Syria laying mines on routes used by civilians fleeing violence, group says

Syrian forces have laid mines near the borders of Lebanon and Turkey along routes used by those trying to escape the conflict in Syria, advocacy group Human Rights Watch said on Tuesday.

Refugees fleeing Syria. (File photo from DW)

Opposition activists who have waged a year-long revolt against President Bashar Assad’s rule use Lebanon and Turkey to bring food, medicine and weapons into Syria. Thousands of Syrians have also fled the violence into Turkey and Lebanon.

“Any use of anti-personnel landmines is unconscionable,” Steve Goose, Arms Division director at HRW, said in a report. “There is absolutely no justification for the use of these indiscriminate weapons by any country, anywhere, for any purpose.”

The report came after Nassir Abdulaziz Al-Nasser, president of the U.N. General Assembly, said that the death toll in the Syrian uprising has passed 8,000, including many women and children.

The Syrian government says more than 2,000 police and regular army soldiers have been killed by “armed terrorist groups,” blaming foreign interference for the unrest. It has not given any figures for civilian deaths.

An official at the Syrian Embassy in London told msnbc.com that no-one was immediately available to comment on the report. Syria’s ambassador to London announced on March 6 that he was set to leave his post after his term ended in Britain.

Dozens killed in Idlib?

Also on Tuesday, opposition activists told Reuters that Syrian forces had killed dozens of people near a mosque in the city of Idlib, and that rebels killed at least 10 troops in an ambush in the same area, the focus of the latest government crackdown.

Video footage showed the bloodied bodies of several unidentified men strewn on the floor of the mosque. An unseen voice said it was impossible to move them due to heavy shelling.

Army defectors ambushed a checkpoint in Idlib region in the northwest, killing the 10 soldiers and possibly more, while rebels also killed 12 members of forces loyal to Assad in the southern town of Deraa, according to the British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

Fighting was reported, too, in the eastern city of Deir al-Zor and in Syria’s third largest city Homs.

Speaking after meeting opponents of Assad in Turkey, U.N.-Arab League envoy Kofi Annan said he was expecting to hear later on Tuesday the response from Syria to “concrete proposals” he had made to end the escalating violence.

Annan met Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan and Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu late on Monday to discuss the crisis threatening to tip Turkey’s southern neighbor into civil war.

Syria launches fierce attack as UN envoy tries talks

The Syrian parliament said Assad, who has promised reforms short of his resignation, had ordered a legislative election for May 7. It would be held under a new constitution, approved by a referendum last month which the opposition and their Western and Arab backers dismissed as a sham.

Despite mounting international pressure on him in the form of sanctions, Assad has significant allies, notably in Iran. And world powers remained at odds over how to tackle the crisis, with Russia and China continuing to back the Syrian leader.

Source: MSNBC

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