UN observers enter Syrian town after violence

UN observers enter Syrian town after violence
# 15 June 2012 03:19 (UTC +04:00)
Baku-APA. A team of United Nations observers entered the Syrian coastal town of al-Heffah Thursday, after the government said its troops "cleansed it of terrorists" following fierce fighting with opposition rebels, APA reports quoting news.yahoo.com website.

Photojournalists accompanying the observers’ convoy said the town appeared deserted, with houses damaged and empty.

Al-Heffah was the scene of eight days of fighting between Syrian troops and rebels, according to the opposition, raising fears about possible mass killings there.

The observers, overseeing a shaky truce in Syria, had been barred from entering the village earlier this week by a local crowd suspected of being loyal to President Bashar al-Assad.

Syria’s Foreign Ministry said Thursday it had asked the observers to visit al-Heffah after the government troops regained control of the town from rebels.

Al-Heffah is a Sunni enclave in northwest Syria and a bastion of rebels fighting to oust al-Assad’s regime.

The town was also shelled by the army, killing at least 80 people, according to the opposition.

Meanwhile, 14 were wounded as two explosions rocked the Syrian capital Damascus, state news agency SANA reported, diminishing any likelihood of an end to the 16-month conflict in the country.

State television showed glass shattered in a famous Muslim shrine reportedly hit by one of the two explosions in the Sayyida Zeinab area of Damascus.

The broadcaster said the blast was caused by a car bomb.

Activists said the explosions had targeted a security building and an arms depot.

A third blast occurred Thursday in the northern city of Idlib, targeting a military checkpoint in the area, according to opposition activists. They gave no casualty figures.

The Syrian authorities have accused Muslim extremists, linked with al- Qaeda, of being behind deadly attacks aimed at destabilizing the country.

At least 22 people were killed across the country Thursday, mainly in the dissident province of Homs, the opposition reported.

Meanwhile, rights group Amnesty International published a report accusing the Syrian government of committing human rights abuses "with impunity."

In its 70-page report entitled Deadly Reprisals, Amnesty International accused Syria of systematically punishing communities supporting rebels.

The group cited fresh evidence of widespread violations "being perpetrated as part of state policy to exact revenge against communities suspected of supporting the opposition and to intimidate people into submission."

In Moscow, Syria’s ambassador to Russia lashed out at comments by US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, who said that the country was "spiraling towards civil war" with help from Russia, one of the regime’s main arms suppliers.

"Civil war exists only in the imagination of the West," ambassador Riyad Hadad told reporters. "The Syrian people are determined to maintain national unity and they dismiss any attempts at foreign intervention," he added.

According to the opposition, more than 14,000 people have been killed in Syria since a pro-democracy uprising started in March 2011.
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