Entries in crackdown (133)


UN Puts Death Toll from Syrian Conflict at 60,000

BULENT KILIC/AFP/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- The United Nations high commissioner for human rights announced on Wednesday that the death toll from the conflict in Syria that began in March 2011 now exceeds 60,000 victims.

This represents a huge increase in killings from a report issued by the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights earlier this week that put the death toll from 22 months of fighting at 45,000.

U.N. human rights chief Navi Pillay called his organization's casualty count "truly shocking" and heaped most of the blame on President Bashar al-Assad for what started as a crackdown on groups calling for democracy in Syria that evolved into a full-scale, sectarian civil war.

Pillay said the U.N. conducted an "exhaustive analysis" of the violence based on seven data sets, putting the number of dead at around 59,650 as of the end of November 2012.  He indicated that the escalating hostilities last month certainly pushed the death toll well past 60,000.

Three cities alone -- Homs, Damascus and Idlib -- accounted for about half of those killed in the nearly two-year-long battle for control of Syria.

Pillay said he was concerned the death toll will grow much higher if there is no resolution to the crisis that major foreign powers seem powerless to stop.

However, the U.N. official was not letting them off the hook, lamenting, "The failure of the international community, in particular the Security Council, to take concrete actions to stop the bloodletting, shames us all."

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


Russia Still Resistant to Transitional Government in Syria

ALEXANDER NEMENOV/AFP/Getty Images(CAIRO) -- Russia continues to be a thorn in the side of those seeking a quick resolution to the ongoing conflict in Syria.

After talks with the Arab League and Egyptian leaders in Cairo Monday, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov says that Moscow continues to oppose a plan to form a transitional government in Syria that would include the ouster of President Bashar al-Assad.

Without cooperation from Russia, there is little chance of convincing al-Assad that it would serve his country's interests to step down after nearly 20 months of violence that has cost an estimated 35,000 lives.

Meanwhile, Lavrov also used the opportunity to accuse the West of prolonging the conflict by allegedly arming rebel forces.

The only common ground that Lavrov had with special United Nations and Arab League envoy Lakhdar Brahimi is agreeing that it will take a political solution to stop the fighting.

In another development, Lavrov dismissed earlier reports that Washington and Moscow were in secret talks to end the crisis.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Syria Tries a Ceasefire in Time for Eid al-Adha Holiday

Scott Peterson/Getty Images(DAMASCUS, Syria) -- United Nations and Arab League envoy Lakhdar Brahimi has got his wish for a temporary ceasefire in Syria, but will he soon wish that he hadn't gone through all the trouble if it doesn't hold up?

On Thursday, the Syrian government issued a statement that "Military operations will cease across the entire Syrian territory on 26 October until 29 October," which covers the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Adha.

However, Damascus also issued the caveat that it has the option "to reply to terrorists attacks, attempts of armed groups to reinforce or resupply, or attempts to infiltrate from neighboring countries."

That leaves it wide open for the four-day armistice to easily fall apart if President Bashar al-Assad's forces believe they're being threatened by rebel groups, who've expressed skepticism about their enemy's true intentions.

Previous attempts at ceasefires have failed but Brahimi believes this one could work, given that he not only talked to both sides in the conflict but neighboring countries also gave their blessings to his efforts.

Since the conflict began in March 2011, activists contend that as many as 35,000 people have died although independent confirmations are impossible.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Syrian War Jets Keep Bombarding Strategic City

Scott Peterson/Getty Images(DAMASCUS, Syria) -- The Syrian military continued its onslaught against rebel forces on Thursday as warplanes struck the strategic city of Maaret al-Numan, leaving dozens dead.

Maaret al-Numan, which was captured last week by fighters opposed to the regime of President Bashar al-Assad, is located between the capital of Damascus and Syria's largest city of Aleppo.

By not controlling Maaret al-Numan, government troops have a more difficult time transporting troops and supplies between the two other cities.

Al-Assad's forces have been bombarding the region for the past week with allegations by Human Rights Watch that his government is also using cluster bombs, a weapon banned by most of the world that sprays a wide area with lethal bomblets.  Syria has refuted the allegations.

With the fighting intensifying, there was no further word Thursday about progress being made on a proposed four-day ceasefire next week that has been touted by the United Nations' special envoy to Syria and regional leaders.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


UN Envoy Warns of Spread of Syria's Violence

Spencer Platt/Getty Images(BEIRUT) -- Desperate to forge an agreement that would mean a four-day respite from violence in Syria, the United Nation's special envoy warned on Wednesday that the 19-month conflict is on the verge of spilling over into the entire region.

Lakhdar Brahimi, who was in Beirut to present his plan to Lebanese leaders, said, "This crisis cannot remain within Syrian borders indefinitely.  Either it will be addressed or it will increase...and be all-consuming."

An estimated 30,000 people have been killed since March 2011 and the death toll has increased exponentially over the past two months, with at least 1,000 fatalities reported per week.

Brahimi has been traveling through the Middle East getting the Arab League and Iran to sign off on his plan calling for a ceasefire in Syria over four days during the Islamic feast holiday of Eid al-Adha beginning next week.

As for the main parties, Brahimi suggested that President Bashar al-Assad is leaning towards the temporary armistice but worries that opposition forces won't abide by it.  Conversely, the rebels have said they'd agree but doubt that government forces will keep the peace.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


UN Envoy Trying to Negotiate Temporary Syrian Ceasefire

ASHRAF SHAZLY/AFP/Getty Images(DAMASCUS, Syria) -- Talks are currently underway with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's government to observe a four-day ceasefire over the Eid al-Adha Muslim holiday at the end of October that would provide a brief respite from the fighting between the Syrian military and rebel forces that has resulted in the loss of tens of thousands of lives.

The discussions were initiated by United Nations special envoy Lakhdar Brahimi, who apparently has had conversations with other leaders in the Arab world to explore the feasibility of the plan.

Signs of a breakthrough were evident Tuesday as an official with the Syrian foreign ministry announced, "The Syrian side is interested in exploring this option and we are looking forward to talking to Mr. Brahimi to see what is the position of other influential countries that he has talked to in his tour."

Syria says other governments have to put pressure on the rebels to accept the terms of any ceasefire proposal.

Whether anything will come of it is uncertain since two previous attempts at an armistice during the course of the 19-month long conflict only intensified the government's crackdown on opposition forces.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Ex-Syrian Prime Minister Accuses Al-Assad of Prolonging War

LOUAI BESHARA/AFP/Getty Images(DAMASCUS, Syria) -- More questions are being raised about whether Syrian President Bashar al-Assad actually wants a peaceful end to the 19-month conflict with opposition forces in his country.

Since his government began cracking down on pro-democracy advocates in March 2011, an estimated 30,000 people have died as the fighting threatens to destabilize the Middle East.

Now, a former prime minister is accusing al-Assad of going out of his way to prolong the war against his enemies.

Riyad Hijab says that he and others met with the Syrian president recently to discuss how to resolve the conflict, only to be met with a stony resistance to making any attempt at opening a dialogue with rebel forces.

In fact, Hijab alleges that in addition to using lethal weapons on the Syrian people, al-Assad is preparing to unleash his chemical arsenal to finally crush his opponents into submission.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


UN Chief Wants Action from Security Council to End Syrian Conflict

SIMON MAINA/AFP/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon had a pretty stern message from the international community at the start of the General Assembly Tuesday: fix the situation in Syria or suffer the consequences.

With the conflict in Syria 19 months old and tens of thousands of fatalities, Ban called the situation "a regional calamity with global ramifications." He said it was time for the Security Council to step up and get past their differences on how to resolve the civil war that now threatens world peace.

According to the U.N. chief, "The international community should not look the other way as violence spirals out of control."  Ban said the Security Council must follow the directives of special envoy Lakhdar Brahimi, who claimed conditions in Syria have become "very grim."

Previous attempts to pass resolutions to bring both President Bashar al-Assad's government and opposition forces to the negotiating table have failed, largely because of the insistence of Russia and China that al-Assad should remain in power and foreign interference ought to be kept to a minimum.

Ban blasted al-Assad for perpetuating "brutal" rights abuse and said that war crimes that have occurred in Syria should not go unpunished.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


New UN Envoy to Syria Plays Down Talks with Bashar Al-Assad

ASHRAF SHAZLY/AFP/GettyImages(DAMASCUS, Syria) -- Miracles aren't expected to come out of United Nations-Arab League envoy Lakhdar Brahimi's meeting with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in Damascus later this week.

Brahimi replaced Kofi Annan, who expressed frustration with the refusal of the Syrian government and rebels to negotiate a settlement to the nearly 19-month-long conflict that has cost tens of thousands of lives.

If anything, the fighting has intensified and the daily death toll has grown over the past few months.

Brahimi has already dampened expectations about what will come out of his talks with al-Assad, who refuses to step down from office as a way to bring about democratic reform, which is the goal of opposition forces.

According to Brahimi, his appeals to al-Assad to try and reach a peaceful end to the crisis will come at the behest of the Syrian people.  He says they will be his only "master" while conferring with the Syrian leader.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Video Shows Rebel Execution of Syrian Forces in Aleppo

Scott Peterson/Getty Images(DAMASCUS, Syria) -- The conflict in Syria showed further signs of spinning out of control Monday after a video was released that depicts the execution of over 20 government soldiers by rebel forces.

An opposition group, which sides with the rebels, says that the incident occurred in the northern city of Aleppo where some of the fiercest fighting of the war has taken place in recent weeks.

Following the shooting, men wearing army fatigues were seen lying in the sidewalk, some who had been blindfolded with their hands tied behind their backs.

Meanwhile, rebels holding weapons are also viewed nearby as a voice in Arabic intones "God is great" while a camera pans over the corpses.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says that the execution likely took place earlier this month.  Release of the video follows Sunday's simultaneous car bomb explosions near two hospitals in Aleppo that claimed more than 30 lives and wounded dozens more.  Most of those killed were civilians.

Government and rebel forces are battling for control of the city of three million, which could determine the outcome of the conflict now nearing its 19th month with tens of thousands killed.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio