Al-Jazeerah: Cross-Cultural Understanding
News, June 2011
120 Syrian Security Officers Killed in Jisr Al Shughour
June 7, 2011
Northwest Syria town braces for army onslaught
A large number of Syrian military vehicles were seen heading towards the northwestern town of Jisr al-Shughur on Tuesday, prompting fears of a major army offensive after the government vowed to retaliate for the killing of 120 policemen.
AFP - Syrian dissidents were Tuesday fearing a harsh backlash after the authorities warned of a forceful response to what they said was a massacre of 120 policemen in the town of Jisr al-Shughur.
A Turkish diplomat told AFP in Ankara meanwhile that one person died from gunshot wounds when 41 refugees fleeing unrest in Syria crossed the border into Turkey over the weekend.
"Scores of military vehicles loaded with soldiers are travelling on the Harasta highway... They are probably headed to Jisr al-Shughur for a new massacre... Please be careful," the Syrian Revolution 2011, an anti-regime Facebook group spurring protests, posted Tuesday.
It advised pro-democracy activists in areas facing a crackdown by security forces and "gangs of the regimes" -- especially in the northern Idlib province -- to parry potential assaults by "burning tyres" and "blocking roads with stones and wood."
The group, which plays a central role in setting the tone and theme of protests that erupted against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad mid-March, called for fresh protests on Tuesday.
It dubbed it a day "of resurrection."
"The time of treachery is over," the group wrote on its page which has garnered 199,700 supporters online.
"Our revolution is peaceful, we want freedom, dignity and life. We do not endorse any foreign party or organisation," the group wrote.
"We do not call to battle and refuse to bear arms against our brothers in the Syrian army. We call on them to protect us and defend us against the shootings by agents" of the regime.
State television said on Monday the policemen were killed by "armed gangs" but rights activists said there had been a mutiny in the northwest Syria town where security forces had been carrying out operations for three days.
"The armed groups are committing a real massacre. They have mutilated bodies and thrown others into the Assi river," the state broadcaster said. "They have burned government buildings."
It said a total of 120 police were killed, including 80 at the town's security headquarters, without specifying the date of the incidents in Jisr al-Shughur.
Interior Minister Mohammed Ibrahim al-Shaar warned in a statement read on television that the authorities would hit back.
"The state will act firmly, with force and in line with the law. It will not stay arms folded in the face of armed attacks on the security of the homeland," he said.
Two activists who spoke by telephone to AFP in Nicosia said the town was calm on Monday, and spoke of a mutiny at a local security headquarters, where shooting was heard the day before.
"I think they executed policemen who refused to open fire on demonstrators. There was a mutiny in the security service," one said.
The other told AFP that "shooting followed by an explosion was heard in the military HQ, apparently after a mutiny."
Monday's reports came a day after at least 40 people were killed, including 35 in Jisr al-Shughur, said the head of the London-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, Rami Abdel Rahman.
He said 27 civilians and eight security agents were killed in the town as security forces pressed sweeps targeting anti-regime protesters in Idlib province.
The Turkish diplomat said dozens of Syrians had fled across the border in southern Turkey's Hatay province at the weekend.
Around 20 of them had arrived with injuries and were treated in Turkey, the source said.
"A man with gunshot wounds died in an ambulance heading to a hospital in Turkey, after he crossed the border in a serious condition," the diplomat said.
Since May 20, 88 wounded Syrians have arrived in Hatay in separate waves, including 45 on Sunday and two on Monday, according to a humanitarian source close to the Turkish Islamist charity IHH.
In Washington meanwhile, French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe said France and other western powers are ready to risk a veto by Russia at the UN over a draft resolution to condemn political violence in Syria.
The draft was drawn up by France, Britain, Germany and Portugal. It condemns violence at the hands of the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and asks him to open Syrian cities to humanitarian teams.
Rights groups say more than 1,100 civilians have been killed and at least 10,000 arrested in Syria since anti-regime protests erupted in mid-March.
Damascus blames the unrest on "armed terrorist gangs" backed by Islamists and foreign agitators.
Foreign journalists are barred from travelling around Syria,
making it difficult to report on the unrest or verify government
and witness accounts.
Syria to send in army after 120 troops killed
Khaleej Times, (Reuters) 7 June 2011, 11:49 AM BEIRUT -
More then 120 Syrian security officers were killed in battles with gunmen, state television said, in the first report of large-scale clashes in a revolt against President Bashar Al Assad.
The report said on Monday armed groups set government buildings ablaze in the northwestern town of Jisr Al Shughour, stole five tonnes of dynamite and were firing at civilians and security forces with machineguns and rocket-propelled grenades.
Wissam Tarif, director of human rights organisation Insan, disputed the official report, saying the clashes were between loyalist troops and army members who had defected. He called the number of deaths ‘inconsistent’.
‘An army unit or division arrived to the area in the morning. It seems then another unit (in the afternoon) arrived to contain the defection,’ Tarif told Reuters. He said several people in Jisr Al Shoghour had confirmed that version of events.
Opposition activists said earlier that forces had launched a security operation in the town on Saturday and at least 37 residents and 10 police had been killed. It was impossible to verify the conflicting accounts as authorities have prevented most international media from operating in Syria.
‘The security forces have managed to end a blockade of one of the neighbourhoods that was seized by the gunmen for awhile and are now battling them to end the blockade of the other neighbourhoods,’ the television said.
‘The gunmen mutilated some of the bodies and threw some into the river. The people in Jisr Al Shughour are urging the army to intervene speedily,’ it said.
Interior Minister Mohammad Ibrahim Al-Sha'ar said authorities would respond firmly to armed attacks and Information Minister Adnan Mahmoud said the army, which has so far stayed out of the town, ‘will carry out their national duty to restore security’. Rights groups say 1,000 civilians have been killed in protests against the president which have swept from the southern city of Dera'a to the Mediterranean coast and eastern Kurdish regions.
French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe said France was ready to ask the UN Security Council to vote on a draft resolution condemning Syria for its crackdown despite the threat that Russia would veto the measure.
‘The situation is very clear. In Syria, the process of reform is dead and we think that Bashar has lost his legitimacy to rule the country,’ Juppe said in Washington on Monday.
‘We’ll see what the Russians will do. If they veto, they will take their responsibility. Maybe if they see that there are 11 votes in favour of the resolution, they will change their mind. So there is a risk to take and we’re ready to take it.’
Amnesty International urged the Security Council to refer Syria to the International Criminal Court.
1982 ARMED REBELLION
Syrian forces crushed an armed Islamist revolt in the city of Hama in 1982 on the orders of Bashar’s father, President Hafez Al Assad, killing up to 30,000 people, leading to fears that the ferocity of the crackdown could increase further if the government comes up against an armed insurrection.
An activist told Reuters that police and members of the security forces in Jisr Al Shughour were killed by gunmen.
‘Some people in some areas have taken up arms,’ he said.
‘The situation is grave, what is happening is an armed rebellion. I oppose violence from whatever side it comes from.’
Residents said violence erupted in Jisr Al Shughour on Saturday when snipers on the roof of the main post office fired at a funeral for six protesters killed the day before.
Mourners set fire to the post office, a history teacher in the town called Ahmad said. State television said eight members of the security forces were killed when gunmen attacked the post office building.
It said at least 20 security force members were killed in an ambush by ‘armed gangs’, and 82 were killed in an attack on a security post. It said the overall death toll for security forces was more than 120.
A rebellion in Jisr Al Shughour was crushed by Bashar’s father in 1980 with scores of deaths.
Assad has sent in tanks to crush demonstrations in certain flashpoints.
He also has made some reformist gestures, such as issuing a general amnesty to political prisoners and launching national dialogue, but protesters and opposition figures have dismissed such measures.
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