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11,000 Syrians flee in single day in refugee surge
The new arrivals bring the number of refugees in Turkey to around 120,000.
Radhouane Nouicer, the U.N.’s regional humanitarian coordinator for Syria, said the Middle East nation is seeing unrelenting increases in violence, suffering, displacement and losses “and civilian Syrians continue to pay the price.”
He said U.N. officials also worry that in recent weeks Kurds and Palestinians have become increasingly being drawn into the fighting.
Earlier, state-run Anadolu Agency said a group of Syrian soldiers, including two generals and 11 colonels, had fled to Turkey with their families and were taken to a camp that shelters military defectors, including dozens of other generals.
In fighting elsewhere Friday, at least 18 people, including children, were killed when government troops shelled the eastern village of Qouriyeh, the Observatory and the LCC said. An amateur video showed what appeared to be men, women and children, some of them with gapping wounds laying in street in what appeared to be a local market.
Activist videos could not be independently verified due to reporting restrictions in Syria, but they appeared genuine and corresponded to other AP reporting on the events depicted.
A car bomb near the mayor’s office in the Damascus suburb of Maadamiyeh killed at least four people, the Observatory said.
Assad’s defiant tone in the TV interview aired Friday mirrored the stance he has staunchly taken since his country’s crisis began — that his regime faces terrorists, not a popular uprising, and that he is will not step down. Speaking to English-language Russia Today TV, Assad hinted he will stay in his post until at least 2014 when presidential elections are scheduled to take place.
“I think for the president to stay or leave is a popular issue,” he said.
Asked if he has any regrets, he said: “Not now,” although he acknowledged that “when everything is clear” it would be normal to find some mistakes.
“We do not have a civil war,” Assad said. “It is about terrorism and the support coming from abroad to terrorists to destabilize Syria. This is our war,” he said, adding that it was a case of “terrorism through proxies, either Syrians living in Syria or foreign fighters coming from abroad,” Assad said.
He said that when foreign countries stop sending arms to rebels, “I can tell (you) that in weeks we can finish everything.”
Asked if he accepts that government forces have committed war crimes against their civilians, Assad said “we are fighting terrorism. We are implementing our constitution by protecting the Syrian people.”
He referred to attacks by Chechen militants in Russia that killed scores and how Moscow retaliated. “The army in Russia protected the people, would you call it war crimes?! No, you would not,” Assad said.
Assad, who came to power after his father and predecessor Hafez died in 2000, spoke in English in the interview that was broadcast in full on Friday. In an excerpt aired a day earlier, Assad said he will “live and die” in Syria and will not leave his country.
By Mangosuthu Buthelezi
Memories of a long brotherhood tempered in common struggle
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