Tue, Aug 14, 2012 - Page 7 News List

Syria army shells Damascus: watchdog

CONFLICT:UN humanitarian chief Valerie Amos is visiting Syria today to draw focus to its deteriorating humanitarian situation and its impact on neighboring countries

AFP, BEIRUT and GENEVA, Switzerland

The Syrian army yesterday sent shells slamming into rebel strongholds in Damascus Province, where more than 45 people, including 36 civilians, have been killed in the past 48 hours, a watchdog said.

The shelling began before dawn and targeted Assali, Nahar Aisha and Qadam — all southern districts of Damascus — as well Irbin, Al-Tal and New Artuz outside the capital, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

Meanwhile, clashes broke out in the rebel bastion of Harasta, northeast of Damascus.

In the capital, security forces carried out raids and arrests in the neighborhoods of Qaimreya, Qashla and Shaghur, the Observatory said.

The Local Coordination Committees (LLC), a network of activists on the ground, said raids had taken place in Shaghur, where they reported “security sweeps of stores and security forces breaking down the doors of shops which had been closed.”

In the Old City of Damascus, the LLC reported “a campaign of raids and arrests by the armed forces.” On Sunday, 150 people died across Syria, according to the Observatory. The majority were in Damascus Province, where 26 civilians and seven rebels were killed.

The Observatory reported another 10 civilians and two rebels killed in Damascus Province yesterday, plus four civilians in the southern city of Daraa.

In the central city of Homs, 16 civilians were killed by army gunfire in the neighborhood of Shamas alone on Sunday, the Observatory said.

The opposition Syrian National Council and activist groups on Sunday accused the pro-government militia of summarily executing 10 civilians during a round-up in the Shamas neighborhood.

The Observatory confirmed that pro-government forces carried out a round-up in the district, but made no mention of any executions.

In Geneva, UN Undersecretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator Valerie Amos yesterday announced that she would visit Syria and Lebanon amid growing concern for the “deteriorating humanitarian situation” caused by the conflict.

The visit, planned for today through Thursday, “aims to draw attention to the deteriorating humanitarian situation in Syria and the impact of the conflict on people either remaining in Syria and who have fled to other countries, including Lebanon,” the UN office for the coordination of humanitarian affairs (OCHA) said in a statement.

While in Syria, Amos is expected to discuss ways of “urgently scaling-up relief efforts and reducing the suffering of civilians caught up in the fighting with the Syrian authorities, the Syrian Arab Red Crescent and other humanitarian partners,” it said.

In Lebanon, Amos will meet families who have fled from Syria and liaise with the government and humanitarian agencies.

Two million people are now estimated to have been affected by the Syria crisis and more than 1 million are internally displaced as fighting continues in Damascus, Aleppo and other cities, the OCHA said.

More than 140,000 people have fled the violence and crossed into Lebanon, Jordan, Turkey and Iraq, according to the UN agency.

At least 21,000 people have been killed across Syria since the anti-regime revolt broke out in March last year, the Observatory said.

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