Members of the Free Syrian Army (FSA) who defected from Bashar al-Assad’s army as they refused to shoot civilians have reaffirmed their commitment to the fight to bring an end to the four-decades of Baath Party rule in Syria amid an unabated crackdown on protesters.
“We will fight our war until the Syrian regime is ousted,” Ibrahim Toto, commander of the Al-Hurriyah battalion of the FSA, told an Anatolia news agency correspondent who was allowed to enter a heavily concealed military camp in a mountainous and forested area near the Turkish-Syrian border. Toto said his unit was one of nearly 70 others in the area waging a coordinated fight against Assad’s army, which is responsible for “massacring civilians.”
The United Nations has said the number of casualties in Syria has exceeded 7,500, while activists have reported that the Syrian army is killing civilians and rebels indiscriminately in an effort to quell unrest and that on Friday it killed around 50 civilians.
“We have limited weapons and munitions and if we can’t receive aid there will be much deadlier massacres,” said Toto, who also accused pro-government forces of preventing humanitarian aid from reaching areas where it is desperately needed. The besieged city of Homs, the scene of a fierce assault on civilians, appears to be most in need of humanitarian aid.
“We are trying to protect our people with our weapons but we can’t prevent them from starving to death,” Toto said.
Another defector, who identified himself as Abu Mohammad, defied accusations that Syrian rebel forces sought to divide the country along sectarian lines, saying their only target was the forces loyal to Assad. “We do not discriminate against any religion, sect or race. These are our people and we have vowed to protect them against Assad’s cruelty. There are even Alawites and Christians who have taken shelter with the Free Syrian Army,” Mohammad said.
Syria plants mines along Turkish border
As thousands of Syrians flee to Turkey to escape violence in their home country, the Syrian military has reportedly begun to plant anti-personnel mines along stretches of the border commonly used by refugees.
Defectors from the Syrian military and refugees in Turkey have stated that security forces have been planting these mines along the border between Syria’s northwestern city of Jisr al Shughur and the Güveççi district of Turkey’s southern Hatay province, alleges a report from the Miami Herald on Sunday. The report stated that the mines were laid along border fences in late February and have injured a number of refugees attempting to cross into Turkey.
The report comes as over 10,000 refugees have sought shelter in Turkey from the civil conflict between Assad’s security forces and a growing uprising. The Syrian-Turkish border was heavily militarized during the Cold War, but recent years saw mines removed and soldiers withdrawn as both sides sought to improve relations. Syria has also reportedly mined tracts of its border that lead to Lebanon and Jordan.
Unrest closes Turkey-Syria bus routes
Bus services between Turkey and Syria have been canceled as clashes grow between the Syrian government and anti-regime military defectors. Speaking to the Anatolia news agency on Monday, officials from Turkish bus companies who operate routes between the Turkish border province of Hatay and the Syrian cities of Damascus and Aleppo said the routes will be closed due to a lack of security on Syrian roads.
In November, a bus carrying Turkish pilgrims came under attack in Syria as it returned from the hajj.
UN’s Amos shares images of Syrian tragedy with Davutoğlu
UN Undersecretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs Valerie Amos, who visited besieged Syrian towns last week, showed photos depicting the violence of the Syrian regime to Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu, in their meeting in Ankara last Friday. Right after Amos managed to enter the conflict-hit Baba Amr neighborhood of Homs after receiving permission from the Syrian government, she visited Syrian refugee camps in Turkey’s southeastern province of Hatay, then headed to Ankara in order to meet with Davutoğlu. Amos shared traumatic images from Homs taken by the UN to the foreign minister. Amos became very emotional when expressing her feelings on the images and said: “This region [Baba Amr] has been completely devastated. No single human being remains there. What happened to all those people?”
During the meeting, Davutoğlu emphasized that Turkey will continue to extend support to the Syrian people and will work together with UN agencies to deliver humanitarian aid. Amos, who was earlier denied access to Syria, was in the country on a three-day mission to try to persuade Syrian officials to allow humanitarian aid to enter the country. Meanwhile, the second Friends of Syria meeting to be held in İstanbul at the end of March could be put off to April, according to the latest information from the Turkish government.
Source: Today’s Zaman