Tuesday 13 November 2012

November 14, 2012 by  
Filed under News, Syria, Syrian Revolution

Syrian Observatory for Human Rights: Final death toll for Tuesday 13/11/12: Approximately 205 Syrians killed.   The dead: 99 unarmed civilians (17 of them children), 55 rebel fighters, 3 defected officers, 49 regular soldiers.

*Unknown gunmen assassinated the engineer Abd al-Razzak al-Yusuf, head of the transportation institution in Idlib province, while on a mission in the al-Nahl village of Reef Idlib.*

Unarmed Civilians:

- In Reef Dimashq 47 were killed. A woman was killed by bombardment on the city of Daraya. 7 civilians, including 3 women and a child, from one family were killed by bombardment on the Daraya city, based on activists from the area. 26 civilians, including 6 women and 5 children, were killed by bombardment on the Otaya town and the fields of Deir Sleiman of Reef Dimashq. An unidentified corpse was found in the city of Douma. 7 civilians, including a child, were killed by the bombardment on Douma, Beit Nayem, Irbeen, Hamouriya, al-Maliha and Yalda. 1 child was killed by a sniper in Kafarbatna. 1 unidentified person was killed by the bombardment on the town. 2 men from al-Sabina town were killed by a military checkpoint. 1 woman from Wadi Barada was killed by a sniper in Damascus.

– In Damascus province 11 civilians killed. 4 from the al-Yarmouk camp were killed killed by bombardment, 3 others were killed under unknown circumstances. 1 man was killed by the bombardment on the Tadamun neighbourhood. 2 men died in the Jobar neighbourhood from the bombardment and wounds. 1 man was tortured to death after being detained from the Muhajreen neighbourhood.

– In al-Hasaka province a Syrian kurd died of wounds he received earlier.

– In Aleppo province 4 were killed. A young man was killed by the bombardment on Tel al-Zarazeer area of Aleppo city. 1 man was killed by a sniper near the al-Neyrab military airport. 1 man was killed by the bombardment on the Itha’a neighbourhood. 1 died of wounds he received yesterday by bombardment on the Basrtoun town of Reef Aleppo.

– In Idlib province 16 were killed. A child was killed by bombardment on the al-Ghadfa town of Reef Idlib. 1 died of wounds he received days earlier by bombardment on the M’aret al-Nu’man city. 12 civilians, including 3 children and 4 women, were killed by bombardment on the M’aret al-Na’san town of Reef Idlib. A woman and a child were killed by the bombardment on Telmnis.

– In Dera’a province 7 were killed. 2 from the Dera’a city were killed, 1 was shot by sniper in the Dera’a al-Balad neighbourhood, 1 was killed by bombardment on the A’tman town of Reef Dera’a. The mayor of the Shahm al-Jolan town was tortured to death after detainment by regime forces days earlier. 2 were shot by sniper in the Busra al-Sham town. A young man from Mahaja was killed by the bombardment of Damascus. A child was killed by the bombardment on the Jasem town of Dera’a.

– In Deir Izzor province 2 were killed. 1 was killed by bombardment on the Deir Izzor city. An unidentified body was killed by a sniper. A woman was shot by sniper in the al-Boukamal city.

– In Hama province 3 were killed. A young man died of wounds he received days earlier when regime forces tortured him after storming the Taqsis village of Reef Hama. 1 from the Qal’et al-Madiq town was shot by a military checkpoint by the Kafr-nbuda town of Reef Hama. 1 civilian from the town of Matneen was tortured to death while under the custody of the Syrian authorities.

– In Homs province 5 were killed. 4 civilians, 3 of them children, were killed by an explosion in the al-We’er neighbourhood of Homs. 1 from the Jub al-Jandali neighbourhood died of wounds he received earlier by bombardment on the Yabroud town of Reef Dimashq.

– In al-Raqqa province a woman was killed by an IED attack on the procession of the governor of al-Raqqa province.

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55 Rebel Fighters:

– In Reef Dimashq 22 rebel fighters were killed during clashes with regime forces in the towns and cities of Harasta, al-Qasmia, Jarba, Mdira, Daraya, Douma and al-Ghouta al-Sharqiya.

– In Damascus city 11 rebel fighters were killed. 5 were killed during clashes with regime forces in the al-Tadamon neighbourhood. 5 from the Jobar neighbourhood were killed during clashes with regime forces in the al-Ghouta al-Sharqiya area of Reef Dimashq. 1 rebel from the Qaboun neighbourhood was killed by clashes in Reef Idlib.

– In al-Hasaka province 9 rebel fighters, including Nusra front members, were killed by bombardment on the Ras al-A’in city and the surroundings of the Asfar Najar area.

– In Aleppo province 8 rebel fighters were killed. 7 were killed during clashes with regime forces and bombardment in the city of Aleppo. 1 from the Akhtrin town of Reef Aleppo died of wounds he received earlier by bombardment on the Bustan al-Qasr neighbourhood of Aleppo city.

– In Idlib province a rebel fighter from the Khan Sheikhoun town was killed by bombardment on the surrounding fields of the town.

– In Deir Izzor province a rebel fighter was killed during clashes with regime forces.

– In Homs province a rebel fighter was shot by sniper in the Bab Tadmor neighbourhood during clashes with regime forces.

– In al-Qneitra province a rebel commander was killed during clashes with regime forces in Reef al-Qneitra.

– In Dera’a province 1 rebel from Ibti’ was killed by clashes.

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A defected captain, also the leader of an armed rebel battalion, was killed during clashes in the perimeter of the Ras al-Ain area. A defected lieutenant was killed by bombardment on Reef Idlib. A defected officer was killed in Reef Dimashq.

——

4 additional names were documented. A rebel fighter was killed during clashes with regime forces in the Deir Izzor city yesterday. 3 were killed by bombardment on Aleppo and Reef Aleppo.

——–

49 regular forces were killed by IED attacks and clashes in several Syrian provinces: 17 in Reef Dimashq, 4 Damascus, 6 Deir Izzor, 2 al-Raqqa, 4 Homs, 8 Idlib, 3 in Dera’a, and 5 in Aleppo.

 

 

build-up of Turkish military on the border opposite Kobani

NOW! Lebanon
[local time]  21:35 The Krak des Chevaliers Castle outside Homs was shelled by tanks, activists said.
 21:30 Syrian regime forces are shelling the Daraa town of Dael amid electricity cuts, activists reported.
 21:14 The United States said Tuesday the newly formed opposition National Coalition is “a legitimate representative” of the Syrian people, but stopped short of recognizing it as a government-in-exile.
 20:57 Tuesday’s death toll in Syria increased to 147 people killed by regime gunfire, Al-Jazeera reported.
  20:04 France recognizes the newly formed National Coalition of the Syrian opposition as the sole representative of Syria’s people, President Francois Hollande said on Tuesday.
 19:37 Tuesday’s death toll in Syria has risen to 112 people, activists reported.
 18:14 Jean-Luc Duthion admits it was risky to have opened a bar in the heart of Damascus almost a year into Syria’s conflict, but his venue has become a hit among locals seeking relief from the bloodshed.
 18:05 Iran will bring parties to the Syrian conflict to Tehran next week to participate in a “national dialogue,” Iranian media reported Tuesday, quoting a senior official.
 18:01 The Syrian Arab Red Crescent estimates that at least 2.5 million people have been internally displaced by the conflict there, the UN said on Tuesday.
 17:14 Rebel fighters in Syria on Tuesday dismissed Gulf and Western support for a new opposition bloc, expecting little to change on the ground unless they get cash and weapons.
 17:02 Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov was to meet on Wednesday in Riyadh with Arab foreign ministers of the Gulf for talks expected to highlight their differences on the Syrian conflict.
 16:42 The UN refugee agency said Tuesday that the increasingly dire security situation in Syria has forced it to pull staff out of an area previously considered safe, and is disrupting aid supplies.
 16:29 French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius urged world powers on Tuesday to recognize the newly formed Syrian opposition bloc.
 15:55 Over 20 people were killed in the Damascus town of Outaya, activists reported.
 15:38 Several people were injured by a car bomb in Damascus’ Ain al-Fije, activists said.
 15:31 Residents of the Damascus suburb of Daraya began fleeing to nearby Sahnaya following shelling and clashes, activists said.
 15:29 The leader of Syria’s new main opposition coalition called on world powers on Tuesday to arm rebels with “specialized weapons” as European Union and Arab League ministers met in Cairo.
 14:53 European Union foreign ministers meeting in Cairo on Tuesday welcomed a newly formed Syrian opposition bloc but declined to recognize the alliance, instead urging it to bring in more regime dissenters.
 14:39 An air raid targeting the town of Outaya in the Damascus district left four people dead and several wounded, activists said.
 14:11 The death toll in Syria has reached 53 people on Tuesday, activists said.
 13:47 The Syrian regime forces shelled Amro bin al-Aas school in the Aleppo area of Deir Hafer, activists said.
 13:26 Syria’s new opposition leaders must act to monitor and curb any violations of international law by rebels fighting to oust President Bashar al-Assad’s regime, human rights watchdogs said on Tuesday.
 13:07 Eleven people were killed and others injured when Syrian regime forces shelled Al-Ghouta al-Sharqiyya in the Damascus district, activists said.
 12:30 France will support a new Syrian opposition bloc, French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said on Tuesday after talks with its leaders in Cairo, where EU diplomats were meeting with their Arab counterparts.
 12:25 Tuesday’s death toll in Syria has risen to 36 people, activists said.
 11:52 Syrian regime forces shelled residential neighborhoods in Daraya in the Damascus district, activists said.
 11:50 Several people were killed and others injured in the shelling of the town of Deir Salman in the Damascus district, activists said.
 11:45 Fierce clashes between Syrian regime forces and rebels near Damascus on Tuesday left 10 soldiers and a rebel dead, while warplanes again bombed the strategic border town of Ras al-Ain, a watchdog said.
 11:21 Syrian regime shelling killed 21 people across Syria on Tuesday, activists said.
 10:50 The director of Syria’s Al-Qamishly airport, Major Salah Al-Mahal, has defected, activists said.
 10:40 A bomb exploded near a church in Syria’s Al-Raqqa, injuring one woman, Syrian state television said.
 9:00 MORNING LEADER: The six-member GCC and the Arab League both quickly recognized a newly formed opposition bloc as the Syrian people’s legitimate representative on Monday, exactly a year after the Arab League suspended Syria’s membership. Inside Syria, border violence near Turkey and Israel stoked fears of a spillover of the 20-month conflict.

REUTERS:  – France recognizes new Syria opposition

France became the first European power to recognize Syria’s new opposition coalition as the sole representative of its people and said on Tuesday it would look into arming rebels against President Bashar al-Assad once they form a government. | Video

Syrian opposition leader requests European recognitionCAIRO – Europe should recognize a Syrian opposition coalition as a provisional government, enabling it to seek weapons for the fight against President Bashar al-Assad, the new body’s leader said on Tuesday.

War uproots 2.5 million Syrians, aid groups say: GENEVA – At least 2.5 million Syrians are believed to have fled their homes because of civil war, aid groups said on Tuesday, more than double previous estimates.

The figure comes from the Syrian Arab Red Crescent, whose volunteers are on the frontlines of the 20-month conflict, delivering aid supplies and evacuating wounded.

“The figure they are using is 2.5 million. If anything, they believe it could be more, that this is a very conservative estimate,” Melissa Fleming, chief spokeswoman of the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), told a news briefing.

“So people are moving, people are really on the run, hiding. They are difficult to count and to access,” she said.

Aid agencies had previously thought there were around 1.2 million internally displaced Syrians.

Only 5 percent of the 2.5 million are believed to be living in public facilities, including warehouses and schools, said Fleming. The rest are staying with host families, making it more difficult to count them.

In recent days, air strikes on the town of Ras al-Ain near the Turkish border have caused some of the biggest refugee movements of the conflict.

The United Nations said on Friday that up to 4 million people inside Syriawill need humanitarian aid by early next year when the country is in the grip of winter, up from 2.5 million now whose needs are not fully met.

For now, the U.N. World Food Programme (WFP) says its food rations are reaching some 1.5 million. The UNHCR aims to provide assistance to 500,000 in Syria by the end of the year, mainly blankets, clothing, cooking kits and jerry cans, Fleming said.

“Unfortunately the recent deliveries have been very difficult, marred by violence and insecurity also spreading to parts of the country that used to be relatively calm,” she said.

A Syrian Arab Red Crescent warehouse in Aleppo was apparently hit by a shell, burning 13,000 blankets, she said. Unknown armed men hijacked a truck carrying 600 blankets on its way to Adra, outside Damascus.

The UNHCR has temporarily withdrawn about half of its 12 staff from north-eastern Hassaka province due to fierce fighting and insecurity, Fleming said.

“We see corresponding movement of populations there, Syrian Kurds for the most part, across the border into Iraq,” she said.

More than 407,000 Syrian refugees have registered or await registration in the surrounding region – Lebanon, Turkey, Jordan and Iraq – and more are fleeing every day, according to UNHCR.

(Editing by Tom Pfeiffer)

Residents flee air strikes on Syria border town: CEYLANPINAR, Turkey – A Syrian warplane struck homes in the town of Ras al-Ain on Tuesday within sight of the Turkish border, pursuing an aerial bombardment to force out rebels and drawing a new warning from Ankara.

The second day of jet strikes sent Syrians scurrying through the flimsy barbed-wire fence that divides Ras al-Ain from the Turkish settlement of Ceylanpinar as thick plumes of smoke rose above the town.

Medical workers and refugees in Ceylanpinar said bombing on Monday and Tuesday struck residential areas of Ras al-Ain, which fell to rebels last week during an advance into Syria’s mixed Arab and Kurdish northeast.

The offensive has caused some of the biggest refugee movements since the armed revolt against President Bashar al-Assad began in March last year, and brought the war back perilously close to Turkish soil.

Turkey is reluctant to be drawn into a regional conflict but the proximity of the bombing raids to the border is testing its pledge to defend itself from any violation of its territory or any spillover of violence from Syria.

Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan stressed that Ankara would not hesitate to respond if threatened.

“We are giving the necessary response on the border and will not refrain from a much harsher response if necessary,” he told deputies of his AK Party. “Nobody should play with fire or try to test Turkey’s patience.”

A Turkish health official at the hospital in Ceylanpinar said rebel fighters were trying to pull the wounded from under the rubble of a house. Refugees say the fighters are taking cover in homes, many of them abandoned by residents who have fled for Turkey.

“As soon as we heard the jets, we knew they would bomb. It hit another house just 100 meters away,” Mohammad Kahan, 49, a Kurd who fled Ras al-Ain with nine members of his family, said of Monday’s bombardment.

“This won’t stop, Assad will not go until America and Britain come and stop him. Only these two can stop him.”

NO-FLY ZONE?

Opposition activists say at least a dozen people died on Monday, the latest of an estimated 38,000 victims of the 19-month civil war. The casualty toll on Tuesday was not known.

Turkey has repeatedly fired back in retaliation for stray gunfire and mortar rounds flying across its 900 km (560 mile) border with Syria, and is talking to NATO allies about the possible deployment of Patriot surface-to-air missiles.

Ankara says this would be a defensive step, but it could also be a prelude to enforcing a no-fly zone in Syria to limit the reach of Assad’s air power. Western powers have so far been reluctant to take such a step.

Rebels fired machineguns mounted on pick-up trucks at the jet as it swooped low over Ras al-Ain, dropping three bombs before returning for a second strike on another part of the town, said a Reuters witness on the Turkish side of the border.

Ambulances with sirens wailing ferried the wounded from the border for treatment in Ceylanpinar.

In one 24-hour period last week, some 9,000 Syrians fled fighting during a rebel advance into Syria’s northeast, swelling to over 120,000 the number of registered refugees in Turkish camps, with winter setting in.

Tens of thousands more are unregistered and living in Turkish homes.

(Additional reporting by Ece Toksabay; Writing by Matt Robinson; Editing by Tom Pfeiffer)

Britain says Syria opposition coalition a “milestone”CAIRO – British Foreign Secretary William Hague welcomed the latest effort by Syria’s opposition to form a united front against Bashar al-Assad, but said more needed to be done before Britain formally recognized it.

Exiled opposition leaders formed a coalition on Sunday and the grouping is now seeking international recognition as a government-in-waiting.

Western powers demanding that Syrian leader Assad step down to end a 19-month rebellion have been frustrated by squabbling among his opponents.

“It is a very important milestone,” Hague told reporters at a meeting of Arab and European ministers at the Arab League in Cairo on Tuesday.

“We want the Syrian opposition to be inclusive … and to have support inside Syria and if they have this, yes, we will then recognize them as the legitimate representative of the Syrian people.”

He said that did not imply that Britain would be ready to send weapons to the opposition because the European Union had placed an arms embargo on Syria.

But he added: “But we are not excluding any option in the future because … the Syrian crisis is getting worse and worse all the time”.

Some 2.5 million people have been internally displaced by the country’s civil war, double the previous figure of 1.2 million used by aid agencies, the United Nations refugee agency said, citing the Syrian Arab Red Crescent.

Hague said more needed to be done by the European Union and the Arab League to press for global assistance for Syrian civil society and human rights groups, according to a statement issued by Britain’s Foreign Office on Tuesday.

“The winter cold and rain will heap further misery on soaring numbers of Syrian refugees and displaced people,” he said in the statement.

(Reporting by Yasmine Saleh; Writing by Shaimaa Fayed; Editing by Tom Pfeiffer)

Guardian: Syria conflict: Arab League backs opposition bloc – Tuesday 13 November 2012

The new leader of the Syrian opposition Moaz Al-Khatib meets the Qatari prime minister Sheikh Hamad Bin Jassim Bin Jabr Al-Thani and Arab League secretary general Nabil al-Arabi in Cairo.13 Nov 2012:Follow how the day unfolded as foreign ministers backed the new Syrian opposition coalition but stopped short of full recognition

Syrian opposition coalition hailed by Britain, France and Germany: 13 Nov 2012: At an Arab League meeting in Cairo, the coalition’s new leader, Moaz al-Khatib, called on the EU to recognise the coalition

Britain, France, and Germany have hailed the creation of a new Syrian opposition coalition as a major step forward, though only France went as far as recognising the new body as Syria‘s legitimate authority.

At an Arab League meeting in Cairo, the coalition’s new leader, Moaz al-Khatib, called on the EU to recognise the coalition and give it financial support. This would allow Syria’s opposition to act as a unified government and, most crucially, to acquire arms, he said.

EU foreign ministers have warmly embraced the new US-backed group announced in Doha on Sunday. But both the EU and the Arab League have yet to give it formal recognition. Speaking in Cairo, the foreign secretary William Hague said the new body had to prove its democratic credentials and show it enjoyed support from all Syrians, including from the country’s ethnic and religious minorities.

“This coalition gives the opportunity for a united, inclusive and credible political alternative to the Assad regime.” he said. “We urge them to set out a detailed platform for a political transition to a democratic Syria, and to demonstrate that they are acting on behalf of all Syria’s communities.”

France, however, went a step further, with Francois Hollande, declaring: “I announce today that France recognises the Syrian National Council as the sole legitimate representative of the Syrian people and as future government of a democratic Syria allowing to bring an end to Bashar al-Assad’s regime.”

The French president added that Paris would look at the question of arming the Syrian National Council once it had created a transitional government.

A Syria donors’ conference will be held in London on Friday. The meeting will discuss how to step up non-lethal aid to the new rebel group headed by Khatib, the National Coalition of Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces. Hague today stated that the “more progress” the opposition makes towards its goals, the “greater practical support” it can expect from the UK.

But enhanced diplomatic support falls well short of what the rebels have long been demanding: significant western military assistance to change the dynamics on the ground in Syria. The 20-month uprising to overthrow president Bashar al-Assad has now reached a bloody stalemate, with the regime waging a tenacious and brutal counter-offensive against the lightly armed Free Syrian Army.

On Tuesday the Syrian Arab Red Crescent said 2.5 million people had been displaced inside Syria, as civilians sought to escape cities and villages under attack. The figure is twice as high as previous estimates. The UN refugee agency says that the real number of internal refugees could be even higher.

Violence continued on Tuesday, with reports that government warplanes had attacked the FSA-controlled town of Ras al Ain near the Turkish border for a second day. Smoke was seen rising from the town. Syrian jets also hit the town of Albu Kamal on the frontier with Iraq. Heavy shelling was reported in the southern Damascus suburbs of Tadamon and Yarmouk.

Tension also remained high on the Golan Heights, where Israeli gunners have retaliated against stray Syrian mortar fire landing on the occupied plateau over the past week. The Israeli military fired back on Monday, hitting a Syrian artillery battery and injuring at least two Syrian soldiers.

Senior Israeli government officials believe the mortars are “accidental” but say this view will be reassessed if there is further crossborder fire. “I don’t think there’s a scenario of Assad intentionally provoking Israel, it looks quite far-fetched right now – but as a last resort for Assad in the future, it’s a possibility and the Israelis are discussing it and preparing for such a scenario,” said Amos Harel, defence correspondent for Haaretz.

Six Sunni Gulf Arab states have recognised the new opposition coalition as Syria’s legitimate representative. But Algeria, Iraq and Lebanon – the last two with significant Shiite populations – have refused to follow suit. On Tuesday Hague signalled that the UK had virtually abandoned attempts to find a diplomatic solution to Syria, in the face of unwavering support for Assad from Russia and China.

Hague said there was little point in trying to reach consensus in the UN security council, following repeated vetoes by Russia and China. The international envoy Lakhdar Brahimi has suggested another attempt. Hague said: “There is no indication that the outcome now would be different. In the absence of such progress, we will increase our support to Syrian opposition groups.”

Arab League welcomes new Syrian opposition – video

Arab League foreign ministers meeting in CairoVideo (1min 13sec), 13 Nov 2012:At a press conference in Cairo, the Qatari prime minister, Hamad bin Jassim, says the Arab League welcomes the formation of a new opposition coalition in Syria

Syrian border town devastated by air raids – video Amateur video obtained from social media purports to show the aftermath of air raids over the Syrian town of Ras al-Ain. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says 12 people, including seven Islamist militants, were killed in the air strikes. The town, on the Turkish border, fell to rebels on Thursday. Thousands have fled into Turkey.

David Cameron starts to force the pace on Syria conflict:The PM’s risk calculus appears to have changed – and European officials do not know what to make of his new stance

In the space of a week, Britain has flagged talks with Syria‘s armed rebels, renewed an offer of exile to Bashar al-Assad, embraced a new opposition body and convened a donor conference to help oust the regime. The pace of the moves and what they potentially represent has left many in government, and indeed in Europe, stunned. For the first time in almost 20 months a real clamour has started about a potential intervention in a conflict that had been too delicate and dangerous for any country to confront.

The new British posture on Syria was announced by David Cameron an hour after Barack Obama claimed victory in the US election. It has strengthened ever since, every step personally backed by the prime minister, who government officials say has become fed up with the endless slaughter and intransigence and is now willing to do something about it.

Britain’s new stance on Syria is well ahead of its allies in Europe, or across the Atlantic, with the exception of France. It is also increasingly at odds with Damascus’s key European backer, Russia, which shows no sign of watering down its resolute support for its Soviet-era ally.

Both Downing Street and Whitehall know the risks of being well out in front on Syria. Attempts to build meaningful diplomatic alliances have so far led to nothing more than condemnations and sanctions.

While seething at the death toll in Syria’s Sunni-led insurrection and sending funds to fighting groups, the Gulf states – all led by Sunni regimes – have insisted that the US, or another western power, take public charge of dealing with Assad. None had been willing, especially without UN security council backing.

Last week, a key US official, the former ambassador to Damascus Robert Ford, now a senior player in the White House national security council, said a re-elected Obama was unlikely to change his opposition to a US role. A no-fly zone, a key hope of Syrian rebel groups, would continue to remain off the table.

If Assad’s friends and foes agree on one thing, it is the grave risk of miscalculating in Syria – a state created along several of the region’s main geopolitical fault lines and secured by alliances with key western protagonists. But something in Cameron’s risk calculus appears to have changed. His advisers suggest he lost patience with daily reports of death and depravity and with an international response that has offered few solutions.

European officials, meanwhile, do not know what to make of Britain’s stance. While broadly supporting the Syrian opposition, key European powers remain stymied by Russia and China and deeply wary of the combustible Middle East igniting if or when Assad falls.

With so much at stake and with enmity between both sides so entrenched, a seamless transition of power seems next to impossible. Missteps could lead the Levant towards a Balkanisation along ethnic sectarian lines – a nightmare scenario with widespread ramifications elsewhere in the region.

Nevertheless, an opposition momentum, so elusive since the now stalled armed push into Aleppo and Damascus in July, has clearly energised a reluctant west. The ink on the hard-fought deal to form what is in effect an alternative government in waiting had barely dried before Britain, Turkey and Qatar, among others, were rushing to endorse it.

The arrival of Sunni Arab donors in London later this week will mark potentially the most decisive phase yet in the campaign against Assad. With a new, more representative body now in place, Britain no longer seems shy about what the cash that the conference will surely attract will end up being used for.

 

Weapons no longer seems to be a dirty word in government circles. Rebels who had complained that binoculars and satellite phones, which Britain promised over the summer, were not helping them win seem to sense that their time may have arrived.

Just what the British support will end up entailing is still being thrashed out, primarily in Downing Street and Whitehall. British officials in the region had complained over the summer that the government response to the Syrian crisis was around three months out of synch with events on the ground.

That lost ground is now rapidly being reclaimed. Whether Cameron has the will to directly involve Britain in the conflict is something he seems yet to decide. While he does, Damascus, for the first time in many months, has reason to calibrate its actions. “It was obvious that he was acting without fear or restraint in recent months,” one Western official said of Assad in Beirut last week. “That position is not sustainable.”

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