Al-Jazeerah: Cross-Cultural Understanding
News, December 2012
Aleppo Airport Closes Due to Rebel Attacks
The international airport in Syria’s commercial hub of Aleppo has been temporarily closed because of “attacks by rebel fighters,” an anonymous airport official said Tuesday. The official reason is "maintenance work."
By News Wires (text)
The international airport in Syria's second city of Aleppo has been temporarily closed due to repeated attacks by rebel fighters, an airport official said on Tuesday.
"There have been continued attempts by opposition militants to target civilian aircraft, which could cause a humanitarian disaster," the official told AFP on condition of anonymity.
The airport's authorities said the closure was due to maintenance work on the runway and other facilities on the ground.
The official said the critical transportation hub would be closed for a "very short period of time" while the army worked to regain control of surrounding areas where large numbers of rebels have set up base.
Fighting in Aleppo, located in the largely rebel-held north of Syria, has been at a stalemate for months since opposition fighters launched a massive assault on the former commercial hub in mid-July.
Defected Syrian journalists tell of regime pressure
Three Syrian journalists from media controlled by Bashar al-Assad’s regime in Damascus have defected to France. They told FRANCE 24 of the pressures they had been under and the feeling that they had been “accomplices to the regime.”
By FRANCE 24 (text)
An editor at Syrian state broadcaster Radio Damascus has told FRANCE 24 how he fled the country with two colleagues because of the huge pressure he was under to “distort the truth.”
In a rare interview with a defected Syrian journalist, Kamal Jamal Bik explained how the Damascus regime and his managers suspected anyone who looked at external sources as being an opponent of the regime.
He also said that the atmosphere of suspicion was compounded by a total lack of balance in the way he and his colleagues were allowed to report the news.
“We were only allowed to use the official SANA news agency, and what reporters we had in the field were only with the state army,” he said. “We on the news desks were told to deform the news, to clean it up. There was constant pressure and censorship.”
Bik said that continuing to work at Radio Damascus had made him “an accomplice to the regime” and called on his colleagues he left behind not to believe claims by the regime that his defection was part of “a foreign agenda”.
"An ongoing revolution"
Deploring the lack of truth, Bik conceded that he had finally been forced to take a position in a conflict he said was “not a civil war, as is being reported, but an ongoing revolution against a tyrannical regime.”
“We can’t remain silent, we have to take a position, to take sides,” he said. “It is because of this that we had to leave Syria.”
Bik's colleague Lama al-Khadra repeated that their defections were “about taking a side” and that she would rather be “announcing the victory of the revolution on Syrian radio than announcing our defection from a foreign country.”
“From the beginning of the uprising, all our radio broadcasts made us feel like we were killing the Syrian people with our words,” she said. “It was like committing suicide.”
Explaining why she had stayed so long at the radio station, she said: “We had the choice between carrying on with our jobs or going to prison, in the hope that we would find a solution and be given the opportunity to report the truth and to work differently. We were hoping in vain.”
Bik said he and his three colleagues had escaped Syria through Lebanon, where they were given immediate help and support by the French authorities.
Since the start of the uprising in March 2011, some 44,000 Syrians have been killed, and score of journalists have died or disappeared.
UN envoy Brahimi announces tentative Syria peace plan
UN and Arab League envoy to Syria Lakhdar Brahimi said Sunday he had created a ceasefire plan for the war-torn country that could be backed by the international community, as he warned that the conflict is getting worse “by the day”.
By News Wires (text)
International envoy Lakhdar Brahimi warned Sunday the Syrian war was worsening "by the day" as he announced a peace plan he believed could find support from world powers, including key Syria ally Russia.
Brahimi's comments came as Russia despatched a third warship to its naval base in the Syrian port of Tartus in readiness for a possible evacuation of its nationals and as Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan told Syrian refugees that victory over the "tyrant" President Bashar al-Assad was at hand.
The situation in Syria "is very bad and getting worse by the day," Brahimi told reporters in Cairo, a day after warning in Moscow that Damascus faced a choice between "hell or the political process."
He said he had crafted a ceasefire plan "that could be adopted by the international community."
"I have discussed this plan with Russia and Syria... I think this proposal could be adopted by the international community," the UN and Arab League envoy said, without giving details.
"There is a proposal for a political solution based on the Geneva declaration foreseeing a ceasefire, forming a government with complete prerogatives and a plan for parliamentary and presidential elections," he said, referring to a peace initiative that world powers agreed to in Geneva in June.
That plan was rejected by Syria's opposition, which is adamant that Assad's departure is a given before any national dialogue such as that under the Geneva initiative can take place.
Russia and China have so far vetoed three Security
Council draft resolutions seeking to force Assad's hand
with the threat of sanctions.
The talks came amid signs that Russia was beginning to distance itself from Assad's government.
Moscow dispatched a third naval vessel to the eastern Mediterranean on Sunday in readiness for a possible evacuation of Russian nationals, many of them women who married Syrian men during the Cold War years of close relations.
The Novocherkassk landing ship joined the Azov and Nikolai Filchenkov amphibious vessels already en route for Syria since Friday and is expected to dock in Tartus in the first 10 days of the new year, Russian news agencies reported.
The Tartus base is Russia's only remaining naval station outside the former Soviet Union and is seen as a major strategic asset for Moscow.
Russia has been accused of using the base to supply Assad's government with secret military shipments supplementing the official weapons sales that Moscow has made to Damascus since Soviet times.
But recent rebel gains prompted Russia to admit for the first time this month that Assad's days in power may be numbered.
The Turkish premier visited a Syrian refugee camp near the border accompanied by armed opposition National Coalition chief Ahmed Moaz al-Khatib.
"I can see it clearly that the help of God is near," Erdogan said. "You have suffered so much but do not despair."
Turkey is currently home to almost 150,000 Syrian refugees. It is also the principal rear-base for the rebels.
On the ground, at least 100 people were killed in violence on Sunday, 43 of them civilians, according to a preliminary toll from the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
Among seven people killed in an air strike in the central province of Hama were a man, his wife and young daughter, the Britain-based watchdog said.
South of second city Aleppo, rebels spearheaded by fighters of the jihadist Al-Nusra Front -- blacklisted by Washington for its suspected links to Al-Qaeda -- launched a fierce assault on besieged troops in the Hamidiyeh base near the strategic crossroads town of Maaret al-Numan.
In Idlib province in the northwest, rebels downed a military helicopter near the Taftanaz airbase, the Observatory said.
In Homs province in the centre, troops shelled rebel positions around Krak des Chevaliers, a UNESCO-listed Crusader castle that is one of the jewels of Syria's architectural heritage.
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