Syrian news agency SANA on Tuesday said the government has banned its citizens from performing hajj this year due to disagreements with the government of Saudi Arabia.
“The Syrian Supreme Hajj Committee has banned this season’s pilgrimage because the Saudi Ministry of Hajj did not sign the pilgrimage agreement on time, although the committee met all required procedures,” the agency said.
For the past 18 months Syria has seen mass protests against President Bashar al-Assad’s regime, in which more than 27,000 people have been killed, according to the London-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
Damascus accuses Saudi Arabia of arming and financing Assad’s opponents, while Riyadh demands that Assad step down.
Edited translation from Al-Masry Al-YoumTags: Syrian News Agency, Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, Syrian Supreme Hajj Committee, government of Saudi Arabia, Saudi Arabia, Saudi Ministry of Hajj
BEIRUT: Clashes erupted in Syria’s main cities of Damascus and Aleppo on Saturday, following a bloody day in which 132 people were killed nationwide, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.Tags: Syrian Observatory for Human Rights
Photograph: Reuters/Goran Tomasevic FSA confirms some units withdrew from Salaheldin ,others still fighting.. pro govt TV says syrian army is in Salaheldin square now The British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights confirms that troops have entered the south-west Salahedin district after heavy shelling.Tags: Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, Syrian Army
As fighting raged for Syria’s commercial capital Aleppo on Monday, at least 39 people were killed in violence elsewhere, 11 of them civilians, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.Tags: Syrian Observatory for Human Rights
Arab League Secretary General Nabil al-Araby condemned on Saturday morning “the heinous crime committed against innocent civilians in the Tremseh in Hama province.”
In a statement on the Arab League website, Araby said “the responsibility for this crime rests with the Syrian government whose use of heavy weapons in this attack on citizens is confirmed, including artillery, tanks and helicopters.”
Araby warned of the existence of ethnic cleansing missions, such as those that previously took place in Houla.
He said, “There is no other choice for the [UN] Security Council, especially the permanent members, but to take responsibility and issue a binding resolution compelling the Syrian government to stop acts of violence and murder, implementing Security Council resolutions and Kofi Annan's [peace] plan, and starting the process of political transition to a free democratic system, as demanded by the Syrian people.”
“Action must be taken to protect Syrian civilians, and to try those responsible for these heinous crimes against humanity,” Araby said.
According to the the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights and other opposition activists, about 220 Syrians, mostly civilians, were massacred in Tremseh village in the rebellious Hama region when it was attacked by the air force, artillary and infantry.
It is the worst single incident of violence in the 16 months of the Syrian uprising against the regime of President Bashar al-Assad, in which more than 17,000 people have been killed so far, according to the observatory.
Russia and China, both veto-wielding permanent members of the UN Security Council, have for months blocked attempts to isolate and push out Assad, endorsing his argument that he is defending Syria against armed groups bent on ousting him with the backing of the West and allied Sunni monarchies in the Gulf.
Edited transaltion from Al-Masry Al-YoumTags: Arab League, Arab League Secretary General Nabil, Kofi Annan, Syrian government, President Bashar al-Assad, Security Council resolutions
Syrian forces bombarded a string of towns in Aleppo province on Saturday, a day after global powers gathered in yet another effort to chart a political end to the revolt against President Bashar al-Assad.
"Regime forces are attempting to regain control over this region, where they suffered heavy casualties over the past months to rebels," the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said, adding that the bombardment killed one civilian and wounded dozens in the town of Qabtan al-Jabal.
"A large number of families have been displaced from the area for fear of shelling and lack of water, electricity and medical services," the watchdog added of the attacks in the northern province.
Shelling also continued in the central city of Homs, under bombardment by the army for more than a month.
The Syrian General Revolutionary Authority reported that shelling intensified through the night in the neighbourhoods of Old Homs and Hamidiyeh, where "many people were buried under the rubble" of a collapsed building.
The observatory said 93 people, mostly civilians, were killed across Syria on Friday as protesters took to the streets in several provinces after being urged to call for a "People's liberation war."
On Friday, some 100 nations and organisations meeting in Paris called on the UN Security Council to adopt a transition plan for Syria backed by economic sanctions if the regime refuses to comply.
Concretely, they asked the council to urgently adopt a six-point peace plan drawn up by UN-Arab League envoy Kofi Annan under the UN Charter's Chapter VII.
But the final statement stressed that any immediate action under Article 41 provided only for non-military intervention.
The Annan plan, which insists on a cessation of violence by all sides, has made little headway and activists say an estimated 16,500 people have now died since the uprising began in March last year.
"We should go back and ask for a resolution in the Security Council that imposes real and immediate consequences for non-compliance, including sanctions," ranging from economic measures to military force, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said.
In some of her toughest comments yet, Clinton said she thought China and long-time Syrian ally Russia did "not believe they are paying any price at all for standing up on behalf of the regime."
Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov "categorically" rejected "the formulation that Russia supports Bashar al-Assad's regime in the situation that has developed in Syria."
Although Moscow did not attend the meeting, a diplomatic source insisted that "Russian political and security circles are changing their position."
The meeting took place as news emerged that a general from Assad's most trusted inner circle had defected in what would be a major blow to the regime as it battles the opposition.
General Munaf Tlass, a boyhood friend of Assad, was a general in the elite Republican Guard charged with protecting the regime. He is the son of former defence minister Mustafa Tlass, a close friend of Assad's late father and predecessor, Hafez.
A source close to the regime said he was on his way to Paris to join his wife and his sister, Nahed Ojjeh, widow of Saudi millionaire arms dealer Akram Ojjeh.
Tlass was sidelined by the regime more than a year ago, after he was deemed unreliable.
His defection comes two weeks after a colonel in the air force won political asylum after landing his MiG-21 fighter jet in neighbouring Jordan.
In other developments, UN chief Ban Ki-moon called on Friday for scaling down an observer mission in Syria to refocus on political efforts to end the bloodshed.
He said the observers' mandate should remain unchanged, though with a "reduced military observer component," and the focus shifting from monitoring a ceasefire that has never taken hold toward a more political role.Tags: Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov, Bashar al-Assad, President Bashar al-Assad, Syrian forces, Syrian General Revolutionary Authority, Syrian Observatory for Human Rights
More than 16,500 people have been killed in violence since the uprising against President Bashar al-Assad broke out in March last year, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said on Monday.
The 16,507 dead comprise 11,486 civilians, 4,151 government troops and 870 army defectors, the Britain-based watchdog told AFP.
In its running tolls, the observatory counts as civilians those rebel fighters who are not defectors from the army.
The United Nations no longer publishes its own estimates of the death toll.
In violence on Monday, at least five civilians were killed, the observatory said.
Four died in the eastern province of Deir Ezzor, when the car they were traveling in was shelled. A fifth was killed when troops shelled the rebel-controlled central town of Rastan.
An activist in Syria's third largest city of Homs told AFP via Skype that many civilians remained trapped in shelling of the Jourat al-Shiah, Khalidiyeh and Old City neighborhoods.
"Many neighborhoods of Homs are still under siege, and it is really hard for us to get food or medicines in," said Khaled al-Tellawy.
"Field doctors are amputating the limbs of the injured because they have no equipment to treat them with, and they can't be smuggled out," Tellawy said.
The besieged neighborhoods of Homs are among a string of areas that have fallen into the effective control of rebel fighters, the observatory said.
Late last month, the International Committee of the Red Cross and the Syrian Arab Red Crescent made an unsuccessful attempt to reach the trapped civilians in Homs.Tags: government troops, Syrian Arab Red Crescent, the Observatory, President Bashar al-Assad