Region | Syria

Syrian forces execute founder of rebel army group, opposition says

World powers will attend UN talks today to discuss resolution aimed at halting crackdown

  • By Layelle Saad, GCC/Middle East Editor
  • Published: 00:00 January 31, 2012
  • Gulf News

Smoke rises from the suburb of Arbeen in Damascus
  • Image Credit: Reuters
  • Smoke rises from the suburb of Arbeen in Damascus. About 2,000 Syrian troops backed by tanks launched an assault to retake Damascus suburbs from revolutionaries. Rebel fighters shot down a helicopter in a battleground town near Damascus Thursday, a watchdog said, as Syria’s opposition declared parts of the capital a “disaster area”.
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Dubai: Syrian security forces executed Free Syrian Army colonel Hussain Harmush, a founder of the rebel group made up of soldiers who defected, the Syrian League for Human Rights said yesterday.

In June, Harmush became the first Syrian military officer to publicly declare his opposition to President Bashar Al Assad regime's deadly crackdown. Harmush left Syria seeking exile in Turkey, where he established the Brigade of Free Officers, a group of dozens of army deserters later absorbed into the Free Syrian Army headed by Riyadh Al Asaad.

Meanwhile, Syrian forces tightened their grip on the outskirts of Damascus. The neighbourhood of Saqba was particularly targeted with heavy bombardment, as the Free Syrian Army led a CNN news reporter freely through the streets the day before.

Activists and residents said government troops now had control of Hamouriyah, one of several districts where they have used armoured vehicles and artillery to beat back rebels who came as close as 8km to Damascus. Homs was heavily bombarded.

Also yesterday, the government news agency Sana reported that an "armed terrorist group" blew up a gas pipeline.

In a sign of the protesters' growing boldness, a video posted on YouTube showed a man unfurling the flag used prior to Hafez Al Assad's military coup in 1963 in the heart of Damascus.

Today, political heavyweights are joining a meeting at UN headquarters to discuss a resolution aimed at halting Syria's violent crackdown on the protests.

Britain's Foreign Secretary William Hague and French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe confirmed they would attend as well as US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton adding more weight to Arab League efforts for international intervention.

Russia has said before that it would veto any resolution calling for Al Assad to step down. In Idlib, protesters held a cartoon featuring Al Assad dying on a hospital bed with Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin holding a defibrilator over his body with the word "veto" on it, in a demonstration of their anger at Russia's turning a blind-eye to the regime's crimes.

The Syrian opposition yesterday flatly rebuffed a Moscow call for talks with the Al Assad regime as the death toll passed 120 across the country in the past two days.

Gulf News