The Syrian ambassador to the United Nations has condemned a UN report that said his country’s forces are guilty of committing violence against children caught up in the 18-month uprising.
Ambassador Bashar Jaafari on Wednesday called the allegations made in the report hostile propaganda, and said armed groups were violating the rights of children, not the government.
“We would also have preferred for the Special Representative for the Secretary General to include in the paragraphs addressing the Syrian Arab Republic the acts that have been perpetrated by armed terrorist groups that have been sustained and financed by foreign parties,” Jaafari said.
“These groups have destroyed more than 2,600 schools and kindergartens. They have also targeted health centers.
“It is these armed groups who are violating the rights of Syria’s children.”
As new diplomatic efforts are made outside the country, the violence within Syria rages on, with activists reporting renewed shelling in al-Bab town in Aleppo province and more fighting in Douma, a battleground town near Damascus, the capital.
Helicopter ‘shot down’
On Thursday, Syria’s information ministry said that a military helicopter crashed near the capital Damascus, after it hit the tail of a passenger plane, which had 200 people on board.
The passenger plane made a successful emergency landing and all passengers escaped unharmed, the information ministry said.
“The helicopter struck the tail of the plane … The control tower at Damascus airport confirmed that the plane landed safely at Damascus airport and all 200 passengers are in good health,” a statement published on the state news channel Suriya said.
Suriya said earlier that a helicopter had crashed in the town of Douma east of the Syrian capital.
Rebel fighters claimed to have shot down the helicopter, a human rights watchdog reported, as Syria’s opposition declared parts of the capital a “disaster area”.
A series of explosions rocked Douma, just northeast of Damascus, shortly before the rebels shot down the helicopter, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, said.
“A helicopter went down in the Tall al-Kurdi area near Douma,” said the UK-based observatory, citing activists in the area. The aircraft “was shot down by rebels” after the blasts, it said.
The reports came while the army shelled al-Hajar al-Aswad and the Palestinian refugee camp of Yarmouk in the capital.
Pro-government Addounia TV reported that Syrian armed forces had carried out hundreds of arrests of what it called “terrorists” at al-Talnaa garden and al-Waseem mosque in the Yarmouk refugee camp.
Meanwhile, Iran’s Parliamentary Speaker Ali Larijani said that his country had held talks with Syrian opposition groups, according to a transcript of an interview released by the UK’s Financial Times.
In the interview, published on Wednesday, Larijani said according to reports he received there was contact with the Muslim Brotherhood of Syria “to bring about peace and to support necessary reforms”.
It was unclear when the discussions, held in Tehran, took place or whether they yielded any progress.
Larijani described the Syrian opposition as “multi-layered,” without a unified leader. “They have various intentions and opinions,” he told the newspaper.
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On Thursday, diplomats from more than 60 countries are meeting near the Dutch city of The Hague to discuss economic sanctions against Syria’s ruling regime.
The group, called “Friends of the Syrian People”, is a coalition set up to discuss the situation in Syria after the UN Security Council was unable to reach agreement on a resolution condemning Assad’s government.
Uri Rosenthal, the Dutch foreign minister, told reporters at the start of the meeting on Thursday that the financial sanctions are intended not only to lessen the regime’s military power, but ultimately to help drive Assad out of office.
In a separate development, Iraq denied a Western intelligence report saying Iran has been using civilian aircraft to fly military personnel and large quantities of weapons across Iraqi airspace to Syria to aid Assad.
“The official spokesman of the Iraqi government has denied that issue altogether … There is nothing like this happening,” Lieutenant-General Hussein Kamal, Iraq’s deputy interior minister for intelligence, said on Thursday.
Details of the report, which said arms transfers were organised by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard, were reported by the Reuters news agency on Wednesday.