Sunday 15 July 2012
Syrian Observatory for Human Rights: Rebels attack military positions around al-Rastan. Homs province: Members of the al-Hamza rebel battalion in the city of al-Rastan executed an exceptional military offensive. The overpowered and took over a military checkpoint, killing 10 soldiers. They then commandeered a tank from the checkpoint and used it to bombard another checkpoint, by the northern entrance of Rastan, killing and wounding dozens of those stationed at the checkpoint. The rebels also bombarded the engineering battalion, activists confirm that at least 5 were killed.
Damascus and Reef Dimashq: Violent clashes are taking place in the al-Hajar al-Aswad neighbourhood between rebel fighters and Syrian forces. The bombardment and clashes in the al-Tadamon neighbourhood and Sidi Miqdad* have not ceased. Initial reports indicate that several citizens have been killed and wounded, exact numbers have been so far difficult to verify due to the intensity of the situation.
Protests came out in the neighbourhoods of Mezze, al-Qaboun and Barzeh, condemning the regime’s brutality against al-Tadamun and in solidarity with the areas under siege.In Reef Dimashq Deir al-Asafeer, Zabdeen and the village of Rikabya are being the violent bombarded by regime forces. Clashes are taking place in the Sayyeda Zeinab area between rebel fighters and Syrian forces. Syrian security forces fired live rounds on a protest in the city of Harasta.
8pm: More than 60 Syrians have been killed so far today, Sunday 15/7/2012, 37 civilians: 29 unarmed civilians:
-In Homs 13 were killed. 5 were killed in the city of Homs, 2 by the bombardment on Khaldiya, 1 by earlier wounds inBaba Amr, 1 by extreme torture after regime forces detained him from the Deir Ba’alba neighbourhood, 1 was killed by sniper in Bab Houd neighbourhood. 3 civilians were killed in the city of al-Qusayr, Reef homs, 2 by extreme torture after they were taken away at the al-Rebla military checkpoint, the other by the regime bombardment on the city. 5 civilians from the city of al-Rastan, some were children, their names have not been documented yet.-In Reef Dimashq 1 civilian from Yabrud was killed by extreme torture after being detained.-In Aleppo province 2 civilians, including a child, were killed by gunfire in the city of al-Bab, Reef Aleppo.In Deir Izzor province 5 people have been killed. 4 were killed in the city of Deir Izzor, they were killed by the bombardment of several neighbourhoods. A nurse, from the city of al-Qouriya, was killed by extreme torture in the basements of the security services.
-In Idlib province 2 killed. The bodies of a man and his grown son were found at dawn today in the village of Sarjeh, activists report that they were taken away by regime forces 2 days ago during the military operations in the village of al-Rami.
-In Hama 2 civilians were killed by the random bombardment on the town of al-Madiq, Reef Hama.
-In Dera’a 3 killed. 1 was killed by earlier wounds from the bombardment on the refugee camp in the city of Dera’a. 1 civilian killed when regime forces stormed the Dera’a al-Balad and the al-Kurk neighbourhoods of Dera’a. 1 civilian was killed by a military checkpoint in the town of Busr al-Harir, Reef Dera’a
-In Suweida’ province 1 killed. A civilian from the town of al-Mujeimar was killed by excessive torure in a security branch, after he was taken away earlier by security services.
3 unidentified bodies were found in the town of al-Nayrab, Reef Idlib. the bodies had signs of torture.
8 Rebel fighters:
Aleppo prov: A rebel fighter was killed during clashes by the entrances of the city of a’zaz.
Deir Izzor prov: 3 armed rebels killed. In the city of al-Bukamal, a rebel fighter was killed from wounds by clashes with the army. 2 other rebel fighters, including the leader of a battalion, were killed during clashes by the al-Omar oil field.
Idlib prov: 2 rebel fighters were killed by heavy machine-guns in the town of Salqin, which is witnessing clashes by its entrances.
Dera’a prov: 2 rebel fighters were killed when regime forces stormed the Dera’a al-Balad and the al-Kurk neighbourhoods of Dera’a amid heavy gunfire.
4 defected soldiers were killed during clashes in Deir Izzor, Idlib and Damascus.
No less than 18 members of the Syrian armed forces were killed during clashes with rebel battalions. 6 in Salqin, Reef Idlib. 3 in Jisr al-Shughour, Reef Idlib. 3 in A’zaz, Reef Aleppo. 5 in Deir Izzor province. 3 in Dera’a province.
United Nations observers who returned to the Syrian village of Tremseh on Sunday said that, based on what they saw and on witness accounts, the attack there three days ago was targeted at army defectors and activists.Staff from the UN Supervision Mission in Syria (UNSMIS) observed over 50 houses that were burned and/or destroyed, according to a statement issued today that also noted that “pools of blood and brain matter were observed in a number of homes.”
The “consistent account” relayed by 27 local villagers who were interviewed by the UN team indicated that the attack began in the early hours of 12 July with the shelling of the village followed by ground operations.
“According to those interviewed, the army was conducting house to house searches asking for men and their ID cards. They alleged that after checking their identification, numerous were killed. Other men were taken out of the village.
“On the basis of some of the destruction observed in the town and the witness accounts, the attack appears targeted at army defectors and activists,” said the statement. UN observers also confirmed the use of direct and indirect weapons, including artillery, mortars and small arms.
The Mission added that the number of casualties is still unclear and that it is trying to seek further verification.
Thursday’s attack, which reportedly resulted in over 200 deaths, was condemned by UN officials as well as the Joint Special Envoy for the UN and the League of Arab States for Syria, Kofi Annan, who said the attack violated the Government’s commitment to the six-point peace plan.
That plan calls for an end to violence, access for humanitarian agencies to provide relief to those in need, the release of detainees, the start of inclusive political dialogue, and unrestricted access to the country for the international media.
Mr. Annan will visit Moscow on Monday for two days of talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin and Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov on the crisis in Syria.
Meanwhile, Deputy Secretary-General Jan Eliasson met today with the Secretary-General of the League of Arab States, Nabil Elaraby, on the sidelines of the African Union summit in Addis Ababa. They shared their strong concerns about the situation in Syria and expressed support for the work of Mr. Annan and the six-point plan.
The UN estimates that more than 10,000 people, mostly civilians, have been killed in Syria and tens of thousands displaced since the uprising against President Bashar Al-Assad began last year.
[local time] 21:07 Syrian forces on Sunday raided the Qaber Atika neighborhood of Damascus, Al-Arabiya television quoted the Local Coordination Committees as saying.
21:05 Gunfire was heard Sunday in Al-Hariqa in central Damascus, Al-Arabiya television quoted the Local Coordination Committees as saying.
20:37 Heavy clashes between rebels and regular troops erupted in Damascus on Sunday, in the “most intense” fighting in the capital since the start of the anti-regime revolt in Syria 16 months ago, a monitoring group said.
18:54 US President Barack Obama must not wait until his re-election bid is resolved to take action to stop the slaughter of thousands in Syria, the head of the main Syrian opposition group said Sunday.
18:22 Kofi Annan and Ban Ki-moon head for Russia and China on Monday to press the two UN Security Council doubters to back tougher action against President Bashar al-Assad to halt the slaughter in Syria.
16:42 Syrian troops bombarded several rebel areas in several parts of the country on Sunday killing at least 25 people, a watchdog said, as an AFP correspondent reported shelling near Aleppo.
16:33 Syrian forces on Sunday killed 46 people, Al-Arabiya television quoted the Local Coordination Committees as saying.
16:24 A Russian ship that tried to supply attack helicopters to Syria last month before being forced back was sighted Sunday sailing back home after unexpectedly starting a new voyage.
13:18 Syrian security forces shelled Deir az-Zour’s central prison killing 30 people and injuring 140, Al-Arabiya quoted activists as saying.
12:17 Activists said that Syrian security forces killed 28 people on Sunday, Al-Jazeera reported.
12:13 Syria’s regime on Sunday denied its forces used tanks and helicopters in an assault on Treimsa, saying what happened in the central village was the result of clashes with rebels and not a “massacre.”
12:07 Syrian peace mediator Kofi Annan was due in Moscow on Monday for talks with President Vladimir Putin that come amid growing pressure on Russia to finally back the ouster of President Bashar al-Assad.
11:44 Iran, the main regional ally of Syria, said on Sunday it is ready to host a meeting between Damascus and its opponents aimed at solving the country’s conflict.
9:40 Australian Foreign Minister Bob Carr on Sunday called on Russia to support the removal of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad from office, following the latest massacre which rebels blame on regime troops.
9:16 Syria said on Tuesday that the events in Treimsa were clashes not a “massacre,” AFP reported.
9:15 Syrian troops bombarded several areas in Deir az-Zour, Hama and Homs, killing at least nine people on Sunday, a watchdog said, as an AFP correspondent reported shelling near Aleppo.
9:13 Syria denied having used tanks and helicopters in Treimsa attack, AFP reported.
9:00 The United Nations may have to curtail humanitarian operations in Syria unless new funds are raised at a key donors’ meeting on Monday, officials warned.
8:07 An Islamist group calling itself Al-Nusra Front has claimed responsibility for 12 attacks targeting Syrian security forces and pro-government thugs, the SITE Monitoring Service said Saturday.
7:55 UN leader Ban Ki-moon on Saturday appealed to China’s foreign minister to use his “influence” to help bring pressure on Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad to end conflict, a UN spokesperson said.
7:49 A variety of weapons were used in an attack on the Syrian village of Treimsa, where more than 150 people were killed this week, with the homes of rebels and activists bearing the brunt, the UN mission said on Saturday.
REUTERS: Fiercest fighting yet reported inside Damascus
BEIRUT – Opposition fighters battled Syrian government forces in Damascus on Sunday in what residents described as the fiercest fighting yet inside the city limits of the capital. | Video
Activists said the fighting spread from the south of the city to a second area as night fell. At least five people were killed and dozens wounded, locals said.
The spread of fighting came as U.N. peace mediator Kofi Annan was due to fly to Moscow for a two-day visit in which he will meet Russian President Vladimir Putin who has resisted Western calls to increase pressure on Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad.
Numerous Damascus residents contacted by Reuters said they could hear loud explosions, persistent gunfire and sirens wailing overnight, and described the fighting as the worst so far of the 17-month uprising against Assad.
Thick black smoke was visible above the Damascus skyline in live Internet video links. Government troops closed the airport road, activists said.
“I can’t believe it, it sounds incredibly close. I hear shooting and other stuff, like blasts. I can hear the sounds of ambulances rushing past. I am so afraid. People may die tonight,” said a resident contacted by telephone in a district close to the fighting.
Activist Samir al-Shami, who spoke to Reuters by Skype from Damascus, said the fighting was under way in the al-Tadamon district in the capital’s south, after sustained battles began at nightfall on Saturday in the nearby Hajar al-Aswad district.
“There is the sound of heavy gunfire. And there is smoke rising from the area. There are already some wounded and residents are trying to flee the area,” he said, using Skype to show live video images of smoke visible over the skyline.
“There are also armored vehicles heading towards the southern part of the neighborhood,” he said.
Another activist reached by Skype said the fighting later spread to al-Lawan, a neighborhood on the southwestern outskirts of the capital.
A third activist, who also asked not to be identified, said: “We’ve been expecting things to worsen in Damascus after the army crushed the rebellions in some of the suburbs, like Douma outside the capital. There were thousands of fighters in some of those suburbs. Some of them were killed but a lot of them fled and they’ve been heading to the capital itself.”
Some residents said the fighting eased slightly as the night wore on but many protests in support of the opposition were staged in the poorer neighborhoods of Damascus.
One local, who gave his name as Tarek, said residents set tires ablaze to distract the security forces and relieve pressure on the fighters in Tadamon.
The government restricts access to the country by independent media, making verification of events difficult.
Annan is travelling to Moscow days after opposition reports of a new massacre prompted a fresh wave of denunciations in the West where there are hopes Putin might ease his support for Assad. But Moscow has shown no public sign of wavering in its backing for its last major Arab ally, a customer for its arms and host to a Russian naval support base.
Along with China, Russia has blocked tougher U.N. Security Council action and the West has shown no appetite for the kind of intervention it undertook last year when NATO helped topple Libya’s Muammar Gaddafi.
Annan said on Friday he was “shocked and appalled” at the government for breaking a promise not to use heavy weapons in populated areas, and that it was confirmed that helicopters and artillery had fired on the village of Tremseh.
Syrian Foreign Ministry spokesman Jihad Makdissi criticized Annan for jumping to conclusions by accepting opposition reports of the incident last week.
“What happened was not a massacre … what happened was a military operation,” Makdissi told a news conference in Damascus. “Government forces did not use planes, or helicopters, or tanks or artillery.”
U.N. observers returned to the village on Sunday to gather more evidence at the site after finding signs that artillery was used but inconclusive evidence of the scale of the killing.
The Syrian government said it killed several dozen enemy fighters in battle in Tremseh but denied accusations that it carried out a massacre or that its forces used heavy weapons.
Opposition footage of the incident on the Internet has shown bloody corpses of men, but not women or children, making it difficult to determine whether those killed were fighters.
Sander van Hoorn, a Dutch journalist who reached Tremseh, said by Twitter that he had counted 30 graves in the town and had seen clear evidence of shelling, including of a school used as a shelter by refugees.
He said the evidence on the ground clearly contradicted the government’s assertion that no heavy weapons were used. But he also said he had not yet seen signs of a massacre like one that took place in the city of Houla in May, when the United Nations says 34 women and 49 children were among 108 people killed.
BBC: Syria is in civil war – Red CrossSyria is in effect in civil war, the Red Cross says, meaning combatants will now be subject to the Geneva Conventions.
The change in status means combatants will now be officially subject to the Geneva Conventions, leaving them more exposed to war crimes prosecutions.
The Red Cross had previously regarded only the areas around Idlib, Homs and Hama as war zones.
Meanwhile, the Syrian government is disputing claims it used heavy weapons.
Activists initially described fighting on Thursday in the village of Tremseh near Hama as a massacre of dozens of civilians, but later accounts suggested most of the dead were armed rebels.
The UN accused Syrian forces of using heavy artillery, tanks and helicopters, but Damascus denied those allegations and said just two civilians had been killed.
The accusations, if proved, would mean Damascus had broken an agreement it made with envoy Kofi Annan.
Later on Sunday, video footage emerged purporting to show heavy fighting in southern Damascus.
Activists claimed the fighting was the most intense seen in the capital since the start of anti-government protests in March last year.
They said tanks and mortars were used, and in some areas residents were fleeing.
There has been no independent confirmation of their claims.
The International Committee of the Red Cross, which oversees the Geneva Conventions, said fighting had now spread beyond the three hotspots of Idlib, Homs and Hama.
Spokesman Hicham Hassan said Syria was now regarded as a “non-international armed conflict”, which is the technical term for civil war.
“What matters is that international humanitarian law applies wherever hostilities between government forces and opposition groups are taking place across the country,” he said.
The BBC’s Imogen Foulkes in Geneva says the statement is significant because it is the Red Cross’ job to monitor the conduct of the fighting, and to tell warring parties what their obligations are.
Under the Geneva Conventions, indiscriminate attacks on civilians, attacks on medical personnel or the destruction of basic services like water or electricity are forbidden and can be prosecuted as war crimes.
From now on, all those fighting in Syria are officially subject to the laws of war, and could end up at a war crimes tribunal if they disobey them.
Last month, the UN’s head of peacekeeping Herve Ladsous also said Syria was in a state of civil war.
And Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has previously said the country is in a state of war.
Some 16,000 people are thought to have been killed since the uprising against Mr Assad’s regime began in March 2011.
UN diplomats are attempting to agree a way forward for the organisation’s monitoring mission in the country.
The mission’s mandate runs out on Friday, and Western nations are trying to get Russia and China to agree to a beefed-up resolution authorising sanctions.
15 Jul 2012: Observer mission says attack appeared targeted at specific groups, as ICRC says it now regards Syrian violence as civil war
Residents of Tremseh, a small farming community in central Syria, say they were all targets of a bombardment on Thursday that involved mortars, artillery and helicopters. They claim that close to 150 people from the town are dead or missing.
The Syrian foreign ministry said on Sunday that 37 opposition fighters and two civilians had been killed in an operation against rebels who were using the town as a base to launch attacks on other areas.
The conflicting claims came as the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said it now regarded the violence in Syria as a civil war – a significant distinction that means international humanitarian law now applies in the country and any attacks on civilians and the abuse or killing of detainees could now constitute war crimes.
The Geneva-based agency had previously classed the violence in Syria as localised civil wars in three areas: Homs, Hama and Idlib. But hostilities have spread, with parts of southern Damascus on Sunday experiencing some of its heaviest daytime fighting to date, according to Reuters.
“There is a non-international armed conflict in Syria. Not every place is affected, but it is not only limited to those three areas; it has spread to several other areas,” said an ICRC spokesman, Hicham Hassan.
There remains uncertainty over the deaths last week in Tremseh. The UN monitoring mission in Syria, which sent an 11-vehicle team of observers to the town, said in a statement late on Saturday: “The attack on Tremseh appeared targeted at specific groups and houses, mainly of army defectors and activists.”
Opposition sources in Hama, around 20 miles south-east of Tremseh, say they have compiled a list of 103 fatalities, all of whom are male, which adds weight to the view that fighting-aged males were at least partly targeted.
Syria’s government says it was fighting a terror gang in Tremseh, some of whose members had been responsible for a massacre in June in al-Kubeir village, a farming community in nearby Homs province.
A foreign ministry spokesman, Jihad Makdissi, said on Sunday: “What happened in Tremseh was a military operation, not a massacre.” He denied accusations by the UN that state forces used heavy weapons and helicopters in the attack. “Government forces did not use planes or helicopters or tanks or artillery. The heaviest weapon used was an RPG ,” Makdissi said.
“Yesterday we received a letter from Mr Kofi Annan [the UN envoy] addressed to the foreign minister, Walid al-Moualem. The least that can be said about this letter about what happened in Tremseh is that it did not rely on facts. As diplomatically as possible, we say that this letter was very rushed.”
To support its claims, the government has offered testimonies of men it said had been ringleaders of a gang in Tremseh who had allegedly made confessions after their capture.
Observers who made it to Tremseh on Saturday reported scenes of destruction in the wake of the fighting, which the UN earlier said had involved between 50-100 explosions caused by artillery shells or rockets fired from helicopters.
“There were pools of blood and blood spatters in rooms of several homes together with bullet cases,” said the UN spokeswoman Sausan Ghosheh. “A wide range of weapons were used, including artillery, mortars and small arms.”
Earlier Annan said he had been shocked and appalled by the violence in Tremseh. Monitors reported that many homes and a school had been badly damaged or destroyed.
Two Tremseh residents who spoke to the Observer on Saturday denied that guerrilla forces such as the Free Syria Army had been in Tremseh in large numbers before the fighting started. However, one witness said FSA elements had joined the battle by mid-afternoon on Thursday, when regime forces, backed by a militia, are thought to have entered the town.
Residents said they fled their homes and as regime forces entered and said some of them were hunted down in nearby crop fields. “We don’t understand why they attacked us,” said a local woman, Umm Khaled. “We haven’t brought harm to the region. All we’ve done here is hold demonstrations.
“I swear that we don’t have any terrorists, Salafists, or anyone from the outside here. People have been terrified ever since [regime forces] came to the village in January and killed 40 of us. This time they stole from our homes, they robbed jewellery from women. All of this because we support the revolution?”
Bashar al-Assad could face prosecution as Red Cross rules Syria is in civil war: 15 Jul 2012: Declaration signals that Geneva-based organisation regards all civilians and detainees as protected under international law …
Tremseh: a village under siege – in pictures
Gallery (11 pictures), 15 Jul 2012: Tremseh, a village in Syria where more than 150 people were killed this week
Iran offers to host Syria talks – CNN.com Iran offers to host Syria talks.