Syria opposition, rebels urge mass defections

The new head of Syria's main opposition group called Sunday for mass defections from a Syrian regime struggling to survive by carrying out massacres, as the death toll in the uprising topped 14,000.

Similar calls were made by the rebel Free Syrian Army (FSA), which also urged a campaign of mass "civil disobedience" to ratchet up internal pressure on President Bashar al-Assad's beleaguered regime.

"We are entering a sensitive phase. The regime is on its last legs," Kurdish activist Abdel Basset Sayda told AFP shortly after being named the new leader of the opposition Syrian National Council (SNC).

"The multiplying massacres and shellings show that it is struggling," he said of mass deaths of civilians, the most recent of which saw 20 people, mostly women and children, killed in a bombardment of the southern city of Daraa Saturday.

At his first news conference since taking over the reins, Sayda called on all members of the Damascus regime to defect, while reaching out to minority groups by promising them a full say in a future, democratic Syria.

"We call upon all officials in the regime and in the institutions to defect from the regime," Sayda told reporters in Istanbul.

The FSA, meanwhile, called for a campaign of civil disobedience and urged officers and troops in Assad's military to jump ship and join the rebel ranks.

"We call on Syrians to launch a general strike leading to mass civil disobedience," FSA spokesman in Syria Colonel Kassem Saadeddine said in a statement.

He urged officers and men in Syria's regular army "whose hands are not tainted with blood to join the fighters."

New SNC chief Sayda replaced Paris-based academic Burhan Ghalioun, who stepped down last month in the face of mounting splits that were undermining the group's credibility.

Activists accused Ghalioun of ignoring the Local Coordination Committees, which spearhead anti-government protests on the ground in Syria, and of giving the Muslim Brotherhood too big a role.

Sayda, 55, has lived in exile in Sweden for two decades and is seen as a consensus candidate capable of reconciling the rival factions within the SNC and of broadening its appeal among Syria's myriad of ethnic and confessional groups.

He is not in any political party, and SNC officials call him a "conciliatory" figure, "honest" and "independent."

Sayda reached out to minority groups in Syria, following criticism of the SNC for failing to represent the country's full array of ethnic and religious groups including Arabs, Kurds, Sunni Muslims, Alawites, Christians, Druze and others.

"We would like to reassure all sects and groups, especially Alawites and Christians, that the future of Syria will be for the all of us," he said.

"The Annan plan still exists but it has not been implemented," Sayda said of a peace blueprint thrashed out by UN-Arab League envoy Kofi Annan that was supposed to begin with a ceasefire from April 12 but which has been violated daily.

"We will work for this plan to be included under Chapter VII of the UN Charter, to force the regime to implement it and to leave all options open," Sayda said.

Chapter VII allows for sanctions and, in extreme cases, military action.

Russia and China, infuriated by the NATO campaign in Libya last year, have vowed to oppose any military intervention, but British Foreign Secretary William Hague refused on Sunday to rule out the possibility.

"We don't know how things are going to develop. Syria is on the edge of a collapse or of a sectarian civil war, and so I don't think we can rule anything out," Hague told Sky News television.

"It is looking more like Bosnia in the 1990s, of being on the edge of a sectarian conflict in which neighbouring villages are attacking and killing each other."

The violence has intensified despite the presence of 300 United Nations observers charged with monitoring the putative truce.

On Saturday, at least 111 people -- 83 civilians and 28 soldiers -- were killed in one of the heaviest single-day death tolls since the nominal start of the ceasefire, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

It also reported at least 57 people killed nationwide on Sunday -- 37 civilians, 16 soldiers, three army deserters and one rebel fighter.

The latest deaths bring to more than 14,100 the number of people killed since March last year, including 9,862 civilians, 3,470 soldiers and 783 army deserters, the Observatory said.

Hundreds of rebels remained holed up in Latakia province, a loyalist stronghold on the Mediterranean coast, it said.

The army sent reinforcements to the mainly Alawite province where rebels have grouped in a Sunni Muslim enclave around the town of Al-Heffa, it added.

Nearly 60 soldiers have died since June 5 in battles with opposition fighters in the enclave, which lies some 50 kilometres (30 miles) from the Turkish border. At least 46 civilians and rebels have also been killed.

Loading...

Editor’s note:Yahoo Philippines encourages responsible comments that add dimension to the discussion. No bashing or hate speech, please. You can express your opinion without slamming others or making derogatory remarks.

  • Sy moves up, Villar enters Forbes list of billionaires
    Sy moves up, Villar enters Forbes list of billionaires

    Eleven Filipinos are included in Forbes’ 2015 list of richest people in the world. Filipino-Chinese tycoon Henry Sy Sr. continues to be the wealthiest man in the Philippines. The 90-year-old SM supermalls, banking and property tycoon ranked 73rd among the world’s richest with an increased net worth of $14.2 billion from $11.4 billion last year. Sy’s net worth was attributed to the continued growth of his SM Investments Corp. and his more recent venture, the City of Dreams Manila resort and …

  • Jolo apologizes to Bong in visit
    Jolo apologizes to Bong in visit

    Cavite Vice Gov. Jolo Revilla wept and embraced his father as he apologized for the “accidental” shooting incident in their Ayala Alabang residence, the family’s spokesman said yesterday. Lawyer Raymund Fortun came out of the private room at the Asian Hospital and Medical Center in Muntinlupa City to speak to reporters, who were barred from entering the hospital compound during the visit of Sen. Ramon “Bong” Revilla Jr. …

  • N. Korea fires missiles in anger at South-US military drills
    N. Korea fires missiles in anger at South-US military drills

    North Korea fired two short-range ballistic missiles into the sea and vowed "merciless" retaliation Monday as the US and South Korea kicked off joint military drills denounced by Pyongyang as recklessly confrontational. The annual exercises always trigger a surge in military tensions and warlike rhetoric on the divided peninsula, and analysts saw the North's missile tests as a prelude to a concerted campaign of sabre-rattling. "If there is a particularly sharp escalation, we could see the …

  • Australian drug smugglers being taken to Indonesian island for execution - media
    Australian drug smugglers being taken to Indonesian island for execution - media

    By Jane Wardell and Beawiharta SYDNEY/DENPASAR, Indonesia (Reuters) - Two convicted Australian drug smugglers were removed from a prison in Bali on Wednesday to be taken to an Indonesian island where they will be shot by firing squad, Australian media reported. The planned executions of Myuran Sukumaran, 33, and Andrew Chan, 31, have ratcheted up diplomatic tensions amid repeated pleas of mercy for the pair from Australia and thrown a spotlight on Indonesia's increasing use of the death …

  • No need for Revilla to visit son – prosecutors
    No need for Revilla to visit son – prosecutors

    Instead of filing an opposition, ombudsman prosecutors filed a manifestation yesterday expressing belief that there is no urgent need for Sen. Ramon “Bong” Revilla Jr. to visit his son at the Asian Hospital and Medical Center. “Based on the clinical abstract issued by the Asian Hospital on patient (Cavite) Vice-governor (Jolo) Revilla, which was submitted by accused Revilla in support of his Urgent Motion, Vice-governor Revilla is in stable condition and has stable vital signs, as of March 1, …

  • Another source of SAF execution video identified
    Another source of SAF execution video identified

    The National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) is still tracing the source of the video showing one of the wounded police commandos being finished off by Muslim rebels during the encounter in Mamasapano, Maguindanao last Jan. 25. A source from the Department of Justice (DOJ) said they have identified two persons who first uploaded the video that went viral over social networking sites. The supposed source of the video was elusive and claimed that somebody just placed it on an external drive. The …

  • Couple married 67 years holds hands in final hours together
    Couple married 67 years holds hands in final hours together

    FRESNO, Calif. (AP) — After spending 67 years together as devoted husband and wife, there was no question how Floyd and Violet Hartwig would end their lives — together. …

  • How Islamic is Islamic State group? Not very, experts say
    How Islamic is Islamic State group? Not very, experts say

    CAIRO (AP) — Three British schoolgirls believed to have gone to Syria to become "jihadi" brides. Three young men charged in New York with plotting to join the Islamic State group and carry out attacks on American soil. A masked, knife-wielding militant from London who is the face of terror in videos showing Western hostages beheaded. …

POLL

Should Aquino be held accountable over the Mamasapano operations?

Loading...
Poll Choice Options