Friday 2 November 2012

Syrian Observatory for Human Rights:  Summarized final death toll of Friday 2/11/12.
More than 200 Syrians killed yesterday. The dead include: 74 unarmed civilians (10 children) , 51 rebel fighters, 3 defected soldiers, a defected lieutenant and no less than 61 regime forces.
– Reports indicate that 2 were killed by bombardment on the al-M’adi neighbourhood of Aleppo city

** Reports indicate that 43 unidentified corpses were found. 26 were found in the neighbourhoods of al-‘amriya and Jam’iat al-Muhandisin of Aleppo city, 17 were found in the al-Tadamon neighbourhood of Damascus city.**

*Confirmed reports indicate that dozens were killed by mutual bombardment on the Harem town of Reef Idlib*

UN: Mothers, children widely affected by continuing Syrian violence, UNICEF warns

The United Nations children’s agency today drew attention to the impact that the conflict in Syria is taking on mothers and children, especially on newborn babies.

Addressing a media briefing in Geneva, a spokesperson for the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF), Marixie Mercado, reported that, according to local health officials, the ongoing violence continued to impact infant care in Syrian hospitals, particularly among newborns who were increasingly affected by a lack of available incubators.

At the General Hospital in Damascus, Syria’s capital, Ms. Mercado said that out of 21 incubators only 14 were functioning despite a list of over 60 babies waiting to use the remaining accessible machines.

“Health workers said many babies had died because there were not enough incubators,” she told the press briefing.

“Yesterday, the Ministry of Health indicated to UNICEF that 400 incubators were needed across the country,” she continued, adding that overcrowding at the General Hospital was also affecting the children’s ward where 200 patients were waiting for access to 120 beds.

Ms. Mercado warned that the stress of the fighting was especially having a damaging effect on expectant mothers. Citing health workers, she stated that mothers were delivering earlier and that many were also miscarrying while hospitals were experiencing a two-fold increase in the number of Caesarean sections when compared with the same period last year.

At least 20,000 people, mostly civilians, have died since the uprising against President Bashar al-Assad began some 20 months ago. A further 2.5 million Syrians urgently need humanitarian aid, and over 340,000 have crossed the border to Syria’s neighbouring countries, according to UN estimates.

There had been expectations that the warring parties in Syria would agree to observe a ceasefire, starting last Friday, in observance of the Muslim religious holiday of Eid al-Adha, in the hope that it would help create an environment that would allow a political process to develop. That ceasefire, however, was not respected as violence continued across the war-torn country through the holiday weekend.

Ms. Mercado told the gathered journalists that while UNICEF had provided relief items to around 60,000 internally displaced persons (IDPs), there was a shortage of school supplies, furniture and teachers for IDP children fleeing the violence.

She added that the UN agency was working to quickly bring in more supplies, including incubators and other winter gear, to cities such as Al-Raqqah and Tartous, as well as others.

Addressing the same news briefing, the spokesperson for the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), Rupert Colville, told reporters that a circulated video showing apparent executions would be difficult to verify immediately and required further careful scrutiny.

He noted, however, that the video appeared to show a war crime and urged all parties to respect international human rights law and international humanitarian law.

“The people committing these crimes should be under no illusion that they will escape accountability as there is a lot of accumulated evidence,” Mr. Colville added.

NOW! Lebanon
[local time]  21:20 Syrian regime forces shell the Daraa neighborhood of Daael, according to media reports.
 20:55 The bodies of 25 people were found in the Aleppo neighborhood of Al-Amriyeh, activists told Al-Arabiya.
 20:47 The United States Friday urged Syrian rebels to uphold the international rules of war after a video emerged purportedly showing opposition fighters executing Syrian soldiers.
 20:23 At least 138 people were killed by Syrian regime forces on Friday, activists reported.
 18:47 Syrian rebels have killed a Kurdish woman militia leader in the northern city of Aleppo, highlighting growing tensions between anti-regime fighters and the Kurds, a monitoring group said Friday.
 17:16 Britain said on Friday it was deeply concerned by a video purporting to show opposition fighters executing Syrian soldiers, saying it condemned atrocities committed on both sides of the conflict.
 15:27 The main opposition Syrian National Council on Friday urged rebels be held accountable after a video purported to show opposition fighters executing Syrian soldiers.
 15:24 The Syrian regime forces launched a campaign of arrests in Karam al-Joura in Damascus, activists said.
 14:56 Seventy people were killed on Friday in a massacre committed by the Syrian regime’s forces in Edleb’s Harem, activists said.
 14:40 Four people were killed and many others injured during an air raid launched by the Syrian forces on Duma near Damascus, activists said.
 14:36 A number of people were killed and others injured in the Syrian regime’s shelling of the Harem area in Edleb , Al-Jazeera television reported.
 13:57 Syria’s Friday death toll increased to 50 people, including 4 children, activists reported.
 13:52 The Free Syrian Army shot down a Syrian regime warplane in the Deir az-Zour town of Mohassan, activists reported.
 13:47 Seven Syrian rebels were killed while taking control over a checkpoint near the municipality building of the city of Douma, activists reported.
 13:17 Syrian forces are shelling the Homs town of As-Saan, activists reported.
 13:07 Syrian security forces have been shelling the Daraa neighborhood of Al-Sadd, Al-Jazeera quoted activists as saying.
 12:54 A video showing what appears to be rebels executing Syrian soldiers most probably shows “war crimes” that could be used as evidence to bring the perpetrators to justice, the UN human rights body said Friday.
 12:52 At least 35 people were killed by the Syrian regime, Al-Arabiya quoted activists as saying.
 12:38 Eight people were killed by Syrian regime airplanes in Deir az-Zour’s Gharaneej, Al-Jazeera quoted activists as saying.
 12:21 Syrian rebels took over an archeological fortress in the Edleb town of Harem, Al-Jazeera quoted activists as saying.
 11:25  A number of people were killed and others injured in the Syrian regime’s shelling of the Qaramish town in Deir az-Zour, Al-Arabiya television quoted activists as saying.
 11:14 Syrian rebels have taken control of the Aleppo-Latakia road, Al-Jazeera television quoted activists as saying.
 11:14 The Syrian main exiled opposition group on Friday accused Washington of undermining the country’s revolution by seeking to overhaul how regime opponents are organized.
 10:35 Syrian rebels have taken full control of a strategic crossroads in the northwest that further limits the government’s ability to reinforce its troops in Aleppo, activists said Friday.
 9:33 More than three months after moving into Syria’s commercial capital of Aleppo, rebels lay claim to a patchwork of Sunni Arab neighborhoods dotted across the north, south and east of the city.
 9:09 The main opposition Syrian National Council said on Thursday that it has received $40.4 million in international aid since it was set up a year ago, half of which came from Libya.
 9:00 MORNING LEADER: Syrian rebels killed 28 soldiers on Thursday, a watchdog said, amid a report they beat and executed some of them, as fighting raged in the country’s northwestern battlefields. Meanwhile, the opposition SNC hit back at US warnings of rising Islamic extremism among rebels, saying the West and its partners were to blame for increasing radicalization.
 8:27 The Free Syrian Army took over the Aleppo town of Saraqeb, Al-Jazeera quoted activists as saying.

Reuters: Syria army quits base on strategic Aleppo road

BEIRUT – The Syrian army abandoned its last base near the northern town of Saraqeb after a fierce assault by rebels, further isolating the strategically important second city Aleppo from the capital. | Video

But in a political setback to forces battling to topple President Bashar al-Assad, the United Nations said the rebels appeared to have committed a war crime after seizing the base.

The opposition Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said on Friday government troops had retreated from a post northwest of Saraqeb, leaving the town and surrounding areas “completely outside the control of regime forces”.

It was not immediately possible to verify the reported army withdrawal. Authorities restrict journalists’ access in Syria and state media made no reference to Saraqeb.

The pullout followed coordinated rebel attacks on Thursday against three military posts around Saraqeb, 50 km (30 miles) southwest of Aleppo, in which 28 soldiers were killed.

Several were shown in video footage being shot after they had surrendered.

“The allegations are that these were soldiers who were no longer combatants. And therefore, at this point it looks very likely that this is a war crime, another one,” U.N. human rights spokesman Rupert Colville said in Geneva.

“Unfortunately this could be just the latest in a string of documented summary executions by opposition factions as well as by government forces and groups affiliated with them, such as the shabbiha (pro-government militia),” he said.

Video footage of the killings showed rebels berating the captured men, calling them “Assad’s dogs”, before firing round after round into their bodies as they lay on the ground.

Rights groups and the United Nations say rebels and forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad have committed war crimes during the 19-month-old conflict. It began with protests against Assad and has spiraled into a civil war which has killed 32,000 people and threatens to drag in regional powers.

The mainly Sunni Muslim rebels are supported by Sunni states including Saudi Arabia, Qatar and neighboring Turkey. Shi’ite Iran remains the strongest regional supporter of Assad, who is from the Alawite faith which is an offshoot of Shi’ite Islam.


Saraqeb lies at the meeting point of Syria’s main north-south highway, linking Aleppo with Damascus, and another road connecting Aleppo to the Mediterranean port of Latakia.

With areas of rural Aleppo and border crossings to Turkey already under rebel control, the loss of Saraqeb would leave Aleppo city further cut off from Assad’s Damascus powerbase.

Any convoys using the highways from Damascus or the Mediterranean city of Latakia would be vulnerable to rebel attack. This would force the army to use smaller rural roads or send supplies on a dangerous route from Al-Raqqa in the east, according to the Observatory’s director, Rami Abdelrahman.

In response to the rebels’ territorial gains, Assad has stepped up air strikes against opposition strongholds, launching some of the heaviest raids so far against working class suburbs east of Damascus over the last week.

The bloodshed has continued unabated despite an attempted ceasefire, proposed by join U.N.-Arab League envoy Lakhdar Brahimi to mark last month’s Muslim holiday of Eid al-Adha.

In the latest in a string of fruitless international initiatives, China called on Thursday for a phased, region-by-region ceasefire and the setting up of a transitional governing body – an idea which opposition leaders hope to flesh out at a meeting in Qatar next week.

Veteran opposition leader Riad Seif has proposed a structure bringing together the rebel Free Syrian Army, regional military councils and other rebel forces alongside local civilian bodies and prominent opposition figures.

His plan, called the Syrian National Initiative, calls for four bodies to be established: the Initiative Body, including political groups, local councils, national figures and rebel forces; a Supreme Military Council; a Judicial Committee and a transitional government made up of technocrats.

The initiative has the support of Washington. U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called on Wednesday for an overhaul of the opposition, saying it was time to move beyond the troubled Syrian National Council.

The SNC has failed to win recognition as the legitimate representative of the Syrian people and Clinton said it was time to bring in “those on the front lines fighting and dying”.

(Additional reporting by Oliver Holmes in Beirut and Stephanie Nebehay in Geneva; Editing by Jon Boyle)

APF: Syria opposition accuses US of undermining revolt

Syria’s main anti-regime group said Friday the US was undermining the country’s revolt by seeking an opposition overhaul, as the UN accused rebels of possible war crimes over a video showing soldiers being executed.

The video “very likely” shows a war crime, the UN human rights body said, and the main opposition Syrian National Council called for those responsible for the executions to be called to account.

Two days ahead of key talks among the opposition in Qatar, the SNC lashed out at accusations from Washington that it was not fully representative of the country’s diverse dissident forces.

“Any discussions aimed at passing over the Syrian National Council or at creating new bodies to replace it are an attempt to undermine the Syrian revolution by sowing the seeds of division,” the SNC said.

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton this week voiced frustration with the SNC, saying it was not representative of on-the-ground opposition forces and that it “can no longer be viewed as the visible leader of the opposition.”

Reports have emerged that Washington will push in Qatar for an overhaul of the opposition, with long-time dissident Riad Seif touted as the potential head of a new government-in-exile dubbed the Syrian National Initiative.

Washington has accused the SNC of failing to unite the resistance to President Bashar al-Assad beyond a small group of exiles, of not representing Syria’s ethnic make-up and of alienating activists and rebel forces inside the country.

The Russian foreign ministry said Clinton’s comments on the SNC clashed with the agreements world powers reached on the conflict in Geneva in June, accusing Washington of trying to settle Syria’s conflict “exclusively on their terms.”

The rebels faced growing criticism on Friday after the video was posted on YouTube, appearing to show opposition fighters beating and executing soldiers after attacks on Thursday on checkpoints near the northwestern town of Saraqeb.

The video — the authenticity of which could not be verified — showed about 10 soldiers being beaten, then lined up on the ground and executed with automatic rifles.

— ‘Accountability will follow’ —


The SNC called for those responsible to be held accountable.

“We urge the (rebel) Free Syrian Army and the revolutionary movement on the ground to hold to account anyone who violates human rights,” SNC human rights committee head Radif Mustafa told AFP.

The UN human rights body said the video appeared to show a war crime and warned that “accountability will follow” for those who commit atrocities.

“It is very likely that this was a war crime, another one,” Rupert Colville, spokesman for UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay, told reporters in Geneva.

“We call on all parties to the conflict in Syria to respect international law,” he said.

US State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland told journalists: “There is no justification for that kind of behaviour ever. Anyone committing atrocities should be held to account.”

Britain said it was “deeply concerned” by the video, with a Foreign Office spokesman saying: “We condemn atrocities committed by the armed opposition in Syria just as we condemn the many atrocities carried out by the regime.”

A French foreign ministry spokesman said: “Our position is clear: to battle impunity, whatever the source.”

Rebels were meanwhile reported to have seized a strategic crossroads in the northwest, in a move that will further limit the regime’s ability to reinforce its troops in the northern commercial hub of Aleppo.

Rebel attacks forced troops to withdraw from their last position in the Saraqeb area, where the roads to Aleppo from Damascus and from the Mediterranean coast meet, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

After also seizing three checkpoints nearby on Thursday, the rebels now control an area extending 25 kilometres (15 miles) in all directions from Saraqeb, the Britain-based watchdog said.

At least 139 people, including 44 civilians, were killed across Syria on Friday, said the Observatory, which relies when compiling its tolls on a countrywide network of activists and medics in civilian and military hospitals.

It says more than 36,000 people have been killed since the uprising against Assad’s rule broke out in March 2011 as a protest movement inspired by the Arab Spring before escalating into an armed rebellion.

Thousands meanwhile joined traditional Friday protests against the regime.

In the northwestern town of Kfar Nabal, protesters contrasted the toll of hurricane Sandy in the United States with that of the uprising, using the name of Assad’s mother on a sign reading: “Sandy: 90 victims — Anissa: 40,000 victims.”

BBC: Syria rebels face war crime claim

A video appearing to show Syrian rebels murdering soldiers or pro-government militiamen could be evidence of a war crime, the UN has said.

The footage shows gunmen beating and shooting a group of prisoners who were cowering on the floor.

It has been alleged that Islamist militants carried out the attack after seizing army checkpoints on Thursday.

Unconfirmed reports say troops have now quit all bases near the strategic northern town of Saraqeb.

The town lies near the main roads linking Aleppo to Damascus and the coastal city of Latakia.

The army, meanwhile, continued its air strikes across Syria on Thursday.

In all, more than 150 people reportedly died in fighting, said the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR), a UK-based activist group.

The SOHR said that among the victims were more than 70 government soldiers, 43 civilians and 38 rebels.

The claim has not been independently verified.

In other developments:

  • The Arab League says Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, international peace envoy Lakhdar Brahimi and Arab League Secretary General Nabil el-Araby will meet in Cairo on Sunday to discuss the Syrian crisis
  • Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, on a visit to the UK, again calls for armed UN intervention in Syria
  • Syrian rebels kill a Kurdish woman militia leader in the northern city of Aleppo, the SOHR said, highlighting tensions between rebels and Kurds.

US warning

The alleged shootings took place after the rebels overran the strategic army checkpoints between on Thursday.

The video appears to show agitated rebels kicking and pushing the soldiers or pro-government militiamen, known locally as “shabiha”, to the ground inside one of the seized buildings. Shots are then fired into the cowering mass of bodies.

Rupert Colville, of the UN High Commission for Human Rights, said it appeared that the victims “were no longer combatants and therefore, at this point, it looks very like a war crime”.

He added that the video, if proved to be genuine, would almost certainly form part of a future prosecution.

Rights group Amnesty said in a statement: “This shocking footage depicts a potential war crime in progress, and demonstrates an utter disregard for international humanitarian law by the armed group in question.”

No group has so far admitted carrying out the alleged killings.

However, a rebel fighter from Idlib province, Abu Abdul Rahim, told the Guardian that a Salafi-jihadist group was behind the killings, which he said had occurred in al-Nayrab, to the west of Saraqeb.

He said Salafists of the Dawood brigade and Suqur al-Sham did not answer to any military council affiliated to the rebel Free Syrian Army.

For months, activists have reported similar summary killings by government forces virtually every day.

But there has been mounting evidence of similar tactics being used by some rebel groups too, although many have signed a code of practice banning such abuses, says the BBC’s Jim Muir in neighbouring Lebanon.

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton earlier warned that radical Islamist fighters were trying to hijack the Syrian revolution.

The comments have drawn an angry response from some opposition leaders, who say that it is the failure of the outside world to support the uprising with practical help that has left the field open to the radicals.

The SOHR more than 36,000 people have been killed since protests against President Bashar al-Assad erupted in March 2011.

The SOHR is one of the most prominent organisations documenting and reporting incidents and casualties in the Syrian conflict. It says its reports are impartial, though its information cannot be independently verified.

Recent alleged rebel atrocities

  • 22 June: Damascus accuses ‘terrorists’ of killing 25 villagers in northern Syria and mutilating their bodies
  • 6 July: Footage shows a rebel questioning a soldier before shooting him – location unknown
  • 1 Aug: Four apparent Assad loyalists are seen put against the wall and shot in public in Aleppo
  • 14 Aug: Rebels are shown in a video throwing dead bodies of government snipers from an Aleppo roof
  • 17 Sept: Armed opposition groups are accused by Human Rights Watch of torturing and summarily executing detainees in Aleppo, Latakia, and Idlib.