Sunday 17 June 2012
Head of UN mission appeals for release of civilians trapped in Syria violence: The chief United Nations observer in Syria has appealed to the parties to enable civilians trapped by the escalating violence to leave conflict zones.The chief United Nations observer in Syria has appealed to the parties to enable civilians trapped by the escalating violence to leave conflict zones.
“The parties must reconsider their position and allow women, children, the elderly and the injured to leave conflict zones, without any preconditions and ensure their safety,” General Robert Mood, head of the UN Supervision Mission in Syria (UNSMIS), said in a statement issued on Sunday.
“This requires willingness on both sides to respect and protect the human life of the Syrian people,” he added.
Yesterday Gen. Mood announced that UN observers had suspended their monitoring activities owing to an intensification of armed violence across the country in recent days.
He said in today’s statement that attempts to extract civilians from the line of fire over the past week in the city of Homs have been unsuccessful.
“I call on the parties to take immediate action to ease the pain of Syrians trapped in the violence and the UN Supervision Mission in Syria stands ready to monitor their release, once the decision is taken by the parties,” he stated.
The Security Council established UNSMIS in April to monitor the cessation of violence in Syria, as well as monitor and support the full implementation of a six-point peace plan put forward by the Joint Special Envoy of the United Nations and the Arab League for the Syrian Crisis, Kofi Annan.
The plan calls for an end to violence, access for humanitarian agencies to provide relief to those in need, the release of detainees, the start of inclusive political dialogue that takes into account the aspirations of the Syrian people, and unrestricted access to the country for the international media.
The UN estimates that more than 10,000 people, mostly civilians, have been killed in Syria and tens of thousands displaced since the uprising against President Bashar al-Assad began some 16 months ago.
-In Reef Dimashq 13 civilians were martyred. 5 were killed in the city of Douma, one of them is a lady who died of earlier wounds, and 4 others died of bombardments and gun fire on the city. 3 civilians were killed by bombardments on the town of Deir Al-Asafir which witnessed clashes. 2 civilians were shot in the Mesraba and Kafarbatna towns. A civilian from the town of Qara was killed under torture in one of the security centers. A young man at the age of 17 was thrown from the fifth floor by security forces after they raided his house in Dareyya, based on activists in the city. A civilian from the town of Al-Tal died when his car was targeted by regime forces.
-In Dimashq province 2 civilians were killed. One of them is a young man from the Midan neighborhood who was shot after midnight Saturday-Sunday in the neighborhood of Naher Aisha. The second is from the Jobar neighborhood who was shot in Rankoos.
-In Dier Ezzor province 5 civilians were killed. One of them is a leader of an opposition armed group who died in Deir Elzor. 4 others were killed when regime forces targeted a funeral procession in the town of Al-buleil.
-In Dara’a province a civilian was killed under torture in the town of Tafes after being detained for two days by regime forces.
-In Idlib province, one civilian from the town of Khan Sheikhoon was shot by sniper fire.
-In Hama province, 4 civilians were killed after midnight Saturday-Sunday when they were trying to escape from the regime forces’ raid on southern reef Hama.
At least 26 regime forces were killed. A lieutenant was assassinated in Damascus. The others were killed in Homs; Reef Homs; Reef Dimashq; Sahl Alghab, Reef Hama; reef Deir Elzor and an IED explosion in Reef Idlib.
Wissam Sleem Tarif: The Alawite Residents of Ain Al Tini a town next to Al Hifi prevented Al Assad army to use their town as base to attack Al Hifi. #Syria
[local time] 20:43 Sunday’s death toll in Syria has risen to 48 people, Al-Jazeera television quoted the Syrian Network for Human Rights as saying.
19:51 The opposition Syrian National Council issued a cry for help Sunday to save Homs and other cities from attacks
by President Bashar al-Assad’s regime, and repeated its call for UN intervention.
18:44 Sunday’s death toll in Syria has risen to 43 people, Al-Arabiya television quoted the Local Coordination Committees as saying.
16:46 More than 300 shells struck Homs’ Rastan on Sunday, Al-Arabiya television quoted activists as saying.
14:25 Syrian security forces launched air raids on the villages of Aako and Taouma in the Latakia district, Al-Jazeera quoted activists as saying on Sunday.
11:05 Syria’s main opposition group was “surprised” by the UN observer mission’s suspension, it said on Saturday, calling on the UN Security Council to adopt a resolution under Chapter VII to arm the monitors.
10:57 Syrian troops besieged several districts of the central city of Homs on Sunday, a day after violence across the country cost at least 69 lives, a watchdog reported.
10:50 Syrian security forces killed 11 people on Sunday, Al-Jazeera quoted activists as saying.
7:28 Syrian security forces thwarted an infiltration attempt by an armed Lebanese group in Homs’ Tal Kalakh, Al-Manar television reported.
Syrian government forces intensify their bombardment of the central city of Homs, activists say, warning that hundreds of civilians are trapped.
Homs has reportedly come under heavy attack in recent days and some have warned that civilians are trapped without access to essential supplies.
The UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights has said over 1,000 families in Homs need to be evacuated.
Meanwhile, activists have criticised the UN observer mission in Syria for deciding to suspend its activities.
The Observatory said at least one person had died in Sunday’s violence in Homs’s Khalidiyeh district, and that 10 other deaths had been reported elsewhere in the country.
“Eighty-five per cent of Homs is under attack”, Abu Imad, an activist in Homs, told the BBC.
“I’m afraid that there are no safe places left in Homs. We will have to build a new city because there is nothing left,” he added.
Videos uploaded to the internet by activists in the city’s al-Bayada and Ghouta districts appeared to show heavy damage to buildings and vehicles from bombardment in recent days.
The opposition Syrian National Council (SNC) has warned of a looming massacre in Homs which it says is besieged by 30,000 troops and pro-regime militiamen.
The city has been a focal point of opposition activity. The district of Baba Amr suffered a month-long siege and weeks of shelling before being regained by the government in February.
‘Absence of vision’
On Saturday, Norwegian Gen Robert Mood, the head of the UN Supervision Mission in Syria (UNSMIS), said UN observers would cease operations because of the escalating violence.The mission’s 298 military observers and 112 civilian staff were sent to Syria to verify the implementation of a peace plan devised by UN-Arab League special envoy to Syria Kofi Annan, which included a ceasefire.
Gen Mood said the mission remained committed to ending the violence and that the suspension would be “reviewed on a daily basis”.
However, although activist groups on the ground had criticised the UN monitors for being passive observers, they are yet more critical of the abrupt suspension of even that role, reports the BBC’s Jim Muir in Beirut.
The SNC said the move denied the Syrian people what little protection they had.
The Local Co-ordination Committees (LCC), a network of activists inside Syria, was also critical.
“In the absence of any vision to push for an improvement in the situation, the current decision allows for more bloodshed and enables the regime to buy more time under international cover,” the LCC said in a statement.
The SNC called on the UN Security Council to move swiftly to put the Annan plan into Chapter Seven, meaning that its implementation could be enforced.
The UN Security Council’s five permanent members will consider the next steps for the observer mission when Gen Mood briefs them on the situation in Syria on Tuesday.
The Syrian government has repeated its full support for the Annan plan, and blamed “terrorists” and their outside backers for escalating the violence and derailing the plan, our correspondent says.
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s army intensified shelling of Sunni Muslim districts in the northwest city of Homs on Sunday, killing at least 11 people and wounding dozens hours after U.N. monitors suspended their work, opposition activists said.
The monitors’ decision on Saturday was the clearest sign yet that a peace plan brokered by international mediator Kofi Annan had collapsed after repeated violations by Assad’s forces and rebels backing a Sunni-led revolt across the country.
U.S. President Barack Obama will hold talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin on the sidelines of a G20 summit in Mexico on Monday but expectations are low that they will break a deadlock over Syria’s conflict, which has sectarian dimensions.
Russia and China have shielded Assad from Western sponsored U.N. action beyond verbal condemnation of the violence – a stance that Assad’s foes say gives him a free hand to pursue his crackdown against protesters.
“Around 85 percent of Homs is now under shelling or bombardment with mortar rounds and heavy machineguns,” opposition campaigner Abu Imad told Reuters by phone from the hot spot of the 15-month revolt, about 140 km (80 miles) north of the Syrian capital Damascus.
“Dozens of wounded are without treatment because all the hospitals have fallen under the control of shabbiha (ghosts),” he said, referring to militiamen loyal to Assad.
“The dead are the lucky ones.”
Another opposition activist, Mohammad al-Homsi, said: “Since the (U.N.) observers stopped working yesterday we have seen a clear escalation.”
On Saturday, chief U.N. monitor General Robert Mood said increased violence had forced his observers to suspend operations to oversee Annan’s widely ignored April 12 ceasefire. The Norwegian blamed both Assad’s forces and rebels.
Homs, which had a population of one million when the revolt began, has been under constant army shelling since March when Assad’s forces overran an opposition neighborhood whose residents were among the first to take up arms.
Free Syrian Army rebels are holed up with civilians still in Homs after hundreds of thousands fled over the last year.
Opposition activists said there had also been an escalation in the army’s use of heavy artillery in Sunni rural provinces at the forefront of the uprising against the 42-year rule of Assad and his late father, President Hafez al-Assad.
A rise in violence over the last month, including two massacres that cost the lives of 200 Sunni men, women and children in villages near Homs and another northwestern city Hama, has prompted greater international condemnation of Assad.
The opposition is increasingly accusing Assad of waging a military campaign of ethnic cleansing in Homs to empty the city and surrounding countryside of the majority Sunni inhabitants.
Assad has repeatedly said he was resisting what he described as a foreign conspiracy to divideSyria that left him no option but to use force against “terrorists”.
He is from Syria’s Alawite sect, an offshoot of Shi’ite Islam, and has been shielded or backed by Russia, a Soviet-era ally of his father, and Iran, which regards Syria as the supply line for its proxy Hezbollah (Party of God) in Lebanon.
The United Nations says Syrian forces have killed 10,000 people in the crackdown on protest against Assad’s rule that broke out in March last year, inspired by uprisings across the Arab world which have toppled four autocratic leaders.
Assad’s government says foreign-backed Islamist militants have killed at least 2,600 Syrian police and troops.
Washington has said it was consulting other world powers on “next steps” over Syria, but acknowledges a Libya-style military intervention to help topple Assad would be difficult and could destroy the country’s myriad ethnic and sectarian mosaic.
China has already signaled misgivings about a French proposal to enforce Annan’s peace plan for Syria, saying it opposed any approach “leaning towards sanctions and pressure”.
The opposition called on the U.N. Security Council to boost the observers’ role and to send an international peacekeeping force to Syria.
AbdelBasset Sida, president of the main Syrian National Council opposition group, told a news conference in Istanbul that only international intervention “would prevent disastrous regional consequences”.
“This regime is trying to push the country toward a sectarian war and drive the region toward chaos and to show the world that its survival is the only guarantor for regional stability,” said Sida, a secular Kurd who was elected as the new head of the council earlier this month.
“The Syrian crisis is not about a government and an opposition. The core of the issue is a popular revolt across the country and a regime that never had an legitimacy,” he said.
(Additional reporting by Seltem Iyigun in Istanbul; Editing by Ralph Gowling)