Gunmen Attack Syrian Pro-Gov’tal TV Channel, 7 Die
The U.N.-Arab League special envoy Kofi Annan is expected to convene a high-level meeting on Syria in Geneva on Saturday at a time when the level of violence in Syria is said to have surpassed the intensity before the six-point ceasefire plan proposed by him went into effect in April and was observed for a short period of time.
The demand made by Kofi Annan comes at a time when pressure is mounting on the Syrian regime after the downing last Friday of a Turkish military jet in the Mediterranean waters, a move which drew retaliation rhetoric from Ankara and the convening of the North Atlantic Council to discuss the development under Article 4 of the NATO charter.
On Tuesday, the United States has ascertained, based on the number of defections from the Syrian army lately, most of the defectors being headed for Turkey, that the regime in Damascus is slowly loosing the grip on the situation.
On Wednesday, gunmen raided the pro-governmental TV station Al-Ikhbariya, a private-owned television which strongly supports the president Bashar al-Assad. Seven employees were killed, others were kidnapped and offices were demolished, according to Syrian officials, who denounced the attack as “massacre against freedom of the press.”
According to the Ministry of Information, the attack occurred in the town of Drousha, 20 kilometers south of Damascus. The attackers had explosives, which they detonated before shooting the seven people who died.
The station remained on the air hours of the attack, broadcasting a rally in Damascus. It is not the first time when such a situation occurs with this station’s employees, who have been shot upon in other occasions during these months of unrest, but never at the TV station’s headquarters. The rebels denied any involvement in this incident, explaining that they do not target the media.
On Wednesday, the former head of the Syrian National Council, Burhan Ghalioun, said that he took a trip to the northern area of the country and that the areas he visited in the Idlib province are governing themselves, without any regime presence in them. Ghalioun told Al-Jazeera TV that parts of the country are liberated.
The U.N. deputy envoy to Syria Jean-Marie Guehenno told the UN Human Rights Council that the investigations into the Houla massacre in May concluded that the governmental forces “may have been responsible” for many of the deaths as they, and the pro-governmental shabiha troops, had better access to the village than the rebel troops.
The head of the expert team that documented the crimes said that the modus operandi resembles many other documented executions carried out by governmental troops but added that a final verdict can only be delivered after more investigation. The Syrian ambassador to the U.N. dismissed the assessment as “quite fantastic.”
On Tuesday, Turkey has announced that new rules of engagement toward Syrian soldiers will be applicable after the downing of a military jet, as the international community continues to protest against this act, which did show the western countries that the instituting of a no-fly zone would be more difficult to do than it was in Libya last year. On Wednesday, the Turkish PM Recep Tayyip Erdogan said that his country had no intention of attacking Syria. One day before the same official was advising the neighboring country not to test the determination and wisdom of his country.
On Wednesday however the Turkish army moved tanks and troops at the long border with Syria, in a move to convince the Syrians that it was serious about its pledge to retaliate if any incident should occur.11