1 Aug 2012

Assad says foreign enemy agents undermining stability

New video emerges apparently showing Syrian rebels executing unarmed government forces, while Bashar al-Assad blames foreign enemies for plotting to undermine the country’s stability.

In one of the videos, rebel fighters appear to be executing four men identified as pro-Assad shabbiha militia. The men are lined up against a wall and shot with rifles as onlookers shout: “God is great.” When the smoke clears, a pile of bodies can be seen near a wall in what may be a schoolyard in Aleppo.

In another video, rebels gloat after appearing to take over a police station in Nayrab, southeast of Aleppo, on Tuesday. The bodies of about 15 men were apparently lying dead inside the building. A rebel pointed his rifle at a body believed to be the commander of the station, identified as Lieutenant Ahmad al-Khatib.

“I spit on you, and on the tyrant Bashar al-Assad,” the unidentified fighter said.

In both cases, the footage was posted on YouTube and could not be independently verified. If true, the videos show rebels using the same tactics for which the Syrian leaders’ own forces have been condemned.

Aleppo shelling

On Tuesday night, combat aircraft and artillery continued pounding Aleppo, the country’s biggest city, where rebel fighters say troops loyal to President Assad have been forced to retreat. The Syrian Observatory for Human Righrts said more than 100 people, including 73 civilians, were killed in Syria on Tuesday.

On Wednesday, President Assad hailed his army’s military action against what he called “terrorist criminal gangs”, adding: “The fate of our people and our nation, past, present and future, depends on this battle.”

President Assad had not spoken publicly since four of his top security officials were assassinated weeks ago. His comments were in a written statement marking armed forces day.

His speech appeared to be aimed at encouraging government forces battling rebels in Aleppo, its commercial hub in the north. The 17-month-old uprising has seen its fiercest fighting to date in the past few weeks in Aleppo and the capital Damascus (see photo, above).

Proving its ‘meddle’

“In the war in which the country is embroiled and the battle against criminal and terrorist gangs, the army has proven its mettle,” President Assad said, adding that the Syrian people have shown themselves not easily “tamed” by foreign plots.

Many of Aleppo’s residents have been sheltering in schools and about 7,000 were believed to be gathered at the university.

The UN Security Council has so far failed to agree on a resolution to establish a safe zone in Syria, hampering efforts to help thousands of civilians caught in the crossfire, UN relief co-ordinator Baroness Amos said in an interview.

“The difficulty is we have no Security Council resolution which would enable that to happen. You don’t just get the government forces and the opposition forces to agree – you need to be able to police and secure that corridor or safe zone in some way so that people feel safe to go there and so someone doesn’t break that agreement,” she said. “At the moment it is very difficult to see how we can do that.”