AND the past seven days have been the bloodiest so far with 916 deaths.
“The pace of the killings has escalated,” the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said on Wednesday.
“The last week was the bloodiest week of the Syrian Revolution,” Observatory director Rami Abdel Rahman told AFP by telephone. He said 916 people had been killed from June 20 to 26.
Of the 15,804 people killed since March last year, 4,681 had lost their lives since a UN-backed ceasefire was supposed to take effect on April 12, he said.
Of those, roughly a quarter - 1,197 – had been killed since the UN observer mission intended to oversee the peace plan suspended its operations on June 16 in the face of the mounting violence.
“The last month, from May 26 to June 26, was the deadliest since the start of the protests. During this period, 3,426 people were killed,” Abdel Rahman said.
The statistics were released after 129 people were killed in violence on Tuesday, 79 of them civilians, according to the Observatory’s figures.
The UN’s deputy envoy for Syria, Jean-Marie Guehenno, told the UN Human Rights Council on Wednesday that the violence in Syria had “reached or even surpassed” levels seen before the ceasefire agreement and that a six-point peace plan forged by his boss, UN-Arab League envoy Kofi Annan, “is clearly not being implemented”.
Senior diplomats said world powers would meet on Saturday in an attempt to end the bloodshed.
Meanwhile, a report on UN probe into a massacre in the central Syrian village of Houla has concluded that forces loyal to the government “may have been responsible” for many of the deaths.
The report released to the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva by UN-appointed human rights experts said most of the victims were women and children who were slaughtered in their homes.
The findings of the report triggered a walkout by the Syrian delegation as it was being read out.
“We will not participate in this flagrantly political meeting,” said Syrian ambassador Faisal Khabbaz Hamoui before leaving the hall.
The walkout came as the commission told the council that the unrest was taking on an increasingly sectarian basis.
“Where previously victims were targeted on the basis of their being pro or anti-government, a growing number of victims appear to have been targeted because of their religious affiliation,” said the report.
It said: “Gross violations of human rights are occurring regularly, in the context of increasingly militarised fighting.”
Armed rebels stormed a pro-government Syrian TV station, killing seven members of the press. The rebels detonated explosives and kidnapped other TV station employees. Targeting the press is not a pro-democratic strategy.
DAMASCUS, Syria (AP) — Gunmen raided the headquarters of a pro-government Syrian TV station early Wednesday, killing seven employees, kidnapping others and demolishing buildings, officials said. The government blamed terrorists and described the killings as a “massacre.”
An Associated Press photographer who visited the Al-Ikhbariya station’s compound said five portable buildings used for offices and studios had collapsed, with blood on the floor and wooden partitions still on fire. Some walls had bullet holes.
Al-Ikhbariya is privately-owned but strongly supports President Bashar Assad‘s regime. Pro-government journalists have been attacked on several previous occasions during the country’s 15-month uprising, although such incidents are comparatively rare.
Information Minister Omran al-Zoebi said the killings were “a massacre against the freedom of the press” in remarks broadcast on state TV. He later told reporters that it had been carried out by terrorists – the same word the government uses for rebels.
Rebels deny they target the media.
Much of the violence that has gripped Syria over the past 15 months has been sanctioned by the government to crush dissent. But rebel fighters are launching increasingly deadly attacks on regime targets, and several massive suicide attacks this year suggest al-Qaida or other extremists are joining the fray.
Many in the opposition consider the media an arm of the regime. Syria does not have a free press and most news organizations are either state-run or private bodies that carry the government’s point of view. Most of the private TV stations and newspapers are owned by politicians or wealthy businessmen who have close links to the regime.
Assad denies that there is any popular will behind the uprising, saying terrorists are behind a conspiracy to destroy the country.
Al-Zoebi, the information minister, said gunmen stormed the station’s compound in the town of Drousha, about 20 kilometers (14 miles) south of the capital Damascus, and detonated explosives. He said the attackers killed seven people and kidnapped others.
Restrictions on the media make it difficult to verify accounts of events on the ground.
An employee at the station said several other staffers were wounded in the attack, which happened just before 4 a.m. local time. He said the gunmen kidnapped him along with several station guards. He was released but the guards were not.
The employee, who did not give his name for fear of repercussions, said the gunmen drove him about 200 meters (yards) away, and then he heard the explosion of the station being demolished.
“I was terrified when they blindfolded me and took me away,” the man said by telephone.
Earlier this month, two Al-Ikhbariya employees were shot and seriously wounded by gunmen in the northwestern town of Haffa while covering clashes between government troops and insurgents.
Hours after the attack, the station was still on the air, broadcasting a rally in Damascus’ main square against the station raid.
Also Wednesday, Burhan Ghalioun, the former leader of Syria’s main opposition group, said he briefly entered rebel-held areas in the north of the country in a rare trip by the exiled political opposition to the country. Ghalioun told Al-Jazeera TV that the areas he visited in Idlib province are ruling themselves, without any regime presence.
Ghalioun, former head of the Syrian National Council, did not say when the visit happened.
“I went to see the war that the Syrian regime is staging,” Ghalioun said. “The regime continues to shell and kill.” Ghalioun said he spoke with wounded Syrians including some who lost limbs and others who were paralyzed.
He added that he was able to drive about freely and that “part of the country is liberated.”
Activists reported violence throughout Syria on Wednesday. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, an activist network, said at least 10 government soldiers were killed in an ambush in the eastern province of Deir el-Zour.
The group said that rebels on Tuesday were able to shoot down a helicopter gunship in Idlib province. Amateur videos showed a helicopter burning in a field but the report could not be independently confirmed.
Activists reported other clashes, mostly in Idlib and nearby Aleppo province as well as rebel-held areas in the central city of Homs that have been under government attack for nearly three weeks.
In neighboring Turkey, some 30 more Syrian soldiers defected with their families overnight, the country’s state-run Anadolu news agency reported Wednesday. It was not clear if the group included any senior officers.
Assad’s regime has suffered an embarrassing string of high-ranking defections this week, with dozens of soldiers, including senior officers, reported to have fled to Turkey.
- Three killed in raid on Syria’s Ikhbariya TV station (independent.co.uk)
- Gunmen Attack TV Station In Syria (huffingtonpost.com)
- Syria: TV station attacked, 3 staffers killed (usatoday.com)
- Syria: Gunmen attack pro-government TV station, killing 3 employees (foxnews.com)
- Gunmen storm Pro-Assad Syrian TV channel – Reuters (reuters.com)
- Gunmen ‘storm pro-Assad Syria TV’ (bbc.co.uk)
My heart aches for the middle east. It is a mess.
Here is a U.N. observer with Syrian rebels in April.
From The New York Times
“Syria’s state-run news agency, SANA, said United Nations monitors visited the central city of Hama on Sunday, where they met with the governor, while opposition activists said observers visited Rastan, a rebel-held town south of Hama. An amateur video posted online showed two white United Nations vehicles driving in Rastan accompanied by a red pickup truck with the words “Free Army” written on it.”
The next photo is from earlier this month. It shows a U.N. observer walking with a man wearing a shirt with an Al Qaeda flag emblem, according to the caption. I cannot make out the symbol.
See photo at news.daylife.com
” Getty Images 1 week ago
A man wearing a black shirt bearing an Al-Qaeda flag (L) speaks with a UN observer as monitors meet with rebels and civilians in the village of Azzara in the province of Homs on May 4, 2012. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says the unrest in Syria has killed more than 11,000 people since an anti-regime uprising broke out in March last year.”