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

    New EU Asylum Rules Could Boost Rightists

    New regulations will seek to correct EU failures in dealing with migrant crisis, most notably inability to get member states to absorb a total of 160,000 refugees

    More Political Turmoil Likely in Iraq as Iran Waits in the Wings

    Analysts warn that Tehran, even though it may not be engineering the Sadrist protests in Baghdad, is seeking to leverage its influence on its neighbor

    Forced Anal Testing Case to Appear Before Kenya Court

    Men challenge use of anal examinations to ‘prove homosexuality’; practice accomplishes nothing except to humiliate those subjected to them, according to Human Rights Watch

    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.
    Tensions Rising Ahead of South China Sea Rulingi
    X
    May 03, 2016 5:16 PM
    As the Philippines awaits an international arbitration ruling on a challenge to China's claims to nearly all of the South China Sea, it is already becoming clear that regardless of which way the decision goes, the dispute is intensifying. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
    Video

    Video Tensions Rising Ahead of South China Sea Ruling

    As the Philippines awaits an international arbitration ruling on a challenge to China's claims to nearly all of the South China Sea, it is already becoming clear that regardless of which way the decision goes, the dispute is intensifying. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
    Video

    Video Painting Captures President Lincoln Assassination Aftermath

    A newly restored painting captures the moments following President Abraham Lincoln’s assassination in 1865. It was recently unveiled at Ford’s Theatre in Washington, where America’s 16th president was shot. It is the only known painting by an eyewitness that captures the horror of that fateful night. VOA’s Julie Taboh tells us more about the painting and what it took to restore it to its original condition.
    Video

    Video Elephant Summit Results in $5M in Pledges, Presidential Support

    Attended and supported by three African presidents, a three-day anti-poaching summit has concluded in Kenya, resulting in $5 million in pledges and a united message to the world that elephants are worth more alive than dead. The summit culminated at the Nairobi National Park with the largest ivory burn in history. VOA’s Jill Craig attended the summit and has this report about the outcomes.
    Video

    Video Displaced By War, Syrian Artist Finds Inspiration Abroad

    Saudi-born Syrian painter Mohammad Zaza is among the millions who fled their home for an uncertain future after Syria's civil war broke out. Since fleeing Syria, Zaza has lived in Lebanon, Egypt, Jordan and now Turkey where his latest exhibition, “Earth is Blue like an Orange,” opened in Istanbul. He spoke with VOA about how being displaced by the Syrian civil war has affected the country's artists.
    Video

    Video Ethiopia’s Drought Takes Toll on Children

    Ethiopia is dealing with its worst drought in decades, thanks to El Nino weather patterns. An estimated 10 million people urgently need food aid. Six million of them are children, whose development may be compromised without sufficient help, Marthe van der Wolf reports for VOA from the Metahara district.
    Video

    Video Little Havana - a Slice of Cuban Culture in Florida

    Hispanic culture permeates everything in Miami’s Little Havana area: elderly men playing dominoes as they discuss politics, cigar rollers deep at work, or Cuban exiles talking with presidential candidates at a Cuban coffee window. With the recent rapprochement between Cuba and United States, one can only expect stronger ties between South Florida and Cuba.
    Video

    Video California Republicans Weigh Presidential Choices Amid Protests

    Republican presidential candidates have been wooing local party leaders in California, a state that could be decisive in selecting the party's nominee for U.S. president. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports delegates to the California party convention have been evaluating choices, while front-runner Donald Trump drew hundreds of raucous protesters Friday.
    Video

    Video Kurdish Football Team Helps War-Torn City Cope

    With the conflict still raging across much of Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast, between the rebel PKK and the Turkish state, many Kurds are trying to escape the turmoil by focusing on the success of their football team Amedspor in Diyarbakir. The club is increasingly becoming a symbol for Kurds, not only in Diyarbakir but beyond. Dorian Jones reports from southeast Turkey.
    Video

    Video ‘The Lights of Africa’ - Through the Eyes of 54 Artists

    An exhibition bringing together the work of 54 African artists, one from each country, is touring the continent after debuting at COP21 in Paris. Called "Lumières d'Afrique," the show centers on access to electricity and, more figuratively, ideas that enlighten. Emilie Iob reports from Abidjan, the exhibition's first stop.
    Video

    Video Florida’s Weeki Wachee ‘Mermaids’ Make a Splash

    Since 1947, ‘mermaids’ have fascinated tourists at central Florida’s Weeki Wachee Springs State Park with their fluid movements and synchronized ballet. Performing underwater has its challenges, including cold temperatures and a steady current, as VOA’s Lin Yang and Joseph Mok report.
    Video

    Video Somali, African Union Forces Face Resurgent Al-Shabab

    The Islamic State terror group claimed its first attack in Somalia earlier this week, though the claim has not been verified by forces on the ground. Meanwhile, al-Shabab militants have stepped up their attacks as Somalia prepares for elections later this year. Henry Ridgwell reports there are growing frustrations among Somalia’s Western backers over the country’s slow progress in forming its own armed forces to establish security after 25 years of chaos.
    Video

    Video Nigerians Feel Bite of Buhari Economic Policy

    Despite the global drop in the price of oil, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari has refused to allow the country's currency to devalue, leading to a shortage of foreign exchange. Chris Stein reports from Lagos businessmen and consumers are feeling the impact as the country deals with a severe fuel shortage.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora