Syria: Stage set for 'decisive' battle
26 July 2012, 09:30
Damascus - Syrian troops and rebels sent
reinforcements to the intensifying battle in the second city Aleppo, as
the US said fresh defections from the regime showed President Bashar
Assad's "days are numbered".
Clashes raged on Wednesday in
Aleppo's central Al-Jamaliya neighbourhood, near the local headquarters
of the ruling Baath party. In Kalasseh in the south of the city, rebels
set a police station ablaze, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.
gunships strafed several neighbourhoods of the commercial capital,
causing deaths and injuries, according to the British-based watchdog
A rebel spokesperson said via Skype that a "large number"
of troops have been moved from the northwestern province of Idlib to
A Syrian newspaper journalist confirmed that the rebels were also reinforcing.
peacekeeping chief Herve Ladsous said he had told Syrian officials that
without a significant reduction in violence, the remaining 150 UN
observers would leave on the expiry of the "final" 30-day extension of
the mission's mandate, agreed by the Security Council on 20 July.
As the violence increases, high-level defections from Assad's regime are growing.
United States on Wednesday confirmed the defections of two more senior
Syrian diplomats, the ambassadors to the United Arab Emirates and
White House spokesperson Jay Carney told reporters aboard
Air Force One that the moves showed that "senior officials around the
Assad inner circle are fleeing the government because of the heinous
actions taken by Assad against his own people, and the recognition that
Assad's days are numbered".
Earlier a senior State Department
official said; "these defections serve as a reminder that the bottom is
starting to fall out of the regime. It is crumbling and losing its grip
UN chief Ban Ki-moon, in Bosnia to visit the site of
the Srebrenica genocide in 1995, told the parliament there that "the
international community is being tested in Syria".
The juxtaposition of the massacre and what is happening in Syria was clear.
Giving talks a chance
make a plea to the world: Do not delay... Act now to stop the slaughter
in Syria," Ban said. "The echoes are deafening: An accelerated slide to
civil war. Growing sectarian strife. Villages and children butchered."
House spokesperson Carney condemned the use of attack helicopters as
"another indication of the depth of depravity" of Assad's regime.
aiming to regain the diplomatic initiative, Russia's UN ambassador
Vitaly Churkin said Moscow was ready to host talks between the two
"We are ready to give the opposition and the government a
platform in Moscow to forge contacts to unify the opposition and for
negotiations with the government," he said.
Minister Sergei Lavrov lashed out at the United States for backing the
armed opposition, saying a US failure to condemn the 18 July bombing
that killed four top Syrian security officials meant it was justifying
And a Russian foreign ministry statement said a new round
of EU sanctions agreed this week, which allows for the inspection of
vessels and planes suspected of carrying arms to Syria, amounted to an
air and sea "blockade".
No military aid
It said experts needed to look into the EU legislation to see whether it was in line with international law.
has protected its Soviet-era ally and last week, with China, vetoed a
Council resolution on Syria for the third time to the outrage of western
The United States, Britain, France and Germany have
said they will seek action against the Syrian government outside the
council. All have rejected providing military aid to the opposition,
The Britain-based Syrian Observatory also reported
clashes in the Al-Hajar Al-Aswad district of Damascus, one of the last
remaining rebel bastions after 10 days of fighting in the capital.
Hama province in central Syria, a couple and their two children were
killed as they tried to flee shelling. A video distributed by the
Observatory showed grisly footage of the bodies.
monitoring group put the death toll at 108 by Wednesday evening - 57
civilians, 36 soldiers and 15 rebels, while it said 158 people were
killed across Syria on Tuesday.
group Amnesty International warned about disturbing reports of "summary
executions" by both Syrian troops and rebels, calling them "serious
violations of international law".
Turkey indefinitely closed three border crossings to Turkish nationals trying to get into Syria, citing security concerns.
The UN refugee agency in Geneva said about 300 people fled from Syria into Turkey on Tuesday night.
Saudi Arabia is proposing a UN General Assembly resolution which will
highlight a Syrian government threat to use chemical weapons, its UN
Ambassador Abdallah al-Mouallimi told reporters the
resolution would be submitted in coming days and he hoped for a vote
"probably early next week".