Showing posts tagged as "Homs"

Showing posts tagged Homs

18 Jun
Syrian Government Forces Escalate Attacks | Voice of America
By Edward Yeranian
Syrian government forces stepped up their attacks across the country Sunday, employing artillery barrages in the flashpoint city of Homs, as well as the suburbs of Damascus and Aleppo, and the towns of Rastan, Telbiseh and Deir ez Zor. 
Webcam images showed thick plumes of smoke rising from artillery strikes across the besieged city of Homs Sunday, as shells crashed into apartment blocks and other buildings. Witnesses report increasingly desperate conditions, with little respite in the shelling.
READ ARTICLE (Voice of America)
Photo: Ugarit News

Syrian Government Forces Escalate Attacks | Voice of America

By Edward Yeranian

Syrian government forces stepped up their attacks across the country Sunday, employing artillery barrages in the flashpoint city of Homs, as well as the suburbs of Damascus and Aleppo, and the towns of Rastan, Telbiseh and Deir ez Zor. 

Webcam images showed thick plumes of smoke rising from artillery strikes across the besieged city of Homs Sunday, as shells crashed into apartment blocks and other buildings. Witnesses report increasingly desperate conditions, with little respite in the shelling.

READ ARTICLE (Voice of America)

Photo: Ugarit News

11 Jun
Syrian opposition group picks new leader as government forces continue shelling | Fox News 
Syria’s main opposition group on Sunday picked a secular Kurd as its new leader after criticism that the former head was too autocratic and the group was becoming dominated by Islamists.
The opposition, hobbled by disorganization and infighting, is trying to pull together and appear more inclusive by choosing a member of an ethnic minority.
The opposition’s disarray has frustrated Western powers eager to dislodge Syrian President Bashar Assad but unwilling or unable to send in their own forces to do it. There has been some willingness to support the rebels with funds and arms, but the lack of a cohesive front or a single address has hampered the efforts as the bloodshed intensifies.
FULL ARTICLE (Fox News)
Photo: AP

Syrian opposition group picks new leader as government forces continue shelling | Fox News 

Syria’s main opposition group on Sunday picked a secular Kurd as its new leader after criticism that the former head was too autocratic and the group was becoming dominated by Islamists.

The opposition, hobbled by disorganization and infighting, is trying to pull together and appear more inclusive by choosing a member of an ethnic minority.

The opposition’s disarray has frustrated Western powers eager to dislodge Syrian President Bashar Assad but unwilling or unable to send in their own forces to do it. There has been some willingness to support the rebels with funds and arms, but the lack of a cohesive front or a single address has hampered the efforts as the bloodshed intensifies.

FULL ARTICLE (Fox News)

Photo: AP

8 Jun
Annan, Clinton Meet on Syria as Violence Escalates | Voice of America
By Edward Yeranian, Scott Stearns, and Lisa Schlein
Syrian activists say violence nationwide killed 17 people Friday as international envoy Kofi Annan called for additional pressure on the Syrian government as he met with U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in Washington. 
Speaking tersely while standing next to Clinton, Annan said the two diplomats are looking how to move his stalled peace plan forward.
"Everyone is looking for a solution," Annan said. "Some say the plan may be dead. Is the problem the plan or the problem the implementation? If it’s implementation, how do we get action on that?"
The Annan-brokered cease-fire has failed to deter attacks by the Syrian government and clashes with opposition rebels that have left hundreds dead.
Clinton said the pair want to figure out how to “engender a greater response” by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s government to Annan’s overtures.
The talks come as Rami Abdelrahman, the head of the Britain-based Syrian Observatory of Human Rights, told VOA on Friday that a blast in front of a police station in the northwestern city of Idlib killed two security forces and three civilians. Another explosion that shook a Damascus suburb killed two more security force members.
The Observatory said demonstrators protested after Friday prayers across Syria, including in Aleppo, Damascus and Dara’a. Two civilians died in that southern city, including one shot by a sniper.
Government troops shelled Homs while heavy fighting left two killed in Latakia. The activist group also reported deaths in Deir Ezzor.
FULL ARTICLE (Voice of America)

Photo: AP

Annan, Clinton Meet on Syria as Violence Escalates | Voice of America

By Edward Yeranian, Scott Stearns, and Lisa Schlein

Syrian activists say violence nationwide killed 17 people Friday as international envoy Kofi Annan called for additional pressure on the Syrian government as he met with U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in Washington. 

Speaking tersely while standing next to Clinton, Annan said the two diplomats are looking how to move his stalled peace plan forward.

"Everyone is looking for a solution," Annan said. "Some say the plan may be dead. Is the problem the plan or the problem the implementation? If it’s implementation, how do we get action on that?"

The Annan-brokered cease-fire has failed to deter attacks by the Syrian government and clashes with opposition rebels that have left hundreds dead.

Clinton said the pair want to figure out how to “engender a greater response” by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s government to Annan’s overtures.

The talks come as Rami Abdelrahman, the head of the Britain-based Syrian Observatory of Human Rights, told VOA on Friday that a blast in front of a police station in the northwestern city of Idlib killed two security forces and three civilians. Another explosion that shook a Damascus suburb killed two more security force members.

The Observatory said demonstrators protested after Friday prayers across Syria, including in Aleppo, Damascus and Dara’a. Two civilians died in that southern city, including one shot by a sniper.

Government troops shelled Homs while heavy fighting left two killed in Latakia. The activist group also reported deaths in Deir Ezzor.

Photo: AP

18 May
Activists: Syrian forces shell rebel town | CBS News
BEIRUT — Opposition groups say Syrian government forces are pounding a rebel-held town north of the central city of Homs.
The shelling is part of an offensive that has been going on for days as the regime tries to retake the town of Rastan, which has been under the control of Syrian rebels since January.
FULL ARTICLE (CBS News)
Photo: Fabio Rodrigues Pozzebom / ABr

Activists: Syrian forces shell rebel town | CBS News

BEIRUT — Opposition groups say Syrian government forces are pounding a rebel-held town north of the central city of Homs.

The shelling is part of an offensive that has been going on for days as the regime tries to retake the town of Rastan, which has been under the control of Syrian rebels since January.

FULL ARTICLE (CBS News)

Photo: Fabio Rodrigues Pozzebom / ABr

15 May
Council on Foreign Relations | Syria’s Bloody Stalemate
Interviewee: Peter Harling, Director, Iraq, Lebanon and Syria, International Crisis Group
Interviewer: Bernard Gwertzman, Consulting Editor, CFR.org
Much of Syria is “in a state of chaos,” says Peter Harling, who has been based in Damascus for the International Crisis Group, and has gone back and forth for months. The regime of President Bashar al-Assad is “both well-entrenched and losing control.” As for the opposition, the Syrian National Council, based abroad, he says the group “has championed an increasingly radicalized street, over-invested in an elusive international intervention, and eschewed more constructive politics.” As for the jihadists, he says that what is surprising “is that foreign fighters and jihadis, for now, have not taken on a bigger role.” On the international side, he says Kofi Annan’s cease-fire plan “grew out of the international community’s inability to agree on anything else,” and as long as the “stalemate endures, it will continue to enjoy support, even from states that do not put much faith in it but have no workable alternative to offer.”
You have been back and forth to Syria for quite some time. Could we start with your assessment of the situation on the ground? Is the Assad government in control; what is the role of the opposition?
The regime is both well-entrenched and losing control. Much of the country is in a state of chaos. Despite plethoric security and military assets, the single most important road, running north to south from Aleppo to Damascus, is unsafe. Criminal activity is rampant even in the vicinity of the capital. For months, opposition armed groups have made it difficult for regime troops to maintain a sustainable presence in many parts of Syria. More often than not, loyalist forces are reduced to hit-and-run operations that cause tremendous damage, solve nothing, and rather make things worse.
At the same time, the regime’s core structures remain solid. A steady trickle of defections has continued, but the floodgates have not opened. This resilience has several causes. Some regime officials fear the future for the country, their community, or themselves, and believe this is a struggle for survival. Others have actually profited from the crisis, gaining in status or wealth in the booming economy of violence. Yet others are deeply disillusioned, tempted to defect, but disinclined to do so as long as the regime appears here to stay. All in all, the power structure is eroding slowly in a country that is crumbling fast all around it.
FULL ARTICLE (CFR)
Photo: Freedom House

Council on Foreign Relations | Syria’s Bloody Stalemate

Interviewee: Peter Harling, Director, Iraq, Lebanon and Syria, International Crisis Group

Interviewer: Bernard Gwertzman, Consulting Editor, CFR.org

Much of Syria is “in a state of chaos,” says Peter Harling, who has been based in Damascus for the International Crisis Group, and has gone back and forth for months. The regime of President Bashar al-Assad is “both well-entrenched and losing control.” As for the opposition, the Syrian National Council, based abroad, he says the group “has championed an increasingly radicalized street, over-invested in an elusive international intervention, and eschewed more constructive politics.” As for the jihadists, he says that what is surprising “is that foreign fighters and jihadis, for now, have not taken on a bigger role.” On the international side, he says Kofi Annan’s cease-fire plan “grew out of the international community’s inability to agree on anything else,” and as long as the “stalemate endures, it will continue to enjoy support, even from states that do not put much faith in it but have no workable alternative to offer.”

You have been back and forth to Syria for quite some time. Could we start with your assessment of the situation on the ground? Is the Assad government in control; what is the role of the opposition?

The regime is both well-entrenched and losing control. Much of the country is in a state of chaos. Despite plethoric security and military assets, the single most important road, running north to south from Aleppo to Damascus, is unsafe. Criminal activity is rampant even in the vicinity of the capital. For months, opposition armed groups have made it difficult for regime troops to maintain a sustainable presence in many parts of Syria. More often than not, loyalist forces are reduced to hit-and-run operations that cause tremendous damage, solve nothing, and rather make things worse.

At the same time, the regime’s core structures remain solid. A steady trickle of defections has continued, but the floodgates have not opened. This resilience has several causes. Some regime officials fear the future for the country, their community, or themselves, and believe this is a struggle for survival. Others have actually profited from the crisis, gaining in status or wealth in the booming economy of violence. Yet others are deeply disillusioned, tempted to defect, but disinclined to do so as long as the regime appears here to stay. All in all, the power structure is eroding slowly in a country that is crumbling fast all around it.

FULL ARTICLE (CFR)

Photo: Freedom House

9 Mar
AMMAN (Reuters) - Syrian forces killed 31 people on Friday as they sought to quell demonstrations against President Bashar al-Assad before a peace mission by U.N.-Arab League envoy Kofi Annan, opposition activists said.
Tank rounds and mortar bombs crashed into opposition districts in the rebellious central city of Homs, killing 17 people, activists said, reporting 14 deaths elsewhere in Syria.
"Thirty tanks entered my neighborhood at seven this morning and they are using their cannons to fire on houses," said Karam Abu Rabea, a resident in Homs’s Karm al-Zeitoun neighborhood.
One focus of demonstrations was the anniversary of Kurdish unrest in Syria in 2004 when about 30 people were killed.
Many thousands of Kurds demonstrated in northeastern cities, YouTube footage showed, some carrying banners that read “Save the Syrian people”. Other clips showed hundreds of protesters in the Assali district of Damascus, burning posters of Assad’s father Hafez al-Assad and chanting “God damn your soul, Hafez”.
Syria’s state news agency SANA reported big pro-Assad demonstrations in Damascus and Hassaka in the northeast.
Tight media restrictions imposed by the authorities make it hard to assess conflicting accounts of events on the ground.
Street protests have swelled every Friday after Muslim prayers since the anti-Assad revolt erupted a year ago, despite violent repression by the military and loyalist militias.
Decisive victory has eluded both sides in an increasingly bloody struggle that appears to be sliding into civil war.
AID ACCESS
U.N. humanitarian chief Valerie Amos, who visited Homs this week, said Assad’s government had agreed to join U.N. agencies in a “limited assessment” of civilian needs in Syria, but had not met her request for unhindered access for aid groups.
Syrian officials had asked for more time, she told a news conference in Ankara after visiting Syrian refugees arriving in growing numbers in border camps in Turkey.
Amos said she was “devastated” at the scenes of destruction she saw in Homs and that she wanted to know the fate of civilians who had lived in the city’s Baba Amr district, which rebel fighters left on March 1 after a 26-day siege.
The United Nations estimates at least 25,000 refugees have fled Syria in the past year, said Adrian Edwards, a spokesman for the U.N. refugee agency.
The U.N. figures were based mainly on refugees who have registered with the UNHCR. Many others have fled to neighboring countries without registering. Edwards said significant numbers of Syrians are also thought to be displaced within the country.
Annan, who begins his peace mission in Damascus on Saturday, has called for a negotiated political solution, but dissidents say there is no room for dialogue amid Assad’s crackdown.
Rifts among big powers have blocked any U.N. action to resolve the crisis, with China and Russia firmly opposing any measure that might lead to Libya-style military intervention.
China, which dispatched an envoy to Syria this week, said on Friday it would send an assistant foreign minister to the Middle East and to France to discuss a way forward.
Beijing urged Annan to “push for all sides in Syria to end their violence and start the process of peace talks”.
Russia, an old ally of Damascus and its main arms supplier, has defended Assad against his Western and Arab critics, twice joining China in vetoing U.N. resolutions on Syria.
"We shall not support any resolution that gives any basis for the use of force against Syria," Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Gennady Gatilov tweeted late on Thursday.
Western powers have shied away from any such action. “The option of any military intervention is not on the table,” French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe said in Morocco on Friday.
A Russian diplomat said Assad was battling al Qaeda-backed “terrorists” including at least 15,000 foreign fighters who would seize cities if government troops withdrew.
The Syrian opposition denies any al Qaeda role in a popular uprising against nearly five decades of Baathist rule.
Moscow could play a vital role in any diplomatic effort to ease Assad from power and spare Syria further bloodletting.
"If (Annan) can persuade Russia to back a transitional plan, the regime would be confronted with the choice of either agreeing to negotiate in good faith or facing near-total isolation through loss of a key ally," the Brussels-based International Crisis Group said in a paper this week.
FULL ARTICLE (Reuters)
Photo: Reuters/Ali Jarekji

AMMAN (Reuters) - Syrian forces killed 31 people on Friday as they sought to quell demonstrations against President Bashar al-Assad before a peace mission by U.N.-Arab League envoy Kofi Annan, opposition activists said.

Tank rounds and mortar bombs crashed into opposition districts in the rebellious central city of Homs, killing 17 people, activists said, reporting 14 deaths elsewhere in Syria.

"Thirty tanks entered my neighborhood at seven this morning and they are using their cannons to fire on houses," said Karam Abu Rabea, a resident in Homs’s Karm al-Zeitoun neighborhood.

One focus of demonstrations was the anniversary of Kurdish unrest in Syria in 2004 when about 30 people were killed.

Many thousands of Kurds demonstrated in northeastern cities, YouTube footage showed, some carrying banners that read “Save the Syrian people”. Other clips showed hundreds of protesters in the Assali district of Damascus, burning posters of Assad’s father Hafez al-Assad and chanting “God damn your soul, Hafez”.

Syria’s state news agency SANA reported big pro-Assad demonstrations in Damascus and Hassaka in the northeast.

Tight media restrictions imposed by the authorities make it hard to assess conflicting accounts of events on the ground.

Street protests have swelled every Friday after Muslim prayers since the anti-Assad revolt erupted a year ago, despite violent repression by the military and loyalist militias.

Decisive victory has eluded both sides in an increasingly bloody struggle that appears to be sliding into civil war.

AID ACCESS

U.N. humanitarian chief Valerie Amos, who visited Homs this week, said Assad’s government had agreed to join U.N. agencies in a “limited assessment” of civilian needs in Syria, but had not met her request for unhindered access for aid groups.

Syrian officials had asked for more time, she told a news conference in Ankara after visiting Syrian refugees arriving in growing numbers in border camps in Turkey.

Amos said she was “devastated” at the scenes of destruction she saw in Homs and that she wanted to know the fate of civilians who had lived in the city’s Baba Amr district, which rebel fighters left on March 1 after a 26-day siege.

The United Nations estimates at least 25,000 refugees have fled Syria in the past year, said Adrian Edwards, a spokesman for the U.N. refugee agency.

The U.N. figures were based mainly on refugees who have registered with the UNHCR. Many others have fled to neighboring countries without registering. Edwards said significant numbers of Syrians are also thought to be displaced within the country.

Annan, who begins his peace mission in Damascus on Saturday, has called for a negotiated political solution, but dissidents say there is no room for dialogue amid Assad’s crackdown.

Rifts among big powers have blocked any U.N. action to resolve the crisis, with China and Russia firmly opposing any measure that might lead to Libya-style military intervention.

China, which dispatched an envoy to Syria this week, said on Friday it would send an assistant foreign minister to the Middle East and to France to discuss a way forward.

Beijing urged Annan to “push for all sides in Syria to end their violence and start the process of peace talks”.

Russia, an old ally of Damascus and its main arms supplier, has defended Assad against his Western and Arab critics, twice joining China in vetoing U.N. resolutions on Syria.

"We shall not support any resolution that gives any basis for the use of force against Syria," Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Gennady Gatilov tweeted late on Thursday.

Western powers have shied away from any such action. “The option of any military intervention is not on the table,” French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe said in Morocco on Friday.

A Russian diplomat said Assad was battling al Qaeda-backed “terrorists” including at least 15,000 foreign fighters who would seize cities if government troops withdrew.

The Syrian opposition denies any al Qaeda role in a popular uprising against nearly five decades of Baathist rule.

Moscow could play a vital role in any diplomatic effort to ease Assad from power and spare Syria further bloodletting.

"If (Annan) can persuade Russia to back a transitional plan, the regime would be confronted with the choice of either agreeing to negotiate in good faith or facing near-total isolation through loss of a key ally," the Brussels-based International Crisis Group said in a paper this week.

FULL ARTICLE (Reuters)

Photo: Reuters/Ali Jarekji

27 Feb

Beyond the Fall of the Syrian Regime

Peter Harling

Syrians are approaching the one-year anniversary of what has become the most tragic, far-reaching and uncertain episode of the Arab uprisings. Since protesters first took to the streets in towns and villages across the country in March 2011, they have paid an exorbitant price in a domestic crisis that has become intertwined with a strategic struggle over the future of Syria.

The regime of Bashar al-Asad has fought its citizens in an unsuccessful attempt to put down any serious challenge to its four-decade rule, leaving several thousand dead. Many more languish in jail. The regime has polarized the population, rallying its supporters by decrying the protesters as saboteurs, Islamists and part of a foreign conspiracy. In order to shore up its own ranks, it has played on the fears of the ‘Alawi minority from which the ruling family hails, lending the conflict sectarian overtones. All these measures have pushed a growing number of young men on the street  and a small but steady stream of army defectors  to put up an armed response, while impelling large sections of the opposition to seek financial, political and military help from abroad. Loyalist units have taken considerable casualties from the armed rebels, and the regime has hit back with disproportionate force.

Events have aided the regime in its attempt to dismiss the protest movement and further tip the balance from nominal reform to escalating repression, fueling a vicious cycle that has turned sporadic clashes into a nascent civil war. In a sense, the regime may already have won: By pushing frustrated protesters to take up arms and the international community to offer them support, it is succeeding in disfiguring what it saw as the greatest threat to its rule, namely the grassroots and mostly peaceful protest movement that demanded profound change. In another sense, the regime may already have lost: By treating too broad a cross-section of the Syrian people as the enemy, and giving foreign adversaries justification to act, it seems to have forged against itself a coalition too big to defeat. At a minimum, Bashar al-Asad has reversed his father’s legacy: Through tenacious diplomacy over three decades (from his takeover in 1970 to his death in 2000), Hafiz al-Asad made Syria, formerly a prize in the regional strategic game, a player in its own right. In less than a year, Bashar’s obduracy will have done the opposite, turning actor into arena.

At the start of February, the regime stepped up its assault by using heavy weapons against rebellious neighborhoods of Homs, the third-largest city in Syria and the most religiously mixed one to become a hub of the uprising. The escalation was bolstered by Russia and China, which on February 4 blocked the Arab League-inspired, Western-backed attempts to pass a resolution at the UN Security Council condemning the violence and suggesting a plan for a negotiated solution by which Asad would hand over power to a deputy, who would form a unity government ahead of elections. The assumption in Moscow, which fears instability and views the struggle in Syria as a contest with the West, is that the regime will succeed in defeating both the ongoing protest movement and the emerging insurgency. In so doing, runs Russian reasoning, Syria’s regime will reassert its control over the country and compel at least significant parts of the opposition to negotiate on its own terms  preferably in Moscow.

FULL ARTICLE (International Crisis Group)

Photo: FreedomHouse/Flickr

7 Feb

New Yorker: Children of War

AMY DAVIDSON

We have seen, in the last few days, images of Homs, a Syrian city under bombardment by its own government. And we have a sense of the suffering there—both in the abstract, in glimpses of bloody bodies in YouTube videos, and in terms of how it fits into the larger story of the Assad family’s two generations of rule and repression. Wendell Steavenson explored that in a post on Saturday. (“It is accelerating,” Peter Harling, of the International Crisis Group, told Steavenson, “whether towards the President’s downfall or to civil war.”) On Monday, we closed our embassy in Damascus. Britain recalled its ambassador. “This is a doomed regime as well as a murdering regime,” William Hague, the foreign secretary, said.

How do people live with what other countries call doom, and how does a person—a young person—grow up with it? A U.N. report recently documented the particular ways in which children, and families, have been a target in Syria. (I wrote about it in November.) And Michelle Shephard, at the Toronto Starhas a report on the growing number of Syrian refugee children in Turkey. “Flipping through the children’s drawings is like a bad dream,” she writes.

FULL ARTICLE (The New Yorker) 

Photo: Andreas H. Lunde/Flickr
8 Nov

BBC: Homs: ‘Capital of the Syrian revolution’

The restive west Syrian city of Homs has become has become a focal point for protests against President Bashar al-Assad - and it is also now one of the areas hardest hit by the state’s bloody crackdown.

Homs - for many the capital of the Syrian Revolution - was one of the first cities to join the uprisings against the government, and in April 2011 saw first-hand its brutality when crowds protesting in its Clock Tower Square were fired on, reportedly leaving 17 dead and dozens wounded. […]

Peter Harling, Iraq, Syria and Lebanon Project Director at the International Crisis Group, says: “People from Homs are renowned for their sense of humour and this has come out so strongly in the crisis - even in the teeth of this massive onslaught by the regime.

"Many Syrians have been shocked by what they describe as the savagery of the regime and protesters in Homs have been successful at displaying a sense of civilisation which belies the regime’s narrative of a thuggish underclass.

"Unlike its surrounding countryside, Homs has by and large resisted sectarian dynamics, maintained a measure of social cohesion, challenged the regime through its strong local identity and provided a source of inspiration to many regime critics.

"That is why Homs has been the capital that Damascus has not."

FULL ARTICLE (BBC News)