Pressure Mounts for Assad to Step Down (INN) ISRAEL NATIONAL NEWS) By Gabe Kahn 07/24/12)
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Pressure is mounting for Syrian president Bashar al-Assad to quit his
nation as Western and Arab nations indicate they are willing to
broker a deal for his exit.
"We do believe that it is not too late for the Assad regime to
commence with planning for a transition to find a way that ends the
violence," Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Tuesday, according
to wire reports.
Clinton´s comments come after her close friend, Senate Intelligence
Committee Chairwoman Dianne Feinstein, a California Democrat, also
voiced support for getting Assad out of Syria.
The Arab League on Monday directly offered Assad and his family a
safe exit from Syria if he agreed to leave the country.
The offer comes despite UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi
Pillay, having said earlier this year that there was ample evidence
to prosecute Assad for war crimes.
Reports of systemic kidnapping, rape, torture, and summary executions
carried out by regime forces and allied militias to quell Syria´s
revolt have become commonplace in recent months.
Meanwhile, signs that Assad´s regime is teetering on the brink after
16-months of bloodletting in Syria´s popular Arab Spring uprising
turned civil war continue to emerge.
Al Jazeera reported on Tuesday that the Syrian ambassador to Cyprus
had defected and left for Qatar.
Lamia al-Hariri is the second Syrian diplomat to join the opposition,
following Nawaf Fares, the ambassador to Iraq, who defected earlier
in July. Fares was also reported to be in Qatar.
The new defection came as reports of intensified fighting continue to
emerge from the capital of Damascus and key economic center of Aleppo.
Opposition groups claimed warplanes, seen circling high above, had
launched airstrikes in Aleppo on Teusday, as deadly clashes continue
to leave scores dead each day.
"The rebels have moved to try and liberate downtown after taking over
the neighbourhoods of al Sakhour, Masaken Hanano, Tariq al Bab, al
Sheikh Najajr and al Ard al Hamra in the east and Saladin in the
west," an opposition activist in Majed al Nour said.
Opposition activist Mohammed Saeed has estimated the rebels are
holding large chunks of the city and the government has responded
with attack helicopters.
The use of attack helicopters to target dissidents and rebel fighters
by the embattled regime of President Bashar al-Assad has proven key
to his holding the capital of Damascus.
"Helicopter and tank shells are falling on areas in the outskirts of
Aleppo, which came under the control of the rebels," activist Abu
Haytham al-Halabi told dpa by phone.
"On the ground, troops were defeated by the rebels but they are now
using their helicopters to bombard those areas," he said.
Nevertheless, rebel fighters from the Free Syrian Army have turned
Syria´s once impregnable leading cities into fiercely contested
battlegrounds in recent weeks.
"It´s like a real war zone over here, there are street battles over
large parts of the city," Saeed told reporters.
"Aleppo has joined Homs and Hama and other revolutionary cities."
The United States has flowed some funds to the rebels, and assisted
with other items like intelligence data.
But opposition sources say Washington has yet to turn over tens of
millions of dollars in frozen Assad regime dollars promised to rebel
factions months ago.
Sources say promised communications gear also has yet to arrive in
the hands of opposition fighters.
Officials in Washington have been reticent to openly arm and equip
Syria´s disparate rebel factions out of concern the munitions may
fall into the hands of anti-American terror groups.
Saudi Arabia has been supplying opposition forces with weapons, which
sources and experts say have helped rebel fighters score a spate of
recent victories over Assad´s forces.
Earlier this week,Assad´s regime has threatened to use chemical
weapons should outside forces seek to aid Syria´s rebels in toppling
FSA commanders in Syria say Assad has moved his chemical weapons
stores to airfields near the borders.
"Most of us in the Free Syrian Army command know very well where
these weapons are located," Colonel Kassim Saadeddine told Al Jazeera.
"And now we have solid information that Assad has transferred some of
these weapons with the equipment for mixing chemical components to
airports near the border," he added.
The London-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights say at least
19,000 people - most of them civilians - have been killed in Syria
since violence erupted March 2012. (IsraelNationalNews © 2011
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