Posts Tagged ‘ 2011 Protests in Syria ’

Syrians, troops in standoff in Hama

HAMA, Syria, July 6 (UPI) — Syrian troops have killed at least 22 people in a crackdown in the central city of Hama, a human rights organization said Wednesday.

The crackdown began Tuesday, but one witness indicated there was a standoff between citizens and Syrian government forces, a news blog offered by The Guardian in Britain reported Wednesday.

“The people are controlling the whole city,” the man identified as Omar wrote.

Omar said government troops made occasional raids on the city but residents were largely keeping troops in check, the British newspaper’s blog said.

“It is become more and more difficult to attack and enter the city,” he wrote.

In addition to the 22 deaths, the National Organization for Human Rights in Syria said more than 80 people were wounded in the confrontations.

“A large number of Hama residents have fled either to the nearby town of al-Salamiya or toward Damascus,” Ammar Qurabi, the organization’s chairman, said in a statement.

The U.S. State Department Tuesday urged the Syrian regime to withdraw its forces from Hama, a city of 800,000 people that saw a huge anti-government demonstration Friday.

For months, Syrian President Bashar Assad has faced a mounting challenge to his 11-year rule.

Source: United Press International (UPI).

Syrian Town of Resistance Under Siege by Army

By Jasper Fakkert
Jul 4, 2011

Almost 30 years ago, the Syrian military crushed an armed insurrection by the Muslim Brotherhood in the central Syrian city of Hama, resulting in the death of at least 10,000 people. That was under the rule of Hafez al-Assad. Now his son, President Bashar al-Assad, is sending troops to the city once again.

On Monday, al-Assad deployed troops and tanks to the city in response to the week-long anti-government demonstrations in the city.

Last Friday—a day off in the Arab World and traditionally the day large demonstrations take place—saw one of the largest demonstrations of the uprising thus far in Syria. An estimated half a million people took to the streets against al-Assad’s regime. After the demonstrations al-Assad fired the governor of the city.

Troops entered the outer skirts of the city on Monday and made arbitrary arrests of civilians, according to witness statements relayed to the Local Coordination Committees of Syria (LCCS), a network of 15 local committees across Syria. The witnesses also reported hearing gun shots, and said at least some people were killed, but it is unclear how many exactly.

At present, most of the troops remain outside of the city. Large numbers of tanks have been deployed at the city’s main entrances. One informant told the LCCS that at the northern entrance of the city around 50 tanks had been deployed.

“They have surrounded the city. But they cannot enter the city, because the residents have set up barriers to prevent the vehicles and security forces from coming in,” said Hozan Ibrahim, a spokesperson for the LCCS.

Hama has traditionally been one of strongholds of sentiment against the regime. Some fear a repeat of the 1982 Hama massacre.

“The newer generation doesn’t know what happened, they only heard it. They haven’t witnessed the horror their fathers have seen,” said Ibrahim.

While the city is under siege from the army, and prospects are they will advance on the city, demonstrations are continuing just as they have every evening for the past three weeks.

“The whole city is declared against the regime. They have overcome the fears over the past decade,” says Ibrahim.

After more than four decades of authoritarian rule by the Assad family, thousands of Syrians took to the streets in March, emboldened by the successful uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt, demanding political reform. The demonstrations soon gave rise to a bona fide popular uprising that has seen hundreds of thousands of people across the country join street demonstrations.

Al-Assad’s regime has responded with a harsh military crackdown, resulting in the deaths of an estimated 1,500 civilians.

Human rights organizations have reported arbitrary arrests and torture throughout the country, in many cases resulting in death. Among the dead are also a large group of minors. It is estimated is at least 80 children have been killed by security forces in the past months.

While Assad has promised political reform and a national dialog, no significant progress has been made. His harsh crackdown has earned him widespread international condemnation with the United States and the European Union imposing sanctions on his regime.

However, there has been no formal condemnation of the violence from the United Nations. China and Russia boycotted a U.N. Security Council meeting on the emergency in Syria and have indicated they will veto any resolution condemning the violence.

Source: The Epoch Times.

Turkey calls regional envoys to discuss Arab protests, Syria

14 June 2011 Tuesday

Turkish diplomats in the Middle East will gather in capital Ankara to discuss the latest developments in the region, labelled as the “Arab Spring”, as well as the situation in Syria.

During Monday’s assessment meeting between Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, the head of Turkey’s National Intelligence Agency (MIT), as well as Turkish ambassadors in Damascus and Beirut, it has been decided that Turkish ambassadors commissioned in the Middle East shall be summoned to Ankara to discuss the latest developments in the region, particularly the incidents in Syria.

Accordingly, Turkey’s senior diplomats will gather in the Turkish capital on Wednesday to assess the recent developments, officials told AA on Tuesday.

In the past week, thousands of Syrians have fled to Turkey to escape the violence between government forces and anti-Assad protesters in their country. Turkey has set up tent-camps to accommodate Syrian citizens.

Source: World Bulletin.

Arab League issues first condemnation of Syria violence

Tuesday 14 June 2011
Martin Chulov in Beirut

Comments ‘unbalanced and politically motivated’, says Syrian representative, as army’s onslaught continues.

The Arab League has publicly criticized the violence in Syria for the first time, saying Arab states are “angry and actively monitoring” the crisis.

The comments from the outgoing secretary general, Amr Moussa, drew a bitter response from Damascus. Syria’s representative at the league described them as “unbalanced and politically motivated”.

Mounting international condemnation, however, has done little to slow the onslaught of the Syrian army as it pushes through northern border villages on an operation it claims is cleansing the area of criminal gangs. Residents of the town of Deir Azzor were reportedly bracing themselves on Tuesday night for the arrival of armor and troops from the Syrian military’s feared 4th division, commanded by Maher al-Assad, brother of Syrian leader, Bashar al-Assad.

The same division has been in control of the town of Jisr al-Shughour since Friday, forcing most remaining people in the besieged enclave to flee to the nearby mountains bordering Turkey.

Syrian refugees continue to arrive at crossing points into Turkey and some are reported to have told authorities that the army arrested at least 15 people along the way. More than 7,000 refugees are now in southern Turkey and at least 5,000 have fled into Lebanon. Moussa said: “Though their views differ, Arab states are all worried, angry and actively monitoring the current crisis in Syria. What we are hearing and monitoring, about many victims falling, indicates great tumult in Syria … The situation in Syria should not be left in this state. Continuation of the status quo could lead to what may not be desired … for Syria.”

Syria’s envoy, Youssef Ahmad, claimed Moussa was recommending the same sort of military intervention that the Arab League endorsed in Libya three months ago.

“Days before leaving his post, Moussa calls for a kind of foreign intervention in the Syrian affairs, when the Libyan blood, shed by NATO air strikes as a result for a [UN] security council resolution, based, regrettably on an Arab demand in which Moussa’s efforts immensely contributed, isn’t dry yet,” he said.

On the Lebanon-Syria border, few refugees crossed on Tuesday. “The Syrians are keeping people away from the border,” said a man in the town of Wadi Khaled, who identified himself as Omar. “It has been like this for many days.”

Wadi Khaled is teeming with refugees from towns and cities, especially Hama and Homs, scenes of fierce violence over the last fortnight. “There are at least 5,000 Syrians here,” said Omar.

“But it is very difficult for any more to come because the army is stopping them or shooting them.”

Syrian troops were clearly visible patrolling a river that acts as an unofficial border. Several Syrian tanks had their turrets pointed towards Lebanon. At an official crossing point further up the road, there was no sign of anyone arriving.

Source: The Guardian.

Netanyahu Accuses Syria of Stoking Border Tension to Hide Domestic Turmoil

By Jonathan Ferziger and Calev Ben-David
Jun 6, 2011

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu accused Syria of trying to “heat up the border” by enabling a violent confrontation between Palestinian demonstrators and Israeli troops in the Golan Heights.

Israel will make a formal complaint to the United Nations that may be delivered as early as today in New York, following the clash in which Israeli forces fired on a crowd marking the anniversary of the 1967 Middle East War by trying to cross the frontier with Syria into Israel, according to Yigal Palmor, a Foreign Ministry spokesman.

Syrian state television said 23 people were killed. UN observers are trying to confirm details of the incident, according to a statement from Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon’s office. The incident occurred as more than two months of protests within Syria against the government of President Bashar al-Assad have left more than 1,100 people dead, human rights groups say.

The Golan confrontation “was no accident,” Netanyahu said after addressing lawmakers from his Likud Party in Jerusalem, according to an e-mailed statement. “There is an attempt to heat up the border, to breach our borders. here is an attempt here to divert international attention away from what is happening within Syria.”

Clashes between protesters and Israeli forces on the frontiers with Syria, Lebanon, the Gaza Strip and West Bank left as many as nine dead on May 15, as Palestinians marked the anniversary of what they call the “Nakba,” Arabic for catastrophe, referring to their displacement in 1948 as a result of the creation of the state of Israel.

The Israeli-Syrian frontier has been largely quiet since the 1973 war, in which Syria tried to recapture the Golan Heights. Israel annexed the Golan in 1982 in a move that hasn’t been internationally recognized.

Source: Bloomberg.

The Syrian regime’s crimes against children is met by silence in the Arab world

By Nehad Ismail

Most Arab States and Arab media have chosen to remain silent about the brutal crackdown by the Syrian regime against the unarmed civilian protesters. The international stance has been disappointing but the shameful Arab silence is baffling. The impotent Arab League had given the green light for the no-fly zone over Libya and supported the UN Security Council Resolution 1973 which called for the protection of civilians in Libya. Yet the same Arab League has not taken any steps to protect the civilians in Syria.

If we exclude Alarabiya, Aljazeera and Asharq Alawsat, most Arab media kept quiet about the crimes of the Damascus regime.

Silence of the Jordan opposition

Even activists who instigate weekly protests in Jordan to demand reforms are very quiet about the massacres in the Syrian city of Dera’a which is a few kilometers away across the northern border of Jordan.

Well-known so-called vociferous opposition figures in Jordan who demand reforms and more democratization are in denial about the mayhem in neighboring Syria. Why when it comes to Syria have they suddenly transmogrified into Trappist Monks? This silence is explained by the fact that the Syrian regime has for decades been able to portray itself as the last citadel of Pan-Arab Nationalism projecting itself at the forefront of the so-called “rejectionist front”. This sort of stuff has been swallowed whole by the gullible Arab Street.

Crimes against children

The mutilated body of Hamza al-Khateeb, the 13 year old boy was returned by Bashar al Assad’s security forces to his family last week in Saida near Dera’a. The body was subjected to brutal beatings and extreme forms of physical torture such as cuts, burns, laceration, bruises as a result of whipping by cable and electrocution. The London Sunday Times reported on Sunday May 29th that “his eyes were swollen and black; there was a deep, dark burn mark on his chest. His neck was broken and his penis cut off”. The pictures of Hamza sent shock waves throughout the Middle East.

To add insult to injury, the Syrian Security thugs arrested Hamza’s father Ali al-Khateeb and forced him to tell the state media that his son was tortured and killed by Islamic extremists. The regime recruited doctors in government hospitals to say they had not seen any signs of physical abuse. How low can a frightened regime stoop to hide its crimes?

Last week the body of Murshed Aba Zaid, 18 was returned to his family. News Agencies reported that Murshed was shot in the face by Bashar’s thugs outside his home in Izraa north of Dera’a, he was taken to hospital for treatment but the security forces snatched him from his hospital bed. When his body was returned to his family last week, they found his neck and nose were broken and showed signs of burns. His abdomen had a huge scar.

Human Rights Watch reported that Syrian detention centers are the worst in the world for the mistreatment of detainees where torture is routine. Amnesty International reports that detainees were forced to lick blood off the prison floor and some were forced to drink from the lavatory bowls.

Yet despite the grisly murders by the Syrian regime; the Arab League remained silent. The Arab regimes remained silent. In the meantime, Walid al-Muallem, the Syria Foreign Minister had the chutzpah to chide the Arab ambassadors in Damascus for not condemning the US and EU for imposing sanction against certain individuals in Syria. None of the Ambassadors dared to remind the Foreign Minister of the Syrian regime’s crimes against the Syrian people. I haven’t heard a single condemnation from any Arab government or official.

Arab and international response has been slow and feeble. With a few exceptions (Qatar and Saudi Arabia) most Arab regimes and media remained silent. There has been no official protest about the collective punishments meted out such as the cutting off water supplies and electricity.

On May 16th the London Financial Times reported that Nick Harvey the UK Armed Forces Minister said it was “highly likely” that the ICC, the International Criminal Court would seek the arrest of BASHAR AL-Assad over his role in the violent crackdown on protesters. Whereas Hamas remained embarrassingly silent, Iran and Hezbollah decided to defend the Syrian regime. The Arab League’s silence is interpreted by many as backing a murderous regime and giving it the green light to continue with its brutal abuse of the Syrian people. We should not expect much from the international community either.

Russia and China are known apologists to the Damascus murderous regime. President Barack Obama has issued a mild reprimand which the Syrian brushed aside with contempt.

Source: Ammon News.

Lebanon security hit by political vacuum, Syria crisis

By Dominic Evans
Wed Jun 1, 2011

(Reuters) – Months of political paralysis and a crisis in neighboring Syria have harmed Lebanon’s security, a senior U.N. official said on Wednesday, days after a bomb attack wounded six U.N. peacekeepers.

Special Coordinator for Lebanon Michael Williams said the attack, which followed the kidnapping of seven Estonians and a deadly incident last month on the Israeli border, was part of an “eroding and deteriorating” security situation.

Lebanon has been without a proper functioning government since January when the Syrian- and Iranian-backed Hezbollah and its political allies brought down the government of Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri, who has Western and Saudi support.

Efforts to form a government have made little progress and the 10-week unrest in Syria has escalated tensions. Damascus ended a prolonged military presence in 2005, but remains a powerful player in a country still defined by the political and religious faultlines which fueled its 1975-1990 civil war.

“We see signs of the security situation deteriorating in general, and disturbingly that the institutions of the state are not responding in the way that they should,” Williams told Reuters at his U.N. office in the hills above Beirut.

He said the main concern was a political vacuum caused by the lack of government. Although Lebanese are accustomed to protracted wrangling over new cabinets, the current impasse was unusually fraught and likely to drag on for months, he said.

“The risk is greater now. One, because of the absence of a government. Two, because of the crisis in Syria. And three, because there is some fragility now along the Blue Line (U.N.-mapped frontier with Israel).”

The Israeli army fired on a demonstration at the Lebanese border village of Maroun al-Ras two weeks ago, killing 11 Palestinians marking the “catastrophe” 63 years ago of the founding of Israel, security sources said.

Similar protests may take place on Sunday’s anniversary of the 1967 war when Israel seized the Golan Heights and West Bank.


Seven Estonians are still missing after being seized in Lebanon’s Bekaa Valley after crossing the border from Syria in March, in a kidnapping which Williams and EU envoy Angelina Eichorst described as a dark reminder of Lebanon’s civil war.

In another sign of fraying authority, rival security forces came close to confrontation last week in a standoff at a state-owned telecoms firm when caretaker Telecommunications Minister Charbel Nahhas was denied access to the building.

“It is another indication of the deterioration in the security situation and the inability of state institutions to manage,” Williams said.

The political standoff and security fears also threaten Lebanon’s economy, with growth projections trimmed, tourism revenues expected to fall, and no progress on Lebanon’s plans to explore for oil and gas in the Mediterranean.

“I frankly find it distressing and troubling that the country is losing opportunities now. It’s obvious that the economic situation is deteriorating,” Williams said.

Friday’s bombing of the Italian peacekeepers, one of whom remains “in a very grave condition,” was the first such attack in three years on UNIFIL.

“We don’t see the attack in isolation,” Williams said. “Although it is the first on UNIFIL in a very long time we see the attack in the present security context.”

Expressing concern and surprise at Saturday’s announcement that Italy — which has the largest UNIFIL troop contingent — will cut its peacekeeping force to 1,100 from 1,780, Williams said he would travel to Rome next week for talks.

UNIFIL was expanded to about 12,000 troops and naval personnel under a U.N. Security Council resolution which halted the 2006 Israel-Hezbollah war in south Lebanon.

It operates alongside 15,000 Lebanese army troops who are deployed to keep the peace and prevent weapons transfers in an area which is a stronghold of Hezbollah guerrillas.

Despite a deadly border clash last August, Williams said the cessation of hostilities since 2006 had held “remarkably well.”

“What’s been achieved is stability on the Blue Line and in southern Lebanon for the first time in decades. In a way that is why I am most worried now.”

Source: Reuters.