Entries in Bashar Assad (35)


US Says Syria Has Resumed Launching Scuds at Rebels

Hemera/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- Within the past day, the Assad regime in Syria once again launched Scud missiles at rebel-held areas in the northwest part of the country, U.S. officials said.

Last week, officials said the Syrian regime fired five missiles from the Damascus area into an area west of the northern city of Aleppo, near the border with Turkey.  The move was seen as an escalation of the nearly two-year conflict in Syria.

The latest missile salvos once again targeted the area near Aleppo, according to a U.S. official.  Military forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar al Assad launched between four and six of the medium-range missiles from the Damascus area towards targets outside of the northern city, the official said.

The missiles were launched in multiple waves and did not carry chemical weapons, another U.S. official said.

A Defense Department spokesman would not confirm directly that there had been new Scud launches on Thursday, but added, “We have noted the Syrian regime’s use of Scud missiles in the conflict and that continues.”

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


McCain Calls on Obama to Begin Preparations for Military Action in Syria

Chris Maddaloni/CQ Roll Call(WASHINGTON) -- Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., Thursday called on President Obama to start preparing for possible military action in Syria, in light of the news that U..S intelligence agencies have detected Assad’s government is potentially preparing for use of their chemical weapon stockpiles.
“We are deeply distributed,” Sen. John McCain said Thursday at a press conference on Capitol Hill, “these reports may mean that the United States and our allies are facing the prospect of imminent use of weapons of mass destruction in Syria. This may be the last warning we get.”
McCain said the option of military intervention is an option that the United States must be ready for.
“We urge the President of the United States to make whatever military preparations necessary to show Assad that the United States is fully willing and able to impose the consequences that he has spoken of in the event that these weapons are used.”
“We’ve sat for too long on the sidelines,” Sen. Joe Lieberman, I-Conn., said, appearing at the same press conference Thursday afternoon, “the need for engagement and more than that, urgent action, is clear and now.”
Lieberman said the message to President Obama, who has said that there will be drastic consequences for Assad and his government if they use chemical and biological weapons, is: “We’re with you.”
“There is strong support across Congress if the president takes the strong action,” Lieberman said.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Report: Syrian Gov't Using Fighter Jets Against Opposition Forces

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- Syrian President Bashar Assad is said to be under such pressure from rebels that he is reportedly unleashing war planes on his own people in the country’s largest city.

It could be a significant development in the Syrian conflict: BBC News reporter Ian Pannell on Tuesday reported seeing what he believed to be Russian fighter jets bombing opposition strongholds in the eastern part of Aleppo. Pannell said a number of people were killed and injured in the attack.

Asked to comment on that reporting, U.S. State Department spokesperson Victoria Nuland said Tuesday, “We've seen those press reports today as well, that they are apparently now using fixed-wing aircraft against civilians in addition to helicopter gunships,” she said. "I'm not in a position to confirm it today."

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Tuesday that the U.S. is still pushing for a peaceful transition in Syria as the opposition makes military gains. Clinton added that it’s not too late for the Assad regime to work out such a transition, and, "find a way that ends the violence by beginning the kind of serious discussions that have not occurred to date."

"We have to work closely with the opposition," Clinton said, "because more and more territory is being taken and it will eventually result in a safe haven inside Syria that will then provide a base for further actions by the opposition."

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Damascus Fighting Rages Following Attack on Assad Officials

File photo. AFP/Getty Images(DAMASCUS, Syria) -- On Thursday, opposition fighters clashed with regime forces in the Syrian capital of Damascus for the fifth straight day.

Activists reported the continued use of tanks and helicopters in neighborhoods in and around the capital, including one close to the presidential palace.

The continued fighting followed a stunning bomb attack on Wednesday on President Bashar al-Assad’s inner circle that left at least three top aides dead.

The violence has been the worst seen in Damascus since the uprising began 17 months ago.

The London-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported Thursday that residents were fleeing the upscale neighborhood of Mezzeh near the presidential palace amid clashes, and helicopters were hovering over numerous parts of the city.

“It’s very dangerous,” Fares Mohamad, a spokesman for the opposition's Local Coordination Committees, told ABC News. “They’re shelling with tanks, helicopters [and] a lot of heavy weapons.”

Assad has not been seen or heard from since an explosion went off in the national security building on Wednesday, killing at least three top officials. State media reported the deaths of Defense Minister Dawood Rajiah, Deputy Defense Minister Asef Shawkat, and Assistant Vice President Hassan Turkmani.

The death of Shawkat, Assad’s brother-in-law and one of his closest confidantes, was a particularly painful blow for the regime. It highlighted the opposition’s ability to infiltrate Assad’s inner circle and perhaps get to the president himself.

The opposition Syrian National Council denied initial reports the attack was carried out by a suicide bomber. SNC member Ausama Monajed told ABC News the explosives were planted and remotely detonated, a plan that had been in works for two months. But 24 hours after the brazen attack, details were still unclear.

In the wake of the bombing, opponents of Assad on Wednesday piled on, saying the bomb attack was proof of Assad losing control.

“It is precisely because of the ongoing campaign by President Assad against his own people that we are seeing a situation that is getting worse and worse,” White House spokesman Jay Carney told reporters. “That is why it is so important for the international community to come together around a plan that produces the transition -- the political transition -- that is essential if Syria is to have a brighter future.”

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Syrian President's Brother-in-Law, Defense Minister Die in Bombing

AFP/Getty Images(DAMASCUS, Syria) -- A bombing at Syria's national security building has killed the country's defense minister and the Syrian president's brother-in-law, and wounded other senior officials, Syrian state-run TV said.

Defense Minister Dawoud Rajha, 65, died in the attack Wednesday after four days of battles in which Syrian troops used tanks and helicopters against rebels. Rajha is the most senior official to die during the country's civil war, which has escalated since the spring of 2011.

The country's 62-year-old Deputy Defense Minister Assef Shawkat, who is Syrian president Bashar al-Assad's brother-in-law and a top aide, also died in the attack, according to Syrian State TV.  A source in Damascus confirmed to ABC News that that Shawkat was dead on arrival to the hospital.

State television reported that the country's interior minister, Mohammad Ibrahim al-Shaar, is in stable condition after being wounded in the attack. The head of the national security office, Hisham Bekhtyar, was reportedly critically wounded.

The Free Syrian Army and Islamist rebel group Liwa al-Islam claimed responsibility for the attack.

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In a statement made on the group's Facebook page, Liwa al-Islam said it "targeted the cell called the crisis control room in the capital of Damascus."

"We announce to Syrians in general and those in the capital Damascus in particular that thanks to God the national security office, which includes the crisis management cell in the capital Damascus, has been targeted with a bomb planted by the 'Chief of the Martyrs' battalion that is attached to Islam Brigade," the statement read.

Syrian Information Minister Omran al-Zohbi appeared on State TV after the attacks, blaming "foreign elements" and calling it a "terrorist bomb attack."

"[This is a] cowardly act that will only increase the determination of the army to chase them and only add to our resolve," al-Zohbi said.

He also blamed Arab and Western governments and their intelligence services for the attack for which those responsible "will pay for dearly."

It is still unclear whether it was a suicide bomber in a car near the building or someone who was able to get close to the Syrian leaders who carried out the attack. The attack was close to Assad's residence.

The attack came during a meeting of cabinet ministers and senior security officials that included Rajha, Shawkat, Syria's interior minister, the country's head of intelligence and the head of national security.

Al Jazeera reported that Defense Minister Shawkat's bodyguard carried out the attack.

Wednesday's attack comes amid the worst violence the capital has seen during this uprising. Continued reports of clashes have been met by a huge mobilization by the Syrian army to quash the uprising.

British Foreign Secretary William Hague condemned the attacks in a statement Wednesday highlighting an "urgent need" to impose a resolution on the Assad regime.

"This incident, which we condemn, confirms the urgent need for a chapter VII resolution of the UN Security Council on Syria," he said. "The situation in Syria is clearly deteriorating. All the members of the UN Security Council have a responsibility to put their weight behind the enforcement of joint special envoy Kofi Annan's plan to end the violence.

"We call on all parties to refrain from violence," he said, "and for the Security Council to shoulder its responsibilities."

U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said Wednesday morning that the attack is "a real escalation in the fighting" and that the increased fighting and loss of life "tells us that this is a situation that is rapidly spinning out of control."

Both Panetta and British Defense Minister Phillip Hammond warned Syria not to use its chemical weapons stockpiles against its civilian population.

"We will hold them responsible should anything happen with regards to those sites," Panetta said, adding that the United States and its allies are working "very closely together to ensure that they are ensuring their responsibilities to effectively secure these chemical sites."

Panetta urged the United States and the international community to use what pressure they can to bring Assad to step down through the peaceful transition laid out in the Annan Plan.

"We are very concerned" by the increasing loss of life in Syria, Panetta said.

Syrian National Council member Ausama Monajed told ABC News that he believes the explosives were planted and not triggered by a suicide bomber. Monajed said he believes the attack was planned for two months, and warned of more attacks in the coming days.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Senators Unveil Resolution on Syria; 'How Many More Have to Die?' Asks McCain

Mark Wilson/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- A small group of senators Wednesday unveiled a resolution on Syria, that condemns the government of Syria and “supports the right of the people of Syria to defend themselves."
“How many more people have to die?” Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., asked as the U.N. reported Tuesday the death toll in Syria has climbed above 9,000. "How many have to die before the United States will take a leadership role in trying to end the mass slaughter that is taking place in Syria?”
The resolution supports calls by Arab leaders to provide Syrian people with weapons and other material support and calls on President Obama to work closely with regional partners to “implement these efforts effectively.”
“We in the United States have both a moral and strategic reason to support their efforts by at least giving them the means with which to defend themselves,” Sen. Joe Lieberman, I-Conn., said. “Based on the disproportionate availability of weapons and the willingness of the Assad regime to use it against the Syrian people, Assad will go of natural caucuses before he is eliminated from office because of the massacres he has perpetrated on his own people.”
The resolution does not call for putting American boots on the ground or airstrikes against Syria. It does not endorse any kind of unilateral action by the United States. And it is not an authorization for the use of American military troops.
But it does call on the Obama administration to take more of a leadership role in the situation.
McCain says the Obama administration is doing “nothing,” except saying that the departure of Syrian President Bashar Assad is inevitable.
“Not even speeches by the president or members of the administration condemning the violence and massacres taking place, even though that is a key national security issue according to the president of the United States’ policies,” McCain said Wednesday.
In introducing the resolution Wednesday, senators were critical of the U.N.-backed peace plan for Syria, saying that it fell short in not calling for Assad to step down.
“The U.N. is fiddling while Syria is burning,” Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., said. “There is nothing to negotiate but this guy leaving.”
“Everything we know about Bashar suggests that he accepted this peace plan because he is playing for time,” Sen. Graham added, “he is exploiting the good faith desire by many in the international community to find a diplomatic solution to end the bloodshed so that he can continue his killing and creating more bloodshed.”
Senators hope that their resolution will be brought to the Senate floor quickly, but there is not a time estimate yet on when this could happen.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Obama Administration Does Not Agree With McCain’s Call for Airstrikes in Syria

Comstock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- Sen. John McCain Monday called for the United States to begin airstrikes against the government of Syria, but the Obama administration indicated it did not agree with his strategy.

“Foreign capitals across the world are looking to the United States to lead, especially now that the situation in Syria has become an armed conflict,” the Republican from Arizona said on the Senate floor. “But what they see is an administration still hedging its bets -- on the one hand, insisting that Assad’s fall is inevitable, but on the other, unwilling even to threaten more assertive actions that could make it so.”

But a senior Obama administration official indicated to ABC News that the president and his advisers did not agree with the Republican senator.

“We share his concern and outrage about what’s taking place,” the official said. “We’re also concerned that further military intervention will accelerate the conflict on the ground and worsen the humanitarian situation without stopping the violence the Syrian regime is committing against its own people.”

The official said the U.S. “wants to keep putting pressure on the Assad regime.”

The official noted that the Syrian situation is very different from Libya in many key technical ways that make them question how effective airstrikes against the Syrian regime would be.

“There aren’t air attacks on the opposition, nor are large sections of country in control of the opposition,” the official said. In Syria, there are “snipers and artillery units in these populated areas” that would also make airstrikes a dicier proposition.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Syrian Rebel Stronghold Falls

Alessio Romenzi/AFP/Getty Images(HOMS, Syria) -- The Syrian army's siege of Homs has ended after rebel fighters slipped away, according to residents of the city reached by ABC News by phone.

Rebels fighting President Bashar al Assad's forces say they have pulled out of the rebel stronghold of Bab Amr, and a government official says the Syrian army now has control in the area.

The Bab Amr district had endured nearly four weeks of shelling by tanks and artillery, as well as attacks from snipers, as part of the regime's campaign to crush opposition enclaves across the country. Hundreds of civilians are reported to have died in the attacks in Bab Amr alone, and there's growing concern about the humanitarian situation, as well as fears of reprisals by government troops.

The rebel group known as the Free Syrian Army announced what it described as a tactical retreat in a statement released Thursday.

"We have decided to strategically withdraw for the sake of the civilians remaining inside the neighborhood. The humanitarian situation is at its worst, as there is no food whatsoever, no medicines, no water and no electricity."

A Homs resident and political activist identified only by the name Dana told ABC News' Christiane Amanpour every home is equipped with a tank of reserve water, but those supplies are quickly running out. Many residents are resorting to melting snow to drink.

Activist Abo Emad was in Bab Amr until Thursday morning. "After we left the neighborhood the regime army entered. And it killed a lot of people, the soldiers. There were 11 people slaughtered at the hands of the regime army. Slaughtered like sheeps, by knives," he told ABC News.

Images broadcast by state television have shown images of a devastated city.

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and the Syrian Red Crescent have been told by the Syrian authorities that they will be allowed to enter Bab Amr on Friday.

Two French journalists trapped by the fighting were safely evacuated to Lebanon Thursday, according to their newspaper, Le Figaro. Edith Bouvier and William Daniels were injured in the same shelling in Homs that killed fellow journalists Marie Colvin and Remi Ochlik.

Rebels fighters have promised to fight on. "We promise you, the people of Syria, Bab Amr will remain the eye and heart of this revolution until we gain full victory. Whatever the price we have to pay and whatever we have to give up...we are returning stronger, God willing," the Free Syrian Army said Thursday.

Syria's main opposition group has formed a central military command to help coordinate its resistance to the regime. Burhan Ghalioun, head of the Syrian National Council, told a news conference in Paris, "The revolution started peacefully and kept up its peaceful nature for months, but the reality today is different…we want to control the use of weapons so that there won't be a civil war."

The United Nations Security Council in New York has again expressed its disappointment that U.N. humanitarian chief Valerie Amos has not been allowed to visit Syria by the Assad regime. In a rare unanimous statement, the members of the council called for humanitarian personnel to be given full access to those in need of aid.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Syrian Forces Fire into Crowd at Funeral Procession

KARIM SAHIB/AFP/Getty Images(DAMASCUS) -- Syrian security forces fired live rounds into a crowd of people marching in a funeral procession on Saturday, reports say.

Thousands of people were part of the precession for three people who were killed by security forces on Friday. Witnesses say several people were wounded from live ammunition that was fired into the crowd.

A Chinese envoy met with President Bashar al-Assad and urged his government and opposition forces to end violence that has so far claimed hundreds of lives, reports BBC News.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


UN General Assembly Condemns Syrian Violence

Sasha Mordovets/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- The UN General Assembly Thursday voted in favor of a resolution in support of the Arab League to call for Syrian President Bashar Assad to step down.  The resolution also denounced violation against the human rights of Syrians.

The resolution passed with 137 votes in favor, 12 no votes and 17 abstentions.  The vote tally could change, since at least three countries complained they were not able to register their electronic votes properly.

Iran, Venezuela, Cuba, North Korea, Russia, China were among the countries voting against the resolution.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

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