June 19, 2013
Syrian rebels storm barracks, army shells towns
Syrian rebels stormed an army barracks in the northwestern province of Latakia overnight and killed at least 20 solidiers loyal to President Bashar al-Assad, an activist group said.
The pro-opposition Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said rebels had captured some soldiers, including a colonel, and seized machine guns and rocket-propelled grenades.
Latakia, a Mediterranean coastal province and home to Syria's main port, was relatively free of conflict until the past month. Recent weeks have seen a surge in rebel attacks on tanks and army checkpoints and activists say that in some areas, the rebel Free Syrian Army has been able to hold territory.
The International Committee of the Red Cross meanwhile said it was preparing to evacuate wounded and trapped civilians from the city of Homs after both sides agreed to its request for a temporary pause in fighting.
ICRC spokesman Hicham Hassan said Red Cross and Syrian Red Crescent teams were ready to go into Homs, where hundreds of people have been killed since February, as soon as possible.
As the action unfolded in Syria, world leaders aired their differences over the conflict at the G20 Summit at the Mexican resort of Los Cabos.
US President Barack Obama said Assad, whose family have ruled Syria for four decades, had lost all legitimacy and that it was impossible to conceive of any solution to the violence that left him in power.
But Russian President Vladimir Putin told reporters at the end of the summit: "We believe that nobody has the right to decide for other nations who should be brought to power, who should be removed from power."
Alarmed but apparently impotent to resolve the crisis, the outside world is deeply divided in its response to the increasingly sectarian conflict that threatens to become a proxy war for regional powers.
Western nations and their Sunni Muslim allies in the Gulf and Turkey seek Assad's overthrow but are wary of intervention, while Russia, China and Shi'ite Iran - Assad's strategic ally - have protected Assad from a tough international response.
Fifteen months since the anti-Assad uprising broke out, the situation has now become so dire that a United Nations observer force, originally deployed to monitor a ceasefire, halted patrols on Saturday after convoys were shot at and attacked by crowds.