Saturday 29 September 2012
Syrian Observatory for Human Rights: Final death toll for Saturday 29/8/2012: More than 160 Syrians have been killed so far today. The dead: 89 unarmed civilians (9 of them children), 28 rebel fighters, a defected lieutenant and no less than 41 regime forces.
89 Unarmed Civilians:
-In Reef Dimashq 44 civilians were killed. 3 were killed by regime forces’ gunshots in Harasta.1 was tortured to death in the city of Harasta after he was detained by regime forces.3 civilians from the city of Douma were killed, 1 was tortured to death after being detained by regime forces 2 days ago, 1 died from wounds he received earlier by bombardment, and 1 was shot by a sniper. 2 from the Ma’rba town,1 was killed under unknown circumstances after he disappeared 5 days ago, 1 was shot by regime forces. Activists reported that 8 civilians, 1 of them a woman, were killed by regime guns in Dahiyat Qudseyya (Qudseyya suburb). 8 men were shot by regime forces in the villages and towns of Hran al-A’wamid, al-Sayida Zeinab, Deir Sleiman and al-Mid’ani. 3 were killed by bombardment on the city of Saqba. 2 were shot by military checkpoints in the towns of al-Zabadani and al-A’teiba. 1 was shot by regime forces after he was detained earlier in the al-Ahmadiya village of Reef Dimashq. 13 unidentified civilians were found dead after they were summarily executed in the al-Beitriya town of Reef Dimashq.
-In Damascus 9 civilians were killed. 6 were killed in the Barza neighbourhood, 1 was found dead, and 5 men were shot after regime forces stormed the neighbourhood. 1 civilian, from the Rukn al-Deen neighbourhood, was shot by a military checkpoint in the area of Daraya. 2 unidentified civilians were shot by regime forces in the Daf al-Shok neighbourhood of Damascus.
-In Aleppo province 17 civilians were killed. 11 were killed in the Aleppo city, 8 (including a woman and 2 children) by bombardment on the neighbourhoods of Karam al-Jabal, Qadi A’skari, al-Sukari, and al-Maysar, 2 (including a child) were shot by sniper in the Tareeq al-Bab and Suleiman al-Halabi neighbourhoods, and 1 from the Sakhur neighbourhood was shot by sniper in Jusr al-Shughur of Reef Idlib. A 1-year-old child was killed by the late night regime bombardment on the town of Maskana, Reef Aleppo. A civilian from the Daret A’zza town was found dead in the al-Rashdein neighbourhood in the city of Aleppo after 2 months of detainment by regime forces. 2 civilians were shot by helicopter machine gun in the Bumane’ village of Reef Aleppo. 1 was shot by unidentified armed men in the Bazayhar village in Reef Aleppo. A 13 year-old child was killed when regime forces’ airplanes bombarded the Hayan town targeting Syrian Kurds as they were coming back from a funeral procession.
-In Dera’a province a child died of wounds from the bombardment on Tel Shihab.
-In Homs province 2 civilians were killed. A man was shot by regime forces sniper in the Qseir city. A child, from the city of Homs, was killed by regime forces bombardment on Reef Dimashq.
- In Idlib province 4 were killed. 2, including a child, were killed by bombardment on the M’arshamsha and Msrein towns. 1 died from wounds he received the day before yesterday by bombardment on the Sarmin town of Reef Idlib. 1 was shot by regime forces in the Jusr al-Shughur city of Reef Idlib.
-In Hama Province 2 civilians were killed. A man, from the Ziyat village, was killed due to an ambush regime forces had planned for him. A child was killed by regime forces bombardment on the village of al-Mufaker al-A’rabi of Reef Hama.
- A defected lieutenant was killed during clashes with regime forces in Reef Dimashq.
*the SOHR was able to document the death of a further 18 people killed during the past couple of days.3 were killed in the al-Qusoor neighbourhood in the city of Deir Izzor. 9 were killed in Reef Dimashq, a woman and 3 men were shot by regime forces in the Dahiet Qudsayya (Qudsayya Suburb), 4 were shot directly by regime forces in the towns of al-Sbeina and al-Bweida of Reef Dimashq. 5 civilians, including a child, were shot by regime forces in the neighbourhoods of al-A’sali, al-Zahira and al-Midan in the city of Damascus. A rebel fighter was killed during clashes with regime forces in the city of Aleppo. A civilians from the al-Salhiya neighbourhood in the Damascus city was found dead in the Beit Sahm town of Damascus city. *
- Information received indicates that 20 rebel fighters were killed during clashes with regime forces in the province of Homs. The SOHR was not able to document this.
- Reports indicate that 4 civilians were killed by bombardment on the neighbourhoods of Homs.
28 Rebel fighters:
-In Reef Dimashq Province 3 rebel fighters were killed. 2 were killed by bombardment on the Rankus farms. 1 was shot, when regime forces stormed the Maramna neighbourhood of the Mqeilbiya town.
- In Damascus 3 rebel fighters were killed. 2 died from wounds they received earlier by regime forces’ gunshots in the al-Qaboun neighbourhood. A rebel fighter from the al-Salhiya neighbourhood was shot by regime forces in the Dahiet Qudseyya ( Qudseyya Suburb) of Reef Dimashq.
- In Deir Izzour 6 rebel fighters were killed by clashes with regime forces in the city of Deir Izzour.
- In Aleppo province 6 rebel fighters were killed. 5 were killed during clashes with regime forces in the neighbourhoods of Halab al-Qadima (Old Aleppo), al-A’qroub, Bustan al-Qasr, and several other neighbourhoods in the city of Aleppo. A rebel fighter was killed during clashes with regime forces in the Khan al-A’sal town of Reef Aleppo.
- In Homs province 4 rebel fighters were killed. 1 was killed during clashes with regime forces in the Tal Kalakh town. 3 were killed during clashes with pro-regime militants in the al-Heidariya village of Reef Homs.
-In Dera’a Province 6 rebel fighters were killed during clashes in the area surrounding the Mzeireb town.
No less than 41 members of the regime forces were killed and dozens other wounded after clashes and attacks on military vehicles in the provinces of Deir Izzour, Idlib, Aleppo, Homs, Reef Homs, Damascus and Dera’a.
[local time] 20:50 Fighting raged in a strategic district of Syria’s commercial capital Aleppo on Saturday, the third day of a rebel offensive to seize the city, a watchdog said.
20:04 Saturday’s death toll in Syria has risen to 94 people, Al-Jazeera television quoted activists as saying.
18:59 A Saudi charity group will build a container city that can house 10,000 Syrian refugees in Turkey’s Kilis province near the border.
18:39 Syrian rebels launched an attack on Al-Nayreb military airport in Aleppo, Al-Arabiya television reported.
17:46 Saturday’s death toll in Syria has risen to 73 people, Al-Arabiya television quoted activists as saying.
17:40 Syrian regime forces summarily executed five people in the town of Maaraba near Damascus, Al-Jazeera television quoted activists as saying.
16:46 Saturday’s death toll in Syria has risen to 61 people, Al-Jazeera television reported.
16:28 Syrian regime forces executed 15 people in the town of Al-Baytariya near Damascus, Al-Jazeera television quoted activists as saying.
15:50 Saturday’s death toll in Syria has risen to 48 people, Al-Arabiya television quoted activists as saying.
15:15 Clashes broke out between rebels and Syrian regime forces in Al-Asali neighborhood in Damascus, Al-Jazeera television reported.
14:54 Syrian rebels withdrew from the town of Al-Mozayrib in Daraa following clashes with Syrian regime forces, Al-Arabiya television reported.
14:49 Saturday’s death toll in Syria has risen to 41 people, Al-Jazeera television quoted activists as saying.
14:26 The Syrian army intensified its campaign against the eastern outskirts of the capital on Saturday, while battles raged in the country’s second city Aleppo, a monitoring group said.
13:15 Syrian regime forces shelled the town of Al-Atareb in the Aleppo district, Al-Jazeera quoted activists as saying.
10:47 Syrian regime forces raided the neighborhood of Barza in Damascus and executed four people, Al-Arabiya quoted activists as saying.
10:30 Syrian security forces killed 15 people across Syria on Saturday, Al-Arabiya quoted activists as saying.
10:07 Eight people were summarily executed in Qodssiyah in the Damascus district while reports emerged of a “massacre” in the area, Al-Arabiya quoted activists as saying.
7:44 Russia attempted to turn the tables on critics of its stance on Syria at the United Nations on Friday, insisting that it is the West which stands in the way of concerted international action.
Reuters: Ancient market burns as fighting rages in Syria’s Aleppo:BEIRUT – Hundreds of shops were burning in the ancient covered market in Aleppo on Saturday as fighting between rebels and state forces in Syria’s largest city threatened to destroy a UNESCO world heritage site. | Video
Hundreds of shops were burning in the ancient covered market in Aleppo on Saturday as fighting between rebels and state forces in Syria’s largest city threatened to destroy a UNESCO world heritage site.
The uprising-turned-civil war that is now raging across Syria has killed more than 30,000 people, according to activist groups such as the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
But beyond the dramatic human cost, many of Syria’s historic treasures have also fallen victim to an 18-month-old conflict that has reduced parts of some cities to ruins.
Rebels fighting to topple President Bashar al-Assad announced a new offensive in Aleppo, Syria’s commercial hub of 2.5 million people, on Thursday, but neither side has appeared to make significant gains.
In Aleppo, activists speaking via Skype said army snipers were making it difficult to approach the Souk al-Madina, the medieval market of vaulted stone alleyways and carved wooden facades in the Old City, once a major tourist attraction.
Videos uploaded to YouTube showed dark black clouds hanging over the city skyline.
Activists said the fire might have been started by shelling and gunfire on Friday and estimated that between 700 and 1,000 shops had been destroyed so far. The accounts were difficult to verify because of government restricts on foreign media.
Aleppo’s Old City is one of several locations in Syria declared world heritage sites by UNESCO, the United Nations cultural agency, that are now at risk from the fighting.
UNESCO believes five of Syria’s six heritage sites – which also include the ancient desert city of Palmyra, the Crac des Chevaliers crusader fortress and parts of old Damascus – have been affected.
The British-based Observatory for Human Rights, which has a network of activists across Syria, said Assad’s forces and rebels blamed each other for the blaze.
NO ONE MAKING GAINS
Heavy clashes erupted outside several military sites in Aleppo on Saturday evening. Activists said rebels were battling government forces outside the Neirab military air base.
The Observatory said clashes outside a base used for artillery training had set a nearby building alight and killed three people.
Fighting was also reported outside Bab Antakya, a stone gateway to Aleppo’s Old City, which sits on ancient trade routes and survived a parade of rulers throughout its construction between the 12th and 17th century.
Rebels said they had taken the gate, but some activists said the fighting continued and neither side was truly in control.
“No one is actually making gains here, it is just fighting and more fighting, and terrified people are fleeing,” said an activist contacted by telephone who declined to be identified.
He said in some districts, bodies were lying in the streets and residents would not collect them, fearing snipers.
More than 40 people had been killed in fighting across Syria, according to the Observatory.
Syria’s military deadlock is also reflected diplomatically, with foreign powers stalemated over how to act. Western states and Gulf Arab countries back the opposition but most seem reluctant to interfere, while Russia, China and Iran back Assad.
The revolt against four decades of Assad family, which began in March 2011 as peaceful protests, has become an armed insurgency, with rebels holding ground in Aleppo and rural towns of northern Syria.
The fighting has crept closer to Syria’s border zones, and some bullets and rockets have hit neighboring Lebanon, Iraq and Turkey. Ankara warned it would take action if its territory was again hit – a mortar bomb hit a town on its southeastern frontier on Friday.
GOVERNMENT VICTORY “CERTAIN”
An advisor to Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said he was confident Syria’s government would beat the rebels.
“The victory of the government of Syria against internal opponents, America, and their other Western and Arab supporters, is counted as a victory of the Islamic Republic of Iran,” said Ali Akbar Velayati, according to state news agency IRNA.
“The victory of the Syrian government is certain.
Activists reported fresh clashes in the capital Damascus and its suburbs and said security forces were torching homes as helicopters buzzed overhead.
The bloodied bodies of at least 12 men were found in Damascus’s northwestern suburb of Qudsaya. A video published by showed rows of men, some of them apparently shot, laid in a room whose walls were spattered with blood.
Some Damascus residents have accused government forces of summary executions in rebel districts.
“They can’t arrest everyone, so they are using elimination tactics. They enter area that was held by rebels, look for people that are wanted and kill them all,” one activist said.
Assad has long defended the fierce crackdown, arguing that he has been fighting Islamist militants funded from abroad.
Text messages attributed to the army were sent to all Syrian mobiles since Aleppo rebels announced their new offensive.
“To those who have implicated themselves against the state: Those who have offered you money have left you with two options: You will be killed fighting the state or it will kill you to get rid of you,” one message read.
“The state is more merciful than you. Think and decide. The Syrian Army.”
(Editing by Kevin Liffey and Robin Pomeroy)
Nations seeking Assad’s exit struggle to produce a plan: UNITED NATIONS – Western and Arab states demanding Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s exit are under pressure to produce a plan to make that happen, but their unwillingness to act outside a deadlocked U.N. Security Council leaves them looking fractured and powerless.
Foreign ministers and senior diplomats from the “Friends of Syria” – a group that includes the United States, France, Saudi Arabia and Turkey – are due to meet in New York on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly on Friday.
“I just expect ideas to be presented. There will be no concrete plans,” Arab League Secretary General Nabil El-Erabi told Reuters. “Governments are not ready to put plans into action and the Security Council is not agreeing on anything.”
The 18-month uprising against Assad’s rule has killed around 30,000 people, according to activists. The protests have further escalated into an armed insurgency fighting with sectarian overtones that could drag in regional powers.
The General Assembly this week highlighted the global stalemate, with most of the 193-states condemning events in Syria but showing no substance behind their rhetoric.
Russia, which has three times vetoed a Security Council resolution on Syria, stuck to its position: Assad’s departure should not be a precondition for a political transition and under no circumstances will it support a U.N. resolution that could lead to military intervention.
Painting a bleak picture of mediation efforts, U.N.-Arab League representative Lakhdar Brahimi told the Security Council that the situation in Syria is worsening and Assad’s government is clinging to the hope of returning to the past. Five weeks into the job, he admitted he had no plan but “a few ideas.”
Opponents of the Syrian president look less united in their approach. Qatar, one of Assad’s strongest critics, called for an alternative plan and once again urged Arab states to create a regional force to stop the bloodshed.
But Saudi Arabian and Egyptian diplomats, representing the two countries most likely to compose such a force, told Reuters Qatar’s plans are unrealistic.
Egypt, under new Islamist President Mohamed Mursi, tried to bring together Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Iran - Assad’s main ally in the region – for talks on finding a solution, but failed to get them around the table for the second time.
President Barack Obama, preoccupied with his re-election bid on November 6, barely mentioned Syria in his address to delegates. Former colonial power France urged the U.N. to protect areas “liberated” in Syria, but officials acknowledged behind the scenes the calls were essentially symbolic.
Most nations, including Russia and China, agree on the principles of a previously proposed six-point peace plan and framework of an accord struck in Geneva between the permanent members of the Security Council.
Both those plans are stillborn unless an agreement with Russia can be struck on how to ensure they are implemented.
“Unfortunately, all these mediations have failed,” Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu told Reuters. “We all support Lakhdar Brahimi, but we have learned that there must be a stronger mandate given to the special representative.”
He said the Friends of Syria was created to defend the rights of the Syrian people and not to undermine the United Nations. The group now seems as hamstrung as the Security Council.
Western and Arab diplomats describe Friday’s meeting as an opportunity to “exchange ideas.” The session will assess efforts to create an all-inclusive transitional government and increase humanitarian and non-lethal aid to the opposition.
France and Turkey have also called for no-fly zones patrolled by foreign aircraft to protect rebel-held areas. With the United States lukewarm, the proposal remains just an idea.
“We have obviously never at any point taken anything off the table,” a U.S. official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said ahead of Friday’s meeting. “We believe that there is still room for a negotiated transition that leads to an interim government and ultimately to a new Syria. This is not about drawing red lines.”
One senior Gulf Arab diplomat echoed the U.S. position, warning against any direct military intervention. He said Arab states see the United States as key to breaking the deadlock.
“Going through legitimate channels to resolve the issue is the best path to take; any action taken by individual countries will only lead to more violence,” he said.
“The U.S. is the only country that could force Russia to change its position,” the diplomat said, adding that he sees no real move on the crisis until after the U.S. election.??
With the main political opposition bodies fragmented, the Friends of Syria’s main push could center on developing contacts with the Free Syrian Army (FSA), particularly as its fighters oust Assad’s forces from significant portions of the country.
Western European powers have ruled out supplying weapons to lightly armed Syrian rebels, but France is increasing its links with insurgents. “The more the opposition advances the easier it will become,” the Arab League’s El-Arabi said.
Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Qatar have been overseeing cross-border movements from a secret liaison center in Turkey. Turkey denies any direct involvement in sending arms across the frontier. U.N. diplomats say Saudi Arabia and Qatar have transferred weapons to rebels.
“The Friends of Syria can’t do much,” said a Paris-based Arab diplomat. “It’s sit, wait and hope the rebels gain ground.”
(Additional reporting by Andrew Quinn; Editing by Will Dunham)
Reports say hundreds of shops in the souk, one of the best preserved in the Middle East, have been destroyed.
Unesco, which recognises Aleppo’s Old City as a world heritage site, described the damage as a tragedy.
On the third day of a rebel offensive, battles broke out in the Old City and the Arkub district, reports said.
The fire, believed to have been triggered by shelling and gunfire, began on Friday but was still burning on Saturday, reports said.
“It’s a big loss and a tragedy that the old city has now been affected,” Kishore Rao, director of Unesco’s World Heritage Centre, told the Associated Press.
The market stalls lie beneath the city’s towering 13th Century citadel, where activists say regime troops and snipers have taken up positions.Rebels were using a Turkish bath, or hamam, in the souk as a base
Activists quoted by Reuters news agency said that the presence of snipers was making it difficult to approach the Souk al-Madina, once a major tourist attraction.
Reports estimate that between 700 and 1,000 shops have been destroyed so far.
“It’s a disaster. The fire is threatening to spread to remaining shops,” one activist, Ahmad al-Halabi, told AP.
He said the Syrian authorities had cut off the water supply, making attempts to control the fire more difficult.
Rebels and civilians were working together to limit the fire with a few fire extinguishers, he added.
The fire took hold with speed, fuelled by the many shops’ wooden doors and the clothes, fabrics and leather goods sold inside.
Heavy clashes erupted at several military sites in the city on Saturday evening, Reuters reports.
Fighting was reported at the Neirab military base as well as Bab Antakya, a stone gateway to the Old City.
The UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the focal point for fighting was Salaheddin, a rebel stronghold on the south-west side of the city.
State television reported attacks on what it called “terrorist centres” in 10 different locations on Saturday, saying heavy losses had been inflicted.
The BBC’s Jim Muir, in Beirut, says that though both sides have reported clashes in different parts of the city, the signs are that the rebels simply lack the firepower and the manpower to score a significant breakthrough.
“No-one is actually making gains here, it is just fighting and more fighting, and terrified people are fleeing,” one activist told Reuters.
Activists estimate more than 27,000 people have died in the violence since the uprising against President Bashar al-Assad began last year.