Monday 4 March 2013

Syrian Observatory for Human RightsRaqqah city: A lawyer in Raqqah city has confirmed to the SOHR that rebels have taken captive the governor of Raqqah province, Hassan Jalili, and the head of the Ba’ath party branch, Suleiman al-Suleiman, after violent clashes in the city. This is the first instance of such high ranking officials to be taken captive by anti-regime forces. A high level office in the police is confirmed to have been killed, and a high ranking state security officer was confirmed to be taken by the rebels.

Aleppo province: The SOHR recieved footage showing the regular forces killed by rebel fighters in the police academy of Khan al-Asal. The rebel faction responsible is Liwa’ al-Khilafa al-Islamiya (The Islamic Caliphate battalion).

Raqqah city: The airforce has bombarded the area around the provincial palace in an attempt to keep the rebels away and to stop them from storming it. Tens of people were killed and injured when the statue of Hafez al-Assad was exploded. Clashes are ongoing by the military intelligence branch and by the Ba’ath party branch, as well as by some government buildings.

Footage of dead and injured by clashes in the city:

Final death toll for Monday 4/3/2013: Approximately 260 Syrians were killed, most of them were regime forces and rebel fighters. The dead include: 57 unarmed civilians, 50 rebel fighters, a defected officer, a defected soldier, at least 29 unidentified fighters, 3 unidentified men, an Algerian cleric (Sheikh), not less than 48 regime forces’ soldiers, at least 12 members of the Ba’ath brigades and the pro-regime national defense forces, and not less than 57 regime forces, including at least 3 officers.

-In Reef Dimashq Province 17 civilians and 10 fighters were killed. 1 fighter, from the Mleiha town, died effected by wounds. 1 fighter, from the Harjala town, was killed during clashes with regime forces in Reef Aleppo. 8 fighters, including a rebel battalion leader, were killed during clashes with regime forces and bombardment on the cities and towns of Duma, al-Zabadani, A’dra, and al-Kiswa. 14 civilians, including 6 children and a woman, were killed by shells falling and bombardment on the towns and cities of Beit Sahm, Babeela, Hjeirat al-Balad, Harasta, and Duma (and it’s surroundings). A child died of wounds she received by bombardment on the Qasmiya town. 2 men, from the city of Harasta, were shot by sniper.

-In Homs Province 9 civilians and 9 fighters were killed. The 9 fighters, including a field commander, were killed during clashes with regime forces around the neighbourhoods of al-Khaldiya and Old Homs. A man, from the Wa’r neighbourhood, was tortured to death after his detainment by regime forces, 25 days ago. A man, from the Naziheen neighbourhood, was shot by sniper. 2 children were killed by bombardment on the Deir al-Ful village. A man, from the Qseir village, was killed after his detainment by regime forces, earlier. An unidentified corpse was found in the A’ssi river, near the Dar al-Kabeera town of Reef Homs. The death of 3 civilians was documented, including a woman, whom were killed by bombardment on the villages surrouding the Rastan city, yesterday.

-In Aleppo Province 10 civilians and 8 fighters were killed. 1 fighter was killed during clashes with regime forces in the A’ssan area, around Aleppo city. 7 rebel fighters, including a rebel battalion leader, were killed during clashes with regime forces at the Mangh military airport gates. 5 civilians, including 2 children, were killed by bombardment on the neighbourhoods of al-Rashideen and al-Naqareen neighbourhoods of Aleppo city. An unidentified corpse was found in the Qweiq river of Aleppo city. A man was shot by fighters in the Sukkari neighbourhood, under unknown circumstances. 3 civilians, including a child, were killed by bombardment on the Khan A’sal town, the Safeera city, and the Tayara village of Reef Aleppo.

-In Damascus Province 11 civilians and 5 fighters were killed. 4 fighters were killed during clashes with regime forces and bombardment on the Jobar neighbourhood. 1 fighter, from the Yarmuk camp (Mukhayam al-Yarmuk) neighbourhood, was killed during clashes with regime forces. 4 civilians, including a woman, were killed during clashes (between regime forces and rebel fighters) and bombardment on the Jobar neighbourhood. 6 civilians, including 3 women and a child, were killed when shells fell on the Dahadeel area and the Qabun neighbourhood of Damascus city. An unidentified man was shot by sniper in the Qabun neighbourhood.

-In Dera’a Province 3 civilians and 4 fighters were killed. 2 rebel fighters were killed during clashes with regime forces in the Nowa town. 2 fighters died of wounds they received during clashes in Dera’a city and the Jamla town, before yesterday. A woman and a man were shot in the towns of al-Sheikh Miskeen and Izri’ of Reef Dera’a. A child was killed by bombardment on the Sheikh Miskeen town.

-In al-Raqa Province 7 rebel fighters, including the Prince of al-Nasra front in al-Raqa Province and the field commander of the Ahrar al-Sham battalion in al-Raqa Province, were killed during clashes with regime forces in al-Raqa city.

-In Idlib Province 4 civilians and 3 fighters were killed. A rebel battalion leader was killed by an explosion in his headquarters, near the Brick factory military checkpoint, where it’s surroundings is witnessing clashes between rebel fighters and regime forces. 2 fighters, from the village of Bughaz and Tal Hadya of Reef Idlib, were killed during clashes with regime forces in the Khan al-A’sal town of Reef Aleppo. A man was killed by bombardment on the Janudiya village of Reef Jusr al-Shughur. A man and his wife, from the Sarmeen town, were killed when the car they riding in Reef Idlib was targeted. A doctor, from the Saraqeb city in Reef al-Safeera city of Reef Aleppo, which is witnessing clashes between regime forces and rebel fighters, was killed.

-In al-Hasaka Province 2 rebel fighters were killed by bombardment on the Tal Hamees town of Reef al-Hasaka.

-In Hama Province 3 civilians were killed. A woman died of wounds she received by bombardment on the Taqsees village, before yesterday. A man, from Hama city, was found dead on the A’qrab-Misyaf road. A man, from the Dahriya neighbourhood of the Hamla city, was found dead after he was kidnapped from the neighbourhood, before yesterday.

-In Deir Izzor Province 2 rebel fighters were killed. 1 was killed during clashes with regime forces in Deir Izzor city. 1 unidentified fighter was killed during clashes in the Ya’raba border checkpoint, before yesterday.


-A defected officer and a defected soldier were killed during clashes with regime forces in Reef Dera’a and Reef Homs.

-At least 29 unidentified fighters were killed during clashes, bombardment, and an explosion in the Provinces of al-Raqa, Aleppo, Idlib, and Homs.

-3 unidentified men were found dead in the Idlib Province, whom were summarily executed by the Ajaz village, on the Idlib-Aleppo international road.

-An Algerian cleric (Sheikh) was killed by an explosion in a rebel battalion headquarters in Reef Idlib.

-Not less than 48 regime forces’ soldiers were killed when fighters, thought to be from the Islamic state of Iraq, attacked a convoy transporting them with soldiers from the Iraqi army in the Anbar area.

-At least 12 members of the Ba’ath brigades and the pro-regime national defense forces were killed during clashes in al-Raqa, Aleppo, and Homs.


-Not less than 57 regime forces, including at least 3 officers, were killed during clashes, IED explosions, and checkpoints targeting in several Syrian Provinces: 8 in Aleppo, 19 in al-Raqa, 10 in Damascus and Reef Dimashq, 6 in Dera’a, 8 in Homs, 2 in Hama, and 4 in Latakia.

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REUTERS: Syrian rebels report capture of provincial capital

Photo AMMAN – Syrian opposition fighters captured the northeastern city of Raqqa on Monday and crowds toppled a statue of President Bashar al-Assad’s father, opposition sources and residents said. | Video

The fall of Raqqa on the Euphrates River would be a significant development in the two-year-old revolt against Assad. The rebels do not claim to hold any other provincial capitals.

Rebel fighters said loyalist forces were still dug in at the provincial airport 60 km (40 miles) from Raqqa and they remained a threat. A resident said that a Syrian military intelligence compound in the town was not in rebel hands but was surrounded by anti-Assad fighters.

On Monday the civil war burst into neighboring Iraq, where officials reported that gunmen had killed at least 40 Syrian soldiers and government employees as they headed home after fleeing a Syrian rebel advance last week.

Around 65 Syrian soldiers and officials had handed themselves over to Iraqi authorities on Friday after rebels seized the Syrian side of the border crossing at the Syrian frontier town of Yaarabiya.

Iraqi authorities were taking them to another border crossing further south in Iraq’s Sunni Muslim stronghold, Anbar province, when gunmen ambushed their convoy, a senior Iraqi official told Reuters. No group has claimed responsibility.

“The incident took place in Akashat when the convoy carrying the Syrian soldiers and employees was on its way to the al-Waleed border crossing,” a senior Iraqi official told Reuters.

“Gunmen set up an ambush and killed 40 of them, plus some Iraqi soldiers who were protecting the convoy.”

A member of Anbar’s provincial council, Hikmat Suleiman Ayade, put the number of people killed at 61, including 14 Iraqis who were protecting the convoy.

The ambush inside Iraq illustrates how Syria’s conflict has the potential to spill over its borders and drag in neighbors.

Iraq’s Anbar province is experiencing renewed demonstrations by Sunnis against the government of Shi’ite Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki over what they see as the marginalization of their minority and misuse of terrorism laws against them.

Maliki boycotted Assad and pulled the Iraqi ambassador from Damascus before the Syrian revolt erupted in March 2011 for what he described as Syrian support for Sunni extremists and foreign jihadists responsible for deadly attacks on Shi’ite civilians.


But the Iranian-backed Iraqi premier has not sided with other Arab states backing the Sunni-led uprising in Syria, saying that the upheaval threatened regional stability.

At the United Nations on Monday, Israel warned that it could not “stand idle” as the Syrian conflict spilled over borders. Israel’s U.N. ambassador complained to the 15-member Security Council about shells from Syria landing in Israel.

Syria’s rebels are mostly Sunnis fighting to topple Assad’s government, dominated by Alawites, an offshoot of Shi’ite Islam that has controlled Syria since the 1960s.

Some 70,000 people have been killed in Syria and nearly a million have fled the country, the United Nations says.

In what could be a new danger for the millions of Syrians who have fled their homes but remain inside the country, rebels pushed into Raqqa, a city known as the “hotel” of the country after thousands of displaced families fled there.

Some residents of the northeastern city, home to half a million people, had pleaded with rebels not to enter Raqqa, fearing that Assad’s war planes, artillery and missiles could target residential areas.

“The fear now is that the regime will hit Scud missiles indiscriminately at Raqqa to punish the population,” said Nawaf al-Ali, the Raqqa representative in the Syrian National Coalition, an umbrella of the main opposition groups.

Video footage taken by opposition activists showed youths climbing on the Hafez al-Assad statue in Raqqa’s central square and tying a rope around its head.

“A crowd of hundreds braved the fighting and marched on the main square and took down the statue,” said one of the residents, himself a refugee from the city of Deir al-Zor.

One video showed rebels guarding the city’s museum, housed in a French colonial era palace, which, along with the city’s horseshoe shaped wall, give a glimpse of Raqqa’s past.

Raqqa, founded by Alexander the Great, once acted as a Byzantine front line against Persia. It was designated by Al-Mansour, the founder of the Abbasid empire, as the second Arab capital after Baghdad.

It has long been in decline. A water crisis before the revolt resulted in the internal displacement of hundreds of thousands of people from Raqqa and the rest of Syria’s east and prompted the United Nations to send food aid to the region.

Assad’s father, the late President Hafez al-Assad, who ruled Syria with an iron fist for 30 years, used a carrot and stick approach to build alliances between the ruling hierarchy and Sunni Muslim tribes in Raqqa and the neighboring province of Deir al-Zor. These alliances have broken down.


The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a Britain-based monitoring group, said the Islamist Jabhat al-Nusra and other rebel groups launched the offensive on Saturday and large parts of Raqqa were now under rebel control.

Video footage posted on the Internet by rebel groups showed an abandoned prison in what they said was the centre of the city, 100 miles east of Aleppo.

The Syrian National Council, a large bloc within the umbrella Syrian National Coalition, said the capture of Raqqa would prove “a decisive victory in the struggle for the downfall of the criminal Assad regime and to salvage Syria from the ugliest epoch in its history”.

Events in Raqqa were not confirmed by independent media, which are restricted in their access to combat zones.

(Additional reporting by Oliver Holmes in Beirut, Kamal Naama in Anbar and Angus McDowall in Riyadh; Editing by Robin Pomeroy and Stephen Powell)

Israel warns it cannot “stand idle” as Syria war spills over border:

UNITED NATIONS – Israel warned the U.N. Security Council on Monday that it could not be expected to “stand idle” as Syria’s civil war spills over its border, while Russia accused armed groups of undermining security between the states by fighting in a demilitarized zone…

Guardian: Syria: rebels deface square after claiming city of Raqqah – video

Statue of President Assad's father being pulled down by rebels in Raqqah

4 Mar 2013:A statue of Bashar al-Assad’s father is pulled down in the largest city so far to be taken by Syrian rebel forcesWarning: contains images some people may find distressing