Saturday 18 February 2012
Syrian Uprising 2011 Information Centre: SUMMARY (18/02/2012): While China’s envoy was meeting with Assd in Damascus, his forces were on the streets attacking thousands of mourners. Across Syria at least 23 martyrs fell. Iran has sent a destroyer to the port of Tartus and the US has said that it is flying drones over Syria collecting information about the crackdown. The bombardment of Baba Amru and other areas of Homs has now been going on for more than 2 weeks – we are worried about what may be coming next. Syria – Saturday 18/02/2012 – Google Maps
Bilal Taweleh, 17 years old from Mezzeh in Damascus. He was killed on 17/02/2012 when Assad’s forces attacked protesters.
DAMASCUS (18/02/2012): This is the funeral of Friday’s martyrs in Mezzeh district in the west of Damascus. They praised God and also chanted in support of Homs. The regime does not tolerate large unauthorised gatherings in the capital so inevitably the funeral was attacked – at least 2 martyrs have fallen with dozens arrested.
Damascus (Mezzeh) 18/02/2012
CNN’s Arwa Damon reports from Baba Amru in Homs, which has now been bombarded for 2 weeks.
“Conditions are desperate. Restricted by seemingly constant shelling and gunfire outside, they don’t have any medicine, let alone the ability to get to a hospital. Children are getting sick, and one woman recently gave birth there. They have little food – some lentils and rice and a little bread.”
Inside Syria: Supplies, hope run low in bunker where hundreds hide
The Syrian Days Of Rage – English: ?(02-18-2012) Hameh | #Damascus | Anti-regime protests – Free #Syria
(02-18-2012) Hameh | Damascus | Anti-regime protests – Free Syria
Aleppo: Atareb: Tanks at the Village Entrance:
Qamishlo and English Speakers to Help The Syrian Revolution: Deyrik City -A protest in Deerk city by the Kurdish National Council. More than 10,000 protestors continued their demonstration even while it was raining. A banner said:”Homs you are in our hearts” http://www.youtube.com/
[local time] 22:00 Iraq is taking measures to secure its border with Syria against weapons smuggling and the unauthorized movement of people, Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki’s office said in a statement on Saturday.
21:18 Syrian security forces’ gunfire killed 35 on Saturday, Al-Jazeera quoted activists as saying, adding that 18 of those killed were in Aleppo.
19:49 Syrian security forces’ gunfire killed 17 on Friday, Al-Jazeera quoted activists as saying, adding that Aleppo’s neighborhood of Atarib was under shelling.
14:40 The Syrian army is shelling houses in the Daraa village of Basra al-Harir village, Al-Jazeera television quoted activists as saying.
14:13 Syrian security forces have killed six people on Saturday, Al-Arabiya television quoted the General Commission of the Syrian Revolution as saying.
14:12 Al-Arabiya television is broadcasting live footage of a Syrian protest in the Daraa town of Al-Hama.
13:27 A group called the Commission for Protecting Citizens announced Saturday that it was forming a new “resistance brigade” to protect the Syrian people, Al-Arabiya television reported.
13:12 Syrian security forces are massively deployed in Damascus district to prevent protests, Al-Arabiya television quoted the General Commission of the Syrian Revolution as saying.
12:57 A “good number” of unmanned US military and intelligence drones are operating in the skies over Syria, monitoring the Syrian military’s attacks against opposition forces and civilians, NBC News reported.
12:23 Syrian security forces opened fire on Saturday on a huge crowd gathered for the funerals of demonstrators killed in rare protests in the capital, an activist spokesperson in Damascus province told AFP.
12:08 Anti-regime protests took place in Damascus’ Mezzeh neighborhood following the funerals of five people killed by security forces in the area on Friday, Al-Jazeera television reported.
11:40 British Ambassador to Lebanon Tom Fletcher in comments published Saturday said that issue of “recognizing the Syrian National Council is under discussion.”
10:30 Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Zhai Jun called on all sides in Syria to stop the violence and elections to go ahead peacefully after Damascus talks with President Bashar al-Assad Saturday, state media said.
10:04 Syrian forces are raiding many villages in Daraa and dozens of civilians have been killed, Al-Jazeera television quoted activists as saying.
7:36 EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton denounced the arrest of blogger Razan Ghazzawi, rights campaigner Mazen Darwish and several other Syrian activists, calling Friday for their immediate release.
7:30 Swedish mobile live video streaming site Bambuser said Friday its services had been blocked in Syria shortly after a user had broadcast a bombing in Homs thought to have been carried out by President Bashar al-Assad’s regime.
Syrian troops have fired on mourners during a funeral that turned into a demonstration in Damascus, killing at least one person, activists say.
The shooting occurred at a funeral for people killed during a protest against President Bashar al-Assad on Friday.
The violence comes during a visit by a Chinese envoy, who urged dialogue in a bid to defuse the 11-month crisis.
State TV quoted him as saying he backed government plans for a referendum on a new constitution followed by elections.
The opposition has called for a boycott of the 26 February referendum, saying it cannot be held as violence continues.
Appeal for calm
Activists say there was a huge turnout for Saturday’s funeral in the Mezzeh district on the western edge of Damascus. Mourners were burying three youths shot dead during protests following Friday prayers.
The funeral procession turned into one of the biggest demonstrations the capital has seen, with thousands of people chanting slogans calling for an end to the Assad regime.
According to activists, security forces opened fire, killing at least one protester and injuring several others.Zhai Jun said that “a nation cannot develop without stability”
Despite the current crackdown, there were similar protests after Friday prayers in many parts of the country.
Opposition activists say government forces on Saturday renewed their bombardment of the restive central city of Homs.
The violence came after Chinese envoy Zhai Jun held talks with President Assad in Damascus.
Syrian TV quoted Mr Zhai as saying: “The position of China is to call on the government, the opposition and the rebels to halt acts of violence immediately.
“We hope that the referendum on a new constitution as well as the forthcoming parliamentary elections pass off calmly.”
After the meeting, Mr Assad was quoted as saying: “What Syria is facing is fundamentally an effort to divide it and affect its geopolitical place and historic role in the region.”
China was one of the nations that voted against a recent UN General Assembly resolution calling on Mr Assad to stop his 11-month crackdown on dissent and step down.
Beijing, along with Moscow, has insisted outsiders cannot force regime change in Syria.
Opposition activists said government forces were continuing their two-week rocket and artillery attack on the opposition stronghold of Baba Amr in Homs on Saturday.
Activist Mohammad al-Homsi told Reuters news agency: “Troops have closed in on Baba Amr and the bombardment is mad, but I don’t know if they are willing to storm the neighbourhood while it is snowing.
“There is no electricity and communications between districts are cut, so we are unable to get a death toll.”
The BBC’s Jim Muir in neighbouring Lebanon says the Syrian government clearly wants to quell all armed resistance and seal its borders to prevent supplies to the opposition.
Meanwhile the human rights group Amnesty International said it had obtained new evidence of torture being used by Syrian forces against opponents.
Amnesty researcher Neil Sammonds said one man told him that part of his hand was blown off with explosives after he refused to pray to a photograph of President Assad.
Other Syrians at a camp in Jordan said detainees were subjected to protracted beatings. One prisoner said he had been forced to witness the rape of another male detainee.
Syria restricts access to foreign media and it is often not possible to verify some reports and casualty figures.
Human rights groups say more than 7,000 people have died throughout Syria since last March.
The government says at least 2,000 members of the security forces have been killed combating “armed gangs and terrorists”.
Syrian security forces fired on a huge protest against President Bashar al-Assad in Damascus on Saturday, soon after a Chinese envoy had appealed for a halt to 11 months of violence, opposition activists said.
The shooting took place at the funerals of three youths killed on Friday in an anti-Assad protest that was one of the biggest in the capital since a nationwide uprising started.
“They started firing at the crowd right after the burial,” said a witness, speaking to Reuters in Amman by telephone.
People tried to flee and seek shelter in alleyways, he said.
The opposition Syrian Revolution Coordination Union said the gunfire near the cemetery had killed one mourner and wounded four, including a woman who was hit in the head. A shopkeeper told Reuters many protesters were arrested.
For graphic of Homs link.reuters.com/tuc56s
Up to 30,000 demonstrators had taken to the streets in the capital’s Mezze district, near the headquarters of Airforce Intelligence and that of the ruling Baath Party, witnesses said.
Footage of the funeral broadcast on the Internet showed women ululating to honor the victims. Mourners shouted: “We sacrifice our blood, our soul for you martyrs. One, one, one, the Syrian people are one.”
YouTube footage from another Damascus suburb, Douma, showed several thousand protesters at the funerals of two people said to have been killed there by security forces. The bodies were carried though a sea of mourners waving pre-Baath Syrian flags.
Assad described the turmoil racking Syria as a ploy to split the country.
“What Syria is facing is fundamentally an effort to divide it and affect its geopolitical place and historic role in the region,” he was quoted by Syrian state television as saying after meeting Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Zhai Jun.
Zhai appealed for an end to violence from all sides, including the government and opposition forces. But his comments for the most part amounted to a show of support against world condemnation of Assad’s crackdown on the popular uprising.
The envoy said China backed Assad’s plan for a referendum on February 26 followed by multi-party elections to resolve the crisis. The opposition and the West have dismissed the plan as a sham.
“China supports the path of reform taking place in Syria and the important steps that have been taken in this respect,” he said.
The Chinese Embassy said Zhai held separate meetings with moderate opposition figures Qadri Jamil, Louay Hussein and Hassan Abdulazim, but gave no details.
“We told the Chinese envoy that most of the opposition accept a dialogue if that dialogue is serious and responsible, meaning that the Syrian authorities would implement what is agreed. But the problem with dialogue is that the authorities have lost credibility,” Hussein told Reuters.
Beijing and Moscow have been Assad’s most important international defenders during the crackdown which has killed several thousand people and divided world powers. The United Nations, the United States, Europe, Turkey and Arab powers want Assad to step down and have condemned the ferocious repression.
Russia and China vetoed a U.N. Security Council resolution on February 4 calling on Assad to quit and also voted against a similar, non-binding General Assembly resolution on Thursday.
BOMBING THE OPPOSITION
In other strife across the country, government forces bombarded the opposition stronghold of Homs on Saturday.
A blanket of snow covered Homs, strategically sited on the road between Damascus and the commercial hub Aleppo, as rockets and artillery pounded mainly Sunni Muslim rebel districts.
The troops were close to Baba Amro, a southern neighborhood that has been target of the heaviest barrages since the offensive began two weeks ago, activists said.
“There is no electricity and communications between districts are cut, so we are unable to get a death toll. There is no fuel in most of the city,” activist Mohammad al-Homsi said from Homs.
The military has also opened a new offensive in Hama, a city with a bloody history of resistance to Assad’s late father Hafez, who died in 2000 after 30 years in power.
Assad, who belongs the Alawite sect, an offshoot of Shi’ite Islam, in a majority Sunni country, says he is fighting foreign-backed terrorists.
The uprising began with civilian protests in March, but now includes a parallel armed struggle led by the loosely organized Free Syria Army, made up of army deserters and local insurgents.
Syria’s other significant ally is Iran, itself at odds with the West.
An Iranian destroyer and a supply ship sailed through the Suez canal this week and are believed to be on their way to the Syrian coast, a source in the canal authority said.
Iraq said on Saturday it had reinforced security along its Syrian border to prevent arms smuggling after reports that fighters and weapons were crossing into Syria.
“Necessary measures have been taken to consolidate control over the borders with Syria which is witnessing turbulence that encourages infiltration and all kinds of smuggling, especially arms,” Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki’s office said.
Iraq’s Shi’ites fear that if Assad fell, hardline Sunnis could come to power, a shift which could threaten their newly-acquired dominance since the 2003 U.S.-led invasion.
The West is concerned that the conflict is sliding towards a civil war that could spread across the region’s patchwork of ethnic, religious and political rivalries.
But it has ruled out Libya-style military intervention, instead imposing sanctions and urging a fragmented opposition, which includes activists inside Syria, armed rebels and politicians in exile, to present a common front against Assad.
Tunisia, which is hosting a meeting on Syria next week, said on Friday Arab countries would encourage the opposition to unite before they would recognize them as a government-in-waiting.