Assad's forces bomb bridge serving as refugees' lifeline

 

The Syrian regime widened its relentless crackdown against opposition strongholds yesterday by bombing a bridge used by refugees escaping to Lebanon and deploying tanks to pulverise two mosques in a town close to the Jordanian border.

People in Hirak, close to the southern city of Deraa, told The Independent that they had been surrounded by troops and security forces, as President Bashar al-Assad's troops battled gunmen from the rebel Free Syria Army. "We're under siege," said a father-of-six as the sound of machine-gun fire crackled in the distance. "They are firing shells at us and we are being attacked from the security headquarters."

Omar al-Arabi, 40, said Syrian army tanks had shelled two mosques in the town after their loudspeakers were used to broadcast news about the uprising.

One of the buildings, the Al-Omari Mosque, had been converted from an ancient Roman temple that was more than 2,000 years old, he said.

A second man from Hirak – which has been subject to sporadic clampdowns ever since its citizens joined the original uprising in nearby Deraa a year ago – pleaded for international intervention to protect citizens.

"If the whole international community keeps silent, Assad has permission to do whatever he wants," said the father-of-three, who called himself Abu Gasam.

According to the British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a 15-year-old boy and five government soldiers were killed during the clashes in Hirak yesterday.

The organisation's chief, Rami Abdel Rahman, said that Syrian troops had destroyed a bridge being used to evacuate families escaping the violence in Homs.

The bridge crossed the Orontes river in the village of Rableh, two miles from the Lebanese border, where scores of traumatised families have been arriving during the past week.

In Homs, the International Committee for the Red Cross was still waiting for permission to enter the district of Baba Amr – five days after the Syrian regime said it had granted access to volunteers. According to the campaigning rights group Avaaz, other areas of the city were now being besieged by troop reinforcements. Yesterday, civilians found three unidentified bodies dumped in the city centre, the group said.

An activist from a district next to Baba Amr also claimed that members of the notorious Shabiha militias were burning bodies in an attempt to hide the evidence of war crimes. It was impossible to verify his claims. "We don't want to live in conditions like these," the man said. "We would rather die."

In a further evidence of President Assad's widening crackdown, tanks reportedly encircled the town of Tibet al-Imam in Hama province while troops shelled Maaret al-Numan in northern Syria. According to figures from the local co-ordination committees, at least 21 people died across the country yesterday.

As international pressure continued to grow on President Assad, US Senator John McCain turned up the heat by calling for the Obama administration to launch air strikes against Syria.

"The United States should lead an international effort to protect key population centres in Syria, especially in the north, through air strikes on Assad's forces," he said in a speech to the Senate.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
News
ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment
Chris Martin of Coldplay performs live for fans at Enmore Theatre on June 19, 2014 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Mark Metcalfe/Getty Images)
music
Sport
Dave Mackay lifts the FA Cup in 1967 having skippered Spurs to victory
football
Life and Style
Marie had fake ID, in the name of Johanna Koch, after she evaded capture by the Nazis in wartime Berlin
historyOne woman's secret life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
News
Jihadi John
newsMonikers like 'Jihadi John' make the grim sound glamorous
Arts and Entertainment
As depicted in Disney's Robin Hood, King John was cowardly, cruel, avaricious and incompetent
film
Life and Style
Travis Kalanick, the co-founder of Uber, is now worth $5.3bn
tech
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Media Sales Executives - B2B

£20000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Recruitment Genius Ltd continue...

Recruitment Genius: Media Sales Executives - B2B

£20000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Recruitment Genius Ltd continue...

Recruitment Genius: Online Media Sales Trainee

£15000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: If you have the right attitude,...

Ashdown Group: Client Services Executive - Enfield, North London

Negotiable: Ashdown Group: Client Services Executive - Enfield, North London ...

Day In a Page

Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

Climate change key in Syrian conflict

And it will trigger more war in future
How I outwitted the Gestapo

How I outwitted the Gestapo

My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
The nation's favourite animal revealed

The nation's favourite animal revealed

Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
Is this the way to get young people to vote?

Getting young people to vote

From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot
Poldark star Heida Reed: 'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'

Poldark star Heida Reed

'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'
The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

Netanyahu knows he can get away with anything in America, says Robert Fisk
Families clubbing together to build their own affordable accommodation

Do It Yourself approach to securing a new house

Community land trusts marking a new trend for taking the initiative away from developers
Head of WWF UK: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

David Nussbaum: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

The head of WWF UK remains sanguine despite the Government’s failure to live up to its pledges on the environment
Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Set in a mythologised 5th-century Britain, ‘The Buried Giant’ is a strange beast
With money, corruption and drugs, this monk fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’

Money, corruption and drugs

The monk who fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’
America's first slavery museum established at Django Unchained plantation - 150 years after slavery outlawed

150 years after it was outlawed...

... America's first slavery museum is established in Louisiana
Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

The first 'American Idol' winner on how she manages to remain her own woman – Jane Austen fascination and all
Tony Oursler on exploring our uneasy relationship with technology with his new show

You won't believe your eyes

Tony Oursler's new show explores our uneasy relationship with technology. He's one of a growing number of artists with that preoccupation
Ian Herbert: Peter Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

The England coach leaves players to find solutions - which makes you wonder where he adds value, says Ian Herbert
War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn