News / Middle East

Syrian Violence Escalates as Diplomatic Efforts Falter

Demonstrators gather during a protest against Syria's President Bashar al-Assad and Russia in Kafranbel near Idlib, January 20, 2012
Demonstrators gather during a protest against Syria's President Bashar al-Assad and Russia in Kafranbel near Idlib, January 20, 2012
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Violence in Syria continued Friday, bringing to more than 50 the number of people killed there over the past two days, as a resolution to curb the bloodshed appeared to be stalled in the United Nations.

In the northwestern city of Idlib, six security forces were among the more than 20 people left dead as a result of Friday's violence. Syrian activist Rami Abdul-Raham says the security forces were killed by a car bomb at a security checkpoint. Government forces were also reported to have carried out a raid in the flashpoint city of Homs.

Syrian government forces continued also to attack the country's fourth largest city of Hama for a third day. Witnesses in the poor district of Hamadiya reported that artillery shells were being fired "randomly" at their neighborhood.

Other witnesses say government forces continued to shell the Damascus suburb of Douma, inflicting numerous casualties. Outer suburbs of the capital came under attack, as well.

Opposition websites also reported what they claim was a "massacre" in Syria's third largest city of Homs.

The Free Syrian Army claimed in a video to be holding five Iranian captives.  The Free Syrian Army claims the men were working as government "snipers" and belong to Iran's Revolutionary Guard.

Iran's Mehr news agency, however, says they are engineers, kidnapped in Homs last October.

A large crowd of anti-government protesters took to the streets of Homs to bury several victims of recent fighting,

The Syrian government's attacks are taking place close to the 30th anniversary of a bloody siege that nearly destroyed the city of Hama in 1982, when government artillery killed between 12,000 and 20,000 people.

Khattar Abou Diab, who teaches political science at the University of Paris, says it will be difficult for Syria's government to repeat what happened in 1982.  

Diab says the government of Bashar al-Assad faces a revolt spread out across the four corners of the country.  Diab says he doesn't believe the regime can regain control, and says it is losing control in many places.

Arab League chief Nabil Elaraby and Qatari Prime Minister Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim al-Thani are due to meet with U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon in New York to discuss implementing a league plan for a national unity government and new elections.

The Security Council was due to meet later Friday to begin discussions on Syria.

Russia said Friday it will not support a joint Arab-Western draft resolution in the U.N. to end the 10-month-old crisis because it "does not take into account" Moscow's positions on how to curb the violence.  The stance is likely to stall progress on any U.N. action concerning Syria.

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Jerome Socolovsky
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