Monday, June 4, 2012

Syrian rebels abandon ceasefire, call on UN for no-fly zone

AFP Photo / D. Leal Olivas

Source: Russia Today

A Syrian rebel spokesman says they are no longer committed to Annan’s ceasefire. He has called for a UN-backed “peace enforcement mission” or a no-fly zone to replace the monitoring mission, demands the UN chief has rejected.

On Friday, the rebel military council had given Syrian President Bashar al-Assad an ultimatum to end violence in the country or face armed reprisals.

"We have decided to end our commitment to this [plan] and starting from that date [Friday] we began defending our people," rebel spokesman Major Sami al-Kurdi told Reuters news agency.

Kurdi was hopeful the current UN-led observer mission to be transformed into “a peace enforcing mission,” with a no-fly zone and a buffer zone being implemented with a mind to toppling the current government.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has rejected the rebels’ call for armed international intervention, saying Annan’s six-point peace plan remains “central” to resolving the crisis, he told the agency on the sidelines of an Islamic Development Bank meeting in Jeddah.

Ban implored Damascus to unequivocally halt violence “in the name of humanity” and redouble its efforts in negotiating with the opposition.

International peace envoy Kofi Annan is expected to meet with US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in Washington on Friday to hold talks on the country, his spokesman said on Monday.

On Sunday, Annan warned “the specter of an all-out war, with an alarming sectarian dimension,” was growing by the day.

The news follows rebel reports that at least 100 Syrian soldiers were killed in clashes and attacks on security check points over the weekend. Insurgents also claim to have destroyed tanks during intense fighting with government forces across the country, including the suburbs of Damascus and the northwestern province of Idlib.

The oppositional Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says it has confirmed the names of 80 slain soldiers with local medics, while Syrian state media reported on Monday that 30 security force members killed in the weekend clashes had been interred.

Tensions in Syria have come to a head following the recent Houla Massacre which left 108 people dead, including 34 women and 49 children.

The UN Security Council strongly condemned the Houla incident, demanding that the Syrian government put an end to using heavy artillery in heavily-populated areas. On Friday, the UN Human Rights Council overwhelmingly voted to condemn Damascus for the events, calling for “a special inquiry” to determine who was behind the massacre.

Russia voted against the resolution, saying the document was unbalanced as it put responsibility for the violence solely on government forces.

Assad for his part denied complicity in the killings on Sunday, saying that “even monsters would not have carried out” the brutal massacre at Houla. The Syrian president remains adamant his country is embroiled in a full-scale civil war, blaming terrorists and external forces for the 15 months of bloodshed that has claimed over 10,000 lives

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