Syrian refugees in Lebanon recount terror
06 March 2012, 08:24
Qaa - Syrian refugees fleeing to neighbouring Lebanon on Monday said
they feared they would be slaughtered in their own homes as government
forces hunted down opponents in a brutal offensive against the
opposition stronghold of Homs.
Activists accused the regime of
trying to hide its crimes from the world as the military cracks down on
an anti-government uprising that has raged for nearly a year.
world pressure at a peak in the boiling crisis, the Syrian regime
agreed to allow in two prominent international emissaries it had
previously rebuffed - former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, the new
special envoy to Syria, and UN humanitarian chief Valerie Amos.
Annan goes to Damascus on Saturday and Amos said she will arrive in the capital on Wednesday and leave on Friday.
said the aim of the visit is "to urge all sides to allow unhindered
access for humanitarian relief workers so they can evacuate the wounded
and deliver essential supplies".
The Obama administration added
Syrian state television and radio to a US sanctions list part of an
effort to block Syrian government assets within the US.
Treasury Department's sanctions chief Adam Szubin said the Syrian
General Organization of Radio and TV has "served as an arm of the Syrian
regime as it mounts increasingly barbaric attacks on its own population
and seeks both to mask and legitimize its violence".
He said any
institutions supporting President Bashar Assad government's "abhorrent
behaviour will be targeted and cut off from the international financial
The UN refugee agency said Monday that as many as 2 000
Syrians had crossed into Lebanon over the last two days. In the Lebanese
border village of Qaa, families with women with small children came
carrying only plastic bags filled with a few belongings.
fled the shelling and the strikes," said Hassana Abu Firas. She came
with two families who had fled government shelling of their town
al-Qusair, about 22km away, on the other side of the Syrian border.
The town is in Homs province, where the government has been waging a brutal offensive for the past month.
are we supposed to do? People are sitting in their homes and they are
hitting us with tanks," Firas told The Associated Press. "Those who can
flee, do. Those who can't will die sitting down."
security officials say more than 10 000 Syrians are believed to be in
the country. One official said as many as 3 000 are believed to have
crossed in recent days because of violence in Homs, though it is unclear
how many have returned to Syria.
The officials spoke on condition of anonymity under government protocol.
Lebanon, many Syrians fear agents from their own country's security
services. Stories have circulated of kidnappings and collaboration
between Lebanese and Syrian security forces. Syria controlled Lebanon
for decades and Hezbollah, the party which now dominates Lebanon's
government, is closely allied with Syria and Iran.
Turkey says it
hosts more than 11 000 Syrians in camps along the border with Syria,
including more than 1 000 who crossed in the last month. About 100 have
crossed in the last two days.
Jordan has more than 80 000 Syrian refugees, according to the government.
hardest-hit district of Homs is Baba Amr, an area that had been held by
rebels for several months before regime forces drove them out on
Thursday at the end of nearly four straight weeks of relentless
Although the government promised to let the Red Cross
enter Baba Amr immediately, regime forces refused to let the
humanitarian teams inside, citing security concerns. On Monday, the Red
Cross said it had received new permission to enter, but the lockout
Concerns were mounting
over the humanitarian situation in Baba Amr. Activists alleged that
after the Syrian forces seized back control of Baba Amr, they killed
dozens of residents execution-style and burned homes in revenge attacks
against those believed to be supporting the rebels. Civilians also were
facing severe cold and hunger.
Activists say hundreds have been
killed in the month-long Homs offensive and the UN recently put the
death toll for a year of violence in Syria at 7 500. However, activists
group say the toll has already surpassed 8 000.
Mulham al-Jundi accused Syrian forces of keeping aid teams out of Baba
Amr to hide their activities there. He said he heard a few explosions in
the neighbourhood and saw columns of smoke there from a rooftop
elsewhere in the city.
"We have heard explosions in Baba Amr, so
it seems that they are destroying some of the houses and important
centres there," he said via Skype.
But after seizing Baba Amr from
the rebels, regime forces appeared to be turning their attention to
other rebellious areas, including the town of Rastan in Homs province
and the northern province of Idlib, which borders Turkey.
shift suggested that the Syrian military is unable to launch large
operations simultaneously, even though the security services remain
largely strong and loyal.
Assad, and his father who ruled before
him, stacked key military posts with members of their minority Alawite
sect - an offshoot of Shi'ite Islam - over the past 40 years, ensuring
the loyalty of the armed forces by melding the fate of the army and the
Still, there have been reports of steady defections from the mostly Sunni conscripts.
This is our land
up largely of defectors, the Free Syrian Army is perhaps the most
potent armed force trying to topple the regime although they remain
largely disparate around the country and do not hold any significant
amount of territory.
In Idlib, Free Syrian Army fighters said
they were on high alert after receiving information warning of tanks
and heavy artillery being moved into position around the city.
happened in Homs is the act of the Assad army and nasty bandits," Seif
Al Hak, an FSA fighter, told the AP. "But God willing we are ready. If
the Syrian Army tries to enter our city, we are in our rights.
"This is our land. We will defend our land, our country and we will not surrender until death and we will be martyrs."
families have already fled Idlib; a truck overloaded with women and
children left the city Sunday. In at least one area, the only movement
on the streets was Free Syrian Army patrols.