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The Malaysian Insider :: World


Syrians protest from rooftops after army action

Posted: 30 Apr 2011 06:01 PM PDT

A supporter of Syria's President Bashar al-Assad holds aloft a photograph of the president at Hamidiya market in Damascus April 30, 2011. — Reuters pic

AMMAN, May 1 — Women and children in the besieged Syrian city of Deraa chanted "God is greatest against the tyrant" from rooftops in the night after troops backed by tanks intensified a crackdown on the city, a resident said.

Troops stormed into Deraa, cradle of a six-week-old uprising against President Bashar al-Assad's authoritarian rule, a week ago to try to crush protests that have spread across the country of 20 million. Power and communications have been disrupted.

Yesterday, tanks shelled the old quarter of the southern city and security forces stormed the Omari mosque, a focal point for protests.

"The shelling has intensified. It is the worst night. Women and children are on their rooftops chanting 'God is Greater' against the tyrant," one resident, who lives in the Manshia neighborhood in the old quarter told Reuters by telephone.

He said security forces were entering homes and dragging men onto buses.

The chants echoed the calls of Iranian protesters who took to rooftops in Tehran chanting 'Allahu Akbar' (God is Greatest) during post-election unrest in 2009.

Foreign correspondents have largely been excluded from Syria since the protests escalated and the crackdown began.

A Syrian rights group said at least 560 civilians have been killed in the six-week-old uprising in support of demands for greater political freedom and action against corruption that has flourished under the Baath Party, in power since 1963.

The uprising, unthinkable only months ago, flared after mass protests toppled authoritarian leaders in Egypt and Tunisia. Demonstrations spread in Bahrain and escalated to civil war in Libya.

EMERGENCY LAW LIFTED

Newly appointed Prime Minister Adel Safar was quoted by state news agency SANA as saying his government would in the coming weeks draw up a "complete plan" of political, judicial and economic reforms.

The pledge was unlikely to dampen the intensity of protests. A severe crackdown followed the once-unthinkable gesture of lifting a decades-old emergency law this month.

The government also has little influence as Assad, his family and the security apparatus has a stranglehold on power.

Syria blames armed groups for the violence. On Friday soldiers killed 19 people when they fired on protesters who were trying to enter Deraa from nearby villages in a show of solidarity, a medical source said. Syrian rights groups put Friday's death toll at 62.

SANA quoted an official military source as saying on Saturday that army and security forces units had been chasing "armed terrorist groups" who had attacked properties in Deraa.

The source said six members of the group were killed in the operation, 149 wanted people were arrested, and a large cache of weapons and ammunition had been seized. Two members of the security forces were also killed and seven wounded. — Reuters 

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Libya’s Gaddafi survives air strikes, son killed

Posted: 30 Apr 2011 05:19 PM PDT

Libyans in Benghazi celebrate May 1, 2011, following news that Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi's son was killed. — Reuters pic

TRIPOLI, May 1 — Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi survived a Nato air strike on a Tripoli house that killed his youngest son and three grandchildren, a government spokesman said today.

Libyan officials took journalists to the house, which had been hit by at least three missiles. The roof had completely caved in in some areas, leaving mangled rods of reinforcing steel hanging down among chunks of concrete.

"What we have now is the law of the jungle," government spokesman Mussa Ibrahim told a news conference. "We think now it is clear to everyone that what is happening in Libya has nothing to do with the protection of civilians."

Gaddafi, who seized power in a 1969 coup, is fighting an uprising by rebels who have seized much of the eastern part of the country. British and French-led Nato forces are permitted under a United Nations resolution to mount air attacks on Gaddafi forces to protect civilians.

Inside one part of the villa hit late on yesterday, a beige corner sofa was virtually untouched, but debris had caved in on other striped upholstered chairs. The blasts had been heard across the city late yesterday.

A table football machine stood outside in the garden in a wealthy residential area of Tripoli. Glass and debris covered the lawns, and what appeared to be an unexploded missile lay in one corner.

Spokesman Mussa Ibrahim, who took foreign journalists on a guided tour: "This is not permitted by international law. It is not permitted by any moral code or principle." — Reuters pic

There was no immediate Nato reaction, nor was any independent confirmation of the deaths possible. The appearance of an assassination attempt against Gaddafi could draw criticism.

It appeared to be the second Nato strike near to Gaddafi in 24 hours. A missile struck near the television station early yesterday when the Libyan leader was making an address in which he said he would never step down and offered talks to rebels.

Benghazi rebels, who control a vast swathe of the east of the country, insist they cannot trust Gaddafi.

'Fight and fight'

Rifle fire and car horns rang out in the rebels' eastern capital of Benghazi as news of the attack spread.

"The leader himself is in good health. He wasn't harmed," Ibrahim said. "His wife is also in good health.

"This was a direct operation to assassinate the leader of this country. This is not permitted by international law. It is not permitted by any moral code or principle."

The announcement of the attack was made live on Libyan state television, and Tripoli residents began to fire small arms into the air.

US White House press secretary Jay Carney said the White House was aware of Libyan media reports that Gaddafi's son had been killed and was monitoring the situation.

Ibrahim said Gaddafi's youngest son, Saif al-Arab, had been killed in the attack. Saif al-Arab, 29, is one of Gaddafi's less prominent sons, with a limited role in the power structure. Ibrahim described him as a student who had studied in Germany.

Gaddafi's daughter was killed in a US air strike in 1986, ordered after a bomb attack on a West Berlin discotheque killed two US servicemen. Washington linked Tripoli to the attack.

"We will fight and fight if we have to," Ibrahim said. "The leader offered peace to Nato yesterday and Nato rejected it."

Fighting in Libya's civil war, which grew from protests for greater political freedom that have spread across the Arab world, has reached stalemate in recent weeks, with neither side capable of achieving a decisive blow.

Libyan forces had reached the gates of Benghazi last month when Gaddafi appeared on television declaring he would crush the rebellion, showing "no pity, no mercy". Days later the United Nations passed its resolution allowing the air strikes and saving the rebels from defeat. — Reuters

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