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    » 09/27/2013, 00.00

    SYRIA - UNITED NATIONS

    As jihadist rebels burn two Catholic churches in ar-Raqqah, Assad's enemies openly split



    Fundamentalists target the Greek Catholic Church of the Annunciation and the Armenian Church of the Holy Martyrs, destroying the cross on the bell tower of one of them and raising the Islamist flag, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights laments. As divisions grow within the anti-Assad opposition, fundamentalist groups reject the authority of the Syrian National Council, trying instead to impose Sharia. The Security Council is ready to adopt a resolution on the destruction of Assad's chemical weapons with the support of Russia and the United States.

    Damascus (AsiaNews/Agencies) - Jihadist rebels linked to al-Qaeda burnt statues and crosses in two churches in ar-Raqqah, northern Syria. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, often favourable to the rebels, reports that yesterday fighters from the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant entered Our Lady of the Annunciation Greek Catholic Church where they destroyed icons and furniture. They did the same at the Holy Martyrs Armenian Catholic Church where they destroyed the cross on the clock tower and replaced it with their al-Qaeda flag.

    Ar-Raqqah and its province, which are on the banks of the Euphrates River, fell into rebel hands in March. From the beginning, anti-Assad fundamentalists waged a struggle against their opponents within the Free Syrian Army.

    In the city, Islamist fighters imposed on residents a strict observance of Islamic law (Sharia). They also went on a rampage, destroying Shiite mosques and Christian churches, as well as carried out summary executions against Alawis, and are suspected in the kidnapping of priests and bishops.

    The London-based Observatory denounced these attacks "against the freedom of religion, which are an assault on the Syrian revolution."

    In fact, because of jihadist violence, many Assad opponents have abandoned their groups and became regime supporters.

    At the beginning of the anti-Assad revolt, rebels were happy to see fundamentalist groups from Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Libya, Chechnya, Indonesia, Qatar, and Egypt join their ranks. But this did not last long as a chasm between secular and Islamist factions developed.

    Yesterday, 11 Islamist rebel groups issued a statement in which they said that they did not recognise the authority of the Syrian National Coalition, an Istanbul-based alliance of opponents to the Syrian regime.

    One the reasons that led them to this decision is their opposition to external controls on the Syrian revolution; but above all is their desire to Islamise fully the struggle against Assad.

    In view of this, the statement called on "all military and civilian forces to unite under a clear Islamic framework based on Sharia [Islamic law], which should be the sole source of legislation".

    Meanwhile, the UN Security Council in New York has agreed on a draft resolution that would require Syria to turn over its chemical weapons for destruction, with the backing Russia and China, great supporters of Assad. A vote is expected tonight.

    The proposal cites Chapter VII of the UN Charter, which authorises the use of force, but does not allow for an automatic decision. For the use of force, in case weapons are not turned over for destruction, a new resolution would be needed (in accordance with Russia's wishes).

    The text condemns the use of chemical weapons in Syria, but does not accuse either of the two warring parties, both of which are suspected of having used it.

    It says that those responsible can be prosecuted, but does not cite the International Criminal Court.

    The resolution also does not clarify how, where and to whom Syria must deliver tonnes of gas it has. It does not specify what procedures must be followed to verify that chemical weapons have been effectively handed over.

    In any case, for the United States the text is seen as a good step. Equally, Russia has acknowledge that an agreement has been reached.

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    See also

    24/02/2014 SYRIA
    Akram al-Bunni, a Christian, a Communist dissident and critic of Assad, arrested
    Jailed several times for about 20 years for criticising the Assad regime and calling for a democratic transformation of society, last year he called on Syria's minorities not to use fear of radical Islam to endorse the Assad dictatorship.

    08/07/2013 SYRIA
    Assad's army set to reconquer Homs
    About 70 per cent of rebel-held areas have been destroyed. According to Abdel Rahman, director of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, the ground and air offensive against Homs, the country's third largest city and a symbol of rebellion since March 2011, continues.

    16/07/2013 SYRIA
    Syrian rebels pay in dollars, local pound collapses
    Syria's inflation rate rises following the flow of foreign currencies from Gulf States to anti-Assad rebels. Pound goes from 47 to 347 against the US dollar with the middle classes paying a heavy price.

    12/03/2016 14:12:00 SYRIA – UNITED NATIONS
    Syrian opposition to attend peace talks, some glimmers of hope for UN

    The second round of UN-sponsored indirect talks between the government and opposition is set to begin on Monday in Geneva. The main opposition group confirmed its participation without preconditions “to stop the spilling of Syrian blood and find a political solution". Humanitarian agencies and UN officials show cautious optimism.



    26/05/2012 SYRIA - UNITED NATIONS
    Syrian military kills 88 in Houla, scores of wounded, in what activists call a massacre
    Activists slam violence by Syrian government forces. Video of dead children are posted online, but independent verification is impossible. Thousands of people protested yesterday after Friday prayers. For UN's Ban Ki-moon, the situation is "extremely serious".



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