Syria crisis grave, says UN chief

Syria crisis grave, says UN chief

UN chief Ban Ki-moon said on Wednesday that Syria’s crisis was highly alarming and had “massive repercussions” for the world, as heavy fighting raged in the Syrian capital Damascus.

“We do not know how events will unfold. But we do know that we all have a responsibility to work for a resolution of this profound and extremely dangerous crisis,” Ban said in a speech in the Indonesian capital Jakarta.

Syria lies in a pivotal position at the heart of a web of regional conflicts in the Middle East, comprising a mix of faiths, sects and ethnic groups, and diplomats fear the 12-month uprising is degenerating into a full-blown civil war.

Forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad have made gains against rebels around the country in recent weeks, but the violence shows no sign of abating, with reports on Wednesday of several army offensives.

Opposition activists said the army turned tank, artillery and anti-aircraft guns on the Damascus suburbs of Harasta and Irbin on Wednesday, which were retaken from rebels two months ago but have seen renewed insurgency in recent days.

The suburbs are a linked series of towns inhabited mostly by members of Syria’s Sunni Muslim majority, grown increasingly resentful at the domination of the Assads, who belong to the minority Alawite sect, an offshoot of Shi'ite Islam.

Elsewhere, the army fired 11 mortar rounds into the Khalidiya district of Homs, the day after 14 people died in the same area from mortar attacks, the British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

Artillery shells targeted the rebel town of Rastan, north of Homs city, in the centre of Syria, and Qalat Mudiq, northwest of Hama city, where an armoured personnel carrier came under fire. One soldier was killed in the attack, activists said.

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