Bloodiest weekend yet in Syria

Heavy fighting around Damascus

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Posted on: 
30 Jan 2012
Bloodiest weekend yet in Syria

Tanks and mechanized forces loyal to Syrian president Bashar Assad assaulted several neighborhoods in the suburbs of Damascus over the weekend, killing dozens of civilians and turning entire city blocks into heaps of rubble. Opposition troops in the area also claimed to have killed a large number of loyalist troops, even as they beat a hasty retreat from several neighborhoods and residents attempted to flee. The Arab League monitoring mission suspended operations over the weekend, citing the mounting violence and the failure of the regime to guarantee the safety of monitors. Arab League chief Nabil Elaraby left for New York on Sunday, where he will brief representatives of the UN Security Council on Tuesday in hopes of getting support for an Arab peace plan that calls on Assad to step aside. Meanwhile, reports have surfaced in various media that Assad is receiving help in murdering Syrian civilians from Iranian troops and Hizbullah gunman.

In related news, the Islamist Palestinian terror militia Hamas, which rules the Gaza Strip but has long had its main offices in Damascus, issued a statement over the weekend denying reports that it was abandoning the city, even as reports surfaced out of Gaza that Hamas security forces had broken up protests against Assad. However, a diplomat from the region told AFP that “our belief is that Hamas will not announce a departure from Syria even if it happened.”

“France vigorously condemns the dramatic escalation of violence in Syria, which has led the Arab League to suspend its observers’ mission in Syria,” the French Foreign Ministry said in a statement on Sunday. “Dozens of Syrian civilians have been killed in the past days by the savage repression taken by the Syrian regime... Those responsible for these barbarous acts must answer to their crimes.”

Meanwhile, even Iranian officials called on Assad to allow steps toward elections on Sunday, in the latest sign of stress in the relationship between the two allies.

"They have to have a free election, they have to have the right constitution, they have to allow different political parties to have their activities freely in the country. And this is what he has promised," Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi said at a news conference on the sidelines of an African Union summit in the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa. "We think that Syria has to be given the choice of time so that by (that) time they can do the reforms."

"If any vacuum happens suddenly in Syria, nobody can anticipate the outcomes...the consequences could be even worse because there may be internal wars, internal clashes between people," Salehi said. "We have to avoid the worst and give enough chance to the government of Syria to carry on with its reforms. We cannot deny that some people in Syria, a portion of people in Syria are looking for their legitimate rights just like any other people in any other country. But we also cannot deny the outside interferences in Syria."


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