giovedì 8 marzo 2012
More Syrians die; diplomatic efforts ongoing
08 Marzo 2012
At least 56 people were killed in Syria Thursday as former U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan cautioned against outside military intervention, saying it could worsen an already precarious situation.
But, Annan told the Arab League summit in Cairo, "the violence and killings must stop immediately."
Annan, the special joint envoy to Syria for the United Nations and the Arab League, began a visit to the region in Cairo Wednesday. The U.N. said he will visit Damascus Saturday "to seek an urgent end to all violence and human rights violations and to initiate efforts to promote a peaceful solution."
"I hope that no one is thinking very seriously of using force in this situation," Annan said Thursday. "I believe any further militarization would make the situation worse. We have to be careful not to introduce a medicine worse than the disease."
Meanwhile, shelling and explosions rocked several Syrian cities early Thursday and there were reports of violence in several locations as the Syrian regime continued assaults against opposition strongholds.
The death toll included 47 people slain in the city of Homs, according to the Local Coordination Committees, a Syrian-based opposition activist network. Also included were two children and one woman, the LCC said.
Security forces attacked a funeral procession in the Damascus neighborhood of Mazzeh and targeted the car carrying the body, the network said. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, another opposition group, said those arrested numbered in the dozens.
Violent clashes were reported in Idlib province, and more than 50 young men were arrested in a "detention campaign" in Hama, the LCC said.
Two blasts rocked the town of Izaz near the Syrian-Turkish border Thursday morning, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. The blasts were followed by fierce clashes between government soldiers and soldiers that had defected.
Shelling and rocket attacks were also reported in the Homs neighborhoods of Bab Tadmur and Jib al-Jandali Thursday, the fifth day in a row of government attacks there, the group said.
Syria, which blames the violence on "terrorists," has said it is trying its best to get aid to hard-hit areas.
CNN cannot independently confirm reports across Syria because the government has severely restricted the access of international journalists. But the vast majority of reports out of Syria indicate that al-Assad's forces are slaughtering civilians in opposition hotbeds in an attempt to wipe out dissidents seeking his ouster.
On Wednesday, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and Arab League Secretary General Nabil Elaraby announced the appointment of longtime Palestinian diplomat Nasser Al Kidwa as Annan's deputy special envoy to Syria.
Also in the country was China's envoy to Syria, Li Huaxin. The diplomat met with Syrian government officials and opposition members during a two-day visit, China's Xinhua news agency reported Wednesday.
The diplomat called for both sides to end the violence.
Russia and China previously vetoed a U.N. Security Council resolution condemning the Syrian government.
A high-ranking member of that government -- who identified himself as Abdo Hussam el Din, the country's deputy oil minister -- announced in a video posted on YouTube Wednesday that he was defecting from the regime of President Bashar al-Assad.
"I am joining the revolution of this noble people who will not accept injustice," the man said in Arabic. "I've been part of this government for 33 years, and I have acquired many titles, and I do not want to retire serving the crimes of this regime."
The man, who appeared to be the same one pictured on the government's oil website, said, "I decided to join the voice of the righteous despite the notion that this regime will burn my house and harass my family and will invent many lies."
Also Wednesday, the United Nations emergency relief chief met in Syria with top government officials and visited an area ravaged by weeks of government attacks.
The U.N.'s Valerie Amos surveyed the Baba Amr neighborhood of Homs Wednesday for only 45 minutes while gunfire was heard from other areas of the city, officials said.
"Valerie told me on the phone from Damascus this afternoon that the areas of Baba Amr that she saw were devastated," said spokeswoman Amanda Pitt of the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.
The visit came as some, including U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, decried the humanitarian crisis growing from the brutal crackdown on the nearly yearlong uprising in Syria.
"The regime's refusal to allow humanitarian workers to help feed the hungry, tend to the injured (and) bury the dead marks a new low," Clinton said in Washington. "Tons of food and medicine are standing by while more civilians die and the regime launches new assaults. This is unacceptable."
Meanwhile, videos recently posted on the Internet show evidence of torture in a government-controlled hospital in Homs. One video shows wounded hospital patients chained to their beds, their bodies showing marks of beatings or electric shocks. At one point, the camera pans to a hospital room to show that there was a set of jumper cables in a room with a group of chained hospital patients.
"The regular people from the population do not trust the government hospitals anymore," said Jacques Beres, co-founder of the humanitarian organization Medecins Sans Frontieres (Doctors Without Borders).
He said he spent two weeks in Homs helping patients.
"There are confirmed stories of amputations for no reason, removal, kidnapping, executions, torture," Beres said.
On Wednesday, 40 people were killed, including seven children, one woman and two military recruits, according to the LCC. The death toll included 26 people in Homs, the group said.
State media said 14 "army and law enforcement martyrs" were buried Wednesday.
According to SANA, the state-run news agency, authorities have restored "stability and security" to the Baba Amr neighborhood, which was attacked by "armed terrorist groups." It said workers were "removing the debris left by the terrorists."
State TV said Wednesday that Baba Amr residents were "returning to their homes as the destruction caused by armed terrorists is being restored."
The United Nations has said at least 7,500 people have died in the crackdown, while opposition activists put the toll at more than 9,000.
The Syrian government says that more than 2,000 security personnel have been killed.
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un sent a message of "solidarity" to al-Assad, North Korean news agency KCNA reported Wednesday.
"I reiterate our support and solidarity with the efforts of your party, government and people to defend the country's sovereignty, security and stability and wish you good health and happiness and success in your responsible work," the message said.(da "CNN")