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Posts Tagged ‘International Committee of the Red Cross’

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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Fighting turns southern Yemen town into “hell”

Posted by Admin on June 9, 2011

Ali Abdullah Saleh

Ali Abdullah Saleh

http://news.yahoo.com/s/nm/20110608/wl_nm/us_yemen

By Mohammed Mukhashaf and Asma Alsharif Wed Jun 8, 1:42 pm ET

ADEN/JEDDAH (Reuters) – Bodies lay in the streets of a southern Yemeni town Wednesday as government forces battled Islamist militants, a local official said, underscoring the gravity of Yemen’s multiple conflicts.

President Ali Abdullah Saleh, 69, wounded Friday when rockets hit his palace, is having treatment in the Saudi capital Riyadh but there were conflicting reports about his condition — ranging from fairly minor, to life-threatening 40-percent burns.

A truce between his forces and tribesmen who back pro-democracy protesters was holding in Sanaa. Western and Arab powers have been working to persuade Saleh to stay away and allow a long-negotiated transition of power to begin.

Saleh has left a country in crisis, with Yemeni civilians bearing the brunt of fighting. Medical staff are having trouble reaching the wounded, and electricity and water are scarce, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said.

Some 20 bodies have been retrieved in and around Sanaa since Saturday by ICRC and Yemen Red Crescent teams, including seven Tuesday in al-Hassaba, north of the capital, the ICRC said.

“Because of the fighting, it has often been difficult for medical personnel to reach certain parts of Sanaa,” said Jean-Nicolas Marti, the head of the ICRC delegation in Yemen.

The U.N.’s World Food Program (WFP) said Yemenis are going hungry as the fighting disrupts food supplies and pushes up the price of gas, water, fuel and other basic commodities.

“There is a sharp deterioration of the food security situation in Yemen,” WFP’s representative in Yemen Gian Carlo Cirri told Reuters in an interview. “We are close to food prices having doubled on average since last year when it comes to key commodities such as wheat flour, vegetable oil and sugar.”

Sanaa was calm in Saleh’s absence, with a ceasefire holding between government forces and tribesmen loyal to Sheikh Sadeq al-Ahmar, head of the powerful Hashed tribal confederation, who have turned against the president.

More than 200 people have been killed and thousands have fled Sanaa in the last two weeks as fighting intensified.

Al-Ahmar’s men withdrew from around seven government buildings, including the state news agency Saba which suffered heavily in fighting last week.

But many government ministries were not functioning as staff stayed away Wednesday and much of the city was suffering from cuts in electricity, fuel and water supplies.

GUNFIRE AND BLOOD

Officials and residents described dire scenes in the southern Abyan province where the army and Islamist militants have fought for days, causing thousands of residents to flee.

“There is a cat-and-mouse game going on in the streets now between the army and armed men. I can’t tell who’s who among them any more,” said resident Khaled Abboud by telephone. “There is a smell of gunfire and blood in the air. I only stayed to protect my home, but now I want to get out of this hell.”

The fighting has reduced Zinjibar, once home to more than 50,000 people, to a ghost town without power or running water.

Health official Alhadar Alsaidi said disease was spreading from dead bodies on the streets and wild dogs eating them. “I call on local and international health organizations to help us removing bodies from the streets and burying them,” he said.

The Yemeni army said this week it had killed 30 militants in Zinjibar, where a local official said 15 soldiers had also died in battles for the town seized by gunmen nearly two weeks ago.

Some of Saleh’s opponents have accused the president of deliberately letting al Qaeda militants take over Zinjibar to demonstrate the security risks if he were to lose power.

The volatile situation in Yemen, which lies on oil shipping lanes, alarms Western nations and neighboring oil giant Saudi Arabia, who fear that chaos would give al Qaeda free rein there.

They see Saleh’s absence as an opportunity to secure his exit after nearly 33 years ruling the poorest Arab state.

The United States and Britain have called for a peaceful, orderly transition in Yemen, based on a Gulf-brokered plan.

There was no clear word on Saleh’s health.

“I visited him yesterday evening and he was good. He talked to us and asked about the Yemeni expatriates and he is better than the others who were injured. He is very good and talks. He was sitting on a chair,” said Taha al-Hemyari, head of Yemeni community affairs at the Yemeni embassy in Riyadh.

A Saudi doctor familiar with Saleh’s case also said his burns were not as serious as some officials suggested, saying he may be able to leave Saudi Arabia in less than two weeks.

SEVERE BURNS?

The Yemeni embassy in Washington said in a statement Saleh’s health was improving and reiterated that his deputy Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi was in charge in a caretaker capacity.

“President Ali Abdullah Saleh’s health condition is stable and continues to improve… President Saleh will return to Yemen … to reassume his duties soon after he recovers,” it said.

Yemeni and U.S. officials said Tuesday that Saleh was in a more serious condition with burns over roughly 40 percent of his body. Saudi newspaper al-Watan cited a Yemeni diplomat on Wednesday as saying another operation on Saleh was possible.

Saleh was initially said to have been hit by shrapnel and Hadi said Monday the president would return within days.

Forty percent burns would mean Saleh’s life could be in danger: “Somebody of that age, with that percentage of burns, has got a pretty poor prognosis, especially if these are full thickness burns,” Brendan Eley, chief executive of the Healing Foundation at Britain’s Royal College of Surgeons.

Saudi officials say it is up to Saleh whether he returns home but they, and their Western allies, may want to revive a Gulf-brokered transition deal under which the Yemeni leader would quit in return for immunity from prosecution.

Yemen said a donation of three million barrels of crude oil from Saudi King Abdullah had arrived in Aden Wednesday.

Thousands of protesters, who have been in the streets since February demanding Saleh quit, gathered at his vice president’s residence Tuesday. They want him formally to assume power in order to effect Saleh’s final removal from office.

Troops loyal to army general Ali Mohsen, who has sided with the protesters, shot into the air in an effort to persuade them to leave, but the activists stayed put.

(Additional reporting by Martina Fuchs, Mohammed Ghobari, Reem Shamseddine, Kate Kelland and Stephanie Ulmer-Nebehay; writing by Andrew Hammond; Editing by Alistair Lyon and Alastair Macdonald)

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