Tuesday 5 June 2012
Syrian Observatory for Human Rights: Update: The current number of civilian martyrs in Syria today (Tuesday 5/6/2012), documented by the SOHR with name and reason of death, has risen to 31.
-Idlib province 5 civilians killed: 4 of them were killed in the town of Kafrou’id, which has witnessed intense clashes and regime bombardment that lasted until midnight. A man was killed in Deir Sanbal from wounds he suffered yesterday.
-Latakia province 10 civilians killed: They were all killed in the al-Hiffa area during the regime bombardment of the area, 2 were non-combatants, 8 were rebel fighters.
-Homs province 8 civilians killed: 3 bodies were found in Reef al-Qaseer, they belonged to people forcibly disappeared months ago. A woman was martyred in the eastern village of Buweida from wounds she suffered earlier. An unknown body was found near the national hospital in Teldu (Houla). 3 civilians were killed in the city of Homs, 2 were killed by regime fire in Jourat al-Shayyah and Dablan, the third died of earlier wounds.
-Dera’a province 3 civilians killed: One was shot dead during a regime raid campaign on the town of al-Shaikh Miskeen. A child was killed by the regime bombardment of the al-Lijat area. A woman from Homs was martyred when she was shot at the Syrian-Jordanian border.
-Aleppo province 2 civilians killed: A child was killed when Syrian troops used heavy machineguns in the city of A’zaz, an adult died in similar conditions.
-Hama province 3 civilian killed: They were shot dead by a sniper in the village of Kawkab.
A defected soldier was killed when Syrian troops stormed the Souq al-Shajara district of Hama. A defected officer was killed during clashes in al-Hiffa, Lataki province.
At least 27 soldiers and security members were killed today; 22 of them died during clashes in al-Hiffa. Unknown gunmen assassinated a Syran coloneloutside his house in the city of Deir Izzor. A brigadier general was killed when an explosive device went off in his car in Barzeh, Damascus. 2 soldiers were killed durin clashes in Sheikh miskeen, Dera’a.
Syrian Uprising 2011 Information Centre: SUMMARY (05/06/2012): Assad’s forces are currently engaged in attacks across at least 8 provinces (including all the most populated ones) – Daraa, Damascus, Deir Ezzor, Homs, Hama, Idlib, Aleppo and Lattakia – using tanks, artillery and helicopters. In many areas crops are being torched. Tonight heavy gunfire is reported in many places including Damascus and Hama. In Aleppo several dozen explosions were heard coming from the direction of the artillery school, possibly the sound of heavy artillery being fired. Meanwhile, the regime has responded to the expulsion of Syrian diplomats last week by barring diplomats from 17 countries, they also said aid agencies would be allowed into Homs, Idlib, Daraa and Deir Ezzor. Of course they will, once Assad’s forces have finished destroying them and driving out all the people. See the map for more info. Google map
[local time] 20:55 Syrian security forces killed 44 people on Tuesday, Al-Jazeera quoted activists as saying.
18:37 US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called on Russia and China Tuesday to be “part of the solution” to the crisis in Syria and warned that any hope for peace depended on a political transition.
18:25 There is growing instability on the Syrian side of the armistice line on the Golan Heights, Israeli chief of staff Lieutenant General Benny Gantz told MPs on Tuesday.
18:10 Saudi Foreign Minister Saud al-Faisal bin Abdel Aziz said Tuesday that it is time for Russia to change its stance on Syria and work to ensure a peaceful transfer of power.
17:28 Syrian security forces killed 38 people on Tuesday, Al-Arabiya quoted activists as saying.
16:51 Clashes between troops and rebels in Syria’s western Latakia province killed 15 soldiers on Tuesday, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported, bringing the day’s death toll to at least 25.
16:21 Syria remains committed to the peace plan brokered by UN-Arab League envoy Kofi Annan, Syrian Deputy Foreign Minister Faisal al-Maqdad said on Monday, following a meeting with the chief UN observer.
15:27 [news] 15:27 Russia said on Tuesday it was prepared to see Syrian President Bashar al-Assad leave power in a negotiated solution to 15 months of bloodshed that has claimed more than 13,000 lives.
15:08 Syrian authorities have agreed to give relief workers access to four key sites, the United Nations said on Tuesday following a meeting on scaling up humanitarian aid.
14:49 More than 2,000 Syrians fled to Turkey in the past three days, officials said Tuesday, pointing to an increase in refugee arrivals which had dipped following a peace plan in April.
13:26 Syria’s government declared on Tuesday that the ambassadors and staff of several Western countries as well as Turkey were personae non gratae.
13:24 Al-Arabiya television is broadcasting live footage of an anti-regime protest in Hama.
12:45 A US State Department official will visit Moscow this week to discuss the Syria crisis, Russia’s Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov was quoted as saying Tuesday by the RIA Novosti news agency.
12:40 At least six people were killed as the Syrian army went on the offensive against rebel fighters on Tuesday, seizing a town in the central province of Hama, a monitoring group said.
12:32 Two Jordanian Salafists have been arrested as they tried to cross the border into neighboring Syria to fight President Bashar al-Assad’s forces, a security official and relatives said on Tuesday.
12:13 Beijing said Tuesday China and Russia oppose foreign intervention and forced regime change in Syria, as Russian President Vladimir Putin began a trip aimed at bolstering ties between the two neighbors.
11:53 Syrian forces on Tuesday shelled Latakia’s Al-Haffa, Al-Arabiya television quoted the Local Coordination Committees as saying.
11:15 Syrian forces killed nine people on Tuesday in several areas, Al-Arabiya television quoted the Local Coordination Committees as saying.
9:15 MORNING LEADER: Syrian government troops fought deadly battles with armed rebels as the European Union pushed to resolve a split with Russia over how to end the 15-month bloodshed.
7:58 China’s UN envoy said Monday that efforts to end the Syria crisis are at a “crossroads” and that government and opposition forces must halt violations.
Syria has declared as unwelcome the ambassadors of several Western states, a week after governments around the world expelled its top diplomats.
The US, UK, French and Turkish envoys were among those designated “personae non gratae”. Many have already left.
President Bashar al-Assad has blamed outside powers for Syria’s divisions.
Meanwhile, the UN has said the Syrian government has agreed to allow aid agencies to enter the four provinces that have seen the most violence.
“This agreement was secured in Damascus with the government there, in writing,” John Ging, the director of operations for UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) told reporters in Geneva after a meeting of the Syrian Humanitarian Forum.
“Freedom of movement, unimpeded access for humanitarian action within Syria, is what it’s all about now. The good faith of the [Syrian] government will be tested on this issue today, tomorrow and every day,” he added.
Procedures would be streamlined for granting visas to staff from nine UN agencies and seven international NGOs, Mr Ging said. The UN will open field offices in the provinces of Deraa, Deir al-Zour, Homs and Idlib.
Annan’s six-point peace plan
1. Syrian-led political process to address the aspirations and concerns of the Syrian people
2. UN-supervised cessation of armed violence in all its forms by all parties to protect civilians
3. All parties to ensure provision of humanitarian assistance to all areas affected by the fighting, and implement a daily two-hour humanitarian pause
4. Authorities to intensify the pace and scale of release of arbitrarily detained persons
5. Authorities to ensure freedom of movement throughout the country for journalists
6. Authorities to respect freedom of association and the right to demonstrate peacefully
The UN has been trying for months to get its aid workers into Syria, but with little success, reports the BBC’s Imogen Foulkes in Geneva. Visa applications have been delayed or denied, and supplies of aid blocked.
The UN estimates that one million people are in need of assistance inside Syria, and that the number will likely increase after further assessments.
In a separate development, Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Chinese counterpart, Hu Jintao, urged the international community to continue to support the peace plan negotiated by the UN and Arab League envoy to Syria, Kofi Annan, Chinese state TV said.
But Saudi Arabia’s foreign minister said Gulf Arab states had “begun to lose hope in the possibility of reaching a solution… within this framework”.
Mr Annan is to address the UN Security Council in New York on Thursday. He is believed to want a “serious review” of efforts to implement his plan.
‘Importance of dialogue’
Last week, at least 13 countries expelled top Syrian diplomats in protest at the massacre of more than 100 people, including 49 children, in the Houla area of Homs province. Turkey expelled all Syrian embassy staff.Syrian foreign ministry
In what it described as a reciprocal move on Tuesday, the Syrian government announced that 17 diplomats from the US, UK, Switzerland, France, Italy, Spain, Belgium, Bulgaria, Germany and Canada were now considered “personae non gratae”.
All Turkish diplomatic staff were also declared unwelcome.
“The Syrian Arab Republic still believes in the importance of dialogue based on principles of equality and mutual respect,” a foreign ministry statement said.
“We hope the countries that initiated these steps will adopt those principles, which would allow relations to return to normal again.”
The BBC’s Jim Muir in Beirut says it will be a long time before the Western states are prepared to re-establish diplomatic ties.
US ambassador Robert Ford was called back to Washington in October over fears for his safety, while all British embassy staff were withdrawn in March on security grounds.
France also closed its embassy that month in protest at the “scandalous” repression of dissent by the government.
On Sunday, President Assad told parliament that Syria was facing not an internal crisis but an external war, waged against it because of its support for resistance to Israel.There have been fierce clashes between soldiers and armed rebels in Syria in recent days
In his first public comment on the massacre at Houla, in which 108 people were killed on 25 May, Mr Assad said that even “monsters” would not have carried out such an act and it should prompt an end to bloodshed.
Survivors and human rights groups blamed the army and shabiha militiamen allied to the government for the deaths.
Tuesday’s diplomatic move by the government came as activists said at least 34 people had been killed in violence across the country.
At least 15 soldiers were killed and dozens wounded, while four rebel fighters also died in fighting in several towns and villages in the Mediterranean province of Latakia, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
“These are the heaviest clashes so far in the area since the beginning of the revolution,” Rami Abdul Rahman, the head of the UK-based group, told the Reuters news agency.
Several villages south-west of the central city of Homs earlier came under intense army artillery- and mortar-fire, leaving five people dead, according to the Local Co-ordination Committees, an activist network.
Four civilians were also reportedly killed overnight in a “huge military operation” in Kafrouaid, a village in the northern province of Idlib.
The UN says at least 9,000 people have died since pro-democracy protests began in March 2011. In April, the Syrian government reported that 6,143 Syrian citizens had been killed by “terrorist groups”.
Syria’s government banned 17 Western diplomats and its helicopter gunships pounded rebels in a coastal province on Tuesday as President Bashar al-Assad defied international pressure to halt his campaign to crush the uprising against his rule.
The declaration that ambassadors from the United States, Canada, Turkeyand several European countries were unwelcome was retaliation for the expulsion of Syrian envoys from their capitals last week, following the massacre of more than 100 civilians by suspected Assad loyalists.
On the battlefront, rebels fought with government forces backed by helicopter gunships in the heaviest clashes in coastal Latakia province since the revolt against Assad’s rule broke out 15 months ago.
The clashes in Latakia province were a rare surge of violence in a province outside Syria’s usual trail of bloodshed.
Latakia province is home to several towns inhabited by members of the minority Alawite sect, a Shi’ite offshoot to which Assad himself belongs and which has been wary of the mostly Sunni-led uprising.
The British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the fighting was in mostly Sunni areas in and around the city of Haffeh.
It was the second day of combat since the rebels declared they would no longer abide by an internationally brokered ceasefire, saying that the government had continued the repression in defiance of United Nations peace observers.
Rebel fighters said nine of their comrades were killed, while the Observatory said two civilians and 22 soldiers were killed.
Activists also reported heavy fire by government forces on the city of Homs, a focal point of the uprising that endured a bloody siege for weeks earlier this year.
The latest developments emphasized the precarious state of a peace plan brokered by Nobel Peace laureate Kofi Annan, who has shuttled between Damascus and other capitals on behalf of the United Nations and Arab League.
Foreign governments are still clinging to the plan as the only option for finding a political solution and preventing a wider and bloodier conflict. But with the failure of the ceasefire and Assad’s intransigence, it is all but in tatters.
In Jeddah, Saudi Arabia’s Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal said Gulf Arab states had begun to lose hope that the peace plan would find a solution.
The comments are significant as Sunni-ruled Gulf countries have led international efforts to oust Assad, who is allied to their main rival Shi’ite Iran, and have hinted in the past they were willing to arm the rebels.
Nevertheless, Russia and China, Assad’s principal defenders on the diplomatic front, said on Tuesday that Annan’s efforts should not be abandoned.
Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Chinese counterpart Hu Jintao, meeting in Beijing, urged international support for the plan despite calls from Arab and Western states for a tougher response to the bloodshed.
The two countries, permanent members of the U.N. Security Council with the power to veto resolutions, have stymied efforts by Western powers to condemn or call for the removal of Assad.
Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmed Davutoglu criticized mixed messages from the international community and blamed wrangling in the Security Council for the deaths of Syrian civilians.
“There should be a more coherent, one voice by the international community,” he said at a World Economic Forum conference in Istanbul on Tuesday.
“Because of the (UNSC) veto power and because of the internal dynamics of the U.N. Security Council permanent members … the process was delayed and because of that delay…thousands of people are being killed.”
The United Nations says Assad’s forces have killed more than 10,000 people since the uprising against his family’s four-decade rule of Syria broke out in March 2011.
Assad says he is fighting to save the country from foreign-backed “terrorists” and will carry out his own reform program. The government says more than 2,700 soldiers or security personnel have been killed by opposition forces.
Syria’s Foreign Ministry said the move to declare the 17 Western diplomats personae non grata was a response to the coordinated expulsions of Syrian envoys by 10 countries last week over the massacre at Houla. The act was largely symbolic, as most of those envoys had been recalled earlier by their own embassies.
But Syria said it was still open to re-establishing ties on a basis of “principles of equality and mutual respect,” a ministry statement said.
The diplomats, most of them ambassadors, included envoys from the United States, Canada, Britain, France and Turkey.
Turkey is a former Assad ally and now a strong opponent which has provided haven to army defectors, rebels and refugees.
A Turkish official said almost 2,700 Syrians had fled to Turkey during the first five days of June, mostly into Hatay, a southeastern province that juts into Syrian territory.
More than 78,000 Syrians have fled to Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey, the U.N. refugee agency says. At least 500,000 Syrians are internally displaced in their country and many have lost their homes, according to the Syrian Red Crescent.
Syria agreed on Tuesday to allow the United Nations and international agencies to expand humanitarian operations in the country, where at least 1 million people need urgent assistance, a senior U.N. aid official said.
The U.N. is to open field offices in four violence-plagued provinces – Deraa, Deir al-Zor, Homs and Idlib — and Syrian officials have pledged to accelerate visas for aid workers and customs clearance for relief goods, said John Ging, who chaired a Syrian Humanitarian Forum in Geneva.
“Freedom of movement, unimpeded access for humanitarian action within Syria, is what it’s all about now. The good faith of the (Syrian) government will be tested on this issue today, tomorrow and every day.
At least 500,000 Syrians are internally displaced in their country and many have lost their homes, according to the Syrian Red Crescent. More than 78,000 Syrians have fled to Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey, the U.N. refugee agency says.
(Additional reporting by Can Sezer in Turkey and Stephanie Nebehay in Geneva; Writing by Angus Macswan and Erika Solomon; Editing by Michael Roddy)
- U.N., Syria sign aid agreement but access key
- Damascus merchants put up shutters in challenge to Assad 12:28pm EDT
Guardian: Syria ousts western diplomats
5 Jun 2012: Assad regime declares 17 foreign diplomats unwelcome after co-ordinated expulsion of Syrian ambassadors by western states
Voice of America: New Syria Clashes, Government Expels Envoys
Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says at least 15 government … in the northern town of Kfar Nebel, in Idlib province.
Fierce clashes between government troops and opposition forces in Syria’s western Latakia province are further dimming hopes that diplomats can salvage a cease-fire and end the bloodshed.The London-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the latest battles broke out Tuesday in the city of Haffeh and surrounding villages, where rebel forces had taken over several police stations.The Observatory’s Rami Abdurrahman said at least 15 government soldiers and at least three rebel fighters have been killed in what he described as the heaviest clashes in the Latakia region since the start of the 15-month-long conflict.
In Jeddah, Saudi Arabia’s foreign minister said prospects for ending the violence looked bleak. Prince Saud al-Faisal said Gulf Arab states have “begun to lose hope” that a cease-fire proposed by United Nations and Arab League envoy Kofi Annan could help.
Syria expels envoys
Syria announced Tuesday it is expelling diplomats of several nations in response to the recent expulsions of Syrian diplomats.
The Syrian government said its expulsion order includes the ambassadors and other staff of the United States, Britain, France and Turkey. Some of those diplomats already had been withdrawn from Syria in protest at the government’s crackdown on the uprising.
The rebel Free Syrian Army said Monday it is no longer bound by an April cease-fire agreement, and some military analysts warn the conflict has already passed the so-called “point of no return.”
As the conflict widens, the Syria government agreed to allow the United Nations and international agencies to expand humanitarian operations in battered areas of the country, a senior U.N. aid official said on Tuesday.
China on Tuesday said it remains united with Russia in opposing foreign intervention in Syria’s conflict. Russian President Vladimir Putin talked with Chinese leaders including President Hu Jintao in Beijing on Tuesday.
China and Russia have repeatedly blocked efforts by Western and Arab nations who are pushing for regime change in Syria and have put sanctions on the Syrian government and its leaders.
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton meets with allies in Turkey Wednesday to discuss how best to pursue a political transition to end the rule of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
Clinton said Tuesday that it is “pretty clear” that the main focus of international diplomacy must be on intensifying efforts to change Syria’s leadership.
“We believe there is a way forward and we are going to continue to pursue that and we invite the Russians and the Chinese to be part of the solution of what is happening in Syria,” she said. “Peace and human dignity will not be possible in Syria without political change.”
Dan Goure, vice president with the Lexington Institute in Arlington, Virginia, tells VOA that Syrian government forces and the opposition are locked in protracted fight. “We are seeing the beginnings, maybe even the second phase, of a full-blown rebellion or even civil war in Syria.”
The Syrian state news agency SANA confirmed on Tuesday the killings in recent days of more than 80 security personnel including a brigadier general in attacks by rebels. The Syrian Observatory has reported intensified rebel attacks on government checkpoints in recent days.
Goure says the most recent fighting shows the situation on the ground has changed, with far-reaching implications.
“Clearly the rebels are getting more capable and they’re receiving support, weapons, possibly even training, from outside sources,” he said. “And most importantly, after a year of efforts, the Syrian military is, has been unable to suppress this. So this doesn’t look good for Assad’s government. All the trend lines are in the wrong direction.”
Speaking in Istanbul Tuesday, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan reiterated his country has no intention to intervene inside Syria’s borders but also warned “the fire raging within Syria will engulf the whole region.”
Despite concerns, the chairman of the U.N. Syria Humanitarian Forum sees the deal Tuesday to allow more aid into Syria as a sign of hope.
John Ging told reporters in Geneva the deal represents a “step of progress.” But he, too, is cautious.
“Whether this is a breakthrough or not, will be evident in the coming days and weeks, and it will be measured not in rhetoric, not in agreements, but in action on the ground,” Ging said.
International mediator Kofi Annan is due to brief the U.N. Security Council on the Syrian conflict on Thursday and will discuss the issue with U.S. Secretary of State Clinton in Washington on Friday.