News / Middle East

Activists: Syrian Forces Kill 63 as Red Cross Seeks Daily Truce

Syrian security forces killed 63 people Tuesday in assaults on northern villages and a barrage of heavy shelling in the flashpoint city of Homs, as the Red Cross called for daily cease-fires to allow in urgently needed aid.

Activists said at least 30 people died and more than 200 were wounded as government troops bombarded the rebel-held Homs neighborhood of Baba Amr, where at least two children were killed. They said security forces launched the assault after opposition fighters in the Sunni Muslim district blocked troops from entering.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said at least 33 more civilians were killed when government forces trying to crush opposition to President Bashar al-Assad stormed villages in northern Idlib province. The group said the assault targeted the settlement of Abdita and extended to neighboring areas.

The casualty figures could not be independently verified because phone lines have been cut and Syria restricts the operations of foreign media.

Deaths across Syria
The International Committee of the Red Cross [ICRC] called on Syrian authorities and rebels Tuesday to immediately implement a daily two-hour cease-fire so it can deliver emergency aid and evacuate the sick and wounded. ICRC President Jakob Kellenberger said that in Homs and elsewhere, entire families have been isolated for days, unable to secure food, water or medical care.

State-run Syrian TV reports there is no shortage of food, fuel, and medicine in Homs.

White House spokesman Jay Carney said the U.S. supports calls for a humanitarian cease-fire. Human rights activists say the violence has killed at least 6,000 people during the 11-month uprising.

Watch related video of violence in Homs



Intense shelling

Intense shelling rocked the rebel stronghold of Baba Amr in Homs as living conditions for thousands of residents continued to deteriorate. Opposition videos posted on the Internet showed buildings and vehicles burning and columns of government tanks heading towards Homs.

In the capital Damascus, anti-government protests overnight spread to the central district of Baramka, and security forces fired at demonstrators in Kafr Sousa, wounding several. Al Arabiya TV also showed video of a reported general strike in the affluent Barzeh district.

Opposition videos also showed what appeared to be a large crowd of students demonstrating against the government in Syria's commercial capital of Aleppo. A video reportedly from Hassaka showed protesters toppling a statue of Assad's late brother Bassel.

VOA cannot confirm the authenticity of any of the videos.

Homs is a major hub of the protests against Assad's autocratic rule. Syria's military is under the control of Shi'ite Alawite officers, from the same minority sect as Assad, raising concerns the country is headed toward open civil war.

The escalation comes as Russia, a key ally of Assad, said it will not attend an international conference on Syria later this week because the Syrian government would not be represented. Russia's foreign ministry said the United Nations Security Council should send a special humanitarian envoy to Syria.

Friday meeting planned

The "Friends of Syria" contact group - comprising Western and Arab nations openly seeking Assad's downfall - are planning to use Friday's meeting in Tunisia to increase pressure on the Syrian government to halt the bloodshed.

U.S. State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said Tuesday that the best outcome for Syria would be a political solution, but that if Assad refuses to yield to diplomatic pressure, "we may have to consider additional measures."

Earlier this month, Russia and China vetoed a Western- and Arab-backed effort to pass a Security Council resolution endorsing an Arab League plan for Assad to cede power. But Arab League Secretary-General Nabil Elaraby said Monday he believes Moscow and Beijing may be shifting their positions on the Syrian crisis.

Opposition growing

Middle East scholar Fouad Ajami of the Hoover Institution said protesters in Damascus and Aleppo have been joining the opposition in growing numbers.

"I think both Damascus and Aleppo feel morally embarrassed that Homs and Hama and Daraa and Jisr Shughour have suffered, and that they have been somewhat quiescent," he said. "Sooner or later, it came to all the outskirts of Damascus. Now, the rebellion has come very close to the great presidential palace of Bashar al-Assad and the old neighborhoods of Damascus, i.e., the Mazzeh district, the Midan Square, etcetera."

Ajami said that until recently, Damascus has been less of a flashpoint because the government had “bought off the merchant class,” with privileges. He predicts that “if Damascus were to be set ablaze, the regime would fall.”

Ajami added that Syrian authorities have been reluctant to use too much force in Aleppo, a northern city, for fear of inciting neighboring Turkey.

“My understanding is that the climate in Turkey itself, politically, would not permit any... in other words, if there were massacres in Aleppo, akin to what's happening in Homs, I think the Turks would unleash their power on Bashar, and I think Bashar, of course, knows that," he said.

Ajami said the Syrian government's backing by Iran and Russia remains steadfast.

"What we can say with confidence is that the friends of the Syrian regime, i.e. Hezbollah, Iran, the Russians, have come to the help of the Syrian regime, but the friends of the Syrian people, particularly the United States, have so far not come to the help of the Syrian people," he said.

 

Join the conversation on our social journalism site - Middle East Voices. Follow our Middle East reports on Twitter and discuss them on our Facebook page.

You May Like

Lesotho Faces New Round of Violence, Political Crisis

Brutal killing of military officer has sent former leaders back into S. Africa where they're watching anxiously as regional officials head in to try to restore peace More

Video US Diplomat Expects Adoption of Bosnian Massacre Anniversary Resolution

Samantha Power says there's broad consensus about killings in Bosnia's war, but Russia calls resolution 'divisive,' backs UN countermeasure More

UN Report Exposes Widespread Boko Haram Atrocities

Damning report graphically details pattern of vicious, widespread atrocities committed by Islamist militants More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountaini
X
July 02, 2015 4:10 AM
Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountain

Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Xenophobia Victims in South Africa Flee Violence, Then Return

Many Malawians fled South Africa early this year after xenophobic attacks on African immigrants. But many quickly found life was no better at home and have returned to South Africa – often illegally and without jobs, and facing the tough task of having to start over. Lameck Masina and Anita Powell file from Johannesburg.
Video

Video Family of American Marine Calls for Release From Iranian Prison

As the crowd of journalists covering the Iran talks swells, so too do the opportunities for media coverage.  Hoping to catch the attention of high-level diplomats, the family of American-Iranian marine Amir Hekmati is in Vienna, pleading for his release from an Iranian prison after nearly 4 years.  VOA’s Heather Murdock reports from Vienna.
Video

Video UK Holds Terror Drill as MPs Mull Tunisia Response

After pledging a tough response to last Friday’s terror attack in Tunisia, which came just days before the 10th anniversary of the bomb attacks on London’s transport network, British security services are shifting their focus to overseas counter-terror operations. VOA's Henry Ridgwell has more.
Video

Video Obama on Cuba: This is What Change Looks Like

President Barack Obama says the United States will soon reopen its embassy in Cuba for the first time since 1961, ending a half-century of isolation. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Hate Groups Spread Influence Via Internet

Hate groups of various kinds are using the Internet for propaganda and recruitment, and a Jewish human rights organization that monitors these groups, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, says their influence is growing. The messages are different, but the calls to hatred or violence are similar. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video US Silica Sand Mining Surge Worries Illinois Residents, Businesses

Increased domestic U.S. oil and gas production, thanks to advances known as “fracking,” has created a boom for other industries supporting that extraction. Demand for silica sand, used in fracking, could triple over the next five years. In the Midwest state of Illinois, people living near the mines are worried about how increased silica sand mining will affect their businesses and their health. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh has more in this first of a series of reports.
Video

Video Blind Somali Journalist Defies Odds in Mogadishu

Despite improving security in the last few years, Somalia remains one of the most dangerous countries to be a journalist – even more so for someone who cannot see. Abdulaziz Billow has the story of journalist Abdifatah Hassan Kalgacal, who has been reporting from the Somali capital for the last decade despite being blind.
Video

Video Texas Defies Same-Sex Marriage Ruling

Texas state officials have criticized the US Supreme Court decision giving same-sex couples the right to marry nationwide. The attorney general of Texas says last week's decision did not overrule constitutional "rights of religious liberty," and therefore officials performing wedding services can refuse to perform them for same-sex couples if it is against their religious beliefs. Zlatica Hoke reports on the controversy.
Video

Video Rabbi Hits Road to Heal Jewish-Muslim Relations in France

France is on high alert after last week's terrorist attack near the city Lyon, just six months after deadly Paris shootings. The attack have added new tensions to relations between French Jews and Muslims. France’s Jewish and Muslim communities also share a common heritage, though, and as far as one French rabbi is concerned, they are destined to be friends. From the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, Lisa Bryant reports about Rabbi Michel Serfaty and his friendship bus.
Video

Video Saudi Leaks Expose ‘Checkbook Diplomacy’ In Battle With Iran

Saudi Arabia’s willingness to wield its oil money on the global diplomatic stage appears to have been laid bare, after the website WikiLeaks published tens of thousands of leaked cables from Riyadh’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video In Kenya, Police Said to Shoot First, Ask Questions Later

An organization that documents torture and extrajudicial killings says Kenyan police were responsible for 1,252 shooting deaths in five cities, including Nairobi, between 2009 and 2014, representing 67 percent of all gun deaths in the areas reviewed. Gabe Joselow has more from Nairobi.

VOA Blogs