Revolution Has Come! الثورة السورية ضد بشار الاسد Sameeh Shqer-Ya Hef
Song For Dara
– The leaders of Italy and France made a joint appeal to Syria on Tuesday to end violence against demonstrators, and French President Nicolas Sarkozy said the situation in the country was “unacceptable.”
“Together we send a strong call to Damascus authorities to stop the violent repression of what are peaceful demonstrations and we ask all sides to act with moderation,” Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi said at a joint news conference in Rome.
Syrian security forces have shot dead at least 400 civilians in their campaign to crush month-long pro-democracy protests, the Syrian human rights organization Sawasiah said on Tuesday.
“The situation has become unacceptable,” Sarkozy said, calling the demonstrations peaceful and saying the authorities should not send in the army to open fire on protesters.
Asked whether any international intervention might be possible in Syria, Sarkozy — who took a leading role in pushing for Western military action in Libya — said any action would require a U.N. Security Council resolution.
He also said that “we are not going to intervene everywhere in the world and not all situations are necessarily the same.”
Sarkozy defended Western intervention against Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi and said he was optimistic about the outcome, but refused to predict whether a solution might take months or even years.
“If we had not intervened in Benghazi, thousands if not tens of thousands of people would have been killed … It was a matter of hours, not days,” he said. “We are optimistic … I do not agree that we are in a stalemate,” he said, ruling out the use of Western troops on the ground.
The two leaders called for tighter EU border controls to control an influx of migrants from North Africa, and said the Schengen treaty, which removes many European Union border controls, should be modified temporarily to allow countries to deal with exceptional circumstances.
(Reporting by Silvia Aloisi; editing by Tim Pearce)
The UN Security Council must refer the situation in Syria to the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, Amnesty International said today, amid escalating government violence against protesters calling for reform.
The call comes as the Security Council considers its response to the brutal crackdown that has left some 400 people dead since mid-March.
“The Syrian government is clearly trying to shatter the will of those peacefully expressing dissent by shelling them, firing on them and locking them up,” said Salil Shetty, Amnesty International’s Secretary General.
“The Syrian government and its security forces have long felt able to operate with total impunity, and we are now seeing the result of that in the kinds of bloody acts that they have been committing on the streets of Syria in recent days.”
“President al-Assad and those around him have to understand that their actions will have consequences, namely that if they gun down their own citizens the international community will hold them individually criminally responsible before the ICC or national courts of states exercising universal jurisdiction.”
The organization also called for the imposition of a comprehensive arms embargo on Syria and an assets freeze on President Bashar al-Assad and others involved in ordering or perpetrating serious human rights abuses.
Since protests began in March, unarmed Syrians gathering to call for greater freedom have routinely been attacked by security forces firing live ammunition directly into crowds of peaceful demonstrators.
The government last week announced the lifting of the 48-year-old state of emergency but violence has since spiralled, with at least 120 people killed on Friday, until then the bloodiest day so far.
Amnesty International has received the names of 393 people killed since protests began, but the real number is likely to be higher.
In a number of incidents, snipers have targeted wounded people lying in the streets and people trying to assist them, according to Amnesty International’s sources.
The organization rejected claims by the Syrian government that many of the killings had been committed by anti-government armed groups, saying that it had seen no evidence to support such allegations.
After the Syrian army deployed in Dera’a on 25 April, tanks were reportedly used to shell residential buildings where there was no evidence that the persons inside were armed.
Several hundred people have been arrested across the country, the vast majority held incommunicado and with their whereabouts unknown. Many of those who have been released have reported that they were tortured in detention.
On 26 February the UN Security Council unanimously resolved to refer the situation in Libya to the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court.
“The Security Council needs now to step up to the mark and show leadership on Syria as it did on Libya,” said Salil Shetty.
“A consistent policy of zero-tolerance for crimes against humanity will send a signal to all governments that impunity for crimes under international law is no longer acceptable.”
By Elizabeth A. Kennedy and Diaa Hadid
Updated: 11:43 p.m. Monday, April 25, 2011
Published: 9:52 p.m. Monday, April 25, 2011
BEIRUT — Thousands of soldiers backed by tanks and snipers moved in before dawn to the city where Syria‘s anti-government uprising began, causing panic in the streets when they opened fire indiscriminately on civilians and went house-to-house rounding up suspected protesters. At least 11 people were killed and 14 others lay in the streets either dead or gravely wounded, witnesses said.
The military raids on the southern city of Daraa and at least two other areas suggested Syria is trying to impose military control on the centers of protests against President Bashar Assad, whose family has ruled Syria for four decades. Residents and human rights activists said the regime wants to terrify opponents and intimidate them to avoid more demonstrations.
The offensive was meticulously planned: Electricity, water and mobile phone services were cut. Security agents armed with guns and knives conducted house-to-house sweeps, neighborhoods were sectioned off and checkpoints were erected before the sun rose.
“They have snipers firing on everybody who is moving,” a witness told The Associated Press by telephone.
“They aren’t discriminating. There are snipers on the mosque. They are firing at everybody,” he added, asking that his name not be used.
The massive assault on Daraa appeared to be part of a new strategy of crippling, pre-emptive strikes against any opposition to Assad, rather than reacting to demonstrations. Other crackdowns and arrest sweeps were reported on the outskirts of Damascus and the coastal town of Jableh — bringing more international condemnation and threats of targeted sanctions by Washington.
Razan Zeitounia, a human rights activist in Damascus, said the widespread arrests — including of men along with their families — appear to be an attempt to scare protesters and set an example for the rest of the country.
The attack on Daraa, an impoverished city on the Jordanian border, was by far the biggest in scope and firepower. Video purportedly shot by activists showed tanks rolling through streets and grassy fields with soldiers on foot jogging behind.
Witnesses said busloads of troops poured in before dawn, and snipers took up positions on the roofs of houses and high buildings while other security agents searched houses for suspected protesters.
“They are entering houses. They are searching the houses,” said one witness. “They are carrying knives and guns.”
He said people were crying out over mosque loudspeakers for doctors to help the wounded, and there was panic in the streets.
“We need international intervention. We need countries to help us,” shouted another witness in Daraa, who said he saw five corpses after security forces opened fire on a car. He spoke to the AP by telephone.
The forces occupied two mosques and a graveyard.
“Let Obama come and take Syria. Let Israel come and take Syria. Let the Jews come,” shouted one Daraa resident over the phone. “Anything is better than Bashar Assad,” he said, playing on Syria’s hatred for Israel to highlight how much town residents despise their leader.
All witnesses spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of reprisals.
Daraa, a drought-parched region of 300,000 in the south, has seen some of the worst bloodshed over the past five weeks as the uprising gained momentum. The area was ripe for unrest: The grip of Syria’s security forces is weaker on the border areas than around the capital, Damascus, and Daraa hasn’t benefited from recent years of economic growth. Meanwhile, Daraa has absorbed many rural migrants who can no longer farm after years of drought.
The city of Daraa was where Syria’s uprising began in mid-March, touched off by the arrest of teenagers who scrawled anti-government graffiti on a wall.
A relentless crackdown since mid-March has killed more than 350 people throughout the country, with 120 alone dying over the weekend. But that has only emboldened protesters, who started with calls for modest reforms but are now increasingly demanding Assad’s downfall.
State-run television quoted a military source as saying army units entered the city to bring security “answering the pleas for help by residents of Daraa.”
Another military raid targeted the Damascus suburb of Douma, where rattling, heavy gunfire could still be heard late Monday.
Soldiers, masked men in black uniforms and plainclothes security forces were manning checkpoints made from mounds of dirt throughout the area, a resident said.
In Jableh, men who tried to leave their houses were shot at by soldiers and thugs, three residents said, and only women were allowed onto the streets to buy food. Some quietly managed to bury seven men and a woman who were killed by security forces the day before, witnesses said.
Security forces banned them from conducting funeral marches that frequently morph into protests.
Assets of senior officials could be frozen and their businesses banned in US in order to ratchet up pressure on Assad.
Last Modified: 25 Apr 2011 21:40
The Obama administration is considering sanctions against senior officials in the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in a bid to ratchet up pressure for an end to a violent crackdown against protesters, a US official said on Monday.
The measures, which could freeze those officials’ assets and ban them from doing business in the United States, would likely come in the form of an executive order signed by Barack Obama, the US president, the official said.
But a final decision has yet to be made on the exact timing of such a move and there was no immediate word on whether Assad might be among those targeted for sanctions.
Sanctions would mark an escalation of the US response to Assad’s efforts to crush a month-long uprising against his autocratic 11-year rule.
Obama’s response so far has been limited to tough words but little concrete action against the Syrian government, in contrast to Washington’s role in a NATO-led air campaign against Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi.
Washington is mindful of its limited ability to influence Damascus, which is closely allied with US foe Iran, and has had chilly relations with the United States.
It is cautious about further military entanglement in the Muslim world where it is already involved in long wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Obama, in a statement on Friday, told Syria that its bloody crackdown on protesters “must come to an end now” and accused Damascus of seeking Iranian help to repress its people.
“The brutal violence used by the government of Syria against its people is completely deplorable,” Tommy Vietor, White House spokesman, said on Monday.
UN condemnation planned
Meanwhile, four European nations are urging the UN Security Council to strongly condemn the violence against peaceful demonstrators in Syria.
A council diplomat said France, Britain, Germany and Portugal circulated a draft media statement to the other council members.
It will be discussed at a council meeting on Tuesday afternoon, the diplomat said, speaking on condition of anonymity because the consultations have been private.
The draft statement supports secretary-general Ban Ki-moon‘s call for an independent and transparent investigation into the killings in Syria, where more than 300 people have died in five weeks of unrest, the diplomat said.
At least 500 pro-democracy activists arrested, rights group says, after authorities deployed troops to quell protests.
Last Modified: 26 Apr 2011 07:36
The arrests followed the deployment of Syrian troops backed by tanks and heavy armour on the streets of two southern towns, the Syrian rights organisation Sawasiah said on Tuesday.
The group said it had received reports that at least 20 people were killed in the city of Deraa in the aftermath of the raid by troops loyal to Syrian president Bashar al-Assad on Monday. But communications have been cut in the city, making it difficult to confirm the information.
“Witnesses managed to tell us that at least 20 civilians have been killed in Deraa, but we do not have their names and we cannot verify,” a Sawasiah official told the Reuters news agency.
At least 500 people were arrested elsewhere in the country, it said.
Deaths and arrests
Thousands of soldiers swept into Deraa in the early hours of Monday, with tanks taking up positions in the town centre and snipers deploying on rooftops, witnesses said.
“Bodies are lying in the streets and we can’t recover them,” one activist said, explaining that they have little idea of the total number of casualties.
Footage aired by an opposition news organisation on Monday, transmitted via satellite, appeared to show Syrian military firing at unseen targets with sniper rifles. Al Jazeera is unable to verify the veracity of the footage.
Al Jazeera’s Rula Amin, reporting from Damascus, said the troop deployment was an “unprecedented” offensive against the wave of dissent that has swept the country since the uprising began on March 15.
Up until now, she said, security forces have cracked down in reaction to protests. But the flood of troops into Douma and Deraa came in the absence of any demonstrations.
“We’re seeing a different tactic, with security forces sweeping the towns,” she said, noting reports of house-to-house searches, arrests and random shooting coming from both towns.
Also for the first time, the military has become directly involved in quelling the uprising, much to the disappointment of opposition activists.
“They were hoping the army would not get involved,” our correspondent said. “They feel this is only the beginning of a very serious crackdown.”
However, one activist told Al Jazeera that some army officers have defected to fight alongside the people of Deraa against the government.
Two members stepped down from the provincial council in Deraa. The resignations came a day after two legislators and a religious leader from Deraa broke with the government in disgust over the killings.
Protesters gunned down
Meanwhile in the coastal town of Jableh, where several protesters were gunned down on Sunday, witnesses said security forces in camouflage uniforms – some with their faces covered – and masked armed men dressed in black were roaming the town’s streets.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a Syrian rights group, said on Monday that at least 13 people had been killed in Jableh since Sunday’s crackdown began.
The country has banned nearly all foreign media and restricted access to trouble spots since the uprising began, making it nearly impossible to get independent assessments.
Syria has also closed all border crossings on its southern frontier with Jordan as the crackdown intensifies, a security official told Al Jazeera.
Syrian intellectuals have expressed their outrage over the violence, with a declaration on Monday signed by 102 writers and exiles from all the country’s main sects.
“We condemn the violent, oppressive practices of the Syrian regime against the protesters and mourn the martyrs of the uprising,” they said.
President Assad is also coming under increased foreign pressure to stop the deadly crackdown.
France, Britain, Germany and Portugal have all urged the UN Security Council to condemn the government’s violent action against demonstrators, and the United States is considering imposing new sanctions.
Al Jazeera and agencies
— With reports emerging Monday that at least one high-ranking Syrian military commander refused to participate in a bloody, predawn raid that left dozens dead in the southern border city of Daraa — the heart of Syria‘s weekslong civil unrest, questions are being raised about possible cracks in President Bashar al-Assad‘s hold over the military.
The crackdown on anti-government protesters by Syrian forces escalated in recent days as demonstrators, emboldened by weeks of protests, called for the ouster of al-Assad. The crackdown culminated with the raid in Daraa where thousands of troops reportedly stormed the city and opened fire on demonstrators. It was an attack reminiscent of the brutal rule of al-Assad’s father, who once ordered the military to crush a revolt that resulted in the deaths of thousands.
“I think he’s clearly going toward the security solution, which is where he could be following in the steps of his father,” said Andrew Tabler of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, a Washington, D.C.-based think tank.
CNN has not been granted access into Syria and is unable to independently verify witness accounts, which have been playing out via social networking sites and homemade videos. Reports also have been compiled by human rights organizations.
There had been hope early on that al-Assad would not use the military to quell demonstrations after signaling last week that he was open to loosening his hold on the country following five weeks of protests where demonstrators called for more freedoms and regime reform. That changed over the weekend as protesters, primarily in southern Syria, called for the fall of the regime.
The Syrian government has disputed witness accounts, saying the military was responding to “calls for help from the citizens of Daraa and their appeal to the armed forces as to intervene and put an end to the operations of killings, vandalism, and horrifying (actions) by extremist terrorist groups,” the state-run news agency SANA reported, citing an official army source.
But there was at least one account that illustrated that perhaps not everybody in the military was in agreement with the order to attack Daraa. A military official, described as the second-in-command of the brigade that entered the city, was arrested after refusing to follow orders to storm the city, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights and another opposition source. The commander has not been identified.
The top echelon of Syria’s security forces are populated by al-Assad loyalists — Alawites, a religious minority that accounts for about 12% of Syria’s population, and Baathists, a Sunni-dominated socialist political party. The members of the Syrian security forces — who are predominantly Sunni — are drafted, reflecting the ethnic and religious portrait of the country’s 23 million residents.
Though it’s unclear the extent to which the Syrian military official who refused to fire on Daraa influenced troops under his command, analysts say it is unlikely the commander will be the last should the unrest continue in Syria.
“The rank-and-file are made up of Sunnis. They are not going to fire on crowds in their own communities,” said Marius Deeb, an adjunct professor of Middle Eastern and Islamic Studies at Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies. “Therefore, more defections are likely to happen.”
There are also signs the attack has created some political upheaval for al-Assad with the resignations of at least two lawmakers and a mufti, a government-appointed head of clerics in Daraa, according to multiple reports from human rights and news agencies.
Up until the latest crackdown by Syrian forces, the U.S. had taken a somewhat hands-off approach to dealing with Syria out of fear of destabilizing al-Assad’s government. Officials have voiced concern about possible sectarian tensions if al-Assad’s government were overthrown, saying with the country’s fragmented opposition it was unclear what type of government would take control.
The U.S. is now considering targeted sanctions among “a range of possible options” to pressure the Syrian government to stop attacking protesters, White House spokesman Jay Carney said Monday.
Anthony Cordesman of the Center for Strategic and International Studies cautioned against believing that any regime change in Syria would automatically result in a government more extreme than al-Assad’s regime.
“Like every case of instability in the region, all you are certain of is that it has no experience of governing and no experience of running the politics of a country,” Cordesman said.
Because Syria’s opposition is fragmented — with a number of different Sunni groups representing a number of interests, Tabler said it was not a given that a group, such as the Muslim Brotherhood, would automatically come to power.
Al-Assad was viewed by many as a moderate solution to his father when he took control of the country 11 years ago. His father, Hafez al-Assad, came to power during a coup in 1970. In 1982, he ordered the military to crush an uprising against the Baathist government in the city of Hama, the fourth-largest city in Syria. Estimates put the death toll anywhere between 10,000 and 30,000 people, though the exact number was never known.
But the international community has since come to view the younger al-Assad with a wary eye after he made and then broke a number of promises.
“He rules from a position of ambiguity,” Tabler said. “He rules by announcing something and then not following through. This is where he is different from his father. His father was never known for making promises. But when he did, both domestically and internationally, he lived up to them.”
Recently, al-Assad lifted the country’s 48-year-old state of emergency and abolished the state security court, both of which were key demands of the demonstrators. The emergency law permitted the government to make preventive arrests and override constitutional and penal code statutes. The security court was a special body that prosecuted people regarded as challenging the government.
Last week, al-Assad issued a decree recognizing and regulating the right to peaceful protest. It also extended the period that security forces can hold suspects in certain crimes.
But the reforms did little to quell the protests, which have grown since demonstrators first took to the streets in mid-March. Since then, there have been a number of clashes between Syria’s security forces and protesters. Human rights groups have put the death toll in the hundreds.
“The reality is that he had the opportunity early on to try reform. Instead things dragged on and on, and then the violence got very serious,” Cordesman said. “The problem now for Assad and for the demonstrators is that there is no easy way out.”