More than 50 people died in violence across Syria today, an activist group said, as the government urged Japan to cancel a meeting to discuss further sanctions against President Bashar al-Assad’s regime.
Twenty-three civilians were killed by Assad’s troops in raids on areas including the capital, Damascus, its suburbs and the cities of Homs and Hama, the U.K.-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said in an e-mailed statement. More than 29 soldiers died in explosions and clashes with rebels seeking to topple Assad, the group said. The official Syrian Arab News Agency said the blasts were three car bombings by “terrorists” in the city of Daraa that killed seven people.
Syria urged Japan to scrap the meeting in Tokyo late this month at which international delegates will consider proposals to strengthen sanctions, according to SANA, which said the government in Damascus cited worsening living conditions for Syrians in its appeal. No date has been set for the meeting of officials from about 60 nations in the Friends of Syria group, Agence France-Presse said.
Assad vowed not to flee Syria and said the cost of any Western military operation in Syria would be “more than the whole world can afford,” in an interview with Russian state broadcaster RT in Damascus that was aired yesterday. More than 35,000 people have died since the uprising began in March 2011, the Observatory group said.
Fighting between troops and rebels for control of the town of Ras al-Ayn sparked a surge in the number of Syrians fleeing into neighboring countries, the Associated Press cited United Nations officials as saying yesterday. About 9,000 refugees crossed into Turkey, with Jordan and Lebanon each taking another 1,000 Syrians in the previous 24 hours, the officials said, according to AP.
The main opposition bloc, the Syrian National Council, elected dissident George Sabra, a Christian who had been imprisoned by the regime, as its leader at a meeting yesterday in Doha, AP reported. Rival opposition groups are in talks in the Qatari capital to create a more unified organization that can defeat Assad, AP said.
Jordan has increased its support for the Syrian opposition, the Wall Street Journal reported, citing unidentified rebels and an Arab official. Jordanian military trucks have been used to deliver light weapons, paid for by Saudi Arabia and Qatar, to the border for shipment into Syria by anti-Assad fighters, the Journal cited the people as saying. Jordan denied involvement in arms shipments into Syria, the newspaper said.
Assad and most of his top officials come from the Alawite sect, affiliated with Shiite Islam. The majority of Syria’s population and many leaders of the uprising are Sunni Muslims.
To contact the reporter on this story: Dahlia Kholaif in Kuwait at firstname.lastname@example.org
To contact the editor responsible for this story: Shaji Mathew at email@example.com