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    Death Toll Mounts as Syria Marks Uprising Anniversary

    Hana, 12, flashes the victory sign next to her sister Eva, 13, as they recover from severe injuries after the Syrian Army shelled their house in Idlib, north Syria. (March 10, 2012 file photo)
    Hana, 12, flashes the victory sign next to her sister Eva, 13, as they recover from severe injuries after the Syrian Army shelled their house in Idlib, north Syria. (March 10, 2012 file photo)

    At least 23 people are reported dead as Syrian forces continue a crackdown on dissent Thursday, the first anniversary of the uprising, while state television showed huge rallies in support of President Bashar al-Assad.

    The British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says 23 bodies were dumped in the northwestern Idlib region and some of the dead showed signs of torture.  Also, activists say security forces carried out raids in several regions.

    A state media report says government forces clashed with "remnants of armed terrorist groups" in the Idlib countryside, killing a number of "terrorists."

    Biggest raid in months


    With international efforts to end the crackdown stalled, Syrian government forces have overrun most of Idlib and launched their biggest raid in months on the southern city of Daraa - a town rebels call "the birthplace of our revolution."

    Rebel fighters have been in retreat throughout Syria and a movement of opposition activists has been fragmented with dissent. French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe said Thursday his country opposes arming the Syrian opposition, fearing the situation could become a "bigger catastrophe."



    Unite for Syria

    Note: VOA has revised its figures based on information complied by UNOSAT via death toll figures from Syrianshuhada.com and the Violations Documenting Center. This change reflects a shift in the numbers. Because of the difficulty of monitoring and reporti
    Note: VOA has revised its figures based on information complied by UNOSAT via death toll figures from Syrianshuhada.com and the Violations Documenting Center. This change reflects a shift in the numbers. Because of the difficulty of monitoring and reporti

    In a new effort, a group of 200 non-governmental organizations is teaming with celebrities and activists in a campaign to stop Syria's violence.  The initiative called Unite For Syria is using Facebook, Twitter and YouTube to highlight calls for international help.

    United Nations-Arab League special envoy Kofi Annan is scheduled to brief the U.N. Security Council Friday on his mediation efforts.  A spokesman for Annan says the envoy has remained in contact with Syrian authorities, after visiting Damascus last weekend.

    U.N. council diplomats say Annan's assessment will be crucial to a bid by the United States and European allies to pass a resolution that would ensure humanitarian aid workers have access to besieged towns across the country. Russia and China have twice vetoed resolutions condemning Syria.

    Amin Saikal, the director of the Center of Arab and Islamic Studies at the Australian National University, told VOA he does not expect swift U.N. action.

    "The international community, and more specifically the United Nations Security Council, is paralyzed on the basis of the Russian and Chinese opposition to adopt a position whereby greater pressure could be exerted on Assad's regime," Saikal said.

    View the timeline of uprising in Syria

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    Outcry

    New York-based Human Rights Watch called Thursday for the Syrian government to stop "indiscriminate shelling" of cities. It said witnesses described pro-Assad forces using machine guns, tanks and mortars to attack buildings and people in Idlib during the assault that began March 10.

    As the government assault continues, Turkey said Thursday that 1,000 refugees had crossed into the country from Syria in the span of 24 hours, bringing the total number of Syrian refugees there to 14,700. Turkish officials say seven former Syrian generals are among those who have sought refuge.

    U.N. officials estimate that 8,000 people have died in the year-long series of protests and government crackdown. The Syrian government blames the unrest on "terrorists" and outside agitators.

    Syrian state television showed crowds gathered for pro-Assad rallies across Syria Thursday. In Damascus, people waved flags and photos of Assad. Opposition activists say Syrian forces prevented anti-government demonstrators from gathering in several cities.

    Some information for this report was provided by AP and AFP.

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    Comment Sorting
    Comments
         
    by: Godwin
    March 16, 2012 10:05 AM
    It wouldn't have mattered much if the blood spilling out there was Russian or Chinese; two countries solidly behind Assad. One wonders what the Russians were thinking when they "voted" Putin into power when he is brazenly spilling blood on the streets of Syria daily. When Putin starts peddling this trade in Russia, no one will cry for the Russians because they asked for it. After all there has been extra-judicial killing out there over time, including journalists - everyone who opposes the govt.

    by: Igor
    March 15, 2012 5:55 PM
    Russia is a super power, we will join the WTO as long as we find it a fair organization and is not ruled by the US. Pls forget all about theatening to block us from joining the WTO. Who are selling arms to the terrorists in Syria to stir up violence there? Its the US and its allies. They carry fire in one hand and water in the other!

    by: Roman Tanner
    March 15, 2012 11:36 AM
    Re UK (NO name provided) who wants proof of Syrian deaths. - United Nations and its Unicef branch report 8000 to 11000 deaths , including 400 children as of March 2012 . The UN also reports 130000 thousand Syrian refugees arrived in Jordan,Lebanon and Turkey.as of March 2012.

    by: Sara T.
    March 15, 2012 9:49 AM
    Your "Unite for Syria" Facebook link brings us to an old event in 2011. Do you have an updated link?

    by: Senator Jon Kyl
    March 15, 2012 8:53 AM
    With Russia on the verge of joining the World Trade Organization, the United States is under pressure to repeal the Jackson-Vanik amendment that is at odds with WTO rules. "In recent months, Moscow has not only blocked U.N. Security Council action on Syria but has continued to sell arms to Assad's regime which is responsible for the slaughter of innocent citizens. This is not a government to be trusted to uphold its international commitments or give a fair shake to American businesses,"

    by: Bob
    March 15, 2012 6:27 AM
    Assad is from a small minority of people that only care about themselves. He has no problem killing anyone that is not a member of his tribe. His father was even worst and killed thousands of innocent people. Shame on Russia and China. I hope people stop buying products from China and watch them fall apart. Communist countries will always be communists and will never respect their own peoples human rights. This is why everyone wants to come to free countries like the USA.

    by: cook2half
    March 15, 2012 3:29 AM
    Let them start by getting rid of 42 years animal rule , then we see what comes.

    by: Sam
    March 15, 2012 3:17 AM
    Why can the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights not recommend the involvement of the International Criminal Court?
    So many people have lost their lives, must more loose theirs.

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