Syrian Troops Assault Rebel Strongholds, New Diplomatic Push Starts

Black smoke rises from buildings in Homs, Syria, March 27, 2012 (AP is unable to independently verify the authenticity, content, location or date of this handout photo.)
Black smoke rises from buildings in Homs, Syria, March 27, 2012 (AP is unable to independently verify the authenticity, content, location or date of this handout photo.)

Syrian rights activists say government forces have assaulted several rebel strongholds, triggering battles that killed 40 people as Arab nations began a new diplomatic effort to end Syria's year-long conflict.

Activists said Wednesday that government troops battled opposition forces in the towns of Rastan in central Syria and Daraa in the south.

The New York Times, citing the Local Coordination Committees activist group, reported that troops loyal to President Bashar al-Assad stormed the northern town of Saraqeb, leaving 40 people dead and the streets littered with unidentified corpses and wounded citizens after four days of attacks. The group appealed to the Red Cross and other humanitarian organizations to "treat the injured and bury the martyrs."

Kofi Annan's Six-Point Peace Plan

  • A Syrian-led political process to address the aspirations and concerns of the Syrian people.
  • A U.N.-supervised end to armed violence by all parties in Syria.
  • Timely humanitarian assistance in all areas affected by fighting.
  • Increasing the pace and scale of release of arbitrarily-detained people.
  • Ensuring freedom of movement for journalists.
  • Respecting freedom of association and the right to demonstrate peacefully.

The violence continued a day after international envoy Kofi Annan said Syria had accepted his peace plan for a cease-fire and a dialogue between government and rebel forces. He had urged the Syrian government to implement the plan immediately.

Arab League foreign ministers expressed support for the Annan peace initiative at a meeting in Baghdad, where leaders of the regional bloc were expected to attend a summit on Thursday.

A draft resolution prepared by the ministers for the summit's approval calls on the Assad government to stop violent attacks on the opposition and allow peaceful protests.

Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari said Syria's implementation of Mr. Annan's plan is "more important than acceptance" and represents a "last chance" for the country to resolve its crisis peacefully.

A Syrian official said his government will reject any resolution passed by the Arab League on Syria. The bloc suspended Syria's membership last year to punish Damascus for continuing a deadly crackdown on an opposition uprising.

Western diplomats and Syrian opposition figures reacted skeptically to Syria's acceptance of the Annan proposals. Opposition members accused Mr. Assad of trying to stall for time as his troops make a renewed push to crush dissent.

In Washington, senior U.S. senators filed a resolution Wednesday condemning Syria's bloody violence and urging the arming of anti-government rebels. Senator John McCain presented the motion, co-sponsored by four other senators including Lindsey Graham and Joe Lieberman. The text condemns "the mass atrocities committed by the government of Syria and [supports] the right of the people of Syria to be safe and to defend themselves."

The non-binding resolution "supports calls by Arab leaders to provide the people of Syria with the means to defend themselves against Bashar al-Assad and his forces, including through the provision of weapons and other material support."

Meanwhile, several hundred exiled Syrian opposition figures ended a meeting in Istanbul on Wednesday by declaring the Syrian National Council to be the "formal interlocutor and formal representative of the Syrian people." Most participants signed on to the declaration. Some dissidents walked out of the talks on Tuesday, accusing the SNC of not listening to differing views about how to end decades of autocratic government in Syria.

The United Nations said Tuesday the number of people killed in Syria's crackdown has risen to more than 9,000, an increase of about 1,000 over the world body's previous estimate.

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

Join the conversation on our social journalism site -
Middle East Voices
. Follow our Middle East reports on
Twitter and discuss them on our Facebook page.
This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments page of 2
by: Awe N Shok
March 28, 2012 8:46 AM
1. Anyone have any questions about the agreement Asshad made?
2. Can you see BushCheneyRumsfeld acting ANY differently in the same circumstances?

by: Fatimah
March 28, 2012 8:34 AM
The Arab League, the U.N. and President Obama by now should know that they are dealing with a dictatorship that no longer puts any value on any life in Syria that opposes them. The Assad dictatorship is in genocide mode. Only after Assad is gone will the world see the scale of the atrocities committed by these criminals. It is time for an end for negotiations and a time for action. The tragedy of the innocents of Syria by the Assad madmen must come to an end now by whatever means necessary.
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.
Hungary Criticized for Handling of Refugeesi
Henry Ridgwell
October 08, 2015 8:02 PM
Amnesty International has accused Hungary of breaking multiple international and European human rights laws in its handling of the refugee crisis. As Henry Ridgwell reports, thousands of migrants and refugees continue to travel through the Balkans to Hungary every day.

Video Hungary Criticized for Handling of Refugees

Amnesty International has accused Hungary of breaking multiple international and European human rights laws in its handling of the refugee crisis. As Henry Ridgwell reports, thousands of migrants and refugees continue to travel through the Balkans to Hungary every day.

Video Iraqi-Kurdish Teachers Vow to Continue Protest

Sixteen people were injured when police used tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse teachers and other public employees who took to the streets in Iraq’s Kurdish north, demanding their salaries from the Kurdish Regional Government (KRG). VOA’s Dilshad Anwar, in Sulaimaniya, caught up with protesting teachers who say they have not been paid for three months. Parke Brewer narrates his report.

Video Syrian Village Community Faces Double Displacement in Lebanon

Driven by war from their village in southwestern Syria, a group of families found shelter in Lebanon, resettling en masse in a half-built university to form one of the biggest settlements of its kind in Lebanon. Three years later, however, they now face being kicked out and dispersed in a country where finding shelter as a refugee can be especially tough. John Owens has more for VOA from the city of Saida, also known as Sidon.

Video Bat Colony: Unusual Tourist Attraction in Texas

The action hero Batman might be everyone’s favorite but real bats hardly get that kind of adoration. Put more than a million of these creatures of the night together and it only evokes images of horror. Sarah Zaman visited the largest urban bat colony in North America to see just how well bat and human get along with each other.

Video Device Shows Promise of Stopping Motion Sickness

It’s a sickening feeling — the dizziness, nausea and vomiting that comes with motion sickness. But a device now being developed could stop motion sickness by suppressing certain signals in the brain. VOA’s Deborah Block reports.

Video Making a Mint

While apples, corn, and cranberries top the list of fall produce in the US, it’s also the time to harvest gum, candy, and toothpaste—or at least the oil that makes them minty fresh. Erika Celeste reports from South Bend, Indiana on the mint harvest.

Video Activists Decry Lagos Slum Demolition

Acting on a court order, authorities in Nigeria demolished a slum last month in the commercial capital, Lagos. But human rights activists say the order was illegal, and the community was razed to make way for a government housing project. Chris Stein has more from Lagos.

Video TPP Agreed, But Faces Stiff Opposition

President Barack Obama promoted the Trans-Pacific Partnership on Tuesday, one day after 12 Pacific Rim nations reached the free trade deal in Atlanta. The controversial pact that would involve about 40 percent of global trade still needs approval by lawmakers in respective countries. Zlatica Hoke reports Obama is facing strong opposition to the deal, including from members of his own party.

Video Ukranian Artist Portrays Putin in an Unusual Way

As Russian President Vladimir Putin was addressing the United Nations in New York last month, he was also being featured in an art exhibition in Washington. It’s not a flattering exhibit. It’s done by a Ukrainian artist in a unique medium. And its creator says it’s not only a work of art - it’s a political statement. VOA’s Tetiana Kharchenko has more.

Video Nano-tech Filter Cleans Dirty Water

Access to clean water is a problem for hundreds of millions of people around the world. Now, a scientist and chemical engineer in Tanzania (in East Africa) is working to change that by creating an innovative water filter that makes dirty water safe. VOA’s Deborah Block has the story.

Video Demand Rising for Organic Produce in Cambodia

In Cambodia, where rice has long been the main cash crop, farmers are being encouraged to turn to vegetables to satisfy the growing demand for locally produced organic farm products. Daniel de Carteret has more from Phnom Penh.

Video Botanists Grow Furniture, with Pruning Shears

For something a bit out of the ordinary to furnish your home, why not consider wooden chairs, crafted by nature, with a little help from some British botanists with an eye for design. VOA’s Jessica Berman reports.

VOA Blogs