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Humanitarian relief

Humanitarian teams from the Red Cross and Red Crescent (ICRC) have been given the green light to deliver emergency medical supplies to parts of Syria ravaged by violence, according to the National newspaper.

Marianne Gasser, head of the ICRC delegation in Damascus, told the Dubai-based daily: “It is extremely important that emergency help, including medical expertise and supplies, reaches people in need, and time is of the essence. With the Syrian Arab Red Crescent (SARC) and International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies we want to make repeat missions to Deraa and also go to Homs, Banias and other affected areas as soon as arrangements can be made for that to happen.”

A spokesman for the SARC told Syria Today that they are contacting all hospitals around the country to “develop a national system of humanitarian response”, and are also co-ordinating with the Turkish Red Crescent and other national societies to aid refugees.

The National also reported the UN’s aid chief, Valerie Amos, warned on May 10 that Syrian officials are not answering calls to allow UN relief teams into Deraa, Latakia, Jablah, Banias, Douma and other cities hit by a wave of political violence.

The UN’s Palestinian relief agency, UNRWA, said it has nearly suspended its activities in southern Syria, according to AP. It said about 50,000 refugees in and around Dara’a and Homs are not receiving their normal aid provisions from the group.

Protests and political violence

Hundreds protested in Damascus yesterday in two separate gatherings outside the US embassy and Al-Jazeera’s bureau, the state news agency, SANA, reported. The US has been coming under fire from pro-government protesters for being part of what the government calls a “double-standard policy” of “internal interference”. Al-Jazeera has also been under pressure for its coverage of the unrest, which SANA described as amounting to “psychological warfare against the Syrian people.”

Meanwhile, according to numerous reports in the international media, tanks shelled residential areas of Homs and the southern town of al-Harra near Dara’a yesterday, leading to the deaths of at least 19 people, the National Organisation for Human Rights in Syria told Gulf News, a leading Dubai-based daily. In Tafas, four civilians were reportedly killed while in Damascus, a litany of arrests took place including Mazen Adi of the People’s Democratic Party founded by Syria’s leading dissident, Riad al-Turk. Syria Today was unable to confirm these reports and no official statement has been issued.

Syrian officials have blamed most of the violence on “armed terrorists” backed by Islamist groups and foreign powers, who they say are responsible for the deaths of over 100 police and soldiers. On Tuesday an unidentified military source told Al-Binar, a Lebanese newspaper, that they had detained a number of “terrorists” including “Mossad agents” in Banias. Al-Watan said that “a terrorist plot” in Banias was disrupted by state security. The groups planned to blow up an oil pipeline, a railway line and a bridge, according to an army source who said the army had disarmed the bombs before they were set off. Photos in the newspaper claimed to show an arrested member of the group and a large amount of weapons and explosives captured.

According to Reuters, a student demonstration in Aleppo was broken up by security forces using batons on Wednesday and police closed the main road leading to the campus. Aleppo, Syria’s second city, has by and large avoided protests which have gripped the country since mid-March.

Reforms

A new elections law will be drafted soon, reports SANA. A committee formed to draft the law, which will be “compatible with the best internationally recognised standards” will report to the president in two weeks.

Flooding in Syria’s north-east has led to the internal displacement of many Syrians, according to SANA. The news agency said the government has set aside SYP 1500m (USD ) in interest-free loans for women in the governorates of Hassakeh, Deir az-Zor and Raqqa as well as new infrastructure projects to improve living conditions including restoring drinking water supplies and creating jobs.

A prominent Sheikh from Hama, Abdul Suleiman, said, in a recent meeting with President Assad, the president promised to address all the unresolved issues stemming from the “Hama file” [the killings of 1980-82] including missing persons and forced displacement, reported Al-Watan. The Sheikh said the president told him the process would involve those for whom there is “no question of their nationalism”.

Historian and university professor Sami Moubayed writes in Asia Times that there is still a way for the government to manage the crisis by offering real reforms. “The reforms needed include ending one-party rule, clamping down on corruption, releasing political prisoners, starting a national dialogue, and doing away with Article 8, which designates the ruling Ba’ath Party as ‘leader of state and society’", Moubayed wrote. To do that, he believes, the violence must end and reforms need to start immediately.

In other news, SANA reported the investigative teams set up to look into the deaths of civilians in Dara’a and Lattakia will expand their work to include all regions of Syria.

Rumours

Reports in the British press, notably in the influential Daily Telegraph, that the First Lady Asma al-Assad is in the UK with her children are “false and meant to destabilise a delicate process”, a press release from the Syrian embassy in the UK said.

Mrs Al-Assad is hard at work, holding meetings with civic leaders and youth groups to discuss their hopes and expectations for the future of the country,” Dr Sami Khiyami, Syria’s ambassador to the UK said in the statement.

Media

Dorothy Pervaz, an Al-Jazeera correspondent reported missing who the Syrian authorities confirmed was detained on arrival in Damascus on May 1, was deported to Iran, the Syrian embassy in Iran said on Wednesday.

The Syrian embassy in Iran said she was traveling on an expired Iranian passport on a tourist visa.

Source
Syria Today (Syria)