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

Tired of Waiting, South Africans Demand Change ‘Now’

With chronic poverty and lack of basic services largely fueling recent xenophobic attacks, many in Rainbow Nation say it’s time for government to act More

Challenges Ahead for China's Development Plans in Pakistan

Planned $46 billion in energy and infrastructure investments in Pakistan are aimed at transforming the country into a regional hub for trade and investment More

Audio 'Forbidden City' Revisits Little Known Era of Asian-American Entertainment

Little-known chapter of entertainment history captured in 80s documentary is revisited in new digitally remastered format and book 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.
Study: Insecticide Damaging Wild Bee Populationsi
X
April 24, 2015 10:13 PM
A popular but controversial type of insecticide is damaging important wild bee populations, according to a new study. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.
Video

Video Study: Insecticide Damaging Wild Bee Populations

A popular but controversial type of insecticide is damaging important wild bee populations, according to a new study. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.
Video

Video Data Servers Could Heat Private Homes

As every computer owner knows, when their machines run a complex program they get pretty hot. In fact, cooling the processors can be expensive, especially when you're dealing with huge banks of computer servers. But what if that energy could heat private homes? VOA’s George Putic reports that a Dutch energy firm aims to do just that.
Video

Video Cinema That Crosses Borders Showcased at Tribeca Film Festival

Among the nearly 100 feature length films being shown at this year’s Tribeca Film Festival in New York City are more than 20 documentaries and features with international appeal, from a film about a Congolese businessman in China, to documentaries shot in Pakistan and diaspora communities in the U.S., to a poetic look at disaffected South African youth. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more.
Video

Video UN Confronts Threat of Young Radicals

The radicalization and recruitment of young people into Islamist extremist groups has become a growing challenge for governments worldwide. On Thursday, the U.N. Security Council heard from experts on the issue, which has become a potent threat to international peace and security. VOA’s Margaret Besheer reports.
Video

Video Growing Numbers of Turks Discover Armenian Ancestry

In a climate of improved tolerance, growing numbers of people in Turkey are discovering their grandmothers were Armenian. Hundreds of thousands of Armenians escaped the mass deportations and slaughter of the early 1900's by forced conversion to Islam. Or, Armenian children were taken in by Turkish families and assimilated. Now their stories are increasingly being heard. Dorian Jones reports from Istanbul that the revelations are viewed as an important step.
Video

Video Migrants Trek Through Western Balkans to Reach EU

Migrants from Africa and other places are finding different routes into the European Union in search of a better life. The Associated Press followed one clandestine group to document their trek through the western Balkans to Hungary. Zlatica Hoke reports that the migrants started using that route about four years ago. Since then, it has become the second-most popular path into Western Europe, after the option of sailing from North Africa to Italy.
Video

Video TIME Magazine Honors Activists, Pioneers Seen as Influential

TIME Magazine has released its list of celebrities, leaders and activists, whom it deems the world’s “most influential” in 2015. VOA's Ramon Taylor reports from New York.
Video

Video US Businesses See Cuba as New Frontier

The Obama administration's opening toward Cuba is giving U.S. companies hope they'll be able to do business in Cuba despite the continuation of the U.S. economic embargo against the communist nation. Some American companies have been able to export some products to Cuba, but the recent lifting of Cuba's terrorism designation could relax other restrictions. As VOA's Daniela Schrier reports, corporate heavy hitters are lining up to head across the Florida Straits - though experts urge caution.
Video

Video Kenya Launches Police Recruitment Drive After Terror Attacks

Kenya launched a major police recruitment drive this week as part of a large-scale effort to boost security following a recent spate of terror attacks. VOA’s Gabe Joselow reports that allegations of corruption in the process are raising old concerns about the integrity of Kenya’s security forces.
Video

Video Japan, China in Race for Asia High-Speed Rail Projects

A lucrative competition is underway in Asia for billions of dollars in high-speed rail projects. Cambodia, India, Indonesia, Malaysia Thailand and Vietnam are among the countries planning to move onto the fast track. They are negotiating with Japan and the upstart Chinese who are locked in a duel to revolutionize transportation across Asia. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman in Bangkok has details.
Video

Video Scientists: Mosquitoes Attracted By Our Genes

Some people always seem to get bitten by mosquitoes more than others. Now, scientists have proved that is really the case - and they say it’s all because of genes. It’s hoped the research might lead to new preventative treatments for diseases like malaria, as Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Bible Museum Coming to Washington DC

Washington is the center of American political power and also home to some of the nation’s most visited museums. A new one that will showcase the Bible has skeptics questioning the motives of its conservative Christian funders. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Armenia and Politics of Word 'Genocide'

A century ago this April, hundreds of thousands of Armenians of the Turkish Ottoman empire were deported and massacred, and their culture erased from their traditional lands. While broadly accepted by the U.N. and at least 20 countries as “genocide”, the United States and Turkey have resisted using that word to describe the atrocities that stretched from 1915 to 1923. But Armenians have never forgotten.
Video

Video Afghan First Lady Pledges No Roll Back on Women's Rights

Afghan First Lady Rula Ghani, named one of Time's 100 Most Influential, says women should take part in talks with Taliban. VOA's Rokhsar Azamee has more from Kabul.
Video

Video New Brain Mapping Techniques Could Ease Chronic Pain

From Boulder, Colorado, Shelley Schlender reports that new methods for mapping pain in the brain are providing validation for chronic pain and might someday guide better treatment.

VOA Blogs