Saturday 22 September 2012
Syrian Observatory for Human Rights: Preliminary death toll for Saturdayy 22/9/2012: More than 136 Syrians have been killed so far today. The dead include: 80 unarmed civilians (8 were children), 20 rebel fighters, 4 defected soldiers, and 32 regular soldiers.
Damascus: 22 corpses were found. Seven in al-Qadam neighborhood, one of whom a young man who had been summarily executed, and six civilians (one of whom unidentified) were summarily executed via live gunfire in the orchards of al-Qadam neighborhood near al-Hajar al-Aswad. Eleven corpses were found in al-Jobar neighborhood, some of which were burnt. And three corpses were found in al-Hajar al-Aswad neighborhood, and one in al-Essali neighborhood.
Homs: 5 civilians and 7 rebel fighters have been killed. A civilian from the neighborhood of Jurat al-Shiyyah has been killed. Two civilians from the Deir Ba’alba neighborhood were killed; one was killed under torture following his detainment by government forces, and the other was killed by armed men working for the regime. Seven people (one civilian and six rebel fighters) died after clashes and bombardment in Talbeeseh, al-Rastan, and the village of al-Dar al-Kabeerah. A civilian was killed after regime forces had stormed the village of al-Shumariyye. A civilian was killed after a mine had exploded in the city of al-Qaseer in Reef Homs. And a rebel fighter was killed following clashes with regime forces in al-Midan neighborhood in Homs.
Daraa: 4 civilians and 3 rebel fighters were killed. A woman died due to wounds she suffered following bombardment on the town of Da’il. A man and his wife were killed following bombardment on the town of Mihje. A civilian was killed due to indiscriminate gunfire by regime forces in the neighborhood of Daraa. Three rebel fighters have been killed following clashes with regime forces in Wadi al-Yarmouk close to the borders with Jordan.
Deir Izzour: Two civilians were killed; one due to bombardment on the town of al-Qouriyye in Reef Deir Izzour, and the other died after the city of Deir Izzour had been shelled.
Idlib: Two civilians were killed by regime gunfire in the city of Idlib, with one of them a worker for the Syrian Red Crescent.
Hama: A civilian from al-Zlaqiyyat village in Reef Hama had been killed by sniper shots in Jobar neighborhood in Damascus.
**Reports were received about several burnt corpses being found in the neighborhoods of al-Arba’een and Misha’ in Hama.**
Latakia: A civilian was killed due to wounds he suffered in Reef Latakia.
Four defected soldiers have been killed. One died due to wounds he suffered in Reef Homs, and the other three died during clashes in western Reef Halab and Reef Dimashq.
A minimum of 32 members of the regime forces have been killed by the shelling of military barracks with mortar shells, attacks on groups of regime forces, exploding of military vehicles, and clashes in Aleppo, Homs, Daraa, Deir Izzour, Reef Dimashq, and Hama.
The National Coordination Body for Democratic Change in Syria can now fully confirm that our kidnapped members are in the hands of the Syrian Airforce Intelligence.
Dr. Abdelaziz al-Khayer -Head of the NCB Foreign Affairs Office-, Iyas A’yash -Member of the NCB Executive Committee and a leading figure of the Arab Socialists Movement-, and Maher Tahan -NCB member- were all arbitrarily detained by the Airforce intelligence while on their way back from the Damascus International Airport, we have been able to reach them since 5:30 Thursday afternoon (20/9/2012).
We at the National Coordination Body hold the Syrian Authority completely responsible for the physical and mental wellbeing of our members. We demand that the Syrian regime free them immediately! Executive Office, National Coordination Body for Democratic Change in Syria
[local time] 21:12 Saturday’s death toll has risen to 180 people, Al-Arabiya quoted activists as saying.
20:57 Troops clashed with rebels near the center of Aleppo on Saturday as snipers sowed panic in Syria’s second city, residents told AFP as monitors reported at least 85 people killed nationwide.
20:22 Syrian regime forces shelled the town of Khan al-Sebel in the Aleppo district, Al-Jazeera reported.
20:21 Syrian rebels shot down a regime warplane in the Idlib district, Reuters reported on Saturday.
19:21 Thirty-five bodies were recovered from under the rubble in the Meshaa al-Arbain neighborhood in Hama, Al-Arabiya quoted activists as saying.
19:17 The death toll in Syria has risen to 153 people on Saturday, Al-Arabiya quoted activists as saying.
17:50 Saturday’s death toll in Syria has reached 85 people, Al-Arabiya quoted activists as saying.
16:21 Sixty-nine people have been killed so far on Saturday across Syria, Al-Arabiya quoted activists as saying.
16:07 Syrian security forces shelled the town Slouk in Al-Raqa for the first time, Al-Arabiya quoted activists as saying.
16:00 Syrian rebels announced that their command center has been transferred from neighboring Turkey to inside Syria, in a video posted on Saturday, and added that that next step would be to “liberate” Damascus.
15:58 Syrian security forces executed six members of the same family in the Al-Qadam neighborhood of Damascus, Al-Jazeera quoted activists as saying.
15:22 Syrian regime forces shelled the Tell Abyad border outpost following its withdrawal from the town and the takeover of the rebel Free Syrian Army, Al-Jazeera reported.
15:12 Thirteen people were killed when a bus in Houjayrirt al-Balad in the Damascus district was hit by regime forces’ shelling, Al-Jazeera reported.
14:56 Saturday’s death toll in Syria increased to 38 people, Al-Arabiya quoted activists as saying.
14:13 Eleven Syrian soldiers were killed on Saturday in fighting and rebel attacks on checkpoints in Aleppo province, as shelling killed five members of the same family, monitors said.
14:05 Syrian forces shelled the town of Sir in Tal Al-Abyad in Ar-Raqqa, Al-Jazeera reported.
13:49 Syrian forces shelled Zamlka near Damascus injuring some people, Al-Jazeera reported.
13:13 Jordanian border guards arrested “an armed group” that clashed with them near the Syrian border, Al-Arabiya reported.
12:59 Activists said on Saturday that an explosion rocked Hama, Al-Jazeera reported.
12:27 Syrian rebels attacked a Lebanese army post near the two countries’ common border late Friday, without causing any casualties, the Lebanese military said.
11:55 Syrian security forces killed 16 people on Saturday, Al-Arabiya quoted activists as saying.
11:30 Government forces shelled rebel-held areas of Syria’s second city Aleppo on Saturday, monitors said, as the opposition warned the 18-month conflict had hit a point of “extreme gravity.”
10:09 Syrian forces clashed with Jordanian forces near the area of Sad al-Wahdeh along the Syrian-Jordanian border, Al-Jazeera reported.
8:24 The UN and Arab League leaders on Friday discussed deadlocked efforts to end the Syria war and unrest sweeping the Muslim world over a film mocking Islam, a spokesperson said.
8:13 France is still discussing with allies whether to try to set up a no-fly zone in Syria to help rebels under assault from regime forces, a top French official said Friday.
Reuters: Free Syrian Army rebel leaders move from Turkey to Syria
The rebel Free Syrian Army (FSA) has moved its leadership for the first time from Turkey to parts of Syria that are now controlled by rebels, the group’s commander-in-chief said on Saturday.
The FSA has been based in Turkey for more than a year as fighters have struggled to battle forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad. Although rebels now control large swathes of Syria, they face air and artillery attack from Assad’s forces.“The leadership of the FSA has entered the liberated areas (of Syria) after the success of the plan that the FSA has worked on with other battalions and units in order to safeguard the free areas,” Colonel Riad al-Asaad said in a video statement.
A rebel source close to Asaad said that the colonel arrived in Syria two days ago. “The plan is that all the leadership of the FSA will be based in Syria soon, either in Idlib province or Aleppo province,” the source told Reuters, adding that the move would be completed within two weeks.
The rebels made their announcement on the eve of a conference of several government-sanctioned Syrian opposition groups in the capital Damascus aiming to provide a political solution to the civil war – a meeting which the FSA dismissed as a ploy by Assad to fool the international community.
The FSA is the most prominent of several armed groups fighting to overthrow Assad. In the video, posted on the web, the rebel colonel said his men would “fight side-by-side” with all groups and planned to take Damascus soon.
Despite calling for Assad to step down, the West is wary of arming disparate rebel groups. Western diplomats say they are looking for signs that the rebels have a clear chain of command within Syria.
Turkey, which is housing more than 80,000 refugees from Syria, is facing internal pressure to distance itself from the conflict, and rebels are not always welcomed by residents.
Rebels shot down a fighter jet as it flew over the northern Syrian town of Atarib in Idlib province on Saturday, a witness said.
The witness, an independent journalist who asked to remain anonymous, said rebel fighters were attacking a military base near the town when the jet flew over and rebels shot it down with anti-aircraft guns.
Rebels have previously brought down several government planes using outdated anti-aircraft machine guns welded to pickup trucks.
Activists say more than 27,000 people, mostly civilians, have been killed in the 18-month-old revolt in Syria.
In Damascus, the army has been conducting raids of southern suburbs over the past few days after driving out most rebel fighters. Black smoke rose from the suburb of Hajar al-Aswad on Saturday and residents said their houses had been set ablaze by security forces.
The opposition conference in Damascus on Sunday is organised by the internal opposition’s main umbrella group, the National Coordination Body.
Last July, a similar conference was cancelled after the owner of the venue was threatened by Assad’s forces who fired on a pro-democracy protest outside, killing 14.
Opposition groups say Russia and China, which have blocked Western attempts to secure U.N. sanctions against Assad, have promised to exert influence to protect Sunday’s meeting.
Assad says he accepts some opposition figures who call for a peaceful transition from a one-party state to democratic governance and his allies have pointed to the internal opposition as a sign the president is serious about reform.
The internal opposition, which includes many outspoken critics of Assad who have spent years in jail, has been accused of being too passive by rebel fighters and members of the largely foreign-based Syrian National Council, a political group calling for the international community to arm rebel factions.
A spokesman for the Free Syrian Army in Turkey dismissed the conference, saying Assad’s government “tries always to negotiate with itself”.
“This is not a real opposition in Syria. This opposition is just the other face of the same coin. The FSA would never have any relation with these groups,” he told Reuters by telephone.
“It is just a silly plot to mislead the international community to think there is a negotiation in place. They cannot be successful in finding an end to the civil war.”
(Additional reporting by Mariam Karouny and Michael Shields in Vienna; Editing by Pravin Char)
BBC: Free Syrian Army ‘move command centre inside Syria’ and video
The rebel Free Syrian Army (FSA) has announced that it has moved its command centre from Turkey to “liberated areas” inside Syria.
A video posted on YouTube appeared to show the leader of the FSA, Riad al-Asaad, confirming the move.
Gen Asaad does not say in the video when the move took place, or where in Syria the FSA’s new headquarters are.
The FSA is the most prominent of the armed groups fighting to overthrow the regime of President Bashar al-Assad.
Thousands of Syrians have died since the initially peaceful uprising began in March 2011, with activist groups putting the toll at over 25,000.
The FSA’s move into Syria was made the previous week and “aimed to unite all rebel groups”, Brig Gen Mustafa al-Sheikh of the FSA’s military council told the Associated Press news agency.
The video which appears to show Gen Asaad announcing the move is entitled Communique Number One From The Inside.
In it, he says that the relocation had happened “after successful arrangements the FSA made earlier in collaboration with the combat battalions and brigades to secure liberated areas”.
Gen Asaad adds the capital, Damascus, will be “liberated soon, God willing” but also rejects the idea that the FSA is seeking to replace the current regime.
The Syrian people must agree on any new government, he says.
The move is significant as the FSA has previously been criticised for leading from Turkey and being out of touch with realities on the ground, the BBC’s Jim Muir in Beirut reports.
It now seems the FSA has territory it feels is reliably under their control, he adds.
The new command centre, in a secret location, will clearly be highly vulnerable to air attack by the regime – something that could increase pressure for some kind of international air cover for the “liberated areas”, our correspondent says.
Meanwhile, in the northern Syrian city of Aleppo, a government offensive against districts where rebels have been operating has reportedly been continuing.
Graphic footage posted online on Saturday appears to show the aftermath of an airstrike in the Al-Missar quarter of the city.
Residents are shown trying to pull dead bodies from the rubble, including those of two young children.
The UK-based opposition group the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said at nine people had died in a strike in Al-Missar.
The city has been the scene of rebel activity and heavy government bombardment for weeks.
Fighting was also reported by the Observatory between rebels and government forces in the western part of Aleppo province.
The Local Co-ordination Committees (LCC), a network of anti-government activists based inside Syria, said 66 people had been killed in and around Damascus on Saturday, where clashes between rebels and government forces have also been raging in recent weeks.
The LCC put the toll in Aleppo on Saturday at 47.
Also on Saturday, the Lebanese military said FSA rebels had attacked a Lebanese army border post near the town of Arsal.
The Lebanese army said in a statement that this was the second time in less than a week that the FSA had infiltrated Lebanese territory. Military reinforcements have now been moved to the area.
Analysis:Jim Muir BBC News, Beirut
The move by the FSA command to set up shop inside Syria is significant for several reasons.
It implies confidence that rebel control of “liberated areas” in the north of the country is stable enough for it to be able to direct operations from there.
It also implies a greater degree of unity among the somewhat disparate elements that make up the armed opposition, and could boost that unification process. In Aleppo, a joint Military Council has already been formed, embracing the main fighting groups.
The FSA announcement also made much of the fact that while outside the country, the command had been under heavy pressures from various international and regional powers. Presumably it will now feel more independent – though supply lines across the Turkish and other borders will still be vital.
The move should also enhance the credibility of the FSA command, which had been criticised for being comfortably outside the country and out of touch with the situation on the ground.