Son of SSNP leader slain in Syria
Published Thursday, May 3, 2012
The son of a prominent political leader in Syria was assassinated overnight along with a fellow party member in another blow to UN peace efforts attempting to stabilize the country after one year of violence.
Ismail Haidar, son of Syrian Social Nationalist Party (SSNP) President Ali Haidar, and Fadi Atawneh was killed on the al-Mahnaya junction on the road between Homs and Masyaf, according to Syria's official news agency, SANA.
The car was reportedly mobbed by unknown gunmen, who riddled the vehicle with bullets, killing the pair instantly, Mohammad Zahweh, SSNP head of the Syria branch, told Al-Akhbar.
"It happened yesterday evening. There were gunmen waiting [on the street] and they began firing on the car," he said.
The SSNP leader has received death threats in the past, Zahweh said, but it was still too early to speculate who was to blame.
"We have received threats, particularly against the president [of] the party, but we couldn't specify the source of those threats."
"I can't really say for sure [who was responsible]. The investigation is underway [and] we don't want to guess who was behind it, it could've been a criminal act," he said.
The SSNP had positioned itself as an opposition party calling for democratic change in Syria, but adamantly rejected foreign intervention and the militarization of the uprising.
It has repeatedly called for a national reconciliation process that includes all opposition elements, as well as the regime, backing the UN peace plan to find a political solution to the crisis.
In response to his son's death, Ali said he did not want condolences, as the loss of his son was worth no more than the loss of any Syrian who has died in the conflict.
"I don't need condolences over the deaths of my son and his comrade, because their blood is no more precious than the blood of any Syrian that was martyred before or will be martyred in the coming days."
"Those who carry guns will not terrorize us and will not silence us nor stop us from working day and night to establish peace and security in Syria."
"Ismail and his comrade are the victims of terrorism that is afflicting Syria…they, like the rest of the martyrs, fell so that Syria may live, for Syria's interest is above all interests."
The SSNP is one of the oldest political parties in Syria, founded by Lebanese academic Antoun Saadeh in the 1930s, calling for a secular pan-Syrian nation.
The party has two factions representing the same name, with another pro-regime SSNP in an official alliance with the ruling Baath Party in Syria.
A high-ranking member based in the United States, wishing to remain anonymous, said the middle approach of Ali Haidar's SSNP has made them a target from all sides.
"The SSNP has taken a position that is neither to the complete liking of the regime nor to the complete liking of many elements in the opposition, but which it feels represents the interest of Syria, which should be above all other interests."
"Unfortunately, certain elements on the ground believe that unless you are 100 percent with them, then you are 100 percent against them, and as a result two young members of the SSNP have paid with their lives for the party's position," he said.
The assassination comes one day after Russia blamed "terrorists" for recent attacks in Syria and accused rebels of conducting a concerted campaign to ensure UN-Arab League envoy Kofi Annan's peace plan fails.
Russia "decisively condemns the new terrorist sorties," the foreign ministry said in a statement, referring to bombings in Idlib and an attack on Syria's central bank on Monday.
The attacks "in essence unleashed a large-scale campaign to destabilize the situation and disrupt...Annan's plan," it said.
"The most recent series of explosions was clearly timed to the arrival in Damascus" of Norwegian Major General Robert Mood, the commander of a UN monitoring mission, it said.
"We believe it is the international community's task not to allow the disruption of implementation of the UN-Arab League envoy's plan. For our part, we will do everything that depends on us to [ensure] violence in Syria ends as soon as possible."
While publicly opposing foreign interference and particularly military intervention in Syria, Russia has vocally supported Annan's peace plan and backed it in UN Security Council votes.
It has urged both sides to stop violence but has put most of the blame for violations of a ceasefire that took effect April 12 on rebels and accused them of seeking to create a pretext for foreign intervention against the government.
(Al-Akhbar, Reuters, SANA)