giovedì 23 giugno 2011
Syria: Refugees flee border camps as troops deploy
Hundreds of Syrian refugees are fleeing across the border into Turkey to escape an assault by Syrian troops in the area, witnesses say.
Tanks and snipers have entered the village of Khirbet al-Jouz - a base for makeshift refugee camps.
One group of people broke through barbed wire to cross the border close to the Turkish village of Guvecci.
More than 1,300 people are estimated to have been killed in the government crackdown on the popular uprising.
Thousands more protesters have been detained since the crackdown began in March, opposition activists say.
The recent military offensive in the north of the country forced thousands of Syrians to flee towards Turkey.
Many crossed the border, but a significant number opted to camp on the Syrian side of the border - preferring to remain on Syrian soil as long as possible.
One man said 2,130 people in his camp had fled Khirbet al-Jouz to avoid being attacked by the army, which was surrounding the numerous camps on the Syrian side of the border.
"This is a way of terrorising people," the man told BBC Arabic.
"Our group here is informing the world of what is going on inside Syria. [The authorities] don't like it, so they want to either arrest or kill these people, so that there are no more people who can follow the news from inside Syria. It is just terror for everybody."Turkish mobilisation
Syrian troops reportedly stormed Khirbet al-Jouz early on Thursday morning. Tanks and soldiers were seen on roads around the village, snipers were spotted on roof tops, and one witness saw a machine gun position being established.
A watchtower which had been flying a Turkish flag - put there by Syrians grateful for Turkey's help - was now flying a Syrian flag, witnesses said.
Villagers and journalists in Guvecci could see military activity across the border.
Umit Bektas, a Reuters photographer positioned on a hillside on the Turkish side of the border, said he had seen armoured vehicles taking up positions on the Syrian hillside, apparently with the aim of preventing more fleeing Syrians from reaching the camps next to the border.
Earlier on Thursday, hundreds of people broke through barbed wire to cross into Turkey, while another group of several hundred people were spotted further down the same road.
They were taken in more than 30 buses to refugee camps in Turkey, Bektas told the BBC Newshour programme.
Those fleeing were expected to join some 11,000 Syrians already taking refuge at tent cities erected by the Turkish Red Crescent in the border province of Hatay.
Meanwhile, Turkish forces have mobilised along the border.
The BBC's Jonathan Head in Istanbul says it is not clear how the Turkish government - increasingly critical of Syria - will respond to seeing troops harrying refugees who had assumed they were under de facto Turkish protection.
Meanwhile, Damascus says it has eased restrictions to allow opposition figures to attend a conference there on Monday, says the BBC's Lina Sinjab in the capital.
However, only independents - those not affiliated to opposition groups - will be allowed to attend. Signatories of the 2005 Damascus Declaration - a joint call for reform by Syria's most well-known intellectuals and dissidents - are also barred.
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this is another ruthless dictatorships of the Middle East, which the international community must intervene. There are thousands of refugees at the borders with Turkey, and we can not remain indifferent. as international community we need to move on, throw down that dictatorship and help people of that country and bring democracy in syria. overthrow Bashar Assad is a priority for do this
Gadhafi calls for UN to investigate NATO attack in Surman
- NEW: "Stop this barbaric attack," Gadhafi pleads
- A Libyan opposition leader is in China for talks
- The United Nations has described dire needs in war-torn Libya
- Some U.S. lawmakers want America to withdraw from the NATO mission
(CNN) -- Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi called Thursday for the U.N. Security Council to carry out an independent fact-gathering mission on Monday's NATO attack in the city of Surman, which resulted in civilian casualties.
"The Security Council should hold an urgent meeting to discuss the matter and stop this barbaric attack," he said in a nationally televised address.
In the attack, five houses were hit in Surman, which is west of Tripoli, and 15 people died, including three children, according to a government spokesman.
NATO has said the target was a command-and-control communications node involved in coordinating attacks on the Libyan people. "While NATO cannot confirm reports of casualties, we would regret any loss of civilian life and we go to great lengths to avoid civilian casualties," the organization said on its website. "This is in stark contrast to the Gadhafi regime, which continues its policy of systematic and sustained violence against the people of Libya."
But Gadhafi angrily rejected the claim that the compound was anything but a residential area. "This is not a military factory, munition factory or military port or a fortified castle," he said as video lingered over rubble. "It has no military identity."
"This is the jungle rule," he continued. "The infidels rule. You don't have any conscience."
He blamed the members of the Security Council who approved the resolution in March that authorized the use of military force to protect unarmed anti-government Libyan demonstrators.
"You will be responsible for any outcome," he threatened, "And you will regret it."
Gadhafi singled out U.S. President Barack Obama for blame. "Originally, you're from Africa and originally Arab as well," he said. "You sold out to America. Where will you go? On Judgment Day, you will be in hell. Our dead will be in heaven, and your dead will be in hell. You ought to feel ashamed."
Gadhafi then directed his vitriol toward the "so-called heroic pilots" who flew the NATO planes involved in the attack. "You know we don't have any air defenses or military planes," the Libyan leader said, referring to the no-fly zone that NATO has imposed over Libya. "You have long-range rockets and you have been flying over the Libyan air territory without any deterrent."
He said NATO's true motivation was inspired by hatred. "You hate us because we are Muslims," Gadhafi said. "You hate Libya and people who bear witness to Allah and Mohammed. You bomb them."
Gadhafi's late-night diatribe came hours after China embraced the Libyan opposition as "an important dialogue partner" and urged an end to the fighting and a political solution to the crisis, state media said.
"China is not seeking any private interest concerning Libya, and believes the Libyan situation is essentially an internal issue," said Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi after meeting with Mahmoud Jibril, chairman of the executive board of Libya's National Transitional Council.
Jibril's was the first visit by a Libyan opposition leader. He arrived in China on Tuesday, according to the state-run Xinhua news agency.
For the sake of the Libyan people, Yang called on the two sides to "truly give peace a chance."
Also Wednesday, Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini urged an end to the fighting in Libya to allow for humanitarian aid to flow to the war-devastated North African nation.
Speaking in Parliament, Frattini said Italy backs a cessation to hostilities to negotiate a way for a humanitarian corridor.
Frattini's comments came after he had been critical of reported civilian casualties in NATO airstrikes and said they threatened the credibility of the alliance.
At a weekend summit in Cairo, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said Libya was facing shortages of food, fuel and medical personnel and access to water services was dwindling.
"The U.N.'s humanitarian efforts are taking place under extremely difficult circumstances," he said.
The Libyan war erupted from anti-government protests in February. Following a U.N. mandate to protect civilians, NATO began bombing military targets in March. However, Gadhafi still maintains control in Tripoli and other cities.
Meanwhile, pressure has mounted from U.S. lawmakers to withdraw backing for the mission.
"The fact is the president has not made his case to the members of Congress, he has not made his case to the American people," House Speaker John Boehner said Wednesday.
"We've been in this conflict for 90 days and the president hasn't talked to the American people for four or five weeks about why we're there, what our national interest is, and why we should continue," Boehner said.
The day before, Senators John Kerry, D-Massachusetts, and John McCain, R-Arizona, introduced a resolution to counter some of the criticism about the U.S. role in Libya.
That resolution authorizes the commitment of U.S. forces for one year while stressing the lack of support for any use of American ground troops.
the dictatorship of this despot is next at the end. if was not able President Reagan to remove him out of the way with the bombs, because the fault was of italians leaders like Bettino Craxi. Now with NATO he will not escape, and after him, even in Italy we get rid of Silvio Berlusconi...
Analysts rate Obama's Afghanistan address
- Bergen: President for first time acknowledged talks with Taliban
- Borger: Difficult to separate the military decision from political decision
- Gergen: Obama winding down Iraq, Afghanistan wars like he said he would
- Zakaria: Kept with his basic strategic rationale from the start
(CNN) -- President Barack Obama announced Wednesday night that all the 33,000 additional U.S. forces he ordered to Afghanistan in December 2009 will be home within 15 months.
In a nationally televised address from the East Room of the White House, Obama said 10,000 of the "surge" forces would withdraw by the end of this year, and the other 23,000 would leave Afghanistan by September 2012.
At the same time, Obama said the drawdown would help the United States begin to refocus attention and resources on efforts to resolve economic and other problems and to unify a politically divided nation.
Here's how CNN analysts reacted to the address:
Peter Bergen, CNN security analyst
"Well, we've known [talks with the Taliban] have been going on for several months, but certainly as far as I can tell this is the first time the president sort of officially acknowledged it. Bob Gates did a few days ago. President Karzai was the person who kind of first outed it officially.
"I think it is a big deal that White House officials I spoke to said that they're aware of somewhere between 10 and 20 different what they call "leads" into the Taliban. They're sort of doing detective work is what they're saying, trying to work out if these leads, how legitimate are they.
"Is somebody coming forward as sort of a free agent who really doesn't represent senior leadership of the Taliban, or is it something deeper?
"They are saying they are not starry-eyed about these discussions with the Taliban. They don't expect some Treaty of Versailles or some peace agreement on the deck of the USS Missouri. But they are looking at sort of some leads that appear to be fairly substantial. That might lead to further negotiation. So I think this is newsworthy."
Gloria Borger, CNN chief political analyst
"This is a president who understands that 56% of the American public does not want to be in Afghanistan. And the White House advisers I spoke to today said to me, 'Look, if you go back to his speech in December of 2009, this is a president that people will view as steady.'
"Because he told us what he was going to do when he announced the surge in December 2009. And that is exactly what he has done. He is claiming some success in diminishing and defeating al Qaeda, obviously killing bin Laden helps him with that narrative.
"And so I think he believes it now. He can make the case to the American public that he can draw down having had some success.
"But given the fact that we're spending all this money on this war, that it is usually unpopular. I think it's very difficult to separate what is a military decision from what will become a political decision, you know? It's just -- it's all part and parcel of the same thing."
David Gergen, CNN senior political analyst
"Well, he has chosen I think what was called earlier the 'Goldilocks strategy.' That is there's some people that want to move out rapidly, some people that want to stay a long time. I might choose the middle of that.
"And overall I thought that this speech did bring into focus -- it was a very good speech -- brought into focus his overall philosophy.
"You have to say he promised as a candidate early on in his presidency he would wind down the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and try to do that successfully.
"And his White House aides were pointing out this afternoon when he came into office he had 196,000 troops deployed. By the end of this year we'll have less than 100,000. He is winding down. I think there's substantial disagreement on how he's winding down."
Fareed Zakaria, CNN world affairs analyst
"I think it's in keeping with his basic strategic rationale from the start. He did announce the surge. Part of that was, I think, the military boxed him in. You remember [Gen.] Stan McChrystal leaked his recommendation. It became very difficult for a Democratic president to overturn it.
"But Obama has started his presidency saying we are too committed overseas, we are too militarily engaged, we have too large a footprint, we've got to rebalance, we've got to focus on nation-building at home. We've got to focus on Asia. And he sounded all those themes.
"It was a remarkable speech for an American president in the caution, the strategic emphasis, rather than the idealistic emphasis.
"He says things like, we must be as pragmatic as we are passionate, as strategic as we are resolute. People would have America overextend itself, confronting every evil that could be found abroad. This is reminiscent of a very different strain of America, in many ways, a strain that goes back before the Cold War."