Syrian Army Battles Armed Fighters in Daraa After Subduing Homs, 70 Dead
Syrian army troops battled opposition fighters in the south of the country two days after the government regained control of the Baba Amr district in the central city of Homs.
Six soldiers were killed and nine wounded in clashes today near the southwestern city of Daraa when armed rebels attacked armored personnel carriers and military buses, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said in an e-mailed statement.
Syrian forces killed 70 people today, Al Jazeera television said, citing activists. The government executed 47 soldiers who attempted to defect in the northwestern province of Idlib, Al Arabiya television reported on its website today, citing the Syrian Network for Human Rights.
The monthlong siege of Homs has intensified international pressure on President Bashar al-Assad a year after his forces began a crackdown on protests. The army has used tanks and artillery to protect Assad’s regime and more than 7,500 people have died in the conflict, the United Nations estimates.
Assad forces restored “security and safety” to Baba Amr, “ridding it of members of armed terrorist groups,” the Syrian Arab News Agency said. Shelling of districts in Homs continued today, Al Arabiya reported. A suicide car bomber killed two civilians and injured 20 people and security personnel in Daraa, according to the Syrian Arab News Agency.
“We’ve got a full-scale civil war now,” U.K. Ambassador to the UN Mark Lyall Grant told reporters yesterday at UN headquarters in New York. “You’ve seen what’s happened in Homs over recent days.”
“There is a chance” that the mission by UN special envoy Kofi Annan “could at least start the process of stopping the hostilities, starting a political dialogue which leads to a political transition,” Grant said.
An International Committee of the Red Cross team that arrived in Homs yesterday with Syrian Red Crescent Society personnel wasn’t allowed into the Baba Amr district, the Red Cross said yesterday. The Syrian government told the Red Cross it can’t enter until mines and booby traps are cleared, the British Broadcasting Corp. reported today, without saying where it got the information. The BBC also said there were unconfirmed reports of revenge killings, mass arrests and summary executions by Syrian forces in Baba Amr.
International pressure on the Assad regime has mounted as the conflict has intensified.
The Syrian government “lost its legitimacy once it killed its citizens,” the news service cited Abdullah bin Yahya al- Mua’lemi, the kingdom’s ambassador to the UN, as saying.
The European Union separately said yesterday that it is preparing “further targeted restrictive measures” against Syria, according to a statement from a summit of its leaders in Brussels yesterday. The EU also said it recognized the Syrian National Council, the main opposition alliance, as “a legitimate representative of Syrians.”
Iraq has increased border security to stop the smuggling of weapons and insurgents into Syria, the Iraqi government said today in an e-mailed statement.
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