Arab League, Red Cross warn Syria heading to civil war (REUTERS) By Erika Solomon BEIRUT, LEBANON 05/08/12 1:32pm EDT)
Reuters News Service
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(Reuters) - Security forces killed at least 10 people in fighting
across Syria on Tuesday, activists said, in a 14-month-old revolt
that the Red Cross and Arab League warned was becoming a civil war.
Across Syria, clashes between state forces and rebels fighting to
overthrow President Bashar al-Assad raged overnight and flared again
on Tuesday afternoon, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.
Despite a shaky truce, the carnage in Syria has not stopped even
after a parliamentary poll on Monday which the government promoted as
a milestone on its path to reform, but the opposition called a sham
and boycotted the vote.
As election officials counted votes on Tuesday, the head of the
International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said fighting had
been so intense in some parts of Syria that at times the conflict in
those places qualified as a localized civil war.
Jakob Kellenberger said he was very worried about conditions in
Syria, where United Nations observers are being deployed to monitor a
ceasefire agreement that has been repeatedly violated by both state
forces and by rebels.
"I really hope that the U.N. observers will deploy rapidly," he told
reporters in Geneva, indicating concern for the fate of U.N. envoy
Kofi Annan´s six-point peace plan for Syria. "I still hope it will
Annan is expected to brief the U.N. Security Council later on Tuesday
on the progress of his mission.
Arab League chief Nabil Elaraby called for continued support of
Annan´s plans and expressed similar concerns over civil war.
"Escalating military action in Syria will end up leading to a civil
war in Syria, which no one wants to see," he told reporters during in
a trip to Beijing.
Beyond the ceasefire and monitoring mission, Annan´s plan also calls
for free access for journalists and humanitarian aid in the country.
So far, 50 of some 300 monitors have arrived with the whole team
expected to be assembled by the end of May.
On Tuesday, the British-based Observatory said security forces were
using rockets and heavy machinegun fire on the village of al-Hassan
in the rebellious central Homs province, as they sought to wrest
control from rebels in the area.
A similar bombardment in northern Idlib province that began after
midnight killed at least three people, it said.
The United Nations says more than 9,000 people have been killed by
state forces trying to crush the revolt against four decades of rule
by Assad and his father, Hafez al-Assad.
What began as a peaceful protest movement has been overtaken by an
armed insurgency against Syrian forces. The government says the
rebels are terrorists steered by foreign powers and says more than
2,600 people from the police and army have been killed.
Despite Syria´s bloodshed, the state news agency SANA reported
a "notable" turnout for Monday´s vote but has yet to provide details
Many residents in Damascus said on Tuesday that few Syrians were
voting, and a Reuters team at a polling booth saw only three ballots
cast in their 40-minute visit.
Initial results reported by the pro-government Syrian channel al-
Ikhbariya suggested that around 700,000 people voted in Aleppo, the
most populace city and province in Syria.
Aleppo city has a population of more than 2 million, while the
province is home to nearly 5 million people.
Activists insisted the numbers were inflated. "I went to three
different polling stations, I am telling you turnout was weak," said
a student called Tamim. "No one can believe in an election while
people are dying." (Editing by Jon Hemming) (© Thomson Reuters 2012.
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