Friday 8 June 2012
Syrian Observatory for Human Rights: Violent clashes continue in Damascus: Damascus province: For hours now violent battles have been taking place in the middle of the Syrian capital. Syrian forces and rebel fighters have been exchanging gunfire in the Basateen area of the Mezzeh neighbourhood and in the southern Mutahaliq in Kafar Souseh:
Footage of the Kafar Souseh clashes
[with caution] Kurdnet: Kurd favorite as Syria opposition bloc chooses new chief 7.6.2012
— The opposition Syrian National Council meets in Istanbul to choose a new leader this weekend with insiders saying Kurdish activist Abdel Basset Sayda has emerged as a consensus candidate.
The SNC, the main group bringing together opponents of President Bashar al-Assad, has struggled to unite regime critics ranging from liberal academics to Islamists, or to gain full legitimacy with activists and rebels inside the country.
The meeting on Saturday and Sunday follows the resignation of Burhan Ghalioun as the SNC’s leader last month, after local activists accused the SNC of monopolizing power and allowing the Islamist Muslim Brotherhood to play too strong a role.
Several leading sources in the SNC said there is a clear consensus for the leadership to go to Sayda, an academic and independent activist born in 1956 in the mostly Kurdish northeastern city of Amouda and currently living in exile in Sweden.
He is a member of the SNC’s executive board, which will vote to choose the new leader, and heads the council’s human rights department.
“I think he can win the agreement of all the component parts of the SNC—he has good relations with everyone,” Paris-based academic George Sabra, a member of the SNC’s executive board, told AFP.
Ghalioun had led by consensus rather than through election since the SNC’s founding last year.
He resigned after the Local Coordination Committees (LCC), a network of activists on the ground, threatened to pull out of the SNC over its “monopolization” of power and the Muslim Brotherhood’s strong influence.
“The Brothers remain in favor of Ghalioun but given the evolution of the situation and that the LCC are absolutely opposed to Ghalioun, it is unlikely that some will be able to use their influence so he can keep his post,” said Monzer Makhous,wcoordinator for the SNC’s external relations in Europe.
“Sayda does not have a lot of political experience, he doesn’t have a long history in the opposition. But someone must be found whom everyone can be happy with,” he said.
Insiders said Sayda’s lack of ties to any particular group and his reputation as a moderate would help him win the post. The nomination of a Kurd would also help the SNC prove it has broad appeal within Syria’s diverse ethnic groups.
“He will profit from his independent status. He is very loyal to Syria and to the Kurdish question, but he is a moderate. It is therefore a message sent to the Kurds and all the minorities,” said the SNC’s external relations chief, Basma Kodmani.
The SNC has been criticized for not representing the full diversity of Arabs, Kurds, Sunni Muslims, Alawites, Christians, Druze and other ethnic and religious groups in Syria.
The group’s next leader will face reforming the council to give it more credibility with domestic opposition activists, the Free Syrian Army and other armed rebels and the international community.
Most opposition forces agreed in March, after difficult negotiations, that the SNC would be the “formal representative” of the Syrian people, despite calls for its restructuring.
The international Friends of Syria group, which seeks to co-ordinate Western and Arab efforts to stop the violence in Syria, has also recognized the SNC as a “legitimate representative of the Syrian people.”
But the group’s leaders admit that much more must be done to cement its legitimacy, with Ghalioun telling AFP last month the SNC was riven with divisions, in particular between Islamists and secular activists.
“We were not up to the sacrifices of the Syrian people. We did not answer the needs of the revolution enough and quickly enough,” Ghalioun said.
“We have to enlarge the SNC’s base… we must work as a team and listen to those inside Syria who want to have more impact on the SNC’s decisions,” said Sabra, who is considered close to domestic opposition activists.
[local time] 21:08 Friday’s death toll in Syria has reached 47 people, Al-Jazeera television quoted the Local Coordination Committees as saying.
20:51 Syrian forces on Friday shelled Al-Haffa in Latakia, the General Commission of the Syrian Revolution said.
20:06 The EU executive on Friday announced a new 23-million-euro aid package to help meet the needs of the Syrian population and refugees reeling from the country’s 15-month-old civil unrest.
19:56 Switzerland announced on Friday a toughening of sanctions against Syria, hitting the country’s finance, oil and precious metal sectors.
19:11 Clashes broke out between the Syrian army and rebels in Al-Abaseen Square in Damascus, Al-Arabiya television quoted activists as saying.
18:48 An anti-regime protest started in Al-Maydan neighborhood in Damascus. (S.N.N)
18:20 Syrian forces on Friday raided the Qadam neighborhood in Damascus, killing three people, the General Commission of the Syrian Revolution said.
18:15 A YouTube video purportedly filmed on Friday shows an anti-regime protest in Ras al-Ain.
18:15 A YouTube video purportedly filmed on Friday in Aleppo’s Salah ad-Din shows large numbers of anti-regime protesters chanting : “Long live Syria, and down with [Syrian President Bashar] al-Asaad.”
18:10 Friday’s death toll in Syria has risen to 31 people, Al-Jazeera television quoted the Syrian Network for Human Rights as saying.
18:00 An anti-regime protest started in Raal near Aleppo. (S.N.N)
17:35 An anti-regime protest kicked off in Al-Ramel al-Janoubi neighborhood in Latakia. (S.N.N)
17:16 A YouTube video purportedly filmed on Friday shows an anti-regime protest in Deir ez-Zour’s Jubaila neighborhood.
17:15 An anti-regime protest started in Al-Jude mosque in Latakia. (S.N.N)
17:10 An anti-regime protest kicked off in the Damascus neighborhood of Daf al-Shawk. (S.N.N)
17:08 Syrian forces on Friday killed 26 people, the General Commission of the Syrian Revolution said.
17:01 Former UN chief Kofi Annan, the author of a fledgling peace plan on Syria, called Friday for “additional pressure” in the wake of a new massacre as he held talks in the United States.
16:56 A YouTube video purportedly filmed on Friday shows anti-regime protesters chanting for victory and waving pre-Baath Syrian flags in Hama’s New Aleppo Road.
16:24 The International Committee of the Red Cross, whose relief workers are on the ground in Syria, on Friday described the situation as “extremely tense” in many parts of the country.
16:16 United Nations observers on Friday reached the Syrian village of Al-Kubeir where dozens of residents were massacred two days ago, activists told AFP.
16:12 Anti-regime protests took place in most of Edleb’s Jisr al-Shoughour villages. (S.N.N)
16:12 Syrian security forces sent heavy reinforcements to Kfar Batna in the Damascus district. (S.N.N)
16:11 Russia said Friday after high-stake talks with the US point man on Syria that it did not know if President Bashar al-Assad intended to leave power but made no formal call on him to go.
16:10 Clashes broke out on Friday between the Syrian army and rebels in Qadam and Kfar Sousa in Damascus, Al-Arabiya television quoted the General Commission of the Syrian Revolution as saying.
16:04 An anti-regime protest in support of “the devastated Syrian towns” kicked off in Hama’s Al-Jabiriya. (S.N.N)
16:01 Syrian security forces heavily deployed in the Daraa town of Nemr and arrested several young men. (S.N.N)
16:00 An anti-regime protest in support of the Free Syrian Army and calling for the fall of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad kicked off in the Damascus district of Hajirat al-Balad. (S.N.N)
15:55 An anti-regime protest condemning the “massacres perpetrated by the Syrian regime” kicked off in the town of Damir in Damascus. (S.N.N)
15:54 Syrian security forces clashed with members of the Free Syrian Army near Al-Salam mosque in Al-Qadam neighborhood in Damascus. (S.N.N)
15:52 A YouTube video purportedly filmed on Friday shows anti-regime protesters chanting and waving pre-Baath flags in the Homs neighborhood of Al-Waar.
15:46 Most of the towns and villages in southern Edleb witnessed anti-regime protests on Friday. (S.N.N)
15:44 A YouTube video purportedly filmed on Friday shows anti-regime protesters chanting in support of the Free Syrian Army in the Damascus neighborhood of Yarmouk.
15:37 An anti-regime protest kicked off at the Al-Beyrqdar mosque in the Latakia’s neighborhood of Al-Saliba. (S.N.N)
15:34 A YouTube video purportedly filmed on Friday shows a anti-regime protesters chanting and waving pre-Baath Syrian flags in Edleb’s Bench.
15:33 UN observers arrived in Hama’s Maarzaf and Syrian security forces prevented residents from approaching their convoy. (S.N.N)
15:30 A YouTube video purportedly filmed on Friday shows an anti-regime protest in Syria’s Talkalakh.
15:24 Two people were killed and more than 15 injured by Syrian security forces in the Damascus district of Aartouz. (S.N.N)
15:23 Syrian security forces have heavily shelled Homs . (S.N.N)
15:20 Syrian security forces raided homes in the western area of Al-Qadam neighborhood of Damascus . (S.N.N)
15:19 More than 400 members of Syrian security forces raided Al-Muqaylaybeh in the Damascus district. (S.N.N)
15:18 Syrian security forces’ tanks raided the town of Hayalin in the Hama district and opened fire on demonstrators. (S.N.N)
15:08 An anti-regime protest in support of Homs, Hama and the Free Syrian Army kicked off in the Damascus neighborhood of Al-Dahadil. (S.N.N)
15:05 Syrian security forces raided the town of Mahajja in Daraa and burned several houses. (S.N.N)
15:02 An anti-regime demonstration kicked off in the Ali Bin Abi-Taleb and Omar Bin al-Khattab mosques in Aleppo’s Al-Safira. (S.N.N)
15:00 An anti-regime demonstration kicked off in the Al-Oumari mosque in the Damascus district of Kanaker. (S.N.N)
14:55 Syrian security forces disperse an anti-regime demonstration in Homs’ Al-Soukhna. (S.N.N)
14:54 An anti-regime demonstration kicked off in the Al-Majed mosque in Damascus’ Al-Midan neighborhood. (S.N.N)
14:54 An anti-regime protest began in the Aleppo neighborhood of Al-Sakhour amid security forces’ gunfire. (S.N.N)
14:53 A YouTube video purportedly filmed on Friday shows a protest in the town of Harasta. Protesters are chanting “Oh Arabs, you killed us.”
14:52 A YouTube video purportedly filmed on Friday shows the funeral procession of a man killed by Syrian security forces in Basra al-Sham.
14:46 A massive anti-regime protest kicked off in the Damascus area of Al-Yarmouk outside the Al-Habib al-Mostafa Mosque. (S.N.N)
14:43 A protest began in the Damascus town of Achrafiyat Sahnaya outside the Said Bin Amer al-Jamhi Mosque. (S.N.N)
14:42 A protest began in the town of Qalaat al-Madiq near Hama. (S.N.N)
14:40 More than 100 soldiers deployed in Khalid Bin al-Walid Street in Damascus. (S.N.N)
14:38 Syrian security forces shelled the Daraa town of Kafr Shams. (S.N.N)
14:37 A deadly blast rocked a Damascus suburb, killing two security forces members, among 10 people killed across Syria on Friday, said the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
14:34 Syrian security forces deployed military reinforcements to the town of Mokaylibeh near Damascus. (S.N.N)
14:32 A YouTube video purportedly filmed on Friday shows a protest in the Hasaka town of Darbasiyeh. Protesters are chanting for Syrian districts and towns.
14:31 Syrian security forces waged an arrest campaign in the Damascus town of Hajar al-Aswad. (S.N.N)
14:31 France backs UN-Arab League envoy Kofi Annan’s bid to bring key powers into a contact group on the Syria crisis, but it opposes bringing Iran into the group, the Foreign Ministry said Friday.
14:28 An anti-regime protest began in the Damascus neighborhood of Al-Mezzeh. (S.N.N)
14:27 A protest began in the town of Sahl al-Ghab in the Hama district. (S.N.N)
14:26 Syrian security forces opened fire on protesters in the Boustan al-Qasr neighborhood of Aleppo, Al-Jazeera quoted activists as saying on Friday.
14:24 An anti-regime protest kicked off in the Aleppo town of Ahtimalat. (S.N.N)
14:24 A YouTube video purportedly filmed on Friday shows a protest in the Edleb town of Koreen.
14:23 Syrian security forces are shelling the Latakia city of Al-Haffa. (S.N.N)
14:23 A YouTube video purportedly filmed on Friday shows security forces shelling a mosque in the Homs area of Al-Qousour.
14:22 A massive anti-regime protest began in the Edleb city of Taftanaz. (S.N.N)
14:21 A YouTube video purportedly filmed on Friday shows an anti-regime protest in Amouda.
14:24 Al-Jazeera is broadcasting live footage of an anti-regime protest in Aleppo’s Salaheddine neighborhood.
14:19 Several anti-regime protests kicked off in the Damascus towns of Kafr Soussa, Jawbar, Douma. (S.N.N)
14:16 Security forces opened fire on a protest in the Deir az-Zour town of Al-Tayana. (S.N.N)
14:14 A number of protests began in the Deir az-Zour areas of Al-Ommal, Al-Qousour, Al-Ardi, Al-Houweika, Al-Tayana. (S.N.N)
14:12 A protest erupted in the Daraa town of Saida amid security forces’ gunfire. (S.N.N)
14:11 Russia said Friday after talks with US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s Syria envoy that it was unaware of any plans by President Bashar al-Assad to leave power.
14:02 Syrian security forces shelled the Al-Ghouta al-Sharqiyya area near Damascus, Al-Arabiya quotes activists as saying on Friday.
13:59 Several protests against the regime began in the Latakia town of Jableh. (S.N.N)
13:58 A series of anti-regime protests began in the Daraa town of Enkhel. (S.N.N)
13:57 An anti-regime protest began in the town of Al-Qalamoun near Damascus. (S.N.N)
13:56 An anti-regime protest kicked off in the Daraa town of Al-Kark al-Sharqi. (S.N.N)
13:54 Germany said Friday it was “horrified” by the latest Syrian massacre and urged Russia to throw its support behind a tougher condemnation of Damascus by the United Nations Security Council.
13:53 Several protests against the regime were held in the Edleb town of Sermeen. (S.N.N)
13:52 A massive anti-regime protest erupted in the town of Harasta outside Damascus. (S.N.N)
13:49 An anti-regime protest kicked off in the Latakia neighborhood of Al-Sejen. (S.N.N)
13:48 Al-Jazeera is broadcasting live footage of an anti-regime demonstration in Hama’s Al-Hamidiyeh.
13:47 Syrian security forces opened fire on demonstrators in the Aleppo neighborhood of Al-Aazamiyeh, Al-Arabiya quoted activists as saying on Friday.
13:47 An anti-regime protest began in the Aleppo neighborhood of Al-Zahraa. (S.N.N)
13:45 Syrian security forces are surrounding mosques in Damascus’ Nahr Aisha, Al-Arabiya quoted activists as saying on Friday.
13:44 A protest against the regime started in the town of Meng near Aleppo despite heavy security forces’ deployment. (S.N.N)
13:44 Syrian security forces killed one person in an attack on an anti-regime demonstration in Daraa al-Mahatta, Al-Arabiya quoted activists as saying on Friday.
13:34 An anti-regime protest began in the Daraa town of Yadouda. (S.N.N)
13:32 A protest began in the Aleppo town of Dabeq in support of Homs, Daraa and Aleppo. (S.N.N)
13:31 An anti-regime protest kicked off on the Aleppo neighborhood of Salaheddine. (S.N.N)
13:23 A protest kicked off in the Latakia town of Al-Saliba. (S.N.N)
13:19 A protest erupted in the Homs area of Al-Midan amid the heavy deployment of security forces. (S.N.N)
13:17 Syrian army troops surrounded Al-Hassan al-Basri Mosque in the Damascus area of Al-Qadam. (S.N.N)
13:15 Explosions and gunfire were heard in the Hama town of Helfaya, Al-Jazeera quoted activists as saying.
13:14 Syrian security forces heavily shelled the Latakia towns of Al-Haqa and Al-Jankil, Al-Jazeera quoted activists as saying on Friday.
13:14 Syrian security forces opened fire on protesters in the Damascus areas of Al-Hajar al-Aswad and Al-Midan, Al-Jazeera quoted activists as saying.
13:09 Al-Jazeera is broadcasting live images of anti-regime protests in Homs’ Al-Qusayr and Daraa al-Balad.
13:07 The United Nations was increasingly worried about the unarmed observers it has sent into Syria to monitor the war between President Bashar al-Assad’s troops and opposition rebels.
12:55 An anti-regime protest began in the Aleppo town of Kobani. (S.N.N)
12:55 China on Friday condemned the latest civilian killings in Syria, but refused to back a call by UN/Arab League special envoy Kofi Annan to increase the pressure on the regime of President Bashar al-Assad.
12:30 A car bomb exploded in Damascus’ Al-Thawra Street, killing two people and injuring 15 others, Al-Jadeed reported.
12:23 The Red Cross said that a large number of Syrians are facing difficulties in receiving medical aid, Al-Jazeera reported.
11:11 Regime troops battled on Friday to take back the rebel bastion of Khaldiyeh in Homs, bombarding the district with shells, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.
8:49 US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s Syria pointman Fred Hof was to meet top Russian diplomats Friday in a bid to persuade Moscow to back strongman President Bashar al-Assad’s removal from power.
7:58 UN-Arab League envoy Kofi Annan told the UN Security Council on Thursday that the Syria crisis will quickly “spiral out of control” unless substantial pressure is put on President Bashar al-Assad.
7:56 Syrian woman blogger Razan Ghazzawi has been honored with this year’s Human Rights Defenders at Risk award by the Dublin-based Front Line Defenders foundation, the group announced on Friday.
7:54 Heavy weapons, armor-piercing bullets and surveillance drones have been used against UN observers in Syria to hamper their efforts to monitor the worsening conflict, UN leader Ban Ki-moon told a Security Council meeting on Thursday.
7:53 At least 41 people, including 23 civilians, were killed across Syria on Thursday, a watchdog said, a day after at least 55 were slaughtered in a new massacre near the central city of Hama.
A BBC correspondent has seen evidence of human remains at the village of Qubair in Syria, scene of a massacre reported on Wednesday.
Paul Danahar, who was travelling with UN monitors, found buildings gutted and burnt in the deserted tiny village near the western city of Hama.
It is unclear what happened to the bodies of dozens of reported victims.
Violence continued across Syria, with reports of shelling in Homs and bomb attacks on security forces elsewhere.
The Red Cross has warned that 1.5 million people need humanitarian aid.
Condemning the Qubair massacre earlier, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon warned of an imminent danger of civil war and the international peace envoy, Kofi Annan, has said his six-point peace plan is not being implemented.
The opposition blamed the Qubair massacre on militia allied to President Bashar al-Assad while the government accused “terrorists” of killing civilians.
UN monitors reached Qubair on Friday, with Paul Danahar accompanying them, after coming under fire while making an initial attempt on Thursday.
People in the area told the UN team that everybody in Qubair “had died except for a few”, UN spokeswoman Sausan Ghosheh told BBC News after visiting the village.
She said that the UN had not yet been able to establish the number of people dead or missing and were trying to compile a list with the help of local people.According to Ms Ghosheh, one house in Qubair seemed to have been hit by tank rounds as well as weapons of different calibres, including small arms.
A second house, she said, had “burnt flesh inside and… a stench of burnt flesh”.
Activists say government forces removed many of the bodies from Qubair but a number are said to have been buried in the nearby village of Maarzaf.
The opposition Syrian National Council gave a death toll of 78 but another organisation, the UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, has a figure of “at least 55″. State media gave a figure of nine.
The militiamen accused of the killings at Qubair are known as shabiha, and are mainly from the minority Alawite community of President Bashar al-Assad.
The Alawites are a heterodox offshoot of Shia Islam.
The victims appear to be mostly Sunni Muslims, who make up the majority of the population.
Analysts say the major fear is that Syria falls victim to the kind of sectarian violence that tore Lebanon apart for decades.
Annan plan dead?
Speaking at the UN in New York on Thursday, Mr Ban warned the danger of full-scale war was “imminent and real”.
While the Annan plan remained the focus of peace efforts, he said, urgent talks were needed on how further to proceed.
Speaking in Washington on Friday, Mr Annan said: “Some say that the plan may be dead.”
Both China and Russia have twice blocked Security Council resolutions against Syria and have restated their opposition to outside military intervention in the conflict.
A senior US official has expressed concern about reports that Russia could be helping Syrian institutions evade financial sanctions.
After a visit to Moscow, Treasury official David Cohen told BBC News there was evidence that financial sanctions against Syria were having an impact but Washington was worried that Russia’s close economic ties with Syria were undermining the programme.
The International Committee of the Red Cross says about 1.5 million people are in need of humanitarian aid in Syria.
Its aid workers report that food, medical care and shelter are in short supply and even bread has become hard to find, while more and more people are being driven from their homes.
Car bombsThis photo shows a child injured in a blast in Damascus on Friday
On Friday, clandestine activists said at least 40 people had been killed by security forces in six different provinces, with heavy shelling reported in Homs.
While UN observers are deployed in Homs, their presence appears to have had little effect on the fighting, the BBC’s Jim Muir reports from neighbouring Lebanon.
Other attacks were reported across the country
- A car bomb in the north-western city of Idlib killed two police officers and three civilians, wounding others, state TV said
- A car bomb in Rif Dimashq, near Damascus, killed three police officers and caused injuries, according to state TV
- A blast in the Damascus suburb of Qudssaya killed two security forces members, AFP news agency reports
A huge plume of black smoke could be seen hanging over Damascus on Friday evening but the cause was unclear.
The UN says at least 9,000 people have died since pro-democracy protests began in March 2011.
At the scene
The first house had been gutted by fire. The smell of burnt flesh still hung heavy on the air.
The scene in the next house was even worse. Blood was in pools around the room. Pieces of flesh lay among the scattered possessions.
Even butchering the people did not satisfy the blood lust of the attackers. They shot the livestock too.
The only clue as to where the bodies of the dead people had gone was etched into the tarmac of the road nearby. The tracks were made by military vehicles, said a UN observer.
UN monitors have been in the Syrian village of Qubair to investigate the scene of a massacre which took place on Wednesday. The BBC’s Paul Danahar, who has been travelling with the team, says they were met by the smell of burnt flesh in gutted buildings.
In his tweets (@pdanahar), documented here, he shares in his own words the shocking scenes he witnessed. Please note that some of the description below may be disturbing.
Just before the sign saying ‘Welcome to Hama’ there is a bombed-out bridge hanging over the road.
Am on the outskirts of Hama on way to UN but have been stopped at a checkpoint. A test of one of the six points in the plan. Media freedom.
The streets of Hama are deserted aside from occasional checkpoints. And we’ve been stopped again!
And we [are] through again after a lecture from a soldier saying “why don’t you care about the terrorists killing us, aren’t we human too?”
Sandbagged checkpoints on almost every corner in Hama.
Am now on outskirts of Qubair #Syria where Wednesday’s massacre took place. The UN has sent in a forward team to assess the safety situation.
Qubair is in a very rural area. Individual houses are separated by large fields of corn.
There are only 130 people living in the tiny village of Qubair. I can see the farmhouses but we are still waiting to be taken down #Syria
If it wasn’t for the misery we believe waits for us at the bottom of this hill, you would describe Qubair as an idyllic spot. (1/3) #syria
Village where the killings took place is just a few single storey flat-roofed buildings set in the middle of golden cornfields (2/3) #Syria
But the beauty of this land hides a growing sectarian conflict that seems to be spiralling out of control in #Syria (3/3)
A man called Ahmed has come up from the village who says he witnessed the killings. He has says dozens were killed. #syria
He has a badly bruised face but his story is conflicted & the UN say they are not sure he’s honest as they think he followed the convoy.
Illustrates how [hard] it is to get the truth here in #Syria and how tough the UN mission is.
We are now driving down into the village of Qubair snaking along small deserted dirt roads #Syria
We went down into a valley & we’ve headed up towards a handful of small squat buildings. One seems to have a hole blown out by an RPG.
The roads are so rocky our car is having trouble climbing them.
We are here. In front of a burnt out building is carcass of a donkey inside the buildings are gutted. The UN have not found any people yet.
In front of me there is a piece of brain, in the corner there is a mass on congealed blood. This is a house in Qubair. #Syria
The largest of the two houses on the hill top in Qubair has been gutted by fire. The stench of burnt flesh is still strong.
We are hurtling through deserted towns on our way to Damascus. The driver is scared. When we entered some areas he puts his foot down. #Syria
Occasionally I’ve seen a burnt out vehicle or a fortified bridge. The sun is going down & what I haven’t seen is people.
“We’ve got to cross this dangerous areas we must go fast” the driver says.
But we have to stop there’s a checkpoint and we are being waved down.
These guys are fine, we’ve been let through.
The flies found the evidence of the Qubair massacre before UN got there. They buzzed & swooped around what remained of the tiny community.
The first house had been gutted by fire but the stench of burnt flesh still hung heavy in the air. The scene in next house was even worse.
Blood was in pools around the room. Pieces of flesh lay among the scattered possession[s].
Butchering the people didn’t satisfy the blood lust of the attackers so they killed the live stock too. Their carcasses rotting in the sun.
The only clue to where the bodies of the people may have gone are etched into the road. UN said they were tracks made by military vehicles.
Whoever did this may have acted with mindless violence but attempts to cover up the details of the atrocity are calculated & clear. #Syria
Minor edits to spelling have been made to original tweets. Times are approximate.
The smell of burnt flesh hung in the air and body parts lay scattered around the deserted Syrian hamlet of Mazraat al-Qubeir on Friday, U.N. monitors said after visiting the site where 78 people were reported massacred two days ago.
The alleged killing spree on Wednesday underlined how little outside powers, divided and pursuing their own interests in the Middle East, have been able to do to stop increasing carnage in the 15-month-old uprising against President Bashar al-Assad.
A day after Syrian armed forces and villagers had turned them back, the unarmed U.N. monitors reached the farming settlement of Mazraat al-Qubeir, finding it deserted but bearing signs of deadly violence.
One house was damaged by rocket fire and bullets, U.N. spokeswoman Sausan Ghosheh said. Another was burnt, with bodies still inside. “You could smell dead bodies and you could also see body parts in and around the village,” Ghosheh told reporters after returning to Damascus.
BBC reporter Paul Danahar, who accompanied the monitors, said it was clear “terrible crime” had taken place.
In one house he saw “pieces of brains lying on the floor. There was a tablecloth covered in blood and flesh and someone had tried to mop the blood up by pushing it into the corner, but seems they had given up because there was so much of it around”.
Danahar’s Twitter report added: “What we didn’t find were any bodies of people. What we did find were tracks on the tarmac (that) the U.N. said looked like armored personnel carriers or tanks.”
Ghosheh said Mazraat al-Qubeir, which has a population of around 150 people, was empty on Friday, but people from neighboring villages arrived to give their accounts.
“The information was a little bit conflicting. We need to go back, cross-reference what we have heard, and check the names they say were killed, check the names they say are missing”.
Many Syrian civilians are fleeing their homes to escape widening fighting between security forces and rebels, the Red Cross said, while the outside world seems unable to craft an alternative to envoy Kofi Annan’s failing peace plan.
“Some say that the plan may be dead,” Annan said before meeting U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in Washington.
“Is the problem the plan or the problem is implementation?” he asked. “If it’s implementation, how do we get action on that? And if it is the plan, what other options do we have?”
Activists say at least 78 people were shot, stabbed or burned alive in Mazraat al-Qubeir, a Sunni Muslim hamlet, by forces loyal to Assad, whose minority Alawite sect, an offshoot of Shi’ite Islam, has dominated Syria for decades.
Syrian authorities have condemned the killings in Mazraat al-Qubeir and another massacre of civilians in Houla two weeks ago, blaming them on “terrorists”.
The conflict is becoming increasingly sectarian. Shabbiha militiamen from the Alawite community appear to be off the leash, targeting Sunni civilians almost regardless of their part in the uprising.
Opposition activists said those killed in Mazraat al-Qubeir had not previously been caught up in the conflict.
Some 300 U.N. observers are in Syria to monitor a truce between Assad’s forces and rebels that Annan declared on April 12 but was never implemented.
Now reduced to observing the violence, they have already verified the massacre in Houla, a town where 108 men, women and children were slain on May 25. The U.N. peacekeeping chief said Syrian troops and pro-Assad militia were probably responsible.
As more and more civilians flee their homes to escape fighting, sick or wounded people are finding it hard to reach medical services or buy food, said a spokesman for the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) in Geneva.
Protests and strife erupted across Syria on Friday.
Fierce gunfights between security forces and rebels broke out on Friday on the streets of the Syrian capital Damascus, residents and activists said, an increasingly common occurrence in a city formerly considered a bastion of presidential control.
“The gunfire is so loud I think some bullets could have hit the house. I’m afraid to go out to see what is happening,” one resident said. Activists said rebels attacked security barracks and shabbiha gunmen had been called in to help confront them.
There was no overall casualty figure from the clashes but the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said three people were killed in the capital’s Qaboun district. It also reported a large explosion in eastern Damascus.
The state news agency said “terrorists” caused a fire in Qaboun’s electricity station, which serves the Damascus region, knocking out four transformers and cutting power to some areas.
Electricity Minister Imad Khamis said the fire caused $3 million of damage and would take three days to repair.
One resident said a large sports venue, the Abbasid stadium, had been transformed into an army barracks as the military tried to reinforce the capital, and that increasing numbers of checkpoints had been set up.
Earlier, a car bomb aimed at a bus carrying security men exploded in a Damascus suburb, killing at least two, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights watchdog said.
Another car bomb hit a police branch in the northwestern city of Idlib, killing at least five people, it said.
Elsewhere, government forces shelled and then tried to storm the rebel-held district of Khalidiya in the central city of Homs, the heart of the revolt against Assad, the British-based Observatory said.
Activists said 10 rockets a minute crashed into Khalidiya in one of the fierce bombardments to hit Homs. Videos posted on the Internet showed plumes of grey smoke rising from buildings.
Activist footage of protests said to be in the northern city of Aleppo showed crowds fleeing from tear gas and gunfire.
In Deraa, the southern birthplace of the uprising, Syrian forces pounded rebel hideouts in the rugged Luja area, after many soldiers had defected, activists and residents said.
“The Syrian people are bleeding,” Ban said at the United Nations on Thursday, warning of an “imminent” civil war.
There is little sign of the firm action he called for from a world divided between Assad’s opponents and countries such as China, Russia and Iran that are deeply suspicious of Western and Arab states determined to unseat the Syrian leader.
China again urged both sides to comply with Annan’s peace plan, which Assad and his foes had accepted, although the rebels said this week they were no longer bound by the truce.
Russia and China have twice vetoed Western-backed Security Council resolutions critical of Syria, whose security forces have killed at least 10,000 people, by a U.N. count, while losing more than 2,600 of their own, according to Damascus.
Stepping up U.S. pressure on Russia to support a Syrian transition that would include Assad’s exit from power, State Department official Fred Hof met Russian Deputy Foreign Ministers Gennady Gatilov and Mikhail Bogdanov in Moscow.
Bogdanov said Annan’s plan, which does not directly call for Assad’s departure, could be adjusted to improve implementation but its core elements must remain.
He has said Moscow would be open to a negotiated Yemen-style power transition in Syria, referring to a deal under which Yemeni leader Ali Abdullah Saleh stepped down in February after a year of unrest.
Moscow and Beijing have decried the killings of civilians, but resist any plan for coerced political transition, let alone military intervention – not that the West is ready for this.
Clinton has said her country is willing to work on a broad conference on Syria’s political future, as long as Assad goes.
She has criticized the idea, favored by Annan and Moscow, of a contact group that would bring together major powers as well as regional ones, including Iran, a strategic ally of Assad with much at stake in Syria and neighboring Lebanon.
(Additional reporting by Stephanie Nebehay in Geneva, Dominic Evans in Beirut, Suleiman al-Khalidi and Khaled Yacoub Oweis in Amman, Steve Gutterman in Moscow, Arshad Mohammed in Istanbul; Peter Griffiths in London, Andrew Quinn at the United Nations and Chris Buckley in Beijing; Writing by Alistair Lyon; Editing by Mark Heinrich)
Syrian rebels tried to get me killed, says Channel 4 correspondent: 8 Jun 2012: Alex Thomson says crew was led to ‘free-fire zone’ as deaths would discredit Bashar al-Assad’s regime. By Ben Dowell
The chief correspondent of Channel 4 News has claimed that Syrian rebels deliberately tried to get him and his crew killed by gunfire from government forces in a bid to discredit the regime of Bashar al-Assad.
Alex Thomson alleged a small group from the Free Syrian Army deliberately guided the vehicle in which he and his Channel 4 News colleagues were travelling into what he described as a “free-fire zone” on a blocked road near the city of al-Qusayr, because “dead journos are bad for Damascus”.
Thomson said that after being led into a “no man’s land” between Syrian army and rebel forces by four men in a black car, his team were fired upon and forced to take evasive action, eventually managing to “floor it back to the road we’d been led in on”.
He also claimed that later on the same car of rebels blocked the road between their vehicle and the UN vehicles accompanying them, which he said prompted the UN escort to drive off and abandon them after seeing the Channel 4 team surrounded by “shouting militia”. The incident took place last weekend and Thomson is now back in the UK.
“Suddenly four men in a black car beckon us to follow. We move out behind,” Thomson wrote in a Channel 4 News website blog published on Friday/ morning.
“We are led another route. Led in fact, straight into a free-fire zone. Told by the Free Syrian Army to follow a road that was blocked off in the middle of no-man’s land,” he added.
“At that point there was the crack of a bullet and one of the slower three-point turns I’ve experienced. We screamed off into the nearest side-street for cover. Another dead end.
“There was no option but to drive back out on to the sniping ground and floor it back to the road we’d been led in on. Predictably the black car was there which had led us to the trap. They roared off as soon as we reappeared.
“I’m quite clear the rebels deliberately set us up to be shot by the Syrian army. Dead journos are bad for Damascus.”
Thomson said this conviction was only strengthened half an hour later when “our four friends in the same beaten-up black car suddenly pulled out of a side street, blocking us from the UN vehicles ahead”.
“The UN duly drove back past us, witnessed us surrounded by shouting militia, and left town. Eventually we got out too and on the right route, back to Damascus,” he added.
“In a war where they slit the throats of toddlers back to the spine, what’s the big deal in sending a van full of journalists into the killing zone? It was nothing personal.”
A spokeswoman for ITN-produced Channel 4 News said: “The safety of our journalists is of paramount importance and we only ever send experienced teams into these hostile environments.
“Alex is an incredibly experienced journalist who has covered conflicts around the world for more than two decades and has used social media to share the full detail of these assignments. We will be reviewing this trip, as we do with every other foreign send and sharing the review across ITN as we continue to cover this complex and important story.”