Mar
06

Syria: atrocities recalled by those fleeing Homs – live updates

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• US senator John McCain calls for air strikes against Assad
• Syrian medics involved in torture according to new video
• Valerie Amos and Kofi Annan due to visit Syria

8.24am: (all times GMT) Welcome to Middle East Live. Horrific accounts of the violence in Syria continue to emerge by those fleeing Homs and other besieged neighbourhoods.

Here’s a roundup of the main developments:

Syria

Syrian refugees fleeing to neighbouring Lebanon said they feared they would be slaughtered in their own homes as government forces hunted down opponents in a brutal offensive against the opposition stronghold of Homs.

Hassana Abu Firas, who fled weekend shelling in al-Qusair, south-west of Homs said: “What are we supposed to do? People are sitting in their homes and they are hitting us with tanks. Those who can flee, do. Those who can’t will die sitting down.”

Video from a military hospital in Homs suggests that medics are torturing patients, Channel 4 News reports.

An employee of the hospital said: “I have seen detainees being tortured by electrocution, whipping, beating with batons, and by breaking their legs. They twist the feet until the leg breaks.”

Former Republican presidential candidate John McCain has become the fist US Senator to call for air strikes against the Assad regime. In a Senate speech he said: “Time is running out. Assad’s forces are on the march. Providing military assistance to the Free Syrian Army and other opposition groups is necessary, but at this late hour, that alone will not be sufficient to stop the slaughter and save innocent lives. The only realistic way to do so is with foreign airpower.”

Kofi Annan, the UN-Arab League envoy to Syria, is due to visit Damascus on Saturday following a visit by UN relief chief Valerie Amos. Annan’s office said: “The purpose of his first visit is to seek an urgent end to all violence and human rights violations, and to initiate the effort to promote a peaceful solution to the Syrian crisis.”

“A terrible fear has seized people here about what the government forces are doing now that they are back in control,” writes the BBC’s Paul Wood outside Homs.

Ahmed Ibrahim told me that 36 men and boys were taken away. Among them were four members of his own family including his 12-year-old son, Hozaifa. All were dead now, he said.

He said he had seen everything, lying flat behind some trees.

He told me: “There is a major checkpoint near our house. Reinforcements arrived there. They brought Shabiha (the “ghosts” or paramilitaries). They began arresting all the men in the area so I crouched down in the orchards just beside my house.

“They started beating them up. Then they moved them into a street next to a school. They killed them all. I saw it. I was 50 to 100 metres away. Their hands were tied behind their backs. A soldier held each one still on the ground with his boot; another soldier came to cut their throats. I could hear their screams.”

Although the Syrian government has retaken Homs, it is losing the second city of Aleppo and the broader North, according to Syrian watcher Joshua Landis. He also reports that opposition militias are being formed with growing frequency.

A contact from a Aleppo told him:

The fact that neighbourhoods, such as Azaz, Hreitan and Anadan have fallen out of government control is significant because cars can no longer travel, even in daylight, to Turkey from Aleppo. The entire boarder area is becoming unsafe. This is much worse than Baba Amr or Khaldiye falling out of government control from the point of view of security because Turkey is the base for the Free Syrian Army, arms exports into Syria, and most opposition groups …

Even the middle and upper classes that live in the city centers are beginning to panic and look for a way out of the country. Plane flights to Lebanon from Aleppo are booked for the next month. The exodus has begun.

This is the first real breakdown of Aleppo control.

Iran

Binyamin Netanyahu, the Israeli prime minister, warned that “none of us can afford to wait much longer” to act against Iran’s nuclear programme. In an address to the powerful pro-Israel lobby in Washington, Netanyahu derided the effectiveness of sanctions hours after a meeting with Barack Obama at which the US president appealed for time for diplomacy to pressure Iran to open up its nuclear programme to inspection.

Matthew Weaver

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from Matthew Weaver

via http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/middle-east-live/2012/mar/06/syria-atrocities-recalled-live

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