By Eileen Gould
Impunity Watch Reporter, Middle East
DARAA, Syria – Syrian military forces stormed a mosque in the southern town of Daraa on Saturday, killing at least four. Opponents of President Bashar al-Assad’s regime had turned the mosque into a temporary hospital for those who were injured in the military’s assault on the town.
In the early morning hours, soldiers, backed by tanks and helicopters, attacked Daraa and seized control of the mosque. According to witnesses, snipers took positions in the mosque’s minaret. In addition, this incident was the first time helicopters were used against the opposition. Three helicopters were used in the attack.
Witnesses indicated that Daraa is running out of food and medicine. Water, electricity and telephones have been cut off for almost a week. Residents of Daraa have remained in their homes. Men were forbidden from leaving their homes, but women were allowed to leave to search for bread. News about the crackdown is transmitted from one house to the next through windows.
It is difficult to determine precisely how many people have been killed at this time as the government has limited the number of foreign journalists to only a few foreign journalists and has restricted them. Families have been unable to retrieve bodies from the streets and have put the bodies in a temporary morgue, according to human rights groups. Since the conflict began in mid-March, it is estimated that 535 people have died.
To address the worsening situation in Syria, the United Nations Human Rights Council met and approved a resolution, requesting that the UN high commissioner for human rights investigate the human rights abuses in Syria on April 29. This special session was requested by sixteen members of the Human Rights Council, including the United States, Mexico, South Korea, Zambia and Senegal. Seven members abstained from the vote, which passed twenty-six to nine. Jordan, Qatar, Bahrain and Angola did not attend the session.
This incident came only a day after nearly sixty-five people were killed, most of them in Daraa, where several teenagers put anti-government graffiti on a wall, inciting a violence uprising. The efforts of military forces to end the uprising have become increasingly brutal. The government’s actions have been condemned by the international community. Britain’s Prime Minister David Cameron has described the crackdown as “completely disgraceful and unacceptable”.
For more information please see:
Sydney Morning Herald – Syrian Soldiers Storm City Mosque – 02 May 2011
The Guardian – Syrian Regime’s Shells Pound Deraa’s Roman Quarter – 01 May 2011
Human Rights Watch – UN: Syria Should Heed Call to End Violence – April 30, 2011
Washington Post – Syrian Troops Overwhelm Protest Town – 30 April 2011