Syrian forces fire on anti-Assad crowd in capital
Posted by Admin on February 18, 2012
By Khaled Yacoub Oweis and Angus MacSwan | Reuters – 1 hr 19 mins ago
AMMAN/BEIRUT (Reuters) – Syrian security forces fired live ammunition to break up a protest against President Bashar al-Assadin Damascus on Saturday, killing at least one person, opposition activists said.
A Chinese envoy met the Syrian leader earlier in the day and urged all sides to end 11 months of bloodshed, while backing a government plan for elections.
The shooting broke out at the funerals of three youths killed on Friday in an anti-Assad protest that was one of the biggest in the capital since a nationwide uprising started.
“They started firing at the crowd right after the burial. People are running and trying to take cover in the alleyways,” said a witness, speaking to Reuters in Amman by telephone.
The opposition Syrian Revolution Coordination Union said the gunfire near the cemetery had killed one mourner and wounded four, including a woman who was hit in the head.
Up to 30,000 demonstrators had taken to the streets in the Mezze district of Damascus, witnesses said.
Footage of the funeral broadcast live on the Internet showed women ululating to honor the victims. Mourners shouted: “We sacrifice our blood, our soul for you martyrs. One, one, one, the Syrian people are one”.
Assad described the turmoil racking Syria as a ploy to split the country.
“What Syria is facing is fundamentally an effort to divide it and affect its geopolitical place and historic role in the region,” he was quoted by Syrian state television as saying after meeting Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Zhai Jun.
Zhai, speaking hours before the shooting at the funerals, said Chinabacked Assad’s plan for a referendum on February 26 followed by multi-party elections to resolve the crisis. The opposition and the West have dismissed the plan as sham.
The Chinese envoy appealed for an end to violence from all sides, including the government and opposition forces. His comments nevertheless amounted to a show of support against world condemnation of Assad’s crackdown on the popular uprising.
“China supports the path of reform taking place in Syria and the important steps that have been taken in this respect,” he said.
China’s state news agency Xinhua highlighted Zhai’s comments that China was “deeply concerned by the escalating crisis”. The Syrian TV report quoted him as saying: “The Chinese experience shows a nation cannot develop without stability.”
Beijing and Moscow have been Assad’s most important international defenders during the crackdown which has killed several thousand people and divided world powers. The United Nations, the United States, Europe, Turkey and Arab powers want Assad to step down and have condemned the ferocious repression.
BOMBING THE OPPOSITION
A blanket of snow covered Homs, on the highway between Damascus and the commercial hub Aleppo, as Syrian troops pounded mainly Sunni Muslim rebel districts with rockets and artillery.
The troops were close to Baba Amro, a southern neighborhood that has been target of the heaviest barrages since the armored offensive began two weeks ago, activists said.
“Troops have closed in on Baba Amro and the bombardment is mad, but I don’t know if they are willing to storm the neighborhood while it is snowing,” activist Mohammad al-Homsi said from Homs.
“There is no electricity and communications between districts are cut, so we are unable to get a death toll… there is no fuel in most of the city.”
The military has also opened a new offensive in Hama, a city with a bloody history of resistance to Assad’s late father. The Assad clan are Alawites, an offshoot of Shi’ite Islam, in a majority Sunni country.
Assad, who succeeded his father Hafez when he died in 2000 after 30 years in power, says he is fighting foreign-backed terrorists.
The uprising began with civilian protests in March, but now includes a parallel armed struggle led by the loosely organized Free Syria Army, made up of army deserters and local insurgents.
Syria’s other significant ally is Iran, itself at odds with the West. An Iranian destroyer and a supply ship sailed through the Suez canal this week and are believed to be on their way to the Syrian coast, a source in the canal authority said.
The West is concerned that the conflict is sliding towards a civil war that could spread across the region’s patchwork of ethnic, religious and political rivalries.
But it has ruled out Libya-style military intervention, instead imposing sanctions and urging a fragmented opposition, which includes activists inside Syria, armed rebels and politicians in exile, to present a common front against Assad.
Tunisia, which is hosting a meeting on Syria next week, said on Friday Arab countries would encourage the opposition to unite before they would recognize them as a government-in-waiting.
(Additional reporting by Mohammed Abbas in Beirut; Editing by Alistair Lyon)
- Syrians plan to protest, hold joint funeral near al-Assad’s palace (news.blogs.cnn.com)
- The Syrian Expatriates Organization (SEO) Rejects the Assad Regime’s Call for a Constitutional Referendum (prweb.com)
- Protests throughout Syria against President Assad’s regime – Telegraph.co.uk (telegraph.co.uk)
- The Syrian Expatriates Organization Applauds the Arab League for Their Recent Resolution Regarding the Situation in Syria (prweb.com)
- Syrian activists report new raids, arrests (ctv.ca)
- Syria conflict: After focusing on Homs for weeks, Assad government attacks rebel strongholds in Deraa (news.nationalpost.com)
- China to Send Senior Envoy for Talks in Syria (abcnews.go.com)
- Warzone Syria: Assad unleashes assaults in THREE major cities a day after world dismisses his offer of a referendum (dailymail.co.uk)
- Syrian Troops Shell Central City Following UNGA Condemnation – Voice of America (voanews.com)
- China Sends Senior Diplomat to Syria in Bid to End Violence (ibtimes.com)
- Irans says Duqu malware under ‘control’ (ritcyberselfdefense.wordpress.com)
- Syria rejects new Arab League plan to end crisis (revolutionizingawareness.com)
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