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

    US Leaders Who Served in Vietnam War Look Back and Ahead

    In New York Times opinion piece, Secretary of State John Kerry, Senator John McCain and former Senator Bob Kerrey say as US strengthens relations with Vietnam, it is important to remember lessons learned from war

    Who Are US Allies in Fight Against Islamic State?

    There is little but opportunism keeping coalition together analysts warn — SDFs Arab militias are not united even among themselves, frequently squabble and don’t share Kurds' vision for post-Assad Syria

    Learning Foreign Language Helps US Soldiers Bridge Culture Gap

    Effective interaction with local populations part of everyday curriculum at Monterey, California, Defense Language Institute

    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.
    Vietnamese-American Youth Optimistic About Obama's Visit to Vietnami
    X
    Elizabeth Lee
    May 22, 2016 6:04 AM
    U.S. President Barack Obama's visit to Vietnam later this month comes at a time when Vietnam is seeking stronger ties with the United States. Many Vietnamese Americans, especially the younger generation, are optimistic Obama’s trip will help further reconciliation between the two former foes. Elizabeth Lee has more from the community called "Little Saigon" located south of Los Angeles.
    Video

    Video Vietnamese-American Youth Optimistic About Obama's Visit to Vietnam

    U.S. President Barack Obama's visit to Vietnam later this month comes at a time when Vietnam is seeking stronger ties with the United States. Many Vietnamese Americans, especially the younger generation, are optimistic Obama’s trip will help further reconciliation between the two former foes. Elizabeth Lee has more from the community called "Little Saigon" located south of Los Angeles.
    Video

    Video First-generation, Afghan-American Student Sets Sights on Basketball Glory

    Their parents are immigrants to the United States. They are kids who live between two worlds -- their parents' homeland and the U.S. For many of them, they feel most "American" at school. It can be tricky balancing both worlds. In this report, produced by Beth Mendelson, Arash Arabasadi tells us about one Afghan-American student who seems to be coping -- one shot at a time.
    Video

    Video Newest US Citizens, Writing the Next Great Chapter

    While universities across the United States honor their newest graduates this Friday, many immigrants in downtown Manhattan are celebrating, too. One hundred of them, representing 31 countries across four continents, graduated as U.S. citizens, joining the ranks of 680,000 others every year in New York and cities around the country.
    Video

    Video Vietnam Sees Strong Economic Growth Despite Incomplete Reforms

    Vietnam has transformed its communist economy to become one of the world's fastest-growing nations. While the reforms are incomplete, multinational corporations see a profitable future in Vietnam and have made major investments -- as VOA's Jim Randle reports.
    Video

    Video Qatar Denies World Cup Corruption

    The head of Qatar’s organizing committee for the 2022 World Cup insists his country's bid to host the soccer tournament was completely clean, despite the corruption scandals that have rocked the sport’s governing body, FIFA. Hassan Al-Thawadi also said new laws would offer protection to migrants working on World Cup construction projects. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
    Video

    Video Infrastructure Funding Puts Cambodia on Front Line of International Politics

    When leaders of the world’s seven most developed economies meet in Japan next week, demands for infrastructure investment world wide will be high on the agenda. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s push for “quality infrastructure investment” throughout Asia has been widely viewed as a counter to the rise of Chinese investment flooding into region.
    Video

    Video Democrats Fear Party Unity a Casualty in Clinton-Sanders Battle

    Democratic presidential front-runner Hillary Clinton claimed a narrow victory in Tuesday's Kentucky primary even as rival Bernie Sanders won in Oregon. Tensions between the two campaigns are rising, prompting fears that the party will have a difficult time unifying to face the presumptive Republican nominee, Donald Trump. VOA national correspondent Jim Malone has more from Washington.
    Video

    Video Portrait of a Transgender Marriage: Husband and Wife Navigate New Roles

    As controversy continues in North Carolina over the use of public bathrooms by transgender individuals, personal struggles with gender identity that were once secret are now coming to light. VOA’s Tina Trinh explored the ramifications for one couple as part of trans.formation, a series of stories on transgender issues.
    Video

    Video Amerikan Hero Flips Stereotype of Middle Eastern Character

    An Iranian American comedian is hoping to connect with American audiences through a film that inverts some of Hollywood's stereotypes about Middle Eastern characters. Sama Dizayee reports.
    Video

    Video Budding Young Inventors Tackle City's Problems with 3-D Printing

    Every city has problems, and local officials and politicians are often frustrated by their inability to solve them. But surprising solutions can come from unexpected places. Students in Baltimore. Maryland, took up the challenge to solve problems they identified in their city, and came up with projects and products to make a difference. VOA's June Soh has more on a digital fabrication competition primarily focused on 3-D design and printing. Carol Pearson narrates.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora