Monday 23 October 2017

Rebels call for pan-Arab protest to oust al-Assad

Richard Spencer in Dubai and Andrew Osborn in Khirbet el-Jos

SYRIAN opposition groups are planning to ignite a new wave of protests in Arab capitals to push President Bashir al-Assad from power by harnessing international anger over the state's brutal treatment of demonstrators.

The protests are planned for the first week of July in the hope of persuading Arab governments to turn against the regime, Wissam Tarif, a prominent activist said.

Meanwhile, refugees who have set up camps inside Syria near Turkey are forming "people's committees" and arming against further government retaliation. The committees, each 10 men strong, will patrol the hills around the camps, looking out for army snipers and other troops.

The move represents the worst fear of the Syrian government -- that opposition groups will be able to gain a foothold from which to operate inside the country. More than three months of protests have shocked the Syrian regime, which until March thought it had escaped the 'Arab spring'.

While the uprising has not overthrown the country's leader, or divided Syria like Libya, it has paralysed the nation.

The feared 4th Division of the army, led by the president's brother Maher, has put down successive waves of protest in individual cities, only for protests to resume when the military move on.

Activists blame Russia and China for opposing resolutions to put pressure on the regime at the UN, and the Arab League, which has failed to condemn the regime's actions.

Mr Tarif, the director of the Geneva-based human rights group Insan, said the opposition was now devising a new approach, combining diplomatic approaches to Russia, which is concerned not to lose its strategic influence in Syria, with increasing pressure on Arab countries.

The protests in Arab capitals would encourage those still trying to mount opposition inside Syria, he said. "It will make people think the 'Arab street' is with them," he added.

Events in Jisr al-Shughour, where the army moved in to crush protests at the weekend, claiming that 120 soldiers had been killed by "armed gangs", seem to have had some impact on the Arab League.

Amr Moussa, the secretary-general, said members were "angry" and that the situation was unsustainable. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Irish Independent

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