Assad jets hammer town as Brahimi flies in for Eid truce

Updated 20 October 2012
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Assad jets hammer town as Brahimi flies in for Eid truce

MAARET AL-NUMAN, Syria: Syrian jets hammered a rebel town yesterday on the second day of an assault in which the regime is accused of using cluster bombs, as peace envoy Lakhdar Brahimi landed in Damascus to press for a truce.
“We will have discussions here with the government, the political parties and civil society about the situation in Syria,” Brahimi told journalists at Damascus airport.
“We will talk about the need to reduce the current violence and about whether it is possible to stop for the occasion of Eid Al-Adha,” he said.
Violence has persisted, however, with rebels and loyalists of President Bashar Assad locked in battle for the northwestern town of Maaret Al-Numan on the Damascus-Aleppo highway linking Syria’s two biggest cities.
Fighter jets overflew at high altitude before nosediving and striking targets on the town’s outskirts, as helicopter gunships buzzed the area, the correspondent said.
The army opened fire and launched tear gas bombs against anti-regime protesters in the central city of Hama, said the Britain-based Syrian Observatory.
Following the Friday prayers, hundreds of demonstration took to the streets in several towns and cities.
“United States, your malice has not had enough of our blood,” was the protesters’ rallying cry this week, according to the Syrian Revolution 2011 Facebook page.
Meanwhile, Turkish artillery struck back at Syria yesterday after two Syrian shells landed in Turkish territory, the state-run television TRT reported. The TV network said the shells fell into an empty field in Hatay province near the Syrian border. There was no report of casualties.
Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu yesterday called for the regime in Damascus to immediately stop deadly aerial bombing of rebel targets and for the two sides to observe a truce on Eid Al-Adha.
“It is particularly important that the Syrian regime immediately stop and without conditions, the recent attacks against the population with planes and helicopters,” Davutoglu told reporters in Ankara.
A satellite company says signal-jamming that has affected the BBC and other broadcasters is coming from Syria.
Eutelsat spokeswoman Vanessa O’Connor said yesterday that the incidents of jamming began earlier this week and that analysis of the signal showed that it was deliberate and originated in Syria.
The BBC said yesterday that the jamming had hit its transmissions in the Middle East and Europe, including BBC World News, BBC Arabic television channels and BBC World Service radio channels broadcast in English and Arabic.
European leaders said yesterday they were concerned by the increasing violence and want opposition groups there to cooperate to ensure a peaceful change of government.
The 27 EU leaders voiced “deep concern with the increasingly deteriorating situation,” in a draft summit statement seen by AFP.
“All opposition groups should agree on a set of shared principles in order to achieve an inclusive, orderly and peaceful transition,” the draft said. Trash collection services have almost completely broken down in rebel-held areas and mounds of rubbish are rising in the streets.
As the battle for Aleppo has rumbled on, the number of rubbish collection trucks has dwindled. Piles upon piles of stinking rubbish cover the streets, from rotting food to bloody bandages and other grisly medical waste left near a hospital, attracting swarms of flies.


Palestinians protest in Ramallah over Gaza sanctions

Updated 4 min 59 sec ago
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Palestinians protest in Ramallah over Gaza sanctions

  • Hundreds of Palestinians demonstrated Saturday in the occupied West Bank to demand the Palestinian Authority lift punitive measures against the Hamas-run Gaza Strip.
  • Demonstrators in Ramallah chanted “scrap the sanctions!” during protests against the Palestinian Authority.

RAMALLAH: Hundreds of Palestinians demonstrated Saturday in the occupied West Bank to demand the Palestinian Authority lift punitive measures against the Hamas-run Gaza Strip, an AFP reporter said.
Demonstrators in Ramallah chanted “scrap the sanctions!” during protests against the Palestinian Authority, organized by civil society groups.
The Ramallah-based administration has introduced a series of measures against Gaza over the past year.
Tens of thousands of its civil servants in the coastal enclave, separated from the West Bank by a strip of Israeli territory, have gone without full pay for months.
Critics say such moves by the PA, dominated by the Fatah movement of president Mahmud Abbas, further exacerbate the split between the two parts of the Palestinian territories.
The rally passed peacefully, unlike a protest on June 13 during which Palestinian security forces fired stun grenades and tear gas to disperse demonstrators.
On Saturday, policemen were seen handing out Palestinian flags to the protesters.
Hamas has run Gaza since seizing it from the Palestinian Authority amid deadly clashes in 2007.
Since that year, Israel has maintained a crippling blockade on Gaza which it argues is necessary to isolate Hamas.
Rights groups say the siege amounts to collective punishment.
Israel and Hamas have fought three wars in the territory since 2008.
Neighbouring Egypt has also largely sealed its land border with Gaza in recent years, citing security threats.
The United Nations has said Gaza, which is home to two million people, will be uninhabitable by 2020.
Hamas and Fatah signed a reconciliation agreement last October, but it has since collapsed.