Tuesday 18 September 2012
The funerals continue. This is the funeral of Tarek Rajaa al-Nasser, a doctor from Aleppo whose father is a member of the Executive Bureau of the National Coordination Body for Democratic Change.:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IsnnX_Qljrg&feature=youtu.be&fb_source=message.
The Joint Special Representative of the United Nations and the League of Arab States on the Syrian crisis, Lakhdar Brahimi, on Tuesday visited refugee camps in Turkey and Jordan, where he gained first-hand accounts of the struggles facing those who fled the conflict in their homeland.
The envoy went to the Altinoz camp in Turkey’s Hatay Province and the Za’atari camp in Jordan. He was briefed in both places by UN agencies and government officials on conditions in the camps.
“Mr. Brahimi met Syrian refugees and listened to first-hand accounts of their ordeals,” UN spokesperson Martin Nesirky told reporters in New York. “He was deeply moved by what he saw and heard and promised to convey an accurate picture of their plight to all those whom he will meet at the United Nations in New York, where he will be next week.”
According to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), more than 260,000 Syrian refugees have been registered in neighbouring countries since the uprising against President Bashar al-Assad began in March 2011. They are part of an estimated 2.5 million Syrians in urgent need of humanitarian assistance as a result of the escalating crisis.
The visits to the camps in Turkey and Jordan follow a meeting in the Syrian capital, Damascus, on Saturday between Mr. Brahimi and Mr. al-Assad on the crisis, which the envoy said was getting worse and has serious consequences on the Syrian people, the region and the entire world.
“This crisis is becoming worse by the day,” Mr. Brahimi told reporters after the meeting, adding that it is urgent to address it in a proper manner.
More than 18,000 people, mostly civilians, have died since the uprising in Syria began 18 months ago. Mr. Brahimi assumed the peace-facilitation role earlier this month, with the aim of bringing an end to all violence and human rights violations in Syria, and promoting a peaceful solution to the conflict.
Saddam Hussein’s battalion announces joining the Free Syrian Army: Shafaq News / One of the dissident officers from the regular Syrian army, announced on Tuesday, the formation of a battalion named “the martyr Saddam Hussein” battalion in the countryside of Idlib in Syria.
The officer, Osama Mohammed Julaq who did not disclose his rank and described himself only as the “revolutionary leader”, in a video aired by opposed websites to the Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s regime, and briefed by “Shafaq News”, “in response to what Assad’s criminal gangs “, he said that “I am the revolutionary leader, Osama Mohammed Julaq announce and a group of officers forming a battalion of the martyr Saddam Hussein. ”
Julaq added “I announce it in the southern countryside of Idlib as a sword of Free Syrian national army Swords,” stressing ” on working hard to bring down the tyrannical and criminal regime with all our strength to build a free Syria.”
It is worth mentioning that hundreds of officers and Syrian soldiers have announced their dissidents from the regular Syrian army since the armed confrontations took place between the regime’s forces and the armed factions for more than a year and had formed what they called the “Free Syrian Army”, in an effort to topple the regime of President, Bashar al-Assad.
[local time] 20:17 Syrian forces summarily executed 20 people in Damascus’ neighborhood of Al-Hajar al-Aswad, Al-Arabiya quoted activists as saying.
19:13 Iraq reopened its main Al-Qaim crossing with Syria to refugees on Tuesday, after closing it for several weeks, but continued to deny entry to single men under 50.
19:02 Tuesday’s death toll has increased to 72, Al-Arabiya quoted activists as saying.
19:01 Syrian forces shelled Damascus’ southern neighborhoods, Al-Arabiya quoted activists as saying.
19:00 A Turkish child died after a missile fired from Syria struck her house, Al-Arabiya quoted activists as saying.
18:38 The Syrian army and rebel forces clashed on Tuesday in the north of the country Tuesday for control of the Tall al-Abyad border post with Turkey.
17:52 A group of Syrian refugees threw stones at UN peace envoy Lakhdar Brahimi’s convoy on Tuesday as he left the Zaatari camp in Jordan where he pledged help despite the “worsening” conflict.
17:23 The Free Syrian Army controls the Tal Abyad border crossing along the Syrian-Turkish border, Al-Arabiya reported.
15:51 European Union foreign ministers have invited Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov for “substantial” talks next month on the situation in Syria.
15:49 Austria is doubling its humanitarian aid to the Syrian people following a worsening refugee crisis and spiraling violence in the conflict-torn nation.
15:19 Syrian troops shelled several districts in Aleppo and clashed with rebels on Tuesday, as Damascus ally Iran proposed a simultaneous halt to the violence and a peaceful solution to the conflict.
14:11 Syrian rebels forced an entry into an air defense base in Daraa and arrested two officers, in addition to 25 soldiers, Al-Jazeera television reported.
14:03 Syrian regime forces killed 35 people on Tuesday, Al-Arabiya television quoted activists as saying.
11:55 The international peace envoy for Syria Lakhdar Brahimi on Tuesday met Syrians staying at a Turkish refugee camp in his first encounter since taking over the mission from his frustrated predecessor.
11:34 Foreign ministers of the regional “contact group” on Syria agreed at talks in Cairo to hold more consultations in New York later this month, the official MENA news agency reported on Tuesday.
9:36 The Syrian army has tested a chemical weapons delivery system, firing shells at a research center in its northwestern desert region, the German magazine Der Spiegel reported Monday citing “witnesses”.
Are Iran’s drones coordinating attacks in Syria? globalpost.com
Syrian rebels battled government forces near a Turkish border crossing on Tuesday and bullets flew into the northern neighbor that has backed the 18-month-old uprising against President Bashar al-Assad.
The revolt, which began as peaceful street protests cracked down on by Assad’s military, has escalated into a civil war in which over 27,000 people have died. Daily death tolls now approach 200 and the last month was the bloodiest yet.
In another bid to stem the bloodshed, Iran’s foreign minister proposed a new regional monitoring mission ahead of talks with President Bashar al-Assad in Damascus on Wednesday, Iranian state media said. Two previous missions have collapsed.
From the Turkish side of the crossing with Tel Abyad, a Reuters witness heard sporadic, heavy machinegun fire and saw an ambulance nearby. A Turkish official said stray bullets hit some houses in the town of Akcakale, wounding at least one person, a woman.
He said the rebels were trying to gain control of Tel Abyad, which was a major crossing for Turkish-Syrian commerce in peacetime, and which rebels were rumored to have used for weapons smuggling in the past year.
It appeared to be the first attempt by insurgents to assert their grip over a border zone in al-Raqqa province, most of which has remained solidly pro-Assad.
Rebels hold two other crossings on the northern border with Turkey. A third border point would help strengthen their control in the north and put more pressure on the army as they battle for control of Syria’s largest city Aleppo not far away.
Residents say only one town near the border has welcomed rebels in al-Raqqa province. The town held an anti-Assad protest on Tuesday, prompting government shelling, wounding several people, and fighting later erupted.
Parts of Syria’s frontiers with Turkey, Lebanon and Iraq have become porous as the conflict spread. More than 200,000 refugees have poured into Turkey and Jordan to escape bombardment by pro-Assad forces in pursuit of rebels.
Shell fire has occasionally crashed over the borders, and the fighting has sometimes come so close that the armies of neighboring states have gone on high alert.
Syria’s second and third cities, Aleppo and Homs, have been shattered by fighting. With the army relying on fighter jets and helicopter gunships and the rebels on makeshift bombs, neighborhoods in both cities have been leveled.
Damascus, once seen as an impregnable Assad stronghold, has also suffered near daily shelling and clashes on its outskirts.
At least five fighters and four soldiers died in the latest clashes on the capital’s southern outskirts, the London-based Syrian Observatory or Human Rights said.
Security forces are trying to stamp out a rebel foothold in Damascus’s southern and eastern suburbs.
Heavy army shelling battered rebellious towns in the southern Deraa region, fount of the uprising, and Idlib, in the north near the Turkish border. More than 60 people were killed nationwide before evening on Tuesday, the Observatory said.
IRAN PROPOSES NEW MONITORING MISSION
Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi pitched his proposal for an observer force when a regional “contact group” met in Cairo on Monday, Iran’s state news agency said. He said observers should come from the group’s four member countries - Iran, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Turkey.
Given mutual mistrust within the quartet, it was unclear whether Salehi’s proposal had much prospect of success. The new grouping is an awkward combination of supporters and opponents of the uprising. Iran has stuck by Assad while Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Turkey have demanded the president step down.
“Salehi suggested the sending of observers from the four countries to monitor the cessation of violence, the conducting of dialogue, emphasizing the need for a sense of integration and national unity and Syrian territory,” IRNA news agency reported.
Two monitoring missions in Syria have already unraveled. The first, a regional Arab League group of observers, left in protest at a continued escalation of violence with little sign of political reform pledged by Assad. A United Nations mission pulled out most of its observers for similar reasons.
Violence has intensified and spread across this large, pivotal Arab country and more than 200,000 refugees have flooded into neighboring states.
Iraq, which in August closed its border crossings, reopened them on Tuesday to allow in 100 Syrian refugees per day. But Iraq will refuse entry to young men, officials said, citing security reasons, as many young men are believed to be rebels.
REGIONAL RIVALRIES POSE OBSTACLE
Western officials and diplomats are skeptical that the new Middle East contact group that convened in Cairo could reach any deal to draw down the spiraling violence in Syria.
The four countries have differences with sectarian and strategic dimensions that seem insurmountable.
Saudi Arabia and Turkey are actively supporting Syrian rebels and are believed to be training them as well. Other Sunni Muslim countries in the region are also throwing their weight behind the mostly Sunni-led uprising in Syria.
Shi’ite Muslim power Iran has supported Assad, whose Alawite sect, an offshoot of Shi’ite Islam, has dominated the country for decades. Tehran has acknowledged having members of its security forces there, but only in an advisory role. Rebels say that Iranian forces are helping Assad militarily.
Underlining the inherent tensions, Saudi Arabia’s foreign minister stayed away from the Cairo meeting of the contact group on Monday. Egyptian officials did not say why no one else came in his place.
International powers seem to be equally deadlocked along old Cold War lines, with Western powers backing the Syrian opposition, and Russia and China blocking any U.N.-mandated intervention aimed at dislodging Assad.
Iranian state media said that Salehi, who like Moscow and Beijing has called for an internal resolution without foreign interference, was to meet Assad in Damascus on Wednesday and propose ways to resolve the Syrian crisis.
(Additional reporting by Jonathon Burch in Ankara, Zahra Hosseinian and Yeganeh Torbati in Dubai; Editing by Mark Heinrich)
Iraq reopens border to Syria refugees, excludes young men: BAGHDAD – Iraq reopened its border with Syria on Tuesday to receive refugees escaping violence, but refused entry to young men for security reasons, Iraqi officials said.
Follow how the day unfolded after Tehran proposed that peace monitors from Iran, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Turkey be sent to Syria …
• Iran’s foreign minister, Ali Akbar Salehi, will visit Syria tomorrow for talks, according to Iranian and Syrian sources. At a meeting in Egypt today, President Morsi reportedly told Salehi that relations between the two countries are being hindered by Iran’s support for the Assad regime.
• William Hague said he was sceptical that the “quartet” contact group (Egypt, Iran, Turkey and Saudi Arabia) would come up with a solution to the Syrian crisis. Speaking to the foreign affairs select committee he said Iran was unlikely to come up with a constructive solution to the crisis as it had been actively involved in helping the Assad regime to murder its own people.
• Lakhdar Brahimi, the new international envoy on Syria, has travelled to southern Turkey to visit a refugee camp for those displaced by the violence. The difficult of his peace mission was underlined by reports that Syrian rebels have offered a bounty for the killing of Bashar al-Assad.
• The Syrian army is believed to have tested firing systems for chemical weapons at the end of August, according to the German magazine Der Spiegel, citing witness reports. The tests took place near a chemical weapons research center at Safira, they said.
• The influence of jihadi groups in Syria is rapidly growing, according to a new study by the Swedish Institute for International Affairs. Aron Lund, the report’s author told the Guardian: “They [jihadis] are not the main force of the revolution, but they are able to exploit this sectarian dynamic very effectively.”
- The neighbours: Meddling at their peril: Syria’s war is both worrying the region and infecting it
The war in Syria: Death from the skies: The growing horror of the Syrian civil war has put military intervention back on the agenda
Rebel forces: Entropy increasing: Neither military nor political opponents are a united force
Daily chart: The situation in Syria: The mounting human cost of the uprising in Syria
Syria: The killing of a jihadist leader: Tensions are rising between Syria’s different rebel groups