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Syrian State TV Edits Out Criticism From Visiting U.N. Official

AUG. 17, 2015

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    Wrapping up a three-day visit to Syria on Monday, the new emergency relief coordinator of the United Nations, Stephen O’Brien, told reporters he was “absolutely horrified by the total disregard for civilian life by all parties in this conflict.”

    He seemed particularly outraged by government airstrikes on Sunday in Douma, a rebel-held area on the outskirts of Damascus, the Syrian capital. The death toll from that attack was revised upward on Monday to at least 95 by the Syrian Civil Defense, a group of volunteer search and rescue workers also known as the White Helmets.

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    Video said to show the aftermath of the attack on Douma on Sunday was posted online by a group of Syrian volunteer search and rescue workers. Syrian Civil Defense, via YouTube

    “Yesterday’s airstrikes on the central market area caused scores of civilian deaths and hundreds of people were injured,” Mr. O’Brien said at a news conference. “Attacks on civilians are unlawful, unacceptable and must stop.”

    While his criticism was evenhanded — he also condemned the conduct of rebel groups — and made headlines around the world, Syrians who rely on state television for their news heard none of his harsh words about their government’s conduct of the war. Edited video of Mr. O’Brien’s remarks posted on YouTube by the official Syrian Arab News Agency, or Sana, simply faded to black just before he described the attack on Douma.

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    Stephen O'Brien, the under secretary general for humanitarian affairs at the United Nations, speaking on Monday in Damascus. Syrian Arab News Agency, via YouTube

    A look at a transcript of his remarks released by the United Nations shows that Mr. O’Brien’s description of the devastation he witnessed in the Old City of Homs, a former rebel stronghold, was also omitted by the Syrian state broadcaster.

    Today in #Syria I told press I'm horrified by total disregard for civilian life by all parties in this conflict http://t.co/l7xAYSnP5G

    — Stephen O'Brien (@UNReliefChief) Aug. 17, 2015


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