79 killed as Syria pounds protest hubs

2012-02-07 08:56

Damascus - The Syrian regime's rocket and shell bombardment of protest hubs has left another 79 civilians dead, activists said, as Washington closed its Damascus embassy and Britain recalled its ambassador.

The opposition Syrian National Council (SNC) said the regime was surrounding Homs with tanks on Monday ahead of "a major offensive" and warned of a "genocide" in the central Syrian city.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said at least 42 civilians were killed in Homs alone in another day of blood-letting, and warned the death toll was likely to rise with many of the dozens of wounded in critical condition.

State media reported the deaths of three soldiers and said a "terrorist group" blew up an oil pipeline in Homs.

The army also launched an assault on the Zabadani area near Damascus with heavy tank shelling, killing at least ten people, according to the Britain-based Observatory.

It also reported civilian deaths in Rastan, Hula and Qusair, all towns in Homs province, as well at Sarghaya, near Damascus, in the northern city of Aleppo and in Idlib, northwest Syria.

Beyond belief

A resident of Homs said the latest assault began shortly after 04:00 (local time) on Monday, with unprecedented barrages of rockets, mortar rounds and artillery shells.

"What is happening is horrible, it's beyond belief," said activist Omar Shaker, reached by telephone as loud detonations were heard in the background.

"There is nowhere to take shelter, nowhere to hide," he said. "We are running short of medical supplies and we are only able to provide basic treatment to the injured."

One video posted on YouTube apparently showed a field hospital hit by shelling in the Baba Amro district and wounded patients lying on stretchers on the floor amid pools of blood and shattered glass.

Footage shot by a BBC undercover team in Homs showed buildings ablaze in rebel neighbourhoods as they were pounded with heavy weapons.

Damascus blamed the bloodshed in Homs on "terrorist gangs" using mortars.


The violence comes as Western powers seek new ways to punish Damascus amid growing outrage over Saturday's veto by Russia and China of a UN Security Council resolution condemning Syria for its near 11-month crackdown on dissent.

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called the veto a "travesty".

White House spokesperson Jay Carney warned Syria's allies that backing President Bashar Assad was a "losing bet".

The State Department said it had closed the American embassy in Syria and withdrawn remaining staff after Damascus refused to address security concerns.

Senior State Department officials told CNN that two embassy employees left by air last week and 15 others, including Ambassador Robert Ford, left overland through Jordan on Monday morning.

The Polish government is to provide emergency consular services to any American citizens remaining in Syria.

Diplomatic solution

US President Barack Obama shied away from talk of military intervention and vowed to pursue diplomatic means.

"It is important to resolve this without recourse to outside military intervention and I think that's possible," he said in an NBC television interview.

Britain recalled its ambassador to Syria "for consultations", Foreign Secretary William Hague told parliament.

"We will use our remaining channels to the Syrian regime to make clear our abhorrence at the violence that is utterly unacceptable to the civilised world," Hague said.

Belgium also recalled its ambassador from Damascus.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy said, after meeting German Chancellor Angela Merkel, that he would call Russian President Dmitry Medvedev to discuss the international response to the crisis.

West 'hysterical'

Neither France nor Germany, he said, would accept the "blocking" of action on Syria.

Russia and China both defended their vetoes, with Moscow condemning as "hysterical" the West's angry reaction.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and Foreign Intelligence Service chief Mikhail Fradkov are due in Damascus on Tuesday, as news reports said the mission could try to persuade Assad to quit.

China called on both sides of the conflict to halt the violence that has claimed the lives of at least 6 000 people since March, according to opposition activists.

The Syrian National Council said the "genocide" in Homs showed the regime was "increasing the pace of its crimes and repression".

Saudi Arabia called for "critical measures" on Syria and warned of an impending "humanitarian disaster" after the failure of the UN resolution.

Standing by her husband

The six-nation Gulf Co-operation Council, of which Riyadh is the leading member, is to meet on Saturday on Syria, on the eve of an Arab League ministerial meeting at the organisation's Cairo headquarters.

EU foreign affairs chief Catherine Ashton and Brazilian foreign minister Antonio Patriota on Monday underscored their support for the Arab League effort to end violence in Syria.

Referring to Arab League chief Nabil al-Arabi, Ashton at a meeting in Brasilia said she and Patriota discussed "how much we support him on the Arab League's initiative and the importance of seeing that leadership [being] able to support the people of Syria into a future free of bloodshed".

Meanwhile the British-born wife of Syria's president has spoken in support of her husband for the first time since the uprising began, a British newspaper reported on Tuesday.

"The president is the president of Syria, not a faction of Syrians, and the first lady supports him in that role," The Times quoted Asma Assad as saying in an e-mail sent via an intermediary from her office.

  • Boaz - 2012-02-07 09:12

    This is madness!! Every hour we get another report of more dead in Syria– new reports over the last 2 months and the number of casualties is increasing! I say F#%$ China & Russia – go in and get rid of this bloodthirsty Assad. Assad used to take his anger out on Israel – a country much stronger than his, now he is using all of his armaments & capabilities to kill his own people in order to stay in power. The man is sick. May he end up like Hitler, Mussolini, Sadam & Qaddafi.

      Tgif - 2012-02-07 12:42

      Not To mention the daily murder rate in South Africa. 79 people killed in Syria in one day in a skirmish type bombing attack by soldiers,59 people killed a day EVERY DAY IN SOUTH AFRICA in a so called PEACEFUL DEMOCRACY ?????????????????

  • judchuks - 2012-02-07 09:28

    Real madness. what's up with people killing themselves all over the world? Check

  • Matthew Nowicki - 2012-02-07 09:39

    Is anyone else slightly concerned about the validity of these reports. Do you really think even a dictatorship would shell an unarmed neighborhood with heavy weopons?? Of course not!! It has been proven heavy weapons such as rockets have been smuggled into the country via turky, it has also been proven the armed resistance is commiting acts of violence similar to the regime. Most reports on Syria come from Aj Jazeera who have been lying (this has been proven) and doctering clips claiming they are from Syria. Please wake up people this is a media war!! Look for independant sources of information do not believe everything you read!

      imurdoch2 - 2012-02-07 10:51

      and the western powers are all taken in by the only source Al Jazeera? Their diplomatic staff and intelligence agencies are also wrong?

      Matthew Nowicki - 2012-02-07 11:32

      Diplomats and intelligence agencies would never share information that may harm their country's image. You are a fool if you think Hilary is not lying through her teeth. Same goes for European politicians, once rhetoric such as "Assad must go" comes into play you can be sure of their interests. They will lie and lie until they have won public opinion. These people have no care whatsoever for human rights yet we trust them to police the world? How does dropping bombs on civil infrastructure in Libya (which happened btw) saving the Libyan people? NATO and the US continue to prop up dictatorships and kings in Yemen, Soudi Arabia, Bahrain, etc etc. These people are the masters of deciet and hypocrysy. I'm out (sorry for mispellings)

      Heibrin - 2012-02-07 11:59

      Matthew, did you miss the AU inspector's reports, or do you think they are also lying?? People like you will never be satisfied, but always scream injustice, even when ALL the evidence is pointing in the other direction. Let me ask you this: if the UN / AU were to deploy fighter jets to Syria, with orders to bomb heavy armor, how many lives can be saved? In any war there are casualties, it is a case of deciding whether your actions, which WILL result in a certain number of innocent casualties, WILL save more lives than would have been killed without said action. No war is like Counter Strike, where there are only the enemy to kill.

      Luyolo - 2012-02-07 12:11

      There is another side to this Syrian situation.Here is the report from the Obsevers who were sent by the Araba League. It mentions some armed groups that are also killing the civilians and the army.I wonder who are these heavily armed groups and why does the media not talk about them. You can go straight to point 25,26,27,28.

      nowicki1 - 2012-02-07 12:18

      People I'm not a supporter of the Assad regime. The situation is a lot more complicated then the mainstream media makes it out to be. My previous comments may have given the wrong idea. There is an information war going on though and misinfo is being spread as fact. This is dangerous. There is still a lot of support for Assad inside Syria. The opposition is being armed. Syrian security forces and police stations are being attacked. Why are these facts being ignored again and again? Why is it always Assad killing innocent unarmed civilians when we KNOW that the opposition is armed?

      nowicki1 - 2012-02-07 16:23

      Fred - 2012-02-07 18:40

      It's not complicated. The Assad family are brutal dictators who have ruled Syria for decades and caused the deaths of tens of thousands of people. They had the chance to lead Syria to greater freedom and democracy but decided to hold onto power with terror and murder. They are rightly being removed. It won't be long.

      Fred - 2012-02-08 07:01

      Coming from someone who believes Iranian state TV, your perspective is not surprising. Talk about delusional.

      Matthew Nowicki - 2012-02-08 17:29

      As opposed to british or american state tv, who do no more than cheerlead western wars and policies? All of those interviewed were not from iran, one from the us, one from the uk, etc. But you probably didn't even watch the video, let go of your ignorance.

      Fred - 2012-02-08 23:07

      Matthew, you're watching Iranian state TV buddy and believing it. End of story.

      Matthew Nowicki - 2012-02-09 14:27

      Did you not read what I just said? Do you really think its only press tv talking about these topics? Your ignorance is bladdy annoying "buddy". Its like talking to a fckin brick wall, open your mind. It may seem like "conspiracy theory" to you, but that's only because u havnt looked into it, 5 mins of research will validate the points made in the video. But I don't actually care what you believe, as long as you have done some research on the topic and vary your sources, cheers.

      Fred - 2012-02-10 09:38

      You've reduced the slaughter of Syrians by a bloody, cruel dictator to a media-war, and smooshed together the few recent retaliations by the Syrian people after eleven months of slaughter with Bashar Assad's relentless killing. Wake up buddy!!

  • Hermann - 2012-02-07 09:41

    Here is a classic example of state terrorism. Why not have Assad as a candidate for prosecution at the World Court in the Hague? Or has he not engineered the deaths of enough people yet?

  • Luyolo - 2012-02-07 12:09

    There is another side to this Syrian situation.Here is the report from the Obsevers who were sent by the Araba League. It mentions some armed groups of that are also killing the civilians and the army. You can go straight to point 25,26,27,28.

      allcoveredinNinjas - 2012-02-07 15:56

      One would think its armed resistance forming ,they were using 'flares and armour piercing projectiles'(a spear is a armour piercing weapon?)not quite assualt or sniper rifles. The 'leaked' report also says nothing from the people they met on the ground , numerous mentions of monitor issues like no prior experience . It seems like a dodgy report , rather wait for the official version to be released and pay more heed to the recommendations the mission put forward to the UN

      Fred - 2012-02-07 18:42

      There's no "other side".

  • Shaun Robinson - 2012-02-08 09:18

    Great they can stop selling them eggs, that should stop the bloodshed... Idiots, as long as they not caught in the middle that's all the world will do is talk and talk and talk...

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