Mon, Dec 31, 2012 - Page 6 News List

Brahimi hoping for Syria peace deal in coming year

Reuters and AFP, CAIRO and BEIRUT

The international peace envoy for Syria said the situation in the country was deteriorating sharply, but a solution was still possible next year under the terms of a peace plan agreed in Geneva in June.

“I say that the solution must be this year: 2013, and, God willing, before the second anniversary of this crisis,” Lakhdar Brahimi said during a news conference at the Arab League in Cairo, referring to the start of the uprising in March 2011.

“A solution is still possible but is getting more complicated every day,” he said.

Regime forces yesterday pressed a fierce offensive in Homs after overrunning a key neighborhood of the central city, according to a watchdog, which also listed 23 children killed in violence across Syria.

The latest bloodletting comes after Brahimi warned in Moscow that Syria was facing a choice between “hell or the political process” after talks with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on Saturday.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the army, after seizing the Deir Baalbeh district in fighting which left dozens dead on Saturday, fired off barrages of rockets into surrounding rebel-held neighborhoods yesterday as it sought to capitalize on its victory.

Troops also bombarded the nearby opposition stronghold of Rastan.

The Britain-based Observatory, which gathers its information from a network of activists and medics in civilian and military hospitals, said that the final death toll from Saturday’s clashes had not been finalized due to communications difficulties in the area.

A video released by the Syrian Revolution General Commission, a grassroots network of anti-regime activists, showed the bodies of nine male victims from Deir Baalbeh lying on the ground, their faces bloody and mutilated.

The authenticity of the video could not immediately be verified.

Near the capital yesterday, loyalist troops carried out air raids on towns along the eastern outlying belt and on Daraya in the southwest, while fighting between rebels and the army erupted in the northeastern and southwestern suburbs.

The Observatory said 13 children were among the victims of bombardments in and around Damascus on Saturday, while 10 children were killed in air strikes across Aleppo Province, including on rebel-held Aazaz near the Turkish border.

Analysts say the surge in air strikes by Syrian forces are a desperate attempt by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s regime to reverse rampant gains by rebel fighters, especially in the north of the country.

Rebels meanwhile made further advances yesterday in the battle for the Hamidiyeh military post in the northwest province of Idlib which they stormed the previous day, the watchdog said.

During yesterday’s clashes, three insurgents were wounded by machine-gun fire, while warplanes raided a nearby village, the watchdog said.

A takeover of the Hamidiyeh post would pave the way for a rebel offensive against the nearby Wadi Deif base, one of the government’s last outposts in the north.

Opposition fighters, mostly from the jihadist Al-Nusra Front, have been closing in on the base since overrunning the nearby town of Maaret al-Numan in early October.

In the south, a rebel was killed yesterday in battles for control of several small border crossings along the regime-held frontier with Jordan, the Observatory said.

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