Six killed in Syria raids on dissidents
Syrian security forces killed six people and wounded dozens on Monday in raids in the northwest and around the capital, as tanks rumbled into a village bordering Lebanon further south, rights groups said.
A child was among five people killed when troops and security forces opened fire during search operations in the Sarmin district of the northwest province of Idlib, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.
One person died when part of his home was levelled as Syrian forces raked houses in Sarmin with heavy machine-gun fire, the head of the Britain-based Observatory, Rami Abdel Rahman, said.
At least 60 people were also wounded in Sarmin and six houses were partly destroyed, he told AFP by telephone.
A sixth person was killed when security forces raided his home at dawn in the town of Qara outside Damascus during an arrest operation, the Local Coordination Committees reported.
Around 10 trucks and armoured vehicles entered Qara, said the group which organises anti-regime protests and has militants on the ground across Syria. It said some 40 people whose names were on a "wanted list" were detained.
Meanwhile, troops backed by tanks and personnel carriers early on Monday stormed the village of Hit, two kilometres (1.2 miles) from the border with Lebanon, south of the central city of Homs, Abdel Rahman said.
"There has been high intensity gunfire since 9:00 am (0600 GMT)," he told AFP, adding that at least five people were wounded and 13 were arrested.
"The homes of activists wanted by the authorities were torched," he added.
Activists also reported six people killed by security forces on Sunday.
Earlier this month, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad told him in a telephone conversation that he had halted military operations against protesters.
But the UN chief a week ago said Assad had failed to keep his promise.
"It is troubling that he has not kept his word," Ban told reporters.
"This is what he clearly told me when I had telephone talks with him," Ban said.
"Many world leaders have been speaking to him to halt immediately military operations, killing his own people. He should do that."
More than 2,200 people have been killed in the Syrian regime's crackdown on pro-democracy protests since mid-March, according to the United Nations.
The latest bloodshed came as Russia dispatched a top envoy to Damascus with a message from President Dmitry Medvedev as US-led Western powers tried to push for fresh sanctions on Assad and his regime.
"President Assad received a message this morning from President Dmitry Medvedev, delivered to him by the deputy foreign minister, Mikhail Bogdanov," a Syrian official told AFP.
He said the message dealt with "Syria's steadfast position," but did not elaborate.
Moscow, along with China and other countries, staunchly opposes bids by the United States and European powers to push for a UN Security Council resolution targeting Assad, and has offered a counter-resolution.
The Russian text, a copy of which was obtained by AFP, urges Syria to expedite reforms.
The Syrian regime, which insists it is confronting "armed terrorist gangs," came under harsh criticism at the weekend from the Arab League, of which it is a member, and from its neighbour Turkey.
Early on Sunday, the Arab League announced plans in a statement to send its chief Nabil al-Arabi to Damascus with a peace initiative to help solve the crisis, urging Syria to "follow the way of reason before it is too late."
League foreign ministers also called in a statement for respecting "the right of the Syrian people to live in security and of their legitimate aspirations for political and social reforms."
Syria rejected the calls, and in a diplomatic note seen by AFP said the declaration was issued "despite the meeting having closed with an agreement that no statement would be published or statement made to the press."
Damascus would act as if it had never been published and considered that the Arab League statement contained "unacceptable and biased language."
Turkish President Abdullah Gul, quoted by Anatolia news agency on Sunday, said "we lost our confidence" in the Syrian regime. "Today in the world there is no place for authoritarian administrations."
© 2011 AFP