Syria: Euphrates bridge destroyed, deadly raid on al-Bayda

Brahimi towards resignation, Assad troops reclaim parts of Homs

03 May, 10:17

    (by Lorenzo Trombetta) (ANSAmed) - BEIRUT, MAY 3 - One of Syria's national symbols, the suspension bridge in Deir Ezzor over the Euphrates river has been destroyed. Government forces on Thursday reportedly targeted the bridge, according to witnesses' accounts. The attack took place just as reports claiming that the UN-Arab League envoy for Syria, Lakhdar Brahimi is about to resign were gaining momentum, and as Bashar al-Assad's troops took control of large swaths of territory in the key area of Homs and along the coast to 'free them from terrorists'. Opposition sources also said that in an area between Homs and the coast, in the city of al-Bayda, loyalist troops conducted a deadly raid killing between 50 and 100 people, including children and women.

    It is still unclear how the bridge, built by French engineers in 1927 during the French Mandate of Syria (1920-1946) was destroyed. The bridge was portrayed on some Syrian banknotes. According to the first reports, which could not be independently verified, the regime's air forces and artillery repeatedly targeted the vital bridge connecting the Levant with Upper Mesopotamia.

    Meanwhile in New York Brahimi, who was appointed UN and Arab League envoy for Syria after the resignation of former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, said through an aide he could step down in two weeks or accept the nomination by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon of an advisor on the Syrian dossier.

    Brahimi, an Algerian diplomat close to a number of Arab countries, allegedly decided to resign after the Arab League granted to the Syrian exiled opposition the seat reserved to Damascus. The move undermined his unbiased position towards the regime and armed rebels, according to Brahimi aides cited by UN diplomats.

    While a Turkish border police officer was killed, according to media in Ankara, by Syrian smugglers close to the rebels who control large swaths of territory along the border, troops loyal to Assad succeeded in dividing in half the heart of Homs, encircling an opposition suburb. Regime forces conquered the Wadi as Sayeh district, dividing Khaldiye from the city centre and easing the access of loyalists to the rebel-held area. Eye witnesses close to the rebels claimed Shiite Hezbollah militants and Syrians trained in Iran were present on the ground, though the information could not be independently verified.

    For the first time since the beginning of the war, fighting between rebels and pro-regime troops took place along the coast near Banyas, a Sunni-majority port surrounded by Alawite areas - Assad's Shiite minority. Local activists have denounced 'mass killings' by Alawite militias though these reports also could not be independently verified.(ANSAmed).

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