x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

Turkey issues 'final words' of warning to Syria

Jordan and Palestinians also join with US in condemning Bashar Al Assad's brutal response to the five-month uprising against his regime.

BEIRUT // Syrian troops besieged residential areas of two key cities yesterday, firing on residents as they fled for safety and killing at least two people.

Also yesterday, Jordan and Turkey joined the US in condemning Bashar Al Assad's brutal response to the five-month uprising against his regime.

The military assault of Latakia was in its third day yesterday after gunboats joined ground troops on Sunday. About 30 people have been killed in the city since Saturday, activists said. Soldiers also stormed the area of Houla in Homs, the scene of massive protests in recent months. A sniper killed an elderly man, according to the London-based Observatory for Human Rights, which has a network of activists on the ground in Syria.

Jordan's prime minister, Marouf Al Bakhit, told his Syrian counterpart in a phone call yesterday to end the crackdown immediately, marking the first time Jordan had officially spoken out about the violence in Syria. Jordan's state-run Petra news agency said Mr Al Bakhit told the Syrian prime minister, Adel Safar, to "quickly end" military operations. Mr Al Bakhit urged Syria to implement political reforms, saying Jordan is waiting for "urgent, concrete action".

Ahmet Davutoglu, Turkey's prime minister, also called on Mr Al Assad to end the violence, warning the Syrian president that these were Ankara's "final words".

"This is our final word to the Syrian authorities, our first expectation is that these operations stop immediately and unconditionally," Mr Davutoglu said during a news conference.

"If these operations do not stop, there will be nothing left to say about the steps that would be taken," he said, without elaborating.

US President Barack Obama "has no doubt the Syrian people will be better off without him," the spokesman Jay Carney told reporters yesterday, reiterating that the Syrian leader had "lost his legitimacy".

The Palestinians also condemned Syria over the violence as the UN Relief and Works Agency reported that more than 5,000 refugees had fled the Ramel camp in southern Latakia under fire and demanded immediate access to the site.

The Palestine Liberation Organisation's secretary general, Yasser Abed Rabbo, denounced the attack on the Ramel camp and said such violence was "part of the crimes against humanity" targeting Palestinians and Syrians alike.

As the gunships blasted waterfront districts on Sunday, troops and security forces backed by tanks and armoured vehicles stormed several residential neighbourhoods. The Observatory said troops had opened fire yesterday as a group of fleeing residents approached a checkpoint in Latakia. One person was shot dead and five were wounded.

The Local Coordination Committees, an activist group that organised protests in Syria, also confirmed troops fired at fleeing families. It said random gunfire erupted yesterday in addition to a campaign of raids and house-to-house arrests.

Troops later entered small neighbourhoods in the Al Ramel Palestinian refugee camp, warning people to leave. Amateur videos posted online showed smoke rising from the Al Ramel district, the sound of heavy gunfire and people shouting, "God is Great!"

A Syrian military official, speaking to SANA, yesterday denied as "absolutely baseless" reports that gunboats had fired on Latakia.

* Associated Press and Agence France-Presse