Turks push for action on Syria as Assad
steps up assault on Homs
February 9, 2012
The remains of a wrecked vehicle are seen next to a
damaged house in the Sunni Muslim district of Bab
Amro in Homs in this picture received February 8,
2012. Photo: Reuters. See Related Links
AMMAN,— Armoured reinforcements poured
into Homs as President Bashar al-Assad's forces
bombarded the Syrian city for a fourth day,
opposition sources said on Thursday, worsening the
humanitarian situation and prompting a new
diplomatic push from Turkey.
Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu told
Reuters before flying to Washington for talks on
Syria that Turkey, which once saw Assad as a
valuable ally but now wants him out, could no longer
stand by and watch.
He said Turkey wanted to host an international
meeting to agree ways to end the killing and provide
"It is not enough being an observer," he said. "It
is time now to send a strong message to the Syrian
people that we are with them," he added, while
refusing to be drawn on what kind of action Turkey
or its allies would be prepared to consider.
Scores were killed in Homs Wednesday, according to
the opposition, drawing comparison with the plight
of the city of Benghazi which triggered Western
attacks on Libya last year and accelerating a global
diplomatic showdown whose outcome is far from clear.
Activists said that at least 40 tanks and 50
infantry fighting vehicles accompanied by 1,000
soldiers were transported from the nearby border
with Lebanon and from the coast and deployed in Homs.
Large Sunni neighborhoods that have been the target
of the heaviest rocket and mortar bombardment by
Alawite-led forces loyal to Assad remained without
electricity and water and basic supplies were
running low, activists in Homs said.
There was no comment from the Syrian authorities,
who have placed tight restrictions on access to the
country and it was not possible to verify the
"We have seen in the last 24 hours incursions into
neighborhoods such as Khalidiya, Bab Amro and
Inshaat. Tanks went in after heavy bombardment and
then pulled back," activist Mohammad Hassan told
Reuters by satellite phone.
Mazen Adi, a prominent Syrian opposition figure who
fled to Paris several weeks ago, said rebels loosely
organized under the Free Syrian Army were fighting
back and staging hit-and-run guerrilla attacks
against loyalist forces in Homs.
"The Free Syrian Army is still managing to hit
strategic targets in Homs, such as the secret police
headquarters," Adi said.
"The regime cannot keep tanks for long inside
opposition neighborhoods because they will be
ambushed, and it is retaliating by hysteric bombing
that is killing mostly civilians and with mass
He was referring to the reported killing of three
unarmed Sunni families in their homes Wednesday by
militiamen loyal to Assad and known as 'shabbiha'.
Adi said that unlike a military onslaught on Hama in
1982 that razed large sections of the city and
finished off armed resistance to Assad family rule,
Homs was a bigger metropolis and rebels still had
lots of cover.
The Syrian opposition intensified calls for
international intervention to protect civilians.
Activist-in-exile Massoud Akko said,www.ekurd.net
Turkey and Western countries needed to organize an
airlift to Homs and other stricken cities and towns
that have borne the brunt of five months of a
sustained military crackdown to put down a mass
protest movement against Assad's rule.
"What the people of Homs need right now is basic
supplies such as medicine and baby food. This could
be done by air drops into Homs similar to what the
United States did in Iraqi Kurdistan in the 1990s,"
"It is not enough to say to this regime 'stop the
killings', because it won't listen. We are dealing
with a system based on political prostitution. The
regime is acting as if it is not attacking Homs at
all and says the bombardment the whole world is
seeing is being done by terrorists."
A statement by the Syrian Revolution General
Commission activists' group said friendly countries
should call for "an immediate halt to the shelling
of cities and residential neighborhoods," establish
safe corridors to supply humanitarian assistance to
stricken regions and support the Free Syrian Army.
Syria's position at the heart of the Middle East,
allied to Iran and home to a powder-keg religious
and ethnic mix, means Assad's opponents have
strenuously ruled out the kind of military action
they took against Gaddafi.
Russia and China, which let the United Nations
support the air campaign in Libya, provoked strong
condemnation from the United States, European powers
and Arab governments when they vetoed a much less
interventionist resolution in the Security Council
last week that called on Assad to step down.
Moscow sees Assad as a buyer of arms and host to a
Soviet-era naval base. For both Russia and China,
Syria is also a test case for efforts to resist U.N.
encroachment on sovereign governments' freedom to
deal with rebels as they see fit.
Campaigning for next month's presidential election
that he is certain to win, Prime Minister Vladimir
Putin, who first won the presidency after storming
the rebel Russian city of Grozny, said: "A cult of
violence has been coming to the fore in
international affairs ... This cannot fail to cause
"We of course condemn all violence regardless of its
source, but one cannot act like an elephant in a
"Help them, advise them, limit, for instance, their
ability to use weapons but not interfere under any
It is unclear what Turkey, a NATO member and rising
Muslim, democratic force in the Middle East, could
do to bring Moscow into any international initiative
alongside those regional and world powers which have
sided with the rebels against Assad.
Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan, who had
described the Russian and Chinese veto at the U.N.
as a "fiasco," telephoned outgoing Russian President
Dmitry Medvedev Wednesday.
The Kremlin said Medvedev told Erdogan that the
search for a solution should continue, including in
the Security Council, but that foreign interference
was not an option.
Medvedev also spoke with French President Nicolas
Sarkozy asking him and other Western countries to
avoid "hasty, unilateral moves" toward Syria, the
Officials in Washington said they hoped to meet soon
with international partners to consider how to halt
Syria's violence and provide humanitarian aid.
(Additional reporting by Simon Cameron-Moore and
Tulay Karadeniz in Ankara, Steve Gutterman in
Moscow, Erika Solomon in Beirut, John Irish in
Paris, Yasmine Saleh and Ayman Samir in Cairo and
Alister Bull, Matt Spetalnick and Andrew Quinn in
Washington; Editing by Michael Roddy)
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