Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Sixty-nine killed in Syria on Monday: activists

By Dominic Evans | Reuters – Nov. 15, 2011

BEIRUT (Reuters) - At least 69 people were killed in southern Syria on
Monday, most of them in clashes between army deserters and troops loyal to
President Bashar al-Assad, activists said on Tuesday.

The violence came as Syria faces growing international isolation following
the Arab League's decision to suspend its membership in response to
Assad's crackdown on eight months of protests calling for his overthrow.

Hundreds of people have been killed so far this month, making it one of
the bloodiest periods of the Syrian protests, inspired by uprisings which
have overthrown leaders in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya.

The Syrian Organization for Human Rights said 34 soldiers and members of
Syrian security forces were killed in clashes with suspected army
deserters who attacked military vehicles in the southern province on

Video footage broadcast by Al Jazeera television showed what appeared to
be a tank engulfed in flames, alongside other burning vehicles.

At least 12 of the attackers were also killed, the British-based
Observatory said, while another 23 people were killed in "gunfire from
security and military checkpoints" in southern villages.

Syria has barred most foreign media from the country, making it difficult
to verify conflicting accounts from authorities and activists. Syria's
state news agency SANA made no mention of clashes in the south on Monday.

The United Nations says 3,500 people have been killed in Assad's crackdown
on the protests and human rights groups say security forces have carried
out killings and torture which constitute crimes against humanity.

Authorities blame armed groups for the violence, saying at least 1,100
soldiers and police have been killed since the uprising broke out in

Alongside street protests, which rights groups say have been mainly
peaceful, an increasingly forceful armed insurgency has targeted Assad's
military and security forces.

Monday's violence took place in the southern province of Deraa which
borders neighboring Jordan and was the region where major protests first
erupted against Assad in March.

(Reporting by Dominic Evans)

'Dozens killed' in Syria clashes

Fighting between pro- and anti-government forces in Deraa claims lives of
at least 40 people, activists say.

15 Nov 2011 Al Jazeera

At least 40 people have been killed in violence in Syria, rights groups
and activists say, as pro- and anti-government forces reportedly clashed
in Deraa province and elsewhere, with protests against Bashar al-Assad's
government continuing.

The UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said on Monday that
security forces shot dead at least 16 civilians across the province of
Deraa, where protests against Assad first began in earnest.

However, local activists in Deraa told the Reuters news agency that the
death toll from clashes between forces loyal to Assad, the Syrian
president, and those who have joined protesters against his rule could be
as high as 40.

They said that troops killed 20 people including army defectors and
civilians in an assault on Khirbet Ghazaleh, a town near the Jordanian
border and in the fighting that ensued near the town. They said a similar
number of government troops were killed.

Troops attacked the town, located about 20km north of the border on the
main highway between Amman and Damascus, after army defectors attacked a
police bus at a highway intersection near the town, activists said.

"Members of the (defectors') brigade fought back when the army attacked
and Bedouin from nearby villages also rushed to help Khirbet Ghazaleh,"
said one of the activists, who gave his name as Abu Hussein.

The Syrian Observatory said that the 16 people who had been killed in
Deraa were shot near government checkpoints.

The Local Co-ordination Committees (LCC), a loose umbrella group of local
anti-government protest organising committees, said that 50 people had
been killed in violence across the country on Monday. It said 28 had been
killed in Deraa, 13 in Homs, six in Idlib, two in Hama and one in

Government hits out

Amid the violence, Syria's foreign minister condemned an Arab League
threat to suspend the country over its crackdown on protests, saying the
move, which could be implemented at a league meeting on Wednesday, would
be "illegal" and a "dangerous step".

"The suspension of the Arab League membership is illegal," Walid
al-Muallem told a press conference in Damascus on Monday.

He also criticised the Cairo-based regional bloc's relations with the
United States, calling the US an "unofficial member" of the league.

On Monday, the White House said that Assad's government was "continuing to
be isolated" and that "the political pressure on them is building",
according to spokesman Josh Earnest.

The foreign minister also apologised for attacks on foreign diplomatic
missions over the weekend. Government supporters raided the Qatari and
Saudi embassies in Damascus on Saturday night. On Sunday, the Turkish
embassy and consulates were attacked.

Addressing Syrians, Muallem said: "You should not feel any worry regarding
the future. [Syria] will come out stronger due to the will of the people
and national unity."

International pressure

European Union governments reached a preliminary agreement on Monday to
extend sanctions against Syria to more individuals associated with a
violent crackdown on dissent, an EU official said.

The agreement was expected to be confirmed by EU foreign ministers meeting
later in Brussels, who will also endorse a decision to stop Syria
accessing funds from the European Investment Bank, the official said.

However, Russia rejected the Arab League's threat to suspend Syria, with
Sergei Lavrov, the country's foreign minister, telling Russian news
agencies that he believed Western nations were inciting opposition against

Meanwhile, neighbouring Turkey ratcheted up rhetoric against Syria after
the attacks on Turkish diplomatic facilities.

Ahmet Davutoglu, Turkey's foreign minister, told the Turkish parliament it
was no longer possible to trust the Assad's

"We will take the most resolute stance against these attacks and we will
stand by the Syrian people's rightful struggle," he said.

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