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Abdul-Rahman said the reinforcements there were either an indication of an upcoming massive operation to regain control of rebel-held areas in Idlib, or an attempt to prevent the creation of a rebel buffer zone near the Turkish border.
Valerie Amos said the humanitarian assessment with the Syrian government was the first step toward setting up what she called a “robust and regular arrangement…which allows humanitarian organizations unhindered access to evacuate the wounded and deliver desperately needed supplies.”
She also said she was “horrified by the destruction” she saw in the embattled neighborhood of Baba Amr in Homs, which she visited this week. Regime forces took the area from rebels last week after weeks of siege and daily shelling that activists say killed hundreds. Her visit was the first by an outside observer to the area.
“Almost all the buildings had been destroyed and there were hardly any people left there,” she said. “I am extremely concerned as to the whereabouts of the people who have been displaced from Baba Amr.”
Protesters demonstrated across Syria on Friday, with the aim of rallying the country’s Kurdish population in the hopes that members of the long-ostracized minority could help turn the tide against Assad.
Kurds — the largest ethnic minority in Syria — make up 15 percent of the country’s 23 million people and have long complained of neglect and discrimination. While Kurds have so far not joined anti-government protests in particularly large numbers, authorities are clearly concerned they will. In April, Assad granted citizenship to 250,000 Kurds in an early overture to try to interrupt the momentum of the uprising.
Tensions between Kurds and the Syrian authorities have exploded into violence on several occasions. In March 2004, a riot began at a soccer match when the crowd raised a Kurdish flag in the northeastern city of Qamishli. Clashes between Syrian Kurds and security forces spread to the nearby city of Hasaka and to Aleppo, with at least 25 killed and 100 wounded.
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