UN worries showdown in Aleppo could be imminent
GENEVA - The Associated Press
A bulldozer clears damaged houses at the Damascus district of Qaboun July 25, 2012. Picture taken July 25, 2012. REUTERS photoThe U.N.’s human rights office warned Friday of an "imminent" showdown between government troops and opposition force in Syria’s second-largest city, Aleppo.
The rebels are locked in fierce fighting with the government troops in Aleppo for six days and are bracing for an attack amid reports that the regime is massing reinforcements to retake the embattled city of 3 million.
Expressing her "deep alarm" at the situation, U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay said the reports coming out of Damascus "along with the reported build-up of forces in and around Aleppo, bodes ill for the people of that city."
Part of the reasons for that, she said in a statement read aloud to reporters Friday in Geneva by her spokesman Rupert Colville, are the "as yet unconfirmed reports of atrocities, including extra-judicial killings and shooting of civilians by snipers" during fighting in the suburbs of Damascus.
"And it goes without saying, that the increasing use of heavy weapons, tanks, attack helicopters and - reportedly - even jet fighters in urban areas has already caused many civilian casualties and is putting many more at grave risk," the statement said.
The statement also said that there have been clashes in Homs and Deir el-Zour.
A senior U.N. diplomat close to the mediation effort of international envoy Kofi Annan said they are "watching the situation in Aleppo with great concern."
"The ground is shifting. We use words like ’It’s fluid’ - and it certainly is ... It has been a roller-coaster ride," the diplomat said, while speaking on condition of anonymity because of the delicacy of the negotiations among world powers on the U.N. Security Council.
Assad will fall, but Syria conflict may not end: Mood
OSLO - Agence France-Presse
The former head of the UN observer mission in Syria, Robert Mood, said Friday that President Bashar al-Assad's fall was only a matter of time but that his exit might not end the conflict.
"Sooner or later, the regime will fall," said the Norwegian general, whose mandate to lead a 300-strong misson ended last week amid a sharp spike in violence.
"The spiral of violence, the lack of proportion in the regime's reactions, its incapacity to protect the civilian population, mean that the regime's days are numbered, but will it fall in a week or in a year? That is a question I do not dare answer," he told AFP.
The fragmented rebellion, which remains militarily weaker than the regime, is still engaged in the fight of "David versus Goliath," Mood said, adding that any rebel success may not necessarily mean the end of the conflict.
"Many think that if Bashar al-Assad falls or that if he is given an honourable exit... the problem will be solved. That is an over-simplification one should be wary of," Mood told a news conference.
"The situation could even get worse," he cautioned.
"On the other hand, it is important to say that it is impossible to imagine a future Syria with the current power holders still in place." Mood has been replaced by Senegalese Lieutenant General Babacar Gaye, who has taken over a drastically reduced mission with just 150 observers and a mandate of only 30 days.