Syria bombing adds urgency to UN debate

2012-07-18 15:07

Damascus - A suicide attack on Wednesday in Syria which killed defence minister General Daoud Rajha and President Bashar Assad's brother-in-law Assef Shawkat adds urgency to a UN Security Council debate on Syrian sanctions later on Wednesday. A showdown between Western powers and Russia and China is expected.

The bombing is a first strike against Assad's inner core in a 16-month anti-regime uprising.

Officials said the bomber struck as ministers and security officials were meeting at the heavily guarded National Security headquarters in Damascus.

Interior minister Mohammed al-Shaar and General Hisham Ikhtiyar, head of National Security, were among those listed as wounded in the bombing, which came on the fourth day of an offensive launched by rebels to capture Damascus.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights called Shawkat's death "a severe blow to the Syrian regime since he played the main role in operations by regular forces to crush the revolution".

Syria's army said after the bombing it would "continue fighting terrorism".

Raging battles

"The terrorist act increases the armed forces' determination to clean the country of terrorist groups," it said in a statement.

Rajha, a Christian, was defence minister, deputy army chief and deputy head of the Council of Ministers. Assad himself is overall commander of the military.

Shawkat was deputy defence minister and a former military intelligence chief.

The National Security branch - a linchpin of Syria's security apparatus - is headed by General Hisham Ikhtiyar, who was also wounded in Wednesday's blast.

The brazen attack on regime insiders came as battles raged across Damascus and after the Free Syrian Army (FSA) - comprising defected soldiers and civilians who have taken up arms against Assad's forces - warned the government to "expect surprises".

Columns of black smoke rose over the capital, with the Local Co-ordination Committees, which organises anti-regime protests on the ground, reporting that Qaboon and Barzeh neighbourhoods were bombarded by loyalist forces.

Helicopters gunships

It also said there was less traffic than normal in the city where fighting has raged since Sunday, with the rebels announcing a full-scale offensive dubbed "the Damascus volcano and earthquakes of Syria".

Regime forces and the FSA clashed in the Al-Midan and Zahira districts of Damascus as well as at Assali south of the city, the LCC said.

Rebel forces on Tuesday said the battle to "liberate" Damascus had begun, as heavy fighting raged with the regime using helicopter gunships in the capital for the first time.

As the fighting inched closer to the regime's nerve centre, FSA spokesperson Colonel Kassem Saadeddine said "victory is nigh" and the struggle would go on until the city was conquered.

"We have transferred the battle from Damascus province to the capital. We have a clear plan to control the whole of Damascus. We only have light weapons, but it's enough."

"Expect surprises," Saadeddine added.

Chaos and collapse

Russia gave notice that it would not back a Western-backed UN resolution on the crisis as it would mean taking sides with a revolutionary movement.

"A decisive battle is in progress in Syria. Adopting the resolution would mean outright support of a revolutionary movement," Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said in Moscow.

British Foreign Secretary William Hague said by contrast that Syria is tipping into chaos and collapse, and that a strong UN Security Council stand is needed to push for the creation of a transition government.

"It is clear that the situation is deteriorating rapidly," Hague told reporters during a visit to Lithuania.

"The intensity of fighting is increasing, there are of course many reports now of fighting every night in Damascus itself, and this is reflected in the increasing flow of refugees," he added.

In Beijing, UN chief Ban Ki-moon urged the Security Council to act to stop the bloodshed in Syria, after holding talks with Chinese leaders hours ahead of a vote on fresh sanctions.

Chinese influence

Ban said the Security Council must unite and take action on the "very serious" situation in Syria, after meetings with China's President Hu Jintao and Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi.

The Security Council will on Wednesday vote on a Western resolution renewing the UN mission in the country that calls for sanctions if the regime does not pull back heavy weapons.

China has twice joined Moscow during the 16-month conflict to block resolutions critical of Damascus.

Ban has already urged China to use its influence to back a peace plan by UN-Arab League envoy Kofi Annan, who is calling on the Security Council to order "consequences" for any failure to carry out his six-point plan.

But China has repeatedly warned against outside intervention in Syria.

Representatives of the Syrian National Council (SNC) - an umbrella opposition group - met ambassadors from the 15-nation Security Council, including Russian envoy Vitaly Churkin, to press them to back sanctions.

The current 90-day UN mission in Syria ends on Friday and if no resolution is passed by then, it would have to shut down this weekend, diplomats say.

The Observatory, meanwhile, said at least 93 people were killed nationwide on Tuesday, among them 48 civilians, adding to its toll of more than 17 000 dead since the revolt erupted in March last year.

  • allcoveredinNinjas - 2012-07-18 16:46

    Nothing will change either sides minds or bring them to the negotiating table because of one substantial condition , the stepping down of Assad .The sad reality is that the Annan mission was a dramatic failure and served up an marked increase in deaths and monitors stuck in their hotels monitoring the wall-paper.

      fidel.mgoqi - 2012-07-18 16:50

      The Annan plan was never meant to be successful as it didn't require regime change and so it was killed from the beginning by the pro regime change brigade, including their foreign handlers.

      allcoveredinNinjas - 2012-07-18 17:05

      Assad stepping down would not have been regime change but a change in leader , democratic reforms after that would have been agreed to . Assad's grip on power and baathist ideology never made that posssible and the people demonstrated , what has followed was a predictable path resulting from archaic governance structure and ideology imposes for half a century.

      fidel.mgoqi - 2012-07-18 17:38

      The Syrian military have kept their commitment to their "leader". The so called rebels had/has no power or legitimacy to demand the stepping down of the head of state of a sovereign country. Assad represents a significant power in Syria which trusts him to be able to negotiate on their behalf. This power and sections of the Syrian population still regard him as their leader, whether you and I agree or not. These terrorists and their handlers have miscalculated by thinking that they could have another Libya in Syria but the Chinese and the Russians are standing their ground, so they are desperate and trying to cause chaos in other parts of the country that weren't affected by their terrorism.

      AnthonyfromAfrica - 2012-07-18 18:08

      ""The Syrian military have kept their commitment to their "leader". "" BULLSH.T, SIXTY THOUSAND BRAVE SOLDIERS told this terrorist to go and f... himself !!!

      fidel.mgoqi - 2012-07-18 18:39

      Either your thinking is muddled or you have written this with the intention of deliberately deceiving readers. Don't you get tired of lying.

      AnthonyfromAfrica - 2012-07-18 19:17

      Sorry, as ALWAYS, you are wrong. The FSA ,according to many sources, is at the very least 60 000 strong !! Anything else you want to query ??

      fidel.mgoqi - 2012-07-18 19:29

      There is a whole series of legends like this one, supported by and embroidered on without proof or substantiation. Should I take your word for it?

      fred.fraser.12 - 2012-07-18 20:12

      To Fidel, Syria, that is controlled by an unelected dictator, who's father handed the reigns of power to him, and who has been called legitimate by only 12 of the 166 countries on Earth because of his brutality towards the Syrian people, is the legitimate leader of Syria.

  • luyolo.mhlauli.9 - 2012-07-18 17:05

      gerhard.kress.3 - 2012-07-18 17:25

      Outdated russian propaganda.

      AnthonyfromAfrica - 2012-07-18 18:14

      Luyolo, Here is another link; http;//

      fred.fraser.12 - 2012-07-18 20:16

      Luyolu is a racist. He believes "most Jewish people are hated". He doesn't know this is racist. He also believes the West is evil, like Fidel. This distorts the reality he sees and leads him to support the murder of Muslim civilians by unelected dictators. He doesn't know he's doing this and defends his position vociferously.

      luyolo.mhlauli.9 - 2012-07-18 20:52

      All I said was that those who lead Israel are hiding under the Jewish umbrella when we question their atrocities they say that we are anti-Jewish. I said people hate the Jewish people because of actions of the people who lead Israel and I said it is important to distinguish between good loving Jewish people like the ones we live with in South Africa and those that hide under Judaism whilst commiting atrocities.

      luyolo.mhlauli.9 - 2012-07-18 21:04

      For an example you will hear someone saying I hate Jews and you ask why do you hate the person says I hate Jews because of the killing they do in Palestine. This is wrong because we have Jewish people here in South Africa who leave peacefully with us. That is why some people use the word Zionists. They use the word to distinguish the ruling class in Israel which is hellbent on Israeli expansion at wateva cost and good loving Jewish people that want peace and raise their families and live side by side with Muslim countries.

      fred.fraser.12 - 2012-07-18 21:37

      You didn't say that. You said what I wrote above. What you have written here is the layer on top of your racism. You're trying to cover your racism with an explanation than itself is unreal and doesn't make sense. It only reflects further your imbedded racism.

      luyolo.mhlauli.9 - 2012-07-18 21:40

      I give up what is racist and who am I being racist against

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