Red Cross to pull out in face of Syrian city showdowns
A POTENTIALLY devastating showdown between rebels and government troops in Syria’s largest city, Aleppo, is imminent, the United Nations’s human rights office said yesterday, as the Red Cross pulled some of its foreign staff from Damascus out of concern for the safety of its workers.
The warning came on the same day that outgoing chief observer of the UN mission Major General Robert Mood said he believes it is just a matter of time before president Bashar Assad’s regime crumbles, but that the violence of the civil war could worsen if Syria uses the full force of its military.
Anti-government rebels have made a run on the country’s two biggest cities, Aleppo and Damascus, in the past week and Assad’s forces have responded with overwhelming firepower, ushering in some of the most serious violence the cities have seen in 17 months of conflict.
Rebels have been locked in fierce fighting with government troops in Aleppo for seven days and they are bracing for an attack amid reports that the regime is gathering reinforcements to retake the embattled city of three million.
Mohammed Saeed, an Aleppo-based activist, said helicopters were firing with heavy
machine-guns on rebel-held areas east and west of the city yesterday. He added that army reinforcements arrived in the city on Thursday and a major attack is expected any time.
UN high commissioner for human rights Navi Pillay said unconfirmed reports are coming out of the capital, Damascus, of extra-judicial killings and shootings of civilians during fighting in the city’s suburbs. Pillay said the report “bodes ill for the people of that city [Aleppo].”
Pillay said she believes president Bashar Assad’s regime and opposition forces are both committing crimes against humanity and war crimes.
“And it goes without saying, that the increasing use of heavy weapons, tanks, attack helicopters and – reportedly – even jet fighters in urban areas has already caused many civilian casualties and is putting many more at grave risk,” she said in a statement read aloud to reporters by her spokesman, Rupert Colville.
Rebels detained scores of Syrian officers, soldiers and militia this week in Idlib province and in Aleppo, the opposition Syrian Observatory for Human Rights claimed last night.
A source close to the mediation effort of international envoy Kofi Annan said they are “watching the situation in Aleppo with great concern.”
Meanwhile, Maj Gen Mood, whose three-month mission in Damascus ended last week, said the situation in Syria is likely to remain unstable even if Assad’s government steps down.
“It’s impossible to imagine a future in Syria where the current people in power remain in power,” Mood said. But he warned that if Assad’s regime collapses, it might not be the end of Syria’s many problems. “That might not be the start of a dialogue. That could easily be the start of a situation that is way worse,” he said.
The International Committee of the Red Cross also announced yesterday it is temporarily moving some of its foreign staff from Damascus to Lebanon. A Red Cross spokesman in Geneva said the move was prompted by security concerns but that a core of about 50 staff would remain.
Search for a job
Search for a car
Search for a house
Weather for Edinburgh
Saturday 25 May 2013
Temperature: 5 C to 17 C
Wind Speed: 13 mph
Wind direction: West
Temperature: 8 C to 17 C
Wind Speed: 14 mph
Wind direction: West