Saturday 14 July 2012
[Comment: Kofi Annan’s plan was broken by the Syrian Government whoever they were attacking. It is a distraction to blame Kofi Annan for these murders when he is trying pressure Governments to stop facilitating the sending in of weapons]
Syrian Observatory for Human Rights: Reef Dimashq: 3 heavy explosions were heard in the town of Ma’adamiya recently. No reports of casualties yet.
Hama province: The towns of Qal’at Madiq and Jabal Shihshbo are being bombarded by regime forces.
Aleppo province: The town of al-Atarib is being bombarded by regime forces, who also bombarded the town of Mare’, many were injured.
Approximately 120 Syrians have been killed this Saturday 14/7/2012: 70 civilians, 49 Unarmed civilians:
– In Homs province 10. A pregnant woman was killed by the bombardment on al-Qusayr, a civilian was killed by excessive torture. 3 civilians were killed by the bombardment and gunfire in the city of Homs, one of them is still unknown. 4 civilians, including a woman, were killed by the regime bombardment on the city of al-Rastan. 1 civilian from the town of al-Qureitein was killed under unknown circumstances.
-In Reef Dimashq 13 killed. 7, including 4 women and a child, when a mortar fell on a residential house in the city of Douma after midnight. A civilian was killed by the bombardment on the town of al-Mleha. 5 were martyred when a car-bomb exploded in the town of Ma’adamiya at night.
-In Hama province 10 were killed. 2 women and a child were killed when a car-bomb exploded by the military intelligence branch in the city of Mhardeh. 2 civilians were killed by regime gunfire in Helfaya. The body of a civilian was given back to his family, days after he was detained, alive, in the town of Souran. 4 civilians, 2 of them children were killed by the IED explosion at the Fatima al-Saqqa school, in the al-Karama neighbourhood of Hama.
-In Deir Izzor province 11 civilians killed. 3 children from the same family were killed when a mortar fell on their house in the al-Jubeila neighbourhood of Deir Izzor. A child was killed by the bombardment on the al-Huweiqa neighbourhood. 4 civilians, including a woman, were killed by sniper fire in the in the Khasarat and the al-Ummal neighbourhoods of Deir Izzor. 3 civilians, including a child, were killed when regime forces shelled the town of Baqrus with heavy artillery.
-In Idlib province 5. The body of a man was found in the town of al-Rami, a month after he was detained. A young man killed when regime forces stormed the town of Ma’arat al-Nu’man. A civilian was killed by by a military sniper, who was stationed by the oil refinery, by the southern entrance to the city of Saraqib. A civilian was killed by a regime ambush by the town of Banash, Reef Idlib.
-In Dera’a 2. a civilian was killed by a regime sniper in the town of al-Hirak. 1 civilian from Sihm al-Golan, was tortured to death by regime forces, who detained him less than 48 hours ago.
-In Latakia province a civilian was killed by regime forces during an ambush between the villages of Beksriya and Armala, Reef Latakia.
-In Damascus 2 civilians were killed by regime gunfire in the Hajar al-Aswad area, one was only 16 years old.
21 Rebel fighters:
Idlib prov: 5 rebel fighters were killed. One of them was from ein Sheheeb and died from earlier wounds, suffered yesterday in the village of al-Rami.
Homs prov: 8 rebel fighters were killed in Homs in al-Sultaniya, Jobar, al-Qarabees, Khaldiya and by the edges of Baba Amr. 1 of them died from earlier wounds.
Aleppo prov: 8 rebel fighters were killed during clashes at the Turkish/Syrian border area of Tel Suloor.
Reef Dimashq: The leader of a rebel battalion was killed from wounds received during clashes.
Deir Izzor: A rebel leader was killed during clashes in the city of Deir Izzor.
A defected officer, with the rank of lieutenant colonel, was killed by the bombardment on al-Rastan. A defected soldier was killed during the bombardment and clashes in Homs. A first sergeant was killed during clashes in Deir Izzor.
No less than 39 members of the Syrian armed forces were killed. 13 of them, including an officer, were killed when a regime checkpoint was attacked by rebel fighters, and during clashes, in the area of Tel Selour, Reef Aleppo. A member of military intelligence was killed by the car-bomb in Mhardeh, Reef Hama. 12 soldiers were killed at night when a military transport truck (ZiL) was targeted in the village of al-Rami, Reef Idlib. 19 killed during clashes in the provinces of Deir Izzor, Damascus, Hama and Homs.
‘Champagne flows while Syria burns’ – CNN.com Video: Journalist Janine di Giovanni talks to CNN’s Isha Sesay about the elite who live in Syria during a civil war.
18:58 Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Saturday branded the massacre of 150 people in a central Syrian village as “attempted genocide” and said the regime was doomed.
18:11 Car explosion in Hama’s neighborhood of Al-Karama kills 12 and injures 15, Al-Arabiya reported.
16:29 Syria’s former Ambassador in Baghdad, Nawaf Fares, criticized the Iraqi premier in an interview broadcast Saturday, saying Nuri al-Maliki’s stance toward Damascus was “contradictory” to the truth.
16:24 Syrian security forces shelled the towns of Rabeea and Salma in Latakia killing some and injuring others, Al-Jazeera reported.
16:20 French President Francois Hollande said on Saturday there was “still time” to find a solution to the crisis in Syria and urged Russia to stop blocking UN Security Council efforts.
16:15 Iraq’s prime minister on Saturday condemned the killing of more than 150 people in a central Syrian town two days ago, describing the deaths as an “ugly massacre.”
15:12 Syrian security forces killed 45 people on Saturday, Al-Jazeera quoted activists as saying.
15:07 UN observers in Syria visited on Saturday the central village of Treimsa, where more than 150 people were killed this week, according to a spokesperson for the UN mission and an activist on the ground.
14:36 Four children were killed by Syrian security forces in the Al-Jubayle neighborhood of Deir az-Zour, Al-Jazeera reported on Saturday.
13:56 Hundreds of soldiers backed by helicopter gunships attacked a town in southern Syria on Saturday, as at least 28 people were killed across the country, reports said.
13:24 Syrian regime forces shelled Harasta in the Damascus district amid reports of casualties, Al-Jazeera reported on Saturday.
11:16 Iran was ready to play a role alongside other regional countries to try to establish a dialogue between the Syrian government and the opposition, an official was quoted as saying on Saturday.
10:51 Shelling and fighting in the central Syrian province of Homs killed at least five people on Saturday, including a pregnant woman and two rebels, a rights watchdog reported.
10:12 Violence in Syria killed at least 118 people on Friday across the country, including dozens of civilians when government forces fired on huge anti-regime protests, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.
7:37 Canada is “appalled” by reported mass killings in a village in central Syria, Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird said Friday, calling for “tough” UN sanctions against Damascus.
7:36 UN leader Ban Ki-moon on Friday called on the UN Security Council to take strong action to halt the Syria war, warning otherwise it would be giving “a license for further massacres.”
7:34 Brazil condemned Friday the use of heavy artillery against civilians in Syria and urged Damascus to end the violence and respect UN special envoy Kofi Annan’s peace plan.
7:33 French President Francois Hollande on Friday called on Russia and China not to oppose UN sanctions against Syria following the latest massacre which rebels blame on regime troops.
UN observers in Syria enter the village of Tremseh to investigate reports that mass killings occurred there on Thursday.
A convoy of civilian and military experts entered the village, 25km north-west of the city of Hama, and are due to report back later.
The killing of up to 200 villagers triggered international condemnation.
The Syrian government insists this was a military operation against rebel fighters and there are no detailed reports yet of civilian casualties.
“We have sent a large integrated patrol today to seek verification of the facts,” UN spokeswoman Sausan Ghosheh told Reuters news agency.
Ms Ghosheh later said the team had arrived in the village.
The observers from the UN Supervision Mission in Syria (UNMIS) have had their normal duties suspended because of the violence but are able to undertake short-term missions to investigate specific incidents.
‘Shocked and appalled’
The BBC’s Jim Muir in Beirut says it remains far from clear what took place at Tremseh.
The government says its armed forces mounted a special operation after tip-offs from local people about large numbers of armed rebels operating from hideouts there.
Some of them were paraded on state TV describing their activities, and it showed large quantities of arms and ammunition it said were seized.
The statement said no civilians were killed in the fighting.
Our correspondent says that, in contrast to the massacre at Houla two months ago, the opposition has not yet produced videos or a detailed lists of names of civilians killed.
He says that activist and human rights groups have named a handful of civilians they say died in the bombardment of the village, but the few video postings they have produced, showing the bodies of young men, are consistent with the government line that many rebel fighters were killed.
However, UN observers have confirmed that government forces used tanks, artillery and helicopters during the attack, in violation of a commitment given to UN and Arab League special envoy Kofi Annan’s six-point peace plan.
Mr Annan was among those who reacted angrily to the killings, saying he was “shocked and appalled”.
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said the attack cast “serious doubt” on President Bashar al-Assad’s commitment to the peace plan.
“There will be serious consequences for continued non-compliance,” Mr Ban said.
US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton suggested the Syrian army had “deliberately murdered civilians” in Tremseh.
Meanwhile, violence has continued elsewhere across Syria.The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said shelling and fighting in the central province of Homs killed at least five people on Saturday.
The Observatory reported more government helicopter attacks – this time in southern Deraa province – and said that 118 people were killed across the country on Friday.
Reports of casualties often cannot be independently verified, as Syria severely restricts journalists’ freedom of movement.
Some 16,000 people are thought to have been killed since the uprising against Bashar al-Assad’s regime began in March 2011.
The UN Security Council is currently debating the future of the UN observer mission in Syria, which is set to come to an end on 20 July.
Western nations want to increase the threat of sanctions in the new Security Council resolution on the future of the mission.
China and Russia remain opposed to any moves to threaten further sanctions.
Syria’s massacres 2012
- 3 Apr: Military attack on Taftanaz in Idlib. Mass graves said to hold 57 people
- 25 May: Some 108 killed in Taldou, in Houla region, many of them women and children
- 6 Jun: At least 79 people, many of them women and children, killed in village in Hama province
The Red Cross now views fighting in Syria as an internal armed conflict – a civil war in layman’s terms – crossing a threshold experts say can help lay the ground for future prosecutions for war crimes.
The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) is the guardian of the Geneva Conventions setting down the rules of war, and as such is considered a reference in qualifying when violence has evolved into an armed conflict.
The independent humanitarian agency had previously classed the violence in Syria as localized civil wars between government forces and armed opposition groups in three flashpoints – Homs, Hama and Idlib.
But hostilities have spread to other areas, leading the Swiss-based agency to conclude the fighting meets its threshold for an internal armed conflict and to inform the warring parties of its analysis and their obligations under law.
“There is a non-international armed conflict in Syria. Not every place is affected, but it is not only limited to those three areas, it has spread to several other areas,” ICRC spokesman Hicham Hassan told Reuters in response to a query.
“That does not mean that all areas throughout the country are affected by hostilities,” he said.
The qualification means that people who order or commit attacks on civilians including murder, torture and rape, or use disproportionate force against civilian areas, can be charged with war crimes in violation of international humanitarian law.
For most of the 17-month-old conflict, the ICRC has been the only international agency to deploy aid workers in Syria who deliver food, medical and other assistance across frontlines.
All fighters caught up in an internal armed conflict are obliged to respect international humanitarian law, also known as the law of armed conflict, according to the ICRC. This includes specific sections of the 1949 Geneva Conventions.
“What matters is that international humanitarian law applies wherever hostilities between government forces and opposition groups are taking place across the country (Syria),” Hassan said. “This includes, but is not necessarily limited to Homs, Idlib and Hama.”
Andrew Clapham, director of the Geneva Academy of International Humanitarian Law and Human Rights, said the ICRC assessment of the conflict, which he shared, was important.
“It means it is more likely that indiscriminate attacks causing excessive civilian loss, injury or damage would be a war crime and could be prosecuted as such,” Clapham told Reuters.
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad said in a speech on June 26 that his country was in a state of war.
RULES OF WAR
The rules impose limits on how fighting may be conducted, so as to protect civilians and ex-combatants not taking part in the hostilities.
They require the humane treatment of all people in enemy hands and the duty to care for the wounded and sick. It also means parties to the internal conflict are entitled to attack military targets, but not civilians or civilian property.
U.N. observers entered the central Syrian village of Tremseh on Saturday, two days after activists said about 220 people had been killed there by helicopter gunships and militiamen, prompting international outrage.
Amnesty International said on Friday some rebel fighters were committing rights abuses although they paled in comparison to the government’s campaign of violence.
The ICRC uses the term “non-international armed conflict” as it reflects the wording in common article 3 of the Geneva Conventions applying to situations such as Syria.
“The term ‘civil war’, which is used by some as a synonym for internal armed conflict or non-international armed conflict, has no legal meaning as such,” Hassan said.
The ICRC’s three criteria of a non-international armed conflict are the intensity and duration of fighting, and the level of organization of rebels fighting government forces.
In early May, the agency said Syrian rebels represented an “organized” opposition force and there were localized conflicts in Homs and Idlib, later adding Hama to its list.
In contrast, the ICRC was quick to describe last year’s conflict in Libya as a civil war, once rebels had set up a headquarters and a command and control structure.
In areas of Syria which are outside of the hostilities but also hit by violence linked to civilian demonstrations, international human rights law – which bans extrajudicial executions, torture and arbitrary arrests – continues to apply, according to the agency.
“In particular, measures taken against such demonstrations with the purpose of restoring order must respect international law and standards governing the use of force in law enforcement operations,” Hassan said.
(Reporting by Stephanie Nebehay; Editing by Sophie Hares)
Residents of the battered Syrian town of Tremseh have described being chased from their homes and hunted down by regime forces after seven hours of shelling during a major assault that left more than 150 people dead last Thursday.
The first observers to reach the devastated town yesterday described widespread scenes of destruction, and many residents appeared too traumatised to talk about their ordeal. The massacre in the small farming community of 6,000 to the north-west of Hama is being described as the worst single atrocity of the Syrian uprising.
Two eyewitnesses from Tremseh who spoke to the Observer yesterday blamed regime forces and the pro-regime militia, the Shabiha, for the attack, which has seen many of its residents flee and left more than 100 people missing. “We don’t understand why they attacked us,” said a local woman, Umm Khaled. “We haven’t brought harm to the region. All we’ve done here is hold demonstrations.”
Umm Khaled, who had lived in Tremseh – a Sunni Muslim enclave – all her life, said people trying to flee through nearby fields were shot dead as they ran. She claims some of the bodies were taken away by regime forces and that others were handcuffed, then summarily executed.
Syria‘s state news agency on Saturday released a detailed account of what it says took place in Tremseh, blaming the massacre on a “terrorist gang” of 200 to 300 men, which it claimed included foreign Arab fighters. It released names and photographs of four men it said had been ringleaders.
The two Tremseh residents strongly denied the regime’s claims that their town either supported, or had been subverted by, a terrorist group. Both insisted that the anti-regime guerrilla force, the Free Syria Army, did not have a strong presence in town.
“I swear that we don’t have any terrorists, Salafists, or anyone from the outside here,” said Umm Khaled. “People have been terrified ever since (regime forces) came to the village in January and killed 40 of us. This time they stole from our homes, they robbed jewellery from women. All of this because we support the revolution?”
A second Tremseh resident, who wanted to be known only as Mohammed, said: “The bombardment started at 5.30am and ended at 2pm. The incursion started at midday from the north of the village. Shabiha and regime military men entered the village and occupied the roofs of high buildings and shot at anything moving.
“They shot many civilians in the head and then burnt the bodies. They hand-cuffed civilians and then shot them in the head. They burnt shops and houses with families inside. After what happened, the FSA members tried to get inside the village to help out with burying the martyrs and tending to the wounded but they couldn’t.
“The criminals took many martyrs’ bodies and wounded civilians with them and there are many missing people and burnt dead bodies with no way to identify them.”
The UN has said that its monitors in Syria witnessed helicopters and tanks shelling Tremseh on Thursday and said the Syrian Air Force took a lead role in the assault. The killings appear at face value to have similarities to the massacre that took place in Houla in late May. Tremseh, like Houla, is located near a series of Alawite villages, which have largely remained loyal to the Assad regime.
In a recent report on Houla, the UN said it could not say who was responsible for the massacre, which killed 108 people, but implied that regime forces and their backers had played a role. The two Tremseh witnesses who spoke with the Observer claimed that some of their attackers came from the direction of Alawite villages, which they named as Safsafeyeh, Tal Sikeen and Falha. “Relations between us and the Alawite villages were always peaceful but some of the Shabiha did come from there,” said Mohammed.
Umm Khaled said of the nearby Alawite communities: “We had no problems with them for a long time, but now we fear them. We don’t want to go near their villages.”
The spectre of sectarian war is increasingly looming over the Syrian uprising, which is being led by the country’s Sunni majority. While Assad retains support from within the Sunni establishment, particularly the merchant class, there are signs that his Sunni backing is beginning to ebb in some quarters. In the past fortnight a leading Sunni brigadier general and family friend of the Assads, Manaf Tlass, as well as a seniordiplomat, Syria’s ambassador to Iraq, have defected. Assad’s support among the Alawite sect, from which the regime has historically drawn its key members, is thought to remain solid. Sections of Syria’s minorities communities, including Christians, Druze and Kurds are increasingly threatened by the uprising, which they believe has strong Islamist undertones.
Syria’s key ally Russia has denounced the massacre, but has not apportioned blame. The US Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, has condemned Damascus. The US and its European allies are urging the UN Security Council to impose sanctions against Syria.
Additional reporting by Hala Kilani and Lubna Naji
The most senior Syrian official to defect from Bashar al-Assad’s regime has told how the “tragic and unbelievable” destruction of his country moved him to join the growing opposition movement.
Nawaf Fares, a former regime hardliner and security chief who was Syria’s ambassador to Iraq, spoke out in an exclusive interview with The Sunday Telegraph yesterday – his first since announcing his dramatic decision to quit last week. As the first senior diplomat to abandon the government, it is thought his departure may pave the way for others to follow, leaving President Assad’s regime even more exposed.
Yesterday, in a wide-ranging interview conducted by telephone from Qatar, where he has now sought refuge, Mr Fares made a series of devastating claims against the Assad regime, which he said was determined to be “victorious” whatever the cost.
* Jihadi units that Mr Fares himself had helped Damascus send to fight US troops in neighbouring Iraq were involved in the string of deadly suicide bomb attacks in Syria
* The attacks were carried on the direct orders of the Assad regime, in the hope that it could blame them on the rebel movement
* President Assad, who had a “violent streak” inherited from his father, was now living “in a world of his own”
Meanwhile, United Nations observers visited the village of Treimsa, in central Hama province, in which up to 200 people are feared to have died on Thursday.
It was precisely such atrocities as these that forced Mr Fares to gradually question his own allegiance to the regime, ending 35 years of loyal service in which he worked as a policeman, regional governor and political security chief, becoming entrusted with some of its most sensitive tasks.
“At the beginning of the revolution, the state tried to convince people that reforms would be enacted very soon,” he said. “We lived on that hope for a while. We gave them the benefit of the doubt, but after many months it became clear to me that the promises of reform were lies. That was when I made my decision. I was seeing the massacres perpetrated – no man would be able to live with himself, seeing what I saw and knowing what I know, to stay in the position.”
Mr Fares’s most damaging allegation is that the Syrian government itself has a hand in the nationwide wave of suicide bombings on government buildings, which have killed hundreds of people and maimed thousands more. By way of example, he cited the twin blasts outside a military intelligence building in the al-Qazzaz suburb of Damascus in May, which killed 55 people and injured another 370.
“I know for certain that not a single serving intelligence official was harmed during that explosion, as the whole office had been evacuated 15 minutes beforehand,” he said. “All the victims were passers by instead. All these major explosions have been have been perpetrated by al-Qaeda through cooperation with the security forces.”
Such allegations have been aired in general terms by the Syrian opposition before, and Mr Fares would not be drawn on what exact proof he had. He is, however, better placed than many to make such claims. One of the reasons for his rise in President Assad’s regime was that he is a senior member of the Oqaydat tribe, a highly powerful clan whose population straddles the Syrian-Iraq border. Following the fall of Saddam Hussein in 2003, their territory became part of the conduit used by Syria to smuggle jihadi volunteers into Iraq, with Mr Fares playing an important role.
“After the invasion of Iraq in 2003, the regime in Syria began to feel danger, and began planning to disrupt the US forces inside Iraq, so it formed an alliance with al-Qaeda,” he said. “All Arabs and other foreigners were encouraged to go to Iraq via Syria, and their movements were facilitated by the Syrian government. As a governor at the time, I was given verbal commandments that any civil servant that wanted to go would have his trip facilitated, and that his absence would not be noted. I believe the Syrian regime has blood on its hands, it should bare responsibility for many of the deaths in Iraq.”
He himself, he added, knew personally of several Syrian government “liaison officers” who still dealt with al-Qaeda. “Al-Qaeda would not carry out activities without knowledge of the regime,” he said. “The Syrian government would like to use al-Qaeda as a bargaining chip with the West – to say: ‘it is either them or us’.”
Mr Fares, who has six grown-up children, said he made his decision to quit five months ago, after a particularly bloody Friday, which has become the regular day for opposition protests. “The number of killings was unusually high that day, especially in my area, and that was the final straw – there was no hope any more,” he said.
Mindful that such a display of disloyalty could lead to reprisals against his family, he slowly began getting his relatives out of the country. He himself was then smuggled out of Baghdad last week by the Syrian opposition. He declines to give details of the operation, but says he made a point of continuing his normal duties up to the last minute so as not to alert the authorities, who he suspected would have been monitoring his phone calls as a diplomat anyway.
Since his defection, he regretted, many cousins within his extended family had been questioned by Syrian intelligence, with some forced into hiding. However, any doubts he had harboured prior to jumping ship had gone after a final visit he made a month ago to his home city of Deir al-Zour, near the Iraqi-Syrian border.
“There was tremendous destruction there and thousands of people had been killed, many of them from my tribe,” he said. “Life in the city was almost non-existent. What I saw there broke my heart, it was tragic and unbelievable, and if people there have not joined the uprising already, they will now. The majority of the tribe, I think, are already on the side of revolution.”
Indeed, the last time he had spoken to President Assad, in a face-to-face meeting six months ago, the Syrian leader had asked him to use his influence in Deir al-Zour, promising him promotion if he did.
“He was saying that we should insist that this is a conspiracy from the West aimed at Syria,” Mr Fares said. “I spoke with the local sheikhs and leaders, but the people’s response was that you cannot trust Assad.
“I think he does believe it is a conspiracy against him, but he is now living in a world of his own.”
However, on the question of whether Mr Assad was directing the violence personally, Mr Fares was equivocal. On the one hand, he claimed the Syrian leader was being “led” by powerful members within his own family, and also his Russian backers. On the other, he pointed out that President Assad’s late father, Hafez, had been equally ruthless during his rule, which included the massacre of more than 10,000 people during a Muslim Brotherhood uprising in the city of Hama in 1982.
“Bashar doesn’t strike you as being extremely intelligent, he seems to be someone who is led rather than who leads. But nobody has the ability to carry out these decisions except him, and he definitely has the genes of his father, who was a criminal by all accounts. This is what he grew up with, this is the hallmark of the family.”
Like President Assad, Mr Fares now faces an uncertain future. To the regime, which formally sacked him from his job last week, he is now a traitor and a marked man. To the opposition, meanwhile, he is a boost to morale but not necessarily someone who can be entirely trusted.
In his message announcing his defection last week, he urged other diplomats to follow in his wake. Yet his own familiarity with the workings of Syria’s police state means he knows that they will most likely keep their plans to themselves. “These things are extremely sensitive so I don’t know of others planning to defect. Sometimes you are frightened someone will hear if you think it yourself.”
Syria’s defected Baghdad envoy criticises Iraq’s Maliki: The Daily Star?