September 24, 2020

Syria woes


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police running toward a protest in Damascus, Syria.

There is supposed to be a cease fire in Syria but on Friday (25) it was one of its worst days. Two stories from AP and UK telegraph show what is happening

Activists: Troops kills up to 50 in central Syria

AP: Activists say government troops have killed at least 50 people, including 13 children, in attacks in the central Syria.

The activists say President Bashar Assad’s forces opened fire Friday with heavy machine guns, tanks and mortars in Houla, a region that includes several towns and villages in the central province of Homs.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights and the Local Coordination Committees both say at least 50 people were killed.

The Observatory says the dead included 13 children, and that some 100 people were wounded.

A demonstrator protests against Syria's President Bashar al-Assad after Friday prayers in Binsh, near Idlib

Homs has been among the hardest hit provinces in a government crackdown since an uprising against Assad’s regime began in March last year. The U.N. said several weeks ago that 9,000 people have been killed in Syria in the past 15 months.

UK Telegraph: Mutilated bodies of mother and four children found latest Syrian atrocity

The mutilated bodies of a mother and four of her five children have been found in the latest atrocity in Syria, an apparently sectarian killing confirming the collapse into a murderous civil war.

The al-Saleem family were Sunni, and rebels were quick to blame a local gang of Alawites, members of the minority sect to which President Bashar al-Assad belongs and which has often been fanatical in its support.

They said the body of the fifth child, a four-month-old baby boy, Yaqoub, was still missing, though in claims that could not be independently confirmed some activists said a decapitated body of the right age had been found in the local hospital morgue.

“We know the family were stopped at a checkpoint on Tuesday by a shabiha militia near al-Hurra village in the Hama countryside,” said Mousab al-Hamadee, from the Hama Local Coordinating Committee. “They were kidnapped there.

“I know this gang, they are very dangerous. Often they have kidnapped, killed, or robbed people.” Abo Adnan Al-Hamwi, from the opposition Shaam News Network, said that two days after they disappeared the father was told to collect the corpses from Mesyaf National Hospital.

“He could only take the bodies if he signed a form saying they had been killed by armed terrorists,” said Mr al-Hamwi.

Videos posted online showed the bloodied corpse of Farouq al-Saleem, 11, partially wrapped in an orange body bag as his father wept over him. Beside him were the bodies of his mother, brother and two sisters

Their faces and necks had been slashed.

The violence between ‘Shabiha’, often Alawite, and the mostly Sunni Muslim opposition militias has spurred a series of sectarian attacks and reprisals.

“Alawite gangs come in after the military raids against Sunni villages that protest against the government,” said a reporter from the opposition Hama News Agency. “The killing of this family is the sixth case of sectarian killing where people have been found murdered by knives.” Though both sides are committing atrocities, the Syrian government remains responsible for most violence, a UN panel said on Friday.

Children, including boys as young as 10, said they had been “tortured to admit that older male members of their family are Free Syrian Army soldiers or supporters,” the report said.

The international community is still putting its weight behind the United Nations monitoring mission, but leaks from Washington suggest there is now a move to assist Gulf states provide arms to the opposition.

The regime is under pressure, admitting this week that sanctions have cost the economy $4 billion. It has been forced to deny opposition claims of a string of assassinations of senior regime officials.

But Israel claims to have reliable evidence that one attempt came close to success.

Government officials, quoted anonymously by the Israeli daily Ha’aretz, said attempts to poison Asef Shawkat, the president’s brother-in-law and intelligence chief, and senior ministers had only been foiled by prompt medical attention.

Yigal Palmor, a spokesperson for Israel’s foreign ministry, said intelligence officers had gathered information “from the public domain,” but added: “They have very good reasons to believe that it is credible.”

As well as Mr Shawkat, Syrian opposition activists said Daoud Rajha, the defence minister, Mohammed al-Shaar, interior minister, Hassan Turkmeni, an aide to the vice-president and Mohammed Said Bakhtian, national secretary of the Baath party, had been targeted.

Their food was allegedly poisoned by Mr Bakhtian’s bodyguard, who had been “turned”. Mr Al-Shaar and Mr Turkmeni have made rare appearances on Syrian TV in recent days, proving they are alive and well, but the others have not been seen since.

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