Thursday, June 21, 2018

Syria assails aid for rebels

BEIRUT, Lebanon — As fierce fighting continued across Syria on Sunday, the country's foreign minister, on a visit to Iran, blamed Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Turkey for the escalation of violence and vowed that his government would rout the rebels fighting the army in Aleppo.

"Their plots will fail," said the minister, Walid al-Moallem. But, he added, that would not stop the "campaign on the international stage against Syria."

Moallem made his remarks as the Syrian government continued to pound neighborhoods in Aleppo, Syria's largest city, which has become the latest front in the bloody conflict. In recent days, as opposition fighters have moved to gain control of Aleppo's neighborhoods, the government has sent armored columns, troops and helicopters to meet them — preparing, residents fear, to move into the city.

On Sunday, activists reported more clashes, but said there had been no mass assault by the army, many of whose troops remained stationed on the city's outskirts.

Instead, activists said they had noted a change in tactics, saying that the government was using helicopters and artillery to attack several neighborhoods, rather than the tanks that had been deployed on Saturday.

Rebel commanders said they had destroyed several tanks. A Reuters reporter in Aleppo on Sunday reported seeing at least one heavily damaged tank and another one that appeared to have been captured intact.

Witnesses reported seeing entire neighborhoods emptied of residents, shops that had been closed and hospitals that had no doctors. Video posted on the Internet claimed to show a factory fire in Aleppo, a city that has been Syria's commercial capital. Residents were seen cheering in another video as what was said to be a captured tank paraded through the streets.

More than a dozen people were killed in the fighting, according to antigovernment groups. Agence France-Presse reported that Pierre Torres, a freelance journalist who had done work for the news agency, was wounded in the fighting and evacuated to Turkey on Sunday.

Moallem's visit to Iran, one of Syria's few remaining allies, underscored the pressure on his government as it fights a growing armed insurgency on several fronts. Emboldened by a bombing in Damascus this month that killed four senior government officials, rebel fighters have tried to gain ground in Syria's largest cities — Damascus, the capital, and Aleppo — testing the strength and reach of President Bashar Assad's army.

The conflict in Syria has increasingly drawn in foreign powers. As Syria's international isolation has grown, Western nations have accused Iran of continuing to provide Assad's government with weapons and other support. Russia, which has said it has suspended weapons sales to Syria, remains Assad's staunchest defender, blocking international efforts to remove him from power.

On the other side, Saudi Arabia and Qatar have led an effort to arm Assad's opponents. Turkey is said to have allowed weapons to move over its border, and U.S. intelligence officials have helped select the recipients, according to U.S. officials.

Moallem played down the domestic opposition to his government, saying that despite the "plot" by those countries — led, he said, by Israel — Syria did not need foreign help to defend itself.

At the same time, the leader of an opposition group suggested Sunday that the rebels would need heavier weapons.

"The rebels are fighting with primitive weapons," said the leader, Abdelbasset Sida of the Syrian National Council, according to Reuters. "We want weapons that we can stop tanks and planes with."

U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said Sunday at the outset of a five-day Mideast tour that Assad's use of helicopter gunships to counter a civil uprising will prove to be his demise.

While giving no indication that the Obama administration is contemplating military intervention, Panetta said it is increasingly clear that the Syrian crisis is deepening.

"If they continue this kind of tragic attack on their own people … I think it ultimately will be a nail in Assad's coffin," Panetta told reporters traveling with him from Washington. "His regime is coming to an end."

Comments
Domain Homes: Buyers love them, some others don’t

Domain Homes: Buyers love them, some others don’t

TAMPA — When the 2008 financial crash brought down the nation’s housing market, hundreds of home builders went out of business. Among them was Sharon McSwain Homes in Atlanta, forced to liquidate in 2009.But just as developers like to develop, builde...
Updated: 6 minutes ago
Bill Nelson’s new digital ad takes aim at ‘Oil Slick Rick’

Bill Nelson’s new digital ad takes aim at ‘Oil Slick Rick’

You've already met "Negative Nelson" in Florida's U.S. Senate race in an ad Gov. Rick Scott launched a couple of days ago.Now, meet "Oil Slick Rick."Nelson is up with a 60-second digital ad that accuses Scott of a "political stunt" in his announcemen...
Updated: 9 minutes ago
New sheriff won over those in power. The voters? They don’t get a say

New sheriff won over those in power. The voters? They don’t get a say

TAMPA — In 1964, the Beatles appeared on the Ed Sullivan Show, the first Ford Mustang rolled into showrooms and Mary Poppins hit movie theaters.It was also the last time Hillsborough County saw a truly competitive race for sheriff.In a traditio...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Who funded this negative ad campaign in the Florida governor’s race? We may never know.

Who funded this negative ad campaign in the Florida governor’s race? We may never know.

An out of state SuperPAC that funded a negative television ad campaign in May in the Florida governor’s race disclosed who paid for the campaign in filings Wednesday.The answer? That same group’s 501(c)(4) branch — which doesn’...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Investigation finds three St. Petersburg police lieutenants lied about work records

Investigation finds three St. Petersburg police lieutenants lied about work records

ST. PETERSBURG — Three police lieutenants falsified records about where they were during work hours, according to the St. Petersburg Police Department — a severe violation of ethics for three leaders on the agency’s day shift.The lieutenants claimed ...
Updated: 1 hour ago

Pasco deputies safely locate missing Holiday autistic teen

An autistic boy, who went missing after walking out of his Holiday home on Wednesday night, has been safely located.Jordan Webb, 16, left his home around 11 p.m., according to the Pasco County Sheriff’s Office.He was safely located on Thursday mornin...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Pastor took out an active shooter and expertly treated the wounded, all after delivering his Sunday sermon

Pastor took out an active shooter and expertly treated the wounded, all after delivering his Sunday sermon

On Sunday morning, David George, pastor of the Oakville, Washington, Assembly of God Church, delivered his sermon as he does every Sunday. The subject, on Father’s Day, was "The Value of MENtoring," about how much difference an individual can make in...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Gabby Giffords to campaign with Vern Buchanan opponent David Shapiro

Gabby Giffords to campaign with Vern Buchanan opponent David Shapiro

Former Congresswoman Gabby Giffords will be in Sarasota this morning for a campaign event with David Shapiro, a Democrat taking on Rep. Vern Buchanan.The meeting with community leaders and students comes in "the wake of a changing national dialogue s...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Supreme Court: Online shoppers can be forced to pay sales tax

Supreme Court: Online shoppers can be forced to pay sales tax

WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court says states can force online shoppers to pay sales tax.The 5-4 ruling Thursday is a win for states, who said they were losing out on billions of dollars annually under two decades-old Supreme Court decisions that impact...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Suspect arrested in rapper XXXTentacion’s shooting death

Suspect arrested in rapper XXXTentacion’s shooting death

FORT LAUDERDALE — Authorities in Florida have arrested a suspect in the killing of rising rap star XXXTentacion, who was fatally shot in his luxury BMW electric car as he left an upscale motorcycle dealership.Dedrick Devonshay Williams, 22, of Pompan...
Updated: 1 hour ago