US accuses Syria of new tactics, fears massacre (AP) Associated Press) By BASSEM MROUE BEIRUT, Lebanon 06/11/12 8:28 pm ET)
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BEIRUT – The United States accused the Syrian government of
using "new horrific tactics" Monday, as U.N. observers reported
Syrian helicopters were firing on rebellious areas and concerns
mounted that civilians were trapped in besieged cities.
Violence in Syria has spiked in recent weeks, as both sides ignore an
internationally brokered cease-fire that was supposed to go into
effect April 12 but never took hold.
State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland expressed concern about
reports the regime "may be organizing another massacre" in Latakia
province, where U.N. monitors have been impeded.
Speaking to reporters in Washington, Nuland warned, "People will be
Activists reported more than 50 people killed across Syria on Monday,
with clashes between military forces and rebel fighters in Homs,
Idlib and Latakia provinces. The death toll and the online videos
were impossible to independently verify.
According to videos posted online, fireballs of orange flame and
black rubble exploded in the air as waves of shells pounded
residential buildings in the central city of Homs Monday. The sounds
of shells whooshed through the sky amid sporadic machine gun fire.
Syrian soldiers chased down and killed rebels who set fire to one of
their tanks in a farming area close to the Orontes river in the Idlib
province, said Rami Abdul-Rahman of the Britain-based activist group
Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which uses a network of sources
on the ground.
The attack killed seven soldiers and a civilian, he said. There was
no confirmation from state media.
Another three men and two women were killed while trying to flee,
In the nearby village of Laj, another 11 slain men lay in a room,
their names scrawled on papers tucked into their clothes, according
to amateur video.
A car bomb exploded in the city of Deir al-Zour, killing 10 people,
"What we are seeing right now are fierce clashes as the Syrian army
tries to take back positions held by the rebels," Abdul-Rahman
said. "There are many deaths in the rebel ranks," he said.
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon demanded an immediate end to
the "dangerous intensification" of violence across Syria and called
on all countries with influence to urge the parties "to pull back
from the brink."
Ban´s spokesman Martin Nesirky said in New York on Monday that U.N.
observers in Syria "have reported an increased level of armed
confrontation between government and opposition forces."
He said "the government´s intensive military operations, including
the shelling of Homs and reportedly other population centers, as well
as firing from helicopters on Talbiseh and Rastan, are resulting in
heavy civilian casualties and human rights violations."
Nesirky said U.N. observers are also observing "planned and
coordinated attacks on government forces and civilian infrastructure
in multiple locations."
International envoy Kofi Annan said Monday he was "gravely concerned"
about the escalation of fighting in Syria, citing the shelling of
opposition areas in central Homs province and reports of mortar,
helicopter and tank attacks in the town of Haffa and its surrounding
villages in Latakia province on the Mediterranean coast. .
Annan demands both sides "take all steps to ensure that civilians are
not harmed," said his spokesman, Ahmad Fawzi. "There are indications
that a large number of civilians are trapped in these towns," the
Syrian activists say 13,000 people have been killed since the
uprising began in March 2011. The situation has grown increasingly
chaotic in recent months, and it is difficult to assign blame for
much of the bloodshed. The government restricts journalists from
moving freely, making it nearly impossible to independently verify
accounts from either side.
Nuland said, "We are calling this out now in the hope that we can
stop what could be a potential massacre."
Nuland declined to say if Washington or anyone else in the
international community might take proactive measures.
There are no prospects for a NATO intervention like the one that
helped topple Libya´s Moammar Gadhafi — in part because Russia has
promised to veto such a plan.
The bloodshed has led to broad condemnation of the regime, although
Russia, Iran and China have stood by President Bashar Assad. Russia
and China have vetoed two Security Council resolutions that
threatened sanctions against Syria.
On Monday, Russia´s Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin defended his
country´s arms sales to Syria.
"Under no circumstances can the arms supplied to Syria be used
against the civilian population," Rogozin was quoted as saying by the
ITAR-Tass news agency.
"Weapons do not shoot all by themselves. It is people who shoot from
them," he said.
Despite Russia´s strong stance, Britain´s Foreign Secretary William
Hague said Monday the U.K. will not rule out the use of an
international military intervention.
"Each day reports emerge of savage crimes," Hague told lawmakers at
the House of Commons. "These deliberate military tactics are
horrifyingly reminiscent of the Balkans in the 1990s."
He said Britain was focused on diplomatic efforts, but would "not
rule out any other option which could at any stage stop the
The U.S. and its allies have shown little appetite for getting
involved in another Arab nation in turmoil. There also is a real
concern of a spillover effect for other countries in the region.
In Israel, the deputy military chief warned that Syria´s large
chemical weapons stocks could be trained on the Jewish state.
According to Maj. Gen. Yair Naveh, Syria has the largest arsenal of
chemical weapons in the world. If the Syrians had the chance, he
said, they would "treat us the same way they treat their own people."
Syria has not acknowledged possessing chemical weapons, so the size
of its arsenal is not known. (© 2012 The Associated Press 06/11/12)
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