Wednesday 18 April 2012

English Speakers to Help The Syrian Revolution: An appeal has gone out to the wife of the Syrian president to do what others have so far failed to achieve. The wives of two UN ambassadors have released a video urging her to “stop your husband”. One sentence really got stuck to my mind: “One day, our children will ask us what we have done? “ What will my children ask me when he would know later on that more than 12 thousand Syrians have been killed and I WE didn’t do anything about it. International Letter & Petition to Asma al-Assad

Syrian Observatory for Human Rights: ?7 members of the regular forces were killed when a device exploded inside a military vehicle transporting them at the entrance of Idlib city. At the same time, the fields of the Kherbet Al-Jooze, near the Syrian/Turkish Border, were bombarded by mortars as strongholds of defectors were targeted.


Syrian Observatory for Human Rights: The death toll of people civilians killed today has risen to 23 martyrs for whom the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights has records.

– 16 people including a woman were killed in Homs: 13 people killed during the shelling of Al-Khaledia, Al-Qosore, Jubre, Al-Sultanyya and Al-Bayaada, 3 people killed during gunfire by heavy artillery and mortars in the city of Al-Qusaire.
– One person killed by a sniper’s bullet in Daraa and the dead body of a person, who disappeared yesterday during the military operations, from the town of Basre Al-Harire in Daraa was found today.
– 3 people killed in Rif Dimashq Governorate: one person died from sustained injuries in Helfayya, one person was slaughtered by unknown people in Qalet Al-Madeeq and a 9-year-old girl killed by a sniper’s bullet when she was in her father’s car in the city of Douma.
– One person killed in gunfire in Kansafra in Idlib district.
– One person, from the neighbourhood of Jubre in the capital Damascus, was killed in gunfire by security forces in Arbeen in Rif Dimashq.
– One person killed in gunfire by security forces in the neighbourhood of Al-Myyassre in Aleppo.

Meanwhile, 8 members of the regular forces were killed today: 7 members killed during the explosion of a military vehicle at the entrance of Idlib city and an officer was killed in gunfire by unknown people in the city of Douma in Rif Dimashq.

Syrian Uprising 2011 Information Centre: DAMASCUS (18/04/2012): We posted a video from Irbin earlier today. This video came online later but we think it is the clearest video, showing how Assad’s forces open fire so brazenly even in front of the UN observers. You also see how the UN team’s first response is to flee leaving the people facing death alone. If you don’t spread this then who will?
 Damascus, 18/04/2012

Homs: Shelling at Jobar and Sutlayniyeh Neighborhoods

NOW! Lebanon
[local time]  21:21 US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Wednesday warned Syrian President Bashar al-Assad of tougher measures if he squanders his “last chance” by failing to implement the Kofi Annan peace plan.
 21:11 Hundreds of anti-regime protesters took to the streets Wednesday in an outer suburb of Damascus as a team of UN monitors overseeing a shaky truce toured the area, amateur video posted online showed.
 21:01 UN observers in Syria are not being given the necessary freedom to monitor a halt to hostilities, the US ambassador said Wednesday, adding that the Security Council will examine its next move in the crisis next week.
 20:25 Turkey’s Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan called Wednesday on Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to send tanks back into barracks to prove that it is fully implementing an international peace plan.
 20:21 Al-Jazeera broadcast live footage of an anti-regime protest in Syria’s Edleb.
 19:46 US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said she was concerned that the violence in Syria was continuing as the UN observers deployed, AFP reported.
 19:00 Syrian security forces killed 32 people, mainly in Edleb, Homs and Daraa, Al-Jazeera quoted activists as saying.
 18:19 Syrian security forces killed 24 people on Wednesday, Al-Arabiya quoted activists as saying.
 18:05 Al-Arabiya broadcast live footage of an anti-regime protest in Syria’s Homs.
 16:06 Switzerland said on Wednesday it will send unarmed military observers to join an advance team of the Syrian observer mission following a request by the United Nations.
 15:33 France said Wednesday that 14 foreign ministers would attend a meeting on Syria in Paris on Thursday to send a “strong” message to Bashar al-Assad’s regime to implement a peace plan.
 15:21 A protocol outlining the UN observer mission to Syria to oversee a fragile ceasefire is nearly finalized, a Foreign Ministry spokesperson told AFP on Wednesday.
 14:19 Ten protesters were injured in the district of Damascus by Syrian security forces’ gunfire at the sight of the UN observers, activists told Al-Jazeera.
 14:02 Turkey has intercepted an Antigua and Barbuda flagged vessel suspected of carrying weapons and ammunition to Syria in the Mediterranean, a diplomatic source told AFP on Wednesday.
 12:27 Syrian Security forces killed nine people in Homs, Edleb and Hama, activists told Al-Jazeera TV on Wednesday.
 12:25 Russia on Wednesday accused the armed opposition in Syria of trying to provoke violence that could involve foreign powers and said it saw nothing standing in the way of dialogue.
 11:20 Sounds of huge explosions rock the Syrian region of Jabal al-Zawiya, Al-Arabiya quoted activists as saying on Wednesday.
 10:00 Syrian regime forces shelled rebel neighborhoods of the flashpoint central city of Homs on Wednesday, as a tenuous truce struggled to take effect despite the arrival of UN military observers.
 9:31 China said Wednesday Syria’s foreign minister had pledged to respect UN envoy Kofi Annan’s peace plan and cooperate with a UN team sent to monitor a fragile ceasefire in the restive state.
 8:00 MORNING LEADER: UN observers have acknowledged that they face a tough task to firm up a ceasefire in Syria, as seven civilians were killed Tuesday in the latest violence on the sixth day of a tenuous truce.
 7:45 Thousands have backed a video appeal to Syria’s first lady to speak out against violence, made by the wives of the British and German ambassadors to the United Nations.
 7:30 US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is set to attend talks in Paris on Thursday as part of international efforts to end the violence in Syria, a US official said Wednesday.

Members of the Syrian opposition delegation, with from left, Abdul-Aziz al-Kheir, a spokesman for the National Coordination Body for Democratic Change in Syria; Hassan Abdul-Azim, head of the opposition National Coordination Body; and Haytham Manna, spokesperson of the Arab Commission for Human Rights, as they attend a news conference in Moscow on Tuesday, April 17, 2012. Members of the Syrian opposition delegation say they hope that Russia will apply its power to persuade Syrian President Bashar Assad to observe Kofi Annan’s cease-fire plan. (AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko) — AP

Shots fired in Syria town during UN observer visit

BEIRUT — Gunfire erupted Wednesday as U.N. observers drove through an anti-regime demonstration in a Damascus suburb, sending people ducking for cover and raising questions about the safety of the monitors, according to activists and amateur video posted online.

The videos could not be independently confirmed. But the Britain-based activist group Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said Syrian security forces fired at anti-regime protesters in the suburb of Arbeen, wounding eight.

Under a plan brokered by U.N.-Arab League envoy Kofi Annan, six observers arrived in Syria over the weekend as an advance team for a larger contingent meant to shore up a week-old cease-fire that has been buckling under regime assaults on opposition strongholds and several bombings and shootings by the rebels. The truce was supposed to pave the way for talks between Assad and the opposition trying to topple him.

Annan’s spokesman, Ahmad Fazwi, confirmed that the U.N. observers were in Arbeen on Wednesday. He said it would be “appalling” if it was confirmed Syrian forces opened fire in the area.

Annan’s plan is seen as a last hope for reversing Syria’s slide toward civil war after a 13-month-old uprising to oust President Bashar Assad killed more than 9,000 people, according to the U.N.

Despite persistent violence, the international community is reluctant to declare the cease-fire dead, in part because it is seen as the only way to end bloodshed in Syria. Other options, such as foreign military intervention, arming Assad’s opponents and economic sanctions, have either been discarded or offer no quick solution. A deadlocked international community would be hard put to offer an alternative if it were to acknowledge the collapse of the truce.

Ban Ki-moon, the U.N. chief, is expected to send a letter to the U.N. Security Council later on Wednesday to report on Syrian compliance with the truce, something that will help determine whether conditions are right to expand the observer mission.

In Arbeen, several thousand anti-regime protesters took to the streets, said Rami Abdul-Rahman, head of the Observatory. At one point, security forces opened fire, wounding eight demonstrators, he said.

In amateur videos said to show the events in Arbeen, hundreds of demonstrators are seen crowding around at least three U.N. vehicles, clapping, waving Syrian flags and chanting in support of the rebel Free Syrian Army. A handwritten sign taped to one of the U.N. cars, apparently by the protesters, reads: “The butcher keeps killing, the observers keep observing and the people keep up the revolution.”

Another video shows hundreds walking along as the two U.N. vehicles slowly make their way through a wide street in Arbeen. When a shot rings out, the two U.N. cars speed away, leaving the demonstrators behind.

In a third video posted online by the same user, hundreds of people waving flags are seen in a march. Suddenly, they panic and run for cover. A narrator says they are being shot at while the observers are in the area and gunfire is heard in the background.

The Associated Press

REUTERS: U.S. says Syria at turning point, stresses pressure

Syria is at a turning point where the violence must stop or the United States will find ways to increase pressure on the Damascus government, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said on Wednesday.

Clinton gave no details of what the United States or other nations might do if a much-violated ceasefire between government forces and rebels does not take hold and if U.N. monitors are unable to fully deploy in Syria.

Clinton spoke at a meeting of NATO ministers in Brussels, where she was asked about action to halt bloodshed in the year-long popular uprising against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, who has sought to crush it with tanks and troops.

U.N.-Arab League special envoy Kofi Annan has proposed a peace plan calling for the deployment of U.N. observers, the withdrawal of heavy weapons and troops from population centers, humanitarian aid and the release of political prisoners.

“We are at a crucial turning point. Either we succeed in pushing forward with … monitors steadily broadening and deepening a zone of non-conflict and peace or we see Assad squandering his last chance before additional measures have to be considered,” Clinton told a news conference.

“We will continue to increase the pressure on Assad,” she added, saying she had spoken to counterparts “about the need to tighten sanctions, tighten pressure on the regime, on those who support the regime.”

Because the United States and the European Union already have extensive economic sanctions on Syria, the main hope for those who advocate greater pressure is that Arab states apply their own sanctions much more rigorously.

As she has in the past, Clinton also appeared to leave the door open to other nations arming Syrian rebels – something the United States has itself rejected although it is giving the opposition communications and logistical assistance.

“I have only spoken for the United States. The United States is not providing lethal arms,” she said when asked if it was time to give greater consideration to arming the rebels.

While the truce has held in some parts of Syria since Assad pledged to enforce it last week, in strong opposition areas such as Homs, Hama, Idlib and Deraa the army has kept up attacks on rebels, using heavy weapons despite its pledge to pull back.

Syria’s foreign minister told reporters in Beijing that no more than 250 truce monitors were needed, and they should come from what he called “neutral” countries such as Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa, which have been more sympathetic to Assad than the West and Arab League states.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon was due to present proposals for the next phase of the mission on Wednesday to the Security Council. He has said more monitors and aircraft are needed to supervise a truce in a large country of 23 million.

More than 10,000 people have been killed in 13 months of fighting.

(Reporting by Sebastian Moffett and Arshad Mohammed; Editing by Mark Heinrich)

BBC: Syria ‘gunfire’ as UN team visits

Shooting has broken out during a visit to a Damascus suburb by an advance team of UN observers, activists say.

Videos posted online appear to show anti-government protesters ducking as snipers open fire in Arbeen. Crowds are shown surrounding the UN cars.

The UN team is overseeing a shaky ceasefire brokered by UN-Arab League envoy Kofi Annan.

UN chief Ban Ki-moon is to ask the Security Council to expand the observer force from 30 to 250 members.

Meanwhile, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Syria was at a “crucial turning point”.

Speaking in Brussels, she said President Bashar al-Assad faced tougher measures if he squandered his “last chance” by failing to implement Mr Annan’s peace plan.

She said there was a need to “tighten pressure on the regime and on those who support the regime”, adding: “Every country in Nato is watching the situation with concern.”

A spokesman for Mr Annan confirmed that the observers had been in Arbeen on Wednesday.

Ahmad Fazwi said it would be “appalling” if it was confirmed that Syrian forces had opened fire in the area.

The team’s head, Col Ahmet Himmiche, told Reuters news agency that the observers had not come under fire. He gave no further details.

One activist video from the suburb appears to show Col Himmiche telling the crowd through a loud hailer to move back and let the cars pass.

A protester is seen placing a banner on a UN car that reads: “The killer is doing his killing, the monitors are doing their monitoring and the people are doing their revolution.”

The footage cannot be verified.

Activist group the Local Co-ordination Committees said that 32 people had been killed in violence across Syria on Wednesday, despite the ceasefire that began nearly a week ago.

Activists said government forces were continuing to shell areas of Homs. Several districts remain outside government control despite a major offensive that began in February.

Mr Annan’s six-point peace plan calls for Syrian forces to withdraw from residential areas; the release of political prisoners; the permitting of peaceful demonstrations; greater access for the media and the start a democratic political transition.

The BBC’s Ian Pannell reports on the plight of Syrian children in Idlib province as the ceasefire appears to falter

Syria’s state news agency Sana reported on Wednesday that at least six members of the security forces had been killed by a bomb blast in Idlib province. A second blast in the Aleppo region killed four soldiers, it added.

The advance UN team arrived in Syria on Sunday.

Mr Ban is preparing to brief the UN Security Council on his proposals for a larger UN observer mission, supported by planes and helicopters from the EU.

He has said that a 250-strong mission – as proposed by Mr Annan – might not be big enough.

The UN says about 9,000 people have died since pro-democracy protests began in March 2011. In February, the Syrian government put the death toll at 3,838 – 2,493 civilians and 1,345 security forces personnel.

In other developments, Turkish authorities are due to search a ship in the port of Iskenderun following claims that it is carrying arms bound for Syria.

Both the EU and Turkey have imposed an arms embargo on Syria.

Meanwhile, the wives of the German and UK ambassadors to the UN have posted a video on YouTube urging President Assad’s wife, Asma, to help end the bloodshed in her country.

They ask Mrs Assad to urge her husband to stop violent repression.

Syria observer mission

  • UN Security Council resolution 2042 permits a team of up to 30 unarmed observers
  • An initial group of six monitors has arrived in Syria
  • The rest of the advance team is set to follow later
  • Once certain conditions are met, the UN will seek Security Council approval for an expanded force of about 250 observers
  • Secretary General Ban Ki-moon will set out concrete proposals by 18 April for this larger UN observer force

Guardian: London 2012: Syria Olympic president may be refused entry to BritainThe president of Syria’s Olympic committee could face being refused entry to Britain for London 2012.

Stop Syria violence, ambassadors’ wives urge Asma al-Assad – video

young boy whispering to asma al-assadWives of British and German ambassadors to UN produce video calling on Syrian president’s wife ‘to stand up for peace’