Syria bolsters troops

2012-02-20 16:00

Damascus - Syrian troops massed around Homs, sparking calls on Monday for women and children to flee the besieged flashpoint city, as Iranian warships docked at the port of Tartus in a show of force.

The reported build-up came as the top US military officer, General Martin Dempsey, said any intervention in Syria would be "very difficult" and that it was "premature" to arm the unrest-swept country's opposition movement.

And China's influential People's Daily warned any Western support for Syria's rebels would lead a "large-scale civil war".

Activists and Syrian state media reported at least 14 people were killed on Sunday, adding to the more than 6 000 people who have died in President Bashar Assad's 11-month crackdown on dissent.

"Infantry troops arrived yesterday [Sunday] in Homs," Rami Abdel Rahman, head of the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, said on the telephone on Monday.

A Homs-based activist voiced fears of an imminent attack on Baba Amr, the main rebel stronghold in the central city, speaking of "unprecedented military reinforcements coming from Damascus".

Sporadic shelling

"News has been leaked to us from army officers about a bloody attack that will burn everything in Baba Amr," Hadi Abdullah of the General Commission of the Syrian Revolution said on Sunday.

"We were expecting the attack two nights ago, but it could have been just delayed because of the snowstorm," he said.

The Observatory said regime forces pounded Homs for the 17th straight day on Monday. Baba Amr neighbourhood was shelled early morning, and some rockets slammed into the districts of Karm al-Zaytoun and Al-Rifai.

Abdullah said on Sunday that Baba Amr was shelled at the rate of four to five rockets a minute. The Homs districts Bab Sbaa, Bab Dreib and al-Safsafa were targeted with sporadic shelling.

On Monday, Abdullah demanded a safe passage to allow women and children to leave Baba Amr.

"We want women and children to be allowed to leave," he said, adding that "people were suffering from the weather while their conditions are miserable".

Military might

Abdel Rahman was cautious about the timing of the expected attack.

"We do not know when the attack might happen," he said.

Two warships from Iran, a key backer of the Syrian regime, docked at the port of Tartus, Tehran's state television reported on Monday, adding that their crew would train Syrian sailors.

Iran's navy chief, Admiral Habibollah Sayari, said on Saturday that the ships, a destroyer and supply vessel, had passed through the Suez Canal to show the Islamic republic's military "might".

In Damascus, regime forces remained on alert after two days of large and unexpected protests, and after a call for a "day of defiance" was observed in restive neighbourhoods, according to activists.

"Following the surprising demonstrations [on Friday and Saturday], the regime is reconsidering its security measures," in the capital, said Abdel Rahman.

Security clampdown

Mohammed Shami, a spokesperson for activists in Damascus province, said security was bolstered in some areas in the tense neighbourhood of Mazzeh, including around the Iranian embassy.

Two masked men flew a large green, white and black flag of "independence" from a bridge in Kfar Sousa neighbourhood, according to amateur video footage uploaded by activists to YouTube.

Activists reported on Sunday a security clampdown on Mazzeh, thwarting plans to stage large protests in the area, scene the day before of a funeral that became a huge anti-regime rally.

The funerals were for four people, including two teenagers, killed on Friday when security forces fired on protesters in Mazzeh, which houses many government offices and embassies.

Shami said on Sunday that most shops were shut in Mazzeh as well as in the Barzeh, Qaboon, Kfar Sousa and Jubar districts.

Another YouTube video showed rows of shops were shuttered in Barzeh for the fifth day of a general strike.

Meanwhile, the Syrian authorities freed blogger Razan Ghazzawi, symbol of an 11-month uprising, and six other female activists arrested last week, human rights lawyer Anwar Buni said.

The women were released on Saturday, but were ordered to report to police daily in order to continue their questioning, he said.

They were part of a group of 14 activists people arrested on Thursday in a raid on the Syrian Centre for Media and Freedom of Expression, a group headed by rights activist Mazen Darwish.

  • allcoveredinNinjas - 2012-02-20 16:19

    I'm completely baffled how these 'foreign armed groups' they speak of creating the conflict are receiving so much support from locals and how there is no evidence of them operating . Assad , the more you push the more the people will push back.

      Fidel - 2012-02-20 20:43

      You ostentatious scepticism would be fine if you applied it equally in both directions, but you don't. And therefore you are not a sceptic, but merely a Denialist.

      Fred - 2012-02-20 21:15

      Fidel, that's what I said to you yesterday.

  • Paul - 2012-02-20 16:44

    The Bible tells us of Syria's uprising and international pressure, saying "Oh, the raging of many nations— they rage like the raging sea! Oh, the uproar of the peoples— they roar like the roaring of great waters!" (Isa 17:12) And sadly because of their cruelty to their own people and rebellion against God, Damascus will be destroyed. "An oracle concerning Damascus: "See, Damascus will no longer be a city but will become a heap of ruins." (Isa 17:1) Assad, I suggest you back down now.

      Fidel - 2012-02-20 20:44

      Myth may serve only mystries!

  • Hallo - 2012-02-20 16:53

    Blow up those Iranian 'ships'

  • Alisha - 2012-02-20 17:03

    These Arab uprisings in the Middle East are all stoked on by the CIA and insurgents of their own creation, namely al-Qaeda. Russia and China Recently announced that their intelligence operatives have linked Western NGO's in those countries sponsoring, training and supporting these coup attempts. These plans by the West are soon going to backfire.

      Fred - 2012-02-20 17:20

      This is a shocking idea coming from a woman. You're actually supporting chauvinism and the continued oppression of women in these paternalistic countries where women are second-class citizens. You're supporting a system that believes a whole country belongs to a family, and the leadership of that country gets handed down from father to son without giving the citizens the right to vote and elect their leaders. You're supporting state violence that uses sniper-fire to kill unarmed, peaceful demonstrators wanting nothing more than the right to vote, and the detention and torture of tens of thousands of people. Did you enjoy Apartheid? You have a nerve denying Syrians the right to vote and supporting a brutal dictatorship like this. You're obviously not aware that the Arab League that represents 350 million Muslims is driving the international community's initiative in Syria. You're also obviously not aware that 134 countries out of the 151 on Earth last week demanded that Assad step down. Wake up.

      Fred - 2012-02-20 19:53

      No surprises here. A distorted and confused view of what is really going on, and what I actually said.

      Fidel - 2012-02-20 20:46

      The Arab League doesn't represent anyone Fred.

      Fred - 2012-02-20 21:17

      The Arab League doesn't represent anyone in Fidel's world. Hahahaha!

      Fred - 2012-02-20 21:22

      Patrick, women are not allowed to have meaningful opinions in chauvinistic, tyrannical, paternalistic countries like Syria and Iran. Women are stoned to death for the reasons mentioned in my previous post. As a woman, Alisha should know better. But then unfortunately some women get caught up the very oppression they're supposed to oppose. The secret-service waitress who "bagged" that poor Libyan woman who had been raped by Gaddafi's troops is a stark example.

      Fred - 2012-02-20 22:41

      Writing words doesn't make them true, Patrick. Why would I be advocating freedom from chauvinism if I was a chauvinist? Doesn't make sense.

      Fred - 2012-02-21 08:25

      I strongly disagree with Alisha's view, which is faulty and distorted. There's nothing disrespectful about that.

      johann.greffrath - 2012-02-21 08:32

      Alisha's post was more concerned with opposition to international conspiracy than the support of Syrian policy. It seems little paranoid to be honest, as she quickly extrapolates to sweeping statements about "these plans by the West". Fred's response was relevant, pointing out the unstated but logical conclusion that Alisha must support or at least condone the Syrian way of life since she's posting in in protest to Syria's "enemies", which would suggest she's a hypocrite since she must certainly not wish herself to be mistreated. Of course it's possible that Alisha is as opposed to "Western conspiracy" as she is to "Middle-eastern oppression"; this seems unlikely though. Patrick misinterpreted, however; possibly because he didn't read any further than the first line of Fred's first reply before becoming annoyed; he also quickly expands to massive generalisations about "idiots" on News24. And it quickly degrades from here on. All in all too much jumping to prejudiced conclusions and too little brain activity. My two cents.

      Fred - 2012-02-21 08:50

      Alisha is unwittingly supporting the tyrannical and chauvinistic regimes of the Middle East, opposing the forces that would liberate women from that oppression. It is shocking that she would do this, as a woman who knows better than men what it is like to be on the receiving end of chauvinism.

      Fidel - 2012-02-21 09:42

      @Johann&Fred The problem with people like you is that you suffer from this binary thinking espoused by Bush and his ilk that says you're either with US or with THEM. There are shadings of grey or even variation in colour when it comes to ideas, thoughts and opinions, instead of simply choosing to flick a switch on or off, thumbs down or up, 1 or 0. Unfortunately for you the world doesn't work like that.

      johann.greffrath - 2012-02-21 14:37

      Fidel, I was commenting about the logical consistency of the argumentation; I actually have no opinion about whether "the West" or "the Middle East" is morally correct in this case. Perhaps you're unhappy that I'm making a sharp distinction between the two; well, this is what people tend to do when talking about to discrete entities. Oh, and talking about tolerance and shades of grey: notice how my post advises against prejudiced opinions and simplistic thinking. But maybe you're just trolling, in which case I've wasted the last five minutes of my life writing this.

      Fidel - 2012-02-21 14:43

      Fair enough!

      Fred - 2012-02-21 23:37

      Fidel, again, what did you mean when you said Israel is a refuge for the Jews, and it is a giant bull's eye? Regarding your post above, this is really a message your Higher Consciousness is trying to give you. Regrettably you're projecting it outwards, instead of absorbing it into your conscious mind. This usually reflects a shame-based person.

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