Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Syrian army retakes Idlib and attacks Dera'a; three prominents quit the SNC

The Syrian National Council (SNC) during it first congres in Tunis in December 2011. Behind the table (l to r) Basma Qudmani, its leader Burhan Ghalioun, and Haitham al Maleh. Today Al-Maleh (81), a lawyer and judge, and one of the oldest and most famous opponents of the family Assad, made his resignation known from the SNC. So did Kamal al-Labwani, a medical doctor, and another very famous fighter for human rights in Syria, as well as human rights lawyer Catherine al-Talli. Their resignation had to do with "differences" with the SNC, they wrote on Facebook. 
Al-Labwani added that  they did not want to become "accomplices to the massacre of the Syrian people through delaying, cheating, lies, one-upmanship and monopolisation of decision-making. The SNC, he charged, was "linked to foreign agendas which aim to prolong the battle while waiting ... for the country to be dragged into a civil war."
Heavily armed forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad pounded the southern city of Deraa with anti-aircraft fire on Wednesday, reasserting control over rebel strongholds a year after the start of the Syrian revolt."  The attack began early this morning. The rebels are firing back, but they are outgunned," said Abdelhaq, speaking by phone from Dera'a.
The attack in Dera'a comes one day after Syrian government forces took control of the north-western city of Idlib. The city fell on Tuesday, after a four day offensive of the Syrian army.  Opposition activists admitted on Wednesday that there was no more fighting. Noureddin al-Abdo, an activist in Idlib, told the AFP news agency that the Free Syrian Army (FSA) had withdrawn as it could not resist the army. Security forces are now reportedly carrying out house-to-house searches in the area.
It is clear that Syria is engaged in a drive to one by one recapture strongholds of the FSA-forces. The capture of Idlib, one of the first cities to come under the domination of the oppositional FSA,  comes two weeks after troops backed by tanks entered the shattered Baba Amr district of Homs. This area had been under bombardment for almost a month before it fell, leaving an estimated 700 people dead.

Kofi Annan, the UN envoy to Syria, has said President Bashar al-Assad has sent a response to a proposed peace plan. The former UN secretary general delivered the plan during a visit to Damascus over the weekend. It included demands for an immediate ceasefire by both sides, access for humanitarian aid, and the beginning of political dialogue. Annan would come back upon Assad's answer later on Wednesday.
The human rights organisation Amnesty International meanwhile called for the prosecution of those responsible for torturing civilians in Syria during the suppression of anti-government protests.
Amnesty published a report in which it listed  31 different forms of torture while interviewing Syrians who had fled into Jordan.
  The United Nations says Assad's forces have killed more than 8,000 people in their drive to crush the uprising. Its refugee agency said on Tuesday that some 230,000 Syrians had fled their homes during the past 12 months, of whom around 30,000 have sought safety abroad.

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