Thursday 20 September 2012
Syrian Observatory for Human Rights: Final death toll for Thursday 20/9/2012: More than 250 Syrians have been killed.
The dead include: 165 unarmed civilians, 34 rebel fighters, 5 defected soldiers, and 46 regular soldiers.
al-Hasaka province: An unidentified rebel fighter has assassinated Mr. Mohammed Wali near the Local Council which is part of the National Kurdish Council in the city of Ras al-Ein in Reef al-Hasaka. It is worth mentioning that Mr. Mohammed Wali is a member of the General Secretariat of the Kurdish Council and one of the leaders of “Harakat Shabab al-Thawra” – The Youth Revolution Movement.
[local time] 21:51 Syrian rebels took control of a series of government offices in Tall al-Abyad in the province of Raqa, Al-Jazeera television quoted activists as saying.
21:19 President Bashar al-Assad has hit out at Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Qatar, accusing them of arming Syrian rebels but insisting they will not win, according to excerpts from an interview to appear in an Egyptian newspaper on Friday.
21:13 Thursday’s death toll in Syria has risen to 203 people, Al-Jazeera television quoted activists as saying.
21:03 The UN’s World Food Program (WFP) on Thursday appealed for greater access to the most war-torn parts of Syria, saying it was not able to assess aid needs in areas where the conflict is still raging.
20:34 Protests kicked off in the Raqa province following “a massacre” that left dozens of people dead, Al-Arabiya television quoted activists as saying.
20:23 Syrian regime forces shelled Daraa’s Dael, Al-Arabiya television quoted activists as saying.
20:19 A number of people were killed and others wounded in the Syrian regime forces’ shelling of Al-Bouwayda and Al-Thiyabiya near Damascus, Al-Arabiya television reported.
19:48 A YouTube video purportedly filmed on Thursday shows the aftermath of an explosion at a petrol station in Syria’s Raqa that left at least 30 civilians dead and dozens more wounded.
19:02 Thursday’s death toll in Syria has risen to 173 people, Al-Arabiya television quoted activists as saying.
18:44 Shelling by Syrian government forces trying to win back a border post seized by rebels left two Turkish civilians wounded on Thursday, a Turkish official told AFP.
18:08 Most areas in the Raqa province are under the control of Syrian rebels, Al-Arabiya television quoted the “the military council in Raqa” as saying.
17:15 Thursday’s death toll in Syria has risen to 120 people, Al-Arabiya television quoted activists as saying.
16:37 At least 30 civilians were killed and dozens more wounded Thursday in an explosion at a petrol station in northeastern Syria, a human rights group said, with activists saying it was an air strike.
16:29 A citizen journalist who used the name Abu Hassan to report from the central Syrian city of Hama was burnt to death after regime forces targeted his home in an assault, an activist told AFP on Thursday.
16:25 A Syrian military helicopter that went down outside the capital Damascus on Thursday crashed after an accident with a civilian aircraft, state television said.
16:14 Seven people were found dead in the Arbaeen neighborhood in Hama after they had been summarily executed, Al-Jazeera television cited Shaam News Network as saying.
15:52 Thursday’s death toll in Syria has risen to 82 people, most of them killed in Homs, Aleppo and Damascus, Al-Jazeera television quoted activists as saying.
15:42 A number of people were killed and others wounded after shelling targeted a gas station in Tal al-Byad in Reqqa, Al-Jazeera television quoted activists as saying.
15:06 Syrian regime forces and the rebels are clashing in the area of Al-Tall al-Abayad in Reqqa, Al-Jazeera quoted activists as saying.
14:48 Clashes broke out between regime forces and members of the Free Syrian Army in the villages of Qounaytra near the border with Israel, Al-Arabiya quoted activists as saying.
14:32 A boatload of 92 migrants believed to be from Afghanistan and Syria including 23 women and 29 children arrived in Italy from Turkey on Thursday in the latest landing in a flow of undocumented migrants.
14:31 Diplomats from over 60 nations and the Arab League met in The Hague on Thursday to toughen and improve coordination of sanctions against the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
14:29 More than 29,000 people have been killed in violence in Syria since an anti-government uprising broke out in March last year meeting with a bloody crackdown, a human rights group said on Thursday.
14:20 Seventy-three people have been killed so far in Syria, mostly in Homs, Aleppo and the Damascus district, Al-Jazeera quoted activists as saying.
13:58 Thursday’s death toll in Syria rose to 58 people, Al-Jazeera quoted activists as saying.
13:12 Several people were injured in the shelling of a bakery in the neighborhood of Al-Mourja in Aleppo, Al-Jazeera quoted activists as saying.
12:43 Three people were killed and others injured in the shelling of the Palestinian refugee camp of Yarmouk in Damascus, Al-Jazeera quoted activists as saying.
12:16 Syrian security forces have so far on Wednesday killed at least 46 people, Al-Arabiya quoted activists as saying.
10:31 Syrian security forces killed 20 people on Thursday, Al-Arabiya quoted activists as saying.
10:18 Rebel fighters shot down a helicopter in a battleground town near Damascus on Thursday, a watchdog said, as Syria’s opposition declared parts of the capital a “disaster area.”
10:04 Firas, a youth who helped topple Libyan dictator Moammar Qaddafi last year, says Syrians aided in that struggle and he has now come to Syria to return the favor.
8:41 UN chief Ban Ki-moon warned that the Syrian government and rebels seem intent on fighting to the bitter end, as opposition fighters seized a crossing on the Turkish border.
Four young men were burned to death in Hama province Wednesday when regime forces set fire to a house, an opposition group said. They are among dozens killed Wednesday in the bloody conflict, now a year and a half old. The group, the Local Coordination Committees of Syria, said the number of documented deaths exceeds 26,000 since March 2011.
U.N. official: Situation for children is ‘dire’
Leila Zerrougui, the U.N. envoy for Children and Armed Conflict, cast an extremely pessimistic view of life in Syria for children.
“My staff and other United Nations colleagues have documented government attacks on schools, children denied access to hospitals, girls and boys suffering and dying in bombardments of their neighborhoods, and also being subject to torture, including sexual violence, sometimes for weeks,” she told the Security Council in prepared remarks.
Zerrougui callled the situation in Syria ‘dire’ and said she had asked the government to call on the Syrian military to evacuate schools as a top priority. She also said non-state groups have committed violations and one, the Free Syrian Army, “may have children associated with their forces.”
Opposition: Capital, suburbs engulfed in fighting
At least 150 people were killed in fresh violence Wednesday, including 72 in Damascus and its suburbs, opposition activists said.
Twenty people were executed in the capital’s Jobar neighborhood, the LCC said.
Warplanes shelled civilians gathered at a bakery in Deir Ezzor province, the LCC said, killing three people and wounding more than 15.
Regime reports strides in Aleppo, other cities
Government forces inflicted “heavy losses” against “terrorists” in Aleppo, the nation’s most populous city, and its countryside, the state-run Syrian Arab News Agency said Wednesday.
They destroyed an ammunition warehouse and seized weaponry in the Aleppo operations, the agency said.
Soldiers also said they cleared a Damascus countryside neighborhood of militants, destroyed an ammunition warehouse in Homs and seized a truck in Hama loaded with weapons and ammunition.
Rebels celebrate taking Turkish border crossing post
Syrian rebels seized a crossing at the Turkish border Wednesday, tearing down the Syrian flag and ripping posters of President Bashar al-Assad, Turkish media reported.
Rebels fired into the air in celebration after taking control of a customs building at the Tal Abyad border gate, the Anadolu Agency reported. “Their kinsmen in Turkey joined them in their celebration from across the Turkish side of the border,” Anadolu said.
Fighters have been trying to take control of border crossings to secure a haven near Turkey, a country sympathetic to the Syrian opposition movement.
Iranian foreign minister visits
Al-Assad met with Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi on Wednesday, the latest meeting with a country that has defended the Syrian regime.
Salehi “stressed the need to hold talks between Syrian government and opposition groups to settle the dispute,” Iranian media said. The country “is ready to broaden cooperation with Syrian government to help reduce shortcomings in Syrian public life and improve life standard of Syrian people,” he said.
Before the meeting, Salehi met with Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Moallem. Salehi also met in Cairo, Egypt, this week with his Turkish and Egyptian counterparts on Syria.
The U.S. Department of the Treasury has placed sanctions against entities that support the regime’s efforts to get arms and communications equipment.
Syria’s Army Supply Bureau and Belarus-based Belvneshpromservice were designated under an order targeting the assets of proliferators of weapons of mass destruction and their supporters.
“Today’s actions seek to disrupt the flow of weapons and communications equipment to the Syrian regime and help prevent their use against the Syrian people,” said David S. Cohen, under secretary for terrorism and financial intelligence.
CNN’s Saad Abedine, Yesim Comert, Joe Sterling and Holly Yan contributed to this report.
BEIRUT – At least 54 people were killed when a jet fighter blew up a fuel station amid heavy fighting between government and rebel forces in northern Syria on Thursday, a British-based monitoring group said.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which has a network of activists across Syria reporting on government violence during the 18-month-old revolt, cited an activist in al-Raqqa province as saying more than 110 people were dead or wounded.
A video published by activists, said to be from al-Raqqa, showed black clouds of smoke rising from the wreckage of the petrol station as bewildered residents examined the scene following the attack by an air force jet.
Government forces shelled rebels near a border crossing with Turkeysome 30 km (18 miles) away on the northern fringes of al-Raqqa, a day after it was seized by the insurgents.
A Reuters witness on the Turkish side of the border heard heavy gunfire and explosions close to the Tel Abyad border post, where an opposition flag still fluttered. Residents rushed towards the border as the gunfire intensified.
It was impossible to verify the authenticity of the activists’ video, and most foreign journalists are barred entry into Syria, making accounts of events difficult to confirm.
President Bashar al-Assad has used helicopters and fighter jets against areas where insurgents have been operating, including residential districts of the capital and other cities.
Assad’s forces have targeted petrol stations in rural towns and villages and along main roads to deprive rebels of fuel. Civilians have set up smaller, discreet fuel outlets.
In comments to Egyptian magazine Al-Ahram Al-Araby, published in its Friday edition, Assad said “the armed groups exercise terrorism against the state. They are not popular within society … they will not be victorious in the end”.
But he added that the “door to dialogue remains open”. “Change cannot be achieved through foreign intervention,” he said.
Activists say more than 27,000 people have been killed in a conflict which began with peaceful street protests that provoked a harsh military crackdown and mushroomed into civil war. Last month was the bloodiest yet.
Earlier on Thursday, Syria’s information ministry said a Syrian military helicopter that crashed near the capital had clipped the tail of a Syrian Arab Airlines passenger plane, but the 200 people on board escaped unharmed.
“The helicopter struck the tail of the plane … The control tower at Damascus airport confirmed that the plane landed safely at Damascus airport and all 200 passengers are in good health,” a statement published on the state news channel Syria TV said.
REBELLIOUS DAMASCUS DISTRICT RAIDED
On the ground, security forces surrounded and raided a rebellious southern district of Damascus, arresting more than 100 people, and activists said several others were shot dead.
An opposition activist called Abu Salam, who lives in the Yarmouk district where rebels have been hiding out in recent days, told Reuters many residents were trapped.
He said tanks and soldiers had sealed all the entrances and hundreds of soldiers were searching the area on foot and on trucks mounted with heavy machineguns.
“We are hiding in our homes. I am afraid to leave the house so I am sitting here waiting to see if they reach my street, if I will be arrested or shot dead,” he said, adding that two men and a young woman were shot dead when soldiers saw them running out of a park on Thursday morning.
He said another five rebels found hiding were executed.
A resident who toured Yarmouk a day earlier said rebel fighters, flushed out of surrounding districts, had moved into a southern section of the district and came under intense army bombardment overnight.
Assad has long maintained that foreign-backed militants have been leading the revolt.
State media said soldiers had killed 100 Afghan “terrorists” in the city of Aleppo. Rebels dismissed that, saying the district of Bustan al-Qasr – where the attack supposedly took place – had not been entered by Assad’s troops.
DIVIDED WORLD CANNOT HALT VIOLENCE
Iran and Russia back Assad, while the United States and European allies want him toppled but have shrunk from intervening in a conflict steeped in ethnic and sectarian rivalries that could spill over borders and inflame the wider Middle East.
Iraq denied on Thursday a Western intelligence report that Iranian aircraft and trucks had transported weapons and military personnel through Iraq to Syria to help Assad and Belarus denied trying to sell weapons to Syria.
“Iraq has confirmed that it will never be involved or helping or allowing any shipment via its air space or land to Syria,” Iraqi government spokesman Ali al-Dabbagh told Reuters.
The allegation, reported by Reuters on Wednesday, said arms transfers were organized by the Islamic Revolutionary Guards.
Syria’s upheaval is a political headache for Iraq’s Shi’ite Muslim-led government. Close to Assad’s ally, Shi’ite Iran, Baghdad has resisted joining Western and Gulf Arab calls for the authoritarian leader, whose family has ruled for 42 years, to bow out while also calling for a reform process in Syria.
Baghdad’s core concern is that a precipitous fall of Assad would fracture Syria along sectarian lines and yield a hostile, hardline Sunni Muslim regime that could stir up Iraq’s combustible Sunni-Shi’ite communal mix.
Belarus denied trying to sell weapons to Syria and violating a U.N. Security Council resolution after the United States imposed sanctions on a Belarussian state-owned firm.
“All the accusations of the American side … have no basis and are untrue,” a spokesman said.
The Syrian rebels are being armed by Sunni Muslim states including Saudi Arabia and receive other supplies and diplomatic support from Western powers and Turkey.
(Additional reporting by Mehmet Caliskan in Akcakale, Ayat Basma and Dominic Evans in Beirut, Aseel Kami in Baghdad and Andrei Makhovsky in Minsk; Writing by Oliver Holmes; Editing by Andrew Roche)
Security forces ring rebel area in Damascus, arrest 100: BEIRUT – Syrian security forces surrounded and raided a rebellious southern district in Damascus, arresting more than 100 people on Thursday, state television said, and opposition activists said several others were shot dead.
The campaign is the latest step in an effort by state forces to stamp out a presence in the Syrian capital of insurgents who are fighting to topple President Bashar al-Assad.
An activist in the Yarmouk district, where rebels have been hiding out in recent days, said tanks and soldiers had sealed all the entrances. Hundreds of soldiers were searching the area on foot and on trucks mounted with heavy machineguns.
“We are trapped here. Only children and older men or women can leave. Young men, who could be rebels or activists, and even young women, who could also be activists, are stuck inside,” an activist called Abu Salam told Reuters on Skype.
“We are hiding in our homes. I am afraid to leave the house so I am sitting here waiting to see if they reach my street, if I will be arrested or shot dead,” he said.
Yarmouk is an unofficial camp for Palestinian refugees. The densely populated, impoverished district in southern Damascus is packed with concrete buildings.
This summer, many districts of southern Damascus became a daily battleground in an 18-month-old popular revolt against Assad that has escalated into civil war.
Assad’s supporters say they are not facing homegrown opposition but rather militants funded from abroad.
Syrian state television said 100 people had been arrested in Yarmouk, and said its forces searching another nearby district were “raiding terrorists dens” and had killed several people inside them.
In Yarmouk, the activist Abu Salam said at least three people, two men and a young women, were shot dead when soldiers saw them running out of a park on Thursday morning. Another five rebels found hiding out in the area were executed, he said.
A resident who toured Yarmouk a day earlier said rebel fighters, who have been flushed out of many surrounding districts, had pulled into a southern section of the district and come under intense army bombardment overnight.
Activists and witnesses who spoke to Reuters say that many parts of the districts in Damascus’s southern outskirts, where insurgents have been trying to maintain a foothold, have been reduced to rubble.
They said entire buildings had collapsed and the stench of decaying bodies filled the streets. “We are too afraid to go get them because security forces are there and will ask why we are coming for these people,” said Abu Salam.
(Reporting by Erika Solomon; Editing by Mark Heinrich)
A rebel group said people had been queuing for petrol and diesel near Ain Issa at the time.
The village is some 20 miles (32km) from the Tal al-Abyad border post, seized by rebels on Wednesday after a lengthy battle with government forces.
The number of casualties was expected to rise, reports said.
Unverified footage posted online showed several charred vehicles and one activist group said 70 wounded people had been taken to hospital in the nearby town of Raqqa.
One activist told AFP news agency that the filling station was the only one still operating in the area and had been crowded at the time of the explosion.
A barrel of explosives was dropped on the petrol station, opposition activists said, causing a huge explosion and fire.
Syria’s armed forces have exploited their air power in recent weeks, the BBC’s Jim Muir reports from neighbouring Lebanon.
The use of hugely destructive but crude bombs involving a barrel packed with explosives has become increasingly common, he says.
It is often impossible to verify the circumstances and the extent of casualties involved in attacks in Syria because reporters are unable to travel around the country.
But the burned-out pick-up trucks and a smouldering tractor seen in the video indicated a recent attack.
A day after the Tal al-Abyad border post was seized by Free Syrian Army rebels, opposition groups reported that fierce clashes between government and rebel forces were still going on for control of security buildings in the town.
The crossing-point is on the main road between Raqqa and the Turkish town of Sanliurfa and Turkish officials told AFP news agency that pro-Assad forces were shelling the area in an attempt to recapture the post.
Turkish media showed images of the rebel flag flying at the crossing alongside the Turkish flag.
Local schools in the Turkish border town of Akcakale were closed because of the danger of stray bullets and AFP reported that three Turkish civilians had been wounded.
Passenger plane ‘clipped’
There were conflicting reports earlier when a military helicopter was said to have crashed in the suburb of Douma, north-east of the capital, Damascus.
Syrian state media reported that the helicopter’s rotor had clipped the tail of a Syrian Arab Airlines plane carrying 200 passengers. The plane was then said to have landed safely at Damascus airport.
All passengers on board the plane were unharmed, reports said.
Initially, opposition activist group the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said rebels had shot down the helicopter but that claim was not repeated elsewhere.
The government has increasingly used helicopters and planes in its fight against the rebels and activists reported clashes in the Douma area at the time.
Last month, rebels said they shot down a helicopter on the outskirts of Damascus.
Clashes were reported on Thursday across Syria, including Damascus and the second city, Aleppo.
Government forces were said to have overrun several districts in the south of Damascus where rebels have been holding out, the BBC’s Jim Muir reports from neighbouring Lebanon.
Syrian state TV said at least 100 “terrorists” were detained in the densely populated Yarmouk area, an unofficial Palestinian refugee settlement.
In the Dutch political capital, The Hague, a group of financial experts, foreign diplomats and Syrian defectors was meeting to look for new economic ways of weakening Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s grip on power.
The group, called the Friends of Syria, was discussing how to make sanctions on the Syrian government more effective and how to track down the Assad government’s hidden financial assets.
Dutch Foreign Minister Uri Rosenthal at the meeting said that one of the problems was that not all countries implemented sanctions on Syria.
Abdo Husameddin, a former Syrian oil minister who defected from the regime in March, told the BBC President Assad’s extended family may have billions of dollars hidden abroad.
“They are talking about probably more than $10bn (£6.2bn). And there are some other faces in fact hidden beside the regime itself. So all of this money is not directly under the name of Assad himself, but by other names.”
On Wednesday, the foreign minister of Iran, Syria’s close regional ally, held talks with President Assad, who told him that the attack his country was facing was not just against Syria, but also against its alliance with Iran and Hezbollah.
The UN estimates that the conflict has left at least 20,000 people dead.
Follow the day’s developments as an intelligence report detailed Iranian arms deliveries through Iraq and over its airspace and the Friends of Syria group met in The Hague
• A helicopter has come down near Damascus after reports of heavy aerial bombardment of the city. Activists claimed it was shot down. The Syrian government said it collided with a passenger plane which later landed safely at Damascus airport.
• Almost every day Iran has been using civilian aircraft to fly military personnel and large quantities of weapons across Iraqi airspace to help Syria crush the uprising, according to a western intelligence report seen by Reuters. An Iraqi minister denied the report, saying “nothing like this is happening”
• The United Nations says it is investigating reports that Syrian government forces have targeted children in the conflict. Syria’s ambassador to the UN, Bashar Ja’afari dismissed the reports as propaganda.
• President Bashar al-Assad has told the Iranian foreign minister, Ali Akbar Salehi, that the war engulfing his country threatens not just Syria, but also Iran and Lebanon’s Hezbollah, Radio Free Europe reports. Salehi called for countries in the region “that can play a role” to get involved and act as “one big regional family of nations” over the Syria crisis.
• The Friends of Syria group is meeting in the Netherlands to discuss new sanctions against the Assad regime. Dutch foreign minister, Uri Rosenthal, said sanctions against the regime would help drive Assad from office.