing of a Syrian army general in the first assassination to take place in the capital city of Damascus. Brig. Gen. Issa al-Khouli, a doctor and the chief of a military hospital in the capital, was shot as he left his home. Last month, the head of the Syrian Arab Red Crescent branch in Idlib was shot to death while on his way to Damascus.
In Cairo, Egyptian state news agency MENA said Foreign Minister Mohammed Amr decided to withdraw the country’s ambassador to Syria. The report gave no reason for the decision, but Arab governments have been pulling back diplomatic backing for Assad in protest against his refusal to back regional peace efforts.
Earlier this month, the six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council, led by powerful Saudi Arabia, said it would withdraw its ambassadors and expel Syrian envoys from the oil-rich region. Tunisia also has pulled its ambassador from Damascus.
In Damascus, a funeral was held for a man killed a day earlier when Syrian security forces fired bullets and tear gas at thousands of people marching in a funeral procession that turned into one of the largest protests in the capital.
The Local Coordination Committees said security forces pressured the parents of the victim, Samer al-Khatib, to bury him early so that his funeral would not turn into an anti-government protest.
Activist groups called for a one-day strike in Damascus to express support for other cities in revolt. But there was little response. Residents in the capital told The Associated Press that businesses were open as usual on the first day of the work week. School and universities also were operating.
Calls for strikes in the past did not succeed in tightly controlled Damascus, where government forces and informers keep a close eye on all activities. The capital has been mostly quiet since the uprising began.
By Glen Carey - Feb 19, 2012 10:32 PM GMT+1300
Syrian security forces maintained their crackdown against opponents of President Bashar al-Assad’s rule after China urged an end to the violence.
At least 13 people were killed yesterday, following a toll of 31 on Feb. 17, the U.K.-based opposition Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said in an e-mailed statement today. The Syrian army resumed shelling residential districts of Homs, Al Jazeera reported, citing opposition groups. A fuel storage depot at the refinery in the besieged city was bombed overnight by “an armed terrorist group,” the official Syrian Arab News Agency said.
China’s vice-foreign minister, Zhai Jun, visited Damascus yesterday, where he urged Syria to halt the fighting and restore stability. Zhai, speaking in the capital after a meeting with Assad, backed the Syrian leader’s proposed referendum on a new democratic constitution, set for Feb. 26, according to the Chinese state news agency Xinhua.
Syrian forces stepped up their efforts to crush the rebellion after China and Russia vetoed a resolution at the United Nations Security Council earlier this month calling on Assad to step down in favor of an interim government that would hold elections. The UN estimates more than 5,400 Syrians died last year as Assad cracked down on protests that began in March.
The unrest aims “at partitioning” the country and hurting its position in the Middle East, Assad was cited by SANA as saying during the meeting with Zhai. The government has blamed the violence on “terrorists” and foreign provocateurs.
Syrian forces stormed the city of al-Sokhna in the center of the country, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said today in an e-mailed statement. Government forces opened fire yesterday in the Maza neighborhood of Damascus when thousands rallied in the capital for the funerals of civilians killed a day earlier, the group said yesterday. Another nine people were killed by security forces today, Al Jazeera reported.
The U.S., European Union and Arab League, which backed the resolution vetoed by China and Russia, will attend a “Friends of Syria” meeting in Tunisia this week aimed at coordinating support for the opposition to Assad.
To contact the reporters on this story: Glen Carey in Riyadh at firstname.lastname@example.org
To contact the editors responsible for this story: Andrew J. Barden at email@example.com
#Syria | Syrian State TV said the people of Mazzeh in Damascus took to the streets to thank God for the snow.
Thousands of protesters proceeded with demonstrations in Damascus against the Syrian regime during a funeral procession for three protesters killed on Friday. (Reuters)
By Al Arabiya With Agencies
Thousands of opposition protesters took to the streets in the Syrian capital Damascus on Saturday close to the presidential palace for the second day in a row of escalating domestic challenge against embattled President Bashar al-Assad.
The protests broke out during a funeral procession held for three people killed by security forces on Friday following protests in the capital. The activist network Local Coordination Committees said a six people were killed, a dozen wounded and a few others suffered difficulties breathing from tear gas.
An activist who witnessed the violence said the procession numbered around 15,000, the largest in the capital since the 11-month-old uprising against President Assad began. It took place in al-Maza neighborhood overlooking the presidential palace.
“It was a huge funeral that turned into a protest,” said the activist, who spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of reprisals. “There was no fear among the participants.”
Amateur videos filmed by activists and posted online showed a crowd of people shouting “Allahu Akbar,” or God is great, and “One, one, one, the Syrian people are one!”
Maza is considered home to a fortified intelligence building where protesters are detained and tortured, and it has other places where the military intelligence has tortured soldiers who backtracked and rejected orders to shoot at civilian protesters. The tight-security area has various diplomatic headquarters and government institutions.
On Friday, anti-regime protests spread to al-Hamadiya neighborhood near al-Amawi mosque in Damascus, where dozens of people were killed.
Areas such as al-Qadar, al-Hajr al-Aswad, Kafr Sousa, al-Barza have all seen anti-regime protests.
Meanwhile, the Syrian Council for Civilian Protection said that crimes against humanity are being directed against Syrians and that self-defense is a legal right as well as defending public sectors.
The council said that there is increasing defection by the Syrian soldiers, and added that a group of defected soldiers announced the formation of the “Capital’s Martyrs” brigade.
On Saturday, the Syrian opposition said that more than 2,500 Syrian soldiers have defected, making the number the largest. In a Youtube video, the defected Syrian soldiers were shown swearing their allegiance to protect their country.
The fresh violence erupted during a visit by an envoy from China, which along with Russia recently supported Syria by vetoing a U.N. Security Council resolution that would have condemned Assad’s regime. Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Zhai Jun called on all parties to stop violence that has killed more than 5,400 people since March of last year, according to the United Nations.
Tunisia, which hosted a first international conference on Syria in December and broke off ties with Damascus earlier this month, is hosting a “friends of Syria” conference next week, but Syrian opposition representatives are reportedly not invited to the event.
“There will certainly not be an official SNC representative” at the conference, Tunisian Foreign Minister Rafik Abdesalem told reporters while recognizing that the topic had caused wide debate.
“Each thing in time,” the minister said, adding that he hoped to see the creation of an opposition group with “real representation.”
The SNC said last week recognition by the Arab League was imminent, though members did not specify the extent of recognition they expected.
Tunisia has invited members of the Arab League and the European Union, along with the United States, to attend the February 24 conference.
Abdesalem confirmed invitations were also sent to Russia and China, the two powers have that have gone furthest to defend the regime of President Bashar al-Assad.
In this Wednesday, Feb. 15, 2012 file citizen journalism image provided by the Local Coordination Committees in Syria, anti-Syrian regime activist Khaled Abu-Salah stands in front of flames and smoke from a bombed oil pipeline, in Homs province, Syria.
BEIRUT — Activists say Syrian troops have fired on mourners taking part in a massive funeral procession in the capital.
They say several people were wounded by gunfire in the Damascus neighborhood of Mazzeh. Tear gas was also fired on the Saturday procession mourning three people killed by security forces following protests in the area a day earlier.
An eyewitness who spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of reprisals said the procession numbered around 15,000.
That would make it among the largest anti-government gatherings to have taken place in regime-controlled central Damascus during the 11-month uprising against President Bashar Assad.
The witness and the British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said several were wounded.