Sunday, November 06, 2011

Deaths in Syria as crackdown continues

At least 20 killed by security forces, during Friday protests, according
to activists, including at least six in Homs.

Nov 5, 2011 Al Jazeera

At least 20 people have been reported killed in the latest clashes in
Syria as the government called on anyone with arms to turn themselves
within one week to qualify for an amnesty.

As massive anti-government demonstrations took place across the country
following Friday prayers, four civilians were reported to have been killed
after security forces opened fire on protesters in the district of Kanaker
in the capital, Damascus.

Two protesters were reported killed in Hama, and one in the city of
Hamouriya, not far from Damascus. Two others were reported killed trying
to cross the border and flee into Jordan, according to reports.

Six reported deaths in the Bab Amro area of Homs on Friday came a day
after 22 civilians were reportedly killed there in a military crackdown.

"Syrian security forces continue to shell and launch attacks on Bab Amro
district," said Al Jazeera's Nisreen El-Shamayleh, reporting from Jordan.

"At least 10 people were injured, but ambulances were prevented from
entering the area to reach the wounded. And we are hearing reports that
planes are still hovering over the district," El-Shamayleh said.

Specific information about the three other reported deaths was not
immediately available.

In the port city of Latakia, an activist said he counted 13 security
trucks surrounding the main Arsalan mosque. He said at least three
protesters were wounded by security forces firing in front of the Bazar
mosque in the centre of the city.

"They were hit and taken by the security forces. In front of every mosque
in Latakia there are several hundred security personnel carrying either
batons, handguns, or automatic rifles," the activist said.

Amnesty deal

Friday's violence came as Syria's government announced details of a
week-long amnesty period, starting from Saturday.

"The interior ministry calls on citizens who carried weapons, sold them,
delivered them, transported them or funded buying them, and did not commit
crimes, to hand themselves into the nearest police station," state
television said on Friday.

"The interior ministry assures that those who turn themselves in ... will
then be freed immediately and it will be considered as a general amnesty,"
the state media said.

The US State Department advised Syrians against turning themselves in.

"I wouldn't advise anybody to turn themselves in to regime authorities at
the moment," Victoria Nuland, a US spokesperson, told reporters.

The renewed violence appeared to contravene a mediation deal agreed
between Damascus and the Arab League on Wednesday which had called for
Syrian troops to end their presence in cities and residential areas.

The agreement, which also called for the release of all political
prisoners and monitoring of the situation inside Syria by league officials
and foreign media, was announced at an emergency meeting in Cairo, where
the regional body gathered to discuss plans to ease the violence and end
the unrest in Syria.

The peace deal "emphasised the need for the immediate, full and exact
implementation of the articles in the plan", but members of the Syrian
National Council (SNC), an umbrella opposition group, have voiced serious
scepticism over the government's willingness and sincerity to put the deal
into effect.

"There is no indication on the ground that the Syrian government has at
all started implementing the Arab League proposal to end the unrest," Al
Jazeera's El-Shamayleh said.

Syria peace plan unravels; 15 killed in protests

By ELIZABETH A. KENNEDY - Associated Press | Nov. 4, 2011

BEIRUT — A Syrian peace plan brokered by the Arab League unraveled Friday
as security forces killed 15 people, opening fire on thousands of
protesters who denounced President Bashar Assad and said he never intended
to hold up his end of the deal to end the violence.

The bloodshed, only two days after Syria agreed to the deal, suggests
Damascus is unwilling — or unable — to put a swift end to a crackdown that
already has killed 3,000 people since the uprising began in March.

"This regime is not serious about ending its brutal crackdown," said
Mustafa Osso, a Syria-based human rights lawyer. "Today was a real test
for the intentions of the regime and the answer is clear to everyone who
wants to see."

The crisis in Syria has burned for nearly eight months despite widespread
condemnation and international sanctions aimed at chipping away at the
ailing economy and isolating Assad and his tight circle of relatives and
advisers. The protesters have grown increasingly frustrated with the
limits of their peaceful movement, and there are signs of a growing armed
rebellion in some areas.

Some protesters even are calling for the kind of foreign military action
that helped topple Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi.

But NATO has ruled out any plans for Syria, a country of 22 million with a
combustible mix of sectarian and religious identities, and Assad still has
a firm grip on power. The iron loyalty of his security apparatus sets the
stage for an increasingly destructive fight over the future of a nation
ruled for more than four decades by the Assad dynasty.

Tremors from the unrest in Syria could shake the region. Damascus' web of
allegiances extends to Lebanon's powerful Hezbollah movement and Iran's
Shiite theocracy. And although Syria sees Israel as the enemy, the
countries have held up a fragile truce for years.

Thousands of protesters braved cold and rainy weather Friday after
opposition groups called for a large turnout to test whether the regime
would in fact refrain from using deadly force, as agreed under the Arab
League plan. But gunfire erupted shortly after the protests began,
following the same pattern seen during previous Friday protests for

"Arab League, beware of Bashar Assad!" read one banner carried by
protesters in the central city of Homs, which has turned into one of the
country's most deadly areas due to the military crackdown and what appears
to be growing sectarian bloodshed.

Two main activist groups, the British-based Syrian Observatory for Human
Rights and the Local Coordinating Committees, said at least 15 people were
killed Friday, most of them in Homs and suburbs of the Syrian capital.

The violence was a blow to the 22-nation Arab League, which announced
Wednesday that Damascus had agreed to a broad peace plan that also called
for the Syrian government to pull tanks and armored vehicles out of
cities, release political prisoners and allow journalists and rights
groups into the country.

Officials from the Cairo-based Arab League could not be reached for
comment Friday, the start of a holiday weekend.

In Washington, U.S. State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said the
Assad regime has yet to live up to a single commitment it has made to the
Arab League. She said the government's "long, deep history of broken
promises" appears to be continuing.

The Arab League plan presented flaws at the outset, in part because it did
not provide for any repercussions if the regime reneges on its
commitments. There also was no mention of any on-the-ground monitoring to
supervise the regime's actions.

The government has largely sealed off the country from foreign journalists
and prevented independent reporting, making it difficult to confirm events
on the ground. Key sources of information are amateur videos posted
online, witness accounts and details gathered by activist groups.

The structure of Syria's security forces also could prevent any immediate
end to the violence.

Assad, and his father before him, stacked key military posts with members
of their minority Alawite sect, ensuring the loyalty of the armed forces
by melding their fate with that of the regime.

If the regime falls, the argument goes, the country's Sunni majority gains
the upper hand and the Alawites lose their privileged status. Although
there have been army defections, they appear to be mostly Sunni
conscripts, not high-level commanders. Adding to the violence are the
shabiha, the mafia-style network of young Alawite men who act as enforcers
for the regime.

The Syrian deadlock, in many ways, is rooted in the country's sectarian

The Alawites rose from economic obscurity after the 1970 coup led by
Bashar Assad's father, Hafez, gaining power and financial muscle in
exchange for loyalty to the Assads. It is their support that the younger
Assad sees as the key to continued power.

Alawites claim they would be oppressed as Muslim heretics if the Sunnis
come to power, and Sunnis claim they are unable to get the government jobs
essential to reach the lower rungs of the middle class.

The now-privileged Alawites, along with other minority groups who feel
protected under the Assad regime, would see majority rule as a risk at
best, a nightmare at worst.

Syria blames the bloodshed on "armed gangs" and extremists acting out a
foreign agenda to destabilize the regime. Assad has played on some of the
countries worst fears to rally support behind him, painting himself as the
lone force who can ward off the kind of radicalism and sectarianism that
have bedeviled neighbors in Iraq and Lebanon.

On Friday, Syria's Interior Ministry gave one week for anyone who was
involved in carrying, selling, buying or distributing arms to turn
themselves in and benefit from a pardon.

Analysts say Assad's support is waning, and his backers are often
motivated by little more than fear.

In a report this week, the International Crisis Group said the support "is
almost entirely of a negative sort: fear of sectarian retribution,
Islamism, foreign interference, social upheaval or, more simply, anxiety
about the unknown."


Associated Press writer Bradley Klapper contributed to this report from

Bahrain security forces clash with protesters

Tear gas and armoured vehicles used to disperse protesters after funeral
of father of opposition leader.

Nov 2011 al Jazeera

Security forces in Bahrain have used tear gas and armoured vehicles to
drive back hundreds of protesters advancing toward a heavily guarded
square that was once the centre of pro-reform demonstrations in the Gulf

Witnesses said hundreds of demonstrators marched to Pearl Square in
Bahrain's capital Manama after a funeral procession on Friday morning for
the 78-year-old father of an opposition leader.

According to the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights, Ali Hasan al-Dehi was
beaten to death by riot police on Wednesday while returning to his home in
the village of Dehi. Opposition groups claim he died as a result of his
alleged treatment by police.

The United States, whose Fifth Fleet is based in Bahrain, called on all
sides to exercise restraint. It urged the government to be fully
transparent in the investigation of what happened to al-Dehi.

"We, the US, would encourage full transparency as this case proceeds and
we obviously call on everybody to exercise restraint," Victoria Nuland, a
US state department spokeswoman, said in Washington.

"It is a fragile time in Bahrain as all sides wait for the Bahraini
independent commission of inquiry report."

The head of the commission, which was set up to investigate allegations of
human rights violations in Bahrain during months of unrest, on Monday was
quoted as saying that he had found evidence of systematic torture.

But the Bahraini ministry of health denied the accusation, saying that
al-Dehi had died from a heart attack after he fell unconscious at his

Al-Dehi was the father of Hussein al-Dehi, who is the deputy-head of the
main Shia opposition group. Authorities said he died of natural causes.

After his funeral, hundreds of mainly Shia Bahrainis tried to make their
way toward the former Pearl Roundabout - the site where anti-government
protests first began.

With assistance from troops from other gulf countries, the government
ended the protests with a violent crackdown that reportedly killed dozens.

Video and images uploaded on social media websites on Friday appeared to
show police cars driving at protesters in several locations.

Nabeel Rajab, president of the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights, said the
government had blocked roads to try to prevent people from attending the
funeral ceremony.

Bahrain is hoping to conclude an arms deal with the United States but the
purchase could hinge on the results of the commission investigating this
year's unrest and claims by Shias of abuse they suffered during martial

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