Thursday15 November 2012
Syrian Observatory for Human Rights: Final death toll for Thursday 15/11/2012: Approximately 141 Syrians were killed so far today. The dead: 72 civilians (12 of them children), 37 rebels, 32 regular soldiers, 3 defected soldiers.
*The SOHR has just documented the death of 8 civilians and 2 rebels from earlier days. A family of 5 Syrian Kurds were killed by the bombardment on the city of Ras al-Ein (Seri Kanyi) 3 days ago. A child was killed yesterday by the bombardment of Kafarhamra, Reef Aleppo. 1 man was killed by the bombardment on Tariq al-Bab 2 days ago. 1 man was killed by regime fire in Deir Eita 2 days ago. 2 rebels were killed by clashes in Aleppo city 5 days ago.*
-In Reef Dimashq 27 civilians killed. 3 men were killed by regime forces in Harasta. 8 civilians, including 3 children and a woman, were killed by the bombardment on Saqba and Daraya. 1 man was found killed in Qatana. 2 civilians and 1 unidentified person were found killed in the town of Buweida, after regime forces stormed the town yesterday. 2 men from al-Mqeilabiya were killed by a military checkpoint. 8 civilians, including 3 children and 2 women from 1 family, were killed in the town of al-Buweida, activists claim that regime forces are responsible. 1 woman was killed by a sniper in the town of al-Neshabya. 1 civilian was killed by regime forces near al-Mou’adamiya.
-In Aleppo province 7 civilians were killed. 5 civilians were killed in Aleppo city, they include a doctor who was tortured to death after being detained by regime forces 6 months ago; 2 were killed by a car bomb in the Ashrafiya neighbourhood. 2 were killed in Reef Aleppo, 1 in the town of Houran , 1 was from Mare’, he was tortured to death by regime forces after 11 months of detention
-In Homs province 12 civilians were killed. 6 civilians, 1 a child, were killed by the clashes and bombardment in the Deir Ba’alba neighbourhood of Homs, which regime forces are trying to control. 5 civilians, 2 of them children, were killed by the bombardment on Talbisa, Ghento and al-Qseir. 1 civilian from al-Dara al-Kabira was found killed near the village of Teir Ma’alla after he was kidnapped by pro-regime gunmen.
-In Idlib province 8 civilians were killed. 4 were killed by the clashes and bombardment on Ma’arat al-Nu’man, 1 is unidentified. 2 including a woman were killed by wounds from the bombardment of Reef Idlib. 1 man from Kafranbal was killed by a military checkpoint. A child was killed by the bombardment on the town of Ma’arshourin.
-In Damascus 9 civilians were killed. 4 were killed in the al-Qadam and Hajar al-Aswad neighbourhoods. 2 unidentified bodies were found in the Qaboun neighbourhood. 1 man was killed in the Yarmouk camp by regime fire. A child was killed by the bombardment on the Jobar neighbourhood. 1 was killed by the bombardment on the Tadamun neighbourhood.
-In Dera’a province 4 civilians were killed. 1 by a sniper in Tafas. A woman was killed by a sniper in Dera’a. A child from the town of Um Walad was found killed after he was kidnapped by ‘unknown gunmen’ in the rebel held al-Qadam neighbourhood. 1 man was killed by a military checkpoint in the town of Yadouda.
-In Hama province 4 civilians were killed. 3 bodies were found of a man, his daughter and his grand-daughter several days after their disappearance. They were documented in the Misyaf military hospital, their bodies were slain and they had point-blank gunshot wounds. 1 civilian was tortured to death by security forces after being detained.
-In Latakia 1 civilians was killed after being detained by regime forces in Latakia city.
37 Rebel fighters:
Aleppo province: 13 rebels were killed. 1 was a commander in the revolutionary security council of al-Bab city, he was killed by ‘unknown gunmen’. 7 were killed by clashes in Aleppo city. 1 in Khan al-Asal. 1 in Kafarnaha. 2 by the bombardment on al-Bab city. 1 was killed in Deir Izzour.
Reef Dimashq: 7 rebels were killed by clashes in Douma, Harasta, Zamalka, Buweida and Yalda.
Homs: 4 rebels killed. 3 rebels were killed in Homs city. 1 rebel was killed by clashes outside the province.
Deir Izzour: 3 rebel fighters were killed by clashes near the military intelligence branch in the city of al-Boukamal.
Idlib province: 2 rebels were killed by clashes in Ma’arat al-Nu’man.
Latakia province: 2 rebels, 1 a commander, were killed by clashes in Jabal al-Turkman.
Dera’a: A rebel was killed by clashes in the town of Jasem.
Raqqah: 1 rebel was killed by clashes in Dabsi Afnan.
Quneitira province: 1 rebel was killed by clashes in Reef al-Quneitira.
Damascus: 3 rebels killed. 1 rebel from the capital was killed by clashes in al-Buweida, Reef Dimashq. 1 rebel was killed in clashes in the city. 1 was killed by the bombardment on Tadamun.
3 defected soldiers were killed by clashes in Dera’a, Damascus and Aleppo.
32 regular soldiers were killed by clashes in several provinces: 9 in Deir Izzour, 6 in Reef Dimashq, 5 in Aleppo, 4 in Raqqah, 2 in Dera’a, 5 in Homs, 1 in Damascus.
[local time] 21:34 Syria’s death toll increased to 95 people killed by regime forces, activists reported.
16:59 Five people were killed and several others were injured in the shelling of the Damascus town of Al-Bouwayda, activists said.
16:19 The Syrian army conducted air raids over Damascus’ Saqba and Hamouriyeh, activist reported.
15:21 Syrian rebels shot down a regime MiG warplane in the town of Abu Kamal, Al-Jazeera quoted activists as saying.
15:57 Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said on Thursday that Turkey “recognizes the Syrian National Coalition as the sole legitimate representative of the people of Syria.”
15:34 The Damascus region came under artillery fire and air strikes on Thursday as the army launched a major operation, a watchdog said, as activists decried the critical humanitarian situation.
13:15 Thursday’s death toll in Syria has increased to 24 people, activists said.
13:01 Gunfire from Syria hit the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights on Thursday morning, the Israeli military said, in the latest spillover of violence from the bloody civil war raging across the ceasefire line.
12:25 Casualties were reported in an air strike targeting Syria’s Al-Raqqa, activists said.
12:06 Prime Minister David Cameron was to chair a meeting of senior cabinet colleagues on Thursday to discuss Britain’s military, humanitarian and diplomatic options in Syria, the BBC reported.
Prime Minister David Cameron was to chair a meeting of senior cabinet colleagues on Thursday to discuss Britain’s military, humanitarian and diplomatic options in Syria, the BBC reported.
Cameron’s deputy Nick Clegg and Finance Minister George Osborne were expected to attend the meeting along with Foreign Secretary William Hague and Defense Secretary Philip Hammond.
The report said a no-fly zone was among the options that may be discussed as well as supplying anti-aircraft weapons to the rebels fighting forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
Cameron visited the Zaatari refugee camp, home to some 36,000 Syrian refugees, in Jordan last week.
Downing Street did not immediately confirm that the meeting was taking place.
On Tuesday, France became the first western power to recognize the newly-formed opposition National Coalition as the sole representative of the Syrian people and said the question of arming them must now be reviewed.
Britain and France spearheaded what later became NATO’s operation to oust Libyan leader Moammar Qaddafi in 2011.
The United States and Britain have both voiced support for the Syrian opposition coalition, which formed in Qatar on Sunday, but have stopped short of declaring it a government-in-exile.
More than 39,000 people have been killed since the uprising against Assad’s regime erupted 20 months ago, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights watchdog said on Thursday.
12:02 French President Francois Hollande will on Saturday meet the new head of Syria’s opposition, Ahmed Moaz al-Khatib, in Paris, the Elysee said.
11:54 Several people were wounded in the shelling of Al-Ghanto in Homs, activists said.
11:25 Syrian regime helicopters shelled Jabal al-Turkman in Latakia, activists said.
10:51 The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported Thursday that more than 39,000 people, mostly civilians, have been killed in the 20-month uprising against the regime of President Bashar al-Assad.
10:50 Syrian regime forces killed 10 people across Syria on Thursday, activists said.
10:34 Kurdish militiamen and residents have wrested control of yet another town in northeastern Syria near the Turkish and Iraqi borders, in what an activist said was part of an anti-Turkey “dirty game” by the regime.
Kurdish militiamen and residents have wrested control of yet another town in northeastern Syria near the Turkish and Iraqi borders, in what an activist said was part of an anti-Turkey “dirty game” by the regime.
Hundreds of people gathered Tuesday outside the town of Derik’s security headquarters, the last building abandoned by the army and police, blasting out Kurdish music and hearing speeches in the officially banned Kurdish language.
“We tried to tell [President Bashar al-]Assad’s people to leave peacefully. We are a peaceful people”, said Abdi Karim, a 56-year-old officer in the People’s Defense Units (YPG), the militia involved in regaining the town.
The takeover came just days after Kurdish residents backed by militia from the Syrian Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD) took control of three other towns near the border with Turkey as pro-government forces pulled out without a fight.
North and northeast Syria are home to most of the country’s two million-strong Kurdish minority, whose militias operate independently of the rebels’ Free Syrian Army (FSA).
“There are differences between Kurdish anti-regime forces and the Arab opposition, mainly over the question of Kurdish nationalism and recognition of Kurdish as Syria’s second most widely spoken language,” independent Kurdish activist Massud Akko said.
On the ground, YPG member Karim made clear the separation. “If the FSA comes as a guest, we will allow them,” but the non-Kurdish rebels would not be permitted to take over the town, he said.
“We will protect our people from the Turkish, the FSA and Assad,” said Karim.
Akko said Assad’s regime forces were handing over territory to the PYD deliberately, saying this explained the relatively peaceful takeover of towns in the region.
“The regime’s handing over of institutions to the PYD is a dirty game,” he said. “It is a message to Turkey, because Turkey is helping the Syrian opposition.”
“I am not saying the party is collaborating with the regime. But the two sides do tolerate each other,” Akko added.
“The Kurds do not have the military capacity to take control of the Kurdish areas. The province of Hasakeh, for one, is Syria’s second-largest region [after Homs].”
Kurdish civilians backed by militia have quietly taken control of a string of towns in Hasakeh, leaving just two of its main cities under the control of President Bashar al-Assad’s government.
The YPG is one of several Kurdish anti-regime groups in the region. It is seen by some as affiliated with the PYD, but officials in Derik from the two organizations said they are independent of each other.
Armed YPG members were among those celebrating the regime forces’ departure from Derik. They sported headscarves with the yellow, red and green associated with Turkey’s rebel Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).
In a jubilant mood, others waved PKK flags and held aloft the red, white and green of the autonomous Iraqi Kurdistan region.
9:53 President Barack Obama on Wednesday backed the new Syrian opposition coalition but showed no sign he was ready to arm the rebels, warning of the dangers of pouring weapons into the volatile conflict.
8:25 US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has backed an Australian-led plan to protect medical workers and maintain access to hospitals in war-torn Syria, Foreign Minister Bob Carr said Thursday.
7:55 Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Wednesday the priority in war-torn Syria must be to end the bloodshed rather than form an opposition bloc, following talks with his Arab counterparts in the Gulf.
BEIRUT – The United States declined to follow France in fully recognizing a fledgling Syrian opposition coalition on Wednesday, saying the body must prove its worth, after its predecessor was dogged by feuding and accusations of Islamist domination. | Video
Brotherhood cannot dominate post-Assad Syria: deputy leader By Andrew Hammond
Ali Sadreddine al-Bayanouni said in an interview in Doha that the Brotherhood would hope to reach a consensus on the introduction of sharia but would not impose it.
“In Syria no one party can monopolize. Syria has an ethnic, religious and sectarian mosaic that has lived together for years and this coexistence must continue,” he told Reuters.
“We don’t claim to represent the Syrian people and we don’t claim that this revolution is ours. We are one part of the Syrian people,” he said. “We can say we are present on the street but not what size that is – coming elections will tell.”
His tone echoed that of the Brotherhood in Egypt after the fall of president Hosni Mubarak – a tone seen by critics as more of an attempt to avoid scaring the west than a real change in ideology in an organization which had to operate underground for decades before last year’s “Arab Spring” uprisings.
Some say the Brotherhood is funneling funds to favored groups inside Syria to build its presence, while seeking control of a newly formed National Coalition of opposition groups, in part through influence over independent Islamists.
Bayanouni, a lawyer who left Syria after being imprisoned in the 1970s and stepped down as Brotherhood leader in 2010, said that the organization should not be seen as a threat.
“When we say sharia is a main base for legislation it does not harm any other group since Islamic sharia accommodates other religions and sects… We’ll strive for a national consensus on this,” he said. “But we don’t impose it on anyone, we’ll try to arrive at a national consensus around these principles.”
The Brotherhood, set up in 1936, led an insurrection against Hafez al-Assad, father of President Bashar al-Assad, that was crushed in 1982.
The organization was banned throughout Baath Party rule and has had a much lower profile than in Egypt before the uprising against Assad – which has turned into a civil war that has killed more than 38,000 people.
Many Islamists objected to rule by the Assads, secularists from the minority Alawite sect which they did not consider to be Muslim. Damascus had been the seat of the Umayyad caliphate, an early Arab-Islamic empire.
Rebel groups inside Syria are now increasingly dominated by Salafi Islamists, with whom the Brotherhood have an uncomfortable relationship. Some Salafi militants, including foreigners, have been accused of atrocities and targeting minorities including Alawites.
“INDEPENDENCE OF SYRIAN DECISIONS”
The National Coalition chose Mouaz Alkhatib, a popular Islamist preacher seen as independent from the Brotherhood, as its first leader this week.
AlKhatib has been a regular guest on Qatar’s Al Jazeera satellite channel, used by the influential Gulf Arab state to promote Brotherhood-linked Islamists and help facilitate U.S. acceptance of the Islamist network.
Bayanouni rejected suggestions, made by leftist opponents of the rebel movement, that a government in Damascus backed by Shiite Iran would be swapped for a Sunni government backed by Saudi Arabia and Qatar if rebels win.
“We know there is international interest in Syria but we insist on the independence of Syrian decisions. Syrian (opposition) unity is a Syrian demand before it is an international or Arab one,” he said.
When asked if Washington had sought guarantees for peace with Israel, which has occupied the Golan Heights since 1967, he said: “With us no one has tried. The Syrian people cannot let go of the Golan. Neither us as Brotherhood nor any political party has the right to give guarantees or let go of occupied land.”
“I think the Syrian revolution is a popular revolution and what the Syrian people want in the future to deal with these international issues is what we will abide by,” he said.
(Writing by Andrew Hammond; editing by Sami Aboudi and Myra MacDonald)
On Syrian border, mixed feelings for rebel “liberators”: CEYLANPINAR, Turkey – From a park on the outskirts of Turkey’s Ceylanpinar, Farhad watches with unease as his would-be liberators, guns slung across their backs, roam through his town just over the border in Syria.
“I don’t want the rebels in my town,” the 25-year-old Kurdish man laments. “Why would I want Assad’s planes to come and bomb us? I don’t want Assad, nor do I want the rebels.”
His is a familiar sentiment among refugees from Ras al-Ain, a mixed Arab and Kurdish town on Syria’s border with Turkey that was dragged into Syria’s civil war last week with the arrival of rebels fighting to oust President Bashar al-Assad.
The ‘liberation’ was shortlived.
Since Monday, Farhad has watched Syrian MiG fighter jets strafe his town, hitting homes and driving refugees to scramble through the barbed-wire fence that divides Ras al-Ain from Turkey.
Distaste for Assad and a desire to see him gone are mixed with unease over the intentions of the disorganized and ill-disciplined rebels who would replace him.
Arriving in Ras al-Ain, part of an advance into Syria’s ethnically mixed northeast, the mainly Sunni Muslim Arab rebels have brought the wrath of Assad’s air power with them.
Among Kurds and Arabs alike, interviews with refugees who fled Ras al-Ain underscored the confused loyalties felt by many of those caught up in an increasingly complex war.
Such divisions highlight how difficult it will be for any post-Assad administration to unify a nation riven by sectarian rivalries. The fate of the Kurdish region – home to a chunk of Syria’s estimated 2.5 billion barrels of crude oil reserves – will be key.
The rebel advance has brought them to the heartland of Syria’s Kurds, the country’s largest ethnic minority, which for decades has been repressed by the government in Damascus.
Under Assad and his father before him, Syria’s Kurds were forbidden from learning their own language or even to hold Syrian identity. They were often evicted from their land.
Kurdish activists in Syria, like those in Turkey, have been campaigning for decades for greater autonomy and with Syrian forces and Arab rebels entangled in fighting they have tried to exploit the vacuum.
But even Syrian Kurdish rivals are split over what type of government they want if Assad falls, whether to follow Iraqi Kurdistan’s model of autonomy or simply more self-administration in their areas under a new Syrian government.
There is perhaps no-one who would want to see the rebels overthrow Assad more than Farhad.
Yet years of subjugation by one power have left ordinary Kurds distrustful of an armed revolt predominantly led by a Sunni Arab majority. Many of them fear a post-Assad government will only continue their repression.
More than anything in this flat, arid borderland, they say they want to be left alone.
“Why would we want another government?” asked Mahmoud, a 30-year-old tiler who like many interviewees refused to give his full name for fear of reprisals.
“We have had nothing for 30 years. No identity, no insurance, no pension, no deeds to our homes. We have nothing and we don’t want anything from the government,” he said.
“We don’t want the rebels or Assad. We just want to get on with our own business, Arabs and Kurds. We can look after ourselves.”
Kurdish activists opposed to Assad called for the rebels to pull out of Ras al-Ain, warning that their presence would make the town a target for government forces. The prediction came true.
Other Kurdish activists said those that had taken the town were extremist Jihadist fighters.
In many Kurdish-majority towns east and west along the Syrian border with Turkey, Kurdish militias have begun to claim control. In Ras al-Ain, the large Arab minority offered an opening for the rebels to strengthen their presence on the frontier.
But like the Kurds, many of the Arabs who have fled the town also see the rebels as unwanted house guests who have brought only death to their door.
“The rebels wait outside and when they hear the planes, they come into our houses and then the planes bomb our houses,” said Yousuf, 36, an Arab refugee from Ras al-Ain who fled with his family on Tuesday.
“Both Assad and the rebels should go. We just want to get on and live our lives, Arabs and Kurds together. All I am thinking about is my home and my possessions,” he said.
Others said rebel fighters had stolen from them or pressured them to allow the use of their homes. Reuters could not independently verify the reports.
Nor is it clear how many people have died in the air assault on Ras al-Ain. Opposition activists have reported civilian deaths, including at least 12 on Monday.
A Reuters witness saw a wounded child and woman being brought to a hospital in Ceylanpinar from Ras al-Ain, the child covered in blood.
But to some, like Hasan, a Kurdish refugee staring across the border from Turkey, the rebels have become a necessary evil.
“We don’t want the rebels inside our town, but if they are going to get rid of Assad, then so be it.”
(Editing by Matt Robinson and Jon Boyle)
Foreign secretary William Hague is to brief the Commons next week on plans to step up support for the newly united Syrian opposition, either by following France in recognising the new coalition, or by calling for a lifting of the EU arms embargo.
Hague will meet his French counterpart next week after planned meetings with the Syrian opposition on Friday, while the French president François Hollande will meet key Syrian figures on Saturday in Paris, including the head of the Syrian opposition coalition, Ahmed Moaz al-Khatib.
This week France became the first western power to accept the opposition coalition as the legitimate government-in-exile.
Turkey has also recognised the opposition.
The Syrian opposition made progress towards unification at a meeting in Doha last weekend and has now agreed to set up a permanent headquarters in Cairo.
The state of the opposition, British military options and the morale of the Assad regime were all discussed on Thursday at a meeting of the National Security Council – in essence a cabinet subcommittee attended by ministers and military and intelligence officers.
It was stressed that Britain was likely to offer only direct military support for the humanitarian effort as opposed to direct military intervention.
Britain’s most senior general, the chief of defence staff, General Sir David Richards, is known to be wary of committing UK forces to any venture that might provoke what it is intended to prevent – a regional conflict. His advice to the NSC is believed to have explained that it would be extremely difficult to begin any kind of ground effort to support refugees within Syria without first having secured a no-fly zone – and that would mean knocking out President Assad’s considerable, and sophisticated, Russian-built ground-to-air missile systems. That in itself would require a huge military buildup in the region, which could take some time.
But It is possible that Assad would allow limited support to Syrian refugees on the border with Turkey, though any buildup of western forces could be counter-productive.
Richards is understood to have made clear that if there was any sign that the regime was disintegrating, and a risk that Assad’s stockpile of chemical and biological weapons could get into the wrong hands, then the west would have to be in a position to intervene quickly.
The MoD recognises that Downing Street wants to help, but Richards set out why the situation in Syria is more complex, and much more dangerous, than the one posed by Libya.
The British backed a Nato-implemented no-fly zone in Libya to protect rebels against the Gaddafi regime, but this was heavily dependent on the US to supply the drone and aircraft support to make that possible. Britain may yet be willing to back a no-fly zone to protect Syrian refugees.
Hague has said the more the opposition groups unify around a coherent programme built on respect for human rights and ethnic tolerance, the more the British government can provide aid.
Britain is largely relying on countries in the Middle East to supply arms, and waiting for the US administration to make clear its attitude to a no-fly zone.
But French foreign minister Laurent Fabius said on Thursday that his country was willing to advocate a lifting of the EU embargo on the provision of arms to the opposition so long as only specialised defensive arms, such as anti-aircraft weaponry, were supplied. The Russians are likely to see any provision of military arms as a breach of international law.
Fabius said: “For the moment, there is an embargo, so there are no arms being delivered from the European side. The issue … will no doubt be raised for defensive arms.”
Last week, David Cameron visited a UN-run compound on the border with Jordan and saw how difficult life has become for tens of thousands of fleeing Syrians. He said he was determined to do more and would be discussing with US president Barack Obama ways to increase the pressure on Bashar Assad’s regime. hed Cameron is likely to visit Washington in the near future.
Before the weekend meeting in Qatar, the outgoing US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton urged the opposition to become more credible in order to earn the support of the west. “There has to be representation of those who are on the front lines, fighting and dying today to obtain their freedom,” she said.
“This cannot be an opposition represented by people who have many good attributes, but have, in many instances, have not been inside Syria for 20, 30 or 40 years.”
Earlier this week Richards revealed there are contingency plans in place for military action in Syria in case of a worsening humanitarian situation during the desert winter. “The humanitarian situation this winter I think will deteriorate and that may well provoke calls to intervene in a limited way,” he said. “But no, there’s no ultimately military reason why one shouldn’t, and I know that all these options are, quite rightly, being examined.
“It’s not impossible and obviously we develop contingency plans to look at all these things.”
He said British troops could be posted to countries neighbouring Syria. “It’s certainly something that we’ve got to look at,” he said. “So we’re keeping our awareness levels very high and in the meanwhile we’re preparing plans to make sure that when some disaster happens, we’re able to deal with it.”
Some 30,000 people are believed to have died in the conflict so far.