Syria Unrest

(CNN) --
President Bashar al-Assad's forces carried out a "massacre" in the Hama neighborhood of Arbaeen. At least 66 of 90 people reported dead in the country were slain there, the opposition Local Coordination Committees of Syria said.

Shelling and fighting raged in the Damascus region, including the suburb of Domair, which regime forces have shelled for 16 straight days.

"This has led to a deterioration in the humanitarian situation in the city, and the remaining residents are unable to move due to the prevalence of snipers. Most residents fled the area because of the heavy shelling, during which more than 25 mortar shells landed in various parts of the city, leading to an inability to address medical and humanitarian needs," the LCC said.

Elsewhere, an all-out battle is expected in Aleppo, the nation's most populous city. For days, it has been engulfed in fighting between regime forces and rebels.

Deir Ezzor, the restive province in the east, was the focus of anti-government demonstrators. Protesters across the country have demonstrated every Friday for the nearly 17 months of unrest in the country under a different theme each week. On Friday, their theme was "heroic Deir Ezzor, the coming victory from the east."

Regime shells have battered the area for weeks, and protesters wanted to show solidarity with the people there.

"Despite the big battle in Aleppo, we feel that Deir Ezzor is also leading the fight against the Assad regime and most of the cities and villages in the province have been liberated," said Mohammed Sarmini, a spokesman for the opposition Syrian National Council, the anti-Assad political movement based in Turkey.

Sarmini also said that rebel forces are buoyed by strides in places like Aleppo, Deir Ezzor and other hot spots, and that some members of the SNC leadership will soon be relocating to Syria.

He said the opposition is working on setting up a secure central command.

"Our main mission is to form local neighborhood councils in order to avoid the cities slipping into chaos once the regime falls," Sarmini said "We had to wait until we had more liberated areas, and now we feel more confident after the latest developments in Aleppo."

The U.N. General Assembly will be considering a resolution on the Syrian crisis a day after Kofi Annan announced his resignation from his post as the U.N. and Arab League special envoy to Syria. He spearheaded a six-point peace plan that has failed to take hold on the ground.

General Assembly resolutions are legally nonbinding, unlike Security Council resolutions. But diplomats at the General Assembly have fashioned a resolution upbraiding the Security Council for failing to deal with the issue. Russia and China have vetoed tough Security Council resolutions against Syria.

The proposed resolution, which is to be voted on Friday morning, slams the Syrian government for its use of heavy weaponry and failure to protect its population. It also expressed "grave concern at the threat by the Syrian authorities to use chemical or biological weapons" and backs the peace initiative Annan championed.

The resolution also expressed "its deep concern at the lack of progress towards implementation of the six-point plan, and deploring the failure of the Security Council to agree on measures to ensure the compliance of Syrian authorities with its decisions."

The crisis continues to force the displacement of Syrians in the country and in neighboring lands, the U.N. refugee agency said. On Friday, the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees issued a count of refugees it registered and others awaiting registration.

Among the registered refugees, there are 44,038 in Turkey, 40,199 in Jordan, 35,364 in Lebanon and 12,409 in Iraq. There are many others who haven't been registered. For example, an estimated 150,000 Syrian refugees have entered Jordan since March of last year.

Refugees who previously entered Syria have been affected, with more than 20,000 Iraqis retuning home. The United Nations said 20 people have died and dozens have been wounded in the Damascus neighborhood of Yarmouk, where many Palestinian refugees live. One Sudanese in Damascus was wounded, and an Iraqi refugee said his son died from gunfire.

France is head of the U.N. Security Council this month. Gerard Araud, the French ambassador to the U.N., said Thursday that the council wants to focus on humanitarian issues.

Qadri Jameel, the Syrian deputy prime minister who is part of an economic delegation visiting Russia, told reporters that the European and U.S. sanctions against the regime are causing misery.

"The economic sanctions target and affect every Syrian citizen," he said.

The Syrian crisis started when al-Assad's security forces launched a violent crackdown on peaceful protests in March 2011. That clampdown spurred a nationwide uprising as armed rebels, including military defectors and other fighters, battled under the Free Syrian Army.

The conflict has claimed roughly 17,000 lives, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said last week. Opposition activists put the toll at more than 20,000.


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