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Army defectors' leader urges UN air, sea blockade of Syria

Arab World Materials 4 October 2011 23:04
A former Syrian army officer, who defected three months back, called on the United Nations to enforce an air and sea blockade of Syria, where 16 people died Tuesday, dpa reported.
Army defectors' leader urges UN air, sea blockade of Syria

A former Syrian army officer, who defected three months back, called on the United Nations to enforce an air and sea blockade of Syria, where 16 people died Tuesday, dpa reported.

Riyad al-Asaad, who formed the opposition group, Free Syrian Army, told dpa that although the government troops were weakened, they were using air and naval forces to shell several areas.

He called on the international community to support the defectors with weapons, although he said he was against any moves to arm the revolution.

"I am against that," al-Asaad told dpa in a telephone interview. "We ... in the Free Syrian Army defend the people and seek to overthrow the regime by organized fighting capabilities."

Al-Asaad, who denied earlier reports by the government that he had been arrested, said he was currently near the Syrian-Turkish border.

The Anatolia news agency reported Tuesday that he was in Turkey.

"I hope civilians would not be part of this task because it may lead to chaos in the country and increase the civilian death toll as (the) regime will find a pretext to escalate its operations," al-Asaad said.

All the soldiers who defected took their weapons with them, he said, while more weapons have been seized during clashes with government forces.

His remarks came as clashes in the northern province of Idlib between government troops and defectors continued, highlighting fears that the originally peaceful protests would turn into an armed conflict.

"Three army members and one citizen were killed on Tuesday during clashes between troops in the area of Jabal az-Zawiya and an armed group believed to be army defectors," said the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

Security forces have recently clamped down on the defectors who refused to shoot at peaceful protesters. Two Syrian tanks reportedly entered eastern Lebanon on Tuesday, searching for activists and army defectors who might have escaped.

"I think we have entered a new phase; from a peaceful uprising in Syria to an armed revolution," columnist Abdel-Rahman al-Rashed wrote in the regional Asharq al-Awsat daily.

"This is the day that a number of opposition figures did not wish to come, but the stubborn regime missed many opportunities to reach a peaceful solution," he said.

Al-Rashed said the regime of President Bashar al-Assad will now have "the justification for more killing and detention on the pretext that it is fighting terrorist groups."

The government has blamed "terrorist groups" for the unrest in the country, since the protests calling for al-Assad's ouster began in mid-March.

State media reported that three government soldiers were killed by "armed terrorist groups."

Two were killed in an ambush in the al-Sabouniyeh neighbourhood in the central city of Hama, while another was shot dead in Homs province, according to the SANA news agency.

Meanwhile, activists said that seven people were killed, including a 12-year-old boy, in random shooting in central Homs province.

Two civilians were also killed in Idlib - a 35-year-old man and a university student, whose body was handed over to his family about three weeks after he was arrested, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported.

An estimated 2,700 people have been killed in the government crackdown on pro-democracy protests, according to the United Nations.

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