United Nations humanitarian chief Lady Amos expressed “shock” on seeing the devastation in the Baba Amr district of Homs in central Syria after a month-long siege by the Syrian military. Amos was finally able to visit Baba Amr after Syrian authorities refused her access for months. She met with Syrian officials from the regime of President Bashar al-Assad prior to touring the bombed-out district of which she said, “Part of Homs is completely destroyed and I am concerned to know what has happened to the people who live in that part of the city.”
Kofia Annan, a joint envoy from the UN and the Arab League, is to visit Syria next. Speaking in Cairo, Annan said that he would push for an end to the violence and killings: “We will be urging the government and a broad spectrum of Syrian opposition to come together to work with us to find a solution that will respect the aspirations of the Syrian people,” the Guardian quoted him as saying.
Annan made his comments after Syria’s deputy minister of oil, Abdo Hussameldin, announced via a YouTube video that he had defected from the Assad regime. While Hussameldin is the highest-ranking Syria official to defect to the opposition, he is a “relatively minor and unknown figure outside of Damascus” and his defection, says the Guardian, “underscores the difficulties Syria’s fragmented opposition has had in persuading senior regime figures to abandon Assad.”
While Downing Street welcomed the defection as an “important moment,” the UK’s foreign minister, William Hague, noted that his country has “no plans” of supporting the Syrian opposition. The US’s defense secretary, Leon Panetta, has said that the Obama administration is considering “an array of non-lethal assistance” to the rebels, while so far outruling providing them with weapons. Turkey’s president, Abdullah Gul, has said that he would back some form of regional military intervention in Syria.
China’s envoy, Li Huaxin, said that he had called on Assad’s government to end the violence immediately and was backing efforts by the UN and the Red Cross to send aid to regions in need of food, medical supplies and humanitarian relief.
Activists report that 44 people have killed on Thursday in a “fresh massacre” in the Jobar area of Homs, which is southwest of Baba Amr. Over 7,500 have died, according to UN estimates, though these numbers cannot be confirmed.
Al-Jazeera Reported Resigns Over Syria Coverage
Al-Jazeera reporter Ali Hashem, the Beirut correspondent for Al Jazeera Arabic, has reportedly resigned over the Qatar-based company’s coverage of Syria. According to Al-Akhbar English, some weeks ago, “pro-Assad hackers leaked emails that revealed the dismay among Al Jazeera’s staff over its ‘biased and unprofessional’ coverage of the Syrian uprising.” An anonymous source says that Hashem changed his position after the network “refused to show photos he had taken of armed fighters clashing with the Syrian Army in Wadi Khaled. Instead [Al Jazeera] lambasted him as a shabeeh (implying a regime loyalist).” Al-Akhbar English observes that the Qatari government’s own position on Syria — it has “made efforts to overthrow” Assad at the same time as it has supported the crackdown on protesters in Bahrain — “has made inroads” that have adversely affected Al Jazeera’s coverage of Arab affairs.
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