Repression continues in Syria

Updated 19 June 2012
0

Repression continues in Syria

BEIRUT: Syrian security forces pounded opposition areas across the country yesterday, activists said, adding that at least 23 people had been killed in clashes they say have escalated since international observers suspended their mission.
Activists said artillery had targeted Douma, a town 15 km outside the capital Damascus. The town has for weeks been under the partial control of rebels who have joined the 15-month-old revolt against President Bashar Assad.
“We can’t even accurately count the dead because we have so many injured people to treat, there’s no time to think about anything else,” said an activist in Douma who called himself Ziad. “The army attacks all the time. They have tanks, missiles, mortars, and artillery. Even helicopters have fired on us. People can’t escape because the army is surrounding the town.”
The British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which has a network of activists across Syria, said at least 23 people had been killed by midday yesterday, seven of them in Douma. In a sign it fears Syria’s conflict could escalate further, an unnamed Russian naval source said Moscow was preparing to send marines to Syria in the event it needed to protect personnel and remove equipment from its naval facility in Syria’s Mediterranean port of Tartous, according to the Interfax news agency.
Russia is one of the Syrian government’s staunchest backers and supports Assad’s argument that foreign-backed terrorists are behind the unrest. Moscow has repeatedly urged Western and Arab countries, who mostly back the rebels, to rein in their support in order to stem the violence. International outrage over Syria has grown in recent weeks after two reported massacres of nearly two hundred civilians.
Heavier fighting and apparent sectarian killings have led many, including the head of UN peacekeeping forces, to brand the violence a civil war.
The international community’s efforts to halt the violence are deadlocked because Russia and China, which both wield vetoes in the Security Council, have blocked tougher action against Assad. They say the solution should be through political dialogue, an approach most of the Syrian opposition rejects.
Western powers have been pushing for stronger measures to be taken against Assad, whose forces have not only used artillery in recent weeks, but helicopter gunships against rebels in civilian areas.
US President Barack Obama is expected to discuss the Syria crisis with Russian President Vladimir Putin when they meet in Mexico. But few observers expect a breakthrough.
Relations between Washington and Moscow have further frayed after a week of Cold War-style recriminations over Syria.
The head of the United Nations observation mission, General Robert Mood, is scheduled on Tuesday to brief the UN Security Council in New York on the violence in Syria.
The mission recently halted its operations due to security concerns, and Mood said on Sunday he was worried about civilians trapped in central Homs.
“In Homs attempts to extract civilians form the line of fire over the past week have been unsuccessful,” he said in a statement. “This requires willingness on both sides (of the conflict) to respect and protect the human life of the Syrian people.”

 


New Palestinian deaths bring toll from Israel clashes to 40

Updated 24 min 43 sec ago
0

New Palestinian deaths bring toll from Israel clashes to 40

GAZA CITY: Two Palestinians wounded in clashes with Israel were pronounced dead Monday, a Gaza official said, bringing the toll from Israeli fire since March 30 to 40.
A spokesman for the Hamas-controlled territory’s health ministry named the latest fatalities as Tahrir Wahba, 18, and Abdullah Shamali, 20.
Wahba, who was deaf, was shot in the head in a clash east of Khan Yunis on April 6, and Shamali died of “bullet wounds to his belly” sustained on Friday, said spokesman Ashraf Al-Qudra.
Most of the 40 Palestinians killed by Israel since the start of “March of Return” protests on March 30 were shot by snipers on the border, while a few others were killed by Israeli artillery or air strikes.
Tens of thousands of Palestinians in the coastal enclave, wedged between Israel, Egypt and the Mediterranean, have gathered at the border on consecutive Fridays to call for Palestinian refugees to be allowed to return to their former homes now inside Israel.
Some protesters have launched stones or burning tires at Israeli soldiers.
Israeli forces have responded with live ammunition, wounding hundreds in addition to those killed.
The Israeli army says its troops only opened fire in self-defense or to stop protesters attempting to breach the barrier separating the territory from Israel.
More than 440 demonstrators suffered bullet wounds or gas inhalation on Friday, rescuers said.
Israel has drawn harsh criticism from rights groups along with calls for investigations by the United Nations or the European Union.
Israel has for more than a decade imposed a crippling blockade on Gaza, fighting three wars with Hamas since 2008.
Also on Monday, Hamas’s military wing said one of its men died in an explosion.
It said in a statement that Mohammed Al-Maqadma, 55, was killed by an “explosive projectile” fired by an unnamed group which it described as hostile to Hamas.
It did not elaborate further.
The Gaza health ministry said a child was wounded in the same blast, in the northern part of the strip.