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Scores of Syrians Killed in Fighting, Most in Hama

May 21, 2012

Sunnis thrown out of Homs for Allawite state

Arab News, Jeddah: Ibrahim Naffee
Sunday, 20 May, 2012

Bashar Assad’s forces are driving away Sunnis from residential districts in Homs to replace them with ethnic Allawites, according to a prominent member of the Syrian National Council (SNC).
The regime forces have combed Homs districts in recent months to track down opponents, he told Arab News yesterday.
The planned cleansing took place in several Sunni districts of the city: Karam Al-Zaitoun, Karam Al-Louz, Adwiya, Mureeja, Wajab Al-Jandali, Tadmur, Bab Al-Dareb and Zahra, the official said, adding that all Sunnis were driven away from some of these districts.
Muhammad Al-Turkawi, a leading member of the Council of Arab Tribes and a member of the SNC, said the regime has thrown out Sunnis as part of its efforts to establish an Allawite state, extending to the Syrian coast, as a last line of defense.
“The Syrian regime wants to deepen racial hatred among people in order to protect itself. At the same time opposition groups demand peaceful coexistence of all groups of people,” Al-Turkawi told Arab News.
The Allawites are concentrated in mountains and villages in cities (Tartous, Latakia and Bani Yas) located along the Syrian coasts. About 65 percent of people in these cities are Sunni. Homs is one of the strongholds of Syrian revolution, which witnessed many protest marches during the past months.
According to Saleem Al-Qabbani, a member of the coordination committee in Homs, the regime’s security forces were executing a programmed plan to drive out Sunnis from the city.
“People in Shumas were facing pressure to leave the district.” Most Sunnis have taken refuge in Al-Waar district.

Deadly fighting strikes Hama in fresh Syria violence

France 24, May 17, 2012, By News Wires (text)


At least 21 people were killed in violence across Syria on Sunday, including three children in a village in central Hama province, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

At least 16 people were killed in the village of Souran in the province of Hama by shelling and gunfire from regime forces, said the Britain-based group, adding that three children were among the dead.

"There is no evidence that there were any clashes taking place in the area," before the deadly shelling took place, the Observatory said.

Five other people were killed in violence elsewhere in the country, the watchdog said, adding that anti-regime demonstrations were also held in several areas of Syria on Sunday.

"A civilian was killed after he suffered gunshot wounds from regime troops, who were raiding Hasraya village" in the central province of Homs, the Observatory said.

In Basra al-Sham city of southern Daraa province, an army defector was killed in an overnight ambush by regime forces, the group said.

In Jisr al-Shughur in northwest Idlib, a flashpoint of unrest, armed men assassinated a Baath party official, the monitor said, amid a marked increase of assassinations targeting people associated with the regime.

"There is definitely an increase in assassinations targeting people associated with the regime, be they officials or pro-regime businessmen," Observatory head Rami Abdel Rahman told AFP in Beirut by telephone.

In Idlib city, a defector was killed during clashes with regime forces.

Meanwhile in Douma, a northern suburb of Damascus, a civilian was killed by sniper fire just after a group of UN truce monitors had visited the area, according to the Observatory.

It also reported demonstrations in several areas of northwest Idlib and in Hama calling for the ouster of President Bashar al-Assad's regime.

In Daraa province, demonstrations were also held calling for the release of activist and citizen journalist Mohammed al-Hariri, who according to Reporters Without Borders (RSF) has been sentenced to death for "high treason."

Hariri was arrested on April 16, RSF said, after he gave an interview to Qatar-based, pan-Arab television channel Al-Jazeera from his home in Daraa province.

The latest demonstrations took place after fierce fighting between regime troops and armed rebels rocked parts of the Syrian capital Damascus overnight, the Observatory said.

"Violent clashes broke out between rebel fighters and regime troops at a checkpoint in Kafr Sousa district," it added.

The Local Coordination Committees, an anti-regime network of activists on the ground in Syria, said that in the wake of the fighting, Kafr Sousa in the south of the capital saw the "arrival of huge reinforcements" of regime troops.

Clashes also broke out in others parts of southern Damascus, the Observatory said, adding that gunfire had during the night echoed across the city centre.

On Saturday, 23 people were killed in violence across Syria, the Observatory said.

More than 12,000 people, the majority of them civilians, have died in Syria since an anti-regime revolt broke out in March 2011, according to the monitoring

US helping funnel arms into Syria, report says

France 24, May 17, 2012, By News Wires (text)


 The United States is helping bring more and better weapons to Syria's rebels, including anti-tank weaponry, for their fight against President Bashar al-Assad regime,The Washington Post said Wednesday.

President Barack Obama's administration insisted it was not directly supplying the weapons or providing funding, with Gulf states paying for the new arms, the Post said, citing US and foreign officials.

But Washington has stepped up links with the rebels and regional militaries allied with them, playing a role in the rebel's foreign support network, according to the report.

"We are increasing our nonlethal assistance to the Syrian opposition, and we continue to coordinate our efforts with friends and allies in the region and beyond in order to have the biggest impact on what we are collectively doing," a senior State Department official told the Post.

If true, the US administration's move to increase contact with the rebels and boost information-sharing with Gulf states who back them would mark a shift in policy for the Obama administration, which has so far resisted overt support for the armed groups battling Assad forces.

But US State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland insisted US policy had not changed, saying the Post had "stretched its sourcing."

"The United States has made a decision to provide nonlethal support to civilian members of the opposition," she said, pointing to shipments of medical and communications equipment.

"But with regard to any assertions with regard to lethal (aid), we are not involved in that," Nuland added.

"We don't think that adding fuel to this fire is the right way to go."

The spokeswoman did not explicitly indicate whether the United States was urging allies to avoid providing weapons to Syrian rebels.

On Tuesday, US officials said Washington deplored the escalating violence in Syria, after a bomb exploded in front of a UN convoy and reports surfaced of a new massacre by government forces.

Syria's anti-regime revolt has entered its 15th month of relentless violence that has killed more than 12,000 people amid growing fears that a UN-backed peace plan will fail.

The United States has vowed to increase pressure on Assad to step down and the issue will be raised at the NATO meeting in Chicago on Sunday and Monday, with US officials urging Damascus to implement a plan pushed by UN-Arab League envoy Kofi Annan seeking a resolution to the crisis.

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