Egypt's Morsi slams 'oppressive' Syria regime

Fri, Aug 31, 2012, 01:00

EGYPTIAN PRESIDENT Mohamed Morsi yesterday told the non-aligned summit in Tehran it has an “ethical duty” to support the Syrian people against an “oppressive regime” that has lost its legitimacy.

“We all have to announce our full solidarity with the struggle of those seeking freedom and justice in Syria, and translate this sympathy into a clear political vision that supports a peaceful transition to a democratic system of rule that reflects the demands of the Syrian people for freedom,” he said, prompting the Syrian delegation to walk out of the hall.

Syrian foreign minister Walid Muallem said Mr Morsi’s words would incite “continued bloodshed in Syria” and accused him of “interference in Syrian affairs”.

While welcoming his visit, the first by an Egyptian leader since the 1979 overthrow of the shah, Tehran, Damascus’s main regional ally, was particularly discomfited by Mr Morsi’s remarks because it seeks non-aligned backing for its Syria peace plan.

Human Rights Watch reported that during the past three weeks Syrian military aircraft and artillery had targeted civilians lined up to buy bread at 10 bakeries in Aleppo province, killing scores and wounding hundreds.

“The ordinance, which included artillery shells, rockets, and bombs, hit very close to the lines, and . . . shrapnel sprayed the people gathered, killing and seriously wounding scores of them.”

In some cases, helicopters hovered over the site before launching missiles. In others, the people fled the scene when they heard the approach of aircraft.

“The attacks are at least recklessly indiscriminate and the pattern and number of attacks suggest that government forces have been targeting civilians,” the organisation said, making the point that such attacks “are war crimes”.

The bakeries were located in areas where there had been no fighting before or during the attack, although rebel Free Syrian Army fighters were present “to maintain order and assist with . . . distribution”.

A strike in Aleppo city on August 16th killed 60 and wounded 70; another on August 21st killed at least 23 and injured 30.

Human Rights Watch researcher Ole Solvang, who was in Aleppo, said: “Every pilot who deliberately launches a rocket at a bread line . . . and every commander who gives such an order, should face justice for their crimes.”

Yesterday rebels claimed they had shot down a MiG fighter jet in the northern province of Idlib. They produced a video of what they said was the wreckage of the aircraft, with two figures suspended beneath parachutes. They said the pilot had been captured. A Syrian military source dismissed the claim.

The director of the Tishrin military hospital in Damascus said more than 8,000 members of the security forces had been killed during the 17-month rebellion.

“Every day we receive an average of 15 to 20 bodies . . . with the numbers increasing since the beginning of the year,” the unnamed doctor said.

Seventy per cent of military casualties are taken to Tishrin, Syria’s main army facility, he added.

Sixty per cent of fatalities were killed by gunfire, 35 per cent in explosions and 5 per cent “slaughtered or beheaded”. His figure is higher than the 6,500 fatalities in the security forces and army given by the opposition Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which puts the overall death toll at 25,000.

Separately, tension is rising in Turkey over the 80,000 Syrian refugees, most of whom are in camps on the Turkish side of the border, reported the Daily Beast.

Antakya has become a centre for rebel fighters, activists, and refugees who can afford to rent houses and flats.