News / Middle East

    UN General Assembly to Meet on Syria

    Fleeing civilians walk past a member of the Free Syrian Army in Aleppo's district of Salah Edinne July 31, 2012.
    Fleeing civilians walk past a member of the Free Syrian Army in Aleppo's district of Salah Edinne July 31, 2012.
    Margaret BesheerLisa Schlein
    BEIRUT/GENEVA — The United Nations General Assembly is to meet Thursday to discuss a Saudi resolution expressing grave concern with the violence in Syria and condemning the Security Council's lack of action.
     
    The draft resolution also raises alarms about the Syrian government's threat to use chemical weapons against what the Syrians call foreign invaders. It calls on President Bashar al-Assad to step down in favor of a peaceful transition to a democratic government.
     
    Meanwhile, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's army remained locked in battles with rebels over the country's largest city of Aleppo on Tuesday.

    There were widespread clashes reported across Syria Tuesday, but the fiercest battle remained in the country's commercial heart of Aleppo.

    Syria's official news agency reported that the army ambushed between 400-500 terrorists - the word the government uses to refer to the rebels - in 30 pick-up trucks in the suburbs of Aleppo. The report said many were killed and wounded and several of their trucks destroyed.

    Meanwhile, Rami Abd al-Rahman, director of the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, said in an interview that the Free Syrian Army had successfully attacked a police station in the city.

    “The rebels, they attacked some police station in two areas in Aleppo, and they killed at least around 40 people from the police," he said. "And also there are clashes in many areas in Aleppo and shelling from the Syrian regular army, and they are using the helicopter and they are using the mortar.”

    Special Report - Arab Spring: The Evolution of Revolutions

    The fighting comes as the Syrian opposition movement further splintered when some exiled Syrian activists announced in Cairo that they had formed a new political alliance, one that will challenge the rival Syrian National Council in moves to head a transitional government.

    Calling itself the "Council for the Syrian Revolution," the group is led mainly by dissidents who left the National Council which, they said, "had failed to help the Syrian revolution." Activist Haitham al-Maleh said the new alliance would offer more support to rebel fighters.

    Refugees Increasing

    Algerian volunteers distribute free food for iftar (breaking fast) to Syrian refugee families who fled the violence in Port Said Square in Algiers, July 30, 2012.Algerian volunteers distribute free food for iftar (breaking fast) to Syrian refugee families who fled the violence in Port Said Square in Algiers, July 30, 2012.
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    Algerian volunteers distribute free food for iftar (breaking fast) to Syrian refugee families who fled the violence in Port Said Square in Algiers, July 30, 2012.
    Algerian volunteers distribute free food for iftar (breaking fast) to Syrian refugee families who fled the violence in Port Said Square in Algiers, July 30, 2012.
    The United Nations estimates some 200,000 civilians have fled Aleppo and surrounding areas in recent days. The U.N. refugee agency said thousands more remain displaced in Aleppo without the means to leave or are prevented from doing so by armed gangs.

    Agency spokeswoman Melissa Fleming said thousands of frightened residents are seeking shelter in schools, mosques and public buildings. She said the Syrian Arab Red Crescent and other groups are registering about 300 displaced families a day in need of help.

    "For example, there are 32 schools in Aleppo that we have identified and in each of those schools we have heard or witnessed that 250 to 350 people are packed inside," Fleming told reporters in Geneva.

    "Many of these families [have] kids," she said. "And then in university dormitories there are a total of some 7,000 people staying in the dormitory rooms, hoping to seek safety from the continuing shelling and the continuing violence in the streets of Aleppo."  

    Despite the difficulties of moving around in the city, Fleming said U.N. staff members are working with other aid organizations to assess needs. She said the agency's office in Damascus is sending household items including mattresses, blankets and kitchenware to Aleppo.

    Iraqis Seek Help

    U.N. staff members in Damascus are receiving phone calls from refugees, many of them Iraqis, who fear for their safety in Syria. Callers say they lack access to food, water and sanitation. They are asking the agency to help them move to safer areas and away from the fighting.

    At the peak of the Iraq war, Syria hosted about one million refugees from Iraq. An estimated 80,000 remain in Damascus and many of those are seeking to return home.

    In addition to the Iraqis, the U.N. said about 8,000 Somali and Afghan refugees are living in Damascus, many without documents. Fleming said they are afraid of being physically harmed and targeted.  

    Since the outbreak of the conflict in Syria, Fleming said the Somalis and Afghans are becoming less accepted in Syria than refugees from Iraq.  

    "Somalis and the Afghans lived quite peacefully and were able to work and feel that they could raise their families in Syria," she said. "However, now that things have turned violent, this is the group that feels like they stick out, particularly. And, thus, feel more at risk and many feel directly targeted."  

    Fleming said up to 25,000 Syrians reportedly fled to Algeria. And she predicts that as Syrians in Algeria become increasingly financially-strapped, they will turn to the U.N. refugee agency for assistance.

    Besheer reported from Beiruit and Schlein reported from Geneva. 

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    by: Hadad from: NY
    August 01, 2012 12:16 AM
    you have got to love these guys... UN Assembly to meet on Syria with some coffee, humus, good music... love it... let those Arab cowards kill each other - i don't want any of my family members to die for these filthy people - send the "Nation of Islam" and the head coward... what was his name... you know... the guy who looks like a pussy with the spaceship...

    by: anonymous from: Norway
    July 31, 2012 10:32 PM
    While the US and it's allies sanctioned the use of chemicals in war fighting, or rather war on terror, in another part of the world, the monster appears to be returning towards the original perpetrators' heads now. The western and Eastern powers simply experimented a new form of terror fight in Sri Lanka and most of the Arab-world including the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia supported the moves at UN, and it may be the day of repaying! Their own people are going to be burnt similarly. This might be a sign that divinity, whatever one wants to call it, does exist and is impartial.

    by: umish from: usa
    July 31, 2012 10:29 PM
    Why bother giving it to the UN. They are a bunch of impotent blowhards and most are terroristic in nature. THey couldnt punch their way out of a paper bag even if it had holes. Let the UN stay out of it and make believe they are politicians

    by: Romildo Caldas from: Brazil
    July 31, 2012 10:27 PM
    International Effort have been made to stop this domestic War. International Militar Intervention is not the right way to solve such a problem. For Instance; the past decision to invade Iraq was a wrong one. Surely, we can help the victms, and give some piece of advice if it is accepted. Only Diplomatic Means can be used.. Syria' Sovereignty has to be respected.

    by: wildiron from: usa
    July 31, 2012 10:19 PM
    In the USA we have a check and balance thanks to our vets, if the govt here went out of control, us vets have the responsibility and authority and capability to see that doesn't happen.

    by: Alex from: Australia
    July 31, 2012 9:03 PM
    Lol. Go the Syrian Army. Show the world that Syria does not bow down to the West, like many Arab countries have already.
    If those soldiers and police officers were killed in the USA, we would be hearing " Terrorist Attack in America!!!" But here, VOA mocks how the Syrians are calling these pure terrorists, terrorists, while they say they are rebles, fighting for freedom. What freedom? Freedom to kiill? Freedom to destroy? Yep.

    Syria Al Assad will prevail

    by: Dheruv Mahindra from: India
    July 31, 2012 4:12 PM
    I am a strong believer in freedom and the democratic process, no man or woman on this earth should be ruled by another - freewill must always be express. The demonstrations by opposition in Syria would have been effective if they were kept peaceful and non-violent, but, instead overzealous activist have marred the process by arming resistance to wreak havoc on a once stable country - now, how must the government see this process? which government on real soldiers would give in to an opposition who is composed of mainly criminals or "terrorist?"

    by: Bryan .. from: California ..
    July 31, 2012 3:13 PM
    This is President Obama's fault for not stopping the murder of unarmed demonstrators 435 days ago .. just like the British and Americans could have stopped WWII by eliminating Hilter in the early years ..

    by: SuperUberPatriot1776yeah from: USAUSA
    July 31, 2012 2:32 PM
    Loving the phony sounding comments, as if Merica' has been concerned with the well being of Syrians all along, lol.
    In Response

    by: Nora from: Minute Men
    July 31, 2012 8:52 PM
    excellent observation... eMrica... ugly Arab filth... these are the slime buckets with the cowardly IEDs... killing our guys... disgusting...

    by: Aperson7 from: NY
    July 31, 2012 2:20 PM
    Good update. For background on the Syrian civil war, look no further:
    http://politicizenow.wordpress.com/2012/07/26/the-state-of-syria/
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