Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Syria unrest: Crackdown intensifies on city of Homs

Syrian troops and tanks have intensified a crackdown on the restive central city of Homs, killing at least 14 people, activists say.
Homs has seen some of the largest protests of the uprising against the rule of President Bashar al-Assad.
France's Foreign Minister Alain Juppe on Wednesday accused Syria of carrying out "crimes against humanity".
Speaking in Moscow, he said Syria could face further sanctions if it did not change course.
More than 2,200 people have died in five months of protest.
'Stun grenades' Activists said fresh troops backed by tanks swept into Homs at dawn with most of the killings in the old neighbourhoods of the city, Bab Dreib and Bostan Diwan.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights group said "military reinforcements including 20 truckloads of soldiers entered the city" leading to "intense gunfire in the market and governorate headquarters".
Alain Juppe (L) and Sergei Lavrov, Moscow 7 September 2011 Mr Juppe (L) and Mr Lavrov have conflicting views on the Syria uprising
The Local Coordination Committees (LCC), an activist group, said troops used "gunfire and stun grenades to terrorise the people near the police headquarters around the citadel".
Telephone and internet connections were cut in some parts of the city.
The LCC reported one more death in the city of Hama and two in Sarmeen, in the northern Idlib province.
Foreign journalists are not allowed access to Syria and reports of casualties cannot be independently verified.
The government insists that it has a reform programme in place, but opposition leaders say there can be no free and fair elections while the ruling Baath party is in power.
They have also refused to negotiate while it continues to kill peaceful protesters.
Speaking in Moscow during a press conference with his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov, Mr Juppe said: "The way [Syria has] suppressed the popular protests is unacceptable."
Last week the EU banned imports of Syrian oil - a decision criticised by Russia, which has been pressing calls for political dialogue.
Mr Lavrov said: "We consider that inciting certain forces within the opposition to boycott the invitation to dialogue is a dangerous path and risks a repetition of the Libyan scenario, which neither Russia nor France wants."
Meanwhile on Wednesday it was announced that Arab League Secretary-General Nabil al-Arabi would now visit Syria, after reports that Damascus had called off a planned trip.
Mr Arabi would visit on Saturday, said the League's deputy leader, Ahmed Ben Helli.
The League has called for an end to the violence and spoken of the Syrian people's legitimate aspirations for social and political reform.
The League will meet to discuss Syria on 13 September.
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