Syrian opposition calls for emergency U.N. meeting, as army continues shelling of cities
The opposition Syrian National Council on Thursday called for an emergency U.N. Security Council meeting as it accused regime forces of killing more than 100 people in the central city of Hama in recent days.
“We are calling for an emergency meeting of the U.N. Security Council so that it can issue a resolution to protect civilians in Syria,” the exile group said in a statement.
“Hama in recent days, and following a visit by U.N. observers, witnessed a series of crimes, that left more than 100 people dead and hundreds wounded because of heavy shelling.”
"The city also witnessed executions, raids, arrests and the flight of residents,” the opposition group added.
Earlier in the day, a Syrian Arab Red Crescent volunteer was shot dead and three others were wounded in the town of Douma, on the outskirts of Damascus, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said.
“We are saddened and extremely shocked by the death of Mohammed al-Khadraa,” Dr. Abdul Rahman al-Attar, the president of the Syrian Arab Red Crescent, said in a statement. “This is the third fatal incident involving the Red Crescent in less than eight months.”
Khadraa was shot and killed on Tuesday in a vehicle clearly marked with the Red Crescent emblem, the statement said.
On Thursday, Syria’s state news agency said an armed terrorist group killed Khadraa when it opened fire on a Red Crescent ambulance, but did not give details on the group.
Opposition activists, who have been trying for over a year to topple President Bashar al-Assad, said that government forces have been shelling Douma with mortar bombs for a week.
On Thursday, the revolution council reported that at least 7 were killed by Syrian security forces in Deir al-Zour.
“Aircraft and artillery have shelled the Muhsin area in the eastern Syrian city of Deir al-Zour”, the council said.
Two people were also killed in the town of Maree, near the northern city of Aleppo, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
Loud blasts and heavy gunfire were reported in Harasta, a suburb of Damascus, said the Britain-based watchdog said, adding regime troops carried out raids between Harasta and Barzeh, a district of the capital.
Activists reported clashes in other regions as well, including the southern province of Daraa, cradle of the uprising against President Bashar al-Assad’s rule, in northwestern Idlib province and in central Homs.
Yesterday, an explosion ripped through a building in Syria’s central city of Hama, killing at least 54 people and wounding dozens more, Local Coordinating Committees (LCC) in Syria said, in a bloody violation of a shaky ceasefire in the country.
At least 100 people were killed across the country on Wednesday, Al Arabiya reported, citing the LCC.
Footage on YouTube of the blast in Hama showed a crowd of men pulling the bloodied body of a young girl from the rubble, shouting “God is great.”
Turkey considers every possibility if violence continues
Turkey is considering every possibility if the continuing violence in neighboring Syria sends tens of thousands of refugees pouring across the border, its foreign minister said Thursday.
“In the face of developments in Syria, we are taking into consideration any kind of possibility in line with our national security and interests,” Ahmet Davutoglu told parliament during a briefing to lawmakers.
“Planning what kind of measures we will take if tens of thousands of people end up on our border is a requirement of being a big state,” he said.
“This is not an intervention or warmongering as some claim.”
The foreign minister did not specify what measures his government would take, but the mass influx of refugees fleeing the Syrian unrest has raised alarm in Ankara.
Different scenarios are being floated by the media, including the setting up of a buffer zone along the border with Syria to protect refugees but opponents say such a measure would be a declaration of war.
In response to criticism from opposition parties, Davutoglu said Turkey did not attempt to change the regime of any country in the region including Syria.
“It was not we who initiated the popular movement in Syria. We didn't call on anybody to rise up,” he said. “But we cannot and will not remain silent to the masses' appeal for democracy.”
“Peace and stability can be restored in Syria, not with the Baath regime but with a new political system which takes its legitimacy from the people,” said Davutoglu.
Russia denounces ‘terror’ by Syria rebels
Meanwhile, Russia accused the Syrian rebels on Thursday of waging a wide-scale terror campaign that is designed to kill as many civilians as possible despite a formal ceasefire.
“Opposition groups have essentially reverted to waging wide-scale terror in the region,” said foreign ministry spokesman Alexander Lukashevich.
The spokesman extended Russia’s call for Assad’s army to “fully implement the obligations it assumed in accordance with the Kofi Annan plan” for Syria that has looked in increasing peril as violence rages on the ground.
But the spokesman laid most of Russia’s criticism on opposition forces he said were reverting to tactics that pointed to the involvement of the Al-Qaeda global terror network.
“There is another side in Syria,” said Lukashevich. “Opposition groups have essentially reverted to waging wide-scale terror in the region.”
France mulls military action
France has said it wants the U.N. Security Council to consider allowing military action in Syria if an international peace plan fails to stop the violence under Assad’s regime, the French foreign minister stated on Wednesday.
Alain Juppe signaled that Paris is increasingly lining up behind a U.S. position laid out by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in Paris talks last week by key members of the so-called “Friends of Syria” group.
He said France has been discussing with other world powers the prospect of invoking Chapter 7 of the U.N. charter, which allows for action that could be militarily enforceable.
Clinton also mentioned a Chapter 7 resolution despite concern that it would be vetoed by Russia and China.