TEL-AVIV, February 18 (Itar-Tass) —— The Syrian Opposition staged a series of protest marches in several cities on Friday. Demonstrations "in support of popular resistance", according to the television channel Al-Jazeera, took place in several neighborhoods of the capital, as well as in Aleppo, Hama, Deir ez-Zor and Hasika.
The demonstrators demanded the resignation of President Bashar al-Assad and welcomed the adoption by the UN General Assembly’s resolution on Syria, viewing the move as evidence of international recognition of the anti-government movement. According to the Opposition, the police broke up a demonstration in the west of Damascus. As the TV channel Al-Jazeera reports, the police opened fire on a crowd of opposition supporters. As a result, according to preliminary data, five people were killed and twelve others wounded. Syrian television does not confirm this.
Meanwhile, in Homs army units resumed a special operation against armed opponents of the regime in the Sunni areas of the city. Syrian television reported an explosion of the pipeline in Sultania, near the militants-controlled quarter of Bab Amro. That attack was a second over the past three days on the same section of the pipeline that carries fuel from Homs to the suburbs of Damascus.
As the SANA news agency has reported, terrorist attacks and sabotage attempts have been made in the provinces of Idlib and Ham. In the city of Jisr al-Shugur, 30 kilometers from the Turkish border, the rebels tried to damage the railway line that links the seaport of Latakia with Aleppo. However, the mine went off spontaneously, while being planted, and three terrorists were killed. In Kfar Nabud two explosions occurred during an attempt to mine one of the squares. According to the Syrian agency, there were civilian casualties. In Idlib, a group of armed Islamists tried to free their associates from the city jail. During the attack they killed two officers and several security guards. An army patrol surrounded the attackers and killed several of them, and the others surrendered.
Meanwhile, the television channels Al-Arabiya and Al-Jazeera said two generals had defected to the so-called Free Syrian Army (FSA). Like their predecessors, they fled to neighboring Turkey. The Syrian media have not commented on these reports. Arab and Western experts, in turn, question the opposition's allegations of a significant increase in the number of desertion by Syrian troops and their decision to join the ranks of the FSA.
Meanwhile, Berlin, London and Paris have said they are ready to increase pressures on the regime of President Assad. Chancellor Angela Merkel welcomed the UN General Assembly’s approval of the Egyptian draft resolution on Syria. "Germany is ready to step up pressures on President Bashar Assad with the adoption of additional sanctions," government spokesman Steffen Seibert quoted the federal chancellor as saying. Merkel also called on Moscow and Beijing "to consider their decision" to refuse to support the document, he said.
A similar statement was made by French President Nicolas Sarkozy and British Prime Minister David Cameron at a press conference after their meeting at the Elysee Palace.
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon came out in support of General Assembly’s resolution. The statement released on Friday at UN headquarters said that the Secretary-General joined the call for an immediate end to human rights violations and attacks on its citizens and for the full respect of obligations under international law. He demanded Damascus should provide immediate, full and unhindered humanitarian access to all those who need help.
Against this background, NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said during a visit to Ankara that the alliance would not provide logistical support for the so-called humanitarian corridors to Syria, aimed at protecting the civilian population. He ruled out any possibility of NATO’s intervention in the situation in Syria, adding that a regional solution of the conflict should be found. Rasmussen recalled that last year there operated a clear mandate of the UN Security Council to take action against the forces of the former Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi. With regard to Syria there is no such thing, he said.