Al-Assad troops retake rebel stronghold
BEIRUTSyrian troops took full control of the Homs neighborhood of Baba Amr yesterday as rebels announced they were pulling out “tactically” after nearly two days of all-out assault by regime forces.
“The Syrian army controls all of Baba Amr. The last pockets of resistance have fallen,” a security official in Damascus said on the 27th day of bombardment targeting the defiant neighborhood.
The Free Syrian Army said the rebels had to withdraw to save the lives of civilians. Rebels “have pulled out tactically in order to protect the remaining civilians,” FSA chief Colonel Riyadh al-Asaad said. At least 17 civilians were killed in fighting that took place on the edges of the neighborhood.
Annan going to Syria
Meanwhile, members of the U.N. Human Rights Council yesterday voted 37 in favor and three against a resolution proposed by Turkey that calls on Syria to immediately stop all attacks on civilians and grant unhindered access to aid groups. Three members of the 47-nation body abstained and four didn’t vote. Russia, China and Cuba objected to the resolution.
Moscow however will send Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov to meet his Gulf Arab counterparts in Riyadh next week. U.N. and Arab League envoy to Syria Kofi Annan will visit the league’s headquarters in Cairo on March 7 and later head to Damascus. U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Feb. 29 said Russia’s failure to produce an aid plan for Syria, despite its influence with President Bashar al-Assad, was “troubling” and “frustrating.” “We are doing everything we can think of to influence the Russians and the Chinese, particularly the Russians: they’re the ones with the very deep, long-standing relationship with the al-Assad family, with Syria,” Clinton said.