Carnage continues 1 year later in Syria
Mar 18, 2012
Thursday marks a year since Syrians took to the streets, emboldened by the successes of other Arab Spring nations, and began protesting against President Bashar al-Assad. Last March 15, hundreds stormed the streets in the southern city of Daraa, angry about abuses against schoolchildren, in a protest called a “”Day of Rage.”” A year later, the protests have spread as has the misery. More than 8,000 civilians have been killed in a brutal crackdown by al-Assad forces, the United Nations says. Countless others are missing, thousands are injured and hundreds of thousands have fled. And as the international community ponders a solution, the carnage seems endless. “”The people of Syria need our help,”” said Valerie Amos, the U.N. humanitarian chief. “”They want peace, security and stability, so they can get on with their lives. We must do everything we can to stop the violence and end the suffering of people caught in the conflict.”” Wednesday was no different in Syria as the civilian death toll climbed. The opposition said 82 people died Wednesday across Syria, including dozens in the rebel stronghold of Idlib, where activists reported Syrian military forces had seized control following a four-day onslaught. Only pockets of the city were held by soldiers who have defected, the activists said. U.N.-Arab League envoy for the country, Kofi Annan continued to try and get responses from Syrian authorities to proposals laid out over the weekend for ending the bloodshed. Annan “”has questions and is seeking answers,”” said a statement by his spokesman. “”But given the grave and tragic situation on the ground, everyone must realize that time is of the essence. As he said in the region, this crisis cannot be allowed to drag on.”” Annan met last weekend in Damascus with al-Assad in an attempt to reach a diplomatic solution to the crisis. Three U.S. administration officials said earlier that al-Assad doesn’t recognize the former U.N. secretary-general as the Arab League’s representative and had rejected Annan’s efforts. Al-Assad also said he will not do anything until the opposition lays down its arms, the sources said. Annan will brief the U.N. Security Council on Friday, according to the United Kingdom’s mission to the United Nations, which holds the Security Council presidency this month. World powers will continue to attempt to pressure al-Assad’s regime and focus on getting humanitarian aid to Syrians, U.S. President Barack Obama said Wednesday at a news conference with British Prime Minister David Cameron. The Syrian regime is being isolated politically, diplomatically and economically, by tightening sanctions, Obama said, while the Syrian opposition is growing stronger and military defections are continuing. Cameron said his country wants “”revolution rather than civil war”” in Syria. Syrian state-run media Wednesday said security forces “”have brought safety and security back to the city”” of Idlib, “”which witnessed terrorist acts by armed gangs.”” Al-Assad’s regime routinely insists “”armed terrorist groups”” are behind the bloodshed in Syria. CNN cannot independently confirm reports of casualties or attacks in Syria because the government has severely restricted the access of international journalists. But most reports from inside Syria indicate the regime is slaughtering civilians to wipe out dissidents seeking al-Assad’s ouster. The al-Assad family has ruled Syria for more than four decades. More than 8,000 people have been killed in the conflict, including many women and children, the president of the U.N. General Assembly said this week. Opposition activists have put the toll at more than 9,600. Also, Saudi Arabia and Italy on Wednesday became the latest countries to suspend embassy activities in Damascus and withdraw their staffs. Spain suspended its embassy activities earlier this month, and the United States and France previously closed their embassies. “”We reiterate the firmest condemnation of the unacceptable violence perpetrated by the Syrian regime against its citizens,”” Italy’s foreign office said in a statement. “”Italy will continue to support the Syrian people and to work toward a peaceful solution to the crisis that ensures their fundamental rights and legitimate democratic aspirations.”” However, Venezuela’s parliament on Tuesday passed “”an agreement in solidarity with Syria in light of the imperial threat presented by the United States and its Arab allies.””