Damascus rocked by 'most intense' fighting of revolt

Syria's army blasted rebel strongholds in Damascus with mortars Sunday, sparking the "most intense" fighting in the capital since the revolt erupted 16 months ago, a monitoring group said.

The army's offensive, aimed at driving rebels of the Free Syrian Army (FSA) out of Damascus, was launched soon after the foreign ministry held a press conference to deny its troops had carried out a massacre in Treimsa village.

"The regular army fired mortar rounds into several suburbs" where FSA rebels are entrenched, said Rami Abdel Rahman, head of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

The fighting was heaviest in the Tadamon, Kfar Sousa, Nahr Aisha and Sidi Qadad neighbourhoods, he said. Six civilians were reported killed in the city.

"(It has) never been this intense," Abdel Rahman told AFP.

"The security forces are attempting to take control of these neighbourhoods but so far they have not succeeded," he added.

The Local Coordination Committees, which organise anti-regime protests in Syria, said plumes of black smoke were billowing out of Tadamon late Sunday and that loud explosions had been heard in Nahr Aisha.

The Britain-based Observatory said violence across Syria on Sunday had killed 105 people -- 48 civilians, 16 rebels and 41 soldiers.

The main opposition coalition, the Syrian National Council (SNC), hailed the insurgents fighting army troops in the capital, accusing the regime of having transformed rebel neighbourhoods into "a battlefield."

"The revolution is spreading and has tightened the noose around the regime in zones where it thought it was beyond the anger of the people," SNC spokesman Georges Sabra said in a speech shown on Arab satellite networks.

"We place on the Arab League and the international community the responsibility for any disastrous result from what is going on in Homs and Damascus," he added.

Rights activists say more than 150 people were massacred by Syrian troops backed by pro-regime shabiha militiamen on Thursday in the central village of Treimsa.

If the number is confirmed, this would be one of the bloodiest episodes of the uprising against President Bashar al-Assad, which rights activists say has cost more than 17,000 lives since March 2011.

But foreign ministry spokesman Jihad Makdissi vehemently denied both the allegations of a massacre and the number of people reportedly killed.

"What happened was not a massacre ... It was a clash between regular forces and armed groups who do not believe in a peaceful solution," Makdissi told reporters in Damascus.

Makdissi also denied activists' allegations that helicopters and heavy weapons had been used in the assault on Treimsa.

"This is absolutely not true. Only troop carriers and light weapons were used, the most powerful of weapons being RPGs (rocket-propelled grenades)," he said.

Makdissi said "only five buildings, where there were very sophisticated weapons, were targeted".

And dismissing allegations of more than 150 killed, he said that "37 armed men were killed and two civilians only", citing an unidentified source who claimed to have buried them.

The UN Supervision Mission in Syria said a team of "specialised civilian and military experts" had visited Treimsa on Sunday to continue their investigation into the reports of the mass killing.

"The integrated patrol ... observed over 50 houses that were burned and/or destroyed. Pools of blood and brain matter were observed in a number of homes," UNSMIS spokeswoman Sausan Ghosheh said in a statement.

"On the basis of some of the destruction observed in the town and the witness accounts, the attack appears targeted at army defectors and activists," she added.

"The number of casualties is still unclear."

The Treimsa incident has galvanised international diplomatic efforts over the crisis.

On Monday, UN-Arab League envoy Kofi Annan and UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon are headed respectively for Russia and China to press the two UN Security Council members to back tougher action against Assad's regime.

The visits by Annan and Ban come at a crucial new stage in the conflict.

The Security Council has until Friday to renew the UN mission in Syria but is divided over Western calls to add sanctions.

"So divided that maybe Annan and Ban now have the most influence over Russia and China to get anything done," said one senior UN council diplomat, speaking on condition of anonymity.

A draft statement which said the Syria government was in "violation" of its international commitments was circulated among the 15 Council nations on Friday, diplomats said.

Russia's envoys said they could not agree. Russia has led the resistance and Annan was to meet President Vladimir Putin and Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov during two days of talks in Moscow, said his spokesman Ahmad Fawzi.

China has supported Russia's position and Ban heads for Beijing on Monday, officially for a China-Africa summit.

But Syria will top his agenda when he meets President Hu Jintao and other senior leaders, said a UN official.

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.

  • Philippine, Vietnamese troops play soccer and sing on disputed island

    By Manuel Mogato MANILA (Reuters) - Vietnamese and Philippine troops played soccer and sang karaoke on a South China Sea island on Wednesday in a sign of the growing security ties between the two Southeast Asian nations most at odds with Beijing over the contested waterway. Cooperation has blossomed between Hanoi and Manila since they shelved decades of enmity over their competing claims in the Spratly archipelago to try to counter China, whose creation of artificial islands in the region …

  • SE Asia Stocks - Fall on renewed U.S. rate hike concerns

    BANGKOK, May 27 (Reuters) - Southeast Asian stock markets tumbled on Wednesday as investors resumed selling on expectations of an interest rate hike in the U.S. sooner rather than later, derailing Philippine ... …

  • Phl, US defense chiefs to meet on sea dispute
    Phl, US defense chiefs to meet on sea dispute

    As US aircraft carrier USS Ronald Regan began its journey to Asian waters amid China’s power flexing in the region, Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin would try to hear directly from his US counterpart how far America is willing to go to aid its long-time ally against China’s threatening moves in disputed waters. Gazmin flew to Hawaii last Monday to attend ceremonies for the turnover of leadership of the United States Pacific Command (USPACOM) from Admiral Samuel Locklear to Admiral Harry …

  • Water in Angat Dam falls below critical level
    Water in Angat Dam falls below critical level

    The water level of Angat Dam in Bulacan yesterday fell below the 180-meter critical level for irrigation, the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA) said. PAGASA said the dam’s water level further dropped to 179.98 meters as of 6 a.m. yesterday from 180.2 meters on Monday. The priority is the domestic consumption in Metro Manila, according to PAGASA. …

  • PCSO gets P3-B fund for medical aid
    PCSO gets P3-B fund for medical aid

    The Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO) reported yesterday that an estimated P3-billion charity fund has been allocated by Congress to the agency to provide medical assistance to indigent patients and also give funds to other government offices including the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) and the Crop Insurance Program. …

  • Image of Asia: Tearing down squatters' homes near Manila
    Image of Asia: Tearing down squatters' homes near Manila

    In this photo by Bullit Marquez, a demolition crew begins to tear down a squatters' community at suburban Caloocan city, north of Manila, Philippines. Population growth and the lack of economic opportunities in rural areas have driven millions of Filipinos into the squatters' colonies that dot the sprawling metropolitan area in and around Manila. Most of the land they occupy is privately owned, and clearing the dwellings often results in violence. The landowner had offered about $1,344 in …

  • SE Asia Stocks - Mostly down; Thai shares near 2-week low

    BANGKOK, May 26 (Reuters) - Most sharemarkets in Southeast Asia fell on Tuesday with the Thai index ending at a near two-week low and the Philippines touching a near four-week low after trade data while ... …

  • China breaks ground on lighthouse project in South China Sea

    China hosted a groundbreaking ceremony for the building of two lighthouses in the disputed South China Sea, state media said on Tuesday, a move that is likely to escalate tensions in a region already jittery about Beijing's maritime ambitions. China's Ministry of Transport hosted the ceremony for the construction of two multi-functional lighthouses on Huayang Reef and Chigua Reef on the disputed Spratly islands, state news agency Xinhua said, defying calls from the United States and the …

POLL

Should Aquino be held accountable over the Mamasapano operations?

Loading...
Poll Choice Options