Opinion and Editorial

Key Syria town falls

Filed on March 7, 2013

AMATEUR VIDEO clips from Raqqa, showing a statue of former Syrian president being toppled, could be read as the writing on the wall.

The regime in Damascus seems to be fighting a losing war. According to reports from independent think tanks and aid agencies, more than 70 per cent of the country is under rebel control, and foreign media agencies, including Reuters, had reported heavy and excessive shelling by Syrian security forces, including the use of air strikes and missile attacks. A statement from the Unicef said that escalation of violence is ‘threatening the education of hundreds of thousands of children’ — and one-fifth of the country’s schools have suffered direct physical damages and that premises had been turned into refugee camps.

Raqqa, situated on the banks of the Euphrates near the Turkish border, has been home to hundreds and thousands of refugees who had fled the civil commotion and its takeover by rebels would certainly come as a loss of a strategic frontier for Damascus. The number of casualties inflicted on either side is unconfirmed, but reports say sites of massacre are evident all around. The fact that rebels had run over government installations in Raqqa and elsewhere in the north of the country establishes the point that President Bashar Al Assad’s grip is falling apart. Moreover, there are confirmed reports of rebels capturing provincial governor, Hassan Jalil when they routed the regime forces in the city. Jalil and Baath Party’s secretary-general Suleiman Suleiman’s capture is the highest profile, since the uprising started two years ago, emboldening the spirits of the opposition.

The question is what’s next? With security forces using warplanes to bombard Raqqa, in an attempt to take it back from the rebels, genocide is in the making. Attempts on the part of Syrian forces to quell resistance could bring more bloodshed, further sending down the war-torn society in renewed miseries. Assad, at this point of time, has no choice but to work for deescalating the conflict, and that can only be done when his security forces volunteered not to go on for a witch-hunt. This policy can be used as a favour to the opposition enabling them to get back to the table for meaningful talks. Foreign Minister Walid Muallem had already hinted at his government’s willingness to talk to rebels, provided it led to a permanent solution to the dispute. There is no harm in giving it a serious try, and let the spadework start from Raqqa. The state forces, by calling off their retribution campaign, can make a good beginning. That will help alleviate the suffering of the people who fear full-fledged war in their fallen restive territory.

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