Friday, June 03, 2011

Protests and Fighting Continues Against Autocratic Regimes Throughout Middle East and North Africa

Heavy fighting continues in Syria, where protesters continue to be murdered in significant numbers by Bashar al-Assad's security forces. At least 27 were killed when Assad's thugs opened fire on protesters in Hama. Witnesses reported that snipers opened fire on the throngs of protesters.
Protests in Hama have a particular resonance, since the city was attacked in 1982 by Assad's father, then President Hafez al-Assad, who crushed an armed Islamist uprising, killing up to 30,000 people and razing parts of the city to the ground.

"Tens of thousands turned up in Hama and Idlib in the biggest demonstrations since the uprising. This is a natural reaction to the increased killings and lack of seriousness by the regime for any national reconciliation," said Rami Abulrahman of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, who gave the latest death toll figure.

Syrian forces also opened fire on demonstrations in the eastern city of Deir al-Zor and in Damascus' Barzeh district.
Yet, despite the brutal means Assad is using to go after protesters, UN officials can't come out and declare that Assad is engaging in ethnic cleansing, war crimes, or democide, but instead call for additional investigations all while the body count rises.
Francis Deng, the Secretary-General's Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide, and Edward Luck, the Special Adviser on the Responsibility to Protect, said in a joint statement that they were "gravely concerned at the increasing loss of life in Syria as a result of the continued violent suppression of anti-Government protests."

"We are particularly alarmed at the apparently systematic and deliberate attacks by police, military, and other security forces against unarmed civilians taking part in the last two months of protests. These attacks have reportedly resulted in many hundreds of deaths," the statement said.

"The deployment of armed forces and the use of live fire, tanks and artillery in response to peaceful protests, and the targeting of residential areas where protests have taken place, are unacceptable under any circumstances."
Meanwhile, opposition tribal groups managed to hit Yemeni leader Ali Abdullah Saleh. They injured him and others in his entourage when they fired rockets at his compound.
Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh was wounded when opposition tribesmen determined to topple him hammered his palace with rockets Friday in a major escalation of nearly two weeks of fighting with government forces. At least four guards were killed and seven top officials were also wounded, an official said.

The official said Saleh suffered light injuries to the neck and was treated in the palace. Yemeni state TV quickly aired a statement that Saleh was "in good health," denying a claim on an opposition TV station that the president was killed in the strike.

It was the first time that tribal fighters have directly targeted Saleh's palace in the fighting that has rocked the capital since May 23. The rocket strike came after government forces launched an intense artillery barrage at the homes of two tribal leaders and a top military general who also joined the opposition. The houses were flattened, witnesses said.

The fighting pits Saleh's troops against tribesmen loyal to Sheik Sadeq al-Ahmar, head of the Hashid, Yemen's most powerful tribal confederation. Al-Ahmar supports the hundreds of thousands of protesters who have been pressing for Saleh's ouster since February, but his tribal fighters stayed on the sidelines until Saleh's troops last week moved against al-Ahmar's residence in Sanaa.

The rockets Friday hit the presidential compound as officials were praying at a mosque inside, the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the situation. Four guards were killed and seven other officials wounded, he said.
Repeated efforts to broker a deal for a transition government have failed as Saleh's followers have repeatedly fired on tribal groups, and Saleh has balked at several of the deals. The attack on Saleh's compound is likely to precipitate a civil war as Saleh (or his followers) wont go quietly.

Yemen's insecurity could lead to terror groups exploiting the chaos, whether by attacking shipping at sea or at any of its ports.

Then, there's the ongoing situation in Libya, and strongman Mumar Khadafi's support continues to crumble. Yet another minister has defected:

NATO has renewed its airstrikes against Libyian military forces, and extended the Libya mission for three more months. Despite the similarity between the actions by Khadafi and Assad, NATO and the UN can't seem to pull the trigger to stop Assad, while they're engaged in an all-too-alike situation in Libya. That's due to a combination of lack of military resources to commit to both locations and that Syria's backers in China and Russia have thwarted any more serious repercussions for Syria's brutal crackdown.

Assad is trying to break the protests by shutting down the Internet to prevent his opposition from communicating with each other and sending reports to the rest of the world. (HT: researchok at LGF)

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