News

Reports of Renewed Syrian Attacks on Civilians Alarm Annan

UN and Arab League envoy to Syria Kofi Annan , listens during meeting of Committee of Ministers of the Arab League to discuss situation in Syria, April 17, 2012.
UN and Arab League envoy to Syria Kofi Annan , listens during meeting of Committee of Ministers of the Arab League to discuss situation in Syria, April 17, 2012.

International envoy Kofi Annan has expressed "alarm" about media reports that Syrian troops have attacked civilian areas visited by U.N. soldiers trying to monitor a shaky truce in the government's year-long conflict with rebels.

U.N. diplomats say Annan made the comment Tuesday in a closed-door briefing to the U.N. Security Council via video link from Sweden.

They quote Annan as saying he is aware of reports that Syrian troops fired automatic weapons and killed a significant number of people in the central city of Hama on Monday. Several U.N. observers had visited the opposition hub a day earlier and were greeted by large crowds chanting anti-government slogans.

Annan said if confirmed, the Hama killings are "totally unacceptable and reprehensible." He said two of the 11 U.N. monitors deployed in Syria returned to the city on Tuesday to set up a base. Observer mission spokesman Neeraj Singh said the monitors also visited the Damascus suburb of Douma, talking to residents and conducting patrols "for a good period of time."

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Tuesday that harassment and possible violence against Syrians who meet with U.N. monitors is "absolutely deplorable."

The small group of U.N. truce monitors has been operating in Syria for more than a week, visiting rebellious areas such as Hama, Homs and the Damascus suburbs, where government forces have been violently suppressing dissent for months. The U.N. Security Council approved an expansion of the observer mission to 300 personnel last week.

Diplomats quote Kofi Annan as saying that a speedy deployment of the additional monitors is "crucial" to verify compliance by Syrian government and rebel forces with the April 12 cease-fire. But U.N. peacekeeping chief Herve Ladsous told the Security Council it will take a month for the first 100 members of the mission to be in place. Exiled Syrian opposition leaders say that number is too small to cover Syria's territory.

Annan also told the council that he received a letter from Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moualem saying Damascus has withdrawn troops and heavy weapons from population centers as required by the U.N.-backed truce.

Earlier, Annan's spokesman said Syria has failed to honor that commitment. Ahmad Fawzi said Tuesday Annan's team has satellite imagery and credible reports showing the Syrian government's promised pullout "has not fully happened." Fawzi called this "unacceptable."

In the latest violence Tuesday, the British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says that gunmen killed a Syrian intelligence officer in the Barzeh neighborhood of Damascus. In another incident, a vehicle rigged with explosives blew up in the capital's central Marjeh district, wounding several people. Syrian state media blamed the attack on "armed terrorists" whom they say are leading the anti-Assad uprising.  

In Geneva, the U.N. World Food Program said it aims to deliver food assistance to 500,000 people in Syria "in the coming weeks" - a tenfold increase since December. The WFP said it is expanding its assistance at the request of the Syrian Arab Red Crescent and stands ready to increase its operations in the country further "when access permits."

U.N. aid agencies have been largely shut out of Syria, but a joint assessment carried out last month with Syrian authorities estimated that at least 1 million people needed humanitarian aid.

Meanwhile, Tunisian President Moncef al-Marzouki said his embattled Syrian counterpart is "finished" and will eventually leave power "dead or alive." Marzouki told the pan-Arab Al-Hayat newspaper Tuesday that Assad's international allies, "the Russians, Chinese and Iranians, must understand this man is finished and...persuade him to leave power."

Addressing the Syrian leader directly, the Tunisian president said "it is better for you and your family to leave alive, because if you decide to leave dead, that means that you have caused the deaths of tens of thousands of innocents."

The United Nations estimates that more than 9,000 people have been killed in Syria's 13-month crackdown on the revolt, while activist groups put the death toll at more than 11,000.

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.
Family of American Marine Calls for Release From Iranian Prisoni
X
Heather Murdock
July 01, 2015 8:59 PM
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 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 Nubians in Kenya Face Land Challenges

East Africa's ethnic Nubians have a rich cultural history that dates back thousands of years, but in Kenya they are facing hardships, including the loss of lands they have lived on for generations. They say the government has reneged on its pledge to award them title deeds for the plots. VOA's Lenny Ruvaga reports.
Video

Video Military Experts Question New Russian Tank Capabilities

Russia has been showing off its new tank design – the Armata T-14. Designers claim it is 20 years ahead of current Western designs - and driving it feels like playing a computer game. But military analysts question those assertions, and warn the cost could be too heavy a burden for Russia’s struggling economy. 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