Saturday 16 June 2012
Syrian Observatory for Human Rights: The number of martyrs verified by the SOHR so far in Syria today (Saturday 16/6/2012) has risen to 50.
-In Homs 14 were killed. 7 were killed when a rocket fell where there was a gathering, in the village of al-Farhaniya, near Talbisa, Reef Homs. 6 civilians were killed by the bombardment of the neighbourhoods of Khaldiya, Jourat al-Shayyah, al-Sifsafa and Bab Tadmur, Homs city. A civilian was killed by a sniper in al-Qusayr, Reef Homs.
-In Reef Dimashq 31 people were killed. A 10-year-old child, with sudanese nationality, was killed by a sniper in the town of Misraba. 7 civilians, including 3 women, were killed by the regime’s bombardment of Douma. 11 bodies, including that of a woman, were found in the town of Saqba, some of them were slaughtered. 4 were martyred in Irbeen, including a family (woman, her husband and their little daughter) when a shell was launched into their home, the fourth was martyred by excessive torture in a detention centre.
One man was killed by a security checkpoint in the city of al-Tal, after clashes took place in the area. A high school student was martyred by random fire, at midnight, in the Ashrafiyeh suburb of Sahnaya. 2 people were killed, late at night, by gunfire in Kafarbatna. A woman was martyred at dawn in Ma’adamiya, she died from her wounds. A civilian, from al-Nabk, was killed by the bombardment of Harran al-Awameed. A civilian, from Harasta, was killed by regime fire near the Bastara area.
-In Latakia province, the body of 1 civilian was found in an empty house in al-Haffa. The area is witnessing extensive military operations.
-In Aleppo province, 1 civilian was killed by the helicopter shelling on the town of Qubtan al-Jabal.
-In Deir Izzor, 1 civilian was killed in the al-Joura neighbourhood of the city, which witnessed intense clashes.
-In Idlib province a young man was martyred at a security checkpoint in Ma’arat al-Nu’man.
-In Hama province a child was martyred by gunfire in the Mistireeha village.
In Dera’a province a defected lieutenant, who became leader of a rebel battalion, and a rebel fighter within that battalion, were killed by an ambush set up by Syrian troops near the town of Khibab, Dera’a province.
9 members of the Syrian armed forces were killed. 5 died during clashes in Homs province. 1 soldier was killed when an IED targeted a military bus in the Sina’iya area of Damascus. 3 were killed by clashes, and a targeted assassination, in Reef Diamshq.
Urgent appeal to the UN Secretary-General: The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights urges the Secretary-General of the United Nations, Mr. Ban Ki-moon, to immediately, and personally, intervene regarding the constant bombardment of the Homs neighbourhoods (Khaldiya, Jourat al-Shayyah, Qarabees, the old neighbourhoods of Homs and al-Qusoor).
More than 1000 families, many of them women and children, are stranded in the constantly shelled area, they need to be evacuated from the line of fire immediately. The humanitarian conditions in the neighbourhoods are very difficult, food and gas are sparse. The many injured also need to be evacuated to where there is proper medical staff, equipment, and facilities necessary to save their lives. [more news on the website]
Amnesty International UK: Despite frequent requests, the Syrian government have refused to give us access to find out what is happening in Homs, Aleppo and elsewhere. So we went in undercover. Read the stories that go with these images: http://amn.st/LnVlOO — Amnesty researchers in Syria
21:33 Britain said the suspension Saturday of the United Nations monitoring mission in Syria “calls into serious question” the viability of the entire operation.
21:15 Britain’s Prime Minister David Cameron and King Abdullah II of Jordan held talks Saturday on ending the “appalling daily slaughter” in Syria, Cameron’s Downing Street office said.
21:07 Turkey’s foreign minister called Saturday on the UN Security Council to take “a new measure” in Syria to stop the crisis there from getting worse after UN observers suspended their mission.
20:39 Al-Jazeera is broadcasting live footage of an anti-regime protest in the Damascus neighborhood of Al-Midan.
20:39 Clashes in Deir az-Zour between the Syrian army and rebels, Al-Jazeera reported.
18:50 The rebel Free Syrian Army has grown from a rag-tag force into a popular guerrilla insurgency buoyed by civilian fighters who still lack weapons and structure to defeat the regime, experts and rebels told AFP on Saturday.
18:31 The White House renewed calls Saturday for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to step down at a “critical juncture” in Syria after UN observers suspended their mission, saying it was discussing the way ahead with allies.
18:04 Syria’s Saturday death toll increased to 63 people killed by security forces gunfire, Al-Jazeera quoted activists as saying.
17:56 The Syrian Foreign Ministry said on Saturday it “understands” the decision of the UN observers’ mission head to suspend work in the country, saying “terrorist groups” were threatening its members.
17:22 The former chief of the main opposition Syrian National Council (SNC) on Saturday urged the United Nations to deploy peacekeepers after UN observers suspended their mission in the country.
17:06 Syrian army’s shelling of Homs and towns surrounding Damascus killed 55 people, Al-Jazeera television station quoted activists as saying.
16:54 The Syrian opposition warned on Saturday of a looming massacre in the central city of Homs, which it said is besieged by 30,000 troops and pro-regime militiamen.
16:45 Saturday’s death toll in Syria rose to 55 people killed by security forces, Al-Jazeera television station quoted activists as saying.
16:41 Syrian troops shelled several rebel strongholds overnight and on Saturday, including Douma in northern Damascus and the central city of Homs, with a watchdog reporting at least 31 people killed nationwide.
15:04 The UN military observers sent to Syria to monitor an April 12 ceasefire that never took hold have suspended their mission, veteran peacekeeper Norwegian Major General Robert Mood said on Saturday.
14:45 Syrian forces on Saturday shelled Daraa’s al-Kirk , Al-Jazeera television quoted activists as saying.
14:45 Syrian forces on Saturday shelled Douma and Saqba near Damascus; killing 35 people, Al-Jazeera television quoted the Syrian Network for Human Rights as saying.
12:46 Syrian opposition leaders met Saturday for a second day of talks with hopes of inking the founding principles of a future Syria, now tarnished by a 16-month long bloodshed and political chaos.
12:37 Syrian forces on Saturday shelled the town of Al-Bouwayda near Homs, Al-Jazeera television quoted activists as saying.
12:12 More than 1,000 families were trapped on Saturday in several neighborhoods of the central city of Homs and under bombardment by regime forces, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.
10:09 France’s foreign ministry said Friday it was strongly concerned by reports of an impending military operation by Syrian regime forces in the opposition stronghold city of Homs.
9:59 Syrian troops shelled a rebel bastion in northern Damascus during the night, killing seven people, while a civilian and a rebel leader were killed in violence elsewhere, a monitoring group said Saturday.
Norwegian Gen Robert Mood said the observers would cease patrols and stay in their current locations.
But he said the mission remained committed to ending the violence.
The announcement comes a day after Gen Mood warned that the escalation in violence was limiting the observers’ ability to do their work.
Activists reported at least 60 people killed around the country, with the worst violence in areas around Damascus, where they said 10 people were summarily killed in the town of Saqba.
At least seven people were killed overnight in Douma, an eastern suburb of the capital Damascus, while at least 18 others died in violence elsewhere, the UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported.The opposition Syrian National Council also warned of a looming massacre in Homs which it says is besieged by 30,000 troops and pro-regime militiamen.
The government meanwhile said funerals were held for 27 military personnel killed in earlier fighting.
Later Syrian state TV reported the killing of Walid Ahmad al-Ayesh, whom it described as the leader of the al-Nusra Front.
Al-Nusra is a shadowy radical Islamist group with suspected al-Qaeda links which has said it has carried out several suicide bombings around the country.
Syria restricts access to foreign media, and reports of killings are difficult to verify.
In a statement announcing the suspension of UNSMIS operations, Gen Mood said: “The observers will not be conducting patrols and will stay in their locations until further notice.”
“This suspension will be reviewed on a daily basis. Operations will resume when we see the situation fit for us to carry out our mandated activities,” he said, adding that a “return to normal operations remains our objective”.
Gen Mood said that violence had intensified in the last 10 days.
“The lack of willingness by the parties to seek a peaceful transition, and the push towards advancing military positions is increasing the losses on both sides: innocent civilians, men, women and children are being killed every day,” he said.
“It is also posing significant risks to our observers.”
In response to the announcement, Burhan Ghalioun, former head of the opposition Syrian National Council, said UN and Arab League envoy Kofi Annan’s six-point peace plan could still be salvaged.The UN estimates that the conflict in Syria has left more than 10,000 people dead, mostly civilians
“I think there is a possibility of saving it by getting the UN Security Council to vote on a resolution invoking Chapter 7, requesting a mandate for the threat of force,” he said.
“This could play a role in convincing the Syrian regime to fulfil and respect its commitments.”
However, the Council remains split, with Russia and China deeply opposed to even the possibility of the use of force.
US White House spokesman Tommy Vietor urged Syria to abide by the Annan plan.
“At this critical juncture, we are consulting with our international partners regarding next steps toward a Syrian-led political transition as called for in Security Council resolutions,” he said.
In London, Foreign Secretary William Hague said the decision “underlines the extent of the deterioration of security and stability in Syria, and calls into serious question the viability of the UN mission.”
Arab League spokesman Ahmad Bin Hilli told the BBC the decision was a temporary one, and the operation could only be cancelled by the UN in consultation with the Arab League.
The mission’s 298 military observers and 112 civilian staff are in Syria to verify the implementation of Mr Annan’s plan, which included a ceasefire.
Last Tuesday UN monitors were fired on and turned away by angry residents as they tried to enter the town of Haffa amid fears of a massacre. They were able to return on Friday.
The UN says at least 10,000 people have died since pro-democracy protests began in March 2011. In April, the Syrian government reported that 6,143 Syrian citizens had been killed by “terrorist groups”.
The announcement came just a day after Gen Mood had rung alarm bells.
He had warned that the escalation of violence in the past 10 days had limited the ability of the observers to do their job of monitoring, verifying and reporting what was going on, and trying to foster dialogue.
It marks a recognition that the Kofi Annan peace plan, of which the observer mission is part, has hit the rocks.
Apart from the general upsurge in violence, the observers have in recent days found themselves physically obstructed, and their vehicles attacked and shot at.
So the suspension is a clear message to the international community that the situation is untenable, and that concerted action is needed to salvage the Annan peace plan, which remains the only template for a peaceful solution.
That means pressure being applied to both sides in their conflict, by their outside allies, to halt the violence and enter dialogue – something at the moment that’s hard to imagine.
Escalating violence in Syria forced United Nations observers to suspend operations on Saturday, in the clearest sign yet that a peace plan brokered by international mediator Kofi Annan has collapsed.
Chief monitor General Robert Mood said the fighting posed a threat to his unarmed observers, one of whose patrols was fired upon four days ago, and prevented them from carrying out their mandate to oversee Annan’s widely ignored April 12 ceasefire.
The Norwegian peacekeeper blamed both government troops and rebels for the relentless conflict, in which President Bashar al-Assad’s forces are trying to crush an increasingly well-armed insurgency which grew out of a 15-month-old wave of protests.
“There has been an intensification of armed violence across Syria over the past 10 days,” Mood said.
“The lack of willingness by the parties to seek a peaceful transition, and the push towards advancing military positions is increasing the losses on both sides.”
Diplomats say Mood is expected to brief the United Nations Security Council on Monday or Tuesday about the unrest in Syria, which the head of U.N. peacekeeping described this week as a full-scale civil war.
The United States said it was consulting with international partners on “next steps” and called on Syrian authorities to uphold commitments to Annan’s peace plan “including the full implementation of a ceasefire”.
British Foreign Secretary William Hague condemned Assad’s government for failing to halt the killing and said the worsening instability “calls into serious question the viability of the U.N. mission” in Syria.
Despite their condemnation of Assad, Washington and its Western allies have shown no appetite for a Libya-style military intervention, while veto-wielding U.N. Security Council members Russia and China have shielded Damascus from U.N. sanctions.
U.S. President Barack Obama will hold talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin on Monday on the sidelines of a G20 summit in Mexico, but expectations are low for any progress to break their deadlock on Syria.
Mood said the violence posed “significant risks” to the 300 unarmed members of the UN Supervision Mission in Syria (UNSMIS), who have been operating there since late April.
“In this high-risk situation, UNSMIS is suspending its activities. UN observers will not be conducting patrols and will stay in their locations until further notice,” Mood said, noting the decision would be reviewed on a daily basis.
Last Tuesday shots were fired at a car carrying U.N. observers who were turned away from the town of Haffeh by angry Assad supporters throwing stones and metal rods at their convoy. Three U.N. cars were also damaged in May when they were caught up in an attack that killed 21 civilians in Khan Sheikhoun.
Syria’s Foreign Ministry said it had been informed of Mood’s decision on Friday evening and told him it understood his concern for the safety of the monitors, blaming the attacks on rebels fighting government forces.
Since the start of the ceasefire deal the “armed terrorist groups” – the label Damascus gives to anti-Assad fighters – had escalated their “criminal activities, which have often targeted the U.N. observers”, said a foreign ministry statement quoted by state news agency SANA.
Many hundreds of people, including civilians, rebels and government forces, have been killed in the two months since Annan’s ceasefire deal was supposed to come into effect.
But the violence has increased sharply this month, with rebels formally abandoning any commitment to Annan’s ceasefire and government forces using attack helicopters and artillery to pound opposition strongholds into submission.
The pro-opposition Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said at least 50 civilians were killed on Saturday, most of them in army shelling on the eastern suburbs of Damascus.
Activists uploaded video footage of around 10 bloodied bodies discovered in Saqba, a town on the capital’s eastern fringes. Some victims appeared to have been killed with knives.
In a sign government forces were also suffering heavy losses, SANA reported on Saturday military funerals for 24 soldiers and members of security forces.
Syria restricts access to international media, making it hard to verify accounts by activists and authorities.
Activists also reported gunfire in the Mezze neighborhood of the capital, and bombardment of rebel strongholds in the central city of Homs which they said killed five people.
“There has been heavy shelling in Homs since early morning,” a local activist who declined to be named said by Skype.
“Since 4 a.m. (0100 GMT) there was mortar and artillery shelling of Khalidiya, Old Homs, Jouret al-Shiyah and Qusur districts,” he said
The British-based Observatory, which monitors violence in Syria through a network of local sources, said 1,000 families were surrounded in the Homs districts under fire from Assad’s forces on Saturday.
Dozens of wounded people were in danger because of lack of medical equipment, it said.
France said on Friday night it was seriously concerned about what it said were reports of an imminent large-scale operation against Homs.
“The bloody repression led by Syrian authorities, which is intolerable and has caused tens of deaths in recent days, must come to an end,” a Foreign Ministry spokeswoman said.
“Bashar Al Assad’s regime continues to violate commitments under the Annan plan and threatens international peace and security. Sooner or later, the Security Council will have to reckon with the consequences.”
The United Nations says Syrian forces have killed 10,000 people in a crackdown on protest against Assad’s rule which broke out in March last year, inspired by uprisings across the Arab world which have toppled four autocratic leaders.
Syrian authorities blame the violence on foreign-backed Islamists who they say have killed at least 2,600 police and soldiers.
State television reported on Saturday security forces had killed a man it said was behind several car bombings in Damascus since December which killed scores of people.
It described Walid Ahmad al-Ayyesh as the “right-hand man of the leader of the Nusra front”, a Sunni Islamist group which claimed responsibility for the attacks, saying he had overseen rigging the vehicles with explosives.
Ayyesh was killed when security forces stormed an apartment in Damascus province.