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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    Comment Sorting
    Comments page of 2
     Previous    
    by: Hasan Mussa from: Amman
    July 31, 2012 2:04 PM
    hey, Arab Palestinians are destroying Jordan... the Jordanian tribes are going to be annihilated

    by: Anonymous
    July 31, 2012 8:22 AM
    Here we go again, Assad indiscriminately shelling neighbourhoods, thinking he can shut people up by intimidation and killing. All this does is prove more and more once again that Assad is a war criminal, killing his very own people. Who is just as guilty as Assad? Putin, he is the one who armed this war criminal of a dictator, and defends the guy with their navy ships. If it wasn't for Putins decisions there would be MANY thousands of Syrians alive today. Nearly every Syrian killed, was killed with a Russian weapon of some sort. I hope both Putin and Assad burn in hell for this.
    In Response

    by: Anonymous
    August 02, 2012 3:07 AM
    Ohhh so if we believe your theory that these are terrorists, why would all of the military generals be defecting? Are they scared to stand up to terrorists? Noooooooo, they don't want to kill innocent people/civillians who are fighting Assad. These are taxi drivers, bus drivers, truck drivers, lawyers, brick layers, store keepers, and even lots of ex Assad Military members. These are the types of people (and many other types) that are civillians fighting Assads regime. Labelling them as terrorists is not correct. The FSA also consists of victims families that lost loved ones from indiscriminate shelling/bombing/killing by Assad. The Syrian public has turned a blind eye for too long and are now standing up for human rights. Assad has killed over 20,000 people, what percentage of 20,000 do you consider terrorists???
    In Response

    by: RealityCheck from: San Diego
    July 31, 2012 4:33 PM
    To the comment
    "Let's see - I remember in 1985 when MOVE was a nuisance in their neighborhood and did not let police evict them from their home (but did not fire guns or kill anybody), the government bombed their home (with women and children inside) and killed 11 people, 5 of them children."

    Where do you get your information pal? "Did not fire guns or kill anybody"??? Really?

    Anyone with sense - please read about MOVE and forget this bums comment.

    That said - media is propaganda and the US should leave Syria alone. Assad will fall soon enough.
    In Response

    by: Anonymous
    July 31, 2012 3:32 PM
    I've seen enough documentries and interviews with the public there, they all hate their government and will not budge again for their government. Just like Assads Daddy, blood all over his hands, of course Assads police forces will end up getting into the middle of it too.... They are followers of Assad. Don't try and change my mind what I SEE.. lol You guys all seem like Assad Sympathizers, comical. Part of his 20 man propaganda team haha??? Everyone in Syria wants an end to this pathetic dictator.
    In Response

    by: notbrainewashed from: ca
    July 31, 2012 2:30 PM
    The media brainwashed you
    In Response

    by: CalDre from: Ukraine
    July 31, 2012 2:04 PM
    Killing his own people? Did you read the part about these fighters being armed and having killed 40 police? What do you think the US government would do if, say, Mexican gangs, financed and armed by US' enemies (say Iran), were running through Los Angeles with machine guns and RPGs and murdering police and soldiers?

    Let's see - I remember in 1985 when MOVE was a nuisance in their neighborhood and did not let police evict them from their home (but did not fire guns or kill anybody), the government bombed their home (with women and children inside) and killed 11 people, 5 of them children.

    Imagine what would happen, if a similar armed insurgency like is going on in Syria (funded by external enemies, causing vast destruction, killing police and soldiers and top government officials) happened. What do you think the US government would do? Do you think they would hesitate for a second to "kill their own people"?
    In Response

    by: George
    July 31, 2012 10:27 AM
    You have no idea what you are talking about and need to research the facts. These are not rebels. Go to syria and ask the general population wh the terrorists are. You are a slave to the media.
    Comments page of 2
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