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

Video VOA Reporter Tours Devastated Peshawar School

Islamist militants wearing military uniforms and strapped with explosives attacked a military run school Tuesday in the northwestern Pakistani city of Peshawar. At least 141 people were killed in the horrific attack, most of them young students. More

Video Sudan School Becomes Target of Aerial Attacks

Dropout rate at an all-time high in South Kordofan state because many schools have been destroyed during 3-year civil war More

Tennessee Songbirds Fly Coop Long Before Tornadoes Arrive

Researchers say birds apparently alerted to danger by sounds at frequencies below range of human hearing 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.
US: Response to Sony Hack Will Be Proportionali
X
Aru Pande
December 19, 2014 1:45 AM
The White House says President Barack Obama considers the cyberattack on Sony Corp. a serious national security matter and that the U.S. will counter with an "appropriate response." VOA correspondent Aru Pande reports.
Video

Video US: Response to Sony Hack Will Be Proportional

The White House says President Barack Obama considers the cyberattack on Sony Corp. a serious national security matter and that the U.S. will counter with an "appropriate response." VOA correspondent Aru Pande reports.
Video

Video Sudan School Becomes Target of Aerial Attacks

The school dropout rate is at an all-time high in Sudan's South Kordofan state because many schools have been destroyed during the three-year civil war between the government and SPLA-N rebel forces. Adam Bailes visited Sudan's Nuba Mountains' region and reports many children are simply too scared to go to school
Video

Video Nigerians Fleeing Boko Haram Languish in Camp Near Capital

In its five-year effort to impose Islamic law in northeastern Nigeria, the Boko Haram extremist group has killed thousands of people and forced hundreds of thousands to flee. Some of those who ran for their lives now live in squalor on the edges of the capital, Abuja. Chris Stein reports for VOA.
Video

Video Putin Says Russian Economy Will Emerge Stronger

Russian President Vladimir Putin has said his country's sinking economy will not only recover but also become stronger, despite falling oil prices and Western sanctions over Ukraine. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports.
Video

Video Detained Turkish Journalists Follow Teachings of US-Based Preacher

The Turkish government’s jailing of critical journalists has sparked international condemnation and is being seen as an effort to undermine the followers of an ailing Turkish preacher based in the United States. VOA religion reporter Jerome Socolovsky has more.
Video

Video ‘Anti-Islamization’ Marches Increase Tensions In Germany

Anti-immigrant rallies in Germany have been building in recent weeks, peaking Monday night in the city of Dresden where tens of thousands of people turned out to demonstrate against what they call the ‘Islamization’ of the West. Germany has offered asylum to more Syrian refugees than any other country, and this appears to have set off the protests. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Aceh Rebuilt Decade After Tsunami, But Scars Remain

On December 26, 2004 there was an earthquake in the Indian Ocean so powerful it caused the Earth’s axis to wobble a few centimeters. Onshore on the island of Sumatra, the resulting tsunami was devastating. A decade later, VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Banda Aceh, Indonesia, where although there is little remaining evidence of the physical devastation, the psychological scars among survivors remain.
Video

Video Refugees Living in Kenya Long for Peace in the Home Countries

Kenya is host to numerous refugees seeking safe haven from conflict. Immigrants from Somalia face challenges in their new lives in Kenya. Ahead of International Migrants Day (December 18) Lenny Ruvaga has more for VOA News from the Kenyan capital.

All About America

AppleAndroid