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Observations from Iraq, Iran,
Israel, the Arab world and beyond

Category: Roula Hajjar

SYRIA: Momentum builds as uprising reaches six-month mark [VIDEO]

Protests continued throughout Syrian villages late Wednesday, which marked the eve of the uprising's six-month anniversary. At least eight protesters were reported dead, three each in Hama and Homs, and one in each Aleppo and and Idleb.

The uprising stands as the biggest challenge to the four-decade-long rule of Syrian President Bashar Assad's family. The United Nations estimates that more than 2,600 have died over the last six months. In the video above, protesters in Zamalka, a suburb of the capital Damascus, take to the streets in after-hours demonstrations, colorful banners in hand. 

"Where are the Arab people?" they sing in reference to the general silence that has characterized the Arab League response to the brutal crackdown on peaceful protesters. 

"The Syrian doesn't accept humiliation, and God is with us," they chant, holding up banners calling for international support.

Syrian activists have been recently calling on the international community for protection in the last months. On Friday, large and widely attended protests were dubbed "the Friday of international protection."

The crackdown continued in Idleb, where hundreds have died. Security forces raided houses Wednesday night, leaving the area in ruins and shooting randomly at residential buildings.

Idleb, as the hometown of many army defectors, has seen some of the bloodiest military offensives as security forces continue their manhunt for officers who have left the military in protest of the regime's actions. 

But fresh attacks did little to curb protests in Idleb.

In the video above, protesters in Adnan, an area in Idleb, clap throughout the streets on Wednesday night.

"We will only kneel to God," they sing defiantly. 

Protests have remained widely attended throughout Syria despite the high casualty count. 

"Taking to the streets is like suicide. Things have been getting crazier and more violent. Security forces see you on the street once and you are finished. Either you or one of your family members," said Ahmad, a 36-year-old shopkeeper in Aleppo. 

Aleppo, Syria's largest city, has generally remained on the sidelines during the Syrian uprising, but activists report a recent increase in participation among its residents. In the video above, protesters in Aleppo gather Wednesday night, a large Syrian pre-Baathist flag in their midst as they ask the Syrian president to "leave."

The Arab Baath party, brought into power by the Assad family, has ruled Syria for 40 years and monopolized political influence.

"We wave the flag of Syria as it was known before the Baath party to remind the communities of the world that there was a Syria before Bashar, and there will be a Syria after him," said Ahmad. 

-- Roula Hajjar in Beirut

Videos: Images said to show demonstrators gathering in a Damascus suburb to call for international protection; protesters take to the streets Idleb amid fresh military offensives; residents of Aleppo break their silence and call on President Assad to leave. Credit: YouTube.

SYRIA: Some Syrians decry Arab League chief's visit with Assad

ARAB LEAGUE MEETING

The secretary-general of the Arab League, Nabil Elaraby, visited Syrian President Bashar Assad on Saturday in an effort to end the bloody crackdown on anti-regime protesters that has gripped Syria for months and led to international condemnation.

Elaraby was supposed to visit Damascus on Wednesday but was asked by Syrian officials to postpone his visit. On that day, security forces carried out a military offensive on the central restive city of Homs, killing at least 20 people.

The Arab League has been more or less soft in its criticism of Assad during the five-month-long clampdown, which has according to the United Nations left more than 2,000 dead. The Syrian president has largely ignored international pressure to rein in his security forces.

According to the state-run Syrian Arab News Agency, SANA, Assad and Elaraby agreed on certain steps for reform to be taken in Syria. 

Elaraby "asserted that the Arab League cared deeply about the safety and stability, rejected foreign interference in Syrian internal affairs, and promised to stand by Syria during this difficult time," SANA reported. 

Foreign Minister Walid Moallem and the president's media advisor, Bouthaina Shaaban, were also present at the meeting. Syrian pro-democracy protesters expressed dissatisfaction with Elaraby's visit, finding the Arab League too passive in embracing revolutions and pro-democracy movements that have shaken the region in what is called the Arab Spring.

"They criticize us about asking for foreign assistance and foreign protection, but can they blame us? Look at our own Arab leaders and our own politicians, they are on the sidelines. They don't care. They would sell us for cheap," said Lina, a student in Damascus. 

Friday, dubbed the day of "international protection," saw another round of popularly attended anti-regime demonstrations across several cities in Syria, which left at least 11 dead, according to the prominent activist network, the Local Coordination Committees. 

"More than 10 people die every day; this has been the bloodiest two months so far. The most the Arab League has voiced is concern. We aren't holding our breath for them to save us, said Majed, a legal activist in Homs. The city has been the scene of some of the bloodiest days in the last two weeks.

"The Arab League wants to stand next the regime to show Arab pride and solidarity. What are we? We are Arabs too and we are dying because of this police state," Majed said.

Mass protests and the defections of soldiers have carried on despite continuous impunity on the part of security forces.

"We don't care if anyone is behind us. When I began protesting five months ago I knew no one was going to help us, and especially not the Arab League. The Arab League is just as bad as our regime. The previous secretary-general was there for decades before he finally left his post," said Anwar, a shopkeeper in Hama. 

Hama was the site of one of the most controversial and higher-ranking defections to date. Two weeks ago Adnan Mohammad Bakkour resigned as attorney general of Hama in protest of the regime's clampdown on peaceful protesters.

He is allegedly in Cyprus with a officer and forensic scientist who defected. 

RELATED:

Death of popular Sunni cleric stirs unrest in Aleppo

Syrian protesters call for international protection [VIDEO]

Homs hit hard in hunt for defectors, activists say [VIDEO]

-- Roula Hajjar in Beirut

Photo: Syrian President Bashar Assad, right, meets Arab League secretary-general Nabil Elaraby in Damascus on Saturday. Credit: Syrian Arab News Agency.

SYRIA: Protesters call for international protection [Updated]

Thousands of anti-regime demonstrators on Friday crowded the streets of the central Syrian cities of Hama and Homs -- where the government's crackdown on dissent claimed the most lives this week -- to call for the international community to protect civilians.

The video above purportedly shows residents of Qarabis, a neighborhood in Homs, marching through the streets under the afternoon sun Friday.

"Let Bashar fall, and long live free Syria, a Syria for all religious sects," they chant. 

"I think the wave of defections has emboldened the Syrian people. We see these soldiers who are risking their lives for what they believe in. How could be not do the same?" said Majed, 45, an activist in Homs. 

"We've realized there's no going back. After making this realization, there is no fear. There is just action."

According to the prominent opposition network known as the Local Coordination Committees, security forces used  live ammunition against demonstrators in the western Hama neighborhoods of Al-Mashtal. The demonstration in the Bayad neighborhood is ongoing.

Last week, a high-profile lawyer, Adnan Bakkour, resigned from his post as attorney general of Hama, inciting a full-fledged military offensive on the restive city. Hama is a symbol of opposition;  Hafez Assad, father of the incumbent president, sent troops to bulldoze through Hama in 1982, killing at least 15,000 people to crush an Islamist uprising.

In the video above, thousands hurl insults at the Syrian president in unison during Friday protests in Kfarzeeta, a neighborhood of Hama. 

One man raises a note to the camera. "We will not forget you, Homs," it promises.

The United Nations estimates that more than 2,200 people have been killed in the five-month-long security crackdown on protesters calling for the ouster of Assad.

Demonstrators have remained adamant in their demands. Anti-regime protesters in the southern city of Dara, home of the Syrian uprising, are still taking to the streets, even though activists have reported it has been taken over by an overpowering military presence.

In the video above, men, women and children stand in concentric circles around the Syrian flag, holding banners calling for protection from the international community and chanting in solidarity with Homs. 

"We are with you Homs, capital of the Syrian uprising," one banner reads. 

Some anti-Assad activists are counting on the international community to intervene to protect civilians and put an end to the bloody crackdown. 

"We know that as long as countries are standing by Assad, for their own selfish purposes, we will have more trouble succeeding. But we will succeed," said Lina, a student in Damascus. 

On Wednesday, Iranian President Mahmoud Admadinejad, a friend of the Assad regime, voiced his most direct criticism of the Assad rule yet.

"There should be talks" between the Syrian government and its opponents, Ahmadinejad told Portuguese broadcaster Radiotelevisao Portuguesa.

"A military solution is never the right solution," Ahmadinejad said.  

[Updated, 10:58 a.m. Sept. 9: On Friday, Ahmadinejad's website reported that Iran was prepared to host a meeting of Islamic nations in an effort to resolve the Syrian crisis. "The people and the government of Syria are Muslims and the Islamic nations should get involved for a collective understanding to help solve the (Syrian) problem and implementation of reforms" there," Ahmadinejad said.]

-- Roula Hajjar in Beirut
twitter.com/roulahajjar

Videos: Images said to show protesters in Homs on Friday; anti-Assad demonstrators call for Assad's ouster in Hama; residents of Dara pledge solidarity with Homs. Credit: YouTube

SYRIA: Homs hit hard in hunt for defectors, activists say [Video]

The death toll in Syria reportedly rose to 23 people Thursday after government forces launched an artillery-backed offensive against neighborhoods in the central city of Homs. Citizens of Homs said the strikes were hardest in areas where soldiers had defected, deserting the army in protest of what activists, residents and defectors say is the daily killing of unarmed demonstrators against the regime. 

In the video above, activists and residents are said to be surrounding an empty army personnel carrier, then a crowd of dazed-looking men in army uniforms in the Bab Sbaa neighborhood of Homs, crying "Protect them, Oh God.''

The residents greet the soldiers as the troops move among them, kissing them three times on their cheeks. One man approaches a soldier with a piece of fruit. 

"Long live the army, long live our heroes," they cry. 

Homs has been a frequent scene of bloodshed during the six-month clampdown by Syrian President Bashar Assad, and the city has become a bastion of Sunni opposition to the Assad regime.

The strike reported on Wednesday appeared one of the most ferocious to date. The Syrian government, whose accounts of the crackdown almost always differ sharply from those of activists, said eight government soldiers and five "insurgents" were killed in Homs.

"Outside of our windows, it sounded like another world out there. Angry gunfire filled the air. In the early hours of the morning, our mobile phones, land lines, Internet and everything was disconnected. We looked outside and we were surrounded," said Fidaa, a 27-year-old clerk.

Accoridng to the video above, trucks full of security-forces personnel are being moved into Homs on Wednesday to carry out what activists have reported is an "extermination" of all soldiers who had left the army. 

According to residents, gunfire rained down on cars, buildings and stores in an attack on residential neighborhoods such as Bab Idreb and Bab Tadmur, only about 300 feet from one another. 

Activists and defectors also accuse government forces of targeting hospitals, medical personnel and ambulances.

In the video above, an ambulance is riddled with bullet holes in Bab Idreb on Wednesday. According to the narrators, all those inside the ambulance were injured after they came under fire by security forces. 

-- Roula Hajjar in Beirut

Video credit: YouTube

SYRIA: Death of popular Sunni cleric stirs unrest in Aleppo

Salkini

The funeral of an outspoken Sunni cleric who died under tight security in a hospital Tuesday interrupted the calm that has largely prevailed in the Syrian commercial center of Aleppo throughout the nation's six-month uprising. Plainclothes pro-government security forces attacked mourners, and mourners and activists calling for an end to President Bashar Assad's regime.

Videos posted on the Internet showed at least several hundred people joining the funeral procession, chanting "death but not indignity,'' a slogan of the anti-government protests.

The paid, pro-government militiamen known as "shabiha" and the regular government security forces with them beat and detained mourners when the funeral march reached the cemetery, activists said.

Dr. Ibrahim Salkini, 77, the Sunni mufti of Aleppo and dean of theology at Damascus University, died earlier Tuesday after spending several days in the hospital. According to the Union of Aleppo Coordinators, the Aleppo branch of Syria's activist network, the Local Coordination Committees, the mufti suffered a heart attack after security forces visited him following what some deemed a defiant Friday sermon by the cleric last week.

According to the Union of Aleppo Coordinators, the family of the sheikh was not allowed to visit him in the hospital and his room was under tight security. Suspicions that the death involved foul play spread quickly Tuesday.

Continue reading »

SYRIA: Activists report manhunt for defectors and protesters

Syrian security forces reportedly launched fresh widespread attacks on Monday, intensifying the assault on the central cities of Hama and Homs as the president of the Red Cross visited the country's prisons for the first time.

According to the opposition network, the Local Coordination Committees, at least five people were killed during the military offensives -- three in the central province of Homs, one in the eastern border town of Tal Kalakh and one in Idleb along the Syrian-Turkish border. 

"They are chasing defectors all the way down to the border with Turkey, shooting them in the upper parts of their bodies so that they are not able to escape. The raids went on in all border towns, even Jisr al Shoughour," said Moustafa, a farmer in the northern province of Idleb. The accounts were also confirmed by activists on the Turkish side of the border. 

"The situation along the border is deplorable. I wonder why security officials believe they can act with such impunity even if it may infringe on other neighboring countries," said Oday Assayed, a member and spokesperson of the Local Coordination Committees in the Syria-Turkey border cities, including Idleb.

According to Assayed, at least three people died in raids on the border village of Yaladagh on Monday, when security forces used live ammunition against unarmed civilians looking for refuge. 

The crackdown against protesters calling for the end of the four-decade-long rule of the Assad family reportedly continued in the central areas of Homs and Hama, both the sites of bloodshed in recent weeks.

In the video above, the walls of homes and shops are said to show the results of arbitrary shelling in the town of Bab Idreeb. The town reportedly came under intense fire by heavy artillery on Monday, in a mission to clamp down on opposition. 

"A barbaric assault on the city has been going on for two days straight. They raid houses and take anyone who is even remotely related to the protests," said Majed, an activist in Homs. 

Anti-government protesters have reportedly not shied away from the streets amid the crackdowns. The video below is said to show a small group of defiant young men in Homs marching through the Malaab street and clapping their hands at almost the same time as security forces were raiding homes in the areas of Khaldieh and Bab Idreeb.  

Activists reported a widespread detention operation across Homs and Hama on Sunday, aimed at gleaning information concerning ex-Atty. Gen. Adnan Bakkour's whereabouts. In a video announcement uploaded to YouTube, the high-profile lawyer resigned last week and joined the ranks of the opposition to Syrian President Bashar Assad. 

Different activist networks have given diverging reports concerning Bakkour's whereabouts. Many believe him to have been smuggled into Beirut on Sunday; other activists and residents say he has traveled to neighboring Turkey. 

The Local Coordination Committees believe that the raids along the Syrian borders with Lebanon and Turkey are part of the manhunt for the defected lawyer. 

Soldiers have reportedly been defecting in Damascus, where residents near the Mazzeh military airport said they heard gunfire Monday afternoon.

"I live a few kilometers away from the airport, and I hear gunfire now," said Lina, a student in Damascus.

According to Omar Idilbi of the Local Coordination Committees, unverified reports stated that defecting soldiers and the military exchanged gunfire at the airport.

Military offensives by Assad's security forces came as Red Cross President President Jakob Kellenberger finished a two-day trip to Damascus, during which he visited Syrian prisons for the first time, part of a mission to assess the humanitarian situation in the country. 

"The Syrian authorities have granted the ICRC access to a place of detention for the first time. Initially, we will have access to persons detained by the Ministry of the Interior and we are hopeful that we will soon be able to visit all detainees," Kellenberger said in a statement issued Monday. 

Some activists said they find the ICRC's positions concerning the Assad regime too soft. 

"What good are they if they make progress in assessing the humanitarian situation as long as innocent civilians are falling like flies. This is all show," Lina said. 

-- Roula Hajjar in Beirut 

Videos: Images said to show the destruction of residential buildings in Homs; images said to show a protest in the streets of Homs during a military offensiive. Credit: YouTube

SYRIA: Activists report at least 14 dead as hunt for defector continues

At least 14 died Sunday in one of the bloodier days of the Syrian government's crackdown against anti-regime protesters, activists reported. 

Activists and residents said military forces have launched an offensive in the cities of Idleb and Hama as part of an operation to find Adnan Mohamad Bakkour, the Hama attorney general who defected last week. 

"Tanks are on the streets trying to coerce residents to divulge information about Bakkour," said Moustafa, a farmer in Idleb, which is on the border with Turkey.

"At least four people have died there," said Moustafa, who like many Syrians during the current unrest didn't want his full name published for fear of retribution.

Amateur video footage uploaded on YouTube on Sunday reports to show tanks in position in the middle of narrow streets in Idleb.

Security forces in and out of uniform stormed the Bab Amro neighborhood of Homs as part of a broad assault on the area, said Majed, 45, a legal activist in Homs.

"Shooting has been going on all day. Indiscriminate shooting aimed at homes. The area of Janoub al Malaab has been under attack," Majed said.

Activists also reported a widespread detention operation across the restive city. 

Bakkour, the former attorney general, resigned last week, saying he was protesting brutality by the regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad against "unarmed and peaceful civilians." State news agencies dismissed Bakkour's allegations as "false fabrications," saying they were made under duress at the hands of armed opponents of the regime.

Military offensives also reportedly spread to the tribal area of Dair Al Zour, bordering Iraq. The opposition's activist network, the Local Coordination Committees, reported that at least 30 people were arrested in mass raids carried in and around residential neighborhoods of Dair Al Zour.

Mass arrests have been common in the crackdown on pro-democracy protesters. The video below, from last month, is said to show security forces in Lattakia reprimanding and humiliating detained protesters in what appears to be a classroom. 

"Who is your boss?" a soldier asks one man.

"President Bashar Hafez Assad," the man responds.

"Liar," the soldier yells, slapping the detained protester on his neck.

Syrian Arab News Agency, SANA, reported Sunday that six Syrian officers had been killed in an ambush by an armed group in central Syria. 

The violence continued after Jakob Kellenberger, President of International Committee of the Red Cross, met with Foreign Minister Walid al-Moallem on Sunday. Kellenberger is scheduled to meet President Assad on Monday as part of a mission to assess the humanitarian situation in the country.

ALSO:

Attorney general in Hama denounces regime, quits

Thousands in Khaldieh protest Assad regime [Video]

Satellite TV station keeps Moammar Kadafi on the air

-- Roula Hajjar in Beirut

Videos: Top, images said to show tanks deployed in the streets of Idleb; bottom, images said to show soldiers assaulting detained anti-Assad protesters. Credit: YouTube

International Committee of the Red Cross

SYRIA: Thousands in Khaldieh protest Assad regime [Video]

Thousands of protesters from the restive Syrian town of Khaldieh are shown demanding the end of the four decades of rule of the Assad family, a new video (above) purportedly taken Friday shows.

The video shows the Khaldieh town square, in the central province of Homs, overflowing with anti-regime protesters waving Syrian flags, some hidden by the dark shadows of surrounding buildings on a Friday of protests dubbed "Death but Not Indignity." 

Activists say that at least 11 protesters have been killed, most of them in the tribal governorate of Dair Alzour bordering Iraq. 

"The people want to topple the regime," they yell in unison. Brutal crackdowns in Homs this week seem to have left pro-democracy protesters even more determined to defy security forces that remain loyal to President Bashar Assad.

ErbeenActivists have reported the shelling of local mosques in the Damascus suburbs of Hajar al Aswad and Erbeen, where at least one person has died.

In Maaret Naaman, a suburb of the capital, the spokesperson of the opposition network, the Local Coordination Committees,  reported that worshipers had been forced to give their names at the doors of mosques, where security forces had lists of suspects. 

In some cases, soldiers entered mosques during prayers in order to arrest anti-regime demonstrators, reported activists across Syria. 

In the video below, soldiers dressed in green uniforms approach men wearing white robes, the traditional religious attire worn during prayer.

After a swift confrontation with worshipers present outside the Moussa Bin Nasser mosque on Sabeel Street in Dara, security forces run into the building. Young men in black shirts and blue jeans then begin throwing stones and firing tear gas at the worshippers.

In the video below, protesters march through the streets of Amouda, suburb of the Syrian capital, with a puppet of Bashar Assad hung on a stick. 

Protesters carry various banners; between them is a large flag with the word "Freedom" written across it. 

"The people don't want him, let the Syrians raise their hands," anti-Assad protesters sing, slamming the regime of the Baath ruler and calling for his resignation. 

On Wednesday, the attorney general of the Hama governorate, Adnan Bakkour, announced his resignation in a video uploaded on YouTube, saying that the Assad regime and plainclothes security forces had murdered peaceful unarmed protestors. 

The resignation of a such a high-ranking official in Syria is a rare event, as important posts are usually filled with ardent Assad supporters. 

Activists across Hama have praised the lawyer's move, hoping that many others would follow his lead. 

Video footage posted online on Friday shows thousands of protesters in front of Bakkour's house holding banners in solidarity with the ex-attorney general. 

In the video above, the camera zooms in on one of the posters.

"Adnan Bakkour is our hero," it reads. 

-- Roula Hajjar in Beirut

Videos: Images said to show anti-Assad protesters in the province of Homs on Friday; worshipers are assaulted in front of a mosque by security forces in Dara; demonstrators take to the streets in the Damascus suburb of Amouda; Hama residents gather in front of Adnan Bakkour's home in solidarity. Credit: YouTube. 

Photo: Image said to show a poster describing the shelling of mosques in Erbeen, a suburb of Damascus,  during Friday protests. Credit: YouTube.  

SYRIA: Attorney general in Hama denounces regime, quits

The attorney general for Syria's central governorate of Hama says in a video posted Thursday that he has resigned, in response to what he described as the "barbaric treatment of peaceful demonstrators" by the government of President Bashar Assad and his "thugs."

Adnan Mohamad Bakkour's resignation is a blow to the regime in Damascus, which has seen relatively few defections by high-ranking officials.

"I give the following reasons for my resignation. First, the killing of 72 prisoners, who were peaceful protesters and political activists, in the central Hama prison on Sunday, July 31, and then the burying of them all in a mass grave near Khaldieh in Hama," Bakkour, dressed in a suit and tie, said in a video posted on the Internet.

According to the lawyer, about 320 people were tortured to death inside stations for the security forces. 

"I was forced to order that 17 bodies be moved from refrigerators and buried," he said. 

On the recording, Bakkour said he also was forced by the government to report that ''armed gangs'' killed nearly 420 peaceful protesters, whose bodies were buried in mass graves in public parks.  

Another reason Bakkour gave for his resignation was the security forces' indiscriminate destruction of houses "over the heads of their inhabitants" in Hamadiya and Qusour in Homs, where bodies were left under the rubble for several days, he said.

Screen shotHe promised viewers that he would divulge documents incriminating the Assad regime, and provided the names of officers in the security forces as well as those of soldiers who participated in the more-than-5-month-old bloody clampdown of peaceful protesters in various Syrian towns. 

"Do not think God is forgiving of what the oppressors do," he concluded in the nearly 3-minute recording that was broadcast on the pan-Arab news channel Al Jazeera. 

The attorney general, originally from Talbeeseh in the province of Homs, where protests against the government have continued despite brutal security crackdowns, was previously a supporter of the Baath regime, as all higher-ranking officials usually are.

Continue reading »

SYRIA: Some Syrians despair, consider armed confrontation

Screen shot 2011-08-31

When Syrian security forces entered the home of 42-year-old Hama resident Abu Zeid and put a gun to the stomach of his 8-year-old son, armed confrontation against the government of President Bashar Assad suddenly became a more imaginable option for the Syrian man.

"'Do you want us to take you instead of your father?'" Abu Zeid recounted, describing how security forces threatened his young son earlier this summer.

Abu Zeid, who for safety reasons asked that he not be identified further, has since been on the run,  fleeing a Syrian security apparatus that remains loyal to Syria’s four-decade-old Baathist regime. 

"Our regime is strong and maybe it cannot but be fought with force. We wanted to remain peaceful, but how long are we going to last? Until they detain and murder thousands more?" he said by telephone. "We are desperate."

Syria’s opposition movement is adamant that it will remain nonviolent, saying that peaceful methods hold the best prospect of overthrowing Assad’s regime and building a unified, prosperous nation afterward.

"Taking up arms is not an option. We will remain unarmed and we will succeed unarmed, God willing," Omar Idby, a member of the Local Coordination Committee opposition coalition, said by telephone.

But Abu Zeid’s experience shows how the brutality of the crackdown is driving some Syrians to contemplate more extreme methods.

Continue reading »

SYRIA: Anti-Assad protesters emboldened by Libyan rebels' success

Photo: A protestor steps on a portrait of of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad during a demonstration. Credit: Bulent Kilic / AFP / Getty Images Syrian protestors celebrated the accomplishments made by Libyan rebels on Sunday, heartened by the advances made by opposition forces in the Libyan capital, Tripoli.

But, while they hope that Damascus will succumb to their push against the regime of President Bashar Assad, Syrian activists admit that differences between Libya and Syria call for different tactics in their  rebellion. 

"Achievements made by the rebels in Libya have only made us even more intent on removing Bashar," said one activist and member of the popular anti-regime Local Coordination Committee in Latakia, who goes by the honorific Abu Yousef. 

Arab countries which have been distant for decades have now been joined by a popular uprising that has engulfed the region. In the minds of protestors in Syria, the fate of their own movement is very much influenced by events unfolding a continent away. 

"I was never as involved and invested in Libyan politics as much as I am today. That is because our fight is one fight. We are unified in our resistance to dictators. We are unified by the greater Arab awakening," said Lina, a 26-year old resident of Damascus. 

In Hama, the scene of some the Syrian uprising's bloodiest days, residents and activists perceive the success of Libya's rebels to be a success of the so-called Arab Spring as a whole. 

Continue reading »

SYRIA: Oil sanctions urged as security forces continue assault

Human Rights Watch called on the European Union on Tuesday to freeze oil and gas assets of the Syrian regime as the brutal military offensive on Latakia continued for a fourth day, claiming the lives of at least seven people over the last 24 hours. 

The fresh casualties included Nada Hassan Al Saed, a 22-year-old Palestinian mother of two, and a young girl of about 5. 

Activists reported that residents who were rousted from their homes, stripped of identification and guided to a large sports stadium on Monday continued to be held inside the stadium on Tuesday, though the claims could not be independently verified. The United Nations agency overseeing a Palestinian refugee camp in Latakia said it had no information about the whereabouts of at least 5,000 people living there.

Lattakia Activists and eyewitnesses reported tanks rolling through the neighborhoods of Sakantouri, Masbah Shaeb and Ain Tamra, shelling buildings and spreading fear among residents. 

Military activity intensified through residential streets. Gunmen threatened to shoot any approaching residents, said Zoya, 26, an activist and university graduate contacted via Skype who asked that her last name not be used.

"They shelled buildings while residents were still inside them," said one activist who goes by the honorific title Abu Youssef and belongs to the Local Coordination Committees activist network. "They threatened everyone and ordered them to either leave their homes or else they would be dealt with as terrorists."

Continue reading »
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