Sun, May 20, 2012 - Page 6 News List

Syrian forces fire on major protest in Aleppo City


Regime forces fired on protesters who took to the streets of Aleppo on Friday, wounding several people at the biggest rally seen in Syria’s second city since a revolt erupted last year, a watchdog said.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said demonstrators also suffered gunshot wounds in Douma, a key protest hub near Damascus, but did not provide any casualty figures.

“Thousands of people demonstrated in various districts [of Aleppo] despite the repression,” Rami Abdel Rahman of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

Meanwhile, the government said it had foiled a suicide bomb attack in Aleppo on May 11, a day after twin bombings in Damascus killed 55 people and wounded nearly 400. It has repeatedly blamed such attacks on “terrorists.”

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said on Thursday he believed al-Qaeda was responsible for the Damascus attack.

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, as well as the US and Russia, has already pointed to an al-Qaeda presence in the country since the revolt against his regime began.

On Friday, Ban spokesman Martin Nesiry said there was no hard proof of that, but that the “Damascus attacks were clearly carried out by a group with organization and intent. Some of the attacks we have seen clearly bear some of the terrorist hallmarks with which we are familiar from elsewhere.”

The Observatory said at least 11 people died in -violence across the country on Friday.

On Thursday, students were met with brutal repression by security forces, despite the presence of UN military observers, who now number more than 250 across the country out of a projected total of 300.

Violence persisted elsewhere, with regime forces renewing their bombardment of Rastan in central Homs Province on Friday, according to the Observatory, only a day after a blistering assault on the rebel stronghold.

Artillery attacks on towns have declined since the UN observer mission began deploying in the middle of last month, but the death toll is still high.

With the violence unabated, UN-Arab League envoy Kofi Annan plans to return to Damascus soon to further efforts to find a peaceful solution to the crisis, his spokesman said on Friday, without saying when.

UN observers’ mission head Major General Robert Mood, told reporters in Damascus his mission “will reach full operational capabilities in record time.”

However, he also said “no volume of observers can achieve a progressive drop and a permanent end to the violence if the commitment to give dialogue a chance is not genuine from all internal and external factors.”

In other developments, shelling between two pro and anti-al-Assad neighborhoods in the northern Lebanese port city of Tripoli left three people wounded, officials and hospital sources said.

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