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Posts Tagged ‘Homs’

Syria referendum goes ahead amid military onslaught

Posted by Admin on February 26, 2012

http://in.news.yahoo.com/violence-rages-syria-holds-referendum-030825956.html

By Alistair Lyon | Reuters – 1 hour 35 minutes ago

BEIRUT (Reuters) – At least 31 Syrian civilians and soldiers were killed on Sunday in bloodshed that coincided with a vote on a new constitution that could keep President Bashar al-Assad in power until 2028.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said a military bombardment of opposition districts in Homs, now in its fourth week, had killed nine civilians, while rebel fighters had killed four soldiers in clashes in the city.

The British-based Observatory said eight civilians and 10 members of the security forces were killed in violence elsewhere in Syria, scene of what has become an increasingly militarised revolt against four decades of Assad family rule.

Voting was under way in the referendum on a constitution which Assad says will lead to a multi-party parliamentary election in three months, but which his opponents see as a sick joke given the unrest convulsing the country.

“What should we be voting for, whether to die by bombardment or by bullets? This is the only choice we have,” said Waleed Fares, an activist in the Khalidiyah district of Homs.

“We have been trapped in our houses for 23 days. We cannot go out, except into some alleys. Markets, schools and government buildings are closed, and there is very little movement on the streets because of snipers,” he said.

“Baba Amro has had no food or water for three days,” Fares said of another besieged and battered district in the city. “Homs in general has no electricity for 18 hours a day.”

He said people in opposition areas of Homs had wanted to burn copies of the new constitution in protest at the referendum, but it was too dangerous to venture out of doors.

On Saturday security forces killed at least 100 people across Syria, including six women and 10 children, the opposition Syrian Network for Human Rights said.

HARROWING CONDITIONS

The Syrian government, backed by Russia, China and Iran, and undeterred by Western and Arab pressure to halt the carnage, says it is fighting foreign-backed “armed terrorist groups”.

The outside world has been powerless to restrain Assad’s drive to crush the 11-month-old revolt, which has the potential to slide into a sectarian conflict between Syria’s Sunni Muslim majority and the president’s minority Alawite sect.

The military onslaught on parts of Homs has created harrowing conditions for civilians, rebels and journalists.

A video posted by activists on YouTube showed Mohammad al-Mohammad, a doctor at a makeshift clinic in Baba Amro, holding a 15-year-old boy hit in the neck by shrapnel and spitting blood.

“It is late at night and Baba Amro is still being bombarded. We can do nothing for this boy,” said the doctor, who has also been treating Western journalists wounded in the city.

American correspondent Marie Colvin and French photographer Remi Ochlik were killed in the bombardment of Homs last week and two other Western journalists were wounded. The group is still trapped there despite Red Cross efforts to extract them.

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said it was still unable to evacuate distressed civilians from Baba Amro . After a day of talks with Syrian authorities and opposition fighters, it said there were “no concrete results”.

“We continue our negotiations, hoping that tomorrow (Sunday) we will be able to enter Baba Amro to carry out our life-saving operations,” spokesman Hicham Hassan said in Geneva.

REVISED CONSTITUTION

Despite the violence in provincial cities across Syria, voting on the constitution went ahead in calmer areas.

If approved, it would drop an article making Assad’s Baath party the leader of state and society, allow political pluralism and enact a presidential limit of two seven-year terms.

But the limit will not be enforced retrospectively, meaning that Assad, already in power for 11 years, could serve another two terms after his current one expires in 2014.

Dozens of people lined up to vote in two polling stations visited by a Reuters journalist in Damascus. “I’ve come to vote for President Bashar, God protect him and give him victory over his enemies,” said Samah Turkmani, in his 50s.

Bassam Haddad, the director of one polling centre, said: “From the beginning the voting has been much better than we expected. We can say 200 percent above expectations.”

Another voter, Majed Elias, said: “This is a national duty, whether I agree or not, I have to come and vote… I agree with the draft constitution, even if I object to some parts. Every Syrian must ride the wave of reform to achieve what he wants.”

Anti-Assad activists have called for a boycott of a vote they see as meaningless. They said they would try to hold protests near polling stations in Damascus and suburbs where troops drove out insurgents last month.

Some said security forces had stopped people venturing out to buy food in Homs on Saturday, confiscated their Interior Ministry-issued identification cards and informed them the cards could be retrieved at specified polling centres the next day.

“They want to force people to vote in this doctored, so-called referendum,” activist Mohammad al-Homsi said from Homs.

This is Syria’s third referendum since Assad inherited power from his late father. The first installed him as president in 2000 with an official 97.29 percent ‘yes’ vote. The second renewed his term seven years later with 97.62 percent in favour.

(Additional reporting by Khaled Yacoub Oweis in Amman and Erika Solomon and Dominic Evans in Beirut; Editing by Robin Pomeroy)

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Syrian forces fire on anti-Assad crowd in capital

Posted by Admin on February 18, 2012

http://news.yahoo.com/chinese-envoy-meet-syrian-leader-u-n-condemnation-011432194.html;_ylt=Av1812XJ_k8gLm9NCAGS0SOs0NUE;_ylu=X3oDMTNmbjVja3RuBG1pdAMEcGtnAzAxNDFhYzQwLTYyZGUtM2FhYi04YzdlLTQyNmJjMjE2NDZiMgRwb3MDMQRzZWMDbG5fUmV1dGVyc19nYWwEdmVyAzgzYmIyZmUwLTVhMjgtMTFlMS1iYTU1LTZjMWQxM2Q0ZTJmYQ–;_ylv=3

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.

CHINESE SUPPORT

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.

Russia and China vetoed a U.N. Security Council resolution on February 4 calling on Assad to quit and also voted against a similar, non-binding General Assembly resolution on Thursday.

BOMBING THE OPPOSITION

Syrian government forces meanwhile renewed their bombardment of the opposition stronghold of Homs on Saturday.

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)

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Syria forces ‘fire on Damascus funeral ‘

Posted by Admin on February 18, 2012

http://news.yahoo.com/syria-forces-fire-damascus-funeral-105633509.html;_ylt=Aqn.6D0Is3G.bA5xvKzaZSis0NUE;_ylu=X3oDMTNiN2RiYTNqBG1pdAMEcGtnAzgwZTM4ODllLTA3MDAtMzVkOC1iMDNhLWM5YmQ4ZDBkNWZjYwRwb3MDMgRzZWMDbG5fQUZQX2dhbAR2ZXIDZGM0ZTNmMjMtNWEyOS0xMWUxLWFkZjctYzQ5NWJmN2E1ZTA3;_ylv=3

AFP – 13 hrs ago

Syrian security forces fired on a huge crowd gathered for the funerals Saturday of demonstrators killed in rare protests in the capital after a senior Chinese envoy issued a plea for the bloodshed to end.

Following Damascus talks with President Bashar al-Assad, Vice Foreign Minister Zhai Jun called on all sides in Syria to stop the violence and for planned elections, which have been denounced by the opposition, to go ahead peacefully, state media said.

The Damascus funerals were for four people, two of them teenagers, who were killed when security forces opened fire on demonstrators in the capital’s west central Mazzeh district, which houses many government offices and embassies, a human rights group and activists said.

“The forces of Assad are shooting on those taking part in the funerals and firing tear gas to disperse them,” Mohammad Chami, of the Local Coordination Committees which organise protests on the ground, said when contacted by AFP on Skype.

He said it was “sustained gunfire.”

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said there were casualties among the “thousands” attending the funerals without specifying their number or severity.

Activists described Friday’s demonstrations in Damascus as “unprecedented,” saying there were 49 in all, and called for a “day of defiance” in the capital on Sunday to galvanise support.

“It’s the first time that the protests have spread to well-to-do neighbourhoods,” said Moaz Shami of the LCC.

In a message to Damascus residents on their “Syrian Revolution 2011” Facebook page, activists said: “The blood of the martyrs exhorts you to disobedience.”

Security forces also kept up their pounding of the flashpoint central city of Homs as the Chinese envoy visited.

Rockets crashed into strongholds of resistance at the rate of four a minute on Friday, according to one activist, who warned that the city — Syria’s third largest — faces a humanitarian crisis.

Thirteen of the 30 people killed on Friday were in the Homs district of Baba Amr, the Syrian Observatory said.

After his talks with Assad, Zhai, whose government has twice joined Moscow in blocking UN Security Council condemnation of the Damascus regime’s deadly crackdown, said it was vital that “calm be restored as quickly as possibly,” state television reported.

“The position of China is to call on the government, the opposition and the rebels to halt acts of violence immediately,” the Chinese envoy said.

“We hope that the referendum on a new constitution as well as the forthcoming parliamentary elections pass off calmly,” he added.

“China supports the reforms under way in Syria and the significant measures taken by the country in this field.”

Assad for his part said the events in Syria were “aimed at dividing the country and delivering a blow to its geopolitical position and historical role in the region,” the official SANA news agency reported.

He said he was determined to “advance the political reform process according to a precise plan and timetable.”

On Thursday, Syrian opposition groups rejected a newly drafted constitution that could end nearly five decades of single-party rule, and urged voters to boycott a February 26 referendum on the charter.

One of them, the National Coordination Committee for Democratic Change, told AFP “it is impossible for us to take part in this referendum before a stop to the violence and killings” which rights groups say has killed more than 6,000 people since March last year.

Zhai’s meeting with Assad followed talks with his counterpart, Faisal Meqdad, late on Friday after which he said the international community must respect Syria’s sovereignty.

“The sovereignty, unity, independence and territorial integrity of Syria must be respected by all sides and by the international community,” SANA quoted him as saying.

On Thursday, before heading to Damascus, Zhai said Beijing opposed armed intervention and forced “regime change” in Syria.

China and Russia have faced a barrage of criticism for blocking action by the UN Security Council, including from Arab nations with which Beijing normally has good ties.

“China condemns all acts of violence against innocent civilians” and “does not approve of armed intervention or forcing so-called ‘regime change,'” Zhai was quoted as saying by the official Xinhua news agency.

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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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