Deadly Damascus clashes as Egypt call angers Syria
FIVE SOLDIERS and a civilian were killed when a motorcycle exploded outside a mosque in a northern Damascus district yesterday as EU foreign ministers discussed Syria in Cyprus.
Syrian state television reported that 10 worshippers were wounded, some seriously, as they left the Rukn el-Din mosque after Friday prayers. A second blast occurred in the Mezze district near the information ministry and clashes between troops and rebels took place in southern districts of the capital.
A source in the Yarmouk district e-mailed The Irish Times that mortars had fallen near schools housing families fleeing fighting in the adjoining Tadamon and Hajr al- Aswad districts, forcing families to flee again.
He said nobody could identify the source of the shelling because both sides were using mortars. At least 20 people were reported killed.
Syrian deputy foreign minister Faisal Mekdad said Egyptian president Mohamed Morsi’s call for regime change in Damascus amounted to “signing the death warrant” for his own proposal for a four-state contact group to seek solutions for the 18-month Syrian crisis. The members of the group would have been Egypt, pro-rebel Saudi Arabia and Turkey and Syrian ally Iran.
Senior Syrian security official Awad Ahmad al-Ali defected to Turkey and Bashar al-Haj Ali, a diplomat serving in Belgrade, left his post, apologising for remaining as long as he did.
The assassination near the Turkish border of Abu Mohamed al-Shami Abu al-Absi, leader of Jubhat al-Nusra, an al-Qaeda affiliate, remains a mystery although another fundamentalist group, al-Farouk brigade in Aleppo, is charged with involvement, exposing rifts among the rebels.
Ahead of the Cyprus meeting, British foreign secretary William Hague said EU countries were limited to providing non-lethal aid to Syrian rebels due to the arms embargo.
During the two-day EU ministerial meeting, chaired by foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton, the ministers have been discussing humanitarian aid for Syrians in the country and to refugees in neighbouring states.
There is urgent need to ease the burden on host countries, particularly Jordan, which lacks water and food to sustain refugees. The ministers will also tackle how to support the opposition and prepare for a political transition.
The EU commissioner for humanitarian aid Kristalina Georgieva said the bloc would provide an additional $76 million in aid to Syria, boosting the total to $253 million, half all international relief assistance.
Back in Geneva after his three- day visit to Syria, Peter Maurer, head of the International Committee of the Red Cross, spoke of his shock over the destruction of infrastructure and homes in areas he visited, the difficulties health workers faced trying to save the lives of the wounded and the rapid deterioration of the situation.
Meanwhile film figures Jeremy Irons, Charlotte Rampling, Danny Boyle, Ken Loach and Kevin Spacey have called on the Syrian authorities to free documentary director Orwa Nyrabia, who disappeared on August 23rd while at Damascus international airport to catch a flight to Cairo.