Sunday 28 October 2012
Syrian Observatory for Human Rights: More than 120 Syrian-Kurd civilians freed after being kidnapped by rebel fighters.
Aleppo province: The SOHR reports that the arab rebel fighters have freed the Syrian-Kurdish civilians they arbitrarily detained 2 days ago near the town of Hayyan, they kidnapped more than 120 residents. The kidnapping occurred after clashes took place between fighters from the Arab rebel groups and members of the Kurdish popular defence units, which are under the control of the Democratic Union Party (PYD). 30 people were killed in the violence, 8 Syrian-Kurd civilians were shot and killed when their protest marched towards a rebel checkpoint between the Sheikh Maqsoud and Ashrafiya neighbourhoods of Aleppo; 22 combatants were killed by the clashes that ensued afterwards 19 Arab rebels, 3 Kurds.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights welcomes this action of freeing the kidnapped, we urge both groups to free that all persons that are detained immediately. It is the first step to avoiding an ethnic civil war, which is supported by and only benefits the Syrian regime and regional agencies.
Footage of the protest in a-Ashrafiya, Aleppo city, being attacked: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zFjUpz3uyI8&feature=youtu.be
Syrian Observatory for Human Rights: Preliminary death toll for Sunday 28/10/2012: Approximately 110 Syrians were killed. The dead include: 39 unarmed civilians, 2 unidentified bodies, 34 rebel fighters, 35 regular soldiers.
-Reef Dimashq 10 civilians were killed. 2 died of wounds in Yabrud. 3 children were killed by the bombardment of the Hseiniya town. 2 men were killed by the violence in Harasta. 1 was killed by sniper in Sidi Meqdad. 2 unidentified bodies were found in the town of Mou’adamiya.
-In Aleppo 2 civilians killed. A woman was killed by the bombardment on the Sleiman al-Halabi neighbourhood. A young man was killed by a snipr in the Zabdiya neighbourhood.
-In Homs province 7 civilians killed. 3 civilians including a child were killed by the bombardment on al-Dara. A child died of wounds in Talbisa. 2 men died of wounds in Tel Kalakh and al-Qseir. 1 man was killed by a sniper in Khaldiya, Homs city. A woman was killed by pro-regime gunmen in the city of al-Qseir.
-In Hama province 1 civilian was tortured to death after being detained from the Bab Qabli neighbourhood of Hama.
-In Dera’a 1 civilian was killed by a sniper in the town of Busra al-Sham.
34 Rebel fighters:
Reef Dimashq: 14 rebel fighters killed by clashes in Harasta, Douma, Hran al Awameed, al ebada, Erbeen and Rankous.
Aleppo: 7 rebels were killed. 3 in Aleppo city and 5 in the Reef.
Idlib: 7 rebels killed. 2 rebels killed by clashes in Ma’arat al-Nu’man, 3 by wounds in the Reef of the Ma’arat. 1 by the town of Ma’arat al-Na’san. 1 from wounds.
Deir Izzour province: 4 rebel fighters killed, 1 in Deir Izzour city by a sniper. 3 by an airstrike in al-Mayadeen, when the jet attacked their 4×4, which had an anti-aircraft gun.
Homs province: 1 rebel was killed by the clashes in al-Haydariya village.
Hama province: 1 rebel from Hama city was killed by clashes in Aleppo.
No less than 35 regular soldiers were killed: 12 in Reef Dimashq, 11 in Idlib, 6 in Aleppo, 6 in Deir Izzour.
[local time] 22:17 Around 70 Syrian army soldiers turned themselves in to the Turkish border guards at a point located outside Edleb, Al-Jazeera television reported.
21:53 Sunday’s death toll in Syria has risen to 113 people, Al-Arabiya television quoted activists as saying
21:51 Syrian regime forces resumed the shelling of Al-Haydariya and Masaken Hanano neighborhoods in Aleppo, activists said
21:43 Syrian regime forces shelled the town of Dael in Daraa, activists said
20:30 Syrian rebels have taken control of the Syrian regime’s air force intelligence office in Aleppo, Al-Arabiya television quoted activists as saying
20:29 A huge explosion rocked a police academy in the neighborhood of Barza in Damascus, Al-Arabiya television quoted activists as saying
20:00 An air strike on Idlib province in northwest Syria on Sunday killed at least 16 people, including seven children and five women, a monitoring group said.
19:51 Sunday’s death toll in Syria has risen to 92 people, Al-Arabiya television quoted activists as saying
18:17 An explosives-laden car blew up in the area Al-Jameyaat outside Damascus, Al-Arabiya television quoted activists as saying
17:52 Sunday’s death toll in Syria has risen to 74 people, Al-Jazeera television quoted activists as saying
16:35 A number of people were killed and others injured in the Syrian regime’s shelling of the towns of Al-Bahra and Kfarouma in Edleb, activists said
14:56 Sunday’s death toll in Syria has risen to 45 people, Al-Arabiya television quoted activists as saying.
14:36 Syrian Islamist group Al-Nusra Front has denied responsibility for a bombing in Damascus that dramatically shattered a ceasefire, instead blaming the regime, SITE Intelligence Group reported on Sunday.
14:34 Iraq stopped and searched a Syria-bound cargo plane from Iran for weapons for the second time in a month on Sunday, but allowed it to continue as no banned items were found, an official said.
14:32 The rebel Free Syrian Army announced that it had secured control of the town of Selqin in the Edleb district, Al-Jazeera reported.
14:20 Three people were killed and others injured in the shelling of Al-Dar al-Kabira in the Homs district, Al-Jazeera quoted activists as saying.
14:05 Sunday’s death toll in Syria has increased to 30 people, mostly killed in the Damascus district, Al-Jazeera quoted activist as saying.
11:54 Syrian rebels launched a series of attacks on army positions Sunday as regime air strikes hit opposition-held towns near Damascus after the failure of a Muslim holiday ceasefire effort, a watchdog said.
11:43 The shelling of Douma in the Damascus district led to a heavy exodus of residents, activists said.
11:01 Twelve people were killed in Syria on Sunday – the third day of a truce called for on the occasion of the Muslim feast of Eid al-Adha – activists said.
10:35 Heavy shelling hit the neighborhoods of Al-Joubeila and Al-Roushdiya in Deir az-Zour, activists said.
10:35 Loud explosions rocked the town of Harasta in the Damascus district, activists said.
8:46 Regime forces heavily clashed with members of the rebel Free Syrian Army in the neighborhood of Al-Hajar al-Aswad in Damascus, activists said.
8:44 Syrian regime forces resumed the shelling of Douma in the Damascus district, activists said.
Syrian jets bombarded Sunni Muslim regions in Damascus and across the country on Sunday, activists said, as President Bashar al-Assad kept up air strikes against rebels despite a U.N.-brokered truce that now appears to be in tatters.
“The ceasefire is practically over. Damascus has been under brutal air raids since day one and hundreds of people have been arrested,” said veteran opposition campaigner Fawaz Tello.
“Assad has been trying to use the truce to seize back control of areas of Damascus,” said Tello, who is well connected with rebels.
Speaking from Berlin, Tello said Sunni districts in the city of Homs, 140 km (90 miles) north of Damascus, and surrounding countryside came under Syrian army shelling on Sunday.
Both sides in the 19-month-old conflict have violated the ceasefire intended to mark the Muslim religious holiday of Eid al-Adha. The truce, brokered by international peace envoy Lakhdar Brahimi, was supposed to come into effect on Friday, the first day of the four-day holiday.
Syrian authorities blame “armed terrorists” for breaking the truce and the opposition says a ceasefire is impossible while Assad continues to move his tanks and use heavy artillery and jets against populated areas.
Brahimi hopes to end the conflict that has killed at least 32,000 people and worsened instability in the Middle East. It began when a popular revolt broke out in March last year against four decades of authoritarian rule by Assad and his late father, President Hafez al-Assad.
The ceasefire appeal had won widespread international support, including from Russia, China and Iran, President Assad’s main foreign allies.
But the truce seems destined to share the fate of failed peace efforts that have preceded it, with dozens of people continuing to be killed daily and international and regional powers at odds while they back different sides.
A sectarian divide between Assad’s minority Alawite sect a and Syria’s majority Sunnis is also growing, fuelling religious fervor in the region and driving more foreign jihadists into the country.
In the capital Damascus, activists and residents reported large explosions and plumes of smoke rising over the city as Syrian airforce jets bombed the suburbs of Zamalka, Irbin, Harasta and Zamalka.
A statement by the Harasta Media Office, an opposition activists’ group, said aerial and ground bombardments had killed at least 45 people in the district since Friday.
Electricity, water and communications had been cut and dozens of wounded at the Harasta National Hospital had been moved as the bombardment closed in, the statement said.
Activists also reported fighting in the suburb of Douma to the northeast, where Free Syrian Army fighters have been attacking roadblocks manned by forces loyal to the government.
Assad is a member of the minority Alawite sect, which is distantly related to Shi’ite Islam. It has dominated majority-Sunni Syria since the 1960s, when Alawite officers assumed control of a military junta that had taken power in a coup.
Warplanes also hit towns and villages in the eastern province of Deir al-Zor, the northern provinces of Idlib and Aleppo, where rebels have been trying to push their advantage in rural areas by cutting off supply lines to the major cities, none of which has fallen completely under opposition control.
CLASHES WITH KURDS
Fighting was reported in the city of Aleppo, Syria’s industrial and commercial hub. Rebels attacked several road blocks manned by Assad’s loyalists and a 20-year-old girl was killed in army bombardment on Suleiman al-Halabi neighborhood, opposition activists said.
Rebel attempts to portray themselves as a united alternative to Assad suffered a setback when clashes broke out on Saturday in Ashrafieh, a Kurdish district of Aleppo that had up to now stayed out of the fighting. Armed clashes broke out between opposition fighters and members of the Syrian branch of the Kurdish Workers Party (PKK).
Mouhaimen al-Rumaid, coordinator for the opposition Syrian Rebel Front, said the fighting erupted when PKK fighters helped Assad’s forces defend a security compound in Ashrafieh that came under rebel attack.
Rumaid said scores of people were killed and rebels seized dozens of PKK members.
“The Ashrafieh incident has to be contained because it could extend to other areas in the northeast where the PKK is well organized,” he said.
(Reporting by Khaled Yacoub Oweis, Amman newsroom, editing by Rosalind Russell)
[SKS comment: this was not PKK - they are not active in Syria; the Kurds were defending themselves against people coming into the area with malevalent intent - the Kurds. They admit anyone, but without uniforms or weapons. The Kurds are defended by YPG who come from the unified Kuridsh organisation, and who are there for self-defence. On this occasion they were protecting the people who were seeking sanctuary in their area. They were not defending the al-Assad forces. The report above is unfortunately yet another example of how the Kurdish voice is not heard.]
DAMASCUS — Fighting and air raids shook Syria on Sunday as the international community looked to pick up the pieces of a failed effort to halt the violence for the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Adha.
Fresh clashes saw rebels storm regime positions in the suburbs of Damascus as air strikes pummelled opposition-held areas on the eastern outskirts of the capital, activists and a watchdog said.
The four-day ceasefire proposed by UN-Arab League envoy Lakhdar Brahimi collapsed amid clashes, shelling and car bomb attacks only hours after it had been due to take effect with the start of Eid on Friday morning.
With hopes shattered of even a temporary halt to the 19 months of violence in Syria, diplomats said Brahimi is looking ahead to new efforts to tackle the crisis.
He is to go to the UN Security Council in November with new proposals aimed at pushing for political talks between President Bashar al-Assad and the opposition, UN diplomats told AFP, and will head this week for Russia and China to discuss the crisis.
Brahimi will “come back with some ideas for Security Council activity early next month,” said one senior UN diplomat.
“The political process will not start until Assad and the opposition have battered each other so much that there is no choice. They are not there yet, but Brahimi has some ideas,” added another envoy at the Security Council.
On the ground Sunday, rebel forces took control of three military posts in the outer Damascus suburb of Douma amid fierce fighting and killed four soldiers at another checkpoint in the region, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.
Regime warplanes hit targets in three air strikes in the nearby towns of Irbin, Zamalka and Harasta, where the military has been trying for weeks to dislodge rebel forces, the group said.
Clashes, shelling and car bomb attacks killed 114 people on Saturday, the Observatory said, including 47 civilians, 36 soldiers and 31 rebels.
The Britain-based Observatory relies on a countrywide network of activists, lawyers and medics in civilian and military hospitals. It says its tolls take into account civilians, military, and rebel casualties.
Fighting also raged in the northern commercial hub of Aleppo, where rebels were trying to take a strategic central military barracks and a woman was killed in shelling, it said.
Rebel forces fighting in the city are mainly from Islamist-linked units such as the “Battalion of Mohammed’s Soldiers” and the Al-Nusra Front, who operate independently of the main rebel Free Syrian Army (FSA), the watchdog said.
The Al-Nusra Front and other Islamist groups had rejected the ceasefire from the beginning.
Assad’s regime has blamed the rebels for the failure of the ceasefire, saying government forces only responded to opposition ceasefire violations.
The regime has accused rebels of acting on behalf of foreign powers, notably Qatar and Saudi Arabia, and on Sunday state media blamed them for the ceasefire’s collapse.
“These terrorist groups are not the masters of their own decisions and generally follow foreign parties that have no interest in stopping the bloodshed in Syria,” government newspaper Al-Thawra wrote in an editorial.
Brahimi had hoped the Eid truce might lead to a more permanent ceasefire during which he could push for a political solution and bring aid to stricken areas of the country.
Analysts and diplomats said the Algerian diplomat had been realistic about the ceasefire’s chances and that its failure would not stop him from making a new bid to halt the conflict.
“Brahimi never pretended the ceasefire had a high chance of success,” said Richard Gowan, of the Centre on International Cooperation at New York University.
“Diplomats at the UN won’t blame him for this failure. Syrian citizens may be less forgiving, but they have surely given up any hope in the UN already. Brahimi can and should soldier on after Eid.”
Rights groups say more than 35,000 people have been killed in the conflict, which began as an anti-regime uprising but is now a civil war pitting mainly Sunni rebels against Assad’s regime dominated by his minority Alawite sect, an offshoot of Shiite Islam.
The four-day ceasefire that went into effect on Friday should have been the first good news from Syria for several months. The initiative came from Lakhdar Brahimi, the UN and Arab League’s special envoy, and wasaccepted by Bashar al-Assad’s government as well as several opposition commanders.
Two Islamist groups rejected it outright and both sides put conditions on it. The government said it would respond to rebel attacks and the rebels said the government should not resupply its troops. The rebels seemed to be particularly sceptical of any ceasefire since they appear to believe the military momentum is with them, and they have always been wary of political negotiations unless Assad first resigns.
Although ceasefire violations have been numerous, there has been a slight overall drop in military activity. Reports from Aleppo suggest the city has been quieter and in other places people had a brief respite, especially on the first day. UN agencies, working with the Syrian Arab Red Crescent, had pre-positioned tons of aid for displaced families and were able to dispatch two convoys to Homs. Dozens of Syrian civil society groups have been working to get medicine, food and blankets to the informal shelters where homeless families are living in and around Damascus and Aleppo.
Aleppo has been the focus of terrible recent clashes. It has fallen victim to the worst destruction of any major city in the world since 1945. Over a third of its 2 million residents may have fled. According to Haytham Manna, the head of the National Co-ordination Body for Democratic Change in Syria, Aleppo’s tragedy began when rebels attacked the city without having the strength to win it; whole districts were then destroyed by government counterattacks.
Manna lives in Paris but the rest of his 25-person executive lead opposition groups inside Syria. They still believe the best way to remove the Assad regime is through a ceasefire and a political settlement that provides for a democratic transition in which state institutions are reformed, not destroyed. They condemn the government’s indiscriminate use of air power in built-up areas but are aware of growing civilian criticism of rebel tactics. Manna even claims to detect signs of fatigue among the armed opposition.
He and his colleagues inside Syria consider diplomatic intervention the only solution. Russia and the US must reach a consensus to halt arms supplies and put pressure on each side to have a long-lasting ceasefire. This would be followed by negotiations between the Syrian parties as well as talks among Syria’s neighbours to guarantee no outside power would undermine the transition to a new system. It is a tall order. In their recent debates Romney and Obama produced the usual formulas that have yielded no breakthrough yet: Assad must go now, sanctions must be tightened, and support must increase for the armed opposition while ensuring weapons only go to “moderates”. There was no mention of ceasefires, the UN, Brahimi, or a political solution.
On the Syrian government side there are severe obstacles. The ceasefire track is not new. Before Brahimi took over Kofi Annan’s team had tried to negotiate truces in Homs, Rustan and Deir el-Zour. Assad claimed to agree but his generals vetoed the plans. Since then the regime’s security chiefs have launched air attacks and new massacres in districts on the edge of Damascus. Now come this weekend’s ceasefire violations. Like some of the rebels, the generals still believe military victory is possible.
They have also poisoned the atmosphere for talks, even if it means snubbing Russia, China and Iran. After Russian pressure the government allowed Manna’s group to hold a conference in Damascus last month. But the day before it opened, one of the group’s leaders, Abdelaziz al-Khayer, and two colleagues were detained by troops of the Airforce Intelligence, the most feared of the security agencies. Repeated inquiries by Russian, Chinese and Iranian diplomats have not yet produced their release.
Once the US election is over, Washington needs to change policy. One-sided support for the armed opposition condemns Syrians to months, perhaps years, of bloodshed. A Libya-style intervention would be a worse escalation. Far better to junk the failed strategy both candidates followed in last week’s debate and work with Russia and Brahimi on a permanent ceasefire. Whatever disputes Obama has with Putin on other issues, he needs to work with the Kremlin on Syria rather than provoke it.