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Syria Uprising: Turkey Closes Embassy, Recalls Ambassador As Forces Shell Homs

By BASSEM MROUE 03/26/12 02:55 PM ET AP

Syria Uprising Turkey Ambassador
In this picture taken on Tuesday March 20, 2012, a damaged part of a Syrian army tank that attacked by the Syrian rebels is seen next to a destroyed house, at Rastan town in Homs province, central Syria. (AP Photo)

BEIRUT — Syrian forces fired shells at a central city that has come to symbolize the anti-government uprising Monday, activists said, while the country's Muslim Brotherhood branch said it would work for a democratic state if President Bashar Assad falls.

The announcement by the exiled Syrian Muslim Brotherhood was an appeal by the Sunni Muslim group to minorities who fear for their place in a post-Assad Syria.

Since the uprising started last March with protests calling for political reform, it has stoked tensions among Syria's varied religious and ethnic groups.

Many in the opposition are from the country's Sunni majority. Religious minorities – Christians, Shiites and Alawites, who include Assad – have largely stuck by the regime, fearing new rulers could threaten their communities.

Speaking to reporters in Turkey, Brotherhood official Ali Bayanouni said the group would not monopolize power.

"The regime now is accusing the Muslim Brotherhood of trying to control Syria alone and of having aims of being the only rulers of Syria in the future," he said Sunday. "We are here today to reassure everyone that we will cooperate with all the other partners in the Syrian opposition to build a new Syria, a free Syria, a democratic Syria, and we will not attempt to the be the only ruling party in Syria."

The group issued a 10-point statement on the future of Syria, calling for a modern, democratic state with equality among all citizens and respect for human rights.

The reassurance came after Islamist parties catapulted to power in Tunisia and Egypt in the wake of Arab Spring uprisings, feeding concerns about religious and secular freedom there.

The movement has had no strong presence inside Syria since 1982, when Assad's father and predecessor, Hafez, ordered the military to quell a Brotherhood rebellion in the central city of Hama, sealing off the city in an assault that killed between 10,000 and 25,000 people.

Membership in the group inside Syria is punishable by death, but the group has remained active outside Syria's borders.

Syria's uprising has become increasingly militarized, with many in the opposition arming themselves in self-defense or to attack government troops. The U.N. says more than 8,000 people have been killed in the yearlong conflict.

The U.S., Europe and many Arab countries have condemned violent crackdowns by Assad's security forces and called for him to resign.

International envoy Kofi Annan said Monday that there can be no deadline for ending the Syria crisis, but it can't be allowed to drag on indefinitely.

Annan, the joint U.N.-Arab League envoy, spoke in Moscow after meeting with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev.

"I told the parties on the ground: they can't resist the transformational winds that are blowing," he said. "They have to accept that reforms have to come, change has to come, and that is the only way to deal with the situation."

While the U.N. is not discussing military intervention, Annan said it could send teams to monitor an eventual cease-fire.

Moscow supports Annan's mission, but Russia and China have protected Syria from condemnation by the U.N. Security Council.

Turkey, which once had strong ties to Damascus, has now become a tough critic, even allowing opposition groups to organize on its soil.

A Foreign Ministry official said Monday that Turkey was closing its embassy in Damascus because of security concerns. The Turkish ambassador and other diplomats will return to Turkey, he said, speaking on condition of anonymity in line with regulations.

Turkey's consulate in the northern city of Aleppo will remain open, according to a statement posted on the embassy's website late Sunday.

Norway also said Monday it was closing its embassy.

Other countries, including the U.S., France, Saudi Arabia and Qatar, have already closed their embassies.

The situation in Syria is set to be a primary topic at an Arab League summit opening in Baghdad on Tuesday.

Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari told reporters Monday he believes Arab leaders will agree on a "doable" solution to end the conflict in Syria in line with Arab League proposals.

"It's not up to other countries to dictate to the Syrians what kind of leaders they have or don't have," he said. "I don't think there will be a call on Bashar to step aside."

A previous effort to stop the violence by sending Arab monitors failed to stop the violence, and opposition leaders accused the Assad regime of using the mission as a stalling tactic.

Syria, whose Arab League membership has been suspended, will not attend the summit.

Assad's forces kept up offensives against opposition areas on Monday, but they faced resistance from armed rebels in some places. Activists said regime forces shelled parts of the central city of Homs and carried out arrests raids elsewhere.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said nine civilians were killed in Homs out of the day's total death toll of 19. Two of the dead appeared to have been tortured, it said. Both were recently arrested in the southern province of Daraa.

Two rebels were killed in clashes with goverment soldiers, 11 of whom were killed in rebel attacks.

Another group gave much higher casualty figures. The Local Coordination Committees said 59 people were killed across Syria, 33 of them in Homs province. It said government forces appeared to be preparing to retake rebel-held parts of the country's third largest city.

The groups' numbers could not be independently verified.

The Syrian government blames the uprising on armed extremists backed by a foreign conspiracy and cites insurgent attacks to support its case.

The state news agency said on Monday that Syrian troops foiled an attempt by an "armed terrorist group" to sneak into the country from Turkey. It said the troops killed and wounded some of the attackers and seized their weapons.

It also said an armed group blew up a pipeline used to transport gasoline between the central cities of Homs and Hama. The Syrian Oil Ministry is working to repair the pipe, it said.

___

Associated Press writers Lara Jakes in Baghdad and Suzan Fraser in Ankara, Turkey, contributed reporting.

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@ AmbassadorRice : #Syria regime turned artillery, tanks and helicopters on its own men & women. It unleashed knife-wielding shabiha gangs on its own children.

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Russia says international envoy Kofi Annan will visit Moscow on Monday to discuss the ongoing crisis in Syria. Russia also called for an inquiry into an alleged massacre that took place in the village of Tramseh on Thursday. "We have no doubt that this wrongdoing serves the interests of those powers that are not seeking peace but persistently seek to sow the seeds of interconfessional and civilian conflict on Syrian soil," Russia's foreign ministry said in a statement, according to Reuters. Moscow did not apportion blame for the killings.

Read more on Reuters.com.

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The Associated Press obtained a video that purports to show the aftermath of an alleged massacre in the village of Tramseh, near Hama.

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How do Syria's fighters get their arms? An overview put together by Reuters explains that there are three gateways to the country -- Lebanon, Turkey, and Iraq.

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syria This citizen journalism image made from video provided by Shaam News Network SNN, purports to show a victim wounded by violence that, according to anti-regime activists, was carried out by government forces in Tremseh, Syria about 15 kilometers (nine miles) northwest of the central city of Hama, Thursday, July 12, 2012. The accounts, some of which claim more than 200 people were killed in the violence Thursday, could not be independently confirmed, but would mark the latest in a string of brutal offensives by Syrian forces attempting to crush the rebellion. (AP Photo/Shaam News Network, SNN)


syria This citizen journalism image made from video provided by Shaam News Network SNN, purports to show a man mourning a victim killed by violence that, according to anti-regime activists, was carried out by government forces in Tremseh, Syria about 15 kilometers (nine miles) northwest of the central city of Hama, Thursday, July 12, 2012. (AP Photo/Shaam News Network, SNN)


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According to the Hama Revolutionary Council, a Syrian opposition group, more than 220 people have been killed in a new alleged massacre in Taramseh. Earlier reports said more than 100 people were killed. "More than 220 people fell today in Taramseh," the Council said in a statement. "They died from bombardment by tanks and helicopters, artillery shelling and summary executions."

Fadi Sameh, an opposition activist from Taramseh, told Reuters he had left the town before the reported massacre but was in touch with residents. "It appears that Alawite militiamen from surrounding villages descended on Taramseh after its rebel defenders pulled out, and started killing the people. Whole houses have been destroyed and burned from the shelling," Sameh claimed.

Read more on Reuters.com.

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Syrian activist Rami Jarrah tweets that Syrian State TV has confirmed deaths in Tremseh. "Terrorists" is often the term used by the Syrian regime for opposition forces.

@ AlexanderPageSY : Syrian State TV: clashes between security apparatus & terrorists in #Tremseh of #Hama leaves large numbers of terrorists killed #Syria

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@ Reuters : UPDATE: DEATH TOLL IN SYRIAN FORCES' ATTACK ON VILLAGE IN SYRIA'S HAMA REGION IS MORE THAN 200, MOSTLY CIVILIANS - OPPOSITION ACTIVISTS

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@ Reuters : At least 100 killed in Syrian village: opposition activists http://t.co/FG3fJwu8

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Syrian security and others stand outside a destroyed building following twin bomb attacks on security buildings in the capital Damascus on March 17, 2012. Several civilians and police were killed, the state television reported without giving figures, adding that preliminary reports suggested bombers had blown up vehicles packed with explosives. (LOUAI BESHARA/AFP/Getty Images)

live blog

Oldest Newest
syria car bomb Syrian policemen inspect the site of a car bomb explosion on Mazzeh highway in the capital Damascus on July 13, 2012. AFP PHOTO/STR (Photo credit should read -/AFP/GettyImages)


Share this:

U.S. ambassador to the U.N. Susan Rice tweets:

@ AmbassadorRice : #Syria regime turned artillery, tanks and helicopters on its own men & women. It unleashed knife-wielding shabiha gangs on its own children.

Share this:

Russia says international envoy Kofi Annan will visit Moscow on Monday to discuss the ongoing crisis in Syria. Russia also called for an inquiry into an alleged massacre that took place in the village of Tramseh on Thursday. "We have no doubt that this wrongdoing serves the interests of those powers that are not seeking peace but persistently seek to sow the seeds of interconfessional and civilian conflict on Syrian soil," Russia's foreign ministry said in a statement, according to Reuters. Moscow did not apportion blame for the killings.

Read more on Reuters.com.

Share this:

The Associated Press obtained a video that purports to show the aftermath of an alleged massacre in the village of Tramseh, near Hama.

Share this:

How do Syria's fighters get their arms? An overview put together by Reuters explains that there are three gateways to the country -- Lebanon, Turkey, and Iraq.

Syrian rebels are smuggling small arms into Syria through a network of land and sea routes involving cargo ships and trucks moving through Turkey, Lebanon and Iraq, maritime intelligence and Free Syrian Army (FSA) officers say.

Western and regional powers deny any suggestion they are involved in gun running. Their interest in the sensitive border region lies rather in screening to ensure powerful weapons such as surface to air missiles do not find their way to Islamist or other militants.

Read the full report here.

Share this:
syria This citizen journalism image made from video provided by Shaam News Network SNN, purports to show a victim wounded by violence that, according to anti-regime activists, was carried out by government forces in Tremseh, Syria about 15 kilometers (nine miles) northwest of the central city of Hama, Thursday, July 12, 2012. The accounts, some of which claim more than 200 people were killed in the violence Thursday, could not be independently confirmed, but would mark the latest in a string of brutal offensives by Syrian forces attempting to crush the rebellion. (AP Photo/Shaam News Network, SNN)


syria This citizen journalism image made from video provided by Shaam News Network SNN, purports to show a man mourning a victim killed by violence that, according to anti-regime activists, was carried out by government forces in Tremseh, Syria about 15 kilometers (nine miles) northwest of the central city of Hama, Thursday, July 12, 2012. (AP Photo/Shaam News Network, SNN)


Share this:

According to the Hama Revolutionary Council, a Syrian opposition group, more than 220 people have been killed in a new alleged massacre in Taramseh. Earlier reports said more than 100 people were killed. "More than 220 people fell today in Taramseh," the Council said in a statement. "They died from bombardment by tanks and helicopters, artillery shelling and summary executions."

Fadi Sameh, an opposition activist from Taramseh, told Reuters he had left the town before the reported massacre but was in touch with residents. "It appears that Alawite militiamen from surrounding villages descended on Taramseh after its rebel defenders pulled out, and started killing the people. Whole houses have been destroyed and burned from the shelling," Sameh claimed.

Read more on Reuters.com.

Share this:

Syrian activist Rami Jarrah tweets that Syrian State TV has confirmed deaths in Tremseh. "Terrorists" is often the term used by the Syrian regime for opposition forces.

@ AlexanderPageSY : Syrian State TV: clashes between security apparatus & terrorists in #Tremseh of #Hama leaves large numbers of terrorists killed #Syria

Share this:
@ Reuters : UPDATE: DEATH TOLL IN SYRIAN FORCES' ATTACK ON VILLAGE IN SYRIA'S HAMA REGION IS MORE THAN 200, MOSTLY CIVILIANS - OPPOSITION ACTIVISTS

Share this:
@ Reuters : At least 100 killed in Syrian village: opposition activists http://t.co/FG3fJwu8

Share this:
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Filed by Ryan Craggs  |