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Rebels kill 28 troops in Idlib

Rebels kill 28 troops in Idlib
China calls for phased-in Syria ceasefire, gradual political transition

Last Updated : Friday, November 02, 2012 12:20 AM

A rebel fighter trains his gun at Syrian troops at the citadel in the town of Harem, on the Turkish border, Thursday. Perched on a mountainside only about two kilometers from the border with Turkey, Harem has been surrounded by rebels who have converged on the town by sneaking through groves of olive trees and abandoned houses. — AFP

BEIRUT — Syrian rebels killed 28 soldiers in attacks on military checkpoints in northern Idlib province Thursday, just hours after a wave of bombings hit Damascus and its outskirts, activists said.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the rebels attacked three military checkpoints near the town of Saraqeb, killing the troops. Five rebels also died in gun battles following the attacks, according to the Observatory, which relies on reports from activists on the ground.

Meanwhile, China has called for a phased-in ceasefire and negotiations on a gradual political transition to end the bloodshed.

The four-point proposal issued by the Foreign Ministry stopped short of calling for President Bashar Al-Assad’s ouster and omitted mention of any measures to compel compliance. Alongside Russia, China has steadfastly blocked any outside intervention that could force Assad from power.

The proposal called on the international community to support the work of the UN-Arab League envoy to Syria, Lakhdar Brahimi, who pushed for the failed ceasefire.

The relentless fighting in Syria has killed more than 36,000 people according to activists since March 2011, when the uprising against President Bashar Assad’s regime began. It started as peaceful protests inspired by the Arab Spring but quickly morphed into a bloody civil war.

The rebels fighting to topple Assad often complain they are outgunned by the military, which has in recent days intensified airstrikes on opposition strongholds following the failure of a UN-backed truce over a four-day holiday weekend that never took hold.

On Wednesday alone, activists said more than 100 were killed nationwide in airstrikes, artillery shelling and fighting. Much of the violence took place in rebellious suburbs of the capital Damascus and in Aleppo, Syria’s largest city and a major front in the 19-month conflict.

In Damascus, “terrorists detonated” three bombs in Al-Mazzeh district late Wednesday night, targeting a mosque, a sports club and a shop, state-run news agency SANA said. One person was killed in the explosion near the district’s Al-Houda mosque, and two were wounded, the agency reported Thursday. Six people, including a child, were injured in the two other explosions, according to the report.

The government refers to rebels fighting to topple Assad as terrorists and accuses them and opposition supporters of being part of a foreign plot to destroy Syria.

Also according to SANA, authorities raised the death toll from another bombing Wednesday evening in a Damascus suburb that houses a Shiite Muslim shrine to 12, after one more victim died of wounds.

Many Syrians, particularly those in Damascus where fighting and demonstrations have been relatively light, fear that extremists that have fought alongside rebel units may be targeting the capital more frequently to help drive Assad out of power.

Eyewitnesses of Wednesday’s blast said the assailants picked random spots to detonate explosives and stoke panic among residents.

“There was a very loud bang and then I saw the kiosk, which sold watches, engulfed in flames,” said Abu Rami, a 44-year-old civil servant and resident of Al-Mazzeh area.

Abu Rami, who only gave his nickname for fear of reprisals, said security forces arrived in the area minutes after the explosion and sealed it off. — AP

Channel Islam International’s (Cii) reporter, Azhar Vadi, entered Syria today and visited a refugee camp in the town of Qah in Idlib province.

The trip into Syria was rather unusual and described as “bizarre” by Azhar as no passport was required when entering the war torn country.

At their first attempt via an official border post in Turkey, they were denied entry by border police. But there was a gate next door where no passport or stamp was required. “This is the normal way in which people enter and exit (the country)” said Azhar.

“The mere fact that you are a Muslim and that they recognise you to be a well wisher is a passport enough for you to enter into Syrian territory.”

The entire area which is along the border with Turkey is in control of the Free Syrian Army (FSA).

In what was termed to be a “terrifying experience” Azhar had to place his trust in the hands of his Turkish hosts and was handed over to a Syrian middle man, who did not speak English, but escorted him to the refugee camp.

Upon entry into the Syrian run refugee camp, in the town of Qah in Idlib province, Azhar met with organizers and those who were lending a helping hand to those who came to the camp in need of assistance.

Musab al Khalaf, a teacher who has had to quickly become an organiser at the camp, said they received much needed tents last week, but there was still a lot that they were short of.

“Winter came and people feel cold inside the tent… We are afraid (of) the cold and when people feel cold in the tent we will put heaters,” said Khalaf, indicating that heaters or heating elements were required.

The teacher pointed out that there was electricity in the tents, and that lavatories were available, but highlighted the cold weather as an issue. He also spoke about fencing off the refugee camp to avoid possible problems.

Speaking to a doctor at the camp, Vadi asked if they were short of medical supplies. However, the doctor placed more emphisis on the shortage of specialised medical staff. “A lot of doctors are not at service… They either travel abroad or stay at home,” said the doctor.

He added that some of the injuries that he treated were due to shrapnel caused by missiles and bombs that hit buildings and by sniper bullets.

The main reason for the deaths is the lack of professional vascular specialists, to help with “water in the abdomen and you can’t control the bleeding,’ according to the doctor. “I don’t think theres a problem in supplies, the problem is in the doctors themselves. We don’t have professionals… surgeons.”

It’s the humanitarian crisis that hurts the most – Syria

Azhar Vadi | Cii News | 01 November 2012

QAH, Syria – The latest UN figures for Syrian refugees has topped the 350 000 mark – a clear indication that all is not well in paradise turned hell. At least 100 000 have taken up residence in various Mukhayim, hosted by the Turkish government, while others have escaped to Jordan and Iraq.

Thousands more remain trapped within their own country, hugging the board that exists as an artificial buffer zone.

On Wednesday night at least 3000 people, mainly women and children, slept along the Aasi River close to the Turkish border town of Hacipasa after their villages were intensely shelled by the Syrian army. The military action was a reaction to a victory by the Jaish al Hurr (Free Syrian Army) in the nearby town of Darkoush.

They will only return once the bombing stops and for now will live amongst the pomegranate plantations in the hope that their homes would be missed and still intact.

Those who have fled the fighting between the FSA and the Syrian army in towns like Aleppo, Idlib, Homs and Hama, have had to make a more long term decision. With the little they could carry, they have arrived at refugee camps mushrooming all along the border established by Syrians themselves.

One such tent city has come up alongside the village of Qah. Getting there from Turkey involves a simple stroll across an official border post, trying to look an as unassuming as possible, in the company of an unknown Turkish border runner. Conflict at times provides good money opportunities for those willing to take the risks.

Turkish border post heading to Syria – Cii News

Once inside, refugee camp organisers quickly ferry you past FSA checkpoints where a simple Assalamualaikum and smile allows one to proceed along the winding mountains carpeted in olive trees. This Syrian border post is controlled by the FSA and signs of the profound battles that enabled this can still be seen. Several tanks and heavy artillery pieces lay scattered all over.

We soon reach Qah and an English speaking resident takes over. Shaadi is an engineer. “This camp is about 40 days old. We are still busy building it because the winter months are coming and it’s already cold at night.”

People, he says, were sleeping in the open and couldn’t wait any longer. “As we are building more are still arriving. While explaining the urgent needs of the camp that include, heaters, food, baby formula, nappies and female sanitary wear he is interjected by a teacher, Musab Al Khalaf.

New arrivals waiting for tent allocation – Cii News

“We have a lot of teachers here in the refugee camp. The children have not been to school for almost a year. If we get some books, some pens, and a small tent we can start teaching them. They need to learn their ABC and Alif, Baa , Taa.”

It’s not long before his pleas for assistance from the international community turns to the political and war situation. “The conditions are very difficult. I had two houses in Idlib. Now I have to live in this tent because of the war.”

He points to a small box on the ground with some basic groceries. “You see, this is our fridge.” Then to the washed clothes drying on the roof of the tent. “This is our washing machine.” And then to the tea brewing on an open flame. “This is our stove. All in the 21st century thanks to Bashar Al Assad, my president.”

How long these people – civilians – women, men and children, can hold out in the Syrian north is yet to be seen. What is certain is that more refuges will be coming as the fighting rages on with no foreseeable end in sight. “All that we have become now, are simply numbers,” Al Khalaf ended.

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