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10 dead as Syria ships, tanks blast city: activists
by Staff Writers
Damascus (AFP) Aug 14, 2011

Syrian warships and security forces killed 10 people in an assault Sunday on the port city of Latakia, activists said, even as world leaders demanded an immediate end to the ruthless crushing of dissent.

Security forces also surged into the Damascus suburbs of Saqba and Hamriya overnight, cutting off communications, firing shots and making arrests, said the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

"Warships are attacking Latakia and explosions have been heard in several districts," the group said, adding that the main target was Ramleh suburb of the eastern Mediterranean port city.

Ten people were killed and 25 others seriously wounded, it said. The group said Palestinians also figured among the casualties of the assault on Ramleh, which is home to Palestinian refugees in Al-Ramal camp.

On Saturday, the military killed at least two more people and wounded 15 also in the Ramleh area of southern Latakia, a nerve centre of anti-regime protests, according to the advocacy group.

"Large numbers of residents, especially women and children" have fled Ramleh, the scene of mass protests calling for the fall of President Bashar al-Assad's regime, it said.

The Syrian Observatory said landline telephones and Internet connections with the port city were cut.

Around the capital, "security forces entered Saqba and Hamriya in great numbers and launched a campaign of arrests," according to the Britain-based group.

It said troops arrived in "15 military trucks, eight troop carriers and four jeeps," launching the assault at around 2:00 am (2300 GMT Saturday). "Gunfire was heard in both suburbs," and communications severed during the operation.

Syria's human rights groups, in a joint statement, on Sunday urged the authorities to release the head of the Syrian League for the Defence of Human Rights, Abdel Karim Rihawi, who was arrested on Thursday in Damascus.

His detention "represents a violation of the international commitments undertaken by Syria," they said.

"Security forces are continuing mass arrests, in violation of the law, human rights and democratic freedoms, denying the rights of opposition figures and peaceful demonstrators," the groups said.

In a telephone conversation on Saturday, US President Barack Obama and Saudi King Abdullah expressed their "shared, deep concerns about the Syrian government's use of violence against its citizens," the White House said in a statement.

"They agreed that the Syrian regime's brutal campaign of violence against the Syrian people must end immediately."

In a separate phone call, Obama and British Prime Minister David Cameron also called for for an "immediate" end to the bloodshed which has raged since protests broke out in mid-March.

A spokesman for Downing Street said the two leaders "expressed horror at the brutal reaction of the Syrian regime to legitimate protests, particularly during Ramadan," the holy month in which Muslims fast from dawn to dusk.

The call came after Saudi Arabia, a Sunni Muslim regional heavyweight which had remained silent on the five-month revolt, added its voice to a chorus of criticism and recalled its ambassador from Damascus.

The violence has cost more than 2,150 lives, including around 400 members of the security forces, according to rights activists. Syrian authorities have blamed the bloodshed on armed gangs and Islamist militants.

Washington has steadily ratcheted up the pressure on Damascus, imposing new sanctions and saying Assad has lost all legitimacy, but has so far stopped short of openly calling for him to step down.

Syrian troops backed by tanks have struggled to crush the revolt since pro-democracy protests turned into a full-scale uprising, despite repeated calls for restraint from world leaders.

The UN Security Council is due to hold a special meeting on Thursday to discuss human rights and the humanitarian emergency in Syria.

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Iraq treads carefully with Syria unrest
Baghdad (AFP) Aug 12, 2011
Iraq is treading carefully in its response to Syria's deadly crackdown on protesters, balancing its ties to Iran, which backs Damascus, and international condemnation of Syria, officials and analysts say. Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's crackdown on protesters, in which rights groups say more than 2,000 people have been killed since March, has drawn widespread international condemnation, ... read more

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