QAA, Lebanon – Syrian refugees fleeing to neighboring Lebanon on Monday said they feared they would be slaughtered in their own homes as government forces hunted down opponents in a brutal offensive against the opposition stronghold of Homs.
With world pressure at a peak in the boiling crisis, U.S. Sen. John McCain called for airstrikes against Syria. He said the United States has a moral and strategic obligation to force out Assad and his loyalists.
“The only realistic way to do so is with foreign airpower,” McCain said from the Senate floor. “The United States should lead an international effort to protect key population centers in Syria, especially in the north, through airstrikes on Assad’s forces.”
The U.N. refugee agency said Monday that as many as 2,000 Syrians crossed into Lebanon over the last two days to flee the violence in their country. In the Lebanese border village of Qaa, families with women and small children came carrying only plastic bags filled with a few belongings.
“We fled the shelling and the strikes,” said Hassana Abu Firas. She came with two families who had fled government shelling of their town, al-Qusair, about 14 miles away, in Homs province, Syria.
“What are we supposed to do? People are sitting in their homes and they are hitting us with tanks,” Firas told the Associated Press.
Lebanese security officials say more than 10,000 Syrians are believed to be in the country. As international condemnation mounts, the Syrian regime agreed to allow in two prominent international emissaries it had previously rebuffed: former U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan, the new special envoy to Syria, and U.N. humanitarian chief Valerie Amos.
Annan goes to Damascus on Saturday, and Amos said she will arrive in the capital on Wednesday and leave on Friday.
Assailants pose as officials, gun down 25 policemen
BAGHDAD – Assailants waving the battle flag of al-Qaida gunned down 25 policemen Monday in a brazen and well-orchestrated challenge to government control over a strategic town fraught with Iraq war symbolism.
The attack replicated tactics used by Sunni insurgents during the war and appeared aimed at reasserting al-Qaida’s grip now that the Iraqis can no longer rely on American help.
The attackers drove through the town of Haditha claiming to be government officials and methodically executed guards and commanders. After half an hour they escaped into the desert, leaving a terrified populace demanding protection. Local authorities imposed a curfew and deployed troops.