Sunday 25 March 2012

March 25, 2012 by  
Filed under News, Syrian Revolution

Syrian Uprising 2011 Information Centre: SUMMARY (25/03/2012): At least 58 martyrs today as the regime’s army contiues its attacks in Homs (Old City, Khaldiyah, Rastan, Qusayr), Idlib (Sarqeb), Aleppo (Azaz, Anadan, Hraytan). There are reports of a new massacre committed by Assad’s forces in the town of Morek near Hama. Tonight there is fierce fighting between the FSA and Assad’s forces in al-Lijah, between Daraa and Suwayda. Syria – Sunday 25/03/2012 – Google Maps
English Speakers to Help The Syrian Revolution: HAMA: MORK: Of the 11 people killed by the occupying forces who stormed the town today, only 2 have been able to be named, as regime forces abducted the bodies….. Rest in Peace.

BAB HOOD: HOMS: the district has experienced continuous shelling today, with vehicles as well as homes destroyed.25 3 Homs

Homs: body of the martyr Muhammad Ishaq 25 32 012 Homs: body of the martyr Muhammad Ishaq 25 32 012

NOW! Lebanon
[local time] 
 21:49 Syrian security forces opened fire to disperse a protest in Damascus’ neighborhood of Jawbar, Al-Jazeera quoted activists as saying.
 20:06 Syrian security forces’ gunfire killed 51 people on Sunday, Al-Arabiya quoted activists as saying.
 19:47 Syria’s Muslim Brotherhood will share power and respect democracy if President Bashar al-Assad is toppled, its leader said on Sunday.
 19:11 Syrian forces shelled Khan Sheikhoun, Al-Qasabiya and Aabdin in Edleb on Sunday, Al-Jazeera reported.
 19:08 Syrian security forces conducted arrests and shot at houses in Edleb’s Kafr Nabl on Sunday, Al-Jazeera reported.
 19:01 Syrian security forces storm Damascus’ neighborhood of Al-Hajar al-Aswad on Sunday, Al-Jazeera reported.
 18:42 Syrian shelling of Mork near Hama killed seven on Sunday and injured others, Al-Jazeera quoted activists as saying.
 18:22 The Local Coordination Committees said on Sunday that Syrian security forces’ gunfire killed 41.
 18:20 The Syrian army shelled Kafr Zeita and Kafr Nbouda near Hama on Sunday, Al-Jazeera quoted activists as saying, adding that casualties were reported.
 18:02 The Syrian army shelled Ezaz near Aelppo on Sunday, Al-Jazeera quoted activists as saying.
 15:50 Syrian security forces killed 21 on Sunday, Al-Jazeera reported.
 15:21 The Arab League, which is holding its annual summit in Iraq this week, will not call for Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad to resign, the group’s secretary general said in comments published on Sunday.
 15:04 Syria’s Sunday death toll rose to 13 people, activists told Al-Jazeera.
 14:53 Russian President Dmitri Medvedev’s Middle East envoy was in Algiers on Sunday for consultations on the deadly year-old crisis in Syria, a Russian diplomat said.
 14:06 Jordan has arrested 10 Syrians who claimed they were army defectors after they left a designated area in the northern city of Mafraq, a security official said.
 13:40 The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) arrived in the city of Douma, Al-Arabiya reported.
 12:37 Nine people were killed on Sunday by the security forces, activists told Al-Jazeera.
 11:49 Human Rights Watch said on Sunday that regime forces in Syria have resorted to using civilians as human shields to protect themselves from attacks by rebel fighters.
 11:41 US President Barack Obama and Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan agreed Sunday on the need to send “non-lethal” aid to Syrian rebels, including communications equipment, a US official said.
 11:38 The security forces’ shelling killed two people, injured many others and scorched around 20 houses in the Hama town of Mork.
 10:53 Powerful blasts rocked the flashpoint city of Homs on Sunday as Syria’s regime pressed its assault on protest hubs, while rebels attacked a military base near the capital, activists and monitors said.
 9:30 Syrian peace envoy Kofi Annan sought Sunday to shore up vital backing from Russia for a plan on ending a year of bloodshed that hinges on sustained Kremlin pressure on its Arab ally.

Reuters: Annan to meet Russia’s Medvedev on Syria mission

U.N.-Arab League envoy Kofi Annan was in Moscow on Sunday for talks with President Dmitry Medvedev of Russia, which has crucial influence over diplomatic efforts to end the bloodshed in Syria.

The former U.N. chief is visiting Russia and China – the two powers closest to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad as he seeks to crush an insurgency and silence protests in which the United Nations says his forces have killed more than 8,000 civilians.

Russia and China have shielded Damascus from U.N. Security Council condemnation by vetoing two Western-backed resolutions in six months, including one on February 4 that would have backed an Arab League call for Assad to step aside.

But they sent a warning signal to Assad last week by approving a Security Council statement backing Annan’s mission and warning that world powers could take further action if the killing does not stop soon.

Largely to ensure Russian support, the statement included no firm deadline for implementation of its demands, potentially allowing Assad to play for time. It also included no direct call for Assad to cede power, which Russia would also have opposed.

Russia has voiced enthusiastic support for Annan’s six-point peace plan aimed at ending the violence, securing humanitarian aid and launching a political dialogue between the government and opposition groups.

But Moscow, which wants a strong role in diplomacy and is trying to avoid losing its firmest foothold in the Middle East, is at odds with Western nations over blame for the bloodshed and what must be done to stop it.

In a statement ahead of Annan’s visit, the Kremlin suggested Assad’s government is ready for dialogue and it is elements of the opposition, encouraged by contraband arms and foreign support, that is holding back.

Russia would outline “our essential approach to ensuring a ceasefire and end to violence in Syria, which will be difficult to implement without putting an end to external armed and political support of the opposition,” the statement said.

MIXED MESSAGES

“Taking into account that the Syrian authorities are ready to establish such a dialogue, the key task is to convince the Syrian opposition to sit down at the negotiation table with the authorities and reach a peaceful resolution of the crisis,” it said.

The statement marked a return to a more positive assessment of the government’s intentions after Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov sharply criticized Assad in a newspaper interview last week, saying Syria’s leadership had made “very many mistakes”.

On Friday, Russia and China voted against a U.N. Human Rights Council resolution condemning what it called “sharply escalating” violations by Syrian forces.

The Russian Foreign Ministry said the draft was biased, “accusing only the Syrian government of violence (and) making no demands of armed opposition groups.”

With ties dating back to the Soviet era, Syria has bought billions of dollars worth of weapons and hosts Russia’s only naval base outside the former Soviet Union.

(Additional reporting by Alexei Anishchuk; Editing by Robin Pomeroy)

 

Syrian forces on the offensive; Annan in Moscow

Russia offered “full support” for peace envoy Kofi Annan’s efforts to end fighting in Syria on Sunday but said his mission would need more time as forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad attacked Homs and other rebel strongholds.

Moscow also reiterated its stance that foreign support for the Syrian opposition was the main obstacle to peace, while U.S. President Barack Obama and Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan discussed how to get non-lethal aid to the opposition.

Western and Arab states have urged Assad to step aside to end violence which the U.N. says has cost 8,000 lives. Russia, a close ally of Assad, said he is ready to talk to his foes on reform and it is the rebels who must be pressed to negotiate.

With the Syrian army on the offensive around the country and the opposition fearing Assad would use any talks to strengthen his forces’ position and crack down harder, the prospect of a negotiated peace seemed more remote than ever.

A U.S.-based human rights group accused Assad’s forces on Sunday of using human shields in their efforts to crush the rebellion, which began more than a year ago.

“Syrian government forces have endangered local residents by forcing them to march in front of the army during recent arrest operations, troop movements, and attacks on towns and villages in northern Syria,” Human Rights Watch said, quoting residents from Syria’s northwestern province of Idlib

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, who will join Obama for a nuclear security summit in South Korea on Monday, told U.N.-Arab League Syria envoy Kofi Annan in Moscow he appreciated his efforts to end the violence.

“This may be the last chance for Syria to avoid a long-lasting and bloody civil war. Therefore we will offer you our full support at any level and in various ways in those areas, of course, in which Russia is capable of providing support.”

It was not clear whether Moscow would use its influence with Assad to advance Annan’s six-point peace plan, which includes demands for a ceasefire, the immediate withdrawal of heavy armor from residential areas and access for humanitarian aid.

“Syria has an opportunity today to work with me and this mediation process to put an end to the conflict, to the fighting, allow access to those in need of humanitarian assistance as well as embark on a political process that will lead to a peaceful settlement,” Annan said after the talks.

Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Gennady Gatilov said Annan’s mission must be given more time before the Security Council considers further action. A Security Council statement this week threatened Syria with unspecified “further steps” if it failed to comply with Annan’s plan.

“There are no deadlines, we need to see how the situation develops,” the Interfax news agency quoted Gatilov as saying.

Moscow has accused the West of being too one-sided, arguing that outside support for rebels, which it says is both political and military in some cases, is fuelling the fighting in Syria, which hosts a Russian naval base.

A Russian foreign ministry statement said Annan should work hard with both government and opposition in Syria and for his mission to succeed it needed full international support.

“This entails non-interference in Syria’s internal affairs and inadmissibility of supporting one side in the conflict,” it said, quoting Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov.

Russia and China have vetoed two U.N. resolutions critical of Damascus, but did support the Security Council statement this week endorsing Annan’s mission. The former U.N. chief is due to fly to China after his talks in Russia.

Largely to ensure Russian support, the statement included no firm deadline for implementation of its demands, potentially allowing Assad to play for time. It also included no direct call for Assad to cede power, which Russia would also have opposed.

In the Korean capital Seoul, Obama and Erdogan discussed providing medical supplies and communications support to the Syrian opposition but there was no talk of providing lethal aid for rebel forces.

“We worked on a common agenda in terms of how we can support both humanitarian efforts … (and) the efforts of Kofi Annan to bring about much needed change (in Syria),” Obama said after his meeting with Erdogan, a sharp critic of Assad.

New York-based Human Rights Watch published videos, obtained from opposition activists, in which people in civilian clothes walk in front of several armed soldiers and infantry fighting vehicles. Activists say the army had compelled the men to walk in front to protect the soldiers.

The statement said that residents reported government forces placing children on tanks and inside security buses.

“The Syrian army’s use of human shields is yet another reason why the UN Security Council should refer Syria to the International Criminal Court,” said Ole Solvang, a HRW emergencies researcher.

It was impossible to verify reports independently because Syrian authorities have prevented foreign journalists and human rights workers from entering affected areas.

HEAVY SHELLING

Syria says rebels have killed about 3,000 members of the security forces and blames the violence on “terrorist” gangs.

Syrian troops have repeatedly targeted Homs, Syria’s third largest city, and said last month they had regained control of Baba Amr, a neighborhood held by rebels for several months.

However, a surge in violence in other neighborhoods this week suggested the army was struggling to keep control.

Waleed al-Faris, an opposition activist from Homs, told Reuters that Sunday’s shelling, using tank and mortar fire, was the worst he had seen.

“There are ten dead and hundreds wounded,” he said. “I have not experienced shelling this heavy since Baba Amr.”

In the southern province of Deraa, birthplace of the revolt, government forces and rebels clashed on Sunday.

“Thousands of soldiers and over a hundred military vehicles are attempting to enter the area of Lahat in Deraa province today, but they are clashing with rebels,” said Rami Abdelrahman, head of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, adding that at least five soldiers and three rebels had been killed.

The Syrian state news agency SANA said six “terrorists” had been killed on during dawn raid on a hideout in Deraa.

The SOHR said 27 were killed around Syria on Sunday, 15 of them civilians, during heavy shelling in the central city of Homs and northwestern province of Idlib.

In the eastern city of Deir al-Zor, Syrian troops conducted house-to-house raids in search of dissidents, SOHR said.

(Editing by Philippa Fletcher and Giles Elgood)

BBC: Syria crisis: UN mission ‘last chance’ to avoid civil war

Russian President Dmitri Medvedev has offered full support for envoy Kofi Annan’s peace mission in Syria, saying it may be the last chance to avoid a “prolonged and bloody civil war”.

The governent in Moscow urged Mr Annan to work with both the Syrian government and opposition to end the violence.

Mr Annan has been seeking to persuade Russia to take a firmer stance against President Bashar al-Assad’s government.

He will later go to China which has also usually backed Syria at the UN.

As clashes continue, Human Rights Watch has accused Syrian government forces of using civilians as human shields.

Activists reported further bombardments and casualties on Sunday in the Homs area, killing at least five people.

Shelling was also reported in Hama, and tanks were seen in the streets of the southern town of Nawa, the Local Coordination Committees said.

More than 50 people were reported to have been killed in shelling or shooting by the security forces on Saturday, many of them in Homs.

The UN says the conflict has cost more than 8,000 lives since it began a year. The Syrian government blames violence on “terrorist gangs” and says some 3,000 members of the security forces have been killed.

Foreign media face severe restrictions on reporting in Syria, and it is hard to verify the claims of either side.

External support

Mr Medvedev offered Mr Annan – the envoy for the United Nations and the Arab League – support “on all levels”.

“This could be the last chance for Syria to avoid a prolonged and bloody civil war,” he said.

“We very much hope your work will end with a positive result.”

And at an earlier meeting Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov “underscored the need to end violence from all sides and establish a broad Syrian political dialogue”, a statement said.

“He called on the special envoy to work actively toward that aim with both the authorities and the opposition.”

Mr Lavrov urged the international community to co-operate with Mr Annan’s mission.

“This means no interference in Syria’s internal affairs and the inadmissibility of supporting one side in the conflict,” the statement said.

The BBC’s Steve Rosenberg in Moscow says that these remarks suggest a very delicate balancing act by Moscow – on the one hand seeking to put pressure on Mr Assad and on the other warning the West not to favour the Syrian opposition.

Meeting Mr Medvedev, Mr Annan said that “Syria has an opportunity today to work with me and this mediation process to put an end to the conflict, to the fighting, allow access to those in need of humanitarian assistance as well as embark on a political process”.

He has proposed a six-point peace plan, which calls on government forces to immediately halt the use of heavy weapons in populated areas.

He also wants the armed rebels to halt their attacks – which seems unlikely to happen either, says the BBC’s Jim Muir in Beirut.

Youtube grab of shelling in the Khalidiya district of Homs, 24 Mar 2012Homs has been relentlessly targeted, activists say

Russia has vetoed two UN Security Council resolutions on the crisis in Syria, but last week, with China, supported a UN statement on the Annan mission.

Our correspondent says that recently there have been signs Moscow is losing patience with Syria. Senior Russian officials have criticised the Syrian government for dragging its heels on reform, and accused it of making numerous mistakes.

Meanwhile US President Barack Obama and Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, meeting ahead of a nuclear security conference in South Korea, said they were looking for ways to bring about change in Syria.

‘Protecting army’

The diplomacy comes as a new report by New York based Human Rights Watch (HRW) accused pro-government forces of forcing civilians to march in front of them as they advanced on areas held by the opposition in the northern Idlib province earlier in March.

Videos obtained by HRW from opposition activists showed people dressed in civilian clothes walking in front of armed soldiers and fighting vehicles. Witnesses told HRW it was clear that the move was to protect the army from attack. According to the HRW statement, residents also said children had been placed on tanks and inside security buses.

In another development, the opposition Free Syrian Army and a rival military council have announced that they will work together to co-ordinate all military activity against the Syrian government.

Analysis: Steve Rosenberg BBC News, Moscow

Russia may have vetoed two UN Security Council resolutions condemning President Assad, but Moscow fully supports Kofi Annan’s peace mission.

In his talks with the joint UN and Arab League envoy, President Medvedev will make it clear that Moscow’s priority is to secure an immediate ceasefire by all sides in the conflict. The Russians, though, have already warned that peace will not be achievable while the Syrian opposition is receiving weapons and political support from outside.

Until now Moscow has been a staunch supporter of President Assad, a long-time Russian ally. There are geopolitical reasons, Russia leases a naval base in Syria. And there are financial concerns, too: the arms deals and Russians investments worth billions of dollars.

But recently there have been signs that Moscow is losing patience with Damascus – senior Russian officials have criticised the Syrian government for dragging its heels on reform and accused it of making numerous mistakes.

 

The Syrian Days Of Rage – English: The United States and Turkey are in “full agreement” on the next steps on Syria as world leaders continue trying to stop a year-long massacre .Http://edition.cnn.com/2012/03/25/world/meast/syria-unrest /index.html:
 US, Turkish leaders agree on next steps on Syria – CNN.com
[Comment – it is not OK to send ‘non-lethal’ help such as communications equipment when you know that other people will supply the weapons for you]

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