News / Middle East

    Clinton Challenges Russia on Syria

    An image grab taken from a video released by the United Nations Supervision Mission in Syria shows smoke rising following shelling from the central flashpoint city of Homs on June 11, 2012. An image grab taken from a video released by the United Nations Supervision Mission in Syria shows smoke rising following shelling from the central flashpoint city of Homs on June 11, 2012.
    x
    An image grab taken from a video released by the United Nations Supervision Mission in Syria shows smoke rising following shelling from the central flashpoint city of Homs on June 11, 2012.
    An image grab taken from a video released by the United Nations Supervision Mission in Syria shows smoke rising following shelling from the central flashpoint city of Homs on June 11, 2012.
    Mark SnowissEdward Yeranian
    CAIRO - U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Tuesday the U.S. is concerned about reports Russia is sending attack helicopters to Syria.

    She also said Russia's claims that its arms shipments to Syria are unrelated to the conflict are "patently untrue." She said the U.S. has confronted Russia about stopping its continued arms transfers to the country.

    Her comments come as Syrian rights groups say at least 34 people were killed Tuesday as government forces continued attacks on rebel strongholds, and U.N. monitors reported an angry mob prevented them from reaching the embattled western town of al-Haffeh.

    The Local Coordination Committees, an activist group with members throughout Syria, said the casualties include 14 civilians dead in Deir al-Zour, 10 in Homs and eight in Aleppo. A number of government soldiers were among those killed.

    Also Tuesday, news agencies quoted United Nations peacekeeping chief Herve Ladsous as saying he believes Syria is now in a full-scale civil war, with a "massive increase in the level of violence."

    But U.N. spokesman Martin Nesirky backed away from that characterization, telling reporters later "it is not for the U.N. to designate in that way." Nesirky, however, did confirm "a qualitative shift and intensification" of the violence in Syria.

    Video footage from Syria


    Escalation in al-Haffeh

    The U.N. mission in Syria said a crowd of what appeared to be local residents in al-Haffeh surrounded U.N. observers and threw rocks and metal bars at their vehicles, firing gunshots at them as they left the area. None of the observers was injured.

    The United States has indicated it fears Syrian forces are planning to massacre civilians in the town.

    LCC spokeswoman Rafif Jouejati said rebel fighters in al-Haffeh have been attempting to smuggle trapped civilians over the nearby Turkish border.

    "We know there were some 30,000 residents trapped in the town of al-Haffeh and we also know members of the Free Syrian Army were trying to help residents flee the area and get transported to Turkey and that a small number of residents have been safely transported, but there are still thousands of residents trapped," she said.

    Clashes began last week when security forces initiated their attempt to capture the strategic Sunni Muslim town, located close to the port city of Latakia and the Turkish border - and used by rebels as an active smuggling route for people and supplies.

    Hundreds of rebels are facing a continued tank and helicopter-backed assault in al-Haffeh. The helicopter attacks - confirmed by the U.N. on Monday - are regarded as a significant escalation by government forces.

    Jouejati said that helicopter shelling and other aerial attacks by government forces have been occurring for months across Syria.

    Contact Group

    A spokesman for international envoy Kofi Annan, Ahmad Fawzi, said Tuesday that an international "contact group" will meet soon to discuss how to pressure Syria's government and opposition groups to implement the U.N.-Arab League envoy's tattered peace plan.

    "What is lacking is implementation and that is why we count on these member states with influence on the parties during this meeting and as a result of this meeting to put irrevocable pressure on the parties to implement the plan and stop the killing and begin a political transition," he said.

    No venue, date or list of participants for the meeting has been set.

    The contact group meeting has been in doubt because of Western opposition to Syrian ally Iran's involvement. The Iranian foreign ministry Tuesday welcomed a Russian proposal for Iran to be included despite strong reservations from the United States, France and Britain.

    British Foreign Secretary William Hague said he continues to hope for a peaceful solution.

    "I don't think we can rule out options, but the only option we are advocating and trying to bring about at this moment is the implementation of the Annan plan and a peaceful transition in Syria," he said.

    But former U.N. official Mark Malloch-Brown, who worked closely with Annan at the U.N., echoed sentiments that Syria is on the verge of, if not already in, a state of civil war.

    “The difference between civil war or near civil war is at times like this so slight, that the distinction almost loses meaning," he said. "But the fact is, hits by the [pro-government] Alawite militias on innocent civilians in Sunni villages, have now prompted tit-for-tat hits against Alawite civilians in other parts of the country. So you have got the whole escalating process of sectarian on sectarian violence which is really the essence of a civil war.”

    Child Victims

    On Monday, the United Nations accused Syrian security forces and pro-government "shabiha" militias of committing serious rights violations against children, including using them as human shields.

    The report also said children have been "victims of killing and maiming, arbitrary arrest, detention, torture and ill-treatment, including sexual violence."

    The U.S.-based group Human Rights Watch said the U.N. Security Council should impose an arms embargo and other targeted sanctions on the Syrian leadership in response to the abuses described in the report. It said Syrian children are paying a "horrendous price" in the conflict.

    Analyst Hilal Khashan at the American University of Beirut said it appears the Syrian government is losing control of large parts of the country.

    "The insurgency has spread throughout the country and the regime is now frantic," he said. "They are doing all they can do in order to redress the situation and the only way they know how to react is brutally and they don't mind bringing the country to civil war."

    Syrian state TV said on Tuesday that government forces near the port city of Latakia were "chasing bands of terrorists" who were "destroying government buildings and terrorizing local residents." The report also said that "armed terrorists" stopped two buses carrying civilians near the Lebanese border.

    Andre De Nesnera contributed to this report from Washington and Lisa Schlein from Geneva.

    Mark Snowiss

    Mark Snowiss is a Washington D.C.-based multimedia reporter.  He has written and edited for various media outlets including Pacifica and NPR affiliates in Los Angeles. Follow him on Twitter @msnowiss and on Google Plus

    You May Like

    In Britain, The Sun Still Doesn’t Shine

    Invoking Spitfires and Merlin, Leave voters insist country can be great again, following surprising 'Brexit' vote last week

    Double Wave of Suicide Bombings Puts Lebanon, Refugees on Edge

    Following suicide bombings in Christian town of Al-Qaa, on Lebanon's northeast border with Syria, fears of further bombings have risen

    US Senators Warned on Zika After Failing to Pass Funding

    Zika threats and challenges, as well as issues of contraception and vaccines, spelled out as lawmakers point fingers

    This forum has been closed.
    Comment Sorting
    Comments page of 2
        Next 
    by: HJRR from: USA
    June 13, 2012 1:24 PM
    Personally, I would not help any rebels screaming "ALLAH U AKBAR"... can't they think of something else to say, perhaps "Long Live Syria" or "Give us Freedom or Give us Death". However, if Syria is the cross-roads of Iranian funded/aided terrorism into Lebanon (Hezbollah) being used against Israel; then why we don't make a deal with the rebels and support them is absurd. Obama tossed Mubarak of Egypt under the bus and he was an ALLAY. Why doesn't Obama say the say about Bashar al-Assad?

    by: NVO from: USA
    June 12, 2012 9:16 PM
    Clinton is a NEW WORLD ORDER DRONE, pushing for a ONE WORLD GOVERNMENT. She is a member of The BILDERBERGS, The Council On Foreign Relations, The Trilateral Commission. She is a proponent of GMO in food for population reduction, and is proponent of MICROCHIPPING all people by 2017. Wake up people!!! The BANKS control the MEDIA.

    by: Oyajy from: Syria
    June 12, 2012 6:37 PM
    What is this rotten world, Russia is breaking all world attempts to take action against Syrian dire situation what a joke. Syria my mom please don't cry, we will sacrifice ourselves to make you free, beauty as always and civil forever, and we will send Assad and his Shabbiha to hell

    by: Mike
    June 12, 2012 4:19 PM
    The Obama administration says Russia is sending attack helicopters to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's regime and is warning about a dramatic escalation in the Arab country's 15-month conflict.
    The news and other reports suggest a negative role of Russia in the Syrian events. It is the fault of Russia in Syria intensified civil war and in the hands of the Russian Tsar Putin the blood of Syrian children. It's time for the U.S. and Europe to take military action to eliminate the terrorist dictator Assad and help to the Syrian people in the liberation of their country.

    by: Benesophia from: USA
    June 12, 2012 2:48 PM
    Tony...Thank you for being a beacon of light in a pool of blind ignorance. Everyone staying on top of this world event should by now realize the aggressors are the "West trained" militias that murder women and children (YES...Homs was a village of Alawite Muslims, NO Assad did not murder them, it was the rebels (FSA). Open your eyes and realize who is actually responsible for War Crimes Against Humanity!

    by: Anonymous
    June 12, 2012 1:13 PM
    IF Assad is guilty as it appears to the world, why the heck isn't he charged already for War Crimes Against Humanity? Why don't the western countries put up a REWARD for his capture? A nice reward would have him captured in no time, plus save Syria.

    by: Anonymous
    June 12, 2012 1:09 PM
    No wonder Middle Eastern people dislike the West. We are certainly not winning the hearts and minds of those in Syria, who are subject to genocide. Inaction is creating hatred I would naturally assume. I am disgusted by my governments choice of inaction in this matter. Please Syrians do not be upset with the Western people, it is our governments that make the decisions. Our government is holding off because of Russia and China, these are the real problem behind our governments decision to do nothing.

    by: george pavlakis from: las vegas nv
    June 12, 2012 12:17 PM
    USA said that the UN must impose an arms embargo and sanctions against the Syrian army.
    THAT IS A JOCK.
    When the UN will impose SANCTIONS Against the USA for killing civilians in AFGHANISTAN and PAKISTAN every day???
    Every day the US forces make the statememts that they made a mistake that killed Children and women in the bombings in Pakistan.
    Sooner the USA Proud forces killed hundred thousands of women and children in IRAQ WILL do the same in Pakistan and Afghanistan.
    WHERE THE HELL IS THE UN to protect the civilians??
    Where the HELL is The UN to protect the women and children of PALESTINE???

    by: Anonymous
    June 12, 2012 11:20 AM
    I think anyone dealing with current issues like this is also looking for ways to handle their future, finances, and even retirement in successful ways. One interesting story I found today that talked about this issue is an intriguing write-up about a wealthy boss that decided to do something different with his career. He left Newmont Mining, a $6.5B company, to join a tiny mining company. Very inspiring story that dovetails many of the themes here, I figured you might like it:
    http://www.trefis.com/stock/fnv/articles/125627/why-a-billion-dollar-executive-is-risking-his-career-on-an-abandoned-mine-in-nevada/2012-06-11

    by: Carter
    June 12, 2012 11:15 AM
    David you trying to put religious views on this its self is "foolish" as you would say, are you kidding me? Well when jesus doesnt come to help because a schizophrenic that wrote the bible cant come back from the dead to start smiting people, Humanity will still be fighting with there Guns and knifes until that one bomb to end it all drops. thats jesus, the nuclear explosion that wipes out life except the Cockroach Government in there bunkers. Oh and some bugs.
    This is people fighting people. and its not gunna stop until one side eliminates the other.
    Comments page of 2
        Next 

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Slow Rebuilding Amid Boko Haram Destruction in Nigeria’s Northeasti
    X
    June 29, 2016 6:15 PM
    Military operations have chased Boko Haram out of towns and cities in Nigeria’s northeast since early last year. But it is only recently that people have begun returning to their homes in Adamawa state, near the border with Cameroon, to try to rebuild their lives. For VOA, Chris Stein traveled to the area and has this report.
    Video

    Video Slow Rebuilding Amid Boko Haram Destruction in Nigeria’s Northeast

    Military operations have chased Boko Haram out of towns and cities in Nigeria’s northeast since early last year. But it is only recently that people have begun returning to their homes in Adamawa state, near the border with Cameroon, to try to rebuild their lives. For VOA, Chris Stein traveled to the area and has this report.
    Video

    Video Clinton Leads Trump, But Many Voters Don't Like Either

    In the U.S. presidential race, most recent polls show Democrat Hillary Clinton with a steady lead over Republican Donald Trump as both presumptive party nominees prepare for their party conventions next month. Trump’s disapproval ratings have risen in some recent surveys, but Clinton also suffers from high negative ratings, suggesting both candidates have a lot of work to do to improve their images before the November election. VOA National correspondent Jim Malone has more from Washington.
    Video

    Video New US Ambassador to Somalia Faces Heavy Challenges

    The new U.S. envoy to Somalia, who was sworn into office Monday, will be the first American ambassador to that nation in 25 years. He will take up his post as Somalia faces a number of crucial issues, including insecurity, an upcoming election, and the potential closure of the Dadaab refugee camp in Kenya. VOA’s Jill Craig asked Somalis living in Kenya’s capital city Nairobi how they feel about the U.S. finally installing a new ambassador.
    Video

    Video At National Zoo, Captivating Animal Sculptures Illustrate Tragedy of Ocean Pollution

    The National Zoo in Washington, D.C., is home to about 1,800 animals, representing 300 species. But throughout the summer, visitors can also see other kinds of creatures there. They are larger-than-life animal sculptures that speak volumes about a global issue — the massive plastic pollution in our oceans. VOA's June Soh takes us to the zoo's special exhibit, called Washed Ashore: Art to Save the Sea.
    Video

    Video Baghdad Bikers Defy War with a Roar

    Baghdad is a city of contradictions. War is a constant. Explosions and kidnappings are part of daily life. But the Iraqi capital remains a thriving city, even if a little beat up. VOA's Sharon Behn reports on how some in Baghdad are defying the stereotype of a nation at war by pursuing a lifestyle known for its iconic symbols of rebellion: motorbikes, leather jackets and roaring engines.
    Video

    Video Melting Pot of Immigrants Working to Restore US Capitol Dome

    The American Iron Works company is one of the firms working to renovate the iconic U.S. Capitol Dome. The company employs immigrants of many different cultural and national backgrounds. VOA’s Arman Tarjimanyan has more.
    Video

    Video Testing Bamboo as Building Material

    For thousands of years various species of bamboo - one of the world's most versatile plants - have been used for diverse purposes ranging from food and medicine to textiles and construction. But its use on a large scale is hampered because it's not manufactured to specific standards but grown in the ground. A University of Pittsburgh professor is on track to changing that. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Orphanage in Iraqi City Houses Kids Who Lost their Parents to Attacks by IS

    An orphanage in Iraqi Kurdistan has become home to scores of Yazidi children who lost their parents after Islamic State militants took over Sinjar in Iraq’s Nineveh Province in 2014. Iraqi Kurdish forces backed by the U.S. airstrikes have since recaptured Sinjar but the need for the care provided by the orphanage continues. VOA’s Kawa Omar filed this report narrated by Rob Raffaele.
    Video

    Video Re-Opening Old Wounds in a Bullet-Riddled Cultural Landmark

    A cultural landmark before Lebanon’s civil war transformed it into a nest of snipers, Beirut’s ‘Yellow House’ is once again set to play a crucial role in the city.  Built in a neo-Ottoman style in the 1920s, in September it is set to be re-opened as a ‘memory museum’ - its bullet-riddled walls and bunkered positions overlooking the city’s notorious ‘Green Line’ maintained for posterity. John Owens reports from Beirut.
    Video

    Video Brexit Resounds in US Presidential Contest

    Britain’s decision to leave the European Union is resounding in America’s presidential race. As VOA’s Michael Bowman reports, Republican presumptive nominee Donald Trump sees Britain’s move as an affirmation of his campaign’s core messages, while Democrat Hillary Clinton sees the episode as further evidence that Trump is unfit to be president.
    Video

    Video NASA Juno Spacecraft, Nearing Jupiter, to Shed Light on Gas Giant

    After a five-year journey, the spacecraft Juno is nearing its destination, the giant planet Jupiter, where it will enter orbit and start sending data back July 4th. As Mike O'Sullivan reports from Pasadena, California, the craft will pierce the veil of Jupiter's dense cloud cover to reveal its mysteries.
    Video

    Video Orlando Shooting Changes Debate on Gun Control

    It’s been nearly two weeks since the largest mass shooting ever in the United States. Despite public calls for tighter gun control laws, Congress is at an impasse. Democratic lawmakers resorted to a 1960s civil rights tactic to portray their frustration. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti explains how the Orlando, Florida shooting is changing the debate.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora