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.
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

Video Getting to Zero AIDS Infections

More than 35 million people around the world are infected with HIV, a disease that is both preventable and treatable

Children, Childhoods Lost in European Refugee Crisis

According to UNICEF, 190,000 children applied for political asylum in Europe in the first 9 months of this year - twice as many as last year

What Happened When I Landed in Antarctica

Refael Klein chronicles what it's like to visit one of the coldest, most desolate places on Earth

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments page of 2
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.
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:

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

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
With HIV, Can We Get to Zero?i
Carol Pearson
November 29, 2015 1:23 PM
The theme of this year's World AIDS Day is "Getting to Zero." The U.N. says new HIV infections have been reduced by 35 percent since 2000 and AIDS-related deaths are down by 42 percent since the peak in 2004. VOA's Carol Pearson takes a look at what it might take to actually have an AIDS-free generation.

Video With HIV, Can We Get to Zero?

The theme of this year's World AIDS Day is "Getting to Zero." The U.N. says new HIV infections have been reduced by 35 percent since 2000 and AIDS-related deaths are down by 42 percent since the peak in 2004. VOA's Carol Pearson takes a look at what it might take to actually have an AIDS-free generation.

Video Political Motives Seen Behind Cancelled Cambodian Water Festival

For the fourth time in the five years since more than 350 people were killed in a stampede at Cambodia’s annual water festival, authorities canceled the event this year. Officials blamed environmental reasons as the cause, but many see it as fallout from rising political tensions with a fresh wave of ruling party intimidation against the opposition. David Boyle and Kimlong Meng report from Phnom Penh.

Video African Circus Gives At-Risk Youth a 2nd Chance

Ethiopia hosted the first African Circus Arts Festival this past weekend with performers from seven different African countries. Most of the performers are youngsters coming form challenging backgrounds who say the circus gave them a second chance.

Video US Lawmakers Brace for End-of-Year Battles

U.S. lawmakers are returning to Washington for Congress’ final working weeks of the year. And, as VOA's Michael Bowman reports, a full slate of legislative business awaits them, from keeping the federal government open to resolving a battle with the White House over the admittance of Syrian refugees.

Video Taiwan Looks for Role in South China Sea Dispute

The Taiwanese government is one of several that claims territory in the hotly contested South China Sea, but Taipei has long been sidelined in the dispute, overshadowed by China. Now, as the Philippines challenges Beijing’s claims in an international court at The Hague, Taipei is looking to publicly assert its claims. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.

Video After Terrorist Attacks, Support for Refugees Fades

The terrorists who killed and injured almost 500 people around Paris this month are mostly French or Belgian nationals. But at least two apparently took advantage of Europe’s migrant crisis to sneak into the region. The discovery has hardened views about legitimate refugees, including those fleeing the same extremist violence that hit the French capital. Lisa Bryant has this report for VOA from the Paris suburb of Cergy-Pontoise

Video Syrian Refugees in US Express Concern for Those Left Behind

Syrian immigrants in the United States are concerned about the negative tide of public opinion and the politicians who want to block a U.S. plan to accept 10,000 Syrian refugees. Zlatica Hoke reports many Americans are fighting to dispel suspicions linking refugees to terrorists.

Video Thais Send Security Concerns Down the River

As Thailand takes in the annual Loy Krathong festival, many ponder the country’s future and security. Steve Sandford reports from Chiang Mai.

Video Islamic State Unfazed by Losses in Iraq, Syria

Progress in the U.S.-led effort to beat Islamic State on its home turf in Iraq and Syria has led some to speculate the terror group may be growing desperate. But counterterror officials say that is not the case, and warn the recent spate of terror attacks is merely part of the group’s evolution. VOA National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more.

Video Belgium-Germany Border Remains Porous, Even As Manhunt For Paris Attacker Continues

One of the suspected gunmen in the Nov. 13 Paris attacks, Salah Abdeslam, evaded law enforcement, made his way to Belgium, and is now believed to have fled to Germany. VOA correspondent Ayesha Tanzeem makes the journey across the border from Belgium into Germany to see how porous the borders really are.

Video US, Cambodian Navies Pair Up in Gulf of Thailand

The U.S. Navy has deployed one of its newest and most advanced ships to Cambodia to conduct joint training drills in the Gulf of Thailand. Riding hull-to-hull with Cambodian ships, the seamen of the USS Fort Worth are executing joint-training drills that will help build relations in Southeast Asia. David Boyle reports for VOA from Preah Sihanouk province.

Video Uncertain Future for Syrian Refugee Resettlement in Illinois

For the trickle of Syrian refugees finding new homes in the Midwest city of Chicago, the call to end resettlement in many U.S. states is adding another dimension to their long journey fleeing war. Organizations working to help them integrate say the backlash since the Paris attacks is both harming and helping their efforts to provide refugees sanctuary. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.

VOA Blogs