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."

News
Denny Miller in 1959 remake of Tarzan, the Ape Man
people
Arts and Entertainment
Cheryl despairs during the arena auditions
tvX Factor review: Drama as Cheryl and Simon spar over girl band

News
Piers Morgan tells Scots they might not have to suffer living on the same island as him if they vote ‘No’ to Scottish Independence
news
News
i100Exclusive interview with the British analyst who helped expose Bashar al-Assad's use of Sarin gas
PROMOTED VIDEO
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Sport
Angel Di Maria celebrates his first goal for Manchester United against QPR
Football4-0 victory is team's first win under new manager Louis van Gaal
Arts and Entertainment
art
News
newsIn short, yes
Arts and Entertainment
Rob James-Collier, who plays under-butler Thomas Barrow, admitted to suffering sleepless nights over the Series 5 script
tv'Thomas comes right up to the abyss', says the actor
Arts and Entertainment
Calvin Harris claimed the top spot in this week's single charts
music
Sport
BoxingVideo: The incident happened in the very same ring as Tyson-Holyfield II 17 years ago
News
Groundskeeper Willie has backed Scottish independence in a new video
people
Arts and Entertainment
The Doctor poses the question of whether we are every truly alone in 'Listen'
tvReview: Possibly Steven Moffat's most terrifying episode to date
News
i100
Life and Style
Cara Delevigne at the TopShop Unique show during London Fashion Week
fashion
News
The life-sized tribute to Amy Winehouse was designed by Scott Eaton and was erected at the Stables Market in Camden
peopleBut quite what the singer would have made of her new statue...
Sport
England's Andy Sullivan poses with his trophy and an astronaut after winning a trip to space
sport
News
peopleThe actress has agreed to host the Met Gala Ball - but not until 2015
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

Teaching Assistant for KS1 & KS2 Huddersfield

£50 - £65 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: We are looking for flexible and i...

Teaching Assistant for KS1 & KS2 Huddersfield

£50 - £65 per annum: Randstad Education Leeds: We are looking for flexible and...

Primary Teaching Supply

£130 - £160 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Qualified KS2 Supply Teacher r...

Year 1/2 Teacher

£130 - £160 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Qualified KS1 Teacher required,...

Day In a Page

These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week
The fall of Rome? Cash-strapped Italy accused of selling its soul to the highest bidder

The fall of Rome?

Italy's fears that corporate-sponsored restoration projects will lead to the Disneyfication of its cultural heritage
Glasgow girl made good

Glasgow girl made good

Kelly Macdonald was a waitress when she made Trainspotting. Now she’s taking Manhattan
Sequins ahoy as Strictly Come Dancing takes to the floor once more

Sequins ahoy as Strictly takes to the floor once more

Judy Murray, Frankie Bridge and co paired with dance partners
Wearable trainers and other sporty looks

Wearable trainers and other sporty looks

Alexander Wang pumps it up at New York Fashion Week
The landscape of my imagination

The landscape of my imagination

Author Kate Mosse on the place that taught her to tell stories