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

    Video As Refugees Perish, Greek Graveyards Fill

    Before burial at overflowing cemeteries, unidentified dead being swapped for DNA, in case some day relatives come to learn their fate

    Russian Opposition Leader Sues Putin for Conflict of Interest

    Alexei Navalny tells VOA in exclusive interview why transfer of $2 billion from country’s wealth fund to company with ties to President Putin’s son-in-law triggered lawsuit

    How Diversity Has Changed America

    Over the past four decades, the level of diversity in the United States has increased most in these four states

    This forum has been closed.
    Comment Sorting
    Comments page of 2
     Previous    
    by: Tony
    June 12, 2012 11:04 AM
    It is a war - the FSA terrorists have thrown out the ceasefire deal - not that they were observing it to begin with, and who's still protesting during a war? Or is this US State Department run VOA calling armed militants "protesters?"

    The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights is one man - it is not an "organization." This is the biggest fraud of the entire conflict - this and entire MSM reports citing "activists say."

    by: David C from: Canada
    June 12, 2012 10:12 AM
    One needs not ask why there is nothing being done, because it was only "Christ" who said it's better to live among the meek and lowly then to rule among FOOLS! (All governments)
    Now do you realise that it's 0NE BIG RULING FOOL pulling the wool over the REST of the FOOLS that rule!
    This type of stupidity will not stop until the coming of Christ during the great tribulation predicted by all foolish religious groups! And don't think you will be immune to what is happening! You will see such foolish stupidity at your door step to!
    It will happen similarly here and there but in different ways.

    by: d w parsons from: uk
    June 12, 2012 9:24 AM
    you haft to fight for democrice armthem the so could rebbels.

    by: wil
    June 12, 2012 7:55 AM
    why is it we let this continue, if there was billions in oil we would be there in a second oh wait there isnt so the states back down funny how the black blood is worth more then cillvilans life, when this is over i hope the goverment that stood on the side and watched this happen know that they are to blame as much as the crule regime
    Comments page of 2
     Previous    

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    As Refugees Perish, Greek Graveyards Filli
    X
    Hamada Elsaram
    February 11, 2016 8:01 PM
    Aid workers on the Greek island of Lesbos say they are struggling to bury the increasing number of bodies of refugees that have been recovered or washed up ashore in recent months.  The graveyards are all full, they say, yet as tens of thousands of people clamor to get out of Syria, it is clear refugees will still be coming in record numbers. For VOA, Hamada Elrasam reports from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video As Refugees Perish, Greek Graveyards Fill

    Aid workers on the Greek island of Lesbos say they are struggling to bury the increasing number of bodies of refugees that have been recovered or washed up ashore in recent months.  The graveyards are all full, they say, yet as tens of thousands of people clamor to get out of Syria, it is clear refugees will still be coming in record numbers. For VOA, Hamada Elrasam reports from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video To Fight Zika, Scientists Target Mosquitoes

    Mosquitoes strike again. The Zika virus outbreak is just the latest headline-grabbing epidemic carried by these biting pests, but researchers are fighting back with new ways to control them. VOA's Steve Baragona takes a look.
    Video

    Video Mosul Refugees Talk About Life Under IS

    A top U.S. intelligence official told Congress this week that a planned Iraqi-led operation to re-take the city of Mosul from Islamic State militants is unlikely to take place this year. IS took over the city in June 2014, and for the past year and a half, Mosul residents have been held captive under its rule. VOA's Zana Omar talked to some families who managed to escape. Bronwyn Benito narrates his report.
    Video

    Video Scientists Make Progress Toward Better Diabetes Treatment, Cure

    Scientists at two of the top U.S. universities say they have made significant advances in their quest to find a more efficient treatment for diabetes and eventually a cure. According to the International Diabetes Federation, the disease affects more than 370 million people worldwide. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video NATO to Target Migrant Smugglers

    NATO has announced plans to send warships to the Aegean Sea to target migrant smugglers in the alliance's most direct intervention so far since a wave of people began trying to reach European shores.
    Video

    Video Russia's Catholics, Orthodox Hopeful on Historic Pope-Patriarch Meeting

    Russia's Catholic minority has welcomed an historic first meeting Friday in Cuba between the Pope and the Patriarch of Russia's dominant Orthodox Church. The Orthodox Church split with Rome in 1054 and analysts say politics, both church and state, have been driving the relationship in the centuries since. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
    Video

    Video Used Books Get a New Life on the Streets of Lagos

    Used booksellers are importing books from abroad and selling them on the streets of Africa's largest city. What‘s popular with readers may surprise you. Chris Stein reports from Lagos.
    Video

    Video After NH Primaries All Eyes on South Carolina

    After Tuesday's primary in New Hampshire, US presidential candidates swiftly turned to the next election coming up in South Carolina. The so-called “first-in-the-South” poll may help further narrow down the field of candidates. Zlatica Hoke reports.
    Video

    Video US Co-ed Selective Service Plan Stirs Controversy

    Young women may soon be required to register with the U.S. Selective Service System, the U.S. government agency charged with implementing a draft in a national emergency. Top Army and Marine Corps commanders told the Senate Armed Services Committee recently that women should register, and a bill has been introduced in Congress requiring eligible women to sign up for the military draft. The issue is stirring some controversy, as VOA’s Bernard Shusman reports from New York.
    Video

    Video Lessons Learned From Ebola Might Help Fight Zika

    Now that the Ebola epidemic has ended in West Africa, Zika has the world's focus. And, as Carol Pearson reports, health experts and governments are applying some of the lessons learned during the Ebola crisis in Africa to fight the Zika virus in Latin America and the Caribbean.
    Video

    Video Smartphone Helps Grow Vegetables

    One day, you may be using your smartphone to grow your vegetables. A Taipei-based company has developed a farm cube — a small, enclosed ecosystem designed to grow plants indoors. The environment inside is automatically adjusted by the cube, but it can also be controlled through an app. VOA's Deborah Block has more on the gardening system.
    Video

    Video Illinois Voters Have Mixed Emotions on Obama’s Return to Springfield

    On the ninth anniversary of the launch of his quest for national office, President Barack Obama returned to Springfield, Illinois, to speak to the Illinois General Assembly, where he once served as state senator. His visit was met with mixed emotions by those with a front-row seat on his journey to the White House. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.
    Video

    Video Exhibit Turns da Vinci’s Drawings Into Real Objects

    In addition to being a successful artist, Renaissance genius Leonardo da Vinci designed many practical machines, some of which are still in use today, although in different forms. But a number of his projects were never realized — until today. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Heated Immigration Debate Limits Britain’s Refugee Response

    Compared to many other European states, Britain has agreed to accept a relatively small number of Syrian refugees. Just over a thousand have arrived so far -- and some are being resettled in remote corners of the country. Henry Ridgwell reports on why Britain’s response has lagged behind its neighbors.
    Video

    Video Russia's Car Sales Shrink Overall, But Luxury and Economy Models See Growth

    Car sales in Russia dropped by more than a third in 2015 because of the country's economic woes. But, at the extreme ends of the car market, luxury vehicles and some economy brands are actually experiencing growth. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.