22 Killed as Syrian Troops Move on Protest Hubs

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  • W460
  • W460

Syrian armor moved on the main hubs of an 11-month uprising on Thursday killing at least 22 people, monitors said, a day after President Bashar Assad set a vote for a new constitution.

Opposition groups rejected the newly proposed constitution and urged voters to boycott a referendum set for this month, and to step up efforts to oust Assad.

As troops pummeled the central city of Homs for a 13th straight day, 18 people were killed in central Hama province and four others died in the southern city of Daraa, monitors reported.

Assad, whose government has vowed to crush dissent, on Wednesday decreed a vote for February 26 on a new charter that could end nearly 50 years of single-party rule.

The United States dismissed the move as "laughable," saying "it makes a mockery of the Syrian revolution." Russia, a major weapons supplier to Damascus, welcomed it.

And the Local Coordination Committees, a main opposition activist group, rejected the new charter and called for a vote boycott, as well as stepped up efforts to topple Assad.

"The draft constitution is no more than a political tool or a policy paper written by the barbaric regime," it said in an emailed statement.

"We see no alternative but to topple the regime along with its symbols, representatives and foundational ideology.

"The Local Coordination Committees calls upon our people to reject and boycott the alleged referendum to confirm the lack of public support for this criminal regime."

The Syrian National Council, the most representative opposition group, is also likely to reject the constitution, given one of its guiding principles is "to overthrow the regime using all legal means."

Regardless, the proposed charter rules out most of the opposition as it bans religious parties and dual nationals, preventing the SNC, which includes the Muslim Brotherhood, and most of its leadership from running for office.

The proposed charter drops Article 8, which declares the ruling Baath Party as the "leader of the state and society," allowing for a multi-party system, state television said.

In April, Assad scrapped emergency rule in force since 1963 when the Baathists took power in a coup d'etat. But he has repeatedly promised reforms that have failed to materialize since the uprising erupted in March.

The 46-year-old president, who succeeded his late father Hafez in 2000, said the constitution would usher in a "new era" for Syria, SANA state news agency reported.

Analysts said the referendum was too little, too late and fell short of what was required to end the uprising inspired by similar movements that last year overthrew authoritarian leaders in Egypt, Libya and Tunisia.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said security forces killed at least 14 people, most of them army defectors, in shelling of a town in the central province of Hama. Another four soldiers died in other clashes in the region.

"At least 10 mutinous soldiers were killed, among them officers, in shelling of the town of Kfar Nabuda, in Hama province. Four civilians were also killed in the shelling of the town," the Britain-based monitor said in a statement

Elsewhere, a civilian and three soldiers were killed in the southern city of Daraa, after troops deployed heavily and clashed with army defectors.

Regime forces were also shelling Homs, which has been under a relentless assault that has killed nearly 400 people since February 4, according to international rights watchdogs.

"The neighborhood of Baba Amr is once again being shelled this morning," the Britain-based Observatory said. "The shelling also targeted the neighborhoods of Inshaat and Khaldiyeh."

Meanwhile China, which along with Russia has faced a barrage of criticism for blocking a second U.N. Security Council resolution on Syria, said it was sending an envoy to the country to push for peace.

Ahead of Thursday's General Assembly vote on what would be a non-binding resolution for Syria, France said the U.N. should try to set up "humanitarian corridors" to aid people caught up in the violence.

French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe said he would seek to convince his Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov to change his stance when the two meet in Vienna on Thursday.

Diplomats said Russia has asked for a number of changes to the draft General Assembly resolution.

One Russian amendment was to a paragraph referring to an Arab League plan calling for Assad to hand over power to his deputy.

Another would link the return of troops to their barracks to an "end of attacks by armed groups against state institutions."

Rights groups say more than 6,000 people have been killed since regime forces began cracking down on democracy protests launched on March 15 last year.

Comments 12
Default-user-icon Fresco di Balti (Guest) 16 February 2012, 14:33

I like these "protest" hubs that are populated with Salafis and other Sunni crazies from all nationalities seeking democracy by terrorizing the citizens and chanting to slaughter the Alawites and send the Christians to Beirut.

Default-user-icon thx syria (Guest) 16 February 2012, 18:40

"chanting to slaughter the Alawites and send the Christians to Beirut"

.. they were chanting, oh my God that's horrifying! Unlike what the regime used to actually do which is slaughter Lebanese from all sects and send Lebanese from all sects to prisons in Syria never to be heard of again, at least they did not discriminate or chanted right.

Missing vaclav_havel 16 February 2012, 19:36

pitoyable!! mais vraiment!!

Thumb jabalamel 17 February 2012, 00:27

yes you are

Default-user-icon hezbeleb (Guest) 16 February 2012, 16:03

two words you still see in headlines about Syria: "protesters" and "killed". Are we still to imagine that there are peaceful protests going on and the regime forces are dispersing them with heavy weaponry? Really? And what is that picture proof of? Are they regime soldiers? Could they be, oh I don't know, Free Syrian Army? And where is it?

Thumb jabalamel 17 February 2012, 00:29

the filthy zionist media scum hallucinate about someone from our glorious resistance being traitor.

mossad gave you wrong report again

Missing allouchi 16 February 2012, 18:59

Time to KILL Assad...

Default-user-icon 1978 (Guest) 16 February 2012, 19:10

When they can't win they use indiscriminate shelling in frustration, Syrian army modus operandi in Lebanon and now in Syria.

Thumb jabalamel 17 February 2012, 01:38

interesting when someone puts a year of 100 day war between christian militias and syrian army (that was invited by christian militias 2 year before that, but that fact they must forget)

but they don't put a year when those same militias made mass murders of muslims, which point of no return into a civil war.

Default-user-icon le Phénicien (Guest) 17 February 2012, 02:41

Thank you for the reminder my fellow Shiite brother in resisting the crusaders , you are so right the Christian are , as the magnificent Resistance MP Mawwaf al Mousawi called them , nothing but " sectarian slaying gangs " without them we'd be living is a wonderful country governed by whoever inherited the original resistance leader Yasser Arafat . And as long as we are on the subject we should thank God for the thousands of Somali , Libyan , Sudanese , and other assorted heroic brothers in struggle who fought along side the forces of good and without who's support we wouldn't have been able to defeat the sectarian slaying gangs and drive them to invite the glorious Syrian Army ...
All alone in the moonlight
I can smile at the old days
I was beautiful then
I remember the time I knew what happiness was
Let the memory live again

Thumb benzona 16 February 2012, 19:28

What an old Russian APC... Old but deadly. It reminds me of an anecdote my grandfather (Russian expat in Belgium) did to a German vehicle during WW2. He simply mixed sugar with the fuel.... And turned it into a disabled nazi killing machine. Good luck and courage to my Syrian brothers that aspire to freedom.

Thumb jabalamel 17 February 2012, 00:30

the zionist mercenaries in syria will now turn the course of this futile rebellion from total failure to total success, only because they got so great advice from benzona the declared zionist