Kofi Annan voices 'grave concern' over Syria violence

 

International envoy Kofi Annan said today he was "gravely concerned"
about the latest violence in Syria, citing shelling of opposition areas
in Homs and reports of mortar, helicopter and tank attacks near the
coast.

Mr Annan said there was an escalation of fighting by both government and opposition forces.

Violence has spiked in recent weeks, with both sides ignoring a UN brokered ceasefire that was supposed to go into effect April 12 but never took hold.

Today, activists said Syrian troops attacked a rebel-held town in the centre with helicopter gunships and shelled other restive areas across the nation.

The aerial assault targeted the strategic river crossing town of Rastan, which has resisted repeated government offensives for months, the activists said.

"The regime is now using helicopters more after its ground troops suffered major losses," said Rami Abdul-Rahman of the Britain-based activist group Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. "Dozens of (military) vehicles have been destroyed or damaged" since the end of May, he added.

Syrian Foreign Ministry spokesman Jihad Makdissi recently said that rebels are now using sophisticated anti-tank missiles.

Videos posted by activists over the past week have shown many destroyed tanks and armoured personnel carriers.

The Observatory and another activist coalition, the Local Co-ordination Committees, also reported government shelling in the central provinces of Hama and Homs, where Rastan is located, as well as the southern region of Daraa, the northern province of Aleppo, and suburbs of the capital Damascus and Deir el-Zour in the east.

The LCC said 33 people were killed around the country today.

The Observatory reported at least 24 deaths throughout Syria for the day, including four civilians and an army defector in shelling in the area of Ashara in Deir el-Zour.

It said another eight unidentified bodies were discovered nearby and reported three dead in the Hama shelling, four in Rastan and four near the northern city of Idlib.

The Observatory also said a bomb targeted a security force in the northern city of Idlib, killing seven soldiers and a civilian.

In Damascus, the state-run news agency SANA said authorities foiled an attempt to blow up a car rigged with 700kg (1,500 pounds) of explosives in the Damascus suburb of Chebaa.

Syrian activists say 13,000 people have been killed in violence since the uprising began in March 2011.

The bloodshed has led to broad condemnation of the regime from the international community, although Russia, Iran and China have stood by President Bashar Assad.

Russia and China have vetoed two Security Council resolutions that threatened sanctions against Syria.

Russia has refused to support any move that could lead to foreign intervention in Syria, Moscow's last significant ally in the Middle East.

Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov is scheduled to visit Syria's ally Iran on Wednesday.

In Israel, the deputy military chief warned that Syria's large chemical weapons stocks could be trained on the Jewish state.

According to Major General Yair Naveh, Syria has the largest arsenal of chemical weapons in the world. If the Syrians had the chance, he said, they would "treat us the same way they treat their own people".

Syria has not acknowledged possessing chemical weapons, so the exact size is not known. Among other things, Israel is worried that such weapons could fall into the hands of anti-Israel militants should the regime crumble.

Israel has been watching the carnage in neighbouring Syria with increasing concern. The two countries have fought major wars and multiple attempts to reach a peace deal have failed.

Syria has strong ties to Iran, Israel's most dangerous enemy, and to Palestinian and Lebanese militants who have fought wars against Israel.

On the other hand, the Israel-Syria border has been mostly quiet for decades under the regimes of Assad and his father.

In Germany, the country's defence minister sharply rejected the idea of military intervention in Syria, referring to those who ask for it as "coffeehouse intellectuals".

Thomas de Maiziere told today's edition of German daily taz: "The continued waffling by people who bear none of the responsibility creates expectations in regions like Syria, thereby causing terrible disappointment."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
News
ebooksNow available in paperback
Life and Style
life
Arts and Entertainment
Cold case: Aaron McCusker and Christopher Eccleston in ‘Fortitude’
tvReview: Sky Atlantic's ambitious new series Fortitude has begun with a feature-length special
Voices
Three people wearing masks depicting Ed Miliband, David Cameron and Nick Clegg
voicesPolitics is in the gutter – but there is an alternative, says Nigel Farage
Voices
The veterans Mark Hayward, Hugh Thompson and Sean Staines (back) with Grayson Perry (front left) and Evgeny Lebedev
charity appealMaverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
News
i100
News
people
Sport
Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho
footballThe more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him
Life and Style
Vote green: Benoit Berenger at The Duke of Cambridge in London's Islington
food + drinkBanishes thoughts of soggy school dinners and turn over a new leaf
News
Joel Grey (left) poses next to a poster featuring his character in the film
peopleActor Joel Grey comes out at 82
News
i100
News
business
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

Ashdown Group: Marketing & Sales Manager

£40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A reputable organisation within the leisure i...

Tradewind Recruitment: Science Teacher

£90 - £140 per day: Tradewind Recruitment: I am currently working in partnersh...

Recruitment Genius: Doctors - Dubai - High "Tax Free" Earnings

£96000 - £200000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Looking for a better earning p...

Recruitment Genius: PHP Developer

£32000 - £36000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A rapidly expanding company in ...

Day In a Page

Isis hostage crisis: The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power

Isis hostage crisis

The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power, says Robert Fisk
Missing salvage expert who found $50m of sunken treasure before disappearing, tracked down at last

The runaway buccaneers and the ship full of gold

Salvage expert Tommy Thompson found sunken treasure worth millions. Then he vanished... until now
Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Maverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
Assisted Dying Bill: I want to be able to decide about my own death - I want to have control of my life

Assisted Dying Bill: 'I want control of my life'

This week the Assisted Dying Bill is debated in the Lords. Virginia Ironside, who has already made plans for her own self-deliverance, argues that it's time we allowed people a humane, compassionate death
Move over, kale - cabbage is the new rising star

Cabbage is king again

Sophie Morris banishes thoughts of soggy school dinners and turns over a new leaf
11 best winter skin treats

Give your moisturiser a helping hand: 11 best winter skin treats

Get an extra boost of nourishment from one of these hard-working products
Paul Scholes column: The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him

Paul Scholes column

The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him
Frank Warren column: No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans

Frank Warren's Ringside

No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans
Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

Homeless Veterans appeal

MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

Comedians share stories of depression

The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

Has The Archers lost the plot?

A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

14 office buildings added to protected lists

Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee