Friday 17 August 2012
Veteran diplomat Lakhdar Brahimi will be the new Joint Special Representative of the United Nations and League of Arab States for the crisis in Syria, taking over the peace-facilitation role played over the past several months by former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, a spokesperson for the world organization said today.Mr. Brahimi is expected to assume his duties following the expiration of Mr. Annan’s mandate on 31 August 2012.
“The Secretary-General appreciates Mr. Brahimi’s willingness to bring his considerable talents and experience to this crucial task for which he will need, and rightly expects, the strong, clear and unified support of the international community, including the Security Council,” a UN spokesperson said at a media briefing at UN Headquarters in New York.
He added that both Secretary-General Ban, and his counterpart at the League of Arab States, Nabil El Araby, were pleased to make the announcement of the appointment.
“Diplomacy to promote a peaceful resolution to the conflict in Syria remains a top priority for the United Nations,” the spokesperson said. “More fighting and militarization will only exacerbate the suffering and make more difficult the path to a peaceful resolution of the crisis which would lead to a political transition in accordance with the legitimate aspirations of the Syrian people.”
The President of the General Assembly, Nassir Abdulaziz Al-Nasser, also welcomed Mr. Brahimi’s appointment. According to a statement issued by his spokesperson, Mr. Al-Nasser thanked Mr. Brahimi for accepting to undertake what he called “a crucial assignment” aimed at ending the Syrian violence.
“Mr. Brahimi brings to this difficult task his well-known experience, credibility and diligence,” the statement said. “President Al-Nasser wishes him success in his endeavours.”
Mr. Annan was appointed Joint Special Envoy for the crisis in Syria in late February to provide good offices on behalf of the UN and Arab League, with the aim of bringing an end to all violence and human rights violations in Syria, and promoting a peaceful solution to the conflict.
Syria has been wracked by violence, with more than 17,000 people, mostly civilians, killed since the uprising against President Bashar al-Assad began some 17 months ago. Over recent days, there have been reports of an escalation in violence in many towns and villages, as well as the country’s two biggest cities, Damascus and Aleppo.
As part of his efforts, Mr. Annan put forward a six-point peace plan. It called for an end to violence, access for humanitarian agencies to provide relief to those in need, the release of detainees, the start of inclusive political dialogue, and unrestricted access to the country for the international media.
Despite initial signs of acceptance of the six-point plan, repeated calls from international officials and the deployment of the UN Supervision Mission in Syria (UNSMIS) to monitor a ceasefire, there was little in the way of the plan’s implementation by the parties to the conflict.
Due to that lack of progress, UNSMIS’ mandate is expected to be allowed to expire this coming Sunday by the Security Council, while that body is at the same time working with Secretary-General Ban to keep a UN presence on the ground, through a liaison office that will continue to support the Special Representative’s efforts.
“The Secretary-General takes this opportunity to reiterate his deepest gratitude to former Secretary-General Kofi Annan for his selfless efforts and contributions to the search for peace in Syria,” the spokesperson added.
Mr. Brahimi, an Algerian national, has served the United Nations in various high-level roles over in the past two decades, including heading the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA), serving as an advisor on a range of issues, and chairing an independent panel on peacekeeping operations which released its keynote findings, known as the “Brahimi Report,” in 2000. Also, as an Algerian diplomat, Mr. Brahimi served with the League of Arab States from 1984 to 1991.
The humanitarian crisis generated by the ongoing Syrian conflict is rapidly growing as refugees from the Middle Eastern country continue to flee the ongoing violence and spill over into neighbouring areas, the United Nations refugee agency said today.
According to the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), the amount of registered refugees seeking sanctuary in Lebanon, Turkey, Jordan and Iraq has grown by over 12,000 – increasing from 157,577 to 170,116 in just the past three days.
The agency has noted, however, that the real number of refugees was likely to be higher than the reported amount as not all refugees were registering with authorities.
Syria has been wracked by violence, with an estimated 17,000 people, mostly civilians, killed since the uprising against President Bashar al-Assad began some 17 months ago. In the previous two weeks, there have been reports of an escalation in violence in many towns and villages, as well as the country’s two biggest cities, Damascus and Aleppo.
Pointing to the situation in Turkey, a UNHCR spokesperson, Adrian Edwards, told a media briefing in Geneva, that the country had witnessed “a further sharp rise” in the number of Syrians crossing its borders.
“UNHCR is scaling up its humanitarian assistance in Turkey and will provide family tents, blankets, kitchen sets and other relief on an emergency basis to assist the Government of Turkey in addressing urgent needs,” Mr. Edwards said, adding that with the latest arrivals there were now almost 65,000 Syrians spread across nine Turkish refugee camps.
Mr. Edwards also noted that the situation in Jordan, where refugee numbers were also climbing, was equally grim. Over 60 per cent of those arriving at the country’s Za’atri camp in the past week have been children and the camp was now hosting some 7,655 people.
“At the Za’atri camp we are working to improve conditions for the refugees, including the possibility of replacing tents with prefabs,” he said, speaking of UNHCR’s relief efforts. “More sanitation facilities are also being built and the ratio of people to toilets is improving.”
Along with the refugee agency’s presence, Mr. Edwards told reporters that UNICEF was also actively participating in relief efforts at Za’atri, bringing in water to the camp on a daily basis, while the World Food Programme (WFP) was providing over 12,000 meals a day.
In Iraq, where an estimated 15,096 Syrians have sought refuge, the spokesperson said that UNHCR will continue to help local authorities expand a camp in Al-Qaem while discussions for a fourth camp in the Al-Kasak area of Rabi’aa were underway.
Despite the recent reports indicating an escalation in violence across the country, Mr. Edwards also noted that UNHCR operations in Syria were continuing undeterred, providing refugees with food, registration and counselling.
Meanwhile, the World Health Organization (WHO) today warned that a lack of access to medical facilities, compounded with severe staffing shortages in hospitals, was further aggravating the Syrian health care system.
Speaking at a press briefing in Geneva, WHO’s Director of the Department of Emergency Risk Management and Humanitarian Response, Dr. Richard Brennan, said that the UN health agency would continue to support four mobile clinics, serving approximately 90,000 people in the governorates of Rural Damascus and Homs.
Syrian Observatory for Human Rights: Final report on documented deaths in Syria for 17/8/2012:
The dead include 106 unarmed civilians, 23 unidentified bodies, 10 rebel fighters, 1 defected soldiers, and no less than 29 members of the Syrian regular forces.
106 unarmed civilians:
-In Aleppo Province 31 were killed. 4 unidentified bodies
on al-Bab city in Reef Aleppo. 5 civilian deaths were documented, including 2 children and a woman, due to bombardment on the village of Ba’eedein the day before. 3 civilians were killed by excessive torture by unknown gunmen in the town of Maskana, Reef Aleppo.
- In Reef Dimashq Province 17 were killed. A woman died during bombardment on the city of al-Ma’adamiyeh. 1 from the Jdaydet A’artuz town, was found dead after 12 days of his disappearance. 1 civilian died, effected by injuries he received earlier in the town of Jisreen. 1 was killed by sniper fire in the city of Duma. 1 civilian died, effected by wounds he received during bombardment on the town of A’in Tarma. 2 killed by the bombardment of the farms surrounding the towns of al-Tel and Rankous. 5 civilians were killed in the town of Qatana, 1 body was found slaughtered, 3 were killed by regime fire, 1 woman died of wounds. 2 were killed in the city of Dareyya, 1 from shrapnel injuring his head, the other was killed by a sniper. 1 civilian was killed by a regime sniper in the town of al-Maliha. 1 by a sniper in the town of Bebeila. 1 by the bombardment on the town of al-Qara.
-In Idlib Province 11 were killed. 1 died, effected by injuries he received during the raid on the city of Areeha earlier. 2 were killed in the town of Jarjanaz, including a woman, during bombardment on the town. 2 civilians shot by regime forces during the raid on the town of Jarjanaz. 4 civilians were killed by bombardment on the Ma’arbleet village today. 2 civilians from the city of Jsr al-Shugur were shot by pro-regime militants, while on the way back from the city of Latakia.
-In Deir Izzor Province 7 were killed. In the city of Deir Izzor, 2 were killed by bombardment, 1 was shot by a sniper in the al-Jura neighbourhood, 1 was shot at a military checkpoint, and 1 by regime fire in the Hamidiya neighbourhood. 2 children were killed by the regime bombardment on the city of al-Boukamal.
-In Homs Province 21 were killed. 5 were shot by regime forces on the Syrian-Lebanese borders. 4 young men, 1 yet unidentified, were killed by bombardment on the al-Hamidiyeh neighbourhood. 2 civilians were found dead, after being kidnapped by pro-regime militants in the Deir Ba’alba neighbourhood. 1 was shot by pro-regime militants in the neighbourhood of al-Shamas. 1 woman civilian from the province was killed by indiscriminate fire on the Deir Eita road, Reef Dimashq. 1 civilian was killed by bombardment on the towns of Homs al-Qadeema in the city of Homs. A child was killed during bombardment on the city of al-Rastan. 1 civilian was killed by a sniper in the town of Telkalakh. 3 civilians (man, woman, child) were killed by regime forces in the town of al-Quseir, Reef Homs. 2 civilians, 1 of them is a child, were shot at a military checkpoint in Shamseen in Reef Homs.
- In Dera’a Province 11 were killed. 8 civilians, including women and children, were killed by bombardment on the town of Ma’arba. 2 young men were killed, due to an ambush set up by regime forces, near the Namer town. 1 was shot by sniper fire in the town of Da’el in Reef Dera’a.
-In Hama Province 6 were killed. 1 was killed by a sniper in the al-Arba’een neighbourhood of Hama. A little girl was shot by pro-regime militants in the village of al-A’asharna. 1 was killed by regime gunfire in the town of Karnaz. 3 civilians (man, little girl, and a woman) were killed by bombardment on the village of Shuha in Reef Hama.
-In Damascus 2 civilians were killed by sniper fire in the Qaboun neighbourhood.
***23 unidentified bodies were found this Friday: the bodies of 3 men were found in the orchards of the Qaboun neighbourhood of Damascus; 16 bodies were found at different times today in the Douma area; the bodies of 4 men were found in the al-Qadam neighbourhood of Damascus.***
10 Rebel fighters:
Aleppo Province: 6 fighters were killed. 4 during clashes with regime forces in the city of Aleppo. 1 fighter from the al-Neel street neighbourhood died of wounds from clashes. A rebel leader was killed by the bombardment on Bustan al-Qasr neighbourhood.
Deir Izzor Province: 3 fighters were killed during clashes in the city of Deir Izzor.
Damascus Province: 1 fighter was killed during clashes with regime forces in the al-A’asaly neighbourhood in the city of Damascus.
A defected soldier was killed during clashes with regime forces in Reef Dimashq.
At least 29 regime forces were killed due to targeting of regime forces’ vehicles and clashes in the Provinces of Deir Izzor, Idlib, Homs, Hama, Damascus, Reef Dimashq, and Dera’a.
[local time] 22:13 Syrian regime forces heavily shelled Daraa al-Balad, Al-Arabiya quoted activists as saying.
21:22 Russia on Friday rejected a proposal to set up no-fly zones to help civilians flee fighting in Syria’s border areas after the United States said it was ready to consider the move.
20:36 The White House on Friday called on the United Nations to explain the mandate of its new envoy to Syria Lakhdar Brahimi, but called him a “capable” and “seasoned” diplomat.
20:36 Friday’s death toll in Syria reached 157, Al-Arabiya quoted activists as saying.
19:37 Some might say that Lakhdar Brahimi is crazy to try to end the Syria conflict, but the veteran troubleshooter says he has never believed there is a war that is too “hopeless” to tackle.
19:11 Lakhdar Brahimi, a veteran Algerian diplomat, will take over from Kofi Annan as the international envoy on the Syria conflict, the United Nations said Friday.
18:07 The death toll in Syria on Friday reached 116 people, Al-Arabiya quoted activists as saying.
17:59 Syrians took to the streets of the northern rebel-held town of Marea after weekly Muslim prayers on Friday, lashing out angrily as the regime’s bloody onslaught shows no sign of abating.
17:52 Russia called off a meeting planned for Friday of an international action group on the Syria conflict after Western nations told them they would not attend, diplomats said.
17:24 Syrian forces killed 88 people, mostly in Daraa, Aleppo and Homs, Al-Jazeera quoted activists as saying.
17:05 WARNING: Extremely graphic video uploaded on Friday shows human remains allegedly resulting from Syrian forces shelling of Homs.
17:04 A YouTube video purportedly filmed on Friday shows people protesting against the regime in Marea near Aleppo. Protesters are chanting: Death and not humiliation.
17:03 A YouTube video purportedly filmed on Friday shows people protesting against the regime in Amouda. Protesters are chanting against President Bashar al-Assad.
17:03 A YouTube video purportedly filmed on Friday shows people protesting against the regime in Daraa’s Kherbet Ghazleh.
17:02 A YouTube video purportedly filmed on Friday shows people protesting against the regime in Homs. Protesters are chanting: “We will only kneel before God.”
17:01 A YouTube video purportedly filmed on Friday shows people protesting against the regime in Edleb’s Maarshoureen.
17:00 A YouTube video purportedly filmed on Friday shows people protesting against the regime in Harasta near Damascus.
16:05 Syrian regime warplanes shelled a hospital and residential areas in the Homs town of Rastan, Al-Jazeera quoted activists as saying.
16:01 French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius on Friday called for the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to be “smashed fast” as he visited Turkey’s largest refugee camp near the Syrian border.
15:48 The Syrian economy has been hit hard by more than 17 months of revolt but may still hold on despite international sanctions with the help of friendly countries such as Russia, Iran and Iraq, experts say.
15:45 An anti-regime protest began in Latakia’s neighborhood of Mashroua al-Saliba. (S.N.N.)
15:33 Syrian forces shelled Daraa’s town of Maarba, killing some and injuring others, Al-Jazeera reported.
15:27 Friday’s death toll has increased to 61, Al-Arabiya quoted activists as saying.
15:20 Anti-regime protests began in Aleppo’s towns of Al-Hader and Tadef. (S.N.N.)
15:13 Humanitarian workers are being caught up in the fighting in Syria, threatening the supply of emergency medical aid to Syrian civilians, the British Red Cross said on Friday.
15:04 Syrian regime forces clashed with Free Syrian Army rebels near the Aleppo military airport, Al-Arabiya reported.
14:54 An anti-regime protest began in Damascus’ neighborhood of Baraza. (S.N.N.)
14:53 Syrian forces clashed with Free Syrian Army members in Aleppo’s neighborhood of Al-Tarrab. (S.N.N.)
14:48 Syrian forces clashed with members of the rebel Free Syrian Army in Aleppo’s neighborhood of Salaheddine, Al-Arabiya quoted activists as saying.
14:41 Syrian forces shelled Damascus’ neighborhoods of Al-Qadam and Al-Aasali. (S.N.N.)
14:41 An anti-regime protest began in Damascus’ neighborhood of Al-Midan. (S.N.N.)
14:37 Syrian forces shelled Aleppo’s neighborhood of Al-Sukri and killed dozens of people, Al-Arabiya quoted activists as saying.
14:30 Over 2,000 Syrians, including one defecting general, fled to Turkey on Thursday after a Syrian air strike on the northern rebel bastion of Aazaz in northern Syria, a Turkish diplomat said Friday.
14:29 The UN’s World Food Program said Friday it plans to feed one million people in Syria affected by the ongoing fighting, up from its initial target of 850,000.
14:28 A YouTube video purportedly filmed on Friday shows people protesting against the regime in Hama’s Kafrzeita. Protesters are chanting in support of the rebel Free Syrian Army.
14:26 Dozens were killed after Syrian security forces shelled a building in Aleppo’s neighborhood of Al-Shaar, Al-Jazeera reported.
14:18 An anti-regime protest began in Hamouriya near Damascus. (S.N.N.)
14:17 An anti-regime protest began in Damascus’ neighborhood of Jawbar. (S.N.N.)
14:16 An anti-regime protest began in Harasta near Damascus. (S.N.N.)
14:15 An anti-regime protest began in Aleppo’s neighborhoods of Izaa and Masken Hanano. (S.N.N.)
14:14 An anti-regime protest began in Houla near Homs. (S.N.N.)
14:13 An anti-regime protest began in Latakia’s Jableh. (S.N.N.)
14:12 Anti-regime protests began in Aleppo’s neighborhoods of Al-Furqan, Al-Sukri and Al-Sakhour. (S.N.N.)
14:11 Anti-regime protests began in Hasaka’s Ras al-Ayn and Amouda. (S.N.N.)
14:10 An anti-regime protest began in Daraa’s Enkhel. (S.N.N.)
14:09 Syrian security forces killed 54 people on Friday, Al-Jazeera quoted activists as saying.
14:08 Syrian forces shelled Deir az-Zour and Edleb’s Jerjnaz, Al-Jazeera reported.
14:00 Al-Jazeera broadcasts live footage of anti-regime protests in Darayya near Damascus.
13:35 Anti-regime protests began in Daraa’s towns of Al-Yaduda and Maarba. (S.N.N.)
13:34 An anti-regime protest began in Daraa’s neighborhood of Al-Kashef. (S.N.N.)
13:07 Syria’s former prime minister Riad Hijab, who fled to Jordan after defecting almost two weeks ago, is now in Qatar, his spokesperson said on Friday.
12:34 The rebel Free Syrian Army has received 14 surface-to-air stinger anti-aircraft rocket launchers, but has not yet utilized them, a US-based Syrian oppositionist told Al-Arabiya television Friday on the condition of anonymity.
11:35 Syria’s chief economic negotiator this weekend will pay his second visit to Moscow in two weeks for talks with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, the country’s ambassador said on Friday.
11:03 The Syrian army clashed with rebels near the main military airport in Damascus and shelled the northern hub of Aleppo, a watchdog said, as the country braced for protests after Friday Muslim prayers.
9:09 Syrian regime forces killed 38 people on Friday, Al-Arabiya television quoted the General Commission of the Syrian Revolution as saying.
8:30 MORNING LEADER: The United Nations has called an end to its observer mission in Syria, as activists reported more bloodletting in an attack on civilians in the main battleground of Aleppo. Meanwhile, four of the 11 abducted Lebanese pilgrims in Syria were reported to have been killed.
At least 60 bodies have been found in a Damascus suburb, activists say, after what the opposition describes as a “massacre” by government forces.
A poor-quality video posted online showed what appeared to be the charred remains of dozens of people, many with their hands tied behind their backs.
Activists said the bodies were found on Thursday at a rubbish dump outside Qatana, south-west of the capital.
The discovery came as the UN announced the formal end of its observer mission.
The current president of the UN Security Council, Gerard Araud, said the conditions required to extend the mission’s mandate beyond midnight on Sunday – a halt to the government’s use of heavy weapons and a significant reduction in violence – had not been met.
Mr Araud also said the Security Council had agreed to back UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon’s proposal for a liaison office in Syria to support further efforts to end the conflict, which activists say has left at least 21,000 people dead since March 2011.
Russia’s permanent representative, Vitaly Churkin, said that in New York on Friday the five permanent members of the Security Council would meet key regional players and international organisations, who agreed on guidelines for a political transition in Geneva in June as part of the so-called Action Group for Syria.
He said he wanted them to make a “joint or parallel appeal to all the parties of the Syrian conflict that they end violence as soon as possible”.
Mr Churkin said the appeal should urge both sides to appoint representatives to “negotiate towards a political solution, and in particular towards the establishment of a transitional governing body as provided for in the Geneva document”.
As he spoke on Thursday, activists said an estimated 200 people were killed across Syria, as clashes between troops and rebels continued.
The death toll included the 60 reportedly found at Qatana. Activists said they were still trying to find out who the victims in Qatana were and what happened.
They believed government forces had executed the victims before setting their bodies alight, they said.
It is impossible to verify the activists’ reports of the alleged massacre, as international media cannot report freely in Syria.
Meanwhile, the wave of kidnappings in Lebanon related to the conflict has continued with reports that two more people have been abducted.
It comes the day after a Shia Muslim clan that had seized a number of Syrian Sunni Muslims and a Turkish citizen said that it would not kidnap any more people.
The Mekdads said they had nothing to do with the new kidnappings, but they are still holding several hostages to try to force the release of one of its family members captured by Syrian rebels in Damascus.
However vague the picture in Syria may have been before this conflict began, the blood of many thousands has now muddied it further still.
But in this complex web of armed civilians, defected soldiers, paramilitary units and bloodthirsty militias, a further dynamic is growing in strength: militants from outside Syria joining the fray.
Foreign fighters have been heading to Syria for some time – many of Syrian descent but living in Europe or the US, keen to help their brothers in arms. A similar pattern emerged in Libya, where young western Libyans joined the battle against [late leader Col Muammar] Gaddafi.
However, a different, more dangerous contingent is joining this struggle now.
Militant groups thought to be linked to al-Qaeda are operating in the country. Among their ranks, a small number of young British men – at this stage, probably only running into the dozens – are joining this fundamentalist fringe, having been recruited from towns and cities across the UK.
‘Thrill seekers’Driving along the Asian district of Coventry Road in his Birmingham constituency, local MP Khalid Mahmood explained that from amongst the Muslim communities in Britain that have embraced the Syrian cause, a small number have taken their grievances a step further.
“I’m extremely concerned at the moment because I see similar things to those that happened in Afghanistan. We encouraged people to fight – to fight for the jihad. In the Syrian situation, similar messages are going out. Quite a number in Birmingham are heading out.
“Some are of Syrian origin, others of South Asian origin – for whom religion is the main pull. As this conflict goes on, I would anticipate greater numbers going forward.”
Malik al-Abdeh, a prominent Syrian journalist based in the UK, explained why the conflict in Syria has pulled in these young fighters.
“Most of these people are essentially thrill-seekers wanting to experience the jihad, which for some people is a lot of fun. They get to carry a gun for the first time in their lives. They get trained up and it’s exciting.
“I think it’s inevitable that people from the UK would go to Syria. Fighting for God and fighting for Islam is one of the pillars of being a Muslim.
“There was an opportunity against the Soviets in Afghanistan, against the Russians in Chechnya, against the Serbs in Bosnia and now against the Alawites in Syria.
“They see it as another stop on the jihadi tour, if you like. And they have to be there otherwise they are missing out on a big opportunity.”
So far, says Mr Abdeh, the numbers are limited because mainstream rebel groups do not want them in the country.
“The phenomenon so far of non-Syrians going to fight in Syria is quite limited simply because people within Syria don’t want those people coming to fight.
“Actually these foreigners hamper the effort. You have the language barrier, different cultures and no knowledge of the local area.”Photojournalist John Cantlie says there were Britons among his captors
But their differences could grow into armed confrontation, as British photographer John Cantlie found after having been abducted by an extremist group in Syria. It was the Free Syrian Army (FSA) who rescued him. He paints a similar picture of embittered and disillusioned British youths seeking to find purpose.
“They were hostile to us, I believe, because many of these were disenchanted young men from Britain. And I believe we represented everything that they were disenchanted about.
“They were young, they were impressionable and they were united under an extremist flag in Syria. And I think the sight of genuine western hostages excited them; it fulfilled their concept of what jihad was about.”
Legacy of conflict
These young Brits are a prime target for an al-Qaeda leadership keen to show its relevance in a region where peaceful, rather than armed protest, had been the trend.
Peter Neumann, professor of security studies at King’s College, explained the attraction for al-Qaeda in Syria and the battle against President Assad.
“This is not just about a secular dictator. This is about a secular dictator considered to be a Shia. So there is a sectarian dimension. For a lot of extremist Sunni Arabs, this has particular significance and it may motivate them more perhaps than European jihadists who are supportive, but not yet coming in big numbers.”
While the numbers remain small, Professor Neumann pointed to experiences in Afghanistan, where foreign fighters hijacked a fight that was not their own.
For the moment, extremist groups in Syria are not a significant threat. But as the situation deteriorates and the structures keeping the state intact start to crumble, these small groups may get the chance to grow.
“As in Afghanistan in the 80s, the foreign fighters – the (Osama) Bin Laden types – were the small minority,” says Prof Neumann. “But afterwards, they claimed the legacy of that conflict.”
GENEVA – Syrians are pouring across the borders to escape fighting in their homeland and diarrheal disease has broken out in rural areas near Damascus, U.N. aid agencies said on Friday…