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Posts Tagged ‘Homs’

Syria: President Bashar Assad Sets Referendum On New Draft Constitution

Posted by Ram Kumar Shrestha on February 15, 2012

BEIRUT — Syrian President Bashar Assad ordered a referendum for later this month on a new constitution that would allow political parties other than his ruling Baath Party, the centerpiece of reforms he has promised to ease the crisis, even as the Syrian military on Wednesday besieged rebellious areas.

The opposition quickly rejected the move, saying that the regime was stalling and that Syrians in the uprising would accept nothing less than Assad’s ouster. The referendum call also raises the question of how a nationwide vote could be held at a time when many areas see daily battles between Syrian troops and rebel soldiers.

Amendments to the constitution once were a key demand by the opposition at the start of Syria’s uprising, when protesters first launched demonstrations calling for change. But after 11 months of a fearsome crackdown on dissent that has left thousands dead and turned some cities into war zones, the opposition says Assad and his regime must go.

“The people in the street today have demands, and one of these demands is the departure of this regime,” said Khalaf Dahowd, a member of the National Coordination Body for Democratic Change in Syria, an umbrella for several opposition groups in Syria and in exile. Read the rest of this entry »

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Syria Crisis: Arab Nations Reportedly Consider Arming Opposition

Posted by Ram Kumar Shrestha on February 14, 2012

By Erika Solomon and Angus MacSwan

BEIRUT Feb 14 (Reuters) – Government forces and opponents of President Bashar al-Assad clashed in cities and countryside across Syria on Tuesday and Arab officials confirmed that regional governments would be ready to arm the resistance if the bloodshed did not cease.

The western city of Homs, heart of the uprising against Assad’s 11-year-rule, suffered a bombardment of pro-opposition neighbourhoods for the 11th day running.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported 20 people killed across Syria on Tuesday, including opposition supporters, civilians, and five government soldiers shot in clashes with rebel fighters in Qalaat al-Madyaq town in restive Hama area.

With Assad seemingly oblivious to international condemnation of his campaign to crush the revolt, Arab countries led by Saudi Arabia prepared for a new resolution at the United Nations in the next few days which would support a peace plan forged at a meeting in Cairo on Sunday.

But Arab League diplomats said that arming the opposition forces was now officially an option.

A resolution passed at the meeting urged Arabs to “provide all kinds of political and material support” to the opposition.

This would allow arms transfers, they confirmed to Reuters. Read the rest of this entry »

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The Obama Administration’s Syrian Double Standard

Posted by Ram Kumar Shrestha on February 14, 2012

By Amb Marc Ginsberg,  Former U.S. Ambassador to Morocco

“We do not want further militarization of the situation in Syria.” So sheepishly declared an Obama Administration spokesman today when pressed why isn’t the U.S. prepared to help defend defenseless Syrian protestors by providing humanitarian and perhaps financial and logistical support to the Free Syrian Army.

My how the tides have changed in the hallways of the Eisenhower Executive Office building.

When Col. Gaddafi’s forces were on the outskirts of Benghazi, White House staffers were falling all over themselves in a mad dash to declare to any and all that a humanitarian catastrophe demanded urgent international action to prevent an assault on innocent civilians. Nightmares of Rwanda and Bosnia compelled the burning of midnight oil at the State Department.

Abetted by a cavalry of outraged academics in Washington think tanks demanding action from the Administration, President Obama publicly signaled events demanded action and marshaled his top officials to explore every conceivable avenue to thwart Gaddafi’s forces. Secret arms deliveries were smuggled in to Libya courtesy of Qatar and Egypt. CIA operatives were parachuted in to help the nascent Libyan opposition forces. A NATO led no-fly zone was declared and enforced. No stone was left unturned to keep Gaddafi’s forces from killing civilians. Everyone was on red alert.

Fortunately, because of that example of presidential leadership a humanitarian catastrophe in Benghazi was averted and the Administration has been patting itself on the back ever since… never mind that Libya today is suffering a destabilizing outbreak of post-revolutionary violence threatening the very victory Administration officials crowed about. But, hey that’s no longer necessarily our business… right? Read the rest of this entry »

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Syria Crisis: Bombs Hit Security Headquarters In Aleppo

Posted by Ram Kumar Shrestha on February 10, 2012

BEIRUT — Two explosions struck security compounds in Aleppo on Friday, killing 28 people, state media reported, the first significant violence in a major city that has largely stood by Syrian President Bashar Assad in the 11-month-old uprising against his rule.

The blasts come as escalating violence between regime forces and an increasingly militarized opposition has raised fears the conflict is spiraling toward civil war.

A Syrian offensive aimed at crushing rebels in the battered city of Homs continued Friday, with soldiers who have been bombarding the city for the past six days making their first ground move to seize one of the most restive neighborhoods.

State TV blamed “terrorists” for the blasts in Aleppo, Syria’s largest city, and said they were proof the government is facing a violent enemy. Anti-Assad activists accused the regime of setting off Friday’s blasts to discredit the opposition and avert protests that had been planned in the northern city on Friday. Read the rest of this entry »

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Syria Forces Attack Homs, UN Condemns ‘Appalling Brutality’

Posted by Ram Kumar Shrestha on February 9, 2012

By Khaled Yacoub Oweis and Angus MacSwan

AMMAN/BEIRUT, Feb 9 (Reuters) – Syrian forces bombarded opposition-held neighbourhoods of the city of Homs with rocket and mortar fire on Thursday, activists said, as divided world powers struggled to find a way to end the violence.

The United Nations chief condemned the ferocity of the government assault on Homs, heart of a revolt against President Bashar al-Assad that broke out nearly a year ago and is getting bloodier by the day.

“I fear that the appalling brutality we are witnessing in Homs, with heavy weapons firing into civilian neighbourhoods, is a grim harbinger of things to come,” U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon told reporters after briefing the Security Council.

Activists and residents report hundreds of people killed over the last week as Assad’s forces try stamp out opposition in Homs, and as dawn broke on Thursday, rocket and mortar fire rained down again on Baba Amro, Khalidiya and other districts. Armoured reinforcements also poured into the eastern city.

Concern was growing over the plight of civilians and the United States said it was considering ways to get food and medicine to them – a move that would deepen international involvement in a conflict which has wide geopolitical dimensions and has caused division between foreign powers.

Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said before flying to Washington for talks on Syria that Turkey, which once saw Assad as an ally but now wants him out, could no longer stand by and watch. Turkey wanted to host an international meeting to agree ways to end the killing and provide aid, he said. Read the rest of this entry »

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Syria Clashes: Homs Assaulted By Government Forces As Russian Foreign Minister Visits

Posted by Ram Kumar Shrestha on February 7, 2012

BEIRUT — Days after blocking a U.S.-backed peace plan at the U.N., senior Russian officials pushed for reforms Tuesday during an emergency meeting with Syrian President Bashar Assad, promoting a settlement to end the uprising without removing him from power.

Thousands of flag-waving government supporters cheered the Russians in the Syrian capital of Damascus, while to the north, Assad’s forces pounded the opposition city of Homs – underscoring the sharp divisions propelling the country toward civil war.

The violence has led to the most severe international isolation in more than four decades of Assad family rule, with country after country calling home their envoys.

France, Italy, Spain and Belgium pulled their ambassadors from Damascus, as did six Gulf nations, including Saudi Arabia. Germany, whose envoy left the country this month, said he would not be replaced. The moves came a day after the U.S. closed its embassy in Syria and Britain recalled its ambassador.

Turkey, once a strong Assad supporter and now one of his most vocal critics, added its voice to the international condemnation, with Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan saying his country cannot remain silent about massacres in Syria. He said Turkey would “launch a new initiative with countries that stand by the Syrian people instead of the regime.”

His comments reflect a growing movement by the U.S., Europe and countries in the region to organize a coalition of nations to back Syria’s opposition, though what kind of support remains unclear. Over the weekend, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton called for “friends of democratic Syria” to unite and rally against Assad’s regime. Read the rest of this entry »

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Syria Activists: ‘Terrifying Massacre’ In Homs

Posted by Ram Kumar Shrestha on January 27, 2012

BEIRUT — Two days of bloody turmoil in Syria killed at least 74 people, including small children, as forces loyal to President Bashar Assad shelled residential buildings and fired on crowds in a dramatic escalation of violence, activists said Friday.

Video posted online showed the bodies of five small children, five women and a man, all bloodied and piled on beds in what appeared to be an apartment after a building was hit in the city of Homs. A narrator said an entire family had been “slaughtered.”

Much of the violence was focused in Homs, where heavy gunfire hammered the city Friday in a second day of chaos. A day earlier, the city saw a flare-up of sectarian kidnappings and killings between its Sunni and Alawite communities, and pro-regime forces blasted residential buildings with mortars and gunfire, according to activists.

At least 384 children have been killed, as of Jan. 7, in the crackdown on Syria’s uprising since it began nearly 11 months ago, the U.N. children’s agency UNICEF said Friday. The count, based on reports from human rights groups, included children under age 18.

Most of the deaths took place in Homs and most of the victims were boys, UNICEF said. It said 380 children have been detained, including some under age 14. The United Nations estimates that more than 5,400 people have died in the turmoil. Read the rest of this entry »

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