Sunday 26 February 2012

February 27, 2012 by  
Filed under News, Syrian Revolution

Syrian Uprising 2011 Information Centre: Summary (26/02/2012): Baba Amru has been under heavy bombardment for 24 continuous days now. 16 out of today’s 60 martyrs have fallen there and the Red Cross said they couldn’t reach agreement with the regime to enter the area or to evacuate the foreign journalists. Meanwhile other parts of Homs, Hama and even Damascus the capital are not much better. Meanwhile, Jordan’s Information Minister said that more than 80,000 Syrians have now fled to Jordan. And yet most media were talking about the referendum on the constitution…. WTF ?!! Syria – Sunday 26/02/2012 – Google Maps

DAMASCUS (26/02/2012): This is Maysat Square in central Damascus tonight, less than 200m from political intelligence. They are chanting “we only bow to God” and “curse your soul Abu Hafez (Bashar)” At least 4 martyrs are reported to have fallen in the Damascus neighbourhood of Kafer Suseh when Assad’s forces opened fire on protesters. Assad’s forces also killed a man from Jobar disctrict and a man in Qatana in the suburbs.
 Damascus 26/02/2012

4 martyrs including a kid fell during a protest in Kafer Suseh when Assad’s forces opened fire directly at them as you can see at the end of this video http://youtu.be/MRqOQijL2Mg
 ?26-2-201.MP4

Rescuing the martyrs bodies – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pz5TTtvUd1o
 26-2-2012

UPDATE (26/02/2012): At least 40 martyrs have fallen so far. The towns of Halfaya (Hama) and Azaz, north of Aleppo are still under attack. More bodies were found dumped in the village of Afes in Idlib. There is fighting between the FSA and Assad’s forces in several places in both Daraa and Deir Ezzor. And of course the military siege and assault of Homs continues. This video with English subtitles shows a church that was shelled in the Old City of Homs yesterday.
 25 02 2012 Homs- A church is targeted when civilians tried to take shelter in it+ Subtitles

KAFRANBIL (26/02/2012): The “constitutional referendum” is taking place today. It doesn’t matter that it will be impossible to vote in half the country because the result was known even before anyone was asked. The main concern of protesters was never the constitution – first it was freedom for political prisoners and stop torturing kids, then it was stop the killing, mass arrests etc and now it is stop the mass slaughter of the Syrian people, that has killed at least 2,000 martyrs in the last 4 weeks. Here we see Kafar Nabil holding their own referendum – their votes are going in the bin.
 Kafranbil, 26/02/2012

NOW! Lebanon
[local time]  21: 52 Three polling stations have been burnt in Syria’s Deir az-Zour, Al-Arabiya television quoted activists as saying on Sunday evening.
 21:38 The wife of a photographer injured in an army bombardment in the Syrian city of Homs on Sunday called on Britain to rescue her husband despite the government deeming the mission too dangerous.
 21:14 The Syrian forces have killed three people and wounded others in Kafrsousa in Damascus, Al-Jazeera television quoted activists as saying on Sunday.
 20:05 Sunday’s death toll in Syria has risen to 45 people, Al-Arabiya television quoted the Local Coordination Committees as saying.
 19:41 The evacuation of wounded journalists from the Syrian flashpoint city of Homs will most likely take place on Monday because it is “dangerous” to pull them out Sunday night, the Red Cross said.
 18:12 Syrian refugees in North Lebanon’s Tripoli held a sit-in on Sunday in front of the headquarters of the International Red Cross, the National News Agency (NNA) reported.
 17:45 There is “every possibility” that Syria could descend into a civil war which could be worsened by foreign intervention, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told the BBC on Sunday.
 17:29  Embattled President Bashar al-Assad and his wife voted in a referendum on Sunday on a new constitution aimed at defusing 11 months of protests which have brought Syria to the brink of civil war.
 17:46 The International Red Cross announced on Sunday that it was unable to enter Syria’s Baba Amr, Al-Arabiya television reported.
 17:34 The Syrian forces have raided the town of Eblin in Edleb and burning a number of houses belonging to activists, Al-Jazeera television quoted activists as saying.
 16:54 Syrian soldiers who back President Bashar al-Assad are staining their honor, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Sunday, urging them to renounce violence against civilians.
 16:30 Sunday’s death toll in Syria has risen to 34 people, Al-Arabiya television quoted the Local Coordination Committees as saying.
 16:14 A senior leader of the Syria-based leadership of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine arrived on Sunday for his first trip to the Gaza Strip, the group said.
 14:38 Syria’s death toll reached 29 people on Sunday, activists told Al-Arabiya.
 13:41 Emirati authorities have cancelled the residencies of dozens of Syrians for taking part in a protest against their regime outside the consulate in Dubai, Syrian activists told AFP on Sunday.
 13:10 Syrian regime forces killed 16 civilians in clashes and shelling across the country Sunday, while at least 10 soldiers loyal to President Bashar Al-Assad also died, a human rights watchdog said.
 1:00 The International Committee of the Red Cross resumed negotiations on Sunday with the Syrian authorities and opposition groups on evacuating the wounded from Homs’s besieged Baba Amr district, a day after talks collapsed, the ICRC said.
 12:03 Turkey’s Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu will meet with the Syrian opposition ahead of the second “Friends of Syria” meeting in Istanbul next month.
 11:24 Security forces’ heavy shelling burnt the Homs market of Al-Naoura, activists told Al-Arabiya.
 11:23 Security forces are heavily deployed in the Damascus town of Al-Qadam and forcing passersby to vote in the referendum, activists told Al-Jazeera.
 11:21 Nine Syrian civilians and four soldiers were killed in Homs on Sunday, AFP reported an NGO as saying.
 8:32 Syrians vote Sunday on a new constitution that could theoretically end the five decades of one-party rule that sparked protests last year which have taken the country to the verge of civil war.

Reuters: Syria referendum goes ahead amid military onslaught

At least 59 Syrian civilians and soldiers were killed on Sunday in bloodshed that coincided with a vote on a new constitution that could keep President Bashar al-Assad in power until 2028.

Assad says the referendum shows his commitment to democratic reform while Western powers and Syrians involved in an 11-month-old revolt against his rule have described it as a farce.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said a military bombardment of opposition districts in the city of Homs had killed 12 civilians while security forces killed three people when they opened fire on a demonstration in Damascus.

The British-based Observatory said 21 other civilians died and rebels killed 23 members of the security forces across Syria, scene of what has become an increasingly militarized revolt against four decades of Assad family rule.

Voting took place in the referendum on a new constitution, which Assad says will lead to a multi-party parliamentary election in three months. The result is expected to be announced on Monday.

“What should we be voting for, whether to die by bombardment or by bullets? This is the only choice we have,” said Waleed Fares, an activist in the Khalidiyah district of Homs, where bombardment is now in its fourth week.

“We have been trapped in our houses for 23 days. We cannot go out, except into some alleys. Markets, schools and government buildings are closed, and there is very little movement on the streets because of snipers,” he said.

He said another besieged and battered district, Baba Amro, had had no food or water for three days. “Homs in general has no electricity for 18 hours a day.” Tight curbs on independent reporting in Syria make witness reports hard to verify.

Elsewhere in Homs, rebel fighters burned a building of Assad’s ruling Baath Party in the Hamidiyeh district of the old city and attacked an armored vehicle, the Observatory said.

The Interior Ministry acknowledged obliquely that security conditions had disrupted voting, saying: “The referendum on a new constitution is taking place in a normal way in most provinces so far, with a large turnout, except in some areas.”

The Syrian government, backed by Russia, China and Iran, and undeterred by Western and Arab pressure to halt its assaults, says it is fighting foreign-backed “armed terrorist groups.”

“NO DESIRE FOR REFORM”

Syria’s Prime Minister Adel Safar, asked about opposition calls for a boycott, said this showed a lack of interest in dialogue. “There are some groups that have a Western and foreign agenda and do not want reforms in Syria and want to divert Syria’s steadfastness,” he told reporters in Damascus.

“We are not concerned with this. We care about … spreading democracy and freedom in the country,” Safar said.

“If there was a genuine desire for reform, there would have been movement from all groups, especially the opposition, to start dialogue immediately with the government to achieve the reforms and implement them on the ground.”

The outside world has been powerless to restrain Assad’s drive to crush the revolt, which has the potential to slide into a sectarian conflict between Syria’s Sunni Muslim majority and the president’s minority Alawite sect.

Unwilling to intervene militarily and unable to get the U.N. Security Council to act in the teeth of Russian and Chinese opposition, Western powers have imposed their own sanctions on Syria and backed an Arab League call for Assad to step down.

While the West dismisses talk of a Libya-style NATO role to support Assad’s opponents, Gulf Arab states have pushed for a more forceful stance. Saudi Arabia said on Friday it would back the idea of arming rebels – a proposal likely to alarm Moscow.

“I very much hope the United States and other countries … do not try to set a military scenario in motion in Syria without sanction from the U.N. Security Council,” Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin said.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said that any foreign intervention could just fuel further violence.

“I think there is every possibility of a civil war. Outside intervention would not prevent that, it would probably expedite it,” she told BBC television in an interview.

“We have a very dangerous set of actors in the region: al Qaeda, Hamas and those who are on our terrorist list claiming to support the opposition. You have many Syrians more worried about what could come next …

“If you bring in automatic weapons, which you can maybe smuggle across the border, what do they do against tanks and heavy artillery? There is such a much more complex set of factors.”

German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle said Sunday’s referendum was “nothing but a farce.”

“Sham votes cannot contribute to a solution of the crisis. Assad needs to put an end to the violence and clear the way for a political transition,” he said in a statement.

HARROWING CONDITIONS

The military onslaught on parts of Homs has created harrowing conditions for civilians, rebels and journalists.

A video posted by activists on YouTube showed Mohammad al-Mohammad, a doctor at a makeshift clinic in Baba Amro, holding a 15-year-old boy hit in the neck by shrapnel and spitting blood.

“It is late at night and Baba Amro is still being bombarded. We can do nothing for this boy,” said the doctor, who has also been treating Western journalists wounded in the city.

American correspondent Marie Colvin and French photographer Remi Ochlik were killed in the bombardment of Homs last week and two other Western journalists were wounded. The group is still trapped there despite Red Cross efforts to extricate them.

The International Red Cross and Syrian Arab Red Crescent could not get into Baba Amro on Sunday and were still negotiating with authorities and opposition, the ICRC said.

Syrian authorities had not responded to a request for a ceasefire to allow the wounded to be evacuated, it added, and conditions were worsening by the hour.

“Whether they are women, children, men, Syrian journalists, or foreign journalists, all have the same status. They need to reach medical facilities regardless of their status without any distinction,” ICRC chief spokeswoman Carla Haddad said.

In Hama, another city with a bloody record of resistance to Baathist rule, one activist said nobody was taking part in the referendum. “We will not vote on a constitution drafted by our killer,” he said by satellite telephone, asking not to be named.

If the constitution is approved in the vote, a foregone conclusion, it would drop an article making Assad’s Baath party the leader of state and society, allow political pluralism and enact a presidential limit of two seven-year terms.

But the limit will not be enforced retrospectively, meaning that Assad, already in power for 11 years, could serve another two terms after his current one expires in 2014.

Dozens of people lined up to vote in two polling stations visited by a Reuters journalist in Damascus. “I’ve come to vote for President Bashar, God protect him and give him victory over his enemies,” said Samah Turkmani, in his 50s.

Another voter, Majed Elias, said: “This is a national duty, whether I agree or not, I have to come and vote.”

This is Syria’s third referendum since Assad inherited power from his late father. The first installed him as president in 2000 with an official 97.29 percent ‘Yes’ vote. The second renewed his term seven years later with 97.62 percent in favor.

(Additional reporting by Khaled Yacoub Oweis in Amman, Mariam KarounyErika Solomon andDominic Evans in Beirut, Christian Ruettger in Berlin and Arshad Mohammed in Rabat andStephanie Nebehay in Geneva; editing by Andrew Roche)

Syria awaits referendum result; Putin warns West

Syria is expected to announce a vote of approval for constitutional changes on Monday when it announces the result of a referendum dismissed as a sham by opponents of President Bashar al-Assad.

At least 59 Syrian civilians and soldiers were killed in the country’s bitter political violence on Sunday, the day of the vote on a new constitution that could keep Assad in power until 2028. The result is viewed as a foregone conclusion.

Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin issued a strong warning to the West against military intervention in Syria, its longtime ally, but U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton made clear there was no enthusiasm in Washington for war.

The International Red Cross and Syrian Arab Red Crescent were still negotiating with Syrian authorities and the opposition in an effort to get aid into strife-torn areas of the embattled city of Homs, where conditions were said to be grim.

Assad’s reforms would drop an article making his Baath party the leader of state and society, allow political pluralism and enact a presidential limit of two seven-year terms. A multi-party parliamentary election would be held in three months.

But the limit will not be enforced retrospectively, meaning that Assad, already in power for 11 years, could serve another two terms after his current one expires in 2014.

Dozens of people lined up to vote in two polling stations visited by a Reuters journalist in Damascus. “I’ve come to vote for President Bashar, God protect him and give him victory over his enemies,” said Samah Turkmani, in his 50s.

Another voter, Majed Elias, said: “This is a national duty, whether I agree or not, I have to come and vote.”

In Hama, a city with a bloody record of resistance to Baathist rule, one activist said nobody was taking part in the referendum. “We will not vote on a constitution drafted by our killer,” he said by satellite telephone, asking not to be named.

This is Syria’s third referendum since Assad inherited power from his late father. The first installed him as president in 2000 with an official 97.29 percent ‘Yes’ vote. The second renewed his term seven years later with 97.62 percent in favour.

Syria’s revolt began 11 months ago with a wave of mostly peaceful demonstrations against Assad’s rule. It has increasingly become an armed conflict between security forces and lightly armed rebels.

“We have been trapped in our houses for 23 days. We cannot go out, except into some alleys. Markets, schools and government buildings are closed, and there is very little movement on the streets because of snipers,” said an activist in Homs.

He said Baba Amro, had had no food or water for three days. “Homs in general has no electricity for 18 hours a day.” Tight curbs on independent reporting in Syria make witness reports hard to verify.

The International Committee of the Red Cross said Syrian authorities had not responded to a request for a ceasefire to allow the wounded to be evacuated and conditions were worsening by the hour.

The Interior Ministry acknowledged obliquely that security conditions had disrupted voting, saying: “The referendum on a new constitution is taking place in a normal way in most provinces so far, with a large turnout, except in some areas.”

The Syrian government, backed by Russia, China and Iran, and undeterred by Western and Arab pressure to halt its assaults, says it is fighting foreign-backed “armed terrorist groups.”

“DANGEROUS ACTORS”

Syria’s Prime Minister Adel Safar, asked about the opposition call for a boycott, said it showed a lack of interest in dialogue. “There are some groups that have a Western and foreign agenda and do not want reforms in Syria and want to divert Syria’s steadfastness,” he told reporters in Damascus.

Prominent members of the main Syrian National Council formed a splinter organisation on Sunday, exposing the most serious rift among Assad’s opponents since the popular uprising against his repressive rule erupted in March.

At least 20 secular and Islamist members of the 270-strong council, which was set up in Istanbul last year, announced the formation of the Syrian Patriotic Group.

The outside world has been powerless to restrain Assad’s drive to crush the revolt, which has the potential to slide into a sectarian conflict between Syria’s Sunni Muslim majority and the president’s minority Alawite sect.

Unwilling to intervene militarily and unable to get the U.N. Security Council to act in the teeth of Russian and Chinese opposition, Western powers have imposed their own sanctions on Syria and backed an Arab League call for Assad to step down.

While the West dismisses talk of a Libya-style NATO role to support Assad’s opponents, Gulf Arab states have pushed for a more forceful stance. Saudi Arabia said on Friday it would back the idea of arming rebels – a proposal likely to alarm Moscow.

“I very much hope the United States and other countries … do not try to set a military scenario in motion in Syria without sanction from the U.N. Security Council,” Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin said.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said any foreign intervention could just fuel further violence.

“I think there is every possibility of a civil war. Outside intervention would not prevent that, it would probably expedite it,” she told BBC television in an interview.

“We have a very dangerous set of actors in the region: al Qaeda, Hamas and those who are on our terrorist list claiming to support the opposition. You have many Syrians more worried about what could come next.”

(Editing by Andrew Roche and Michael Roddy)

GuardianSyria votes on new constitution as shelling of Homs continuesReferendum to clear way for multi-party elections derided by critics both in Syria and beyond as violent crackdown continues

BBC:  Syria holds vote despite violence

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