Further 175 hurt in security compound blasts but opposition blames attacks on security forces aiming to disrupt protests
One of two bomb blasts sites in Syria‘s northern city of Aleppo. Photograph: Sana/Reuters
Violence spread to Syria‘s largest city, Aleppo, on Friday with two blasts outside security compounds that left 28 people dead.
The explosions outside military intelligence and police compounds were blamed on terrorists by the state media. Some 175 people were injured, the worst day Aleppo has seen since the uprising against President Bashar al-Assad began last year. The northern city and economic hub has been largely quiet, but protests had been planned for Friday. Anti-Assad activists accused the regime of setting off the blasts to discredit the opposition and disrupt demonstrations.
In Homs, government forces continued their siege of rebel-held districts and other opposition areas, going house to house arresting people in the Insha’at district and keeping up an artillery and tank barrage on Baba Amr.
The intensified campaign began with the failure of the UN security council to agree on a common position last weekend, when Russia and China vetoed a resolution backing an Arab League peace plan and calling on Assad to step down. Moscow and Beijing stuck to their positions on Friday, dashing any residual hopes of a diplomatic breakthrough in the security council. Russia’s deputy foreign minister, Sergey Ryabkov, accused the west of arming the rebel Free Syrian Army.
“Western states inciting Syrian opposition to uncompromising actions, as well as those sending arms to them, giving them advice and direction, are participating in the process of fomenting the crisis,” he said, according to Itar-Tass news agency.
Western governments have denied supplying arms to the Free Syrian Army, which officials on on Friday referred to as a ragtag force of local militias and army deserters. “The Free Syrian Army is less cohesive than the name suggests. In a number of neighbourhoods it is a combination of local residents and defecting soldiers,” a senior European diplomat said, on condition of anonymity. While there have been reports of Gulf states providing arms, observers said there were no sign of modern or sophisticated weapons in rebel hands and that the Free Syria Army had trouble smuggling arms across the Turkish and Jordanian borders.
The US ambassador to Syria yesterday posted satellite imagery on Facebook to show proof of government attacks on residential neighbourhoods in Homs. The commercial satellite image, posted days after closing the embassy in Damascus and titled “Security Operations Escalate in Homs,” has labels pointing out burning buildings, smoke, impact craters, military vehicles and armored vehicles.
However Western capitals have stressed that diplomatic initiatives will be left to Arab states and Turkey. Foreign ministers from the Gulf Cooperation Council are due to meet on Saturday in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, and the Arab League is due to convene in Cairo on Sunday, to draft a new strategy to raise pressure on Damascus without Russian or Chinese help. That strategy is expected to include the creation of a “friends of Syria” group excluding Moscow and Beijing, to impose new sanctions and to rally support for the Arab League peace plan in the UN general assembly.
Turkey and some Arab states have been pressing for urgent action to help pockets of Syrian civilians caught in the conflict with little access to food, water or medical supplies. US and European countries have been resolutely opposed to the creation of a “safe zone” or “humanitarian corridors” because they would require significant military backup to enforce.
“All this talk of humanitarian corridors and no-fly zones – once you start to go through with it and unless you follow it through, you do more harm than good,” the European diplomat said. “A corridor has to be legal and properly protected. Otherwise you expose aid workers to danger, for example. You can’t do this unless you are ready to go the whole hog.”
Russian and Chinese resistance in the security council means it is impossible for now for the international criminal court to start investigating the Assad regime for crimes against humanity. The UN high commissioner for human rights, Navi Pillay, is due to address the general assembly on Monday to press the case for indictments.
“We believe, and we’ve said it and we’ll keep repeating it, that the case of Syria belongs in the international criminal court. This would give a very, very strong message to those running the show,” Rupert Colville, Pillay’s spokesman, said It was also reported that western diplomats have told Syrian officials involved in the suppression of anti-regime protests that they will eventually be held accountable for their actions. Efforts are under way in Western capitals to assemble evidence of human rights abuses by members of president Bashar al Assad’s regime with a view to use in future proceedings..
British officials said the UK government had been providing training and materials for independent human rights groups to record suspected atrocities, to provide admissible evidence for future trials at the international criminal court or elsewhere.
“The UK has funded and is continuing to fund work aimed at collecting evidence of crimes and preserve that evidence so that it can be used at a later date,” the official said. “Even though these people may be out of reach of justice today, there may come a time when are they are not.”
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- Syria: Dozens dead, hundreds injured in northern city of Aleppo (waronterrornews.typepad.com)
- You: Syria bombings hit a city seen as key to Assad’s future (latimes.com)
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