Syrian forces raid cities, as ICRC granted access

Sep 5, 2011

Beirut – Syrian troops and security forces intensified Monday their assault on the central cities of Hama and Homs, while the government granted access to the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) to visit a detention center.

Hisham Hassam, the ICRC Public Relations Officer in the Near and Middle East, confirmed to the German Press Agency dpa from Geneva that the ICRC were granted access to visit a jail in Syria.

ICRC’s president, Jakob Kellenberger, who concluded a two-day visit to Damascus on Monday, said ICRC delegates started visiting on September 4 the Damascus Central Prison, in the suburb of Adra.

‘The Syrian authorities have granted the ICRC access to a place of detention for the first time. Initially, we will have access to persons detained by the Ministry of the Interior, and we are hopeful that we will soon be able to visit all detainees,’ said Kellenberger.

‘This is an important step forward for our humanitarian activities in Syria,’ he added.

Arab League Secretary General Nabil Al-Arabi was also due to visit Damascus on Wednesday to discuss recent developments, at the request of Arab foreign ministers, the Al Arabiya Satellite channel reported.

Last month, the Arab League launched a peace initiative aimed at solving the crisis in Syria, where more than 2,000 people have been killed in anti-regime protests since March.

The developments came as security forces intensified their assaults against pro-democracy protesters in the central cities of Hama, Homs and in the province of Idlib, killing at least nine people and arresting dozens.

‘Dozens of troops backed by at least 30 military vehicles and security forces raided Hama,’ a spokesman of one of the Local Coordination Committees who identified himself as Omar Idlibi told dpa.

He added that security forces carried out a similar operation in Homs.

Idlibi said some 100 people were rounded up in the Khan al Sabul, in the province of Idlib.

‘Security forces were seen dragging men from their houses, blindfolding them and pushing them into buses,’ Idlibi said.

Earlier, activists in Lebanon told dpa that ‘at least nine people were killed in Homs by firing by the Syrian security forces.’

They added that Syrian security forces were conducting arrests in the Al-Khalediya neighborhood of Homs, ‘when the troops started shooting randomly at a group of people near a mosque in the area.’

Activists based in northern Lebanon told dpa that sounds of heavy shelling could be heard in the Wadi Khaled, an area facing Tal Kalakh.

They told dpa that one of their members was killed by the Syrian security forces as he was trying to escape from Syria into Turkey.

The dead man was identified as Adelsalam Hassoun, 24. He was killed by Syrian army snipers just after he had crossed into Turkey from the village of Ain al-Baida on the Syrian side.

Activists based in the Syrian capital said soldiers have defected from the Syrian army at Mezzeh airport in Damascus. They gave no further details.

The Syrian Local Coordination Committees said the defected Syrian soldiers had escaped to Turkey.

Meanwhile former Syrian vice president Abdel Halim Khaddam – who now lives in exile in Paris – demanded a military intervention in Syria, Al-Jazeera reported.

In his letter to ‘Syrian revolutionaries,’ Khaddam said the country needed an intervention like the one in Libya. ‘Military intervention is not the same as an occupation,’ he added.

In another development, the Syrian attorney general of the city of Hama – who announced his defection last week – arrived in Cyprus, the Dubai-based Al-Arabiya channel reported, without providing further details.

Activists based in Lebanon confirmed to dpa that Bakhour was ‘safe and sound,’ but refused to say where he was.

Bakhour appeared in videos last week, saying he had resigned because of a massive government campaign of killing and torture in Hama. The government responded that Bakhour had been kidnapped and was forced to issue the statement.

On August 15, the 22 members of the Arab League called for an ‘end to the spilling of blood and (for Syria) to follow the way of reason before it is too late.’

Syria rejected the statement at the time, saying it amounted to ‘a clear violation … of the principles of the Arab League charter and of the foundations of joint Arab action.’

Source: Monsters and Critics.

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