World Bulletin/News Desk
A Syrian astronaut who was part of a Soviet space mission a quarter of a century ago condemned the world's failure to stem violence in his home country on Friday and urged President Bashar al-Assad's opponents to keep up their struggle.
General Muhammed Ahmed Faris, a military aviator and the first Syrian in space, fled to Turkey 10 days ago, joining the ranks of prominent defectors who have included military generals and former Prime Minister Riyad Hijab.
"I decided to defect from the regime several months ago, but I was kept under surveillance and it prevented me from defecting immediately," Faris told Reuters, saying that seeing an 8-month-old child wounded by shrapnel had been the final straw.
"For the world, you watch us while we are dying and your silence is a crime, but we will succeed anyway."
Faris, 61, flew with a Soviet crew to the space station Mir in 1987 and was awarded the title Hero of the Soviet Union after the journey. He also received the Order of Lenin.
Moscow's support for Syria's government has been criticised by Western nations since the Syrian uprising began in March 2011. Russia and China have vetoed three Western-backed United Nations Security Council resolutions criticising Damascus and threatening sanctions.
The conflict between Assad's forces and rebels is intensifying. More than 250 people, including 123 civilians, were killed in Syria on Thursday alone, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a British-based opposition watchdog.
Turkey is taking the brunt of a swelling exodus of refugees, with 66,000 Syrians now sheltering there, according to the Turkish state disaster and emergency authority.
A US defense official confirmed artillery is being used in the operation.
The country's health infrastructure is on the brink of collapse, with medicines running out and staff going unpaid for several months, the groups said.
-Since 2013 coup, Egyptian authorities have cracked down on dissent, killing hundreds, throwing tens of thousands behind bars
Opposition fighters advanced to positions six kilometers (four miles) away from center of Hama city
Next round of Syria talks between delegations from regime, opposition due to start Thursday in Geneva
First strike targeted a school housing displaced people west of Raqqah
Regime warplanes carried out ten airstrikes on Ein Tarma suburb
The official SANA news agency said a total of 15 people were wounded in opposition fire on Tuesday.
Turkish Red Crescent is taking part in the evacuation operation for 30,000 civilians from Al-Waer district of Syria's Homs
Governor was unhurt after his car came under fire as it was passing near a military camp in Ad-Dali city
Co-founder of campaign to boycott Israel arrested for alleged tax evasion
Egyptian authorities say they are battling a ISIL-linked group in Sinai
The ban would stop passengers bringing laptops, iPads and cameras in carry-on luggage and is thought to effect at least 12 airlines.
Abdel Fattah al-Sisi makes assertion at Monday meeting in Cairo with Palestinian counterpart
Arab coalition led by Saudi Arabia claims to intercept missile fired by Yemen’s Houthi group