Tuesday 8 May 2012

 Invaded Douma city. Tuesday, May8, 2012

NOW! Lebanon
[local time] 
 21:51 Syrian forces opened fire on protesters in the Aleppo neighborhood of Al-Bustan, Al-Jazeera reported.
 21:19 UN and Arab League envoy Kofi Annan said Tuesday that his top priority in violence-wracked Syria was to stop the killing to prevent the country from sliding into full-scale civil war.
 21:07 The United States is determined to increase pressure on Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad to make him stand down, the US envoy to the United Nations said Tuesday.
 19:41 International envoy Kofi Annan Tuesday told the UN Security Council he intends to return to Damascus in the coming days, British Ambassador Mark Lyall Grant said.
 18:01 UN-Arab League envoy Kofi Annan told the UN Security Council on Tuesday his Syria peace plan could be the “last chance” to avoid civil war and that he fears torture and other rights violations are growing.
 17:56 The Romanian Senate on Tuesday ratified an extradition treaty with Syria and a bilateral agreement on cooperation against organized crime, despite criticism for dealing with a nation facing EU sanctions.
 17:30 The Syrian army on Tuesday shelled Homs’ Talbisa, Al-Jazeera television quoted the General Commission of the Syrian Revolution as saying.
 17:20 Al-Arabiya television is broadcasting live footage of an anti-regime protest in the Homs neighborhood of Al-Waar.
 17:19 Nearly 12,000 people, the majority of them civilians, have been killed in Syria since the outbreak in March 2011 of a revolt against the regime of Bashar al-Assad, a watchdog said Tuesday.
 17:14 Western sanctions on Syrian oil exports have cost the country nearly $3 billion dollars in losses, Syrian Petroleum Minister Sufian Allaw said on Tuesday.
 17:07 The UN should bolster its mission to Syria with up to 3,000 observers to give a full picture of the situation in the country, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on Tuesday.
 16:04 China’s foreign minister on Tuesday urged all parties in Syria to honor their ceasefire commitments, as the United Nations warned world powers were racing against time to stop war in the restive state.
 13:33 Tuesday’s death toll in Syria reached 17 people, Al-Jazeera quoted activists as saying.
 12:40 The International Committee of the Red Cross on Tuesday appealed for €20 million to step up its aid to Syria, where thousands have died in a 14-month bloody uprising against the regime.
 12:14 Iran said on Tuesday that parliamentary elections in Syria held by the regime of President Bashar al-Assad was a step towards reform, but expressed regret the vote was shunned by opposition groups.
 10:51 Syrian forces Tuesday swept through a village in Edleb province, firing shells and bursts of gunfire in which two civilians were killed, while another man was shot dead by snipers in Homs, a watchdog group said.
 10:26 Syrian forces on Tuesday killed seven people, most of them in the city of Homs, Al-Arabiya television quoted the Local Coordination Committees as saying.
 8:44 MORNING LEADER: Syrians voted Monday in the first “multiparty” parliamentary election in five decades, against a backdrop of violence and dismissed as a sham by the opposition and bordering on the “ludicrous” by the US.
 8:18 International powers are “in a race against time” to prevent all-out civil war in Syria, where the government could use the presence of ceasefire observers to prepare a new assault, UN leader Ban Ki-moon warned Monday.

REUTERS: Fears of Syrian civil war deepen; U.S. aids opposition

Security forces killed at least 10 people in fighting across Syria on Tuesday, activists said, in a 14-month-old revolt that international mediator Kofi Annan, the Red Cross and Arab League warned was deteriorating into a civil war.

Clashes between government forces and rebels fighting to overthrow President Bashar al-Assad raged overnight in Syrian towns and flared again during the day, said the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

Despite an initial pause in fighting on April 12, a promised ceasefire has not taken hold. Nor has the carnage in Syria stopped, despite a parliamentary poll on Monday which the government promoted as a milestone on its path to reform but the opposition dismissed as a sham and boycotted.

Speaking to reporters in Geneva after briefing the U.N. Security Council via video link, Annan said there were “worrying episodes of violence by the government” in Syria as well as attacks by the opposition in violation of the truce. He described a recent spate of bombings as “really worrying.”

He urged Damascus and the rebels to revive the truce.

“If you can do it for one day, why don’t you do it for a week, a month, why don’t you give peace a chance and give the people of Syria a break?” Annan said. “Why do they have to put up with this trauma?”

“There is a profound concern that the country could … descend into full civil war and the implications of that are quite frightening,” he said. “We cannot allow that to happen.”

Annan’s comments were likely to deepen doubts about Damascus’ commitment to the former U.N. secretary-general’s peace plan and could fuel fears among Western powers on the 15-nation council that it has little chance of success.

U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice said after the council meeting that “the Syrian government has not implemented fully any of the six points of the Annan plan.”

“The situation in Syria remains dire, especially for the millions who continue to endure daily attacks and who are in urgent need of humanitarian assistance,” Rice said.

“We are increasing our support to unify and strengthen the opposition through non-lethal assistance.”

The United States has said it is already giving the Syrian opposition logistical and communications help, but it has shied away from providing arms.

The International Committee of the Red Cross said fighting had been so intense in some parts of Syria that it was starting to look like civil war in some places.

Jakob Kellenberger said he was very worried about conditions in Syria, where unarmed United Nations observers are being deployed to monitor a ceasefire agreement that has been repeatedly violated by both state forces and by rebels.

“I really hope that the U.N. observers will deploy rapidly,” he told reporters in Geneva, indicating concern for the fate of Annan’s peace plan. “I still hope it will not fail.”


Russian U.N. Ambassador Vitaly Churkin, however, was optimistic. “Things are moving on in a positive direction. Many obstacles, but I think they can be overcome,” he said.

The United States and European members of the Security Council have said they would urge the Security Council to impose sanctions on Syria if it does not fully withdraw its heavy weapons and troops from Syrian towns and stop the fighting. But Russia and China have hinted they would veto any sanctions move.

Syrian U.N. envoy Bashar Ja’afari also spoke of a “positive trend on the ground” and blamed foreign powers for the violence.

Ja’afari displayed a CD that he said contained 26 confessions from Arabs who were caught in Syria and had come from Libya, Tunisia and elsewhere through Turkey and Lebanon “to perpetrate terrorist acts in Syria.” He said another 15 foreign fighters had been killed by Syrian security forces.

The Syrian ambassador urged Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Turkey to stop “their sponsorship of the armed rebellion.”

Arab League chief Nabil Elaraby called for continued support of Annan’s plans and expressed similar concerns over civil war.

Beyond the ceasefire and monitoring mission, Annan’s plan also calls for free access for journalists, humanitarian aid access and political dialogue between the government and opposition. So far, 60 of some 300 monitors have arrived with the whole team expected to be assembled by the end of May.

The British-based Observatory said security forces were using rockets and heavy machine gun fire on the village of al-Hassan in the rebellious central Homs province, as they sought to wrest control from rebels in the area.

A similar bombardment in northern Idlib province killed at least three people, it said.

The United Nations says more than 9,000 people have been killed by state forces trying to crush the revolt against four decades of rule by Assad and his father, Hafez al-Assad.

What began as a peaceful protest movement has been overtaken by an armed insurgency against Syrian forces. The government says the rebels are terrorists steered by foreign powers and more than 2,600 police and army personnel have been killed.

Despite Syria’s bloodshed, the state news agency SANA reported a “notable” turnout for Monday’s vote. Many residents in Damascus said few Syrians voted, and a Reuters team at a polling booth saw only three ballots cast over 40 minutes.

Initial results reported by the pro-government Syrian channel al-Ikhbariya suggested that around 700,000 people voted in Aleppo, the most populace city and province in Syria.

(Writing by Beirut and United Nations bureaus.; Additional reporting by Louis Charbonneau in New York and Stephanie Nebehay and Tom Miles in Geneva; Editing by Jon Hemming and Christopher Wilson)

Annan says world must prevent civil war in Syria: 6:06pm EDT

U.S. says increasing support to Syrian opposition: 6:06pm EDT

BBC: ‘Last chance’ to avoid Syria war says Kofi Annan


UN-Arab League envoy Kofi Annan has told the Security Council that his peace plan could be the “last chance to avoid civil war” in Syria.

He told a closed session that the plan was “not an open-ended commitment” and highlighted continuing violations.

The Syrian army is now using fewer heavy arms, he said, but human rights violations appear to be intensifying.

His comments come after the Red Cross appealed for an extra $27m (£17m) to fund its Syria operation this year.

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), the only international aid agency working inside Syria, says hundreds of thousands of people remain in need of humanitarian assistance.

Rapid deployment urged

Mr Annan told the Security Council he was particularly concerned that torture, mass arrests and other human rights violations were “intensifying”.

He also told the council that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad bore “primary responsibility” for ending the military campaign.

After the briefing, he told a news conference that the ceasefire-monitoring mission was “the only remaining chance” to stabilise Syria.

“There is a profound concern that the country could otherwise descend into civil war, and the implications of that are quite frightening. We cannot allow that to happen,” he said.

The peace plan brokered by Mr Annan was agreed a month ago and includes the deployment of 300 UN monitors, but it has failed to end the violence in Syria.

America’s UN envoy Susan Rice said Washington was committed to increasing the pressure on Mr Assad to step down.

“So far, it’s plain that the Syria regime has not fully implemented any of the six points of JSE Kofi Annan’s plan,” she wrote on her Twitter feed.

In the latest incident activists said two civilians died in Idlib province.

While some parts of Syria have seen intermittent periods of calm, in many other areas there has been no let-up in the violence, the ICRC says.

ICRC President Jakob Kellenberger said he had doubts as to whether Mr Annan’s ceasefire plan could succeed.

“For [it to succeed], the deployment of the UN observers really [has to be] a rapid deployment. So far, very few are there,” he told the BBC.

Access plea

The ICRC said it has had one positive development, after gaining permission from the Syrian authorities to visit detainees in Aleppo prison later this month.

There are no clear figures about how many people have been detained since the conflict began, but the ICRC believes there are likely to be many thousands, most of whom have had no access to lawyers or to their families.

It also said gaining unrestricted access to conflict areas is a top priority. The organisation hopes to

  • provide food for 100,000 people
  • supply basic household items for 25,000
  • and to restore public services such as water and electricity to 1.5 million

To do that, it needs the co-operation of both the government and the opposition. Several Red Crescent workers have already been killed in the violence.

On Sunday, parliamentary elections promised last year by Mr Assad were held.

They were the first in 40 years not to guarantee a majority for the ruling Baath Party, but opposition groups dismissed them as a sham and called for a boycott.