News / Middle East

Syrian Troops Fire on Protesters in Damascus

Anti-government protesters attend the funerals, in snowy weather, of those killed during clashes with government troops in earlier protests against Syria's President Bashar al-Assad in Damascus, February 18, 2012.
Anti-government protesters attend the funerals, in snowy weather, of those killed during clashes with government troops in earlier protests against Syria's President Bashar al-Assad in Damascus, February 18, 2012.

China's Deputy Foreign Minister Zhai Jun met with Syrian President President Bashar al-Assad Saturday, as the latest government offensive against opposition towns and cities entered a second week. Meanwhile, anti-government protesters stepped up their demonstrations against the regime, with large crowds turning out in both Damascus and Aleppo.

Chinese Deputy Foreign Minister Zhai Jun expressed support for a Syrian referendum on a new constitution next week, as government TV read aloud its various clauses.

Zhai Jun told reporters that he hoped the referendum, scheduled for February 26, would go smoothly, despite ongoing violence in the country:

Zhai said that he hopes the referendum on the new constitution, as well as parliamentary elections (later in the year), will take place without interference or disruption.

He added that he hoped the political reforms announced by the government would help pave the way to a peaceful resolution of Syria's 11-month-old political crisis:

Zhai also emphasized that China is calling for an end to the violence and urging all parties in Syria to come together for dialogue and reach a comprehensive political plan.

Syrian opposition leaders, however, are refusing to talk to the government, insisting that President Assad step down.  An Arab League peace plan calls on Assad to hand power to his vice president, form a unity government and hold presidential elections. The Syrian government has rejected the plan.

Meanwhile, witnesses say government snipers fired on a crowd of hundreds of mourners gathered in Damascus' central district of Mazzeh Saturday to bury victims of violence Friday. Al Arabiya TV says that the demonstration took place less than one kilometer from the presidential palace.

Witnesses also indicate that a widespread government offensive against opposition-held strongholds continued for a fourteenth consecutive day. Government forces shelled Homs, and scattered violence was reported in Hama, Daraa, Deir ez Zor and Idlib.

Hilal Khashan, who teaches political science at the American University of Beirut, says the Syrian conflict is intensifying, but discounts claims that it is becoming a civil war:

"The conflict in Syria is becoming bloodier by the day, but I don't think the country will witness full-fledged civil war," said Khashan.  "I think this situation will find its way to resolution by the end of the year, but that doesn't mean that Syria would become a stable country.  But the crisis in its current format cannot last for a very long time."

Syrian government media, meanwhile, claimed that an oil refinery in Homs was attacked by what it called “terrorists.”  A pipeline leading to the refinery has been attacked repeatedly in recent weeks. Government TV also claimed that a bus carrying workers was attacked near Idlib and that a cache of rifles was uncovered near Raqqa.

Egyptian authorities also announced that two Iranian naval vessels, one a destroyer and the other a supply ship, had transited the Suez Canal and were now in the Mediterranean Sea.  Arab satellite channels reported that the ship's destination is Syria.

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.

You May Like

Polls Open in Scotland Independence Vote

As race to persuade undecided voters continues, 'No' voters say they believe life in Scotland will slowly improve, 'Yes' vote not worth the risk More

South Africa’s 'Open Mosque' Admits Everyone, Including Critics

Open Mosque founder plans to welcome gay worshipers and allow women to lead prayers More

Ukrainian Activist in Despair About Future of Her Country

IrIna Dovgan, accused of being a spy and tortured by pro-Russian separatists, is appealing to UN Human Rights Council to support her country More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
A Dinosaur Fit for Land and Wateri
X
September 17, 2014 8:44 PM
Residents and tourists in Washington D.C. can now examine a life-size replica of an unusual dinosaur that lived almost a hundred million years ago in northern Africa. Scientists say studying the behemoth named Spinosaurus helps them better understand how some prehistoric animals adapted to life on land and in water. The Spinosaurus replica is on display at the National Geographic museum. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video A Dinosaur Fit for Land and Water

Residents and tourists in Washington D.C. can now examine a life-size replica of an unusual dinosaur that lived almost a hundred million years ago in northern Africa. Scientists say studying the behemoth named Spinosaurus helps them better understand how some prehistoric animals adapted to life on land and in water. The Spinosaurus replica is on display at the National Geographic museum. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Iraqi Kurdistan Church Helps Christian Children Cope find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil

In the past six weeks, tens of thousands of Iraqi Christians have been forced to flee their homes by Islamic State militants and find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil. Despite U.S. airstrikes in the region, the prospect of people returning home is still very low and concerns are starting to grow over the impact this is having on the displaced youth. Sebastian Meyer reports from Irbil on how one church is coping.
Video

Video NASA Picks Boeing, SpaceX to Carry Astronauts Into Space

The U.S. space agency, NASA, has chosen Boeing and SpaceX companies to build the next generation of spacecraft that will carry U.S. astronauts to the International Space Station by the year 2017. The deal with private industry enables NASA to end its dependence on Russia to send space crews into low Earth orbit and back. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Future of Ukrainian Former President's Estate Uncertain

More than six months after Ukraine's former President Viktor Yanukovych fled revolution to Russia, authorities have yet to gain control of his palatial estate. Protesters occupy the grounds and opened it to tourists but they are also refusing to turn it over to the state. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Mezhigirya, just north of Kyiv.
Video

Video China Muslims Work to Change Perceptions After Knife Attacks

China says its has sentenced three men to death and one woman to life in prison for a deadly knife attack in March that left more than 30 dead and 140 injured. Beijing says Muslim militants from China's restive western region of Xinjiang carried out the attacks. Now, more than six months after the incident, residents in the city are still coping with the aftermath. VOA's Bill Ide has more from Kunming.
Video

Video Enviropreneur Seeks to Save the Environment, Empower the Community

Lorna Rutto, a former banker, is now an ‘enviropreneur’ - turning plastic waste into furniture and fences discusses the challenges she faces in Africa with raw materials and the environment.
Video

Video West Trades Accusations Over Ransoms

As world leaders try to forge a common response to the threat posed by Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria, there is simmering tension over differing policies on paying ransoms. In the past month, the jihadist group has beheaded two Americans and one Briton. Both countries refuse to pay ransom money. As Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London, there is uncertainty in the approach of some other European nations.
Video

Video Scotland Independence Bid Stokes Global Interest

The people of Scotland are preparing to vote on whether to become independent and break away from the rest of Britain, in a referendum being watched carefully in many other countries. Some see it as a risky experiment; while others hope a successful vote for independence might energize their own separatist demands. Foreign immigrants to Scotland have a front row seat for the vote. VOA’s Henry Ridgwell spoke to some of them in Edinburgh.


Carnage and mayhem are part of daily life in northern Nigeria, the result of a terror campaign by the Islamist group Boko Haram. Fears are growing that Nigeria’s government may not know how to counter it, and may be making things worse. More

AppleAndroid