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 garrison loyal to President Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi has held out in the city largely surrounded by the Huthi rebels and their allies who control the capital Sanaa and much of the north.
The building, dating from the early 1960s and including a shopping centre and clothing workshops, had been evacuated, but firefighters were battling the blaze inside and it was not immediately clear if there were casualties.
Turkish army hits 182 ISIL targets in northern Syria, says General Staff
Russian foreign minister says invitation enables participation of all those who mentioned in public statements
Defendants charged with involvement in two high-profile assassination attempts last year, judicial source says
Strikes 'were a result of continued coordination with Turkey', U.S.-led coalition says
At the Paris conference, some 70 countries affirmed their support for a two-state solution that would see a state of Palestine co-existing alongside Israel.
UN envoy Nickolay Mladenov delivered the warning to the Security Council, which met for the first time since the adoption of a contentious resolution demanding an end to Israeli settlements.
Suspect is believed to have recruited suicide bombers for notorious extremist group
Iraqi officials slammed Bahrain’s execution on Sunday of three men convicted of killing policemen two years ago
116 ISIL targets also destroyed as part of Turkish-led Operation Euphrates Shield
3 others wounded in attack on security checkpoint, health ministry says
Army launched wide-ranging campaign last month aimed at recapturing parts of Yemen’s southern Shabwah province
Aid campaign run by Turkish Red Crescent draws large attention at home and abroad
OPEC and non-OPEC oil producing countries agreed to cap production from January 1 to end a global glut that has hammered prices, but doubts remain about implementation before data is released at the end of the month.
The government of President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi had appealed against a lower court ruling in June that found the controversial border demarcation agreement was illegal.