Saturday 28 April 2012
Douma: The regime’s army barged into city by tanks:
Douma: barged into city by tanks . Saturday, April 28
We are all Hamza Alkhateeb via English Speakers to Help The Syrian Revolution: Unbelievable, indescribable destruction of OLD HOMS by the Regime’s rockets and artillery… to pretend this is the result of armed gangs just shows the delusional state of mind of the regime.
Morning Demonstration in Kafarsejneh Town in Idlib
27.4.2012: Minister for the Middle East and North Africa Alistair Burt has commented on the ongoing violence in Syria.
Speaking today, he said:
“The UK is deeply concerned by the reprehensible violence we continue to see perpetrated by the Assad regime in Syria. Despite the ceasefire, such violence continues at unacceptable levels, with women and children among those losing their lives. UN monitors have reported the continued presence of heavy weapons and troops in Syria’s cities and that civilians speaking to them have subsequently been subjected to regime retribution. The cycle of violence in Syria is extremely worrying: today there are reports of a suicide bombing in Damascus.
“As the UN Secretary General said yesterday, the Syrian government is now in contravention of an international peace plan which was agreed unanimously in two UN Security Council Resolutions. The regime must urgently meet its obligations under these resolutions as well as implement in full Annan’s six point plan, including a political transition. If the regime does not do so and Annan cannot make progress we will return to the UNSC to discuss immediate and robust action. We continue to urge the opposition to adhere to the ceasefire and also to work with Joint UN-Arab League Envoy Kofi Annan on a political transition.”
[local time] 20:22 The Syrian army on Saturday shelled the area of Bastara near Damascus, Al-Jazeera television quoted the General Commission of the Syrian Revolution as saying.
18:13 Russia on Saturday said it backed delivering a “decisive rebuff” to “terrorists” operating in Syria a day after state television reported 11 people killed in a bomb blast outside a Damascus mosque.
17:56 Official Syrian newspapers accused UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon on Saturday of “encouraging terrorists” and UN-Arab envoy Kofi Annan of failing to deliver on his promises.
16:31 The Syrian army on Saturday raided the Harasta suburb of Damascus, Al-Jazeera television quoted the General Commission of the Syrian Revolution as saying.
16:16 The Foreign Ministry on Saturday accused Turkey of provocation with its talk of asking NATO to help protect its border with Syria, saying such action went against the UN-backed peace plan.
15:53 Syrian forces on Saturday surrounded the Damascus neighborhood of Baraza in an attempt to raid it, Al-Arabiya television quoted the Syrian Centre for Media Freedom and Expression as saying.
15:35 Syrian forces on Saturday killed 17 people, Al-Arabiya television quoted the Local Coordination Committees as saying.
11:54 Syrian regular forces surrounded the town of Yabroud near Damascus, Al-Arabiya reported.
11:05 Syria troops killed 10 rebels in the Damascus region on Saturday, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.
9:22 Iran on Saturday condemned a deadly suicide bombing in Damascus, charging that such “terrorist actions” were the work of foreign governments that wanted to arm the Syrian opposition.
8:01 The European Union said Friday it was “extremely concerned” about continuing violence in Syria in violation of a ceasefire and in spite of the presence of UN monitors on the ground.
7:47 The United Nations on Friday put Major General Robert Mood of Norway, a veteran of troublesome truces, in charge of the force monitoring the faltering ceasefire in Syria.
Reuters: Rebel rivalry and suspicions threaten Syria revolt
Rebel fighter Mustafa and his trio of burly men look out of place at a trendy Turkish cafe near the Syrian border, dressed in tattered jeans and silently puffing on cigarettes as they scoop into tall ice-cream sundaes.
Their battleground is across the frontier in Syria, where they are fighting to topple President Bashar al-Assad. But like many rebels in northern Syria, they are so desperate for weapons and money, they are searching for new donors in Turkey.
“When it comes to getting weapons, every group knows they are on their own,” says the 25-year-old with a patchy beard. “It’s a fight for resources.”
Nominally Mustafa’s rebels fight for the Free Syrian Army (FSA), but the FSA, lacking international recognition or direct state funding, is a often just a convenient label for a host of local armed groups competing fiercely for scarce financing.
So fiercely, they sometimes turn their guns on each other.
“Everyone needs weapons. There is tension. There is anger and yes, sometimes there is fighting if rebels in one town seem to have an unfair share of weapons,” said Mustafa, who comes from Syria’s northwestern province of Idlib, which borders Turkey and has been a hotbed of resistance to Assad.
Such mistrust is compounded by the competing agendas of outside parties who are further fragmenting the rebel movement.
Finding a donor usually means using personal connections, rebels say. They get relatives or expatriate friends to put them in touch with businessmen or Syrian groups abroad.
But once fighters go to private donors for weapons, they have to negotiate, and the price may be ideological.
Many say Islamist groups, from hard-line Salafists to the exiled Muslim Brotherhood, bankroll many battalions that share their religious outlook. The Brotherhood has representatives in Antakya ready to meet interested rebels, fighters say.
Leftist politicians and other opponents of Islamists are trying to counter that influence by funding rival armed bands.
“These groups are all making their own militias, like they are some kind of warlords. This is dividing people,” said one activist who asked not to be named. “They aren’t thinking about military strategies, they are thinking about politics.”
With the U.N. peace plan for Syria on the ropes, Saudi Arabia and Qatar, regional rivals of Assad’s main ally Iran, are likely to increase calls for the insurgents to be armed.
Western powers wary of military entanglement in another Middle Eastern hotspot have so far said this would not be helpful, while proposing non-lethal aid to the opposition.
Even if that were to change, it is not clear how military supplies could be directed to competing insurgents hopelessly outgunned by Assad’s artillery and tanks, many of whom don’t even agree on a military strategy.
Several rebel groups have formally broken with the FSA to form outfits such as the Syrian Liberation Army, the Patriotic Army and The Alternative Movement, whose real identity and clout are hard to assess, because the government restricts media access to Syria.
The FSA has pledged to honor the shaky U.N.-backed truce that took effect on April 16 if the army reciprocates. But the Syrian Liberation Army says it will keep fighting.
“We don’t accept the ceasefire. We have slowed down a bit, only because we don’t have enough weapons,” its spokesman, Haitham Qudeimati, told Reuters.
Fighters say private donors, possibly frontmen for Gulf states such as Saudi Arabia and Qatar, have funneled millions of dollars to favored rebel groups. Many suspect the Muslim Brotherhood and the Salafis are getting the lion’s share.
A 60-year-old rebel commander called Abu Shaham, from the central city of Hama, accused the Brotherhood of hanging back from the battlefront to overpower other rebel groups later.
“The Brotherhood is pumping money into the rebel units yet their men don’t fight as much as us. They are almost always the first to retreat. Why?” he asked.
“They are not thinking about this phase in the battle. They care about what comes next. They want to save themselves for the struggle after Assad falls, to come out the strongest.”
Analyst Joseph Holliday, of the U.S.-based Institute for the Study of War, said if foreign powers do not engage with the rebels in an orderly way, their rivalries could create chaos.
“If we don’t recognize the rebels, anyone can set up shop in Turkey and start funding opposing groups,” said Joseph Holliday, of the U.S-based Institute for the Study of War. “We don’t know who is arming who … I’m afraid by the time the West decides to do something it may be too late.”
Some rebels worry Islamist radicals could stoke tensions between majority Sunni Muslims, who have driven the revolt, and minority Alawites, Shi’ites and Christians, who are wary of it.
“There are a lot of jihadists who want to come from abroad, this is real,” said one insurgent, who asked not to be named. “Then we will no longer be talking about Syria’s fight for freedom, we’ll be talking about a sectarian war.”
KILLING THE “FLEAS”
Qudeimati says most rebels do not belong to any unified group because of a culture of distrust, fostered by years of fear under Syria’s infamous secret police.
“The problem is the Assad regime had 40 years to create mistrust between Syrians,” Qudeimati said. “The lack of unity has been part of the regime’s strategy.”
Some FSA rebels say they even keep a distance from the FSA’s top officers, fearing they too are infiltrated.
Suspicion of “fleas” – slang for collaborators – has bred an environment where vigilante killing almost seems the norm.
“There are a lot of groups on the ground working alone and not all of them are good guys,” said rebel commander Abu Shaham.
“Some are thieves or criminals taking advantage of the chaos. So we go after the fleas and chase them out or kill them. We don’t have a problem shooting these people.”
Last month, the commander of a rebel unit in Homs province, Amjad al-Hameed, who claimed to be funded by The Alternative Movement, criticized the leaders of several other groups.
“We have armed men among our civilians that are a burden to our revolution,” he told a crowd in a March 17 YouTube video. “They are just thieves … It is impermissible for anyone to rape women, otherwise we are no different from Bashar al-Assad.”
The next day, unidentified gunmen shot him dead.
Hameed’s battalion did not blame the government but other rebels, vowing to “punish them as they deserve.”
Some rebels adopt the FSA label simply to improve their chances of getting funds.
“We felt forced into aligning with the Free Syrian Army because it is the most widely known. If it gets recognized, we’ll get foreign aid,” says the Idlib rebel Mahmoud.
At a refugee camp in Turkey, Mahmoud and his eager comrades sit next to a muscular Syrian exile who discreetly shows them his laptop and chats with them about military strategy.
He won’t say who has sent him or what he wants in return. But he hints there could be weapons on offer, joking: “I’ve come to help buy the boys their fruits and vegetables.”
(Editing by Alistair Lyon)
Gunmen in inflatable dinghies have attacked a Syrian military unit on the Mediterranean coast, leading to a fire-fight in which several people from both sides were killed, the SANA official news agency said on Saturday.
“The fighting … resulted in the death and wounding of a number of military personnel while the number of those killed from the terrorist group was not known because they attacked the military unit at night,” SANA said.
SANA did not mention the identity of the attackers. It said the fighting occurred 30 to 35 kms (19 to 22 miles) south of the border with Turkey.
Syria’s government has consistently accused Turkey, which hosts the leadership of the rebel Free Syrian Army, of allowing weapons and funds to flow to insurgents fighting for the last 13 months for the overthrow of President Bashar al-Assad.
Syrian forces killed at least 10 people on Saturday in a village north of Damascus where army defectors had taken refuge, and in the coastal province of Latakia the army clashed with rebel fighters, activists said.
Activist Omar Hamza said the Damascus killings occurred after a group of soldiers defected and were pursued by forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad into the village of Bakha north of the capital.
Four rebels and six civilians were killed, Hamza said. The British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights also put the death toll at 10, but said they were all defectors.
The bloodshed was the latest incident to mar a two-week-old ceasefire agreement brokered by the United Nations, which is seeking a negotiated solution to the 13-month Syrian uprising, inspired by rebellions against authoritarian rule across the Arab world.
The United Nations says Syrian forces have killed 9,000 people since the start of the unrest. Syrian authorities blame foreign-backed militants for the violence and say 2,600 soldiers and police have been killed.
SANA, the official state news agency, said on Saturday a military unit had foiled a “terrorist attempt” to infiltrate the country from the Mediterranean, although it provided no further details.
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said on Thursday the Syrian government had not complied with commitments it made under the ceasefire plan, while Assad’s government says rebels have flouted the deal.
In Latakia, the Observatory said soldiers and rebels were fighting in the village of Burj al-Salaam, close to the site of a presidential palace, but gave no further details.
Overnight, five members of the security forces were killed in an explosion targeting two vehicles between the towns of Moadamiya and Deraya in Damascus province, it added.
UN secretary general condemns crackdown on protests and tells regime to live up to its promise of ceasefire
Security agents in Damascus collected the remains of 10 people killed in a suicide bombing on Friday, as activists reported incidents of Syrian troops firing on protesters.
The UN general secretary Ban Ki-moon said President Bashar al-Assad‘s continued crackdown on protests had reached an “intolerable stage”, and that the UN would try to speed up the deployment of up to 300 monitors toSyria. Only 15 are there now. “The government of Syria must live up to its promises to the world,” he said.
Tens of thousands of people marched into streets across Syria in what has now become a weekly anti-regime protest after Friday prayers. Amateur video from Homs, where the presence of UN observers helped halt weeks of artillery attacks, showed rows of men lining up in a main street, holding each other by the shoulders as they sang and danced.
In another protest, people held up 45 squares of cardboard with writing and drawings that – when viewed together from above – showed a picture of Assad and the words “oppression, corruption, despotism, demolition”. When they simultaneously flipped over the squares, it created a new message that read: “Toward a modern society that is more developed and sensible.”
Troops have routinely opened fire on protests since the uprising against the Assad regime began 13 months ago, but there appeared to be fewer violent incidents on Friday than in previous weeks.
However, the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said five protesters were killed by fire from the security forces, including a 10-year-old boy.
A plan brokered by special envoy Kofi Annan proposed a 12 April ceasefire, to be followed by talks between the regime and the opposition. Since then, the UN said the regime had broken many of its truce promises, such as withdrawing forces from towns and cities. Rebel fighters have also kept up shooting and bombing attacks on Syrian security forces.
British Foreign Office minister Alistair Burt said the UK government would seek “robust action” in the council if Syria did not comply with Annan’s plan.
The suicide bomber in Damascus detonated an explosives belt on Friday near members of the security forces, killing at least nine people and wounding 26, the state-run news agency Sana reported. The remains of two other people also were found, one believed to be the bomber, according to health minister Nader al-Halqi. The minister said seven police were among the dead.
The blast went off near a mosque in the Midan neighbourhood, an area of opposition sympathisers. The government said it would use an iron fist against those “who might intimidate residents and spread anarchy in the country,” Sana reported.
Video on Syrian TV showed white smoke billowing from under a bridge as people streamed out of a mosque.
Three smaller explosions elsewhere in the capital killed one person.
In recent months, there has been a string of bombings in Damascus and elsewhere. The regime blamed Friday’s attack on unspecified “terrorists” – the term it uses to describe opposition forces that it says are carrying out a foreign conspiracy. Opposition activists deny any role, saying such blasts are carried out by government forces and meant to tarnish Assad’s opponents.
Originally published: April 28, 2012 4:44 AM
Updated: April 28, 2012 6:16 AM
By The Associated Press BASSEM MROUE (Associated Press)
BEIRUT – (AP) — A Syrian state-run newspaper accused U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Saturday of encouraging “terrorist” rebel attacks by focusing his criticism on the government, while other government media reported that the navy foiled an infiltration attempt by gunmen who tried to land on the Syrian coast in rubber boats.
The editorial in Tishrin daily came a day after Ban said Syrian President Bashar Assad’s continued crackdown on protests has reached an “intolerable stage.” It also followed what the state media said was a suicide attack in Damascus that left 10 dead.
Ban said the U.N. will try to speed up the deployment of up to 300 monitors to Syria. Only 15 are there now.
The Syrian comments were the harshest against the U.N. since a plan brokered by special envoyKofi Annan proposed an April 12 cease-fire to be followed by peace talks. Since that date, the U.N. has said the regime has broken many of its truce promises, such as withdrawing forces from towns and cities. Rebel fighters have also kept up attacks on Syrian security forces.
Annan’s plan aims to end the country’s 13-month crisis that has so far killed more than 9,000 people according to the U.N..
Tishrin said Ban has avoided discussing rebel violence in favor of “outrageous” attacks on the Syrian government. “The continued disregard of the international community and its cover for armed groups’ crimes and terrorist acts … is considered as direct participation in facilitating and carrying out the terrorism to which Syria is subjected,” the editorial said.
“Such a stance seemingly encourages those groups to go on committing more crimes and terrorist acts,” Tishrin said.
The Syrian capital was hit by four explosions Friday that left at least 11 people dead and dozens wounded. Assad’s government blamed the blasts on “terrorists,” the term the government uses to describe opposition forces that it says are carrying out a foreign conspiracy.
On Saturday, the country’s state-run news agency said military units stationed off the Mediterranean foiled an infiltration attempt by “armed groups” from the sea in the early hours of the day. SANA said the navy forced the boats to flee, but a Syrian service member was killed and several others wounded.
Saturday’s attempt was the first reported rebel infiltration from the sea. Syrian authorities have said in the past that they clashed with infiltrators trying to cross from neighboring Lebanon or Turkey.
In Lebanon, military prosecutor Saqr Saqr told The Associated Press that the army confiscated weapons that were found aboard a ship off the Lebanese coast. Saqr added that an investigation is under way, adding that the 11 crew members are being questioned by the Lebanese military police.
On Friday’s Lebanon’s state-run National News Agency said Lebanese authorities intercepted a ship off the coast near the northern city of Tripoli called “Lutfallah II” suspected of carrying the weapons.
The ship was taken to the port of Selaata, north of Beirut, where three containers where the weapons were believed to be hidden were seen being placed on Lebanese army flatbed trucks and taken away Saturday morning.