Thursday 2 August 2012

August 2, 2012 by  
Filed under News, Syrian Revolution

Syrian Observatory for Human Rights: Final report on the documented deaths for 2/8/2012. More than 180 Syrians have been reported, and verified, killed on Thursday (2/8/2012).

The dead include 112 unarmed civilians, 26 rebel fighters, 3 defected soldiers, and no less than 43 members of the regular armed forces.

112 Unarmed Civilians:

-In Damascus Province 29 killed. A young man (19 years old) was killed by gunfire in the al-Tadamun neighbourhood. The number of those killed by the mortar shelling of the Yarmouk camp has risen to 21, 2 of them were children. 6 were killed in the Jobar neighbourhood, 5 of them were killed by the bombardment and gunfire on the neighbourhood, 1 from the bombardment on the town of Zamalka, Reef Dimashq. 1 civilian was killed by a sniper in the Baghdad street, central Damascus.- In Reef Dimashq 12 civilians were killed. 3 in the city of Douma, 2 regime forces and 1 from earlier wounds. 3 civilians were shot by the al-Tina military checkpoint, Reef Dimashq. 1 by sniper in the city of Harasta. An old man by the bombardment on the town of Ein Terma. 1 shot dead by regime forces in Yalda. 2 civilians were killed by the bombardment on Dareyya and Irbeen. A civilian from the Sayyeda Zeinab area, Reef dimashq, was killed by regime forces in the Tadamun neighbourhood of Damascus.-In Homs Province 13 civilians were killed. 3 unidentified women were killed by bombardment on the village of A’ioun Hsein. 3 civilian corpses from the city of al-Qusair were found today after they have been detained earlier by regime forces. 5 , including 3 children and an unidentified casualty, were killed by bombardment on the al-Rastan town and its surrounding villages. 1 was killed by bombardment on the al-Talbisa town, Reef Homs. 1 was killed by bombardment on the Bab Houd neighbourhood in the city.

-In Aleppo Province 5 civilians killed. 3 women and 2 children were killed after midnight Wednesday-Thursday by bombardment on the town of Abyeen, Reef Aleppo

-In Dera’a Province 25 were killed. 5 in the city of Dera’a, out of which 4 were killed during the regime forces’ military operation on the city, 1 died of wounds he received earlier. 3 were shot by sniper fire in the towns of al-Na’ima, Tafas and al-sheikh Miskeen. 5 were killed, including a woman and her child, by the bombardment on the towns of Nahta, al-Ghara al-Gharbiya, al-Lijat and al-Hirak. 13 civilians, including 3 children, were killed by the violent bombardment and shelling on the town of Busr al-Harir.

-In Idlib Province 11 civilians were killed. A 9-year old child and a man were killed by bombardment on the town of Saraqib, 3 civilians were killed by pro-regime gunmen near the town. 1 from the Ma’arzeita town died when his car was targeted near the Ma’aret al-Nu’man city. 1 died by wounds he received earlier in the city of Ma’aret al-Nu’man. A civilian was killed while being tortured in the town of Kafarhaya. 3 civilians were killed by the bombardment of Ariha.

-In Hama province 12 civilians kiled. 1 by regime fire in the town of al-Latamna. 11 civilians were killed in the city of Hama by the random fire, snipers and bombardment on various neighbourhoods, the deaed include a woman, a boy and 3 girls aged (5-10-11-17).

-In Deir Izzor province 5 civilians killed. 2 civilians were killed by a sniper, and a little girl was killed when her car was targeted by the checkpoint next to the post office in the city of Deir Izzor. 2 civilians from the town of al-Baghour were killed by direct fire from regime forces, they were killed by the city of al-Boukamal.

***There have been reports that tens of people, both civilians and rebel fighters, have been killed in the blockaded al-Arba’een neighbourhood of Hama. Regime forces are surrounding the area. It has proved too difficult to get in contact with anyone inside the neighbourhood at the moment.***

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26 Rebel Fighters:

-Homs province: 3 rebels dead. 2 rebel fighters killed during clashes with regime forces in the Baba A’mru neighbourhood. 1 rebel from the city of homs was killed during clashes with regime forces in the village of Ma’arshoureen.

-Aleppo province: 3 rebel fighters killed. 1 during clashes with a military motorcade near Aleppo city. 1 during clashes in the Salaheddine neighbourhood. The name of a rebel fighter killed yesterday in the town of Jedarat was documented today by the SOHR.

-Idlib Province: 8 rebels killed. A rebel fighter was killed during clashes with regime forces in the Nahiet Sunjar, Reef Idlib. 4 rebels were killed during clashes with a military motorcade outside Saraqib. 2 rebel fighters from the town of Jerenjaz were killed during clashes with regime forces in Aleppo city. 1 rebel died of earlier wounds in Ma’arat al-Nu’man.

-In Damascus Province 6 rebels killed. 4 rebel fighters were killed during clashes with regime forces in the al-Tadamun neighbourhood. A rebel fighter was killed from wounds in the Yarmouk camp. 1 rebel was killed during clashes around the Qaboun neighbourhood.

-In Deir Izzor Province 6 rebel fighters were killed. 3 during clashes with regime forces in the Khsham town, Reef Deir Izzor. 3 fighters, including a rebel leader, were killed from wounds received by a tank shell early on Thursday morning.

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2 defected soldiers were killed in Dera’a. 1 was killed in Homs.

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At least 43 regime forces were killed during clashes in Idlib, Deir Izzor, Aleppo, Hama, Homs, Damascus and Dera’a.

Syria: Kofi Annan resigns as UN-Arab League Joint Special Envoy2 August 2012

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today announced the resignation of the United Nations-League of Arab States Joint Special Envoy for the Syrian crisis, Kofi Annan.“Mr. Annan has informed me, and the Secretary-General of the League of Arab States, Mr. Nabil El Araby, of his intention not to renew his mandate when it expires on 31 August 2012,” Mr. Ban said in a statement. “I wish to express my deepest gratitude to Mr. Annan for the determined and courageous efforts he has made as the Joint Special Envoy for Syria.”

Mr. Annan, a former UN Secretary-General, was appointed in late February to serve as the high-level representative of the Secretaries-General of the United Nations and the League of Arab States on the Syrian crisis, providing good offices aimed at bringing an end to all violence and human rights violations, and promoting a peaceful solution to the Syrian crisis.

We have worked closely together these past months, and I am indebted to him and his team for all they have tried to achieve. I will continue to draw on his wisdom and counsel, and on the work of the Office of the Joint Special Envoy.Syria has been wracked by violence, with more than 10,000 people, mostly civilians, killed since the uprising against President Bashar al-Assad began some 17 months ago. Over recent days, there have been reports of an escalation in violence in many towns and villages, as well as the country’s two biggest cities, Damascus and Aleppo.

As part of his efforts, Mr. Annan put forward a six-point peace plan to help end the Syrian crisis. 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, and unrestricted access to the country for the international media.

Despite initial signs of acceptance of the plan and repeated calls from UN officials, there has been little in the way of the plan’s implementation by the parties to the conflict.

“The hand extended to turn away from violence in favour of dialogue and diplomacy – as spelled out in the six-point plan – has not been not taken, even though it still remains the best hope for the people of Syria,” Mr. Ban said.

The UN chief noted that both the Syrian Government and the opposition forces continue to demonstrate their determination to rely on ever-increasing violence, and that, in addition, “persistent divisions” within the Security Council have themselves become an obstacle to diplomacy, making the work of any mediator vastly more difficult.

“Kofi Annan deserves our profound admiration for the selfless way in which he has put his formidable skills and prestige to this most difficult and potentially thankless of assignments. He has worked within the mandate provided to him by the General Assembly and with the cooperation of various Member States,” Mr. Ban said.

He added, “We have worked closely together these past months, and I am indebted to him and his team for all they have tried to achieve. I will continue to draw on his wisdom and counsel, and on the work of the Office of the Joint Special Envoy.”

The UN Secretary-General is now consulting with his counterpart at the League of Arab States, in order to promptly appoint a successor “who can carry on [with] this crucial peacemaking effort.”

“I remain convinced that yet more bloodshed is not the answer; each day of it will only make the solution more difficult while bringing deeper suffering to the country and greater peril to the region,” Mr. Ban said.

Addressing reporters in Geneva today, Mr. Annan said the increasing militarization on the ground in Syria and the clear lack of unity in the Security Council had “fundamentally changed the circumstances for the effective exercise” of his role.

“Yet the bloodshed continues, most of all because of the Syrian government’s intransigence, and continuing refusal to implement the six-point plan, and also because of the escalating military campaign of the opposition – all of which is compounded by the disunity of the international community,” the Joint Special Envoy said.

“At a time when we need – when the Syrian people desperately need action – there continues to be finger-pointing and name-calling in the Security Council,” he added.

He noted that the June communiqué of the UN-backed Action Group on Syria – which called for the establishment of a transitional governing body, with full executive powers, as part of important agreed principles and guidelines for a Syrian-led political transition – provided an international agreement on a framework for a political transition.

“This should have been automatically endorsed by the Security Council and something the international community should have built on,” he said. “Without serious, purposeful and united international pressure, including from the powers of the region, it is impossible for me, or anyone, to compel the Syrian government in the first place, and also the opposition, to take the steps necessary to begin a political process.”

In a statement issued on Thursday afternoon, the President of the General Assembly, Nassir Abdulaziz Al-Nasser, expressed his regrets over Mr. Annan’s resignation, while at the same time commending his efforts and noting that he understands how difficult the Joint Special Envoy’s task has been.

“Mr. Annan’s well-known experience, wisdom, and world wide credibility were invaluable assets in his difficult mission,” Mr Al-Nasser’s spokesperson said. “Regrettably, reports of atrocities and human rights violations that amount to crimes against humanity committed by the Syrian Government against their own people are occurring on daily basis.”

The spokesperson added that President Al-Nasser re-iterates his call on the international community to unite to put an end to the violence and find a peaceful solution to the Syrian crisis.

The Security Council is due to hold consultations on Syria on Thursday afternoon, and the General Assembly is expected to hold a meeting on same issue on Friday.

Syrian Uprising 2011 Information Centre: DAMASCUS (02/08/2012): Yarmuk Camp in Damascus, where thousands of residents of neighbouring districts fled thinking they would be safer among the Palestinian refugees. 18 martyrs at least were killed and the video speaks for itself. Spread awareness, share info. https://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=Qdo6CjpBBHc


NOW! Lebanon
[local time] 22:20 The Syrian and the Jordanian armies are clashing along the border, Al-Arabiya quoted activists as saying. 22:12 European Union foreign affairs chief Catherine Ashton called Thursday for a rapid appointment by the UN and the Arab League of a successor to Kofi Annan after he quit as Syria peace envoy.
 21:51 Syria’s Thursday death toll reached 130 people killed by security forces, Al-Jazeera quoted activists as saying.
 21:10 Several people were killed by the Syrian army’s shelling of the Edleb town of Saraqeb, Al-Arabiya quoted activists as saying.
 20:58
 The Syrian army and rebels clashed near the customs office on the Syrian-Jordanian border, Al-Arabiya quoted activists as saying.
 20:34 Syria “regrets” the resignation of UN-Arab League envoy Kofi Annan, the Foreign Ministry said in a statement on Thursday.
 20:16 Syrian rebels used tanks to attack a military airport northwest of Aleppo on Thursday, a rebel commander said, as a human rights group reported 67 people killed in violence nationwide.
 20:10 The United States on Thursday blamed the resignation of UN peace envoy Kofi Annan on the refusal of Russia and China to back resolutions targeting Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
 19:52 Kofi Annan’s decision to quit as UN-Arab League envoy for Syria is an indication of a “dramatic stalemate” in the crisis, French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said Thursday.
 19:39 The Syrian army raided several neighborhoods in Hama and killed 12 people, Al-Jazeera quoted activists as saying.
 18:56 President Barack Obama on Thursday approved an extra $12 million in US lifesaving humanitarian aid to Syrians to mitigate what he said were President Bashar al-Assad’s “horrific atrocities.”
 18:48 Kofi Annan said his successor as Syrian envoy might fare better, AFP reported Thursday.
 18:40
 Kofi Annan says he lacked the support his cause deserved on Syria, AFP reported Thursday.
 17:57 Kofi Annan quit his position as joint UN-Arab League envoy to Syria, UN chief Ban Ki-moon said Thursday. 
 17:49
 Nearly a third of small- and medium-sized enterprises in Syria have closed since an anti-government uprising erupted in March last year, a business leader said in comments published on Thursday.
 16:53 Thursday’s death toll in Syria rose to 71 people, Al-Arabiya quoted activists as saying.
 16:50 The only way to end the violence gripping Syria is by “political dialogue,” a top Syrian politician said in an interview published Thursday.
 16:34 Turkey’s military on Thursday staged a military drill on its southeastern border near Syria, just a day after a tank exercise in another border region, the Anatolia news agency reported.
 16:16 Australia on Thursday urged the world “not to neglect” the conflict in Syria, where thousands have been killed and many more have fled to neighboring countries.
 15:30 Clashes took place between regime troops and Free Syrian Army rebels in the Damascus Tadamon neighborhood, Al-Jazeera quoted the Local Coordination Committees as saying.
 15:16 Thursday’s death toll in Syria reached 53 people, Al-Arabiya quoted activists as saying.
 15:13 Syrian regime forces shelled the Salaheddine neighborhood in Aleppo amid clashes between the Free Syrian Army and regime troops, Al-Jazeera quoted activists as saying.
 15:10 US Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta and Jordan’s King Abdullah II on Thursday discussed the question of a political transition in “a post-Bashar al-Assad Syria,” Pentagon spokesperson George Little said.
 14:06 Syrian regime forces shelled the Tadamon neighborhood in Damascus, Al-Arabiya quoted activists as saying. 
 11:17
 The UN said on Thursday that three million Syrians need food and aid, AFP reported.
 11:02 Thursday’s death toll in Syria has risen to 34 people, Al-Arabiya television quoted the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights as saying.
 11:02 The Free Syrian Army overtook a customs border outpost in the town of Mamlaha near the Iraqi border, Al-Jazeera reported on Thursday.
 9:40 Rebels in Syria on Thursday bombarded the Menagh air base that was being used by helicopter gunships and other warplanes to attack the northern city of Aleppo, sources said.
 9:15 Syrian forces on Thursday launched arrest campaigns in Al-Muhajireen neighborhood in Damascus, Al-Jazeera television quoted activists as saying.
 9:02 A raid by Syrian security forces near the capital Damascus killed 43 people, some of whom were tortured and executed, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said on Thursday.
 8:56 Syrian forces on Thursday killed 22 people, Al-Arabiya television quoted the Local Coordination Committees as saying.
 8:30 MORNING LEADER: Syrian President Bashar al-Assad said on Wednesday that the army was fighting for the nation’s future as UN officials said the regime was using fighter jets against rebels armed with tanks.
 7:42 President Barack Obama has signed a covert document authorizing US support for Syrian rebels locked in a battle to overthrow beleaguered President Bashar al-Assad, reports said Wednesday.
 7:38 US experts Wednesday urged Washington to drop its cautious stance and boost backing for Syrian rebels, including possible arms and air support, to avoid further bloodshed and atrocities.
 7:30 Lebanon deported 14 Syrians on Wednesday despite the raging violence over the border, drawing criticism from human rights activists.

Irish Times: Syrian rebels dig in for bloody war at crucial Aleppo battleground

MARY FITZGERALD, Foreign Affairs Correspondent in Aleppo

ABU MUSAB and a dozen of his fellow fighters step out into the middle of the deserted street.

Less than 500 metres away is the invisible line where Salahuddin, an impoverished area that has been in rebel hands for several days, ends and territory held by forces loyal to Syrian president Bashar al-Assad begins.

The rebels, a ragtag bunch dressed in snatches of military fatigues, T-shirts and running shoes, set up a rocket-propelled grenade (RPG).

The RPG goes off with a boom and as it arcs through the air the fighters whoop and shout “Allahu Akbar!” The sound of the grenade landing some distance away prompts more yelling. “There is no God but God,” they scream in unison.

Abu Musab, a rangy 28-year-old from Idlib province in northern Syria, came to Aleppo just over a week ago to join the crucial battle between the regime and rebels for this, Syria’s most populous city.

“Everyone knows how important Aleppo is for Bashar,” he says. “This is a major commercial centre and it is close to the Turkish border. Losing Aleppo would hurt the regime strategically and symbolically.”

Rebel commanders in the city give several different estimates as to how long they expect this battle to take. One told me a month; another said it would be a matter of weeks. “Only God knows,” says Abu Musab.

All agree it will be bloody, with the poorly-armed rebels fighting against the might of the regime’s tanks and fighter aircraft.

“Everyone here bought their own weapons with their own money,” explains Abu Musab, as he gestures around him. “We have no one to help us but ourselves.”

As he speaks, the deep boom of shelling can be heard from somewhere near by.

Gunfire crackles in the humid evening air. The rebels claim to hold up to a half of Aleppo but, in truth, who controls what shifts by the day, sometimes even the hour.

“The situation is still very dangerous,” says Abu Musab, standing in a doorway and removing his black balaclava. “We cannot take anything for granted but we believe in God and we trust he will grant us victory.”

He and his band of fighters use religious tinged rhetoric and they carry black and white flags emblazoned with the Muslim declaration of faith.

The Syria they dream of is a democratic one, says Abu Musab. “And we will fight for this to the last drop of our blood.”

BBC: Annan resigns as UN Syria envoy

The UN-Arab League special envoy to Syria, Kofi Annan, is leaving his post, saying increasing militarisation and lack of unity at the UN are hindering his task.

The UN-Arab League joint special envoy to Syria, Kofi Annan has announced he is leaving his post.

In a news conference, he said the Syrian people “desperately need action” but criticised the UN Security Council for “finger-pointing and name-calling”.

Mr Annan authored a six-point peace plan for Syria which was intended to bring an end to the fighting.

But the plan was never fully adhered to by either side and the violence has continued to escalate.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said it was “with deep regret” that he announced Mr Annan would not renew his mandate when it expires at the end of August.

The Syrian foreign ministry also expressed regret at the announcement, state TV reported.

Speaking in Geneva, Mr Annan said the increasing militarisation of the Syrian conflict and the “clear lack of unity” in the Security Council had “fundamentally changed the circumstances for the effective exercise of my role”.

He said the problems were “compounded by the disunity of the international community”.

Russia and China have vetoed resolutions on the crisis three times, citing opposition to any action which might be seen as regime change imposed from outside.

“When the Syrian people desperately need action, there continues to be finger-pointing and name-calling in the Security Council,” he said.

“It is impossible for me or anyone to compel the Syrian government, and also the opposition, to take the steps to bring about the political process.

“Syria can still be saved from the worst calamity – if the international community can show the courage and leadership necessary to compromise on their partial interests for the sake of the Syrian people – for the men, women and children who have already suffered far too much.”

Mr Annan said he did not rule out someone taking over the mediator’s role from him, but said a successor might choose another path.

He said the focus remained on political transition, as President Bashar al-Assad “will have to leave sooner or later”.

‘Crucial effort’

In his statement, Mr Ban said he was in discussion with the Arab League to find a successor to “carry on this crucial peacemaking effort”.

He said Mr Annan deserved “profound admiration” for the way he had tackled “this most difficult and potentially thankless of assignments” and that he remained convinced bloodshed would only bring “deeper suffering to the country and greater peril to the region”.

Mr Ban said the Annan plan remained the “best hope for the people of Syria” but that the “persistent divisions” in the UN Security Council “have themselves become an obstacle to diplomacy, making the work of any mediator vastly more difficult”.

Speaking in London, Russian President Vladimir Putin said Mr Annan was “a man of great merit, a brilliant diplomat and a very honest person, so it is a great shame”.

Russia’s UN ambassador, Vitaly Churkin, said Moscow had always supported Mr Annan’s work and that it hoped Mr Annan’s final month in the role “is going to be used as effectively as possible under these very difficult circumstances”.

Writing on Twitter, the US ambassador to the UN, Susan Rice, thanked Mr Annan for his “dedication, service and determined efforts”, but said those who had blocked UN resolutions had “made his mission impossible”.

White House spokesman Jay Carney blamed Russia and China for the resignation, saying it highlighted their failure at the UN to “support meaningful resolutions against Assad that would have held Assad accountable”.

The BBC’s Jim Muir, who is monitoring events in Syria from neighbouring Lebanon, said Mr Annan’s decision to step down is clear recognition that the political process has failed, and that Syria’s fate will be decided by events on the ground.

It is hard to imagine a figure with anything approaching the stature and profile of Mr Annan taking over the task, when the prospects for success are currently negligible, our correspondent adds.

Aleppo violence

Mr Annan took up his post in February. His internationally backed peace plan called for an end to the use of heavy weaponry, the free passage of aid, freedom of media and demonstration and for a Syrian-led political process to address the aspirations and concerns of the Syrian people.

It was supposed to come into effect in mid-April, but government forces continued to shell opposition strongholds and the opposition forces never fully committed to it.

Activists estimate some 20,000 people have died since anti-government protests erupted against President Assad in March last year. Tens of thousands of people have also fled the country.

On Thursday, rebel fighters in Syria’s second city, Aleppo, attacked an army base using a tank they had seized from the military.

In the capital, Damascus, government forces launched two operations to root out rebel activists on Wednesday, killing at least 70, the opposition said.

Annan’s six-point plan

1. Syrian-led political process to address the aspirations and concerns of the Syrian people

2. End to violence by all sides; army troops to stop using heavy weapons and withdraw to barracks

3. Parties to allow humanitarian aid

4. Authorities to free political detainees

5. Authorities to ensure freedom of movement for journalists

6. Authorities to allow peaceful demonstrations

Analysis

Barbara Plett BBC UN correspondent

Kofi Annan made clear from the beginning that he needed sustained and united international pressure on the Syrian government but also on the opposition. Yet despite unanimous support for his plan in the Security Council, the main powers failed to overcome fundamental divisions.Western states never stopped talking about the need for regime change while trying to win support for the threat of sanctions. Russia never stopped talking about the illegitimacy of outside interference, be it sanctions or demands that the Syrian president step down. It continued to supply weapons to the regime, while regional countries quietly armed and financed the opposition.

In the end, Mr Annan said he couldn’t want peace more than the protagonists or the international community. His successor may have more luck if the evolving situation requires other approaches, but for now his resignation signals an end to a diplomatic solution, and a failure by the Security Council to implement its own policy.

Reuters: Frustrated Annan quits as Syria peace envoy

UNITED NATIONS/ALEPPO, Syria – Former U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan is quitting as international peace envoy for Syria, frustrated by “finger-pointing” at the United Nations while the armed rebellion against President Bashar al-Assad becomes increasingly bloody. | Video

Former U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan is quitting as international peace envoy for Syria, frustrated by “finger-pointing” at the United Nations while the armed rebellion against President Bashar al-Assad becomes increasingly bloody.

As battles raged on Thursday in Syria’s second city, Aleppo, between rebel fighters and government forces using war planes and artillery, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon announced in New York that Annan had said he would go at the end of the month.

“Kofi Annan deserves our profound admiration for the selfless way in which he has put his formidable skills and prestige to this most difficult and potentially thankless of assignments,” Ban said. Talks were under way to find a successor.

Annan’s mission, centered on an April ceasefire that never took hold, has looked irrelevant as fighting has intensified in Damascus, Aleppo and elsewhere.

Annan blamed “finger-pointing and name-calling” at the U.N. Security Council for his decision to quit but suggested his successor may have better luck.

Russia, the United States, Britain and France began pointing fingers at one another over who was responsible for Annan’s sudden announcement he would depart. One senior council diplomat said it was now time to acknowledge the “utter irrelevance of an impotent Security Council” on Syria.

Syria expressed regret that Annan was going.

Annan suggested that the continued arming of all sides in the conflict and the Security Council deadlock had undermined his ability to pursue a diplomatic solution.

“The increasing militarization on the ground and the clear lack of unity in the Security Council, have fundamentally changed the circumstances for the effective exercise of my role,” Annan told reporters.

In an editorial published on the Financial Times’ website, Annan said Russia, China and Iran “must take concerted efforts to persuade Syria’s leadership to change course and embrace a political transition” — meaning the departure of Assad.

“It is clear that President Bashar al-Assad must leave office,” Annan said.

Annan wrote that Western powers, the Saudis and Qatar must start “pressing the opposition to embrace a fully inclusive political process – that will include communities and institutions currently associated with the government.”

Ban’s spokesman, Martin Nesirky, declined to comment on who might replace Annan but said a decision could come soon.

BLAME GAME

Russian President Vladimir Putin, a strong supporter of Assad, said he regretted Annan’s decision to step aside and referred to him as a “brilliant diplomat.”

Moscow’s U.N. ambassador, Vitaly Churkin, suggested to reporters in New York that Western powers that had opposed “reasonable and balanced proposals” in the Security Council had undermined Annan’s peace efforts from the start.

The White House pinned the blame squarely on Moscow and Beijing, which together vetoed three resolutions intended to increase the pressure on Assad, thereby undercutting Annan.

“Annan’s resignation highlights the failure at the United Nations Security Council of Russia and China to support resolutions, meaningful resolutions, against Assad that would have held Assad accountable,” White House spokesman Jay Carney told reporters aboard Air Force One.

British Foreign Secretary William Hague echoed that view.

“We understand Annan’s frustration that, due to vetoes in the Security Council, the international community was unable to give him the support that he needed and requested,” Hague said in a statement.

Hague reiterated that Annan’s six-point peace plan for Syria was still the best option for securing an end to the conflict. French Ambassador Gerard Araud, Security Council president this month, shared that view.

Washington, U.N. diplomats say, has been convinced that the Security Council cannot play a meaningful role in the Syria crisis since Russia and China first vetoed a Western- and Arab-backed resolution in October. But it reluctantly supported European efforts to try to get the council to take action.

U.S. Ambassador Susan Rice issued a statement that made no mention of the United Nations playing a role in resolving the Syria conflict.

“We will continue to work urgently with our partners in the international community — including the over 100 countries in the Friends of the Syrian People — to accelerate the transition, provide support to the opposition, and meet the increasingly grave humanitarian needs of the Syrian people,” Rice said.

Council diplomats have said privately the United States and Gulf Arab states have become increasingly frustrated in recent weeks with what they saw as Annan’s dogged commitment to diplomacy at a time when they believe all avenues for dialogue with Assad have been exhausted.

France’s U.N. envoy, Araud, said the council appeared to be “irreconcilably” deadlocked but that it would be dangerous for countries to go outside the United Nations to resolve the Syria conflict.

But that is already happening. The United States, other Western powers, Saudi Arabia and Qatar are increasing support for the rebels, U.N. diplomats say, and are reconciling themselves to the view that Syria’s civil war will be long and bloody.

Separately, Araud said the U.N. observer mission would likely “disappear” on August 19, the day its recently renewed mandate expires.

BATTLE FOR ALEPPO RAGES

In Syria, the fight for Aleppo, the latest battlefield, intensified. Rebels turned the gun of a captured tank against government forces, shelling an air base north of the city.

Assad’s troops bombarded the strategic Salaheddine district in Aleppo itself with tank and artillery fire supported by combat aircraft, while rebels tried to consolidate their hold on areas they have seized.

In the capital, Damascus, troops overran a suburb on Wednesday and killed at least 35 people, mostly unarmed civilians, residents and activist organizations said.

The fighting for Syria’s two biggest cities highlights the country’s rapid slide into full-scale civil war 17 months after the peaceful street protests that marked the start of the anti-Assad uprising.

World powers have watched with mounting concern as diplomatic efforts, including Annan’s mediation effort, have faltered, and violence that has already claimed an estimated 18,000 lives worsens.

About 60 people were killed in Syria on Thursday, 43 of them civilians, according to the opposition Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

Also on Thursday, activists and residents in the central city of Hama said Syrian forces killed at least 50 people during clashes with rebels there.

The rebels’ morale was boosted when they turned a government tank’s gun on the Menakh airfield 35 km (22 miles) north of Aleppo, a possible staging post for army reinforcements and a base for war planes and helicopter gunships.

Reuters correspondents heard heavy weapons fire on Thursday morning from Salaheddine in southwest Aleppo, a gateway to the city that has been fought over for the past week.

Heavily armed government troops are trying to drive a force of a few thousand rebel fighters from the city in battle whose outcome could be a turning point in the conflict.

Aleppo had long stayed aloof from the uprising, but many of its 2.5 million residents are now caught up in battle zones, facing shortages of food, fuel, water and cooking gas. Thousands have fled and hospitals and makeshift clinics can barely cope with casualties after more than a week of combat.

The U.N. World Food Program and Food and Agriculture Organization said up to 3 million Syrians were likely to need food, crop and livestock aid in the next 12 months as the conflict has prevented farmers harvesting crops.

In New York, the U.N. General Assembly was expected to vote on Friday on a resolution drafted by Saudi Arabia that backs the rebels.

Russia, which has consistently supported Syria at the United Nations, said it would not back the resolution because it was unbalanced and would encourage rebels to keep fighting.

(Additional reporting by Erika Solomon in Aleppo, Dominic Evans in Beirut, Gabriela Baczynska in Moscow, Stephen Addison in London, Tom Miles in Geneva; Writing by Giles Elgood and Louis Charbonneau; Editing by Michael Roddy and Peter Cooney)

Guardian: Syrian refugee crisis: we can’t feed our people, say advancing FSA rebels

Diplomatic hopes dashed by resignation of Kofi Annan while thousands more join mass exodus from Aleppo

Gun battles rocked the streets of Aleppo on Thursdayas rebel groups tried to push from their stronghold in the south of the city. Meanwhile, diplomatic hopes for a resolution to the crisis were crushed by the resignation of the UN’s envoy to SyriaKofi Annan.

For a second day, rebel groups made use of tanks they had captured from a regime base, shelling an airfield in the north of the city and attacking regime positions, forcing thousands more to join a mass exodus of refugees from parts of Syria’s second city.

Abu Hamza, a Free Syrian Army colonel from the Jebel al-Zawiya district south of Idlib, told the Guardian that neither the FSA nor local communities could provide shelter or food for the thousands of displaced civilians being forced to sleep in fields or on the streets of towns and villages.

More than 250,000 refugees are believed to have fled Aleppo in the past fortnight, with large parts of the city of 2.5 million people now empty.

“We can’t feed them,” he said. “We need help. We don’t even have food for our own families, or for ourselves. We cannot survive for much longer under these conditions. We are talking a few weeks.”

In southern Turkey, meanwhile, the general formerly responsible for Syria’s chemical warfare division said US and Turkish intelligence officers had questioned him about the weapons’ location and whether the regime would use them.

Adnan Silou, who fled to Turkey nearly two months ago, said he told his interrogators that the stockpiles of chemicals remained secured, but that regime leaders would likely deploy them if they were cornered. “I am sure about this,” he said. “They were a weapon of last resort and what will happen when that day comes.”

Silou, who retired from the Syrian military’s most controversial unit in late 2008, said he had been consulted by still serving officers throughout the past three years and was able to inspect an inventory of the weapons 10 days before fleeing.

“Every one of the stockpiles was intact, although it appeared that some had been moved,” he said. “Not even a centimetre had disappeared from the supplies as I knew them three years ago.”

Syria’s chemical weapons included Sarin, mustard and nerve gas, which could be deployed via artillery shells, rockets, or aircraft, Silou said. He said making them combat-ready was a difficult process, requiring components to be brought together from various locations across the country.

He identified the main chemical depots as being 10km east of Damascus and 10km south of Homs. “They were called units 417 and 418 and they are heavily protected,” he said. Chemicals have also been stored in the eastern desert city of Deir el-Zour.

“All of these things I told the Americans and the Turks when they took me to Ankara,” he said. “They wanted to know everything. I told them that only the president could give the order to weaponise them. It would have to be Assad.”

With state authority in Syria steadily eroding through defections and sanctions, fears have been raised that the chemical weapons may be used by the embattled regime, or fall into the hands of terror groups.

Syria’s foreign ministry spokesman Jihad Makdissi last month added to growing international concerns by warning that the weapons might be used against “foreign aggressors”. “Any stock of WMD or unconventional weapons that the Syrian Army possesses will never, never be used against the Syrian people or civilians during this crisis, under any circumstances,” he said. “These weapons are made to be used strictly and only in the event of external aggression against the Syrian Arab Republic.”

Since then, regional states, including Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Israel, have sharply increased efforts to monitor the location of stockpiles. Israel has suggested it would be prepared to send its military to Syria to safeguard the weapons if the regime fell.

The intractable nature of the conflict was brought into focuson Thursday when Kofi Annan, the United Nations special envoy to Damascus, announced he would not extend his term when it expires at the end of the month.

The diplomat tabled a peace plan in April that had been the linchpin of diplomatic efforts to stop a slide into full-blown civil war. However, none of its main points had taken root, despite three rounds of shuttle diplomacy to Damascus, pleas to both the regime and rebel groups to negotiate, and dire warnings about the failure to find a compromise.

The end of Annan’s diplomacy comes amid continuing gridlock at the UN security council, where three attempts by the US and European states to shift Russia and China from their resolute support for the Assad regime have failed.

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