120 Dead as Tanks Sweep into Hama and Deir

120 dead as tanks sweep into Hama in Syrian uprising’s worst day of violence
by Phil Sands, Aug 1, 2011, the National

DAMASCUS // Syrian security forces killed more than 120 people yesterday in what human rights activists called the bloodiest single day since the current uprising began almost five months ago.

Army operations hit multiple parts of the country simultaneously. Tank-backed infantry units firing shells and heavy machine guns swept into Hama at dawn, heralding the start of a long-anticipated crackdown on a city that had become a model for large-scale peaceful dissent.

Abdul Karim Rehawi, head of the Syrian Human Rights League, an independent civil-liberties group based in Damascus, said: “It’s a day of disaster, there are many dead, many have been seriously wounded and will die, and hundreds have been arrested.

“It seems the authorities have decided to try to finish everything at the start of Ramadan. They have seen cities out of their control and they are moving to crush it.”

For weeks, non-violent demonstrations calling for the toppling of the president, Bashar Al Assad, and the autocratic system of government he heads had routinely involved more than half a million people, prompting some to declare Hama “liberated”.

The prospect of such a major urban centre slipping beyond the authorities’ control appears to have prompted yesterday’s significant military escalation.

More than 90 civilians were killed by security services in Hama, activists said. Residents and medical staff described rooftop security-force snipers shooting at people in the streets with the wounded and dying overwhelming hospital facilities. Electricity, water and communications were cut.

Syrian security forces also conducted deadly offensives yesterday in the eastern city of Deir Ezzor, another rebellious city with growing mass protests, and in parts of southern Syria and working-class districts surrounding the capital, Damascus.

The repression in Hama has a huge symbolic resonance. During the 1980s, President Hafez Al Assad, the current leader’s father, despatched elite armoured units against the city in response to a militant Islamist uprising. Entire districts were razed and tens of thousands of people killed, leaving a permanent scar on the psyche of the nation.

In Deir Ezzor city, in the heart of Syria’s Arab tribal region, at least 19 people were killed by security forces yesterday, activists said, with further deaths in Abu Kamal on the Syria-Iraq border and in Harak, a village in the Houran plain, close to the city of Deraa, the original centre of the uprising.

Moadamiya, on the outskirts of Damascus, was placed under a renewed military siege, while residents in Harasta, also on the edge of the capital, said more than 40 protesters were wounded when pro-government forces threw fragmentation bombs into a crowd.

State-run media accused “terrorist groups” of shooting at civilians and attacking security forces in Hama and Deir Ezzor, killing at least two police officers, overrunning security buildings and stealing weapons.

State-run media accused “terrorist groups” of shooting at civilians and attacking security forces in Hama and Deir Ezzor, killing at least two police officers, overrunning security buildings and stealing weapons.

“Scores of gunmen were stationed on the rooftops of the main buildings in the streets of Hama, carrying the latest machine guns and RPGs and shooting intensively to terrorise citizens,” the official news agency, Sana, claimed.

It said security units had exchanged fire with the armed groups and would deal with the situation in suitable ways.

Syrian authorities insist they are fighting an insurrection by Islamist militants, as they were in the 1980s. That claim is rejected by activists, dissident intellectuals, human rights monitors and international organisations, including United Nations agencies, who say the pro-democracy uprising is a largely peaceful call for increased rights.

Jim Muir, BBC News, Beirut

“In over four months of protests, no-one can predict with any confidence what the outcome will be. The uprising won’t go away but has yet to engulf the two biggest cities of Damascus and Aleppo. The protesters face a government that is talking about comprehensive reforms, but hitting back with ferocity. The Americans have not explicitly called for President Assad to go. The international community is not united on this in the way it was on Libya. So there is not going to be any outside intervention.  It is up to the Syrians themselves, and at this stage, nobody can say how it will go.”

Syrian protests pile pressure on the value of the pound
Hussain Abdul-Hussain
Aug 1, 2011

The Syrian economy has been in ruins since mid-March. Tourism has come to a halt and foreign investments have stopped. The situation puts the Syrian currency, the pound, in a precarious position…. As of yesterday reports from Syria had it that the US dollar is worth 67 Syrian pounds on the black market, while the official rate is around 47.5.

Reuters: Germany has requested that the U.N. Security Council meet on Monday to discuss the worsening violence in Syria, a spokesman for the German mission at the United Nations said.

Syria will undermine “new chapter of conspiracy”: president,
2011-08-01

DAMASCUS, July 31 (Xinhua) — Syrian President Bashar Assad said Sunday that he is ultimately confident that Syria will undermine “this new chapter of conspiracy” which he said aims at ” dividing the country as a prelude for dividing the entire region to conflicting states.”

In an interview with Ash-Shaeb magazine to commemorate the 66th anniversary of the Syrian army’s foundation, Assad said “Syria has its own characteristics that are immune to all conspiracies and conspirators.”

“We are now more determined to go on with the process of dignity with confident steps … We will let war-makers and blood traders suffer the bitterness of defeat, disappointment and frustration,” he said.

Assad reasserted that his country is subject to sectarian sedition, but indicated that the Syrian people were aware to what is being intrigued against them and were able to “bury sedition.”

He pledged to go on with the process of an overall reform, noting that Syria will export an example of democracy, freedom and political pluralism.

Assad reiterated that the Syrians would remain “free in our national decision and masters in our international relations.”

Syria has been in unrest since mid March when anti-government protests broke out in the southern province of Daraa and spread to other cities. The Syrian authorities blamed the unrest on “armed groups and foreign conspiracy” and stressed that it would track down gunmen who have intimidated people and damaged public and private properties.

Op-Ed Contributor: To Topple Assad, It Takes a Minority
By BASSMA KODMANI, 2011-08-01

(New York Times) — Paris
AFTER four months of popular demonstrations and ferocious repression, including a bloody crackdown on the central city of Hama on Sunday, the Syrian president, Bashar al-Assad, still refuses to step down, insisting that he can reform his regime.

What is keeping Mr. Assad in power is the extensive security apparatus that was engineered by his father, Hafez al-Assad, and is dominated by their fellow Alawites, a minority Shiite sect. …But he hasn’t altered the total domination of Syria’s security forces by his Alawite clan. In the last decade, Bashar left his brother Maher al-Assad to organize the security sector with the support of his uncle and cousins, who control the ubiquitous secret police.

Since mid-March, as suppression of the protests became increasingly violent, the army has purged officers and soldiers — including many hitherto loyal Sunni troops — to reduce the chance of a revolt…

The onus falls on the Sunni majority to reassure Alawites and other minorities like Christians, Druse and Shiites — who believe they need the regime’s protection — that they will not be subjected to acts of vengeance. These Sunni religious and political leaders can save Syria from its sectarian demons.

Only Syrians can initiate this delicate process; foreign governments, whether Arab or Western, have limited roles to play. The Syrian psyche is shaped by memories of foreign interference, something the Assad regime did not invent, but has exploited.

In Syria, anyone who calls for outside intervention is likely to be branded a traitor; any Western threat of military action would therefore hurt the opposition more than the regime. Outside powers can play a useful role by declaring they will not use military force. Such a statement would weaken Mr. Assad’s argument that the uprising is the result of foreign meddling and remove a major source of anxiety among Syria’s hesitant majority.

Syrians of all stripes are beginning to understand that everyone is a victim of this regime and that the real conspiracy is that of the Assads themselves. Sunni leaders must act now to prevent the revolt from descending into civil war by assuring minorities that they will not face reprisals in a new Syria. This could bring Alawites into the opposition’s ranks and seal the regime’s demise.

Bassma Kodmani is the executive director of the Arab Reform Initiative.

Comments (54)


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52. amal tlass said:

SO!

How’s the INDEPENDENT ISLAMIST state of HAMA doing now?

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August 2nd, 2011, 3:23 pm

 

53. beaware said:

UN holds 2nd session for Syria

Tuesday, August 2, 2011
DAMASCUS / UN – From wire dispatches
http://www.hurriyetdailynews.com/n.php?n=un-holds-2nd-session-for-syria-2011-08-02

The UN Security Council was to hold a second day of talks on Syria Tuesday after President Bashar al-Assad’s tanks shelled the protest hub of Hama on the opening day of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.

After killing nearly 100 people in two days, Syrian troops tightened their siege on the city of Hama Tuesday by taking up positions near homes and sending residents fleeing for their lives. Activists said around 24 people were killed Monday and 74 on Sunday, most of them in Hama.

The fresh violence came as the Security Council held a first session of emergency talks on the deadly crackdown, with Western powers again demanding a condemnation of the violence, but the closed session ended with no agreement. A top UN official told the meeting 140 people were reported killed in an army assault on Sunday, mostly in Hama, while 3,000 people have gone missing and 12,000 taken prisoner since anti-regime protests erupted in mid-March.

Britain, France, Germany and Portugal hope to revive a formal resolution condemning Assad’s crackdown, a move which will be discussed on Tuesday. Diplomats said, however, that it was more likely the Security Council would agree a statement, with no warning of UN action. The UN meeting came after Assad showered praise on his troops to mark Army Day, saying in a speech that the military had “proved its loyalty to its people, country and creed.” Russia and China, two of the five permanent Security Council members with veto powers, had threatened to block past attempts to pass a resolution on Syria. Brazil, India and South Africa had also spoken out against a resolution or statement. Diplomats in New York, meanwhile, said all countries expressed concern about the intensifying crackdown and there was now wider acceptance that the Security Council must act. US ambassador Susan Rice said an “alarming” briefing on events in Syria had been given by UN assistant secretary general Oscar Fernandez-Taranco.

Hama-based activist Omar Hamawi told The Associated Press that troops advanced about 700 yards (meters) from the western entrance of the city overnight, taking up positions near homes and buildings in an area known as Kazo Square.

He said the force consisted of eight tanks and several armored personnel carriers. Hamawi, who spoke to the AP over the telephone, added that troops were also reinforced on the eastern side of the city around the Hama Central Prison, an overcrowded jail. The activist also said that parts of Hama were hit Tuesday morning with heavy machine gun fire after sporadic shelling overnight. He said a shell hit a compound known as the Palace of Justice in the city center, causing a huge fire that burned much of the building, which is home to several courts.

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August 2nd, 2011, 5:04 pm

 

54. beaware said:

http://www.hurriyetdailynews.com/n.php?n=us-israel-propos-new-talks-for-un-bid-2011-08-02

Israel is willing to begin new Middle East peace talks using the 1967 lines as a basis for negotiations if the Palestinians drop their United Nations membership bid, an Israeli government official confirmed Tuesday.

The official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Israel has been working with Washington and members of the international peace-making Quartet to draw up a new framework that could relaunch stalled talks. The package of principles aims to draw Palestinians back to the negotiating table and head off their plan to seek U.N. membership for a Palestinian state on the lines that existed before the 1967 Six-Day War.
But the Palestinians were unimpressed, with negotiator Saeb Erakat urging Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu instead to “announce his position in front of the world and the international media.” “Netanyahu should announce that the 1967 borders are the basis for negotiations and a halt to all building of settlements on Palestinian land, including east Jerusalem,” he said.

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August 2nd, 2011, 5:07 pm

 

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