Monday 15 October 2012

Syrian Observatory for Human Rights: Final death toll for Monday 15/10/2012: About 160 Syrians were killed today.
The dead include: 86 Unarmed civilians (including 5 children), 21 rebel fighters, 3 defected soldiers (including an officer-rebel commander), and not less than 46 regime forces.
86 Unarmed civilians:

-In Reef Dimashq Province 21 civilians were killed. 3 men were killed by bombardment on al-Ghuta al-Sharqiya. 2 men were killed by bombardment on the city of Harasta. In the city of Duma, 11 were killed, including 2 women, by bombardment on several neighbourhood of the city. 3 men, from the Daraya city, were killed when the car they were riding was targeted on the Sehnaya road in Reef Dimashq. 2 were killed in the Qatana town, one was shot by regime forces, and the other died of wounds he receieved by shrapnel during bombardment on the town. 

-In Aleppo Province 32 civilians were killed. 9 were killed by bombardment on the neighbourhoods of al-Sha’ar, al-Marja, al-Suleimaniya, Tareeq al-Bab, al-Sakhur, and al-Ma’adi. 4 were shot by sniper in the Bustan al-Qasr and Karam al-Jabal neighbourhoods, and near the Kabeer mosque in the Aleppo city. A woman, from the Aleppo city, was killed by bombardment on al-Ghuta al-Sharqiya of Reef Dimashq. A man was found dead after 10 days of his kidnapping. A man died due to shells falling on the Kafarhamra town of Reef Aleppo. 5 Syrian Kurdish civilians, 2 of them were women, were killed when the bus they were riding was targeted on the Aleppo-A’freen road, near the Hreitan town. 3 were killed by bombardment on the Manbaj town. 2 were killed in the A’njara town, 1 was shot by sniper and the other was tortured to death after his detainment by one of the military checkpoints in Reef Aleppo. 6 civilians were killed by bombardment on the Bab city and the Mangh town of Reef Aleppo.

-In Deir Izzor Province 13 civilians were killed. 3 children were killed by bombardment on the Bukamal city. 4, including a child, were killed due to shells falling on the Mayadeen city in Reef Deir Izzor. 5 men were shot by regime forces in the neighbourhoods of the Deir Izzor city.

-In Dera’a Province 9 civilians were killed. 3 were killed in the Busra al-Sham town, a child was shot by sniper, 1 was shot by regime forces, and 1 died of wounds he received by a shell in the town. A man was shot by pro-regime armed men in the Hara town. 2 civilians were killed by bombardment on the Mzeireb town of Reef Dera’a. 1 was shot by regime forces in the Busra al-Sham town. 1 was shot by sniper in the city of Dera’a. SOHR documented a man’s death by regime forces’ gunfire in the town of al-Ghara al-Gharbiya, earlier.

-In Idlib Province 1 civilian died of wounds he received by bombardment on the city of Areeha, the day before yesterday.

-In Homs Province 5 civilians were killed. A woman died of wounds by sharpnel during bombardment on the Qseir city. 2 unidentified corpses were found near the Qabo village, surrounding the area of al-Hola in Reef Homs. 1 was tortured to death after his detainment by regime forces in the Wa’r neighbourhood. A young man died, effected by injuries he received due to sniper fire, the day before yesterday.

-In Damascus Province 3 civilians were killed. A University Professor, from the Qadam neighbourhood, was tortured to death, after he was detained by regime forces, several days ago. 1 civilian, from Mokhayam al-Yarmuk (Yarmuk refugee camp), died of wounds he received by regime force’ gunfire in Mokhayam al-Hseiniya (al-Hseiniya refugee camp) of Reef Dimashq. An unidentified corpse was found in the neighbourhood of al-Qadam.

-In Hama Province 2 civilians were killed. A paramedic in the red crescent was shot in the Jarajma neighbourhood of Hama city. SOHR documented the name of man who was shot by regime forces in the Qneitra Province, the day before yesterday.


21 Rebel fighters:

-In Reef Dimashq Province 6 fighters were killed. 1 was killed during clashes with regime forces in the Zamalka town. 5 fighters were killed in the Harasta city, 4 by bombardment and 1 was shot by regime forces.

-In Aleppo Province 6 fighters were killed. 5, including a rebel commander, were killed during clashes with regime forces in several neighbourhoods of the city. 1 fighter, from the Tal Refa’at town, died of wounds he received by sniper fire in the city of Aleppo.

-In Deir Izzor Province a fighter was killed during clashes with regime forces in the Deir Izzor city.

-In Dera’a Province 1 fighter, from the Deir al-Bakht town, was killed during clashes with regime forces in the Qneitra Province.

-In Idlib Province 7 fighters were killed. 1, from the city of Idlib, was killed during clashes with regime forces. 6 were killed during clashes and bombardment on Reef Idlib.


-3 defected soldiers, including an officer-rebel commander, were killed during clashes with regime forces in Dera’a, Deir Izzor, and Idlib.

-Confirmed information was received about several deaths among rebel fighters during clashes and bombardment on Aleppo, Idlib, Latakia, and Reef Dimashq, it’s being documented now.


-Not less than 46 regime forces were killed, including 3 officers, when checkpoints were targeted and clashes took place in several province: 21 Aleppo, 10 Idlib, 3 Reef Dimashq, 4 al-Qneitra, 5 Deir Izzor, 1 Hasaka, and 2 in Homs.


  • Jeffrey Feltman, the Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs, briefed the Security Council on theMiddle East this morning. He said that the conflict in Syria, now entering its 20th month, has reached new and appalling heights of brutality and violence. Available estimates, which the United Nations is not in a position to verify, put the number of people killed at more than 30,000.
  • He said that long-standing predictions of the conflict spiraling beyond Syria’s borders are coming true, as illustrated by the recent escalation along the Syrian-Turkish border, rounds of small arms fire in the Golan, exchanges of fire into northern Lebanon and a surge in belligerent rhetoric.
  • On the Israeli-Palestinian front, he said that both sides maintain their rhetorical commitment to a negotiated peace, but the creeping realities on the ground and the stalemated diplomacy portray a more worrying reality. Mr. Feltman added that stated intentions to adhere to a two-state solution are not translating into meaningful steps to renewed dialogue on the core issues.
  • Asked about the death toll in Syria, the Spokesperson said that there are broad estimates available of a large magnitude, but the United Nations is not in a position to verify such numbers accurately.

NOW! Lebanon
[local time]  22:23 Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan reiterated Monday that the cargo Ankara confiscated from an intercepted Syrian plane contained weapons, shrugging off Russian claims that the plane carried legal radar equipment.
 21:28 A Ukrainian journalist who worked for a Russian television crew and reportedly expressed support for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s regime has been kidnapped by rebels, the Ukrainian authorities said on Monday.
 20:05 Clashes between Syrian troops and rebel fighters inside and outside the Umayyad Mosque in second city Aleppo have damaged the 13th century landmark, an AFP correspondent reported on Monday.
 19:45 The Syrian army on Monday denied using cluster munitions and said it did not possess the weapon in its arsenal, in a statement published by state news agency SANA.
 18:32 The Free Syrian Army shot down a warplane that was shelling Aleppo, Al-Arabiya quoted activists as saying.
 18:06 UN-Arab League peace envoy Lakhdar Brahimi denied having asked for peacekeeping forces in Syria, after talks with Iraqi officials in Baghdad on Monday.
 14:02 The European Union said Monday it would continue assisting Turkey in coping with an influx of more than 100,000 refugees from Syria but made no offer to take them in.
 12:57 The majority of weapons secretly shipped to Syria at the behest of Saudi Arabia and Qatar go to hardline Islamic rebel groups rather than more secular organizations, The New York Times reported Monday.
 12:50 An AFP feature story details the bombing campaign conducted by regime forces on the rebel-held Maaret al-Numan.
 12:37 An Armenian plane on its way to Syria’s battered second city of Aleppo was forced to land in Turkey on Monday for security checks on its cargo, a Turkish Foreign Ministry official said, just days after a similar move against a Syrian plane flying from Russia.
 12:25 UN envoy Lakhdar Brahimi is considering proposing the deployment of peacekeepers to Syria if a deal on a transition is reached, a member of the opposition Syrian National Council said on Monday.
 11:36 The European Union slapped fresh sanctions against President Bashar al-Assad’s regime Monday, agreeing an assets freeze and travel ban on 28 Syrians and two firms at a meeting of EU foreign ministers.
 11:28 Turkey’s Europe minister Monday called on Europe to do more to help his country tackle the more than 100,000 refugees fleeing the conflict in Syria, accusing the bloc of being fixated on its debt crisis.
 11:17 International peace envoy Lakhdar Brahimi called on Monday for a temporary ceasefire in Syria during the four-day Eid al-Adha Muslim holiday later in October, a statement said.
 10:54 Syrian regime forces killed at least 11 people on Monday, Al-Jazeera reported.
 10:20 Regime forces and rebels are fighting near the Syrian town of Jousiyeh along the border with Lebanon, Al-Jazeera reported.
 8:07 Syrian rebels took over several neighborhoods in Aleppo’s Saraqeb, Al-Jazeera reported.
 8:05 The Free Syrian Army has taken over 80 kilometers of the main road linking Aleppo and Damascus during recent battles, Al-Jazeera reported.
 7:36 Despite differences over Syria, European Union nations need more than ever to work with Russia in the interests of world peace, Germany’s Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle said Sunday.
 7:35 An AFP feature story describes the scenes of carnage at a regime missile base captured by rebels in a coordinated assault on Friday.
 7:34 Europe’s foreign ministers will sharply ramp up the pressure on Iran and Syria at talks Monday, while taking a “big step” in Africa by agreeing to assist Mali reconquer its north from rebels and Islamist extremists.
 7:30 MORNING LEADER: Turkey has banned Syrian flights from its airspace in a tit-for-tat move, while Iran handed a “detailed proposal” to UN-Arab League envoy Lakhdar Brahimi aimed at ending the conflict between the Syria’s army and rebels. On the ground regime forces pressed their counter-attack against rebels to regain territory lost in northern battlegrounds.

REUTERS: Peace envoy seeks Iranian help for Syria ceasefire

Photo BEIRUT – International peace envoy Lakhdar Brahimi appealed to Iran to help arrange a ceasefire in Syria during the Islamic holiday of Eid al-Adha as rebels and government forces fought street by street and village by village on Monday. | Video

International peace envoy Lakhdar Brahimi appealed to Iran to help arrange a ceasefire in Syria during the Islamic holiday of Eid al-Adha as rebels and government forces fought street by street and village by village on Monday.

Brahimi made the request in talks with Iranian leaders on Sunday in Tehran, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s closest regional ally in his campaign to crush a 19-month-old uprising.

The veteran Algerian diplomat said the civil war in Syria was getting worse by the day and stressed the urgent need to stop the bloodshed, his spokesman said on Monday.

He suggested the truce be held during the Eid holiday, which starts around October 25 and lasts several days. It would “help create an environment that would allow a political process to develop”.

There was no immediate response from either side and with fighting raging on Monday in several Syrian cities and in the countryside, it was not clear if they would want to put the brakes on any battlefield advantages.

A ceasefire brokered by Brahimi’s predecessor Kofi Annan in April fell apart after a few days and Annan later quit his job in frustration.

A senior United Nations political official, briefing the Security Council in New York, said that for any ceasefire to succeed, “this must be a collective effort by all inside Syria, in the region and beyond”.

The official, Jeffrey Feltman, said all governments should stop supplying weapons and giving military assistance to any side in the conflict.

“Human rights abuses, including arbitrary detentions, torture and summary executions continue unabated. The voices of the peaceful protests that emerged so proudly last year have receded in the tremor of fighting,” he said.

The conflict has claimed more than 30,000 lives since March 2011, when demonstrations first broke out calling for an end to the Assad family’s dynastic rule.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said 50 people had been killed across the country so far on Monday, nearly half of them soldiers. That followed a death toll of 170 on Sunday.


The pro-opposition Observatory said two rebel-held districts in northeast Aleppo, al-Shaar and Karm al-Jabal, came under heavy bombardment from Assad’s forces on Monday. It also reported clashes in the district of Jdeideh, just north of the ancient citadel in Syria’s biggest city.

Syrian television showed footage of soldiers inside Aleppo’s Great Mosque, which dates back to the 8th century and was badly damaged in fighting between government forces and rebels battling for control of the Old City.

The mosque’s medieval arches were charred, its elaborate wooden panels smashed and metal filigree lanterns lay broken in the courtyard. The sound of nearby gunfire could be heard.

In northwestern Idlib province, government warplanes bombed several towns on Monday, the Observatory said.

Rebels had surrounded an army garrison on Sunday close to a northwestern town in the latest push to seize more territory near the border with Turkey, opposition activists said.

Several hundred soldiers were trapped in the siege of a base in Urum al-Sughra, on the main road between Aleppo, Syria’s commercial and industrial hub, and Turkey.

“Rebels attacked an armored column sent from Aleppo to rescue the 46th Regiment at Urum al-Sughra and stopped it in its tracks,” Firas Fuleifel, one of the activists, told Reuters by phone from Idlib province, the main base and supply route for the insurgents fighting in Aleppo.

He said a jet was shot down while trying to provide air support to the column.

On the border with Turkey’s Hatay province, the rebels appeared to have a tentative hold after four days of heavy fighting in the town of Azmarin and surrounding villages.

Giving an overview of the military situation, analyst Shashank Joshi of the Royal United Services Institute in London said the rebels, boosted by weapons from Gulf States and gaining in fighting skills, were possibly doing better. Assad’s forces were increasingly stretched and taking more casualties.

On the other hand, opposition forces have not coalesced and formed a reliable chain of command connecting local groups.

“So even if government forces are losing their grip, what is taking over is many opposition groups,” Joshi told Reuters. “I am less confident of regime collapse within six months than I was in July.”

The rebels have made ground in Aleppo but not as much as they would have liked and at much higher cost, he said.

It would be important if the rebels are able to maintain their block of the north-south highway between Damascus and Aleppo but the lack of cover on the roads make them vulnerable to air strikes, he said.

If they can hold the road, the government’s helicopter fleet would be strained as it would be diverted from an attack role by the need to resupply stranded towns.


The “game-changer” could be Turkey, once an ally of Assad and now a leader in international calls for him to quit, Joshi said.

Turkey’s confrontation with Syria deepened in the past two weeks because of cross-border shelling and escalated on October 10 when Ankara forced down a Syrian airliner en route from Moscow, accusing it of carrying Russian munitions for Assad’s military.

Ankara said in on Sunday it had closed Turkish air space to Syrian planes. Damascus also banned Turkish planes from flying over its territory.

Russia has said there were no weapons on the grounded plane and that it was carrying a non-legal cargo of radar. But it acted to cool friction with Ankara – Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said the incident would not hurt “solid” relations.

After meeting mediator Brahimi, Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Salehi said Iran was ready to work with him for peace and repeated Tehran’s call for an immediate ceasefire before reforms and elections to resolve the conflict.

“We all need to join hands so that this conflict comes to a halt and further bloodshed is stopped,” Salehi said.

Shi’ite Iran is the main ally in the region of Assad, who is a member of the Alawite sect, an offshoot of Shi’ite Islam.

The uprising has been led by the Sunni Muslim majority and is backed by Sunni-ruled Arab states and by Turkey, also led by a party with its roots in Sunni Islamist politics.

Turkey’s disaster management agency said on Monday the number of Syrian refugees housed in camps in southern Turkey has exceeded 100,000, reaching the limits of its ability to cope.

Two other Syrian neighbors, Lebanon and Jordan, are sheltering 94,000 and 106,000 refugees respectively, according to the United Nations refugee agency.

(Additional reporting by Jonathon Burch on the Turkey-Syria border, Khaled Yacoub Oweis in Amman, Yeganeh Torbati and Zahra Hosseinian in Dubai and Oliver Holmes in Beirut; Editing by Jon Hemming)

BBC: Syria rejects cluster bomb claims

The Syrian army has denied allegations that it has been using cluster bombs in its battle with the rebels.

Human Rights Watch has accused Syria of dropping cluster bombs on populated areas, particularly around the north-western town of Maarat al-Nuaman.

In a statement, carried on state television, the army said it “does not possess these kinds of weapons” and the allegations are “baseless”.

Meanwhile, UN envoy Lakhdar Brahimi has asked Iran for help with the crisis.

During a visit to Tehran, he sought Iran’s help to implement a ceasefire in Syria, its close ally, over the forthcoming Muslim holiday of Eid al-Adha, which starts in about 10 days’ time.

A ceasefire, he said, “would help create an environment that would allow a political process to develop”.

Mr Brahimi made a similar appeal to Iraqi officials when he travelled on to Baghdad. He has been touring the region to seek a way of resolving the conflict; visiting Saudi Arabia and Turkey last week.

In other developments:

  • At least 50 people were reported to have been killed across Syria in violence on Monday
  • Turkey says it is now housing more than 100,000 Syrian refugees in its camps, the limit at which it said it would be unable to cope
  • EU foreign ministers have approved sanctions on a further 28 Syrians and two firms
  • Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad has reportedly ordered immediate repairs to the important Umayyad Mosque in Aleppo, which was badly damaged in fighting over the weekend
  • Turkey said it had searched an Armenian plane taking aid to Syria, amid concern it may also be carrying military equipment to Syria

‘False reports’

Human Rights Watch said on Sunday that online video reports purporting to show evidence of cluster bombs being used in the conflict had recently multiplied.

Many of the attacks had taken place on towns around the highway which runs through Maarat al-Nuaman and links the capital Damascus to the second city, Aleppo, the New York-based group said.

Cluster bomb canisters and sub-munitions shown in online videos showed “damage and wear patterns produced by being mounted on and dropped from an aircraft”, HRW said.

It identified them as Russian-made RBK-250 series cluster bomb canisters with AO-1SCh fragmentation bomblets.

But the Syrian army denied it had any such weapons, and accused “some news outlets that are complicit in the bloodletting in Syria” of “publishing false reports.”

“Such reports are baseless and a part of a disinformation campaign,” it insisted.

Syria has not signed up to a convention, brought into law in 2010 and joined by more than 100 countries, to ban cluster bombs because of the threat they pose to civilians.

Steve Goose, HRW’s arms director, on Sunday called on Syria to “immediately stop all use of these indiscriminate weapons that continue to kill and maim for years”.