05/30/2011, 00.00
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Syria and Yemen: army attacks protesters, dozens of deaths and injuries

In Yemen the army attacks the crowd who have occupied Liberty Square in Taiz four months, and al-Qaeda groups occupy a city. In Syria, helicopters and tanks surround and attack the cities Rastan and Talibsa. International diplomacy absent, risk of civil war increases.

Sanaa (AsiaNews / Agencies) - Last night in Yemen, the army attacked thousands of people who have peacefully occupied Liberty Square (pictured) in the southern Taiz for four months, demanding the resignation of President Ali Abdullah Saleh. Meanwhile Syria has authorised military interventions against the population.

In Taiz the protesters say the army removed the barricades with a bulldozer, attacking with guns, tear gas and water cannons and setting some tents on fire, killing at least 20 demonstrators and wounding 150 others. The crowd responded by throwing stones and Molotov cocktails. News agencies reported the statements of al-Sadek Shugaa, head of a field hospital, according to whom soldiers indiscriminately fired on the crowd.

Previously more than 3 thousand people protested before the Government Palace, also near Taiz’ Liberty Square, demanding the release of six protesters arrested May 26. According to Al Jazeera, some soldiers had joined the protesters.

Since January, people have been protesting against the government, supported by some influential tribal leaders, but President Saleh has made no concessions and refused to sign an agreement obtained through mediation by the Arab Gulf States, for the transition to democracy. The fear is that the prolonged conflict favours the penetration of Islamic terrorists. Army sources claim that four soldiers were killed today and dozens were injured near the city of Zinjibar, in an attack by militants from al-Qaeda. Apparently the city is under the control of more than 300 armed rebels, possibly al-Qaeda since May 27.

Tension is building in the country, last week there were violent clashes between the army and the Hashed tribal militias who support the opposition.

Meanwhile, yesterday morning the Syrian army surrounded and attacked the cities of Rastan and Talbisa with dozens of tanks and helicopters. In Talbisa there was a large demonstration against the government on May 27. The troops then began a house to house manhunt to arrest opponents of the government of President Bashar al-Assad. Protesters say the military first cut water, electricity and communications in the cities and report at least seven civilians dead (11 according to other sources), and over 100 wounded, while the military says it is carrying out an operation against " armed terrorist groups." But it is difficult to get objective news, after the authorities expelled foreign journalists. The two cities have been the scene of protests since March, at first with a demand for democratic reforms, and later demands for the resignation of Bashar, which have continued despite the crackdown by armed forces. There is also talk of more than 1000 deaths and 10 thousand arrests. The authorities say 143 soldiers have been killed by armed rebels.

In both countries the situation is beyond the control and the government trying to regain supremacy with progressive violence. But this is leading to an escalation of armed clashes, with the population and tribal groups who arm themselves with a growing risk of outbreaks a real civil war. Tomorrow at Antalya in Turkey 3-day conference of Syrian opposition groups will begin.

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