UNHCR prepared for more Syrian refugees in kingdom
Publisher: the Jordan Times
Author: By Laila Azzeh
Story date: 16/11/2011
Language: English

Amman -The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) is prepared to receive larger numbers of Syrians who wish to seek refuge in the Kingdom, according to UNHCR Deputy Representative in Jordan Arafat Jamal.

Although the agency is already providing frequent assistance to about 1,000 Syrian citizens residing in Jordan, the UNHCR has made the necessary preparations to accommodate the arrival of more Syrians.

"The expected rise in violence in Syria calls for additional preparations to receive more Syrian arrivals," Jamal told The Jordan Times over the phone yesterday, noting that in case of a greater influx, the agency will resort to tents and other supplies stored in its warehouses in Zarqa.

The deputy representative noted that Jordan has been very hospitable towards refugees since the start of the crisis in Syria and that recent statements made by His Majesty King Abdallah reaffirmed this existing policy. He highlighted that no appeals have been issued so far for donor countries to provide financial assistance.

The agency provides several types of assistance such as emergency assistance including food and basic items like mattresses, as well as financial assistance to very vulnerable people.

In a previous interview with the Jordan Times, Jamal said there are two groups of Syrians who came to Jordan in pursuit of safety: those who crossed the border with legal documents and those who entered illegally and were received by the Jordanian authorities.

He stressed that the agency offers assistance to both groups with no discrimination.

The UNHCR has no exact figures on how many Syrians have come to Jordan since the violence there started earlier this year.

Source: Jordan Times website, Amman, in English 16 Nov 11

Thousands of Kuwaitis 'storm parliament'
Publisher: AFP, Agence France Presse
Author: By Omar Hasan
Story date: 16/11/2011
Language: English

KUWAIT CITY, Kuwait — Thousands of Kuwaitis stormed parliament on Wednesday after police and elite forces beat up protesters marching on the prime minister's home to demand he resign, an opposition MP said.

"Now, we have entered the house of the people," said Mussallam al-Barrak, who led the protest along with several other lawmakers and youth activists also calling for the dissolution of parliament over alleged corruption.

The demonstrators broke open parliament's gates and entered the main chamber, where they sang the national anthem and then left after a few minutes.

The police had used batons to prevent protesters from marching to the residence of Prime Minister Sheikh Nasser Mohammad al-Ahmad Al-Sabah, a senior member of the ruling family, after staging a rally outside parliament.

Witnesses said at least five demonstrators were injured and treated on the site.

Some activists said they will continue to camp outside parliament until the premier is sacked.

Chanting "the people want to remove the prime minister," the protesters started to march to the nearby premier's residence when police blocked their way.

This was the first political violence in the oil-rich Gulf state since December, when elite forces beat up protesters and MPs at a public rally, though activists have been holding protests since March.

Tension has been building in Kuwait over the past three months after it was alleged that about 16 MPs in the 50-member parliament received about $350 million (259 million euros) in bribes.

The opposition has been leading a campaign to oust the premier, whom they accuse of failing to run the wealthy nation and fight corruption, which has become wide-spread.

Earlier on Wednesday, about 20 opposition lawmakers boycotted a parliamentary session, a day after the government and its supporters succeeded in rejecting a bid by the opposition to quiz the premier over allegations of corruption.

After the rejection, three opposition MPs filed a fresh request to question Sheikh Nasser over allegations of graft involving MPs and illegal overseas money transfers.

The premier, 71, has been a target of opposition criticism since he was appointed to the job in February 2006, forcing him to resign six times.

Parliament has also been dissolved three times in the same period.

Fledgling Libyan army steps in to subdue inter-militia violence
Publisher: AP, The Associated Press
Story date: 16/11/2011
Language: English

Hundreds of uniformed men described as members of a new Libyan army have been deployed for the first time, to settle a bloody feud between rival militias, officials say.

The soldiers, wearing beige camouflage uniforms and ID badges, were sent to serve as a buffer between gunmen from the city of Zawiya and the nearby tribal area of Warshefana.

Four days of fighting, the most sustained since the capture and killing of Muammar Gaddafi last month, had claimed at least 13 lives. The violence raised questions about the ability of Libya's interim leaders to restore order after eight months of civil war.

Abdel Hafiz Ghoga, a senior official in Libya's National Transitional Council, said on Monday that the feud had been settled. He said members of the national army took up positions between Zawiya and the Warshefana lands, a few miles apart, and both less than an hour's drive west of the capital, Tripoli.

In the fighting of recent days, armed forces fired rockets, mortars and heavy machine guns at each other. In Warshefana, several homes were severely damaged. The spark for the violence remains unclear, though accusations have been flying from both sides, including that some of the Warshefana residents had ties to the old regime.

The two sides fought, among other things, for control of a former major military base of the Gaddafi regime. "Members of the national army are now in control of the base, which was a source of conflict," Ghoga said.

On Monday, hundreds of soldiers were deployed in the area between Zawiya and Warshefana. They manned checkpoints and searched cars for weapons.

Ghoga said the units deployed on Monday were forerunners, and that a full army would be formed only after a new government was announced next Sunday. The government is scheduled to run Libya for seven months until elections for a national assembly.

Former anti-Gaddafi fighters would then have the choice either to join the security forces or return to civilian life, he said. Thousands of men who fought against Gaddafi remain armed, and there has been growing concern about the lack of control over all the weapons.

Fighters deciding to join the army would first have to undergo training, Brig Gen Abdel Salam al-Hasi, commander of the new forces, told Associated Press. "Everyone will have to obey the legitimacy of our army," he said.

He would not say how many had already joined, but said the security force was growing in numbers. Gradually, former fighters returning to civilian life would be disarmed, he said.

Defectors from Syrian army attack military facilities
Publisher: the Washington Post, USA
Author: By Liz Sly
Story date: 16/11/2011
Language: English

BEIRUT — A rebel attack against a military compound outside Syria's capital on Wednesday offered the most tangible evidence yet that the country is sliding into armed conflict as regional powers issued an ultimatum for President Bashar al-Assad's government to stop killing civilians.

Although the attack near Damascus does not appear to have been particularly effective, the target was highly symbolic: a compound of the Air Force Intelligence, which is renowned for its pursuit and torture of activists.

So, too, was the timing. After months of equivocation, Arab leaders are closing ranks on Assad, in part out of concern that the eight-month-old uprising against Assad's rule is descending into an armed struggle that could spin beyond Syria's borders.

But Assad's loss of Arab support appears only to be accelerating the push to arms, by giving his opponents hope that they will soon receive international help. It also may be interpreted as a signal to members of Syria's armed forces that now is the time to defect, said Fawaz Gerges, director of the Middle East Center at the London School of Economics.

"This is extremely dangerous," he said. "We're witnessing the emergence of a potent armed insurgency that could really plunge the region into conflict."

The insurgency is coalescing around an entity called the Free Syrian Army, a group of defected army officers who fled to Turkey and proclaimed their existence in a YouTube video in July.

The group says it represents as many as 10,000 defected soldiers who are operating in small groups scattered around Syria. It asserted responsibility for Wednesday's assault on the Air Force Intelligence building in a posting on its Facebook page, saying the strike was intended to "send a message to the regime that the Free Syrian Army can hit anywhere and anytime."

Diplomats suspect that the number of defectors may be far smaller and that the group also comprises civilians who have taken up arms.

But Col. Malik al-Kurdi, the Free Syrian Army's deputy commander, said in a telephone interview from Turkey that defections have risen in recent days in response to the Arab League's decision Saturday to suspend Syria if it does not stop violence against protesters.

Kurdi said the rebel group is pushing Arab leaders to go further, toward the creation of a buffer zone along the Turkish border where a real rebel army can be formed and a no-fly zone imposed.

Neither Western nor regional powers have shown any inclination for military intervention in volatile Syria, but Kurdi said he is confident that it will eventually come.

"We are powerful and we can impose the reality of our power to push the Arab League," he said.

In the suburbs of Damascus, where Wednesday's attack occurred, protest organizers hailed the evidence that the Free Syrian Army is emerging as a force to challenge the regime.

"So many people here support the Free Syrian Army, but we need a protected area where it can organize," said an activist who uses the name Dima, speaking via Skype. "When we started our revolution we were hoping we could remove this regime by peaceful means, but unfortunately we are now 100 percent sure we cannot do this."

World leaders are still holding out for a peaceful conclusion to the revolt, and are hoping that the escalating diplomatic pressure and growing isolation will force Assad to change course. France withdrew its ambassador to Syria on Wednesday, becoming the first European Union nation to do so. France said it will again try to introduce a resolution condemning Syria at the U.N. Security Council. Russia and China have blocked past efforts to sanction Syria at the United Nations.

The Obama administration, which has called for Assad to step aside, said that U.S. Ambassador Robert Ford is expected to return to Damascus later this month. He was pulled back to the United States in October in response to what U.S. officials said were "credible threats" to his safety.

The three-day deadline to stop the violence or face sanction was issued at a gathering of Arab League foreign ministers in the Moroccan capital, Rabat. Although the ultimatum gives Assad a reprieve from the suspension that had been set to take effect, the ministers signaled that their patience is running out.

"We are close to the end of the road as far as the efforts on this front are concerned," Hamad Bin Jasim al-Thani, Qatar's foreign minister, told reporters.

Wednesday's attack on the Air Force Intelligence compound was only one of several attacks in recent days. Kurdi said the attackers received help from sympathetic officers inside before beginning a four-pronged attack.

"We used [rocket-propelled grenades] and machine guns," he said. "After hitting the building, we pulled out and we had no casualties. But there were many casualties inside the building because ambulances were coming in and out to take them."

Residents of the area reported hearing explosions and gunfire around 2 a.m. One said that the only damage appeared to be some broken windows.

Another attack, purportedly on Monday in the southern province of Daraa, was brought to light by a video posted on YouTube in which civilians are seen milling around a blazing armored personnel carrier.

Whether armed rebellion will work where peaceful protests have failed is in question, however. The Syrian government has from the outset maintained that the uprising is the work of what it calls "armed gangs." Now that some members of the opposition are fighting back against government assaults, the regime may feel justified in using even greater force.

The United States warned on Wednesday that violence "really plays into Assad's and his regime's hands," State Department spokesman Mark Toner said.

"This was a peaceful movement from its inception, and it's only because of the regime's repeated and brutal campaign of violence against innocent protesters that we've seen the country move down this very dangerous path," he added.

It is unlikely that the insurgents will be able to acquire enough weaponry to take on the government, which commands the loyalties of a sizable percentage of the population and a strong, well-equipped army, Gerges said.

"If it turns into an armed insurgency, it will be a prolonged conflict," he said. "And unless a there's a major shift in the balance of power, no one will be able to dislodge this regime. Maybe in a year, two, three or four years."

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