Monday 6 May 2013
Syrian Observatory for Human Rights:Summarized final death toll for Monday 06/05/2013. Approximately 130 Syrians were killed yesterday: The dead include: 37 civilians, 48 rebel fighters, 4 unidentified men, a defected captain, 2 defected soldiers, 7 unidentified rebel fighters, and at least 29 regular soldiers.
** 42 Syrian soldiers have been killed so far by the Israeli aerial bombardment on military centres near the Syrian capital at dawn of Sunday. The fate of more than 100 soldiers is still unknown, unconfirmed reports indicate that they have been killed. **
– In Reef Dimashq 8 civilians, 13 rebel fighters and 1 unidentified man were killed. 4 civilians, including a child, were killed by bombardment on the towns and cities of Zamalka, al-Thiyabiya, Douma and al-Nashabiya. An unidentified man was shot by regular forces in Harasta city. 13 rebel fighters were killed by clashes and bombardment in the towns and cities of Drosha, Douma, Zamalka, al-Jarba, Wadi Barada, Masaken Najeha and al-Dmeir road.
– In Homs 3 civilians and 9 rebel fighters were killed. A man from the al-Naziheen camp of Homs city was tortured to death after detainment by regular forces. The corpse of a man from the al-Naziheen camp was handed to his parents after we was kidnapped by unknown gunmen earlier. A child was killed by bombardment on al-Qseir city.
– In Idlib 3 civilians, 2 rebel fighters and 2 unidentified men were killed. 2 men and a woman were killed by bombardment. 2 unidentified men from Khan Sheikhoun city were shot by a military checkpoint in the area.
– In Hama 6 civilians and 2 rebel fighters were killed. 2 men from the Tibet al-Imam town were killed when the car transporting them was targeted near the Karzeita town of Reef Hama. 4 men were shot by regular forces and pro regime militants in the villages and neighbourhoods of Beirin, al-Hmeidiya and Janoub al-Mal’ab.
– In Aleppo 6 civilians, 9 rebel fighters and 1 unidentified man were killed. 3 civilians, including a woman, were killed by gunfire in the neighbourhoods of Masaken Hanano and Karm al-Jabal of Aleppo city. 4 civilians, including a child and unidentified man, were killed by bombardment on the al-Safira city of Reef Aleppo. 9 rebel fighters from Aleppo were killed by clashes with regular forces in Aleppo city, perimeter of the al-Tabaqa airport of Reef al-Raqqa and in the Mangh military airport of Reef Aleppo.
– In Dera’a 5 civilians and 11 rebel fighters were killed. 3 civilians were killed by bombardment on the Ghabagheb and Tsil towns of Reef Dera’a. A child was shot by sniper in the al-Naziheen camp of Dera’a city, based on activists. 10 rebel fighters were killed by clashes and bombardment on the Wadi al-Yarmouk area and the towns of al-Hrak, Kherbet Ghazala and Jasem of Reef Dera’a.
– In Damascus 3 civilians and 1 rebel fighter were killed. A civilian was killed by bombardmnet on the Haza town. 2 men were shot by regular forces in al-Keswa and Barza.
-In Deir Izzor 2 civilians and a rebel fighter were killed. 2 men were shot at the entrances of Deir Izzor city.
– In al-Qneitra a man died of wounds he received weeks earlier by sniper fire in the al-M’adamiya city of Reef Dimashq.
– A defected captain and 2 defected soldiers were killed by clashes and bombardment in Reef Dimashq and Dera’a.
**42 Syrian soldiers have been killed so far by the Israeli aerial bombardment on military centres near the Syrian capital at dawn of Sunday. The fate of more than 100 soldiers is still unknown, unconfirmed reports indicate that they have been killed. **
– 7 unidentified rebel fighters were killed by clashes and bombardment in several Syrian areas.
– At least 29 regular soldiers were killed by clashes, bombardment and the targeting of vehicles in several Syrian provinces: 8 in Damascus and Reef Dimashq, 3 Homs, 8 Dera’a, 7 Aleppo, 1 Hama, 1 Latakia and 1 in Tartous.
Homs province: Regular forces and members of the pro Hezbollah popular defence committees clashes with rebel fighters in the perimeter of the al-Sloumiya town of Reef al-Qseir. Reports of human losses from both sides. The fields of al-Wa’er neighbourhood were subject to artillery bombardment by regular forces which led to several injuries.
Damascus: More than 42 regular soldiers were documented as killed by the Israeli aggression against Syria, using its airforce to target military centres near the capital, Damascus, at dawn on Sunday. The fate of more than 100 Syrian soldiers is still unknown, they are thought to also have been killed by the Israeli strike.
6 May 2013 – With its investigation continuing into violations of human rights in Syria, an independent United Nations panel today said it has “no conclusive findings” regarding the use of chemical weapons by any of the parties to the conflict in the country.
In a statement, the International Commission of Inquiry on Syria said it wished to clarify that is has not reached any final findings on the use of chemical weapons and “as a result, the Commission is not in a position to further comment on the allegations at this time.”
The Commission, which was created in August 2011, comprises Mr. Paulo Sergio Pinheiro, Karen AbuZayd, Carla del Ponte and Vitit Muntarbhorn. It has been mandated by the Geneva-based Human Rights Council to investigate and record all violations of international human rights law during the conflict in Syria.
Mr. Pinheiro, Chairperson of the Commission, reminded all parties to the conflict that “the use of chemical weapons is prohibited in all circumstances under customary international humanitarian law.”
The Commission is scheduled to issue its findings to the Council on 3 June.
Meanwhile, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon renewed his appeal last week for unfettered access to Syria for a separate United Nations team focused specifically on probing the alleged use of chemical weapons during the conflict.
That fact-finding team, headed by Swedish scientist Åke Sellström, was launched in late March following a formal request from the Syrian Government. However, it has been on stand-by for a month, pending authorized access from Syrian authorities. Mr. Sellström, according to the Secretary-General’s Spokesman, continues consultations with all the parties, including all concerned Governments, to pursue his investigation.
More than 70,000 people, mostly civilians, have been killed, and some 3 million displaced since the uprising against President Bashar al-Assad began in March 2011.
GENEVA – U.N. war crimes investigators have reached no conclusions on whether any side in the Syrian war has used chemical weapons, the inquiry commission said on Monday, playing down a suggestion from one of the team that rebel forces had done so.
Investigator Carla Del Ponte caught U.N. officials by surprise on Sunday when she said the commission had gathered testimony from casualties and medical staff indicating that rebel forces had used the banned nerve agent sarin.
“The independent international Commission of Inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic wishes to clarify that it has not reached conclusive findings as to the use of chemical weapons in Syria by any parties to the conflict,” it said in a statement.
President Bashar al-Assad’s government and the rebels whom his forces have been fighting for more than two years accuse each another of carrying out three chemical weapon attacks in March and December, in Aleppo, Damascus and Homs.
U.S. President Barack Obama has warned any confirmed use of chemical weapons by Assad would cross a “red line” and British Prime Minister David Cameron said late last month there was limited but growing evidence the banned arms had been used.
Bolstering that evidence, a diplomatic source told Reuters on Monday soil samples from Syriahave tested positive at Britain’s Porton Down military facility for sarin – though it was not clear where the samples came from.
A Syrian medic working near the Turkish border said his patients also showed signs of exposure to the gas – but only a diluted form, possibly released to scare but not kill them.
U.N. investigator Del Ponte, a former Swiss attorney general who served as prosecutor of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, gave no details as to when or where sarin may have been used. She was speaking in an interview with Swiss-Italian television.
In comments posted in English on Monday, she repeated the assertion, saying that witness testimony made it appear that some chemical weapons had been used.
“What appears to our investigation is that it was used by the opponents, by the rebels,” she said. “We have no indication at all that the Syrian government has used chemical weapons.”
“THE AIM IS TO TERRORISE”
The Geneva-based inquiry into war crimes and other human rights violations led by Brazilian expert Paulo Pinheiro is separate from an investigation of the alleged use of chemical weapons instigated by U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.
Medecins Sans Frontieres (Doctors Without Borders), a medical charity that runs four hospitals in rebel-held areas of Syria, including Aleppo, has not come across patients suffering from the use of chemical weapons, spokeswoman Emma Amado said.
In Washington, a U.S. official said: “Our understanding has been that the armed opposition does not have such weapons and so we’ll have to re-check our facts but our initial take on that was that they do not have such things in their arsenal.
Turkey has also been testing blood samples taken from Syrian casualties brought to a Turkish hospital to determine whether they were victims of a chemical weapons attack, but the results have not yet been made public.
Wassim Taha, a Syrian doctor from the Union of Syrian Medical Relief Organisations which runs hospitals for the Syrian opposition, said initial tests on the patients at a rudimentary laboratory at the Syrian border post of Bab al-Hawa revealed signs of what could have been the use of “diluted sarin”.
“The patients’ symptoms, which included choking, foaming at the mouth, contraction of pupils are all symptoms that indicate a chemical gas was used,” he told Reuters by telephone from Reyhanli, on the Turkish side of the border with Bab al-Hawa.
“The symptoms are less severe (than undiluted sarin), it does not kill a large number of people and does not stay in the atmosphere for a long period of time. The aim is to terrorise and scare people,” he said.
(Reporting by Stephanie Nebehay in Geneva; additional reporting by Reporting by Nick Tattersall, additional reporting by Yara Bayoumy in Dubai and Nick Tattersall in Ankara; Editing by Andrew Heavens)
The US and United Nations have cast doubt on claims by Carla del Ponte that Syrian rebel forces might have used the nerve agent sarin.
“We are highly sceptical of any suggestions that the opposition used chemical weapons,” said White House spokesman Jay Carney. “We think it highly likely that Assad regime was responsible but we have to be sure about the facts before we make any decisions about a response.”
Speaking on Sunday del Ponte, a member of a UN panel investigating inSyria, said there were “strong, concrete suspicions” the Syrian rebels had used poison gas. She cited testimony from survivors in hospitals outside Syria, but gave no details. “This was use on the part of the opposition, the rebels, not by the government authorities,” she told Swiss-Italian TV.
But the UN’s Syria investigators appeared to row back on del Ponte’s remarks on Monday, saying there was thus far “no conclusive proof” that either side in the Syria conflict had used chemical weapons.
“The Independent International Commission of Inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic wishes to clarify that it has not reached conclusive findings as to the use of chemical weapons in Syria by any parties to the conflict,” the commission said in a statement.
Supporters of Syria’s moderate opposition also dismissed del Ponte’s remarks, pointing out that if the rebels had had access to chemical weapons they would have been tempted to use them much earlier against Assad’s military bases.
President Obama is coming under growing pressure in Washington from Congress to take action in Syria, but continues to insist the evidence gathered by Britain and France is not conclusive. “We have seen in the not too distance past the consequences of acting before the facts were available,” said Carney.
On Friday, UK defence secretary Philip Hammond admitted western intelligence services would probably have to wait for a further chemical attack before gathering enough information to trace it back to the government because the quality of earlier evidence had degraded over time.
Del Ponte’s comments further complicate the diplomatic argument over what the west should do in Syria, following air strikes by Israel against Syrian military targets over the weekend, and with the prospect of a regional conflict growing.
Israel sought to avoid a direct confrontation with the Syrian regime on Monday with a senior military commander saying there were “no winds of war” blowing across its northern border, amid a cautious consensus that a double bombing raid at the weekend was unlikely to provoke an immediate and direct response.
However, two stray shells from Syria’s two-year bloody civil war landed on the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights on Monday afternoon in a reminder of the close proximity of the fighting. There were no casualties.
US secretary of state John Kerry will meet Vladimir Putin in Moscow on Tuesday in “another stab” at persuading the Russian president to join international efforts to resolve the Syrian crisis. “We certainly want to try to make another stab at it, to make another effort at it, because events on the ground have become steadily worse,” an unnamed official told Reuters.
Israel targeted stocks of Iranian-supplied Fateh-110 missiles, which have a 200-mile range and precision guidance systems, in airstrikes near Damascus on Friday and Sunday which, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, killed 42 Syrian soldiers. The bombings followed clear warnings by Israel that it would act to prevent sophisticated weapons reaching Hezbollah in Lebanon or jihadist fighters inside Syria. Israel was “within its right to prevent the transfer of this kind of weapon to Hezbollah”, said Carney.
Israel routinely does not formally acknowledge such strikes. But an Israeli politician close to the prime minister, Binyamin Netanyahu, said the action had been directed “against Hezbollah and not against the Syrian regime”. Tzachi Hanegbi told Israel Radio that the aim was “to keep advanced weapons from Hezbollah as soon as intentions are exposed, and refrain from tension with Syria”.
China called for restraint in the region. “We oppose the use of military force and believe any country’s sovereignty should be respected,” foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying told reporters. “China also calls on all relevant parties to begin from the basis of protecting regional peace and stability, maintain restraint and avoid taking any actions that would escalate tensions and jointly safeguard regional peace and stability.”
In the aftermath of the air strikes the Israeli Defence Forces’ northern commander, Major General Yair Golan, said there were “no winds of war” along Israel’s borders with Syria and Lebanon, although the military was ready and alert to deal with any retaliation.
Defence experts in Washington said the strikes showed that US fears about Syrian air defences may need to be reassessed.
“Israel’s success does indicate that the purely military risks in enforcing some form of no fly or no move zone are now more limited that when the fighting in Syria began,” said Anthony Cordesman of the Centre for Strategic and International Studies. “At the same time, this does not mean that Syria could not put up a defence or that the US could simply rely on a few strikes or threats to either destroy Syria’s air defence or intimidate it into complying with US demands.”