Valdosta Daily Times

Top News

May 11, 2013

UN rights chief alarmed over Syrian troop buildup

BEIRUT — The top U.N. human rights official expressed concern Friday that Syrian troop buildup around a besieged, rebel-held town in the country’s west could lead to more atrocities if the area is overrun.

The area of Qusair is strategically important to the regime because it links the capital, Damascus, with the coastal region, where regime loyalists are concentrated. This includes Alawites, followers of an offshoot of Shiite Islam to which the Assad family also belongs.

The rebellion against President Bashar Assad is largely driven by Syria’s majority Sunni Muslims.

Last week, regime forces were blamed for killing dozens of civilians in two predominantly Sunni communities in western Syria, which is also near the border with Lebanon.

Navi Pillay, the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, said Friday her team has reported a troop buildup around the town of Qusair, which is just 10 kilometers (six miles) from the Lebanese border in Syria’s Homs province.

Qusair has been ringed by Syrian troops for several weeks and has been shelled by their backers from the Lebanese Hezbollah militia.

On Friday, the Syrian military dropped leaflets over Qusair, urging rebel fighters to surrender, but did not set a deadline for them to do so, said the office of the Homs governor.

Pillay said in a statement that it appears the regime is preparing for a large-scale attack, adding that “local people clearly fear a possible repeat of last week’s killings of civilians.”

Rebels have lost ground in the area since the government launched an offensive there last month, backed by Hezbollah.

Bassan al-Dada, an official in the rebels’ Free Syrian Army, confirmed Friday that more pro-regime forces have been streaming to the area of Qusair, a town of more than 20,000 people south of the city of Homs.

Hezbollah fighters have been shelling the town, hitting the main water tank and filtration station, and rebel fighters have responded, al-Dada said by phone from Turkey. On Thursday, several rockets overshot their targets and hit Lebanon, causing no casualties.

Pillay said she has received reports that the local population in the area of Qusair is increasingly being displaced, but it was not clear if civilians can leave the town itself. Al-Dada said the siege is tight and roads in and out of the city are not safe.

In other developments, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan alleged that the Assad regime has fired about 200 missiles tipped with chemical weapons but did not provide detailed proof.

Erdogan said in an interview with the U.S. TV network NBC that his claim is based on remains of missiles, photographs, intelligence reports and medical reports of victims of such alleged attacks being treated in Turkey.

President Barack Obama has said the use of chemical weapons in Syria is a “red line” for the U.S. and would have serious consequences. There have been repeated allegations that the regime has used chemical weapons, but the administration says it is still investigating.

Erdogan said the regime crossed Obama’s red line “a long time ago,” adding that Turkey wants the U.S. “to assume more responsibility and take further steps.”

Turkey is a major ally of the Syrian opposition.

In the Philippines, meanwhile, a top official said Filipinos should pull out of a U.N. peacekeeping contingent in Syria after Filipino troops were kidnapped by Syrian rebels twice over the past two months.

The most recent abduction took place earlier this week, when four Filipino peacekeepers were seized. The contingent patrols a buffer zone between Syria and the Golan Heights, a plateau Israel captured from Syria in 1967.

Syrian rebels seized the four along the U.N.-patrolled demarcation line on Tuesday, only two months after 21 Filipino peacekeepers were abducted and held for three days by the rebels in the same area.

“We have sent a recommendation to the president and as soon as he says go, we will undertake to do that as soon as possible,” Philippine Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario said.

President Benigno Aquino III has the final word on whether to pull out the Filipino troops.

Nearly 1,000 U.N. peacekeepers are patrolling the Golan Heights. Other major contributors are India and Austria. Croatia has recently withdrawn its contingent.

 

1
Text Only
Top News
  • Lake Park considers millage rate increase

    Lake Park has tentatively adopted a millage rate which will result in a 29.64 percent increase in property taxes.

    July 28, 2014

  • Free Health Fair slated for August 9th

    A free health fair hosted by the 100 Black Men of Brooks-Grady-and-Thomas Counties, Inc. and sponsored by Archbold Hospital will take place on August 9th  from 8:00am until 12 noon.

    July 28, 2014

  • BtpsXVpIgAEXKB-.jpg Manhunt underway for drivers of stolen dump truck

    This morning, around 8:00 deputies from the Lowndes County Sheriff’s Office attempted to stop a dump truck traveling south on I-75.

    July 28, 2014 1 Photo

  • Kingston’s loss means less clout for Ga.

    For two decades, Rep. Jack Kingston was a congressman who routinely crushed his opponents on election night — winning a new term every other year with vote totals between 63 and 77 percent.

    July 28, 2014

  • IMG_3745.jpeg Gas leak on West Adair

    A gas leak has occured on West Adair Street, between Tombs and Oak Street. The leak began just after 11 a.m.

    July 28, 2014 1 Photo

  • salmonella 2 copy.jpg Trial nears for suspects in salmonella case

    Three people accused of scheming to manufacture and ship salmonella-tainted peanuts that killed nine people, sickened more than 700 and prompted one of the largest food recalls in history are set to go to trial this week in south Georgia.

    July 28, 2014 1 Photo

  • AP4507280123 copy.jpg Today in History for Monday, July 28, 2014
    Today is Monday, July 28, the 209th day of 2014. There are 156 days left in the year. 
     

    July 28, 2014 1 Photo

  • Commercial driver training program expanding

    Department of Driver Services (DDS) Commissioner Rob Mikell announced recently an expansion of the commercial driver training program administered by the Agency’s Regulatory Compliance Division. DDS will now offer a Commercial Driver License (CDL) Instructor Training Class for customers who have applied to be CDL instructors. The session will provide additional guidance as the applicants prepare for the final exam.

    July 28, 2014

  • Tentative deal reached on VA reform

    The chairmen of the House and Senate Veterans Affairs committees have reached a tentative agreement on a plan to fix a veterans’ health program scandalized by long patient wait times and falsified records covering up delays.

    July 27, 2014

  • Heat advisory for much of South Georgia

    A heat advisory is in place for much of South Georgia until 7 p.m.

    July 27, 2014

Top News
Poll

Do you agree with the millage rate increases?

Yes. We need to maintain services
No. Services should have been cut.
     View Results