x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

Assassinations of pro-regime officials increasing in Syria crisis

Nearly 50 people were killed yesterday in violence across Syria, including 34 civilians who died during an assault on a village, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

BEIRUT // Nearly 50 people were killed yesterday in violence across Syria, including 34 civilians who died during an assault on a village, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

Syrian regime forces shot at and rained shells on the village of Souran in the central Hama province, it said.

Describing the deaths as a “massacre”, the group urged UN truce observers to deploy immediately in the area.

“Thirty-four people were killed under shelling and gunfire in Souran village while it was being raided,” the Britain-based watchdog said, revising its earlier reported death toll of 16 people, including three children.

“We in the Observatory express our extreme shock at the international monitors’ failure to go to Souran when we issued our first statement on the killing 16 people,” it added.

Elsewhere in the country, another 14 people were killed, the watchdog said, adding that anti-regime demonstrations were held in several areas of Syria yesterday.

The dead included a civilian killed by gunfire from regime forces who raided the village of Hasraya in Hama, one killed in Homs and two others in northern Aleppo, the Observatory said.

In Basra Al Sham city of southern Deraa province, an army defector was killed in an overnight ambush by regime forces, the group said.

In Jisr Al Shughur in north-west Idlib, armed men assassinated a Baath party official, the monitor said, amid a marked increase of assassinations targeting people associated with the regime.

"There is definitely an increase in assassinations targeting people associated with the regime, be they officials or pro-regime businessmen," Observatory head Rami Abdel Rahman said in Beirut by telephone.

In Idlib city, a defector was killed during clashes with regime forces.

Meanwhile in Douma, a northern suburb of Damascus, a civilian was killed by sniper fire just after a group of UN truce monitors had visited the area, according to the Observatory.

It also reported demonstrations in several areas of north-west Idlib and in Hama calling for the end of President Bashar Al Assad's regime.

In Deraa province, demonstrations were also held calling for the release of activist and citizen journalist Mohammed Al Hariri, who according to Reporters Without Borders (RSF) has been sentenced to death for "high treason".

Mr Hariri was arrested on April 16, RSF said, after he gave an interview to Qatar-based, pan-Arab television channel Al Jazeera from his home in Deraa.

The latest demonstrations took place after fierce fighting between regime troops and armed rebels rocked parts of the Syrian capital Damascus overnight, the Observatory said.

"Violent clashes broke out between rebel fighters and regime troops at a checkpoint in Kafr Sousa district," it added.

The Local Coordination Committees, an anti-regime network of activists on the ground in Syria, said that after the fighting, Kafr Sousa in the south of the capital saw the "arrival of huge reinforcements" of regime troops.

Clashes also broke out in others parts of southern Damascus, the Observatory said, adding that gunfire had during the night echoed across the city centre.

On Saturday, 23 people were killed in violence across Syria.

More than 12,000 people, the majority of them civilians, have died in Syria since an anti-regime revolt broke out in March 2011, according to the monitoring group.