In a troubling sign that the 15-month unrest in Syria could be spreading to other areas, at least seven people have been killed and more than 20 injured in the Lebanese port city of Tripoli. The BBC reports that clashes occurred between armed Alawite groups — members of the minority Shi’ite sect that Syrian president Bashar al-Assad and his family belong to — and Sunni fighters. More violence also occurred throughout Syria, with five reportedly killed in the capital of Damascus and eight in Homs, the city that has been a center of anti-government sentiment. Six people were also reported killed in the southern city of Dera’a, where the uprising began in March of 2011.
Supporters of Assad claim that Bab al-Tabbaneh, a district in Tripoli, is an operational base of the opposition Free Syrian Army (FSA), says Al Jazeera. A number of people were killed in similar clashes in Tripoli in May. The ruling Hezbollah coalition supports Assad’s government, while the opposition in Lebanon has been backing the FSA.
At a meeting in Doha, Qatar, Kofi Annan, the special envoy to the United Nations who has come under criticism for the failure of Syria to implement his six-point peace plan, said that Syria risks slipping into an “all-out war, with an alarming sectarian dimension.” Qatari Prime Minister Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim Al-Thani urged Annan to set a timeframe for the peace mission of UN observers and also called on the UN Security Council to apply Chapter VII, which permits military intervention in the case of threats to international peace, breaches of the peace and acts of aggression.
Navi Pillay, the UN high commissioner for human rights, has warned Assad and his supporters that there can be no amnesty for the crimes committed under their regime.
Russia, a Syrian ally, has led the opposition to the UN Security Council taking harsher measures against Syria. In Berlin while meeting with German chancellor Angela Merkel, Russian President Vladimir Putin rejected military intervention, thought noting the “extremely dangerous” situation in Syria. But in a joint press conference afterwards with French President Francois Hollande, Putin said that Assad’s departure would not put an end to the crisis and called for acting in an “accurate, balanced manner” in Syria. Hollande countered that Assad’s stepping down is crucial for ending the crisis, that sanctions are necessary and that Assad’s regime has “conducted itself in an unacceptable and intolerable manner.” A French poll shows that 58% of people there now support military intervention in Syria, up from 51% in February.
Calls for more aggressive international intervention in Syria have been greatly stepped up following reports of the massacre of over 100 in Houla two weeks ago.
Refugees continue to flee from the violence in Syria. According to the Guardian, there are now 24,500 Syrian refugees in Turkey and around 73,000 in neighboring countries.
The London-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says that as many as 2,300 of the more than 13,400 people killed in the uprising have died since the purported ceasefire began on April 12. Due to Assad’s failure to comply with the peace plan, the US has said that it may not support renewing the UN observer mission, whose mandate expires on July 20.
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