Security forces continue push in northwest, Hama

Tanks were deployed near a town in Syria’s northwest on Monday as two protesters were reportedly killed in violence and the military and security forces re-entered Hama.

The village of Hass witnessed a dawn raid before troops took up positions on the outskirts of Kfar Nubl and took control of the nearby village of Kfar Roma, AFP reported.

Tanks also reportedly entered the town of Maarat Al-Numan, which has been a focus of military-security operations in recent weeks. Local media described them as “wide” and “rapid”.

The armed gangs fled to the mountains. In spite of the military push, the residents stayed in the villages,” read one report in Al-Watan.

According to one human rights group, 20 protesters were injured including an Olympic heavyweight boxer who was shot in Hama.

The boxer, Nasser al-Shami, who shared the bronze medal in Athens in 2004, was in stable condition after being hit by shotgun pellets in the city, reported the AP.

Syrian troops and tanks sealed off Hama and blocked the roads leading in, an apparent attempt to retake the city one month after security forces withdrew. At least 200,000 protesters held protests against the government in Hama last week. Some reports suggest more than 500,000 people took part in the demonstrations.

The government, however, dismissed reports of a military presence in Hama, saying it had withdrawn and would not re-enter the city.

A report in Al-Watan said that a group of youths were responsible for a “riot”, burned property, blocked roads and tried to attack a local government building and the Hama branch of the Ba’ath Party.

The security did not interfere but some military agents were protecting a branch of the Ba’ath Party. The quick interference brought back stability to the city,” the report alleged.

While Syrian media did not talk about confrontations between residents and the security forces, the pro-Syrian Lebanese website Al-Diyar reported that security forces were searching for people from a “blacklist” and low-level clashes between protesters and police injured several people.

Snippets of new media law ‘leaked’ to the press, national dialogue details announced

The committee tasked with drafting a new law governing the media has ‘leaked’ information about the new law, while details of a national dialogue meeting have been announced.

The government will invite 150 opposition figures including some outspoken critics of the regime living abroad such as Ammar Qurabi and Burhan Ghalioun to a high profile dialogue conference next week.

The meeting will be held on July 10 and include a “broad spectrum” of the opposition, according to government sources quoted in Al-Watan.

Also invited are representatives of the National Co-ordination Committee headed by Hassan Abdel Azim.

Meanwhile, the new media law will ensure journalists are only answerable to legal authorities, according to the leaks. The headline in the state-owned Tishreen newspaper read: “92 articles free of the word ‘prison’ in new media law draft”.

Several articles deal with access to information and the right to publish without sanction, but it includes the caveat that journalists should “respect the law, ethics and traditions of journalism” and must not publish “ideas that may encourage extremism, sectarian conflict or breaches human rights”.

Political parties and individuals will be able to apply to open publishing houses in an apparent easing on media ownership restrictions.

However, the penalty for breaking the law is a fine between SYP 10,000 (USD 210) and SYP 2m (USD 42,000).

UN to discuss Syria nuclear issue

The UN Security Council plans to meet next week to discuss Syria’s rejection of a UN probe into its alleged nuclear weapons programme.

Western diplomats told the AP the meeting could result in the kind of sanctions the Security Council imposed on Iran in the past and comes only a week after the International Atomic Energy Agency referred Syria to it.

The IAEA has tried since 2008 to follow up on alleged evidence that a site in the Syrian desert, bombed in 2007 by Israeli warplanes, was a reactor built with North Korea’s help.

The Syrian authorities have strenuously and repeatedly denied the allegations.

Syria is already on the Security Council’s watch list. The council on Thursday expressed united support for the UN peacekeeping force on the tense Syrian-Israeli border — even while remaining divided over any direct condemnation of Syria’s crackdown on peaceful demonstrators.

Lebanon’s Future Movement accuses March 8 gunmen of entering Syria

Allegations were made on Monday by a Lebanese MP that a number of cars carrying armed men belonging to the March 8 alliance entered Syria through the Arida border crossing on Sunday.

Moeen al-Merebi, MP for Akkar, condemned the security forces as showing “negligence” by allowing the militants to pass through the Arida crossing in an official statement.

Late last night, I received information that a number of cars have crossed into Syria … at 10 am yesterday [Sunday] and returned after four or five hours,” Merebi told Lebanon’s the Daily Star on Monday.

The March 8 alliance is generally considered pro-Syrian and backed demonstrations against the “Cedar Revolution” in Lebanon in 2005.

The Future Movement is the largest party in the March 14 alliance, and led by the younger son of the former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri. It runs several influential media outlets and is strongly opposed to Hezbollah.

Some Future Movement MPs, namely MP Jamal Jarrah, have been accused of smuggling arms into Syria and financing anti-government protests which have rocked Syria since mid-March.

In April, Syria TV aired what it described as the confessions of three men who said they were paid and given weapons by Jarrah to carry out attacks on security services in Syria.

Syrian authorities have blamed “armed groups” and “infiltrators” for violence in the country, describing the protests as a conspiracy.

Football’s governing body says Syria unsafe for the beautiful game

World football’s governing body, FIFA, has said Syria is not safe enough to host a World Cup 2014 qualifying game because of the ongoing uprising and violence in the country.

Instead FIFA says Syria will play its home leg against Tajikistan in Jordan on July 23.

Tajikistan will host Syria in Tursunzade for the return leg five days later.

Syria Today (Syria)