Thursday 5 April 2012

Syrian Observatory for Human Rights: The death toll of people killed in Homs Governorate has risen to 25 martyrs. 13 civilians killed in the city of Homs: 11 martyrs killed during the shelling of the neighbourhoods of Al-Khaledia, one person killed by a sniper’s bullet in Bab Hood and another one killed by a stray bullet in Dir Balbaa. 5 civilian including 2 children during the bombardment of Al-Rastan and 4 civilians killed in the shelling of Al-Hawla tonight. 3 civilians from the city of the city of Talbeesa were killed by white arms in the market in Homs city. Meanwhile, 11 soldiers killed during violent clashes at the entrance of Dir Balbaa.

English Speakers to Help The Syrian Revolution: TAFTANAZ: IDLEB: Album of photos from the Massacre by regime shelling on the town……50 people were killed by regime shelling, with as many more thought to be under the rubble of the buildings………we will update you as soon as we can…. but we love Taftanaz community and their great spirit, their great rallies and demonstrations, even when surrounded by tanks..when they stood and faced th…See more
 Taftanaz Massacre

NOW! Lebanon
[local time]  21:18 The United States on Thursday warned Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to respect a UN-backed April 10 deadline to end his “horrible” crackdown or face further international pressure.
 21:01 Syrian security forces heavily shelled Hama’s Qalaat al-Madiq and Sahel al-Ghab, Al-Jazeera quoted activists as saying on Thursday.
 20:05 Five people were killed in the shelling of Homs’ Houla by Syrian security forces, Al-Jazeera quoted activists as saying on Thursday.
 19:21 Two people were killed in the shelling of Homs’ Houla by Syrian security forces, Al-Jazeera quoted activists as
saying on Thursday.
 19:02 Thursday’s death toll in Syria has risen to 52 people, Al-Jazeera quoted activists as saying.
 18:15 Dozens of army troops defected Thursday outside Aleppo, Al-Arabiya quoted activists as saying.
 18:14 Syrian security forces heavily shelled Edleb’s town of Aazaz on Thursday, Al-Jazeera quoted activists as saying.
 18:01 Casualties reported following the shelling of Edleb’s Hazano by Syrian security forces, Al-Jazeera quoted activists as saying on Thursday.
 17:35 International envoy Kofi Annan said Thursday that Syria had claimed a partial withdrawal of troops from three cities but that “alarming” casualties were still being reported.
 17:29 Russia’s foreign minister urged Syria peace envoy Kofi Annan on Thursday to also put pressure on the rebels after the UN Security Council called on the regime to keep a deadline on troop withdrawals.
 17:10 The Syrian army on Thursday used helicopters to shell the town of Qobtan al-Jabal near Aleppo, Al-Jazeera television quoted activists as saying.
 16:40 A UN team sent by international peace broker Kofi Annan arrived in Syria on Thursday to pave the way for observers in the event the UN Security Council approves a monitoring mission.
 16:38 At least 38 people, half of them civilians, were killed in violence across Syria on Thursday, monitors said, with fierce fighting between regime troops and insurgents in the rebel provinces of Edleb and Homs.
 16:28 Syrian authorities on Wednesday night foiled an attempt “by an armed terrorist group to enter Syria from Lebanon near the Syrian village of Halat in Talkalakh” in the Homs countryside, SANA reported.
 16:12 The UN Security Council on Thursday agreed on a statement calling on Syria to “urgently” move to keep an April 10 deadline to withdraw troops and weapons from protest cities.
 15:59 The Syrian regime has agreed to provide access to detention facilities throughout the country, the head of the International Committee of the Red Cross said on Thursday.
 14:58 France is not confident Syrian President Bashar al-Assad will fully implement a ceasefire deal brokered by UN envoy Kofi Annan before an April 12 deadline, French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe said Thursday.
 The Syrian regime is not bound by a deadline to withdraw its troops from strife-torn areas, pro-government daily Al-Watan on Thursday quoted a government official as saying.
 13:59 Several people were killed and others were injured by the security forces’ shelling of the Homs town of Rastan, activists told Al-Jazeera TV.
 13:13 Iraq’s fugitive Vice President Tariq al-Hashemi has accused Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki’s Shia government of waging a systematic campaign against Sunni Arabs in Iraq and supporting the Syrian regime’s bloody crackdown on protesters.
 13:02 Al-Jazeera television is broadcasting live footage of an anti-regime protest in Kfar Sousa near Damascus.
 12:36 UN-Arab League envoy Kofi Annan expects both the Syrian government and the opposition to fully implement a ceasefire agreement by April 12, his spokesperson said on Thursday.
 12:21 Russia on Thursday warned the West against using threats and ultimatums in its approach to Syria’s regime as the United Nations prepared a statement on the protracted conflict.
 12:10 The Syrian army on Thursday shelled the town of Taftanaz in Edleb, killing 8 people, Al-Jazeera television quoted activists as saying.
 10:55 More than 1,000 Syrian refugees fled to Turkey in last 24 hours, AFP reported on Thursday.
 10:43 Nine-hundred Syrian refugees crossed the border into Turkey during the last 24 hours, a Turkish official told Al-Arabiya.
 9:59 Fierce clashes between Syrian government forces and rebel fighters erupted on Thursday in Douma, near the capital Damascus, while violence also raged in other parts of the strife-torn country, monitors said.
 9:04 Security forces raided the Damascus neighborhood of Jawbar and arrested several people, activists told Al-Jazeera TV.
 7:57 The United States on Wednesday voiced doubts that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad would comply with a peace plan deadline, criticizing an “intensification” of violence against opponents.

BBC: Syria crisis: Ceasefire pressure grows over peace plan

The UN Security Council has urged Syria to implement “urgently and visibly” a peace plan requiring a 10 April deadline for ending a military offensive against the opposition.

Envoy Kofi Annan’s plan calls for Damascus to pull back troops and heavy weaponry by that date, and for a full ceasefire by 48 hours later.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said the conflict was getting worse.

Mr Annan urged both sides to seize the moment and end the violence.

Kofi Annan: “There is an urgent need to stop the killing”

“Let us stop the killing and start a serious political dialogue,” he told the UN General Assembly.

He said he expected a full ceasefire to take effect by 06:00 (03:00 GMT) on 12 April.

Syria has agreed to the plan, but its UN ambassador said that the main threat to the ceasefire came from the armed opposition backed by Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Turkey.

Bashar Jaafari demanded that Mr Annan obtain written guarantees from those countries that they were on board with the peace plan.

He also said that while troops and heavy weapons would be withdrawn from cities under the plan, police would remain “for the protection of the civilians”.

Fresh violence

Mr Annan is expected to travel to Iran on 11 April, the day after the partial ceasefire is due, to try to win further regional support for his peace plan.

The UN statement requested that Mr Annan provide proposals for a mechanism to supervise the ceasefire and update the Security Council on the cessation of violence and implementation of the peace plan.

The Security Council said it would consider further steps depending on the outcome of these reports.

Speaking later to the General Assembly by video link from Geneva, Mr Annan said he was urging the government and opposition to “issue clear instructions so that the message reaches across the country, down to the fighter and soldier at the local level”.

He said that if the ceasefire was successful a small mobile UN monitoring mission of some 200-250 observers could be brought into Syria.

Syria had already reported some troop withdrawals from three cities, Mr Annan said, but the violence was still continuing.

“Alarming levels of casualties and other abuses continue to be reported daily. Military operations in civilian population centres have not stopped.”

Activists reported on Thursday that government forces had been shelling several towns, including Homs, Deraa and the Douma suburb of Damascus.

There has also been a huge rise in the number of refugees crossing from Syria into Turkey, with 2,350 over a 24-hour period from Wednesday to Thursday, more than double the highest previous total.

The BBC’s Jim Muir in Beirut says the activists are giving the clear impression that the Syrian regime is having a final crack at rebels before the ceasefire deadline.

Earlier Mr Ban urged members of the General Assembly to deepen their support for Mr Annan’s efforts because of the deteriorating situation on the ground.

“Despite the Syrian government’s acceptance of the joint special envoy’s plan of initial proposals to resolve the crisis, the violence and assaults in civilian areas have not stopped,” he said.

“The situation on the ground continues to deteriorate.”

Meanwhile the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said that Syrian officials had agreed to it having an “expanded presence” in the country.

Speaking of the expanded Red Cross presence, ICRC President Jakob Kellenberger, who is at talks in Damascus, said: “This means that we will have to rapidly build up our human resources and logistical capacity in Syria.

“This agreement is a sign of trust in the ICRC’s independent and neutral humanitarian action. It should enable the ICRC and the Syrian Arab Red Crescent to meet increased humanitarian needs.”

The two sides also agreed procedures for humanitarian ceasefires and visits to places of detention, the ICRC statement said.

The UN says the conflict has cost more than 9,000 lives since it began a year ago. 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.

Ceasefire timetable

  • 10 April: Government must withdraw troops and heavy weapons such as tanks from towns, cities and villages
  • Following 48 hours: Ceasefire to be implemented on the ground with the onus on the opposition to follow the government’s lead
  • 06:00 local time on 12 April: All forms of violence must be stopped on all sides
  • Next step: All parties to hold talks on a political solution Continue reading the main story

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

Analysis:  Barbara Plett: The statement backing next week’s ceasefire deadline marks the second time the Security Council has expressed unanimous support for Kofi Annan’s Syria peace plan. It’s further proof that Mr Annan has been able to unite the divided council behind him by sticking to a broad mandate for ending the conflict.

In particular his mission has dropped the controversial call for Syria’s president to devolve power, supported by Western and Arab states but rejected by Russia and China as thinly disguised attempt at regime change. Instead Mr Annan’s mandate speaks of a national political dialogue leading to a democratic transition. That was enough for Russia to switch from blocking Security Council action to supporting Mr Annan’s efforts, pressing Syria to accept and act on his peace plan.

As long as that plan is seen to be viable, the unity is expected to hold. If, however, Mr Annan deems it a failure, divisions may re-emerge – between those on the council who will want to take tough action, and Russia and China, who have rejected any outside intervention, including sanctions.

REUTERS: Syria violence worsening as deadline nears: U.N. chief

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said Thursday that Syria’s conflict is deepening and attacks on civilian areas show no sign of abating, despite assurances from Damascus that it has begun withdrawing troops under an international peace plan.

Residents of at least one area under fire from the forces of President Bashar al-Assad poured scorn on the official assertions that troops were pulling back in several cities before a cease-fire which is supposed to start on April 10.

International envoy Kofi Annan, whose plan aims to end a year of bloodshed during the uprising against Assad, said that “more far-reaching action is urgently required” to silence the tanks and halt all forms of violence.

Addressing the United Nations Security Council, Ban gave a pessimistic assessment of the situation in Syria.

“Despite the Syrian government’s acceptance of the joint special envoy’s plan of initial proposals to resolve the crisis, the violence and assaults in civilian areas have not stopped. The situation on the ground continues to deteriorate,” Ban said.

The United Nations says Assad’s forces have killed more than 9,000 people in the conflict, which began with peaceful protests although armed rebels later began fighting back. Syria told the world body this week that 6,044 people had died, including 2,566 soldiers and police.

The Security Council agreed Thursday to a statement urging Syria to meet Annan’s deadline.

Annan, a joint envoy of the U.N. and Arab League, said both the government and opposition must stop fighting at 6 a.m. Syrian time on April 12, if Damascus meets its deadline 48 hours earlier to pull back troops from cities and cease heavy weapons use in populated areas.

“I urge the government and the opposition commanders to issue clear instructions so that the message reaches across the country, down to the fighter and soldier at the local level,” Annan told the U.N. General Assembly by video link from Geneva.

“We must silence the tanks, helicopters, mortars, guns and stop all other forms of violence too – sexual abuse, torture, executions, abductions, destruction of homes, forced displacement and other abuses, including on children,” he said.


Annan, a former U.N. chief, said Damascus had told him troop withdrawals were under way, but he said more needed to be done.

“The government has informed me of partial withdrawals from three locations – Idlib, Zabadani, and Deraa. I await further action and fuller information,” he said.

“The government has indicated that it will continue to update me on steps it is taking. But it is clear that more far-reaching action is urgently required.”

Syrian U.N. Ambassador Bashar Ja’afari, however, hinted at a possible loophole in Annan’s peace plan, which does not refer to the withdrawal of police forces. He told reporters the police were not covered by the Tuesday deadline for Syrian troop pullbacks because “the deployment of the police is to protect the civilians.”

Opposition activists say the army and police have been responsible for killing civilians in the government’s yearlong attempt to stamp out pro-democracy demonstrations.

One Zabadani resident said no significant withdrawal was under way. “They are complete liars, there is no army withdrawal, they are still in the middle of the city. They fired on the city this morning, like they do every day,” a man calling himself Abu Mustafa said by telephone from Zabadani near the Lebanon border.

“The army withdrew 15 tanks yesterday, but the rest are all around the checkpoints as usual,” Abu Mustafa said.

The opposition Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported that at least 33 people, including 14 soldiers, were killed on Thursday, 16 of them in the city of Homs and 14 in Idlib province.

Video taken by activists just outside Aleppo, Syria’s second city, showed five tanks and armored personnel carriers firing heavy machine guns as they advanced through a village.

A diplomatic face-off intensified between Syria’s ally Russia and Western powers who want Assad to go. France accused the 46-year-old Syrian leader of not fulfilling his promises, while Moscow told opposition supporters abroad not to set ultimatums.

More than 42,000 Syrians have fled the country since the uprising began. Turkey said more than 1,600 had crossed the border in the last two days, twice the recent average rate.

Blasts and gunfire rocked Douma and activists said army reinforcements headed for the town near Damascus shortly before a senior U.N. peacekeeping official arrived in the capital.

Norwegian Army former Chief of Staff Major-General Robert Mood brought an advance planning team of 10 to decide how around 250 U.N. monitors might oversee the truce between army and insurgents if it takes effect by next Thursday.

Some analysts say any arrival of men in U.N. blue helmets will embolden a return to mass protests, as happened when an Arab League monitoring mission began operating in Syria in December. It was later withdrawn as violence increased.

Mood has experience of armed U.N. peacekeeping operations in Kosovo, where around 60,000 troops were deployed in 1999 after a cease-fire and army withdrawal agreement were already in place.

In Syria, where Western powers have ruled out military intervention, Annan envisages only unarmed U.N. monitors.


U.N. member states were already being asked to provide troops for the mission, Annan’s spokesman said. Annan will hold talks on Syria in Iran, Assad’s main regional ally, on April 11, he added.

Annan has assiduously sought backing from Assad’s friends as well as his foes for his difficult peace mission.

Russia said it could support the new Security Council statement backing Annan’s timeline for a cease-fire if it does not level “threats and ultimatums” against Assad.

“The Syrian government has accepted (Annan’s) proposals and has begun implementing them, and it is very important not to undermine this process with ultimatums and threats,” Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Thursday.

Syria’s state news agency quoted Lavrov as telling Annan by telephone that “not only the Syrian authorities, but also the opposition” must take steps to implement the envoy’s peace plan.

Russia has taken a pro-Assad tone, but some diplomats say Moscow has grown increasingly frustrated with Damascus and its failure to end the uprising, even as it denounces Western, Arab and Turkish calls for the Syrian leader to quit.

(Additional reporting by Ayat Basma in Beirut, Can Sezer in Turkey, Olga Dzyubenko in Bishkek, Steve Gutterman in Moscow, Catherine Bremer in Paris, Stephanie Nebehay and Tom Miles in Geneva, Michelle Nichols and Louis Charbonneau at the United Nations in New York; Writing byDouglas Hamilton; Editing by David Stamp and Doina Chiacu;