Thursday 1 November 2012
Firat News agency announced today that Nujin Deyrik has been killed. She is a leader within YPG – Popular Peoples Protection Unit, and Firat understood that she was killed by an armed group in Aleppo. She was handing back the bodies of those who died during the fighting after an armed group shot peaceful protestors in Ashrafiya in 26 October 2012: http://ar.firatajans.com/index.php?rupel=nuce&nuceID=4934
She had been held by the armed group, but was later released.
Syrian Observatory for Human Rights: Preliminary death toll for Thursday 1/11/2012: More than 157 Syrians killed so far today. The dead include: 50 civilians, 35 rebel fighters, 72 regular soldiers.
-In Deir Izzour a man was killed by the bombardment on al-Bukamal town.
-In Raqqah province 4 civilians, including women and children, were killed by the regime bombardment on the village of al-Ali Bajleya in reef al-Raqqa.
-In Damascus 2 unidentified bodies were found in the Barzeh neighbourhood.
-In Latakia province 2 men were killed. 1 was killed after being detained by regime forces in the al-Nazquna village Reef Latakia. 1 from wounds caused by the bombardment on Jabal al-Turkman 2 days ago.
35 Rebel fighters:
Idlib: 16 rebels were killed. 5 by clashes in checkpoints near Saraqib. 9 by clashes and bombardment in al-Neyrab, Harem, Mehambal, Seigar and Salqin. 3 killed in Ma’arat al-Nu’man.
Aleppo: 7 rebels killed by clashes in the town of Khan al-Asal and in the city of Aleppo.
Reef Dimashq: 5 rebels were killed in Harasta.
Deir Izzour: 5 rebels killed. 3 rebels, one also worked as a media activist, were killed by the clashes in the al-Mayadeen city. 2 rebels were killed by regime fire in Deir Izzour city.
Hama: 1 rebel from al-Ziyara village was killed from wounds by clashes yesterday.
Damascus: A rebel from the Midan neighbourhood was killed by the bombardment on the town of Zamalka, Reef Dimashq.
72 regular soldiers were killed by attacks on checkpoints and clashes in several provinces: 45 in Idlib, 8 in Reef Dimashq, 7 in Deir Izzour, 6 in Dera’a, 6 in Aleppo.
Footage of rebel fighters rounding up and summarily executing more than 8 regular soldiers. The rebels also physically abuse the victims before the massacre, kicking them repeatedly. This comes after rebels take over the Hmeisho checkpoint west of Saraqeb town, Idlib province. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6_ttA71FTB8&feature=plcp
AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL NEWSFLASH
New video evidence emerged on Thursday which appears to show an armed group in Syria’s Idlib province carrying out a mass summary killing of men in their custody.
In the footage – which is reported to be from a checkpoint near Saraqeb in Idlib province – at least 10 men, who some believe are captured members of the security forces, are beaten and kicked before members of the armed group open fire on them. It is unknown how many were killed in the incident, but media outlets and a Syrian NGO have suggested that at least 28 died.
Ann Harrison, Amnesty International’s Deputy Middle East and North Africa Programme Director said:
“This shocking footage depicts a potential war crime in progress, and demonstrates an utter disregard for international humanitarian law by the armed group in question.
“Amnesty International has so far been unable to confirm the identity of the armed group that carried out these summary killings, and no group has yet claimed responsibility. But we will continue to investigate the incident and once again urge all sides to respect the laws of war and to refrain from torturing, ill-treating or killing their prisoners.”
A recent Amnesty International report noted a sharp rise in Syrian government forces’ use of extrajudicial and summary executions against civilians as well as members of armed groups including the Free Syria Army. The report cited a number of occasions where hand-bound bodies were discovered near the Air Force Intelligence headquarters in Aleppo.
[local time] 22:27 Frustrated with the divisions in the Syrian opposition and its Syrian National Council, Washington is pushing for a wider political force, more representative of the people fighting on the ground and able to curb an Islamist “hijack” of the revolution.
22:03 Several people were injured in the shelling of the neighborhood of Al-Hajar al-Aswad in Damascus, Al-Arabiya quoted activists as saying.
21:44 A YouTube video purportedly filmed on Thursday shows rebels executing pro-Syrian regime fighters after storming their outpost in the Idlib town of Saraqeb.
21:38 A YouTube video purportedly filmed on Thursday shows a regime warplane bombing Aarbin outside Damascus.
21:27 More than 170 people were killed so far across Syria according to the Syrian Observatory of Human Rights. The watchdog group also said that at least 72 regime forces personnel were killed in clashes in several Syrian districts.
19:50 Activists told NOW on Thursday that a considerable number of young men and women took part in an anti-regime protest in the Damascus neighborhood of Rokeneddine calling for the fall of the regime of President Bashar al-Assad. The protesters also distributed leaflets underscoring their determination to bring down the regime.
19:15 The West has raised fears Syria’s revolution is falling into the hands of Islamic extremists, but many rebels, and even some peaceful activists, say they are willing to tolerate jihadist fighters for lack of a better option.
17:00 Thursday’s death toll in Syria has reached 70 people, activists said.
16:22 Syrian regime airplanes shelled eastern suburbs of Damascus, activists reported.
15:52 Syrian regime forces summarily executed 11 people in the Hama neighborhood of Kazou and handed over their bodies to their families, activists reported.
14:17 Sixteen soldiers defected from the Syrian regime’s forces in Aleppo, Al-Jazeera television reported.
14:13 China said Thursday it had made “constructive new suggestions” to end the bloodshed in Syria, including a phased region-by-region ceasefire and the formation of a transitional government.
13:51 Shaam Network spokesperson in Edleb, Ahmad Qadour, told NOW that rebels took over two Syrian army checkpoints, one in the town of Hamisho near Saraqeb, and the Al-Khaleej checkpoint on the Aleppo-Damascus highway. The activist also reported that regime airplanes shelled the towns of Talmans and Maar Shamarayn near Maarat al-Naaman. Meanwhile, the director of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights told NOW that clashes were still ongoing between rebels and regime forces in the Aleppo neighborhoods of Al-Hamdaniya, Al-Zahraa, Al-Aaziziya and Al-Jamiliya.
13:35 Rebel attacks killed 28 soldiers in Syria’s north on Thursday, AFP reported activists as saying.
12:22 The head of the main opposition Syrian National Council on Thursday blamed the international community’s failure to react to the country’s conflict for fuelling Islamic extremist sentiment.
12:06 Fifteen people were killed on Thursday in the Edleb district, Al-Jazeera television quoted activists as saying.
12:04 A number of people were injured in the Syrian regime’s shelling of Zamlka near Damascus, activists said
10:49 Syrian regime forces killed at least five people on Thursday, Al-Jazeera television quoted activists as saying.
10:12 Syrian regime forces shelled the Al-Asali neighborhood in Damascus, activists said.
10:06 A warplane bombed the outskirts of the rebel-held town of Harasta, east of Damascus, as helicopter gunships strafed a district of Syria’s capital on Thursday, monitors said.
10:04 Syrian regime forces shelled the town of Al-Rastan near Homs, activists said.
9:07 Syrian regime forces shelled Jabal al-Akrad near Latakia, activists said.
9:00 MORNING LEADER: The unprecedented surge in air strikes carried out by Syrian forces this week is a desperate attempt by President Bashar al-Assad’s regime to reverse recent gains by rebel fighters, analysts and rebels say. The air raids aim at strike fear and provoke anger to turn local populations against rebels fighting in their midst.
8:51 A Lebanese television journalist abducted by a rebel group in northern Syria has been freed, his employer said on Thursday, adding that he had crossed the border into neighboring Turkey.
8:43 Syrian regime forces shelled the Hajjar al-Aswad neighborhood in Damascus, Al-Jazeera television quoted activists as saying.
8:35 The Syrian regime forces shelled Dael in Daraa, activists said.
8:32 Clashes broke out between Syrian rebels and regime forces in the Sayeda Zaynab area outside Damascus, Al-Jazeera quoted activists as saying.
BEIRUT – Anti-government rebels killed 28 soldiers on Thursday in attacks on three army checkpoints around Saraqeb, a town on Syria’s main north-south highway, a monitoring group said. | Video
Rebel attacks on army checkpoints on the main road between Syria’s biggest cities, Damascus and Aleppo, leave 28 soldiers dead, reports say.
Five opposition fighters were also killed in the attacks, said the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a UK-based activist group.
They came as regime helicopters and jets carried out air strikes in eastern suburbs of the capital and elsewhere.
These often drop barrels of TNT, which are inaccurate but cause huge damage.
Helicopter gunships strafed an area of Damascus while warplanes were in action over the capital’s suburbs and in north-western Idlib province, said the SOHR.
In the past few weeks, the military has stepped up the use of warplanes where ground forces have not been able to dislodge rebel fighters.
The government soldiers were killed in attacks on three army checkpoints in Idlib, said the SOHR.
They said rebel fighters had overrun at least one of the checkpoints, near Saraqeb south-west of Aleppo, killing a large number of troops and seizing quantities of arms and ammunition.
The checkpoints are of considerable strategic importance, says the BBC’s Jim Muir in neighbouring Lebanon, but the rebels are unlikely to try to hold them.
They are exposed positions, and government forces are sure to hit back with artillery and air strikes, adds our correspondent.
Opposition gains on the ground at Saraqeb, at nearby Maarat al-Numan and elsewhere are believed to be one of the main reasons for the sharp escalation in recent days of the regime’s use of its monopoly of air power.
Maarat al-Numan straddles the Damascus-Aleppo motorway and has been under bombardment by government forces since it fell to rebels on 10 October.
In Damascus, meanwhile, state-run media Sana reported that a bomb hidden in a rubbish bag had exploded near a Shia Muslim shrine, killing 11 people and wounding 39.
Sana also reported that a car bomb in another Damascus suburb, Moaddamiya, caused several casualties.
The SOHR says more than 36,000 people – among them 25,667 civilians, 9,044 security forces personnel and 1,296 rebel fighters – have been killed since protests against Mr Assad erupted in March 2011.
The SOHR is one of the most prominent organisations documenting and reporting incidents and casualties in the Syrian conflict. The group says its reports are impartial, though its information cannot be verified.
In early summer, Abu Ismael, a six-year veteran of al-Qaida, left the insurgency still blazing in his homeland of Iraq and travelled to what he believes is the start of the apocalypse.
He secured cash from a benefactor in the northern Iraqi city of Erbil, then approached a weapons dealer in Anbar province, a desolate corner of the country that was not long ago a staging point for jihadis arriving fromSyria and is now a gateway for those going the other way.
“It was easy,” he said, in the sitting room of a house in the Syrian city of Aleppo. “The money was no problem, neither was the weapon, or the motivation. This will be a fight against the great enemy.”
Around the hard-bitten 23-year-old sat three members of a Syrian rebel militia who were acting as his hosts. They looked at the floor as the young jihadi explained Qur’anic teachings that he said were shaping the battle ahead. “I don’t care about the future,” he said. “I care about today. Muhammad the Messenger said there would be a battle between the Persians and the Sunnis. And it is coming.
“When the regime falls, all those who fought against the Muslims will be my enemy, especially the Shias,” he said, reiterating a view held by some Sunni extremists that Shia are their biggest foes.
The hosts shifted nervously, still avoiding eye contact. The stranger in their midst had sought refuge among them two months ago. Since then he had rented a house, won a ride to the battle zone whenever he wants and earned the support of some of the area’s rebel units.
He has even won a more coveted prize: the right to marry the daughter of one of the fighter’s cousins, a union that took place on Thursday with the qualified blessing of residents and clerics.
Not everyone in the unit was happy with the wedding. “It’s you scratch my back, I scratch yours,” said one young rebel, Abu Saif. “He’s a Salafi, there is no doubt about that,” he added, referring to the ultra-fundamentalist school of Qur’anic thinking. “And he doesn’t represent what we believe.”
Remonstrating with the unnamed young girl’s uncle sitting nearby, Abu Saif said: “You tell me what benefit we get from him, or that your family gets.” The uncle shrugged, offering no reply.
As Syria’s civil war grinds inexorably on, it is becoming as much a clash of ideologies as a battle of military will. The frontlines that were hurriedly carved out of Aleppo’s ancient stone heart and concrete suburbs during the heady days of summer now seem almost secondary in the contest to determine the type of society that will one day rise from the ruins.
For the most part, the opposition movement is staying true to the ethos that led many of the country’s towns and citizens to mount a challenge to President Bashar al-Assad’s absolute state control over their lives. But around the fringes, there are signs that the revolution’s original values are starting to fray. The narrative of a defiant street versus a draconian state, so simple in March 2011, is now far more complicated.
“We want just what they got in Tunis and Egypt,” said Mahmoud Razak, a shop-keeper in the outer suburbs. “Freedom and the chance to progress in life. But we thought it would take 19 days like it took [in Egypt]. It’s now 19 months. We didn’t know it would be this difficult.”
To those now hosting Abu Ismael, the Iraqi jihadi embodies one of the major problems. Though for the most part conservative and pious, the men of this part of Aleppo refuse to see the crisis now consuming Syria in existential terms. To them, this is still a fight for self-determination, not the forum for an apocalyptic showdown with a preordained foe.
“What is this global jihad that he talks about?” asked a town elder, Abu Abdullah, after the Iraqi had left to prepare for his wedding. “We will be used as toys by them, just as the Sunni communities were in Iraq. When they have had their way with us they will demand that we return to the seventh century under the blade of a sword.”
Abu Ismael made no secret of his wish for Syria to be the heartland of an al-Qaida-led renaissance. Nor, unusually, did he hide what he had done in Iraq, or what he planned to do in the new war. In a candid hour-long discussion, he offered a rare insight into the terror group’s designs on Syria and the organisation’s fraught battle to assert itself. “I was a member of the al-Qaida organisation from 2005-11,” he said, his black eyes set in an unflinching stare. “I joined them with my father when I was 16 and apart from one and a half months in prison, I was very active in every way.”
The young Iraqi’s attire and demeanour were unmistakably those of a Salafi. He refused cigarettes, cuffed the bottoms of his fatigues at ankle level and wore a black skull cap over closely cropped black hair. More instructively, he spoke with derision about Shia Muslims, whom he said were increasingly travelling to Syria to fight the Sunni-led opposition.
“They are saying they are going to protect the Sit Zeinab mosque in Damascus,” he said of a shrine revered by Shias. “The Jaish al-Mahdi [Mahdi army] and Hezbollah are just using that as cover to enter the rest of Syria. We will not let them. We will attack it, perhaps not to destroy it, but to drive them out.
“There are around 50 Iraqis in each area of northern Syria. Perhaps more. It was not difficult to get here and it is not hard to find other mujahideen. We can fight where we want to and when we want to. And God willing we will prevail.”
His restless hosts were not so sure. Bound by social customs that offer wayfarers shelter and hospitality, this rebel unit seemed to sense that trouble is brewing between them and the growing band of global jihadis. Many rebel groups the Guardian spoke to this week said a showdown was looming with the new arrivals.
“I give it six months,” said one rebel officer at a checkpoint in the old market place in the central Aleppo suburb of Midan on Thursday. “Maybe a year,” said another. “I was in Iraq fighting the Americans and I saw how they changed once they sensed they had power.”
“It’s so mixed up,” said a third young rebel, a defector from Damascus. “And this is just how Bashar wants it.”
Rise of the Salafis
Bashar al-Assad has insisted from the start that Syria was facing attack by “armed terrorist gangs”, not a popular uprising – though there is ample evidence of the army firing on mostly unarmed demonstrators. But it has become clear that extremist Salafi or jihadi groups, some linked to al-Qaida, are now a significant element of the armed opposition.
Alongside fighters from al-Qaida in Iraq or Fatah al-Islam from Lebanon is the mysterious Jabhat al-Nusra, which has claimed responsibility for suicide bombings in Damascus and Aleppo. It is sympathetic to al-Qaida. Others hail from Jordan, Libya and Algeria.
The overwhelming majority of jihadis are Syrian, with the number of foreigners ranging from 1,200 to 1,500 members. Jihadi groups in Syria represent less than 10% of all fighters. Still, many have combat experience in Iraq, Afghanistan, Yemen, and Libya and compete for funds and weapons with the Free Syrian Army, the main armed opposition group.
“Most foreign fighters go abroad to defend their fellow Muslim brethren from being slaughtered,” according to Aaron Y Zelin, an analyst at the Washington Institute.
“Once in the area of battle, though, many come into closer contact with hardline jihadis, as well as fighters from other countries, and are exposed to new ideas.
“Therefore, portions of foreign fighters are not fighting to help establish a future state for Syrian nationals. Rather, they hope to annex it to be part of their grander aims of establishing emirates that will eventually lead to a re-established caliphate – however fanciful this project might be.” Ian Black
Here’s a summary of today’s events:
• Hillary Clinton has confirmed US plans to shake up Syria’s opposition, saying it was time to move beyond the Syrian National Council and bring in those “in the front lines fighting and dying”. She said: “There has to be a representation of those who are in the front lines fighting and dying today to obtain their freedom.” Clinton also expressed alarm about the increasing influence of extremists in the opposition.
• Syria’s former prime minister Riyad Hijab, who defected from the Assad regime in August, is one of those named on the new US-backed opposition council, this blog revealed. The new 51 member “National Initiative Council” is due to be unveiled in Doha next week, and will include only 15 seats for the SNC.
• There has been a mixed reaction to Clinton’s remarks – the SNC questioned the alternative council and said the international community was partly to blame for the increase in extremist. But a rebel leader welcomed the proposal to involve Hijab in the new body.
• Rebels have advanced the front line in Aleppo, Martin Chulov, reports from the city, but they have been forced to negotiate a truce with Kurds. Jets continue to pound Aleppo, but from higher altitudes, he said.
• The SNC is planning to base itself inside Syria in an attempt prove its relevance to Syrians and an increasingly sceptical international community. The idea will be proposed at a meeting to restructure the exiled group in Doha next week
• Syrian rebels killed 28 soldiers in attacks on three checkpoints around the town of Saraqeb in Idlib province, according to the British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. It cited activists in Saraqeb, who claimed to have seen the bodies of the soldiers and five rebels who were also killed in the attack
• China’s foreign minister Yang Jiechi has put forward a four-point plan for resolving the Syria conflict, that involves maintaining existing government institutions. The announcement came after a meeting UN-Arab envoy Lakhdar Brahimi in Beijing, the state news agency Xinhuan reports.
• Turkey’s prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdo?an appears to have given up on the idea of getting support for a no-fly zone over Syria. He said: ”Unless the UN Security Council makes this decision, we do not have such authority or the right to impose a no-fly zone,” Erdo?an said, and added that a no-fly zone imposed over Iraq’s north incurred a “heavy cost”.