Syrian forces surround border town

ALBOKAMAL, Syria, July 18 (UPI) — Syrian security forces were poised to begin a major military operation to quash dissent in an eastern town where dozens of soldiers defected, residents said.

At least 1,000 troops, some backed by tanks, surrounded Albokamal, near the Iraqi border Monday in an “explosive” situation, the pro-government private daily newspaper al-Watan reported.

The army was “preparing to intervene,” the newspaper said, but Syrian authorities feared fierce resistance among insurgents who could “easily find logistical and political support.”

Until now, the military largely stayed out of Albokamal and Deir el-Zour, a city of more than 500,000 on the Euphrates River, also near Iraq, out of fear its presence could ignite tribal anger against the government, The New York Times reported.

The tribes wield great influence and have relations with tribes in Iraq, the Times said.

“I expect the regime to send more troops to seize the city and punish those soldiers who defected,” an Albokamal resident who arrived in Damascus Sunday told the U.S. newspaper. “It will be a big mistake to let the army enter our city.”

The troops arrived a day after security forces and armed plainclothes men killed five protesters in Albokamal, including a 14-year-old boy.

The killings brought thousands of angry residents into the streets, overwhelming the security forces, the Times said, and video posted on YouTube indicated.

Residents of Hama told the BBC Monday that 50 protesters arrested recently have been freed and government offices have reopened.

The city has been under opposition control since the security forces withdrew in June. Activists have lifted their checkpoints and let businesses reopen in return for a halt to raids.

In Homs, sectarian violence was reported over the weekend.

The Observatory for Human Rights told the BBC a pro-regime militia attacked a Sunni Muslim neighborhood, killing 30 people, after the mutilated corpses of three Alawites, members of President Bashar Assad’s sect, were found.

Human rights activists say at least 1,400 protesters were killed in the Assad regime’s crackdown on dissent since March and more than 12,000 people were still detained, most without being charged.

The government disputes death toll and blames the unrest on Islamist extremists, accusing them of killing hundreds of soldiers and other security forces.

Source: United Press International (UPI).


Jordan riot police held over Amman clashes

17 July 2011

The Jordanian authorities have detained four police officers on suspicion of using excessive force against pro-democracy protesters and journalists.

Friday saw baton-wielding police officers clash with dozens of demonstrators trying to set up a protest camp in the center of the capital Amman.

At least 15 people were injured in the confrontation.

Among them were several photographers and journalists.

This has led to claims that police targeted reporters to stop them covering the protest.

About 100 journalists held a protest in Amman on Sunday to condemn the police action.

Police spokesman Lt Col Mohamed al-Khatib said an investigation was under way to determine whether policemen had broken the law. He said more officers could be arrested.

The Jordan Press Association has said it plans to sue the country’s police department.

Jordan, in common with Arab nations across the Middle East, has seen the recent emergence of a protest movement demanding political and economic reforms, and an end to corruption.

Source: British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC).

Protesters denounce attack on journalists

By Hani Hazaimeh

AMMAN – Some 200 people gathered at the Jordan Press Association (JPA) headquarters on Monday to denounce an attack on journalists by riot police on Friday.

The protesters carried banners that read “The media want to try the assailants and those who gave the orders” and “Condemnation and apologies are not enough and will not stop us from seeking justice”.

The protest was preceded by a JPA council meeting during which the members discussed how to bring an end to assaults on journalists.

Last Friday, riot police allegedly attacked journalists covering the first open-ended sit-in in the Kingdom since that of March 24, which also ended in violence and witnessed attacks against reporters.

Friday’s protest attracted some 300 local and international journalists, who almost outnumbered the pro-reform protesters.

Despite a series of preventative measures taken by police and media organizations to protect journalists, including the issuance of orange vests and an instant hotline to lodge complaints, the first hour of what was to be a peaceful sit-in soon witnessed attacks on members of the press, according to journalists.

Media activists said 20 journalists were injured and around 15 sent to hospital.

“The JPA will pursue legal action to prosecute those responsible for the attack on our colleagues,” JPA President Tareq Momani told The Jordan Times yesterday, adding that the JPA council called on all journalists who were attacked by the police to file a complaint.

“We want an independent ad hoc investigation committee to identify those responsible for the attack to bring them to justice. We also want to be part of any investigation and we want a daily update of the procedures,” he said at the protest, which also saw the participation of Hamzah Mansour, secretary general of the Islamic Action Front (IAF), the political arm of the Muslim Brotherhood.

He expressed the IAF’s support for and solidarity with the media, claiming that “Friday’s incident and the attack on members of the March 24 youth movement at the Interior Ministry Circle earlier this year were engineered by the same party”.

The Public Security Department has also launched an investigation and suspended four police officers for their role in the violence.

Momani described the arrest of four policemen as “a joke” and insisted that those who took part in the attack, whether physically or by issuing orders, must be held accountable and brought to justice.

Meanwhile, MP Jamil Nimri, also a columnist, condemned the attack and charged that whoever orchestrated it aimed to prevent the media from reporting the incident.

18 July 2011

Source: The Jordan Times.

Syrian Forces Surround Town

By Shannon Liao
July 17, 2011

Syrian police forces on Sunday surrounded a town on the eastern border with Iraq after tens of thousands of residents staged protests denouncing President Bashar al-Assad, Reuters reported.

Protesters in Albu Kamal were encouraged to come to the streets by recent defections of some security personnel, according to the report.

Around 1,000 loyal military and security personnel surrounded the town overnight with tanks and helicopters.

Media and Syrian human right groups put the number of killed over the past four months of unrest at between 1,400 and 1,900.

Security forces have been shooting protesters and are responsible for most of the killings, according to Hozan Ibrahim, a spokesperson for the rights group, Local Coordination Committees of Syria.

An activist told Reuters that tribal leaders are negotiating with the army to arrange a deal to return previously seized army vehicles and weapons and in return army troops will stay out of Albu Kamal and nearby villages.

On Saturday, military agents killed five protesters including a 14-year-old boy.

Source: The Epoch Times.

Clashes erupt at pro-reform protest in Jordan

15 Jul 2011

Several people injured as police use batons to break up anti-government demonstration in Amman.

At least 10 people have been injured amid efforts by police to stop clashes between demonstrators and government supporters in the center of the Jordanian capital, Amman.

Police used batons on Friday to disperse people outside city hall, beating and injuring nine journalists.

The clashes took place after about 2,000 people, including Islamists and youth groups, marched from the city’s Al-Husseini mosque to the city hall.

An Al Jazeera correspondent and several other journalists, including a Reuters cameraman, said they were attacked by police.

The wounded included an AFP photographer and a female activist.

Al Jazeera’s Nisreen El Shamayleh, reporting from the scene of the clashes, said: “The protesters were attacked by riot police and public security personnel at the beginning of the sit-in that they were planning to hold at Al Nakheel Square.

“They weren’t allowing the protesters to enter [the square] and that is when the clashes started.

“Only after the clashes began and several people were injured that they allowed people to [begin the sit-in].”

Fahim Karim, a New York Times reporter, was beaten by 10 policemen while a photographer who works for another international news agency said he was ordered by police not to shoot the scene.

Protesters’ accounts

One protester told Al Jazeera: “During the march the security forces attacked us. We had to make for the women to escape the assault as one woman had already passed out.

Another said he was kicked in the stomach by one of the royal guards while trying to protect “the women in the march”.

Besides Amman, rallies for reform and against “rampant corruption” also took place in Tafileh, Man and Karak in the country’s south, and in Irbid and Jerash in the north.

Our correspondent said there is a definite feeling in Jordan that there is no serious motivation to implement real and true democratic reforms in the country.

Jordan has faced a protest movement demanding political and economic reforms and an end to corruption, since January.

Security forces have previously prevented demonstrators demanding the removal of the government, but not King Abdullah, who appoints the cabinet and has wide powers, from assembling at main squares.

The clampdown appears to have been prompted by fears of mass crowds as seen in Egypt and Tunisia where long-serving leaders were overthrown earlier this year.

Source: al-Jazeera.

“Come on, leave Bashar”

July 14, 2011

He composed straightforward tunes and sang colloquial lyrics against the Syrian regime, attacking President Bashar Al-Assad, his brother Maher and the ruling Syrian Baath Party. The songs were taken up by hundreds of thousands of demonstrators gathered in the city of Hama, causing more protesters to take to the streets and making his songs the slogans of anti-regime protesters across the country.

Ibrahim Qashush, the “mocking bird of the Syrian Revolution,” as his fans preferred to call him, led the protests in Hama’s Al-Assi Square on the “Friday of Departure” at the beginning of July, improvising lyrics that added to the enthusiasm of the protesters. The songs will have appealed particularly to residents of Hama, where there is a tradition of group singing, the protesters being passionate about Qashush’s songs and his striking voice.

It was this voice and these songs that apparently so disturbed the Syrian regime that it decided to silence him.

Qashush, a young man in his 30s, was kidnapped on a street in Hama on 3 July as he headed to work. The next day, his body was found in the local river, his throat cut and larynx removed after signs of brutal torture.

City residents and Syrian human rights groups say that security agents tortured and killed Qashush before removing his larynx and dumping his body into the river as an act of revenge for songs that had attacked senior figures in the regime, among them Al-Assad.

Shortly before his death, Qashush sang, “Bashar, you are not one of us; / take Maher and leave us; / your legitimacy is no longer recognized by us; / come on, leave Bashar. / Maher, you coward, / agent of the Americans, / the people of Syria cannot be disrespected; /come on, leave, Bashar. / We want rid of Bashar. / with our powerful might, / Syria wants freedom. / Syria wants freedom.”

In response to Qashush’s death, protesters dedicated more than 12 Facebook pages, variations on “We are all the Martyr Ibrahim Qashush”, or “We will not forget you, Ibrahim”, to the singer’s memory, and within days they had thousands of followers. The online encyclopaedia Wikipedia has also dedicated a page to Qashush focusing on the latter part of his life.

Fans of the singer said that they would continue what Qashush had started by continuing to chant for freedom in Syria’s cities, even if they too risked death by doing so. Songs by Qashush were sung during protests on last week’s “Friday of No to Dialogue”, and demonstrators in several Arab and European cities picketed Syrian embassies this week to protest against his death.

Syrian authorities claim that “unknown assailants” were responsible for Qashush’s death, saying that the singer was in fact an informer and that he was killed in order to incite further anti-regime protests.

Before the uprising in Syria began earlier this year, Qashush had been just another ordinary young man. However, the popular protests that have swept the country over recent months led him to be active in leading demonstrations calling for the overthrow of the regime and the ousting of Al-Assad.

According to Hama residents, Qashush was murdered by the regime as a punishment for his song “Come on, leave Bashar.”

By Bassel Oudat

Source: Uruknet.

Jordan police attack anti-govt. march

Fri Jul 15, 2011

At least ten people have been injured after Jordanian police attacked anti-government protesters demanding reforms in the capital, Amman.

The unrest took place as hundreds of demonstrators shouting anti-government slogans tried to march from the al-Husseini mosque to the city hall on Friday.

Most of the injured are reported to be journalists.

“We were beaten by police, although we were wearing special press vests. We thought we would be safe when we stood next to the police and away from the clashes,” said an AFP photographer who was injured by Jordanian police.

Some reports, however, suggest that police armed with batons got involved after pro- and anti-government supporters clashed.

Jordanian protesters demand political and economic reforms and an end to corruption. They have also called for the resignation of Prime Minister Marouf Bakhit’s and his cabinet and dissolution of the parliament, which they see as a puppet of the regime.

“Rulers, we want to reform the regime. We want the palace to hear the voices of Jordanians,” the demonstrators chanted on Friday.

“We need political, economic and social reforms for future generations,” and “It’s our right to fight corruption,” read banners carried by anti-government protesters in Amman.

Similar anti-government protest rallies were also held in the southern cities of Tafileh, Man and Karak, as well as Irbid and Jerash in the north.

Jordan has faced anti-government rallies demanding reforms and an end to corruption since January.

Last month, in a bid to appease protesters, King Abdullah II announced some concessions, including the formation of future governments that were based on an elected parliamentary majority rather than one appointed by the monarch.

But he later said it may take two to three years to put an elected government in place.

Source: PressTV.