Fallout from Obama speech

Following a speech by US President Barak Obama which strongly criticised Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, the government responded by denouncing the move as “hypocrisy and double standards”, an official source told SANA.

The professed US defence of human rights does not align with “the killing of dozens of civilians, of women and children in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq and Libya has nothing to do with respecting human rights,” the unnamed source told the state news agency.

A local human rights network also denounced the sanctions saying they “target every Syrian” and “incite sedition”.

In the speech which followed fresh sanctions targeting Assad and key members of the administration, Obama said the president should “either lead his country through a democratic transition or get out of the way.” The speech was broadcasted live on Syrian TV on Thursday.

The government source also said the US position served the interests of Israel in the region. On Friday, Obama told Israeli premier Benjamin Netanyahu that the situation in Syria was of “acute concern” to the two allies.

In an opinion piece in Al-Watan, Ziad Abu Shawish wrote the sanctions were “silly” and should be seen as “funny” as they “ignored all the massacres committed by Israel against Arabs and Palestinians”.

Abu Shawish said allegations of Iranian support of the Syrian crackdown shows “the extent to which the US can invent lies to justify its anti-Syrian position and its colonial position in the region.”

As well as imposing sanctions on the president and six top officials in the government and security services, the US also sanctioned two Iranian Revolutionary Guard commanders alleging they played a role in supporting Syria during the recent unrest, reported AFP. However no evidence was presented to support the claim.

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez denounced US strategy toward Syria as a ‘fascist attack’.

In the first public admission that there were failures on the part of Syrian authorities, on May 18 Assad said the security forces had ‘made mistakes’ and blamed poorly trained police officers.

He pledged to train thousands in public order policing, the privately-owned Al-Watan newspaper reported. On May 19 Interior Minister Mohammed al-Shaar said a new law would be drafted to combat corruption in the police forces, according to SANA.

Renewed protest deaths, Syria denounces ‘armed gangs’

As the government reported the withdrawal of the army from Tal Kalakh – a town on the Syrian border with Lebanon, which has seen a Syrian military presence since April 28 – violence claimed the lives of at least 44 civilians during “Azadi (Freedom) Friday”, Reuters reported.

Life in Tal Kalakh, a military source told SANA, was “gradually going back to normal.”

In the suburbs of Damascus, Idleb, Homs, Hama, Qamishle in Syria’s north-east and a number of other towns and cities, gunfire was reported by international news agencies over the weekend.

However the government said only 17 people had been killed – all by “armed groups” exploiting government orders “not to shoot, to preserve the lives of civilians.”

Syria has blamed killings across the country since mid-March on militants they say are trying to destabilise the country with outside backing and direction.

Many of the deaths were reported in the province of Idlib, where tanks deployed on Friday, international media reported. The state news agency, however, said ‘saboteurs’ burned public buildings and eight police officers were injured.

Following Friday’s demonstrations, which seemed to be renewed after a government announcement last week that “the worst has passed”, Reuters reported 11 mourners were killed at funerals in Homs.

Syria Today (Syria)