BEIRUT – The head of Syria’s main opposition group in exile called Sunday for international powers to impose a no-fly zone in border areas to protect civilians who are coming under increasingly intense attacks by regime warplanes and helicopters.
The president of the Syrian National Council, Abdelbaset Sieda, told the Associated Press that such a move by the international community would show President Bashar Assad’s regime that his opponents around the world are serious.
The Syrian opposition has been calling for a no-fly zone over Syria for months. But Sieda renewed the plea a day after U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said Washington and Turkey were discussing a range of steps including a no-fly zone over some parts of Syria as the regime increasingly uses its air force to attack rebels.
“There must be special protection,” Sieda said by telephone. “The numbers of martyrs are increasing and destruction too. If the country keeps going this way, then we are heading to a catastrophe.”
Asked who will impose the no-fly zone, Sieda said: “We leave it to the international community.”
Russia and China have vetoed tough U.N. Security Council resolutions aimed at Assad’s regime. Last week, the U.N. and Arab League envoy to Syria, Kofi Annan, announced his resignation, after a six-month effort failed to achieve even a temporary cease-fire.
Sieda said the no-fly zone should be along borders with Jordan and Turkey.
“Now that Syria’s air force is taking part in bombing cities and towns, there must be protection for the Syrian people. There must be a no-fly zone so that there will be safe havens to refugees,” he said.
Activists reported more clashes Sunday in some Damascus suburbs, the city of Aleppo in the north, central Homs province, and the restive southern town of Daraa. The U.K.-based activist group Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said it had no immediate reports of casualties.
The deaths of two Syrian journalists on Saturday were reported on Sunday.
State-run news agency SANA said one of its reporters, Ali Abbas, was killed at his residence in Damascus. The report blamed an “armed terrorist group” but gave no details.
Pan-Arab satellite news channel Al-Arabiya television said Bara’a Yusuf al-Bushi, a Syrian national and army defector who worked with the station and several other international news organizations, was killed in a bomb attack while covering a story in a suburb of Damascus.
Also Sunday, SANA said troops killed Wael Mohammed al-Majdalawi, a leader of the Sunni group al-Nusra Front, which claimed responsibility for deadly attacks over the past months including last week’s killing of a prominent Syrian television broadcaster.