Monday 4 June 2012

Syrian Observatory for Human Rights:  Massive demonstration in Daraa: 4 6 2012 see also

Syrian Uprising 2011 Information Centre: SUMMARY (04/06/2012): At least 37 martyrs reported today, mostly in Idlib, Homs and Damascus. The most horrific incident was the execution of an elderly couple and their son in the village of Rami. A media activist, Bilal al-Zarzour, was killed in Daraa province – by our count, the 9th citizen journalist to have been killed in the last 10 days. But of course the regime has NOTHING to hide, just a little blood on it’s hands from life-saving butchery, ahem, surgery. Whose life are they saving? Well, Assad’s of course! See the map for more info.

NOW! Lebanon
[local time]  22:01 International envoy Kofi Annan will hold talks with US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in Washington on Friday as the international community gropes for a way to end the bloodshed in Syria, a US official said.
 21:07 UN leader Ban Ki-moon met with Saudi King Abdullah bin Abdel Aziz on Monday in Jeddah for talks on the crisis in Syria as well as means of combatting terrorism, state news agency SPA said.
 21:04 Syrian President Bashar al-Assad was lying when he denied his regime had any involvement in the massacre of more than 100 civilians near the central town of Houla, the White House said Monday.
 20:09 Syrian security forces shelled the Hama town of Kfarzita, Al-Arabiya reported.
 20:02 The opposition Syrian National Council will meet at the weekend to replace Burhan Ghalioun, who resigned as leader of the bloc late last month, SNC officials said on Monday.
 19:58 Syria’s regime will “end up falling under the weight of its crimes,” French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said after talks with his German counterpart here on Monday.
 19:53 The death toll in Syria reached 32 people on Monday, Al-Arabiya quoted activists as saying.
 19:11 A Syrian opposition group announced Monday that they are creating a new military structure consisting of 12,000 fighters to topple the regime of the Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
 18:58 Slovakia said Monday it has summoned the Syrian ambassador over recent violence in Syria, particularly the Houla massacre, which claimed 108 lives including those of 49 children, according to UN figures.
 18:40 Syrian President Bashar al-Assad is determined to crush the rebellion against his regime, even at the cost of triggering a civil war in the country, bolstered by support from Moscow, analysts said.
 17:53 Arab League chief Nabil al-Arabi is to head to New York later this week for talks on Syria with UN chief Ban Ki-moon, a League official said on Monday.
 16:43 At least eight people were killed in violence across Syria on Monday, as regime forces and rebels clashed in Edleb province, a monitoring group said.
 16:30 Syria’s Monday death toll rose to 23 people killed by security forces, Al-Arabiya quoted activists as saying.
 15:15 US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton arrived in Yerevan Monday for talks with Armenian leaders as she pushed diplomatically for a political transition in Syria amid fears of a full-blown civil war.
 15:08 Several people were injured by the security forces’ shelling of Douma outside Damascus, Al-Jazeera quoted activists as saying.
 13:30 Russia and the European Union must work together to end the crisis in Syria, EU President Herman Van Rompuy said Monday, adding that they agreed the Kofi Annan peace plan was the best way to avoid civil war.
 13:08 The pro-regime Al-Watan daily accused the Saudi authorities on Monday of “plotting” against Syria, and also of turning Lebanon into a springboard for attacking the country.
 11:07 Dozens of soldiers were killed in battles between Syrian government forces and armed rebels, a watchdog reported.
 9:02 Syrian security forces killed 15 people on Monday, Al-Jazeera quoted activists as saying.
 8:18 China’s top state newspaper on Monday warned against foreign action in Syria and said the abandonment of special envoy Kofi Annan’s peace plan could plunge the country “into the abyss of full-scale war.”
 7:55 UN-Arab League envoy Kofi Annan has demanded a “serious review” of deadlocked efforts to end the Syria bloodshed, signaling that even his Nobel Peace prize-winning patience is wearing thin.

BBC: Free Syrian Army rebels abandon Annan ceasefire

The rebel Free Syrian Army is no longer committed to the nominal ceasefire in Syria, a spokesman has said.

Spokesman Sami al-Kurdi told Reuters news agency the FSA had begun attacking soldiers to “defend our people”.

At least 80 Syrian soldiers were killed by rebels over the weekend, an activist group said.

The ceasefire is part of UN-Arab League envoy Kofi Annan’s peace plan – very little of which has been actually implemented, observers say.

The FSA’s announcement and a defiant speech by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad on Sunday have raised questions about the viability of Mr Annan’s six-point plan.

On Monday French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said there had been “so many abuses” by the Syrian regime that no lasting solution was possible while Mr Assad remained in power.

But UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has reiterated that Mr Annan’s plan “remains central” to resolving the Syrian crisis.

Thirty-one people were killed in Syria across Syria on Monday, largely by government forces, said the Local Co-ordination Committees, a network of anti-government groups.

Earlier the Syrian Observatory of Human Rights, a UK-based group, said at least 80 soldiers had been killed in clashes with Free Syrian Army fighters in Damascus and Idlib province.

New rebel group

Maj Kurdi told Reuters on Monday: “We have decided to end our commitment” to the ceasefire.

The announcement essentially formalises the existing situation whereby both sides have been conducting operations in recent weeks more or less as though the truce no longer existed, says the BBC’s Jim Muir in Beirut, neighbouring Lebanon.

Meanwhile, the formation of a new opposition coalition – the Syrian Rebels Front – was announced at a news conference in Turkey.

Spokesman Khaled al-Okla said the new group represented 12,000 fighters, and that it had been formed in part as a response to Arab and international “failure” to “rein in Assad from his crimes”.

The developments put pressure on Mr Annan and the international community to find a way to implement Mr Annan’s plan – which has universal international support.

Mr Annan is to brief the UN Security Council on Thursday, and will go on to Washington for talks with the US administration.

Russia and China have repeatedly opposed UN-backed Western intervention in Syria – such as the no-fly or buffer zones proposed by some Syrian rebels – and observers say there is no international “Plan B” in Syria if the Annan plan fails.

The US want to try to persuade the Russians to use their leverage with Damascus, to bring about a radical change of direction by the regime, our correspondent says.

But he says there was no sign of that in President Assad’s speech to parliament on Sunday. The Syrian leader he insisted Damascus was facing not an internal crisis but an external war, waged against it because of its support for resistance to Israel.

He has denied any government role in the massacre at Houla, in which 108 people were killed – many in house-to-house killings which UN investigators said they suspected were carried out by pro-regime gunmen.

Annan’s six-point plan

1. Process led by Syrian parties working with international envoy

2. End to violence by all sides; army troops to stop using heavy weapons and withdraw to barracks

3. Parties to allow humanitarian aid

4. Authorities to free detainees

5. Authorities to ensure freedom of movement for journalists

6. Authorities to allow peaceful demonstrations

Kurdnet: Majority of displaced Syrians prefer to live in Iraq’s Kurdistan Region

AMSTERDAM, — More displaced Syrians, mostly Kurds, are waiting at the border to allow them to cross into the Kurdistan region in Iraq, amid signs about escalating violence in most parts of Syria.

The news was detailed in the latest report by the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR), published in US newspaper International Business Times.

The report pointed out that the authorities in the Kurdistan Region are getting ready to receive more refugees. Most of the displaced Syrians seek asylum in the region, after the UNHCR registered, in cooperation with the Ministry of Displacement and Migration in Iraq, a significant increase in the number of refugees.

The report read: “The displacement of tens of thousands of people to Kurdistan is a significant turning point for the political, geographic and economic equation that governs the region.

“This region [Kurdistan], which was a point of dispute over the decades between the Kurds and the central authorities in Baghdad, has become today an ideal resort not only for the displaced from Syria, but also for the fleeing Kurds from Iran and Turkey.”

Economic researcher and academic Saad al-Jabbouri, who resides in the Netherlands, said: “The commission believes that the Kurdistan Region, if compared to other countries that receive refugees like Jordan, which is suffering from scarcity of resources, can host the displaced persons under security, economic stability and prosperity. It’s the preference of the majority of displaced people, especially the Kurds, to resort to [the region].”

Kurdistan seems to be the best choice for the UNHCR to receive more displaced people if the region’s authorities approve the move. This is in light of the complaints about a country like Jordan and its inability to receive more refugees because of the scarcity of resources, such as water. Every displaced person needs about 80 liters of water per day, which is a financial burden on Amman.

Displaced Kurd Saif al-Din Salah, who arrived in the Netherlands last week, said that most members of his tribe migrated to the Kurdistan Region.

“Most of the displaced people prefer to move there because of security and the good treatment they receive there as well as providing services to them. The refugees in the region do not suffer from what others in Jordan and Turkey suffer due to the scarcity of water and medical services.

“The Kurds who arrived in Kurdistan felt great differences between the living condition in the region and Syria, where they had lived in extreme poverty if compared to the living condition in Kurdistan.”

On March 31 the UNHCR registered the entry of 4,281 Syrian Kurdish refugees to Kurdistan. Kurds form 10 percent of the total population of Syria, which amounts to some 23 million people.

External relations official Eve McDonnell at the UNHCR said: “More than 20,000 Syrians have registered with UNHCR as refugees since March 2011. There are plans to launch projects with quick results in cooperation with the authorities of the region if it appears that the crisis will last longer, and this is most likely to happen.”

Regardless of the conflict in Syria, the Kurdistan Region is witnessing economic development and is attracting investment companies.

With regard to the Syrian crisis, the UNHCR records that an average of ten families and about 70 people are displaced each day to the region. These people are mostly Syrian Kurds, activists and dissident soldiers who are fleeing from the authorities that prosecute them for opposing the regime or for their participation in protests.

Some people also enter the region illegally to get jobs.

Barakat Jalal, a displaced Syrian Kurd who fled to the Netherlands, is seeking to follow his family in the Dumez in Faida district, southwest of Duhok.

Jalal said that he hopes to return to Kurdistan as soon as possible after his family promised to talk to regional authorities and the UNHCR about his situation.

By Adnan Abu Zaid

Reuters: World powers must ensure Syria peace works: Annan

GENEVA – Major powers must ensure that the peace plan for Syria is implemented by both sides, but for now international mediator Kofi Annan does not favor expanding the ceasefire monitoring mission, his spokesman said on Monday.

Annan, who is to brief the U.N. Security Council and General Assembly in New York on Thursday, will continue to press his six-point plan as “the only option on the table”, spokesman Ahmad Fawzi said.

“He feels that perhaps the time has come, or is approaching, when the international community has to review the situation, the crisis in Syria, and decide what needs to be done to ensure implementation of the six-point plan,” Fawzi told Reuters Television in Geneva.

Some 300 United Nations observers have been deployed in Syria to verify an April 12 truce brokered by the former U.N. Secretary-General which has yet to take hold.

The May 25 massacre of at least 108 people, nearly half of them children, in the Houla area of Homs province may have dealt a fatal blow to the ceasefire.

Fawzi called it a “turning point in the crisis”.

Syrian rebels are no longer committed to a U.N.-backed peace plan that has failed to end the violence and have launched attacks on government forces to “defend our people”, a spokesman for the rebel military council said on Monday.

“Many people like you have questioned whether the six-point plan has failed – whether it is the end, whether it is dead. They’ve written the obituary already. But we will continue to pursue the plan because it is the only option on the table at the moment,” Fawzi said.

“By implementing the plan in full and simultaneously all the six points, Mr. Annan believes that we can bring peace to Syria,” he said.

Asked whether the country already was engulfed in civil war, Fawzi replied: “The Special Envoy Mr. Annan and many others have warned of Syria descending into a bloody, protracted sectarian civil war. We may be there already.

“We hope for the sake of the Syrian people we’re not there yet. But this is certainly a very unfortunate and bloody scenario that we are witnessing,” he said.

Syrian rebels killed at least 80 army soldiers in a surge of attacks at the weekend, an opposition watchdog said on Monday, carrying out their threat to resume fighting if President Bashar al-Assad failed to observe a U.N.-backed ceasefire.

Annan, U.N.-Arab League special envoy for Syria, returned over the weekend to his Geneva office from talks with Assad in Damascus, as well as talks in Lebanon, Jordan and Doha, Qatar where he addressed an Arab League ministerial meeting.

He will hold talks on Friday with U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in Washington, Fawzi said.

(Reporting by Stephanie Nebehay, Cecile Mantovani and Vincent Fribault; Editing by Michael Roddy)

Guardian: Syrian rebels kill 80 soldiers, opposition claims

4 Jun 2012: Violence in Damascus, Idlib and elsewhere comes after rebels warn of attacks if Kofi Annan’s peace plan fails

Syrian rebels killed at least 80 government soldiers at the weekend, an opposition watchdog has said.

The attacks came after rebels warned they would act if Syria‘s president, Bashar al-Assad, failed to observe a UN-backed ceasefire.

The latest violence, and Assad’s defiant speech to parliament on Sunday, raised questions about how long the UN and Arab League envoy, Kofi Annan, can realistically pursue his peace plan.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said local doctors had confirmed the names of 80 dead soldiers.

Insurgents told the British-based group they had killed more than 100 soldiers and destroyed some tanks in clashes across Syria, including in Damascus and Idlib province, in the north-west.

Syria’s state news agency reported the burial on Monday of 30 members of the security forces killed by rebels.

Some commanders in the rebel Free Syrian Army announced last week they would be “free of any commitment” to Annan’s peace plan if Assad failed to end violence by Friday. The massacre of at least 108 people, nearly half of them children, in the Houla area of Homs province on 25 May dealt a possibly fatal blow to Annan’s proposed ceasefire, which was supposed to have taken effect on 12 April.

A withdrawal of Syrian troops was at the top of Annan’s six-point plan to halt hostilities in Syria, the country the Assad family has controlled for 42 years.

“The Annan mission is essentially dead, and of course most western powers admit that,” said Michael Stephens, researcher at the Royal United Services Institute’s branch in Qatar.

“Houla changed the game completely in terms of what people were willing to accept and what they were not.”

However, Russia and China, wary of any western-led military intervention in Syria, say Annan’s plan is the only way forward. They have twice blocked UN security council resolutions that would have condemned Damascus, and perhaps led to sanctions. The position of the Russian president, Vladimir Putin, was in the spotlight at the start of a summit with EU leaders in St Petersburg.

Both Russia and Europe say they still support Kofi Annan’s plan, but EU nations would like Russia to press Assad harder to abide by a ceasefire demanded by the plan, and want him to step aside as part of a political transition.

China’s state newspaper, the People’s Daily, has warned that any western-backed military intervention would unleash even bloodier chaos, and warned that abandoning Annan’s plan could push Syria into full-scale war.