Tuesday 24 July 2012
Syrian Observatory for Human Rights: More than 70 Syrians have been killed so far today 24/7/2012: 46 Unarmed civilians:
-Aleppo province 16 killed. 8 prisoners were killed during the suppression of a revolt in the Aleppo central prison. 4 civilians, including a woman, were killed by the regime bombardment on the Saif al-Dawla and al-Kallasa neighbourhoods of Aleppo. 1 killed by regime fire in al-Bab al-Hadid neighbourhood. 2 youngmen killed by the bombardment of the al-Jeena town. 1 civilian killed by gunfire in the city of al-Bab.
-In Hama province 5 killed, including a woman and a child, when regime forces bombarded stormed the town of al-Latamneh, reef Hama.
-In Homs province 4 died. A child and a young man were killed by the bombardment of al-Rastan. A civilian from Tel Kalakh died while in detention. 1 civilian from the al-Dar al-Kabira village was killed by a security checkpoint.
-In Idlib province 7 killed. 1 from sniper wounds in the town of Banash. 1 from from wounds by yesterday’s bombardment of Ma’arat al-Nu’man. 3 civilians, including a child, were killed by gunfire and bombardment on the city of Ariha. A woman was killed by the regime bombardment on Kafarsanjeh. A civilian died of his wounds received by regime forces yesterday in the town of al-Bara.
-In Deir Izzor a child was killed by the bombardment on the al-Tuweiba neighbourhood of Deir Izzor.
-In Reef Dimashq 3 civilians killed. 1 in the city of Dumeir by the regime bombardment. 2 by gunshots from a military checkpoint in the town of Ma’adamiyat al-Sham.
-In Damascus 1 civilian was killed in the Barzeh neighbourhood, he was summarily executed by regime forces.
-In Dera’a 9 killed. 8, including a woman and 5 children, were killed by the bombardment on the city of al-Hirak today. 1 civilian died of wounds from the regime’s bombardment on al-Hirak 6 days ago.
2 Rebel fighters:
Aleppo prov: 1 rebel fighter killed by clashes in Salaheddine neighbourhood.
Deir Izzor: 1 rebel fighter killed by clashes after midnight in the Deir al-Ateeq neighbourhood.
A defected soldier was summarily executed in al-Latamneh, Reef Hama. A defected soldier was killed by clashes in Reef Deir Izzor.
No less than 26 members of the Syrian armed forces were killed during clashes in Idlib, Dera’a, Homs and Aleppo.
AMSTERDAM, Netherlands –Syrian opposition leaders accused the Kurdish parties of receiving support from the Peshmerga forces of the Kurdistan Region of Iraq in an attempt to take over the Kurdish areas in Syria.
Kamal al-Labwani, member of the Syrian National Council [SNC], told Alarabiya news network that the Kurdistan Region Government (KRG) is supporting the Kurdish parties in Syria “by sending some armed forces from Peshmerga to help Syrian Kurds to take control of the Kurdish areas in Syria”.
“We have information that a number of Peshmerga members entered the Kurdish areas in Syria and they are fighting now side by side with other Kurdish armed groups,” al-Labwani added.
But Kurdish politicians and activists in Syria denied the claims of the Arab opposition, and considered it propaganda aiming to create division within the revolutionary forces.
Yilmaz Saeed, a Kurdish activist and member of the Tevgera Ciwanên Kurd [Kurdish Youth Movement] in Syria, told Rudaw on Sunday that the claims of the Arab opposition are baseless.
“The Kurdish forces that recently entered from Iraqi Kurdistan into the Kurdish areas of Syria are Syrian Kurdish soldiers who defected from the Syrian army and resorted to Iraqi Kurdistan where they received military training and got organized, and now they are back to participate in the liberation of their own cities and villages from the armed forces of Assad regime,” Saeed said in an interview with Rudaw.
On Sunday, the website of the Kurdistan Region Presidency [krp.org] quoted the presidential spokesperson as saying, “A number of newspapers and websites have published reported that Kurdish Peshmerga forces have entered Kurdistan of Syria, but we firmly reject that news as baseless and far from the truth,”
Saeed also dismissed claims of Arab activists that clashes had occurred between Kurdish forces and the Free Syrian Army [FSA], saying, “That is another propaganda by the Arab opposition to confuse the public opinion in order to marginalize the Kurdish revolutionary movement in Syria and to show us nothing but separatists, and that serves no one but the regime,”
Meanwhile, Saeed confirmed that there are no members of the FSA in the liberated Kurdish areas.
The clashes that are taking place in the Kurdish areas, he said, are between the Kurdish forces and the Assad forces.
“Kurds are a main and institutional part of the ongoing pro-democracy revolution, and they have participated actively since the first day to topple this totalitarian regime, but it seems that the regime could make a deep chauvinistic influence on some pan-Arabism opposition figures,” Saeed concluded.
On the other hand, the Arab Local Coordination Committee in Dayr ez-Zawr told Alarabiya that the FSA is about to take control of Qamishli—the largest Kurdish city in Syria—a statement that angered Kurdish opposition forces.
“Kurdish forces of the Popular Protection Units are the only group that is fighting against the armed forces of the Assad regime in the Kurdish areas, and no member of the FSA were seen there,” activists from the Kurdish city of Qamishli told Rudaw on Sunday.
Saeed believes the news of FSA soldiers fighting the security forces in Qamishli is an effort to “minimize the importance of the Kurdish role in the ongoing revolution,”
[local time] 22:19 The UN’s chief peacekeeper Herve Ladsous arrived in Damascus on Tuesday in order to evaluate the situation in strife-torn Syria.
22:16 Russian naval flotilla of warships destined for the Syrian port of Tartus has entered the Mediterranean, Russia’s Defense Ministry said Tuesday.
21:53 AFP profiled Ali Mamluk, the new head of Syria’s National Security office.
21:48 Syrian security forces killed 20 people during a raid on the Hama town of Al-Sharia, Al-Arabiya quoted activists as saying.
21:33 A video purportedly filmed on Tuesday in Aleppo’s Marjeh neighborhood shows a helicopter opening fire over the area.
21:27 A YouTube video purportedly filmed on Tuesday shows rebels announcing their seizure of a number of Aleppo neighborhoods. One of the rebels is saying “we control the roundabouts of Bab al-Hadid, Jazmati, al-Shaar, al-Sakhour and Qadi Aaskar. The clashes are still ongoing and we will not leave Aleppo before purifying it from the impure, especially the gangs of [President Bashar] al-Assad.”
21:18 Sounds of gunfire can be heard in the background of a YouTube video purportedly filmed on Tuesday in the Al-Jamiliya neighborhood of Aleppo.
21:14 A YouTube video purportedly filmed on Tuesday shows rebels taking over Al-Khalil School in Aleppo’s Bab al-Nayrab neighborhood.
21:13 Reuters reported Tuesday that helicopters were bombing areas near central Aleppo while fighter jets were buzzing rebel held areas of the city, which was witnessing battles between the Free Syrian Army and regime forces.
19:32 Syrian envoy to Cyprus Lamia Hariri defected, Al-Jazeera reported.
19:22 US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said on Tuesday that Washington would work closely with the Syrian opposition in its battle to force Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad to hand over power.
18:49 More than 10,000 Iraqis have fled Syria to return home since Wednesday fearing for their lives, the UN refugee agency said.
18:21 An AFP feature piece details how the influx of Syrian refugees into Lebanon in helped boost the country’s lagging tourism sector.
18:11 Renowned Syrian sculptor Wael Qastun has been tortured to death in the flashpoint central of city of Homs, an artists’ association said on Tuesday.
18:07 Russia urged its Middle East ally Syria on Tuesday to refrain from using chemical weapons despite its threat to unleash the previously unreported arsenal in case of a foreign attack.
17:49 Syrian fighters jets bombed neighborhoods in eastern Aleppo on Tuesday amid heavy fighting in the city between the rebel Free Syrian Army and regime troops, BBC reported.
17:11 Tuesday’s death toll in Syria has risen to 77 people, most of them killed in Aleppo, Daraa and near Damascus, Al-Jazeera television quoted the General Commission of the Syrian Revolution as saying.
16:50 A YouTube video purportedly filmed on Tuesday in Zabadani near Damascus shows regime forces shelling a house.
16:47 A YouTube video purportedly filmed on Tuesday in Talbisa outside Homs shows Syrian forces shelling the town.
16:43 Syrian forces shelled the town of Salma near Latakia, Al-Arabiya television quoted activists as saying.
16:39 Syrian government troops attacked the Qadam and Assali districts of Damascus on Tuesday, two of the last pockets of rebel-held territory in the city, a watchdog said.
16:34 NOW Lebanon on Tuesday contacted a detainee in a prison in Syria’s Aleppo, who recounted the experience of Monday’s deadly repression and voiced hope that the rebel Free Syrian Army would free the prisoners.
16:24 Syrian forces shelled Zabadani near Damascus, killing 15 people and wounding others, Al-Jazeera television quoted the General Commission of the Syrian Revolution as saying.
15:27 Greece was preparing to close its embassy in Damascus, the Foreign Ministry said Tuesday, after last week warning about the deteriorating security situation there.
15:24 A top Iranian military official warned on Tuesday that Syria’s allies “will not allow regime change” and would land “decisive blows” on Damascus’s enemies if they entered the growing conflict.
15:20 Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said the Syrian opposition was close to victory, and warned that Ankara was ready to respond to any “hostile” action by the Damascus regime.
15:18 More than 5,000 Syrians fled to Jordan over the past three days to escape escalating bloodshed in their homeland, a leading charity caring for the refugees said on Tuesday.
15:05 Clashes broke out between Syrian regime forces and rebels in Aleppo’s Al-Arqoub, Al-Arabiya television quoted activists as saying.
14:37 Syria has named General Ali Mamluk as the new head of its national security office in a shakeup of the security services after a bombing killed four top regime figures last week, a security source told AFP on Tuesday.
14:08 Iraq will set up camps at two of its three border crossings with Syria to provide support for Syrian refugees fleeing the conflict in their homeland, a government spokesperson said on Tuesday.
13:48 United Nations Special Coordinator for Lebanon Derek Plumbly expressed concern on Tuesday over the border incidents that have taken place in North Lebanon and the Bekaa Valley, according to a UN statement.
13:35 Syria’s stockpile of chemical weapons is “under the full control” of the regime of President Bashar al-Assad, a top Israeli defense official said on Tuesday.
13:29 Shelling in the town of Herak, south of Damascus, killed seven people, six of them children, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said, taking the nationwide death toll for Tuesday to 33.
13:16 French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius on Tuesday rejected an Arab League proposal for Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad to be granted safe exit from the country in exchange for stepping down.
12:37 Syrian rebel forces are stretching the Syrian army nationwide, grabbing border posts and countryside regions as they challenge the regime in its symbolic power centers of Damascus and Aleppo, experts say.
12:26 At least 14 people were killed in violence across Syria on Tuesday, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said, while putting the death toll nationwide for the previous day at 116.
11:33 Syrian regime forces killed 37 people on Tuesday, Al-Arabiya quoted the Local Coordination Committees as saying.
11:18 The Syrian opposition said on Tuesday that it was “ready to accept transition led by regime figure,” AFP reported.
10:14 Eight people were killed in a mutiny at a prison in Syria’s second city of Aleppo during the night, the opposition Syrian National Council said on Tuesday.
8:49 The Syrian government has moved chemical weapons to airports on its borders, the rebel Free Syrian Army said Tuesday, a day after the regime warned it could use them if attacked by an outside force.
8:21 The spike in violence in Syria and fears that Damascus could use chemical weapons has triggered alarm bells in Jordan that it could be dragged into the conflict with “severe” repercussions, analysts say.
8:10 Heavy artillery shelling hits the town of Daael in Daraa, Al-Arabiya quoted activists as saying.
7:55 US President Barack Obama warned Syrian strongman Bashar al-Assad on Monday not to make the “tragic mistake” of turning to his stockpile of chemical weapons.
BBC: Warplanes hit Syria’s second city: Fighter jets have bombed eastern areas of Syria’s second city of Aleppo, a BBC reporter nearby says, in a significant escalation of the conflict.
Fighter jets have bombed eastern areas of Syria’s second city Aleppo, a BBC reporter near the city says.
The attack, which followed an artillery barrage, is seen as a significant escalation in the conflict.
Rebels launched an offensive against Aleppo at the weekend in an attempt to wrest the city from government forces.
US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton says territorial gains made by the rebels will eventually result in a “safe haven” inside Syria.
“We have to work closely with the opposition, because more and more territory is being taken,” she told reporters in Washington. That would become a safe haven which would provide a base for further action by the opposition, she said.
Mrs Clinton said the pace of events was accelerating inside Syria and called on the opposition to be prepared for a transition of power, adding that it was not yet too late for President Assad himself to prepare for such a handover.
In one of the deadliest incidents of the day, opposition activists reported that at least 20 worshippers were killed as they went into a mosque in a village close to the city of Hama.
Troops and militia loyal to President Assad left a roadblock and opened fire on the men who were arriving for evening prayers in Ghab Plain, one activist told Reuters news agency.
Foreign journalists work under intense restrictions in Syria so reports by both sides are hard to verify.
Earlier in Aleppo, government forces launched what correspondents described as a co-ordinated attack on the Tariq al-Bab area in the east of the city late on Tuesday afternoon, first with a 10-minute barrage of 30 shells and then with bombing runs from fixed-wing jets.
It was thought to be the first time that Syrian fighter planes had been used for bombing urban targets during the conflict, as the government attempted to take back districts of Syria’s commercial centre seized by the rebels.
There are reports of dozens of casualties and widespread damage. The BBC’s Ian Pannell, on the outskirts of Aleppo, says civilians and fighters are among the dead and wounded.
Helicopter gunships have been involved in the clashes in the city throughout the day, he says.
Fierce fighting has been reported close to the historic Old City. A French correspondent there has spoken of rebels besieging a police headquarters close to the walls of the Old City, which is a world heritage site.
Government forces have already regained control of most areas of Damascus that were captured by rebels last week. Opposition activists report renewed raids by troops in the Tadamon, Qadam and Assali areas of the city.
State television has broadcast video of soldiers apparently securing and checking heavily shelled suburbs in the south of the capital.
The battle for Aleppo, Syria’s most populous city, appears to have spread to much of the city, with rebels claiming control of several areas.
State forces appear to have focused their counter-attack on the Sakhour area to the east of the city centre, where rebels destroyed several tanks on Monday, the BBC’s Jim Muir reports from neighbouring Lebanon.
The violence on Tuesday claimed the lives of more than 100 people in Syria, according to the opposition Local Co-ordination Committees, including 20 in Aleppo.Thirteen people died in a revolt in Aleppo prison, activists said, when security forces reportedly opened fire and used tear gas on detainees.
Explosions and fires have also been reported from the jail in Homs where a similar mutiny took place.
Unverified reports said hundreds of refugees had become caught up in violence while trying to flee the country across its eastern border with Iraq.
Three people were wounded when Syrian forces shelled the Syrian side of the Boukamal crossing on the Euphrates river, where a crowd of Iraqis and Syrians were waiting to leave, a source has told the BBC.
The deteriorating security situation has prompted 10,000 Iraqi refugees to leave Syria in less than a week, according to the UN refugee agency.
Elsewhere, 10 people were reported killed when a shell hit their car near Hama and a family was said to have died during a bombardment of Deraa in southern Syria.
As the battle for control of Syria’s biggest cities spreads, international concern about Syria’s chemical weapons stockpile has spread to its ally, Russia.
The US and the UN have already issued a warning to Damascus, after a Syrian spokesman said its weapons would never be used internally but could be deployed against “external aggression”.
Russia’s foreign ministry said on Tuesday that it “proceeds from the assumption that the Syrian authorities will continue to rigorously abide by their international obligations”.
In other developments
- President Assad named internal security head Gen Ali Mamlouk as his new head of national security, replacing Hisham Ikhtiar, one of four senior officials killed in the 18 July bombing in Damascus
- A commander of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards, Brig Gen Masoud Jazayeri, said “decisive blows” would be struck against Syria’s enemies, “particularly the hated Arabs”, if they intervened in the conflict, Iran’s semi-official Fars news agency reported
At the scene
The military’s response today marked a sharp escalation in this battle.
Helicopter gunships spun through the skies throughout the day. Sustained artillery and mortar rounds pounded restive neighbourhoods.
But it was what happened late in the afternoon that underlined the grave risk to the government of losing ground in what is Syria’s largest city and its economic capital.
First came an unmistakeable sound that has so far been absent in this conflict – the roar of fighter jets. What appeared to be Russian-made MiG planes arced through the sky.
We watched as they dropped in, bombing and strafing rebel positions.
Dead and wounded civilians and fighters were taken to hospitals and makeshift clinics as the human cost of this conflict continues to grow.
Heavy fighting has been reported in Syria’s second city of Aleppo as President Bashar al-Assad appointed replacements for three of the senior security officials killed in a bomb attack in Damascus last week.
Syrian state media said government forces had inflicted heavy losses on rebels in the neighbourhoods of Salaheddine and Sukkari. Attack helicopters and, according to some sources, fighter aircraft were used to fire into the city.
Local people described an overnight mutiny at the city’s badly overcrowded prison in which eight to 15 inmates were shot dead. A lawyer told the activist group Avaaz: “Living conditions and the health of these prisoners have significantly deteriorated, and their outrage spilled over into violence and sparked this rebellion.”
Opposition sources counted 77 dead overall in Aleppo and Idlib in the north and at Daraa in the south. Firing was also reported from inside the prison in the central city of Homs.
The Local Co-ordination Committees, an activist network, reported renewed government shelling in parts of Damascus, including in the Barzeh area, in part of a counter-offensive after last week’s sweeping but short-lived rebel advances. Many reports from Syria are all but impossibe to verify owing to the near-total government ban on independent media.
Until recently, Aleppo had remained calm for much of the last 16 months as the uprising raged across Syria. “It’s like a real war zone over here. There are street battles over large parts of the city,” one activist said. “Aleppo has joined Homs and Hama and other revolutionary cities.”
On Sunday, a new alliance of rebel groups called the Unification Brigade announced an operation to take Aleppo, Syria’s commercial capital and largest city.
Aleppo’s population of 3 million people has been swollen by refugees from elsewhere in the country. The attack appeared to illustrate increasing co-ordination between different units on the ground.
The spread of fighting fits the increasingly widely held view that Syria is in a state of civil war, with better organised but still lightly armed rebels pitted against now overstretched but still superior army and militia forces.
The message from Damascus was one of business as usual as Assad appointed a new security chief and senior intelligence officials to replace three of the four members of his inner circle who were killed in last Wednesday’s bomb attack.
Ali Mamlouk, who was head of Syria’s Internal Security Directorate, was appointed head of national security, replacing Hisham Bekhtiar who died from wounds inflicted in the bombing. Mamlouk is well known to western government officials involved in security co-ordination with Syria before the uprising erupted last year.
Abdul-Fattah Qudsiya, head of military intelligence, was named as Mamlouk’s deputy. He was replaced by Ali Younes, a close associate of Assef Shawkat, Assad’s brother-in-law and another victim of Wednesday’s bombing.
General Diib Zeitoun, head of the Political Security Department, replaces Mamlouk, while Rustum Ghazaleh, the former Syrian intelligence chief in Lebanon and most recently head of intelligence in Damascus province, took over from Zeitoun.
David Cameron will raise with Vladimir Putin Britain’s concerns over Russia’s decision to veto a series of UN security council resolutions on Syria if, as seems likely, the Russian president visits the Olympic Games.
Putin is expected to finalise plans within the coming days to visit London for the judo competition. The prime minister would either hold a meeting with Putin – their first in London – in Downing Street or attend the Games with him.
The two leaders would discuss the usual trade and political issues. But Cameron would also raise his concerns about the way in which Russia has repeatedly vetoed security council resolutions on Syria.
During a visit to Kabul last week, Cameron said: “The message to President Putin and to all those on the UN security council is: it is time for the UN security council to pass clear and tough messages about sanctions – I believe under chapter seven of the UN – and to be unambiguous in this.”
The conflict in Syria, which began in March 2011 as a largely peaceful protest movement, has now cost more than 19,000 lives, according to the UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
In Israel, a senior defence official said Syria was in full control of its chemical weapons, which are the source of recent regional and international concern and warnings.
“The worry, of course, is that the regime will destabilise and the control will also destabilise,” Amos Gilad told state radio. “At the moment, the entire non-conventional weapons system is under the full control of the regime.”
Syria has made clear it would not use these weapons against its own people but only to respond to external aggression.
Syria insists chemical weapons would only be used against outside forces: 24 Jul 2012: Damascus responds to warnings from Israel and US by insisting chemical arsenal would never be used on the Syrian people
Reuters: Syrian Kurdish moves ring alarm bells in Turkey [the writer is in Istanbul reporting the Turkish/SNC view as fact and ignoring the agreement between KNC and PYD which is the real threat to Turkey]
ISTANBUL – Concerns are surfacing in Turkey about the growing influence in northern Syria of a Kurdish group linked to Kurdish separatists fighting Ankara, something Turkey fears may further complicate efforts to solve its intractable Kurdish problem.