Middle-east Arab News Opinion | Asharq Al-awsat

Syrian troops detain dozens, 3 killed in north | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
Select Page

BEIRUT (AP) — Syrian troops detained scores of people in Damascus and the coastal city of Latakia in overnight raids as President Bashar Assad’s regime tried to forcefully end a five-month uprising, activists said Wednesday.

Assad dramatically escalated his crackdown on the five-month-old uprising since the start of the holy month of Ramadan in August, killing hundreds and detaining thousands. Despite broad international condemnation — most recently from neighboring Turkey and Jordan — the regime has unleashed tanks, ground troops and snipers in an attempt to retake control in rebellious areas.

In Latakia, a Mediterranean port city that has been subjected to a four-day military assault, security centers were overflowing with detainees, forcing authorities to hold hundreds of other prisoners in the city’s main football stadium and a movie theater, said Rami Abdul-Raham, head of the London-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

“Detentions centers are packed,” he said.

A woman in Latakia died of her wounds Wednesday, two days after she was injured, according to the observatory and The Local Coordination Committees, another activist group. The LCC said a man was killed in the city late Tuesday.

In the northwestern Idlib province, a bullet killed a man as he stood on his balcony, according to observatory for Human Rights, which has a network of people on the ground. Troops were carrying out raids in the area at the time.

The regime’s recent military operations have also targeted the central city of Homs, where security forces shot dead one person and wounded three during raids Wednesday, according to the observatory.

In Damascus, the regime focused its raids on the predominantly Kurdish neighborhood of Rukneddine, where security forces detained dozens after cutting electricity in the area, the observatory said. The neighborhood has witnessed intense anti-regime protests in the past weeks.

In Latakia, hundreds of security agents conducted house-to-house raids in the al-Ramel neighborhood, the observatory and LCC said. Al-Ramel is home to a crowded Palestinian refugee camp where many low-income Syrians also live.

The Mediterranean city had been subjected to a four-day military assault that has killed at least 37 people and forced thousands to flee their homes. The U.N. says at least 10,000 Palestinian refugees living in al-Ramel have fled the violence.

Amateur videos posted online showed Syrian soldiers in SUVs and pick-up trucks as they drove down a street apparently in Latakia. The troop were greeted in al-Ramel by Assad supporters chanting “our souls and our blood we sacrifice for you Bashar.”

Another video showed a military helicopter flying over the coast.

The Associated Press could not verify the videos. Syria has banned most foreign media and restricted local coverage, making it impossible to get independent confirmation of the events on the ground.

The regime’s recent military operations have targeted Latakia, the opposition stronghold of Hama, the central city of Homs, and the eastern city of Deir el-Zour.

Assad’s government insists its crackdown is aimed at rooting out terrorists fomenting unrest in the country. But various human rights groups have accused Syrian troops of firing on largely unarmed protesters and say more than 1,800 civilians have been killed since the uprising erupted in mid-March.

The foreign ministers of Turkey and Jordan renewed their call on Damascus to immediately end its crackdown.

In a joint news conference held on the sidelines of an Islamic nations’ meeting to discuss famine in Somalia, Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said: “The bloodshed must stop, all soldiers must be withdrawn from the cities and life in these cities must return to normal.”

“It’s important to stop this raging violence and implement reforms,” Jordanian Foreign Minister Nasser Judeh said. “We reject the continuation of the killing.”

Turkey was increasing its consultations with countries in the region to try and find a “common stance” on Syria, Davutoglu said.

Turkey, a neighbor and former close ally of Syria, has been increasingly frustrated with Damascus’ crackdown. Davutoglu traveled to Syria last week and urged Assad to end the bloodshed. But Turkey, Syria’s important trade partner, has not joined the U.S. and Europe in imposing sanctions.