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News Wrap: Syrian Troops Launch New Assault in Ramadan Offensive

August 8, 2011 at 12:00 AM EDT
In other news Monday, the government of Syria pressed a new assault in its Ramadan offensive against dissents. Tanks and troops poured into the city of Deir ez Zor in the east, after killing scores of people in Hama and arresting hundreds more. Also, street violence spread to more of London and beyond.
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HARI SREENIVASAN: The government of Syria pressed a new assault today in its Ramadan offensive against dissidents. Tanks and troops poured into the city of Dayr ez Zawr in the east, after killing scores of people in Hama and arresting hundreds more.

We have a report narrated by Jonathan Miller of Independent Television News.

JONATHAN MILLER: A crouching, hidden witness cowers behind a wall in Dayr ez Zawr to record the dawn assault on the eastern oil town. A column of tanks rolls in — Bashar al-Assad, locked in an escalating war with his own people, whose defiance has grown as the brutality of the crackdown has increased.

But how long can Syria’s dictator defy growing outrage? This is downtown Riyadh late last night, Saudis calling for the overthrow of the Syrian regime. King Abdullah has released a statement read on satellite TV, a firm rebuke for Mr. Assad. “The kingdom doesn’t accept the situation,” the statement said. The king demanded what he called the stoppage of the killing machine and bloodshed. “It’s immoral and against Islam,” he said.

It seems repugnant and alarm over al-Assad’s violence Ramadan offensive may be what pushed first the Gulf Cooperation Council, then the Arab League, then the Saudi king to break the deafening Arab silence.

NABIL AL-ARABY, Arab League (through translator): We are alarmed by the situation in Syria, a big Arab country with a big role in the region.

JONATHAN MILLER: Dara’a, ancient southern city and cradle of the Syrian revolution, where today the army’s guns blazed on, the Syrian leader deaf to the tongue-lashing he’s now had from fellow Arabs, neighboring Turkey and the West. And as his isolation grows, so Syria drifts towards the abyss of chaos, as King Abdullah warned.

HARI SREENIVASAN: Street violence spread to more of London and beyond today, as British police reported more than 215 arrests. The trouble broke out Saturday night when several hundred youths attacked police, broke into shops, and burned vehicles. It came on the heels of the fatal shooting of a man by police last Thursday. This evening, looting also broke out in the city of Birmingham, 120 miles to the north.

The U.S. government has pledged to provide $105 million in new famine relief for the Horn of Africa. American officials warned today that many thousands of Somalis could die if help doesn’t come soon.

And Jill Biden, the vice president’s wife, visited a refugee camp in eastern Kenya, where thousands of Somalis have fled. She said the situation is dire.

JILL BIDEN, wife of Vice President Joe Biden: One of the reasons to be here is just to ask Americans and people worldwide, the global community, the human family, if they could just reach a little bit deeper into their pockets and give money to help these poor people, these poor mothers and children.

HARI SREENIVASAN: In a related development, the Islamist rebel group al-Shabab withdrew from the Somali capital over the weekend. The move opened the way for U.N. relief flights into the city.

Nearly half of the workers in Verizon’s landline division are now on strike across the Eastern U.S. — 45,000 workers from Massachusetts to Virginia walked off the job on Sunday after their old contract expired and negotiators failed to agree on a new one. The key issues were health care costs and pensions. The strike could create delays in repairing and installing landline phones, as well as Verizon’s FiOS television and Internet service.

Two leading politicians from another era were remembered today. In Oregon, former Republican Sen. Mark Hatfield died last night at 89. He was an outspoken Vietnam War critic who served five terms beginning in 1966.

And former Democratic Gov. Hugh Carey of New York passed away Sunday evening. He helped rescue New York City from the brink of bankruptcy during its 1975 financial crisis.

Those are some of the day’s major stories.