Saturday 18 August 2012
Syrian Observatory for Human Rights: 6.30pm UK time: Approximately 140 Syrians have been reported, and verified, as dead so far today (Saturday 18/8/2012).
-In Idlib province 1 civilian was killed by the bombardment on Barisha.
-In Reef Dimashq 1 civilian from the town of al-Dumeir was killed by extreme torture after being detained by regime forces.
-In Damascus 1 civilian died from wounds in the Hajar al-Aswad neighbourhood.
***No less than 40 bodies were found in the al-Tel area of Reef Dimashq today, the bodies are unidentified and they are all male. The al-Tel area was heavily bombarded for several days, followed by the military and security forces storming the area 3 days ago.***
30 Rebel fighters:
Dera’a province: 12 rebel fighters were killed during clashes with regime forces, and by the bombardment, in the city of al-Hirak.
Deir Izzor province: 9 rebels killed. 3 rebel fighters were killed as a result of the clashes with regime forces in the town of al-Khareeta, Reef Deir Izzor. 6 rebel fighters were killed by the clashes in the city of al-Mayadeen.
Aleppo province: 5 rebel fighters, including a rebel commander, were killed during clashes in the Salaheddin neighbourhood.
Homs province: a rebel fighter was killed during clashes in the Khaldiya neighbourhood.
Idlib province: 1 rebel fighter was killed when a rocket fell close to him in the city of Saraqib.
Reef dimashq: A rebel fighter was killed by the regime bombardment on the Sayyeda Zeinab neighbourhood.
Damascus: 1 rebel fighter was killed byregime fire after they stormed the Hajar al-Aswad neighbourhood today.
A defected lieutenant and a defected sergeant were killed during clashes in Reef Deir Izzor. 2 defected soldiers were killed during clashes in Damascus and Reef Idlib.
No less than 34 members of the syrian armed forces were killed when their vehicles were exploded and by clashes in the provinces of Deir Izzor, Aleppo, Dera’a and Damascus.
Kurdish youth coordinators union in Syria asked Syrian and Kurdish people to leave Lebanon after kidnapping of Kurdish youth in Lebanon by armed gangs.
Here is a short interview with Dr Abdul Rahman al-Attar, president of the Syrian Arab Red Crescent, describing the losses his organization has suffered and the consequences this has for the Syrian population it is struggling to help.
[local time] 21:18 The Syrian forces are violently shelling the district of Damascus, Al-Arabiya quoted activists as saying.
20:57 Syrian security forces killed 148 people on Saturday, most of them in the Damascus district, Al-Arabiya quoted activists as saying.
20:20 The Syrian army and rebels are clashing in the Damascus neighborhood of Al-Qadam, activists were quoted by Al-Arabiya as saying.
17:18 The death toll in Syria has risen to 119 people killed by security forces, Al-Arabiya quoted activists as saying.
15:42 Syria’s death toll increased to 100 people killed by the Syrian regime forces, Al-Arabiya quoted activists as saying.
15:05 Forty bodies were found under the wreckage in the town of Al-Tall near Damascus, Al-Jazeera quoted activists as saying.
14:15 The death toll in Syria rose to 91 on Saturday, Al-Arabiya quoted activists as saying.
13:53 Syrian Vice President Faruq al-Shara is one of the last vestiges of the regime’s old guard and the most powerful Sunni Muslim figure in Bashar al-Assad’s inner circle.
13:43 Saturday’s death toll in Syria reached 47, Al-Arabiya quoted activists as saying.
13:25 Syrian security forces shelled Homs’ Rastan, Al-Jazeera reported.
13:18 Rebels belonging to the Free Syrian Army clashed with regime forces in Al-Masharqa in Aleppo, Al-Jazeera quoted activists as saying.
12:46 The European Union on Saturday pledged to support Lakhdar Brahimi as the new international mediator on the Syria conflict in his “immensely challenging task.”
12:35 Russia welcomed the new international envoy for the conflict in Syria and said it expected him build on the work of predecessor Kofi Annan, the foreign ministry said in a statement Saturday.
12:22 The conflict in Syria is a struggle between the United States and Iran whose outcome will decide whether the Middle East follows the path of an Iran-inspired Islamic movement or US influence, a top Iranian official said on Saturday.
12:19 Syrian Vice President Faruq al-Shara has not defected, state television said on Saturday, citing a statement from his office after media reports that he had fled.
12:19 Syrian state TV on Saturday morning denied reports that the country’s vice president, Farouq Shara, has defected.
12:11 Syrian regime forces clashed with Free Syrian Army rebels near the military airport in Aleppo, Al-Jazeera quoted activists as saying.
11:37 Syrian regime forces heavily shelled Al-Mayadeen in Deir az-Zour, Al-Jazeera quoted activists as saying.
11:11 Syrian security forces shelled the town of Al-Herak in Daraa, Al-Jazeera reported.
10:57 Syrian regime forces killed 24 people Saturday, mostly in Aleppo and Damascus district, Al-Arabiya quoted activists as saying.
7:26 New UN-Arab League envoy Lakhdar Brahimi said Friday he is not confident that he will be able to help bring an end to the Syria conflict.
7:24 An AFP feature story details Islamist Jihadists from outside Syria entering the country to fight its regime.
7:24 China on Saturday welcomed the naming of Lakhdar Brahimi as the new international envoy for the conflict in Syria, vowing support and cooperation for his mission after he replaced Kofi Annan.
BBC: Brahimi welcomed as Syria envoy
The US, Russia, Syria and others welcome the appointment of veteran Algerian diplomat Lakhdar Brahimi as the new international envoy to Damascus.
US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Washington was ready to support Mr Brahimi, and Russia said it was ready for “close interaction”.
Syrian Vice-President Farouq al-Shara is quoted as welcoming the appointment.
The 78-year-old succeeds Kofi Annan who resigned this month as his peace plan had failed to achieve a real ceasefire.
Meanwhile Syrian forces have launched new air and artillery strikes on rebel-held areas, in particular in the northern city of Aleppo, the pro-rebel Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.
Fighting was also reported in various areas of the city. Homs in central Syria and Herak and Deraa in the south were subjected to bombardment, the Observatory added.
Syria’s state-run media said that government troops in Aleppo had repulsed attacks by rebel forces near the airport on Friday.
Mrs Clinton said Mr Brahimi “will continue the pursuit of an end to the conflict and a peaceful transition in Syria”.
“My message to special envoy Brahimi is simple: The United States stands ready to support you and secure a lasting peace that upholds the legitimate aspirations for a representative government of the people of Syria,” she said.
Russia said it was “ready for close interaction with the new special representative … with the aim of overcoming the crisis in Syria”.
But its Foreign Minister, Sergey Lavrov was quoted by Russian media as saying that Mr Brahimi’s efforts would be ineffective without a ceasefire.
“Political dialogue will not start, at least these efforts will not lead to a final result if violence does not cease. And that does not depend on Brahimi,” he said.
The European Union also offered its full support, and China promised to “co-operate positively” with Mr Brahimi.
And in Syria, itself, Mr Shara’s spokesman told the BBC he had welcomed the appointment and supported Mr Brahimi’s insistence on obtaining a unified position in the UN Security Council.
Abdul Salam Hijab also denied recent rumours that Mr Shara, the most senior Sunni Muslim in the Damascus regime, had defected to the opposition and left the country.
Mr Brahimi, whose appointment came a day after the UN called an end to its military observer mission, has held a long series of high-profile diplomatic posts, notably as the UN’s top envoy in Afghanistan in 1996-8 and 2001-4.
Analysts say he has a formidable reputation at the UN but is also seen as independent of the major powers.
Announcing his resignation earlier this month, Mr Annan had said he was unable to fulfil his role because of the growing militarisation of the conflict, as well as deadlock in the UN Security Council.
Russia and China have vetoed resolutions on the crisis three times, citing their opposition to any action which might be seen as regime change imposed from outside.
Co-operation from the Syrians was essential in order to find a peaceful resolution, Mr Brahimi told the BBC.
But he also insisted diplomatic efforts should not be abandoned.
“I might very well fail but we sometimes are lucky and we can get a breakthrough,” he said.
Activists estimate about 20,000 people have died since anti-government protests erupted against the Assad regime in March last year. Tens of thousands of people have also fled the country
Syria denied reports on Saturday that President Bashar al-Assad’s deputy had defected and its forces pursued an offensive against rebels, bombarding parts of Aleppo in the north and attacking an insurgent-held town in the oil-producing east.
Vice-President Farouq al-Shara “never thought for a moment about leaving the country”, said a statement from his office broadcast on state television in response to reports that the veteran Baath Party loyalist had tried to defect to Jordan.
Assad, battling a 17-month-old rebellion led by Syria’s Sunni Muslim majority that has escalated into civil war, has suffered a string of defections including by his prime minister Riyadh Hijab two weeks ago.
Shara, whose cousin – an intelligence officer – announced his own defection on Thursday, is a Sunni Muslim from Deraa province where the revolt began against Assad, a member of the minority Alawite sect that is an offshoot of Shi’ite Islam.
The 73-year-old former foreign minister kept a low profile as the rebellion mushroomed but appeared in public last month at a state funeral for three of Assad’s top security officials killed in a bomb attack in Damascus.
The statement said he had worked since the start of the uprising to find a peaceful, political solution and welcomed the appointment of Algerian diplomat Lakhdar Brahimi as a new international mediator for Syria.
Brahimi, who hesitated for days before accepting a job that France’s U.N. envoy Gerard Araud called an “impossible mission”, will replace former U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan, who is leaving at the end of the month in frustration over jostling among world powers that undermined his peace mandate.
Annan’s six-point plan to stop the violence and advance towards political negotiations was based on an April ceasefire agreement which never took hold. The conflict has deepened since then with both sides stepping up attacks.
Assad’s forces have resorted increasingly to air power to hold back lightly armed insurgents in the capital Damascus and Aleppo, a northern commercial hub. More than 18,000 people have died in the bloodshed and about 170,000 have fled the country, according to the United Nations.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the army bombarded neighborhoods in Aleppo, Syria’s largest city. Rebels hold several districts in the country’s northern commercial hub and have tried to push back an army counter-offensive.
State television said soldiers “cleared terrorists and mercenaries” – terms used by authorities to describe Assad’s armed opponents – from the western district of Saif al-Dawla, where some of the heaviest fighting has taken place.
Internet footage which activists said was filmed in Saif al-Dawla on Saturday showed a plane making a low pass over buildings and dropping two bombs.
“They were defeated (in Damascus). They will be defeated very soon in Aleppo,” Deputy Foreign Minister Faisal Mekdad told Sky News in Damascus. Mekdad also denied the “absolutely scandalous” reports of Shara’s defection.
The White House said it had seen reports of Shara’s defection but could not confirm them.
“At this point, whether or not those reports are true, we have seen in the last several weeks the increasing isolation of the Assad regime,” White House spokesman Josh Earnest said to reporters traveling with U.S. President Barack Obama on Air Force One. Brahimi had Washington’s support, he added.
The Observatory also said at least 20 armored vehicles moved into the eastern town of Mayadeen in Deir al-Zor province, where Syria’s 200,000 barrels per day of oil are produced.
More than 130 people were killed in Syria on Saturday, it said, including 15 in Deir al-Zor.
In the town of Tel, north of Damascus, local activists said the bodies of 40 people killed by bombardment were gathered together for a joint burial. A picture showed what appeared to be several corpses wrapped in colorful blankets on a street.
BRAHIMI WARNS ON U.N. SUPPORT FOR MISSION
Brahimi will have a new title, Joint Special Representative for Syria. Diplomats said this was to distance him from Annan, who complained that his peaceful transition plan was crippled by divisions between Western powers – who want Assad out – and Russia, his most important ally – in the U.N. Security Council.
Describing the situation in Syria as “absolutely terrible”, Brahimi told Reuters he urgently needed to clarify what support the United Nations can give him and said it was too soon to say whether Assad should step down – in contrast to Annan who said it was clear the Syrian leader “must leave office”.
“It’s much too early for me to say. I don’t know enough about what is happening,” Brahimi said. He had not yet held any talks with Assad but said he would meet him and the country’s opposition leaders as soon as the time was right.
Syrian opposition figure Haitham al-Maleh said Brahimi had no more chance of success than Annan’s doomed mission.
“The same way the Syrian regime caused the Arab monitors mission, international monitors delegation and Kofi Annan’s initiative to fail, they will cause the failure of Lakhdar Brahimi,” he said at the inauguration of the Cairo headquarters of the Council for the Syrian Revolution.
The last U.N. observers who deployed in Syria four months ago to monitor Annan’s failed ceasefire will leave after midnight on Sunday, when their mandate expires.
They will leave a “liaison office” open in Damascus after their departure, though its size and role have not been finalized, a U.N. spokeswoman said.
The head of the departing U.N. Supervision Mission in Syria, General Babacar Gaye, criticized both government forces and rebels for failing to meet obligations to protect civilians.
“The comfort for me is that the United Nations will stay in the country,” he told reporters in Damascus. “The United Nations is committed to ending violence, committed to triggering dialogue between the parties.”
Humanitarian conditions in Syria have deteriorated as fighting worsens, cutting off civilians from food supplies, health care and other assistance, U.N. agencies say. Sewage-contaminated water has led to a diarrhoea outbreak in the countryside around Damascus, with 103 suspected cases.
(Additional reporting by Mirna Sleiman in Dubai, Ayat Basma in Beirut, Tamim Elyan and Ayman Samir in Cairo, Karolin Schaps in London and Matt Spetalnick in Air Force One; Editing by Mark Heinrich and Andrew Heavens)
Turkey has begun handing out food and other humanitarian aid to Syrians right on their common border as the worsening conflict in Syriamakes aid distribution there increasingly difficult, Turkey’s disaster and emergency body said on Saturday.
The move coincides with a sharp increase in the number of Syrians fleeing the fighting in the 17-month-old uprising against President Bashar al-Assad, taking the total in Turkey to nearly 70,000 and challenging its ability to cope.
The humanitarian situation in Syria has deteriorated as fighting escalates, cutting off civilians from food supplies, health care and other assistance, aid agencies say.
“The distribution of humanitarian aid by our country right on the border with Syria has begun,” Turkey’s Disaster and Emergency Management Directorate (AFAD) said in a statement.
Turkey has told the United Nations of the new practice and has opened a center in its southeastern town of Gaziantep to receive international aid, AFAD said, adding that it needed dried, tinned and baby food, bedding and personal hygiene items.
The Turkish Red Crescent has also set up sites at four places on the border with Syria to receive local donations.
More than 170,000 Syrians have been registered in neighboring countries – Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey – according to the U.N. refugee agency.
Some 1.2 million people are uprooted within Syria, many staying in schools or other public buildings, according to the U.N. regional humanitarian relief coordinator.
There has been a diarrhoea outbreak among residents of Rural Damascus province because the water supply has been contaminated by sewage, the World Health Organisation (WHO) said.
The number of Syrians in Turkey has risen sharply from 44,000 at the end of July, and Ankara is concerned there may be a flood of refugees from the major northern city of Aleppo as the conflict there intensifies.
Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu on Friday welcomed the United Nations’ appointment of Lakhdar Brahimi as the new international mediator on Syria but said he would need consensus in the U.N. Security Council if his mission was to succeed.
Turkey is setting up four new refugee camps to cope with the influx: two in Gaziantep, one in Kahramanmaras and one in Osmaniye. It already has eight tent cities – five in Hatay, two in Sanliurfa and one in Gaziantep – and a camp of prefabricated housing for 12,000 people in Kilis province.
Setting up the new camps would bring the cost of caring for the refugees to around 300 million Turkish lira ($167 million), AFAD said. ($1 = 1.7939 Turkish liras)
(Writing by Daren Butler, editing by Tim Pearce)
Brahimi to firm up role, not urge Assad exit yet: BEIRUT – The Algerian diplomat set to become the new international mediator on Syria has said he urgently needs to clarify what support the United Nations can give him and said it is too early to say whether President Bashar al-Assad should step down.
Lakhdar Brahimi, a veteran diplomat, was speaking a day after the United Nations confirmed he would take over Kofi Annan’s mediation role. Annan, who steps down at the end of the month with his peace plan in tatters, resigned complaining that divisions within the Security Council had hampered his work.
Brahimi made it clear he was acutely aware of the Security Council problem and would therefore need to urgently clarify what support the United Nations can offer him to ensure his mission has a better chance of success.
“When I go to New York I will be asking for lots of things. How to organise ourselves, whom we are going to talk to, (and) what kind of plan we are going to put together,” he told Reuters in a phone interview from Paris on Saturday.
“We will start discussing all this, what kind of support I will get and what kind of support I will need to try and do this job,” he added.
Brahimi takes over the role – described as an “impossible mission” by a senior French diplomat – at a time when fighting between government forces and rebels is in full swing with no sign of an imminent ceasefire.
More than 18,000 people have been killed and some 170,000 have so far fled the country, according to the United Nations.
Yet the Security Council remains deeply divided with Russia and Chinavetoing sanctions on Assad, arguing that the West is seeking to topple the Syrian government. The three other permanent members of the Council – the United States, Britain and France – all favour tough action however.
Brahimi said he would head to New York as early as next week to officially accept his mission and will later go on to Cairo to meet Arab League chief Nabil Elaraby.
He conceded that the problems Annan had faced had given him pause for thought.
“I’ve been struggling with the very principle of getting on such a mission and I’ve been discussing with the United Nations, with the Secretary General of the United Nations, how they saw this and how I would fit in,” he said.
In a separate interview with France 24 television, Brahimi said he would soon meet with the Security Council.
“We are going to discuss very seriously how they can help,” he said. “They are asking me to do this job. If they don’t support me, there is no job. They are divided, but surely they can unite on something like this and I hope they will.”
Brahimi, 78, served as a U.N. special envoy in Iraq after the U.S. invasion that toppled Saddam Hussein, in Afghanistan, both before and after the end of Taliban rule, and in South Africa as it emerged from the apartheid era.
“TOO EARLY” TO SAY WHETHER ASSAD SHOULD GO
Describing the situation in Syria as “absolutely terrible”, he said he would do his best to find a way of ending the 17-month-old conflict.
“The situation in Syria is dire, the situation is absolutely terrible. You see that on your television screen everyday. Villages and cities seem to be flattened from the bombing,” he said.
“I could not refuse in a situation like this where hundreds and thousands, maybe millions of people are suffering to try and help no matter how difficult the situation is.”
However, he declined to be drawn on whether he thought President Assad should step down – in contrast to Annan who said it was clear the Syrian leader “must leave office”.
“It’s much too early for me to say. I don’t know enough about what is happening,” Brahimi said, when asked whether he would be asking Assad to resign.
He had not yet held any talks with Assad but said he would meet him and the troubled country’s opposition leaders as soon as the time was right.
“That’s another basic principle. Never refuse to talk to anybody, and if for anything, for the understanding of the situation.”
Brahimi, a Nobel Peace laureate, will have a new title, Joint Special Representative for Syria. Diplomats said the change was to distance himself from Annan.
He said he’d been in contact with Annan, a former U.N. Secretary-General, in recent months but declined to comment on why Annan’s mission failed or whether he’d been advised to avoid undertaking certain initiatives.
“I’ve been in touch with him (Annan) throughout his mediation and in fact I spoke to him only yesterday,” he said.
“I can’t comment on his (peace) plan but I can say that we will try to solve this conflict, today is better than tomorrow.”
The United Nations confirmed Brahimi was to become the next mediator as U.N. observers in Syria prepared to withdraw due to the violence.
Brahimi said he would draw on his past experience.
“Now we are talking about Syria. What I have seen elsewhere will be useful to remember, maybe there will be ideas on how to do a few things and ideas on how not to do things,” he said.
“It is the Syrians who will make peace or war, nobody else and we will be there to try to help them as much as they are willing to accept our help.”
(Editing by Andrew Osborn)
Guardian: UN observers leave Syria as mandate expires: 18 Aug 2012: Departure of last 100 monitors under way as humanitarian situation worsens and regime denies Assad deputy has defected
The last 100 out of 300 observers have been departing throughout Saturday – their mandate expires after midnight on Sunday – as their commander spoke of his frustration at being unable to minimise the violence.
General Babacar Gaye said both rebels and government forces were failing to carry out their duty to protect civilians. “Initially the ceasefire was respected, violence decreased and we were able to do our work throughout the country,” he said.
“By the middle of June it was clear that the parties were no longer committed to the ceasefire and the result has been an escalation in violence.”
The departure of the UN observers came as the UN appointed a new mediator to replace Kofi Annan. Lakhdar Brahimi, a veteran Algerian diplomat, has said he does not know how he will carry out his role, although he believes it is too early to say whether President Bashar al-Assad should step down.
Brahimi said he was aware of the divisions in the security council which hastened Annan’s departure and would discuss his objectives this week in New York.
“When I go to New York I will be asking for lots of things. How to organise ourselves, whom we are going to talk to, what kind of plan we are going to put together,” he told Reuters.
Turkey has begun handing out food and other humanitarian aid to Syrians on their shared border, Turkey’s disaster and emergency body said on Saturday.
“The distribution of humanitarian aid by our country right on the border with Syria has begun,” Turkey’s Disaster and Emergency Management Directorate (AFAD) said in a statement.
Turkey has told the United Nations of the new practice and has opened a centre in its south-eastern town of Gaziantep to receive international aid, AFAD said, adding that it needed dried, tinned and baby food, bedding and personal hygiene items.
According to aid agencies, the humanitarian situation in Syria has deteriorated as fighting escalates, cutting off civilians from food supplies, healthcare and other assistance.
The UN refugee agency says that more than 170,000 Syrians have been registered as refugees in neighbouring countries – Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey.
Meanwhile, the Syrian government denied reports on Saturday that President Bashar al-Assad’s deputy Farouq al-Sharaa had tried to defect to Jordan.
The vice-president’s office said he “never thought for a moment about leaving the country”, as government forces pressed an offensive against rebels, bombarding parts of Aleppo in the north and hitting an insurgent-held town in the oil-producing east.
Syrian rebels foil army attempt to take Turkish border gate, as Lakhdar Brahimi becomes new envoy – video
Free Syrian Army fighters attack tanks and helicopters from Bashar al-Assad’s regime near the Turkish border on Friday, foiling an attempt to take over the Bab al-Hawa border gateway. Protesters in Idlib province chance shelling by taking to the streets, and refugees in Turkey express mixed sentiments over the appointment of Lakhdar Brahimi as the new UN and Arab League envoy to Syria
Lakhdar Brahimi tells Channel 4 News he may not succeed where Kofi Annan failed but will “do his best” to halt the 17-month old civil war.
KUNA : Russia welcomes new UN-Arab envoy to Syria: www.kuna.net.kw/ArticleDetails.aspx?id=2258316&language=en