Monday 11 June 2012
[Homs] Syrian Observatory for Human Rights: There are reports coming through on the Syrian Observatory page in English during the day … Car bomb explosion in Deir Izzor: Deir Izzor province: 10 civilians were killed when an a car bomb went off tonight on Wadi street, Joura neighbourhood, city of Deir Izzor.
Syrian Uprising 2011 Information Centre: Summary (11/06/2012): Writing the summary is the worst part of the day – counting the martyrs and massacres, locating them on the map, seeing the shells falling on houses, seeing mothers and chidlren crying. When will the world understand that Syrians are human like you, we have families and loved ones like you, hopes and dreams like you and we deserve to live free just like you do. At least 100 martyrs have fallen today in a number of massacres. You can see it all on the map. How will that change your day?? Syria – Monday 11/06/2012 – Google Maps
English Speakers to Help The Syrian Revolution: Breaking: Al Heffah- Urgent: The activist Mohammad Hassan ( Abu Suheil) was martyred right after a phone call with Al Jazeera channel with a shell while explaining the situation in Al Heffa area…We ask not to call the activists on ground no matter what!!
[local time] 21:05 The Syrian army is shelling the Daraa town of Enkhel, Al-Arabiya reported.
20:52 Syria’s Monday death toll increased to 101 people, Al-Arabiya quoted activists as saying.
20:35 The United States on Monday voiced concern that Syria’s government is planning a new massacre after accounts that tanks have approached the edge of the city of Al-Heffa.
20:19 The UN observer mission in Syria on Monday expressed concern about escalating violence in the central city of
Homs and said it was trying to negotiate the evacuation of civilians.
19:45 A gas pipeline in eastern Syria was damaged in a bombing on Monday, causing the leakage of 400,000 cubic meters of gas, state news agency SANA said, blaming the attack on rebels.
19:34 A car bomb rocked Syria’s Deir az-Zour, killing a number of people and injuring others, activists told Al-Jazeera.
19:07 Syria’s Monday death toll rose to 89 people, most of them were killed in Edleb, Hama and Homs, Al-Jazeera quoted activists as saying.
18:13 The new leader of Syria’s exiled opposition called Monday on embattled President Bashar al-Assad to transfer power to his deputy Faruq al-Shara, the Anatolia news agency reported.
17:47 Syrian forces shelled Al-Fateh and Jourat al-Chiyah mosques in Homs where families are hiding, Al-Arabiya reported on Monday.
17:03 The Syrian army is shelling the town of Maarat an-Naaman, Al-Arabiya quoted activists as saying.
16:54 UN-Arab League envoy Kofi Annan was “gravely concerned” by a step up in fighting by Syrian government forces and the opposition, his spokesperson said on Monday.
16:36 The Syrian army and the rebels clashed in the Damascus neighborhood of Baraza, Al-Jazeera quoted activists as saying.
16:06 Helicopter gunships on Monday fired on rebels in central and northwestern Syria in a bid to snuff out armed opposition as violence killed 74 people across the country, a watchdog said.
16:05 Al-Jazeera is broadcasting live footage of the Syrian army’s shelling of the Homs neighborhood of Al-Khaldiyeh.
15:01 France said Monday it will hold talks with Russia on its idea of an international Syria conference including Iran and urged the new head of the Syrian National Council to unite the opposition.
13:42 Dozens were injured in the shelling of Homs’ neighborhoods by Syrian security forces, Al-Jazeera quoted activists as saying on Monday.
13:20 Monday’s death toll in Syria reached 33 people, Al-Arabiya quoted activists as saying.
13:02 Syrian regime troops pounded on Monday a key rebel bastion in central Homs province in a bid to regain control of the area as 22 people were killed in violence across the country, monitors said.
11:52 Syrian security forces killed 21 people on Monday, mainly in Hama, Al-Arabiya quoted activists as saying.
11:23 Syrian rebel army chief, Colonel Riyadh al-Asaad, denied in comments published Monday that Kuwaitis were fighting alongside his men against forces of President Bashar al-Assad’s regime.
10:17 Syrian security forces killed nine people on Monday, Al-Jazeera quoted activists as saying.
10:08 Several journalists were injured in the shelling of the Al-Hamidiyah neighborhood of Homs by Syrian security forces, Al-Jazeera quoted activists as saying on Monday.
BBC: Syrian forces renew Homs attack: Syrian government forces renew their attack on the city of Homs as international mediator Kofi Annan says civilians are trapped there.
Video published on the internet purportedly from Homs showed intermittent shelling and black smoke.
UN mediator Kofi Annan is concerned civilians have been trapped in Homs and al-Haffa, a town in Latakia province also said to be under attack.
The US says it fears the government may be planning “another massacre”.
Mr Annan’s spokesman, Ahmad Fawzi, said civilians had been trapped in both Homs and al-Haffa.
Mr Annan was demanding immediate entry to al-Haffa for UN military observers be allowed, he added.
As joint envoy for the UN and the Arab League, Mr Annan brokered a six-point peace plan, including a ceasefire which came into nominal effect two months ago but has now been virtually abandoned.
Annan’s six-point plan
1. Syrian-led political process to address the aspirations and concerns of the Syrian people
2. End to violence by all sides; army troops to stop using heavy weapons and withdraw to barracks
3. Parties to allow humanitarian aid
4. Authorities to free political detainees
5. Authorities to ensure freedom of movement for journalists
6. Authorities to allow peaceful demonstrations
BBC Middle East bureau editor Paul Danahar, who visited Homs with a team of UN observers earlier on Monday, said the Syrian army appeared to be using an unmanned surveillance drone to select buildings as targets for shelling.
Our correspondent reported a steady stream of mortar rounds landing in the old city of Homs at a rate of about one a minute.
He says he understands that the UN team – which has been trying for two days to gain access to the old city – has still not succeeded.
All the UN can do is stand by and watch, our correspondent says.
US state department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said it was “deeply alarmed” at “reports from inside Syria that the regime may be organising another massacre”.
Such an attack could happen, it suggested, in al-Haffa or the towns of Deir el-Zour, Homs or Hama, or in the suburbs of the capital, Damascus.
According to the London-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, at least 74 people were killed across Syria on Monday.
An activist website, the Violations Documenting Centre, said there had been 29 deaths in the past week from bombardment in al-Haffa. All but three of the dead were civilians, it added.
These reports cannot be confirmed independently because Syria heavily restricts journalists’ freedom of movement.
British Foreign Secretary William Hague condemned the violence in Syria, accusing the government of “inflaming sectarian tension”.
The Syrian government blames the violence on foreign-backed armed terrorist gangs.
Separately, UN monitors and human rights activists said Syrian government forces had used helicopters to bombard the town of Rastan, in Homs province.
The town has been under intermittent army shelling “for months”, the Observatory said.
UN spokeswoman Sausan Ghosheh said monitors had seen Syrian helicopters firing on Rastan and another rebel stronghold, Talbisa.
In Talbisa, rebels from the Free Syrian Army captured soldiers from government forces, she added.
Syrian opposition chief Abdelbaset Sayda urges defections – BBC: The newly appointed head of the opposition Syrian National Council calls on officials in Damascus to defect, …
Sectarian massacres in Syria may show militias nurtured by the authorities are a “Frankenstein’s monster” which will alienate allies, provoke foreign intervention and tear the country apart, hastening the downfall of President Bashar al-Assad.
As Washington raised an alarm on Monday about a “potential massacre” in Haffeh, analysts said they saw little military rationale for the government in the previous killings of dozens of Sunni Muslim civilians in two attacks on other villages in the northwest that only galvanized outrage against Assad abroad and among those in the Sunni majority who have supported him.
Some said “shabbiha” gunmen from Assad’s Alawite minority, long armed by the elite in Damascus, may be pursuing a campaign to drive out Sunnis to create a buffer zone around an Alawite safe haven of last resort along the coast. It raises the risk of a Yugoslav-style break-up of Syria that would set off tremors across the religious and ethnic faultlines of the Middle East.
“These massacres are a kind of ethnic cleansing,” said a prominent politician from the Christian community across the border in Lebanon, which saw 15 years of communal blood-letting up to 1990. “They are purging their areas like in Bosnia.”
Sectarian violence has mounted for months, with civilians from Sunni and Alawite communities being killed or driven from homes. But the massacres at Houla and Qubeir, near the cities of Homs and Hama, have raised pressure on foreign allies to abandon Assad, and fears of Syria collapsing into a bloodbath like Iraq.
By alienating the urban Sunni middle classes who had backed Assad as a bulwark of order over chaos, and by provoking Western unease and anger in the Sunni Arab states hostile to the Alawites’ Shi’ite Muslim sponsors in Iran, the shabbiha were now a “Frankenstein’s monster”, threatening their creators’ very survival, said Fawaz Gerges at the London School of Economics.
The Lebanese politician said only a bid to create an Alawite bastion along the western coastal strip, the sect’s heartland, could explain the killing of 78 Sunnis at Qubeir after that of 108 at Houla. Both incidents have been blamed by rights groups on Alawite militiamen following up after artillery bombardments, which suggested some level of approval within official ranks.
“This is the only explanation for this massacre which came … in spite of the international reaction,” he said, speaking anonymously because of the sensitivity of the issue.
“Militarily, there are no important victories the regime is achieving. It shows that they have entered the final stage, which is to start regrouping in their own areas.”
Paul Salem, director of the Carnegie Middle East Center in Beirut, said Assad’s entourage might be clearing a line of retreat in the Alawite heartland as a fall-back position, should they be unable, despite a big advantage in firepower, to hold on to territorial control of the entire country.
“Definitely they are preparing a Plan B,” Salem said of Alawite leaders, who have fanned fears among the minority group that they face bitter reprisals if Assad is ousted by vengeful Sunnis. “If they are forced to go there, they might need it.
The Lebanese politician, familiar with the pattern of that country’s civil war where populations that had been mixed then separated in violence, said the repetition of similar tactics, killing women and children, seemed designed to spread fear more widely among Sunnis living close to the main Alawite areas.
“This picture started to circulate after the repetition of massacres,” he said. “The first massacre happened, why the second? Why the torching of the houses, why the villages?”
Salem said Assad’s administration would not easily retreat: “They are fighting for the whole country but they don’t know if they will succeed,” he said. “They entered into a gamble.”
The area between the Lebanese and Turkish borders including Syria’s main port of Latakia is home to many of the 2.5 million people, some 12 percent of the population, who follow the Alawite traditions that emerged from Shi’ite Islam. In the 1920s and 30s, it was a separate territory under French rule.
Long seen as poor, rural and put upon by Sunni landowners and merchants, many Alawites have thrived since Assad’s father Hafez seized power in 1970. The shabbiha, Arabic for “ghosts”, emerged in the 1980s, running illicit trade to enrich Assad’s relatives. Though Sunnis also joined such groups, the shabbiha have become more exclusively Alawite as the 15-month-old conflict has taken an ever more sectarian turn.
“Those shabbiha are the new Frankenstein’s monster,” said Gerges, professor of Middle Eastern politics at the LSE.
“The regime created, mobilized and armed the shabbiha and they have now become a nightmare, a nightmare basically destroying the very fabric of the regime itself.”
The brutality of the violence – visible to Syrians through social media – has forced a hitherto passive Sunni merchant and middle class in the cities of Damascus and Aleppo off the fence.
Opposition to Assad’s rule has now reached menacingly into both, where traders in the major markets have been starting to shutter their businesses in response to urgings from the rebels.
“The massacres are expediting the process of self-destruction,” Gerges said. “If the regime is doing these massacres it is collective suicide, and if the new Frankenstein’s monster is doing them it means that the regime no longer controls the actions of one of its major militias.”
“Things are spiraling out of control. The shabbiha actions are undermining whatever legitimacy is left for the Assad regime inside and outside Syria,” Gerges said.
JOLT TO AWARENESS
The latest massacres, in which more than 120 women and children were among 186 people shot, stabbed and torched to death, have forced governments around the world to at least appear to do something for Syria’s bloodied civilians, to stop further atrocities, despite the risks in military intervention.
“Syria is under the radar,” Gerges said of the international apathy which was jolted by accounts of the latest atrocities.
“What massacres do is force the world community to act. Massacres, as U.S. General Martin Dempsey said, make intervention more likely because the pressure is overwhelming.”
While there are no imminent signs of external intervention – Western powers have little appetite for new military ventures – the latest massacres have certainly an international and regional outcry. Arab allies of the rebels have been looking for ways to reduce Assad’s overwhelming advantage in firepower.
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon described the killings as “unspeakable barbarity”. U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, calling them “unconscionable”, said Washington was willing to work with all permanent members of the U.N. Security Council, pressing Russia to join in efforts to push Assad aside.
The massacres, analysts said, have made it harder for Russia and China to maintain that Damascus, which denies any role in the killing, is responsive to entreaties for reform.
NO PARTITION PLAN
If anything, some analysts argue, the latest violence in the northwest shows a determination in Damascus to crush the entire uprising, which began in March 2011 with peaceful demonstrations for democracy and has morphed into something close to civil war.
Assad, analysts believe, is still fighting to regain control of the whole country and will not content himself with only part: “He is fighting for the whole thing. He thinks he can really destroy the opposition,” Gerges said. “I don’t think he is going to leave Damascus and retreat somewhere else in Syria. He is going to fight all the way. Once he leaves it’s over.”
Any partition of Syria, the creation of some Alawite homeland, would be regarded as a dangerous precedent and be strongly opposed by neighbors like Turkey, Iran and Iraq, wary of their own divisions along ethnic and sectarian lines.
“There cannot be a separate sectarian state in Syria. This will destroy the whole region,” Gerges said. “Neither regional or international powers will ever tolerate it.
“An Alawite state cannot survive in Syria.”
Were an Alawite statelet ever to emerge from an eventual partition of Syria, this would pull the trigger for the disintegration of multi-ethnic and pluri-confessional states across the Levant, he and other analysts said.
Turkey would fear attempts by its Kurdish minority to secede and combine with already autonomous Kurds in northern Iraq and their restive kin in Syria and Iran. The still fragile stability of Lebanon and its 17 sects would be at risk.
The increasingly raw conflict between Sunni and Shi’ite across the region would intensify if Syrian partition spawned a new Sunni state in Damascus to pitch into the sectarian contest.
Yet with the West still struggling to find a way of dealing with the ticking bomb of the Syria conflict without resorting to a new military intervention it does not want in the Muslim world, the prospect for the quick departure of Assad looks slim, short of some extraordinary turn of events.
“The regime definitely entered the final chapters but this will continue for many months or even a few years until something dramatic happens,” said Salem at the Carnegie Center.
Gerges said: “Not only is it a long haul, it is going to be a very bloody long haul. It is a protracted armed conflict. I don’t think there is a happy end. Will it end with the partitioning of Syria? No. Syria won’t be partitioned.”
(Editing by Alastair Macdonald)
Guardian: Al-Qaida affiliates operating in Syria, says William Hague: 11 Jun 2012: Foreign secretary says more sanctions against Syrian regime are likely if UN-brokered peace plan continues to fail …
• Army shells Homs and al-Haffa near Latakia, activists say
• Annan calls for UN observers to be allowed into al-Haffa
• Hague says Syria on edge of civil war …