Sunday 19 August 2012
Democratic Union Party in Syria – PYD reports the death of Kurdish man Issa Aloush Khader, aged 52 from Afrin, who was shot by snipers in Aleppo on 16 August 2012 as he made his way to work.
Syrian Observatory for Human Rights: Final death toll for 19/8/2012 – Approximately 130 Syrians were reported, and verified, as dead on Sunday 19/8/2012.
71 unarmed civilians:
-In Reef Dimashq province 21 civilians were killed. A civilian’s body was found killed in one of the farms on the edges
-In Dera’a province 16 civilians were killed. 1 civilian from the town of Nawa was killed by regime f ire in the al-Qadam neighbourhood of Damascus. 13 were executed by regime forces after being detained yesterday from the town of al-Hirak. A civilian was shot dead by regime forces when his house was raided in the al-Kahil town in Reef Dera’a. A woman was killed by the bombardment on the town of Heit.
-In Aleppo province 7 civilians were killed. 2 by the bombardment on the village of Ard al-Hamra, Reef Aleppo. 1 civilian was killed by a sniper in the al-Salheen neighbourhood. 4 civilians, including a child, were killed by the bombardment of the Sakhour neighbourhood.
-In Idlib province 6 civilians were killed. A woman was killed by random fire in the town of Sarmin. 4 children were killed by the bombardment of a market place in the city of Ma’arat al-Nu’man. 1 was killed by the bombardment of feyloon.
-In Homs province 5 civilians were killed. 1 civilian from the province was killed by the bombardment on Qara, Reef Dimashq. A woman civilian was killed by the bombardment on the city of al-Quseir. A man and a woman were killed by the bombardment on the city of al-Rastan today. 1 civilian was killed by a military checkpoint.
-In Damascus 1 civilian from the Qabr Atika neighbourhood was killed by gunfire in the town of Bebila. 2 civilians from the Mezzeh neighbourhood were killed by extreme torture. 1 was shot by regime forces in the al-Qadam neighbourhood.
-In Deir Izzor province the body of a civilian was found in the city of Deir Izzor, the causes of death are unknown.
-In Hama province 1 civilian was killed by bombardment on the al-Sheikh A’nbar neighbourhood in the city of Hama.
-In Latakia province the body of a civilian was found slaughtered in one of the farms in the village of al-Burj, Reef Latakia.
***The names of 6 civilians killed several day ago by the gunfire and bombardment in the towns of Ma’ardabsa and Ram Hamdan were documented by the SOHR***
***The bodies of 6 civilians were found dead today. 5 were found in the town of Yalda, Reef Dimashq, and 1 was found in the Qadam neighbourhood of Damascus.***
18 Rebel fighters:
Reef Dimashq: 5 rebel fighters were killed. 2 by regime fire in the town of Aqraba. 2 other fighters were killed under mysterious circumstances in the town of Jdeidat Artouz. 1 in the town of Qasimiya.
Aleppo province: 4 rebel fighters were killed during clashes with regime forces in the city of Aleppo.
Dera’a province: 4 rebel fighters were killed. 2 by clashes and bombardment on the Dera’a al-Balad neighbourhood. A rebel fighter was killed by regime gunfire in the town of al-Sheikh Miskeen. 1 from wounds during clashes in A’alama.
Deir Izzor province: 2 rebel fighters were killed. 1 from clashes in the city of Deir Izzor. 1 from earlier wounds.
Damascus: 1 rebel was killed during clashes in the al-Qadam neighbourhood.
Idbil province: A rebel fighter from the province was killed by clashes in the city of Aleppo.
Hama province: 1 rebel fighter was killed during clashes in Deir Izzor
4 defected soldiers, including a sergeant, were killed during clashes in Reef Dera’a. 1 defected soldier was killed during clashes in Reef Dimashq.
No less than 34 members of the Syrian armed forces were killed in the provinces of Damascus, Deir Izzor, Dera’a, Aleppo, Reef Dimashq and Hama.
The United Nations observer mission in Syria has formally ended, in line with Thursday’s Security Council decision.
The team was deployed to monitor a ceasefire between rebels and the government agreed as part of former UN envoy Kofi Annan’s six-point peace plan, but the truce never took hold.
The UN decided to end the mission in response to growing levels of violence.
Mr Annan’s successor, Lakhdar Brahimi, said on Sunday his task was no longer to prevent a civil war, but to end one.
“Civil war is the cruellest kind of conflict, when a neighbour kills his neighbour and sometimes his brother. It is the worst of conflicts,” the newly appointed Mr Brahimi told France 24 television.
“There are a lot of people who say that we must avoid civil war in Syria, but I believe that there has already been a civil war there for some time now. What’s necessary is to stop the civil war and that is not going to be easy.”
Mr Annan quit at the beginning of August, saying the increasing militarisation of the conflict as well as a lack of unity in the UN made it impossible for him to carry out his task.
Russia and China have vetoed resolutions on the crisis three times, citing their opposition to any action which might be seen as regime change imposed from outside.
The appointment of Mr Brahimi, 78, an Algerian who has held a long list of high-profile diplomatic posts, was widely welcomed by the international community on Sunday.
Officials in Damascus have also offered their support.
Analysts say he has a formidable reputation at the UN but is also seen as independent of the major powers.
However, opposition groups have expressed scepticism about his ability to accomplish his mission.
On Sunday, a dispute flared between Mr Brahimi and the Turkey-based opposition Syrian National Council after he said it was too soon for him to comment on whether President Bashar al-Assad should step down.
The group said Mr Brahimi’s comments were “unacceptable” and called for him to retract them and apologise.
Mr Brahimi later told Al-Jazeera TV that the SNC had misinterpreted his comments, and in turn demanded that the group apologise to him.
Announcing the end of its observer mission, the UN said a small civilian office will be set up instead to maintain political contacts.
“The conditions to continue [the mission] were not filled,” France’s UN ambassador, Gerard Araud, said after a Security Council meeting on Thursday.
As a result, the mission ended at midnight local time (21:00 GMT) on Sunday.
Before the decision, Russia had warned that pulling out of Syria would have “serious negative consequences” for the region.
On Saturday, the departing mission’s head, Gen Babacar Gaye of Senegal, accused both government forces and rebels of failing to protect civilians.Activists estimate about 20,000 people have died since anti-government protests erupted against the Assad regime in March last year. Tens of thousands of people have also fled the country.
On Sunday, President Assad made his first appearance in public since a bomb attack in Damascus last month killed several senior officials.
State TV showed Mr Assad performing prayers in the capital’s al-Hamad mosque at the start of the Eid al-Fitr festival marking the end of Ramadan.
His other appearances since the bombing had showed him carrying out official duties in government buildings.
Across the country, many people marked the Eid al-Fitr holiday with prayers and anti-government demonstrations.
Opposition groups also reported fierce bombardments of rebel-held areas.
Parts of Aleppo and Rastan were shelled, and clashes reported in Herak, Deraa province, the pro-rebel Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.
Protests were held at cemeteries and mosques around Syria including Damascus, Hama and Idlib, opposition activists said.
His first appearance in public since a July bombing that killed four top security officials, attending prayers at a Damascus mosque on Sunday to mark the start of the Muslim holiday of Eid, state TV showed.
The first day of Eid also gave Assad’s opponents a chance to rally and activists reported protests around Syria, including in the capital, on a holiday that marked the end of the Islamic holy fasting month of Ramadan. Fighting raged on around Syria, killing more than 100 people, an activist group reported.
Battling a 17-month-old uprising against 42 years of rule by his family, Assad was filmed at prayer with his prime minister and foreign minister but not with his vice president, Farouq al-Shara, whose reported defection was denied the previous day.
Shaken by a July 18 bomb attack in Damascus and defections – including that of his last prime minister – Assad’s recent appearances on state TV had previously been restricted to footage of him conducting official business. He was shown swearing in the new prime minister a week ago.
Syria’s civil war has intensified since the bombing that killed members of Assad’s inner circle, including his defence minister and brother-in-law.
Assad was pictured sitting cross-legged at a mosque in the Damascus residential district of Muhajirin listening to a sermon in which Syria was described as a victim of “terrorism” and a conspiracy hatched by the United States, Israel, the West and Arabs – a reference to Gulf states which back the revolt.
Sheikh Mohammad Kheir Ghantous said the plot would not “defeat our Islam, our ideology and our determination”.
Dressed in a suit and tie, Assad smiled as he greeted officials including senior members of his Baath Party.
In attendance were Foreign Minister Walid al-Moualem and Prime Minister Wael al-Halki. He is the replacement for Riyad Hijab, a Sunni who has joined the opposition to Assad since his defection was announced on August 6.
Hijab was the highest-level Syrian official to desert the government so far. Reports on Saturday that Shara, also a Sunni, had tried to bolt to Jordan drew a denial from the government.
Shara, 73, had “never thought for a moment about leaving the country”, according to a statement from his office broadcast on state television. Shara, whose cousin – an intelligence officer – announced his own defection on Thursday, comes from Deraa province where the revolt against Assad begun.
The ex-foreign minister kept a low profile as the revolt mushroomed but appeared last month at a funeral for three of the slain officials. The fourth died later of his wounds.
With diplomatic efforts to end the war hampered by divisions between world powers and regional rivalries, Syria is facing the prospect of a prolonged conflict that threatens to destabilise the Middle East with its sectarian overtones, pitting a mainly Sunni Muslim opposition against the Alawite minority to which Assad belongs.
The statement by Shara’s office said he had worked since the start of the uprising to find a peaceful, political solution and welcomed the appointment of Algerian diplomat Lakhdar Brahimi as a new international mediator for Syria.
Brahimi hesitated for days before accepting the job. France‘s U.N. envoy Gerard Araud has called it an “impossible mission”. Brahimi replaces former U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan, who is leaving at the end of the month.
Annan’s six-point plan to stop the violence and advance towards negotiations was based on an April ceasefire agreement which never took root. The conflict has deepened since then.
FIGHTING CONTINUES DESPITE START OF EID
The London-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said more than 100 people had been killed on Sunday. The figure could not be independently verified. It reported fighting in Damascus, Deraa and elsewhere despite the start of the Eid holiday.
In the rebel-held village of Saraja, near the Turkish border, the bereaved visited their relatives’ graves, in accordance with Eid tradition. “He had four children, he was my only son,” said an elderly woman who identified herself as Umm Jumaa, speaking in a video obtained by Reuters as she visited the grave of her slain son.
A trench had been dug nearby in anticipation of more bodies.
Even as President Assad appeared in Damascus, videos posted by activists on YouTube showed protests against him in and around the capital. “Oh martyr, your blood will not go to waste,” chanted protesters in Qudsia, a Damascus neighbourhood, in a YouTube posting dated August 19.
“The people want divine protection,” chanted several dozen men shown in another video, posted by activists and dated August 19. It showed a protest at Yabrud, north of Damascus.
But what started out last year as a mostly peaceful protest movement against Assad’s rule is now an armed insurrection.
Government forces have increasingly resorted to air power to hold back lightly armed insurgents in Damascus and Aleppo, Syria’s largest city and business hub. More than 18,000 people have died in Syria’s bloodshed and about 170,000 have fled the country, according to the United Nations. ? Aleppo has been the theatre for some of the heaviest recent fighting. Rebels hold several districts in the country’s largest city and have tried to push back against an army counter-offensive.
U.N. investigators said last week that government forces and allied militia had committed war crimes, including murder and the torture of civilians in what seemed to be state-directed policy.
Syrian insurgents had also committed war crimes, including executions, but on a smaller scale than those by the army and security forces, according to the investigators.
Syrian state television reported that government forces had thwarted several attempts by armed groups to infiltrate Syria from Lebanon, a country whose own fragile stability has been put under strain by the conflict next door.
SYRIAN OPPOSITION CRITICISES BRAHIMI
Brahimi will have a new title, Joint Special Representative for Syria. Diplomats said this was to distance him from Annan, who complained that his peace plan was crippled by splits between Western powers – who want Assad out – and Russia – his weightiest ally – and China in the U.N. Security Council.
Describing the situation in Syria as “absolutely terrible”, Brahimi told Reuters he urgently needed to clarify what support the United Nations can give him.
But he drew criticism on Sunday from the Syrian opposition over a statement that it was too early to say whether Assad should step down – in apparent contrast to Annan who said it was clear the Syrian leader “must leave office”.
In remarks to Al Jazeera on Sunday, Brahimi backed away from the comment, explaining that it was too early for him to say anything at all about his mission. “I was only appointed two days ago,” he said.
(Additional reporting by Reuters TV; Khaled Oweis in Amman; Mirna Sleiman in Dubai, Karolin Schaps in London and Matt Spetalnick in Air Force One; Editing by Andrew Osborn)
Syria National Council asks UN envoy to rescind remarks | Reuters: The main SyrianNational Council opposition group demanded on Sunday that the conflict’s new international mediator apologise for saying it was too early to comment on whether President Bashar al-Assad should step down.
Lakhdar Brahimi, speaking after the United Nations confirmed last week that he would take over Kofi Annan’s mediation role, said he could not ask Assad to resign because he did not “know enough about what is happening”, in contrast to Annan who said it was clear the Syrian leader “must leave office”.
Brahimi, an Algerian diplomat, appeared to back away from the comment in remarks on Sunday to Al Jazeera, explaining that what he had said was that it was too early for him to say anything about “the content” of his mission.
“I was only appointed two days ago and have not been to New York or Cairo. It is premature to say anything about the content of the case,” Brahimi said, referring to the seats of the United Nations and the Arab League, who he will represent.
The Syrian National Council, which was established in Turkey last year, said Brahimi appeared to be giving Assad time to pursue his military crackdown.
The Council said Brahimi showed “disregard for the blood of the Syrian people and their right of self-determination”.
“Whoever gives this criminal regime an opportunity to kill tens of thousands more Syrians and destroy what is left of Syria does not want to recognise the extent of the tragedy,” the council said in a statement.
“Giving Bashar al-Assad the time he needs to destroy the basis of Syrian society is against humanity and peace … We demand that the envoy, who did not consult any Syrian about his mission, to apologise to our people,” the statement said.
More than 18,000 people have been killed and some 170,000 have fled Syria since the revolt against the Assad family rule, broke out in March last year, according to the United Nations.
The SNC said that, according to its own tally, the number killed by Assad’s forces had risen from a few hundred a month last year to an average of 2,000 a month to 5,000 during the holy month of Ramadan, which ended on Saturday. It was not possible to independently verify the figures.
Annan, who steps down at the end of the month with his peace plan in tatters, resigned complaining that divisions within the Security Council had hampered his work.
(Reporting by Khaled Yacoub Oweis; Editing by Alison Williams)