Activists: 111 Killed in Syria’s “Bloodiest Day”

December 22, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

By Dominic Evans

BEIRUT (Reuters) – Syrian forces killed 111 people ahead of the start of a mission to monitor President Bashar al-Assad’s implementation of an Arab League peace plan, activists said on Wednesday, and France branded the killings an “unprecedented massacre.”

Rami Abdulrahman of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said 111 civilians and activists were killed on Tuesday when Assad’s forces surrounded them in the foothills of the northern Jabal al-Zawiyah region in Idlib province and unleashed two hours of bombardment and heavy gunfire.

Another 100 army deserters were either wounded or killed, making it the “bloodiest day of the Syrian revolution,” he said.

“There was a massacre of unprecedented scale in Syria on Tuesday,” said French foreign ministry spokesman Bernard Valero. “It is urgent that the U.N. Security Council issues a firm resolution that calls for an end to the repression.”

The United States said it was deeply disturbed by reports of indiscriminate killing and warned Assad the violence must stop. Britain said it was shocked by the reports and urged Syria to “end immediately its brutal violence against civilians.”

Events in Syria are hard to verify because authorities, who say they are battling terrorists who have killed more than 1,100 soldiers and police, have banned most independent reporting.

Tuesday’s bloodshed brought the death toll reported by activists in the last 48 hours to over 200.

The main opposition Syrian National Council said “gruesome murders” were carried out, including the beheading of a local imam, and demanded international action to protect civilians.

The escalating death toll in nine months of popular unrest has raised the specter of civil war in Syria with Assad, 46, still trying to stamp out protests with troops and tanks despite international sanctions imposed to push him onto a reform path.

Idlib, a northwestern province bordering Turkey, has been a hotbed of protest during the revolt, inspired by uprisings across the Arab world this year, and has also seen increasing attacks by armed insurgents against his forces.

The Observatory said rebels had damaged or destroyed 17 military vehicles in Idlib since Sunday while in the southern province of Deraa violence continued on Wednesday.

Tanks entered the town of Dael, the British-based group said, leading to clashes in which 15 security force members were killed. Six army defectors and a civilian also died and dozens of civilians were wounded, it said.

ARAB PEACE MONITORS

The Syrian National Council said 250 people had been killed on Monday and Tuesday in “bloody massacres,” and that the Arab League and United Nations must protect civilians.

It demanded “an emergency U.N. Security Council session to discuss the (Assad) regime’s massacres in Jabal al-Zawiyah, Idlib and Homs, in particular” and called for “safe zones” to be set up under international protection.

It also said those regions should be declared disaster areas and urged the International Red Crescent and other relief organizations to provide humanitarian aid.

White House press secretary Jay Carney said unless Damascus complied fully with the Arab League plan to end the violence, “additional steps” would be taken against it. Washington and the European Union have already imposed sanctions on Syria.

“Bashar al-Assad should have no doubt that the world is watching, and neither the international community no the Syria people accept his legitimacy,” he said.

Arab League Secretary-General Nabil Elaraby said on Tuesday that an advance observer team would go to Syria on Thursday to prepare the way for 150 monitors due to arrive by end-December.

Syria stalled for weeks before signing a protocol on Monday to admit the monitors, who will check its compliance with the plan mandating an end to violence, withdrawal of troops from the streets, release of prisoners and dialogue with the opposition.

Syrian officials say over 1,000 prisoners have been freed since the plan was agreed six weeks ago and that the army has pulled out of cities. The government promised a parliamentary election early next year as well as constitutional reform which might loosen the ruling Baath Party’s grip on power.

Syrian pro-democracy activists are deeply skeptical about Assad’s commitment to the plan, which, if implemented, could embolden demonstrators demanding an end to his 11-year rule, which followed three decades of domination by his father.

Assad is from Syria’s minority Alawite sect, an offshoot of Shi’ite Islam, and Alawites hold many senior posts in the army which he has deployed to crush the mainly Sunni Muslim protests.

In recent months, peaceful protests have increasingly given way to armed confrontations, often led by army deserters.

In a show of military power, state television broadcast footage of live-fire exercises held by the navy and air force, which it said aimed at deterring any attack on Syria.

U.N. TOLL

The United Nations has said more than 5,000 people have been killed in Syria since anti-Assad protests broke out in March.

Arab, U.S. and European sanctions combined with the unrest have sent the economy into sharp decline. The Syrian pound fell nearly 2 percent on Tuesday to more than 55 pounds per dollar, 17 percent down from the official rate before the unrest.

Arab rulers are keen to prevent a descent into civil war in Syria that could affect a region already riven by rivalry between non-Arab Shi’ite Muslim power Iran and Sunni Muslim Arab heavyweights such as Saudi Arabia.

(Additional reporting by John Irish in Paris and Alister Bull in Washington; Editing by Mark Heinrich and Peter Millership)

13-52

On the Verge of Transition

November 23, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

– The Syrian Expatriate

By Laura Fawaz

IMG_0007

Livonia, MI–“I think what happened in Syria is exactly what happened in the rest of the Arab World.  It’s the results of long term torture and oppression by the current regime,” said Ammar Ghanem, of Indiana, with the Syrian National Council, when speaking about the effect of the Arab Spring on Syria.

Last Saturday, the Syrian Expatriate, along with the Syrian National Council, held a seminar called “On The Verge of Transition, a Meeting With The Syrian National Council, at Burton Manor in Livonia.” 
The seminar focused on the Syrian National Council’s (SNC) integration within Syrian Communities across the world.  The SNC’s focus was for the Syrian community, especially in Metro-Detroit, to meet the SNC and the Syrian Expatiate. 

SNC board member Louay Sakka of Canada explained that they are hoping “for an exchange of ideas, and to discuss the future of Syria.”

Ghanem added, “The main objective is trying to help the people inside Syria, and to help drive forward the Syrian Revolution.”

Attendees were asking questions and exploring options for Syria with the SNC, as part of the seminar that was divided into four topics: The structure and the way the SNC is currently working, the economics of the Syrian Revolution and options to weaken the regime, discussing the political work being done, and lastly, international protection and interaction to protect civilians in Syria.

Ghanem explained that the plans for this event have been in the works for five weeks, and were necessary because “the people of Syria couldn’t take it anymore, and they want to up rise and want to get rid of the current regime.  Who doesn’t want freedom?”

Asked if most Metro-Detroit Syrians feel the same way about the current Syrian political party, Sakaa replied, “most of the people in general already get to a point where they are completely against the regime.  Having said that, it doesn’t mean that everyone is on the same page.  You still have people who get some type of benefit from this regime, directly or indirectly.” 

According to Sakaa, since the rest of the world is primary against the current political Syrian party, the Arab League has just removed Syria.  After this, it seems as though most Syrians are feeling the isolation, and is why less people are working with the Syrian government. 

Some of course still support the current Syrian regime. So the SNC when asked whether anyone came out and showed disagreement with this event, they explained that Burton Manor received anonymous threatening phone calls. 

The SNC took extra precautions, including having the Livonia Police Department all around the building, as well as having their own security on board.

As the rest of the Arab World has shown this past year, we truly cannot know what is happening inside country lines until it all unravels.  So for now, attending events such as this will be our closest entry point. 

13-48