Tuesday 6 November 2012
Syrian Observatory for Human Rights: The SOHR fears for the life of detained opposition leader Abdelaziz al-Khayer
The fate of Dr. Abdelaziz al-Khayer, deputy chairman and head of the foreign affairs office at the Syrian National Coordination Body for Democratic Change (NCB), is still unknown after a month and a half detention. He was abducted by the Syrian Air-force Intelligence while on his way back from Damascus International Airport on 21/9/2012, returning from a political trip to China as part of an NCB delegation; 2 other members of the NCB were detained with him: Maher Tahan and Eyas Ayash.
The regime’s regular use of arbitrary detention, and the rising number of civilians being tortured to death while in custody, means that all forms of legal international pressure need to be taken to ensure the wellbeing and freedom of Abdelaziz and his colleagues, as well as all political prisoners in the basements and prisons of the Syrian regime. We consider the lives of these brave people to be sacred, and we refuse to see their freedom used as political chips in the halls of great powers.
Syrian Observatory for Human Rights
In Reef Dimashq 26 civilians were killed. 9 civilians, including a woman and a child, were killed by the air-raid on the town of Kafarbatna. 1 civilian was tortured to death after being detained by a military checkpoint in the town of Zabadani. 1 was pulled out of the rubble from the bombardment on the town of Misraba several days ago. The body of a child was found killed in the city of Douma, the reasons of his death are unknown. 1 civilian was found dead with marks of torture in the town of Mou’adamiya. 3 men were killed by the bombardment on Harasta, Mou’adamiya and Yalda. 10 civilians were killed and more than 40 were injured as a result of the 3 IED explosions in Zahra’ square, in the al-Wurood neighbourhood of the Qudsayya suburbs. The neighbourhood is known for its poverty and that most of its residents are from the Syrian coast.
In Damascus 5 civilians killed. 3 unidentified bodies were found in the Qaboun neighbourhood. 2 were shot by snipers in the Yarmouk camp.
In Aleppo 3 civilians were killed. The body of a civilian was found killed in the Zahra’ neighbourhood. 2 men were killed by the bombardment on the al-Bab city.
11 rebel fighters killed so far today: 2 rebels were killed by clashes in the Deir Ba’alba neighbourhood of Homs. 1 rebel was killed by a checkpoint in Reef al-Qseir, Homs province. 1 rebel was killed by clashes with regime forces in the Muwazafin neighbourhood of Deir Izzour. 3 rebels were killed in clashes by the artillery base near al-Mayadeen, Deir Izzour province. 2 rebels were killed by clashes in Aleppo city. 1 was killed by the regime bombardment in Reef Dimashq. 1 by clashes with regime forces in Mhambal, Idlib.
2 defected soldiers were killed by clashes on the Mubarkiya checkpoint in Reef Homs.
35 regular soldiers were killed so far by clashes in Syria today: 14 in Idlib, 5 in Dera’a, 4 in Reef Dimashq, 5 in Homs, 4 in Deir Izzour, 3 in Aleppo.
The SOHR sadly reports that the Syrian security services have detained 3 prominent non-violent political activists on 3/11/2012. Imad Ghanam, Mohammad Zelfo and Khalil Ejek were taken to an unknown site after security forces stormed the house of one of them in the Rukn al-Din neighbourhood of Damascus; the interior of the house was also badly destroyed.
We at the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights hold the Syrian regime and its security services full responsibility for the physical and mental wellbeing of Imad Ghanam, Mohammad Zelfo and Khalil Ejek. We demand that they be released immediately.
[local time] 22:22 Tuesday’s death toll in Syria has risen to 140 people, activists reported.
20:53 A huge explosion rocked the province of Hama amid clashes between the Syrian regime forces and rebels, activists reported.
20:40 Tuesday’s death toll in Syria has risen to 101 people, activists reported.
20:31 Syrian rebels destroyed four army checkpoints in the Damascus town of Rankous, activists reported.
19:46 Western nations are pressing UN-Arab League envoy Lakhdar Brahimi for quick UN Security Council action that can help stop the Syria conflict, Britain’s UN ambassador said Tuesday.
19:45 Syrian authorities have closed several Damascus offices of Hamas amid a deepening rift with the Palestinian Islamist movement they had long supported, a human rights watchdog said on Tuesday.
19:06 A top UN official said Tuesday there is credible evidence that the Syrian army is using banned cluster bombs in its war with Syrian rebels who now have more “sophisticated” weaponry.
19:02 Israel on Tuesday called on the UN Security Council to act over Syrian military attacks after an Israeli patrol was hit in the buffer zone between the two in the Golan Heights.
18:46 A series of improvised bombs killed at least ten people in the western Damascus suburb of Qudsaya on Tuesday afternoon, a watchdog said.
16:48 Tuesday’s death toll in Syria has risen to 62 people, Al-Arabiya quoted activists as saying.
16:35 British Prime Minister David Cameron said he would support granting Syrian President Bashar al-Assad a safe passage out, if requested, to end the nation’s bloodshed, in an interview to be aired Tuesday.
16:22 Seven more Syrian army generals defected to Turkey on Tuesday to join opposition fighters as the regime in Damascus renewed air strikes across the country, the Anatolia news agency reported.
15:51 Fourteen people were killed and 50 were injured by shelling that targeted the Al-Fateh Hospital in Damascus, Al-Jazeera quoted activists as saying.
13:48 Tuesday’s death toll in Syria has risen to 35 people, activists said.
13:19 A YouTube video purportedly filmed on Monday shows a tank battle between regime forces and the rebel Free Syrian Army in Aleppo. In the footage, a tank is shown being targeted at close range by another tank that rebels claim to have been controlled by FSA members.
13:19 Syrian regime forces fled the Damascus neighborhood of Al-Tadamon after the rebels raided the area “dressed in female garb,” activists said.
12:15 Seven Syrian Army officers crossed into Turkey on Tuesday morning, Al-Jazeera television reported, citing Turkish state-run Anadolu Agency.
11:00 Shelling fired by Syrian regime forces killed at least 12 people and injured others in several areas across Aleppo, Daraa, Deir az-Zour, Homs and the Damascus district, activists said. Meanwhile, clashes between the rebel Free Syrian Army and regime forces took place in the neighborhood of Al-Joubaila in Deir az-Zour. Activists also said that three people who had been summarily executed by security forces were discovered in the Al-Qaboun neighborhood in Damascus.
10:43 Mohammad Ousama al-Lahham, brother of the president of Syria’s People’s Council, was killed on Tuesday in the Al-Thouraya area of the Al-Midane neighborhood in Damascus, a National News Agency report said without elaborating any further.
UK Prime Minister David Cameron says he would back offering President Bashar al-Assad safe passage out of Syria if it ended the bloodshed there.
Mr Cameron said the international community should consider anything “to get that man out of the country”.
He also told al-Arabiya TV he would favour Mr Assad “facing the full force of international law and justice”.
But Amnesty International said Mr Assad and others were only likely to leave Syria if they were offered immunity.
“David Cameron should be supporting efforts to ensure that he faces justice, ideally at the International Criminal Court at The Hague,” the human rights campaign group said in a statement.
The uprising against President Assad began in March last year. Activists say more than 35,000 people have been killed.
Speaking to al-Arabiya during a trip to Abu Dhabi, Mr Cameron said “number one concern” should be that the loss of life in Syria would continue.
“I am very frustrated that we can’t do more,” he said. “This is an appalling slaughter that is taking place.”
“I am certainly not offering [Mr Assad] an exit plan to Britain, but if he wants to leave, he could leave, that could be arranged,” Mr Cameron added.
He said the UK had no current plans to arm rebel groups fighting Mr Assad.
Kristyan Benedict, Amnesty International’s UK Syria campaign manager, said that even if Mr Assad was allowed to leave, his command structure could remain in place.
He added that several past proposals to offer Mr Assad safe passage had been made on the basis that the Syrian president would be protected from prosecution.
“We think that’s wrong,” he said, adding that diplomatic efforts should focus on pushing for a UN Security Council resolution to hold all parties in Syria’s conflict accountable.
JEDDAH/AMMAN – Bombs exploded in three districts of the Syrian capital Damascus on Tuesday, killing and wounding dozens, and gunmen shot dead the brother of the parliament speaker in the latest rebel attack on a figure associated with the ruling elite.
Bombs exploded in three districts of the Syrian capital Damascus on Tuesday, killing and wounding dozens, and gunmen shot dead the brother of the parliament speaker in the latest rebel attack on a figure associated with the ruling elite.
The opposition said at least 100 more people were killed elsewhere in the civil war, and Britain suggested offering President Bashar al-Assad immunity from prosecution as a way of persuading him to leave power.
“Anything, anything, to get that man out of the country and to have a safe transition in Syria,” British Prime Minister David Cameron told Al Arabiya news network in Abu Dhabi before flying on to Saudi Arabia.
Syrian state media said at least 10 people were killed and 30 wounded by an explosion in the Hai al-Wuroud district in the northwest of the capital.
The hilltop neighborhood is situated near a barracks and housing for elite army units, and is home to members of Assad’s Alawite sect, an offshoot of Shi’ite Islam. Syria’s rebellion in is drawn mainly from the Sunni Muslim majority.
Opposition activists said three explosions were heard in Hai al-Wuroud and at least 15 people killed. A car bomb also detonated near a shopping mall in the mixed neighborhood of Ibn al-Nafis, killing and injuring several people, they said.
On Tuesday evening, activists reported another car bombing, this time near a mosque in the Sunni working-class district of al-Qadam in south Damascus, causing dozens more casualties. Buildings were damaged and bodies buried under debris that clogged the streets, the activists told Reuters.
“Lots of people were hit inside their apartments. Rescue efforts are hampered because electricity was cut off right after the explosion,” said Abu Hamza al-Shami.
“There is a state hospital nearby but we are afraid to take the wounded there because they could be liquidated.”
Bomb attacks along sectarian lines have escalated in the 19-month-old anti-Assad uprising. Last month several bombs went off during the Muslim Eid holiday near mosques in Sunni districts and the Damascus suburbs, killing and injuring dozens.
ATTACKS ON TOP OFFICIALS INCREASE
Officials and their families are increasingly being targeted by assassins as violence spreads in the capital. Victims have included parliamentarians, ruling Baath party officials, and even actors and doctors seen as Assad supporters.
State television said gunmen had assassinated Mohammed Osama al-Laham, brother of the speaker of parliament, in Damascus’s Midan district. No group claimed immediate responsibility.
Peace envoy Lakhdar Brahimi warned that Syria, where some 32,000 people have died in the upheaval, could end up a collapsed state like Somalia, prey to warlords and militias.
Opposition factions were meeting in Qatar in an effort to forge a common front. The opposition has remained divided between Islamists and secularists, civilians and armed fighters, and between exiles and those working inside the country.
More than 100 people were killed across the country on Tuesday, said the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a pro-opposition body based in Britain that compiles activist reports.
Air strikes killed 17 people, including women and children, in the Damascus suburb of Kfar Batna, it said. Video footage of the raid’s aftermath posted on the Internet, which could not be verified, showed a toddler with a severed head and the torso of a young man, his head and limbs gathered near him by rescuers.
Insurgents killed 12 soldiers and wounded 20 in an attack on a convoy of off-road vehicles in the northern province of Idlib.
Air strikes and artillery barrages unleashed by the Syrian military in the last few weeks have wrecked whole districts of the capital, as well as parts of towns and cities elsewhere.
Yet, for all their firepower, Assad’s forces seem no closer to crushing their lightly armed opponents, who in turn have so far proved unable to topple the Syrian leader.
“Of course I would favor him facing the full force of international law and justice for what he’s done,” Cameron said of Assad. “I am certainly not offering him an exit plan to Britain. But if he wants to leave he could leave; that could be arranged.”
It was unclear if Cameron had spoken to other U.N. Security Council members about the idea – which could involve offering Assad immunity from prosecution if he accepted asylum in a third country. Nor was it clear what country would take him.
The U.N. human rights office has said Syrian officials suspected of committing or ordering crimes against humanity should face prosecution at the International Criminal Court. U.N. investigators have been gathering evidence of atrocities committed by rebels as well as by Assad loyalists.
The United Nations has put Syria’s government on a “list of shame” of countries that abuse children, saying Assad loyalists have killed, maimed, tortured and detained children as young as nine. Leila Zerrougui, Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict, told Reuters on Tuesday the body was also investigating the opposition.
“We have received information that the opposition also violates children by using them in bombings, and by bombing areas where there are children,” she said.
Brahimi, the U.N.-Arab League envoy to Syria, told the London-based al-Hayat newspaper he did not expect ethnic or sectarian partition there. “What I am afraid of is worse … the collapse of the state and that Syria turns into a new Somalia.”
Russia and China have blocked three Western-backed U.N. Security Council draft resolutions against Assad. At the United Nations, diplomats quoted a senior U.N. official as telling the Security Council that Brahimi had urged Russia to be “more pro-active” in resolving the Syrian crisis.
U.N. political affairs chief Jeffrey Feltman also told the closed-door meeting of the council that he had credible reports of government forces using cluster bombs, the envoys said.
Human rights groups have reported in the past that Syria used cluster munitions. Such weapons, which spread bomblets that explode over an area, are banned by most countries. But Syria – like the United States, Russia and China – has not signed up to the treaty outlawing them. Human rights groups view their use in areas populated by civilians to be a war crime.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov urged the Syrian opposition to enter talks with the authorities to end the crisis and abandon a precondition that Assad step down.
“The most important thing is stopping the violence immediately. If it is more important to the other side to change the Assad regime, then they want to continue the bloodbath in Syria,” Lavrov said in Amman after meeting former Syrian Prime Minister Riad Hijab, who defected to Jordan in August.
Hijab said Assad’s removal was “the only way out”.
Assad’s foes have failed to unite, making it harder for the outside world to support or arm them.
Prominent dissident Riad Seif has proposed a new 50-member unity council. But the head of the widely criticized Syrian National Council (SNC), which is based abroad, said it should retain a “central role” in any opposition configuration.
A Doha-based diplomat said SNC members feared their group risked losing influence in the new civilian body, which would later choose an interim government and coordinate with armed rebel groups. Seif’s initiative is to be debated on Thursday at the opposition meeting in Qatar.
(Additional reporting by Suleiman al-Khalidi in Amman, Oliver Holmes in Beirut, Rania el-Gamal and Regan Doherty in Qatar, Emad Omar in Cairo and Louis Charbonneau in New York; Writing by Peter Graff and Alistair Lyon; Editing by Mark Heinrich)
U.N. cites “credible reports” Syria army using cluster bombs: UNITED NATIONS – The U.N. political affairs chief told the Security Council on Tuesday of credible reports that the Syrian government has used cluster bombs and diplomats said peace mediator Lakhdar Brahimi had urged Russia to be more “pro-active” in ending the war.
Jeffrey Feltman, the U.N. undersecretary general for political affairs, made the remarks at a closed-door session of the 15-nation Security Council onSyria, U.N. envoys said on condition of anonymity.
Brahami had urged Russia at the weekend to do more to help end the war, they said.
“In his meeting with (Foreign Minister Sergei) Lavrov, Brahimi encouraged Russia to take a more ‘pro-active’ role in resolving the Syria crisis,” a diplomat quoted Feltman as telling the council.
Russian U.N. Ambassador Vitaly Churkin declined to comment to reporters when asked about Feltman’s comments.
Feltman painted a bleak picture of the state of the Syrian conflict when he addressed reporters after the council meeting. He suggested that both sides had committed heinous acts.
“There have been new reports of atrocities: a shocking video of alleged executions of captured soldiers by opposition forces, credible reports of the use of cluster bombs by the government, fighter jet strikes reportedly firing in Damascus for first time, continued shelling of population centers,” he said.
Last month Syria denied a Human Rights Watch report that government forces have used cluster bombs in their battle with rebels trying to overthrow President Bashar al-Assad. It said they did not possess such weapons.
Cluster bombs are banned under a 2010 treaty, though Syria, like Israel, Russia, the United States and other producers or alleged users of cluster bombs are not parties to the pact.
The United Nations human rights office said last week that a video apparently showing Syrian rebels killing soldiers who had surrendered probably constitutes a war crime that should be prosecuted.
“The current path will lead Syria to its destruction,” Feltman said. “Clearly, there is a need to shift away from the military logic that is prevailing at the moment. The solution must be arrived at through a political process. It has to be a Syrian-led process. It can’t be imposed. It must bring real change and a clean break from the past.”
U.N. PLEADS FOR SECURITY COUNCIL UNITY
British Ambassador Mark Lyall Grant said Feltman told the council the cluster bombs had apparently been used during air strikes.
Russia has accused Western powers of preparing a Libya-style military intervention in Syria that would lead to the ouster of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, who is Moscow’s ally and a top buyer of Russian arms. It has vowed to prevent that.
Some 32,000 people have died in Syria’s conflict.
Lyall Grant told reporters he hoped Brahimi would present the council with a plan for Syria before the end of the month.
“We hope that Mr Brahimi will come with some ideas and some recommendations for council action,” he said. “We believe it’s long past the time when the council needs to take stronger action than the few statements and … resolutions that we have so far adopted on Syria.”
Brahimi said on Sunday he hoped the Security Council would issue a resolution based on a deal they reached in June to set up a transitional government in a bid to end the bloodshed.
Speaking at the same Cairo news conference, however, Lavrov dismissed the need for a resolution, saying others were stoking violence by backing rebels – comments that highlighted the deep impasse over Syria’s civil war.
Reporters asked Lyall Grant about Brahimi’s call on Russia to be more pro-active in helping to end the conflict.
“I think he’s hoping everyone will be more proactive,” he said. “But clearly the fact that Russia andChina have three times vetoed efforts by the Council to take more coercive action against the regime, there is a particular responsibility on them.”
“They are supporting the Assad regime and therefore they have a particular responsibility as permanent members of the council to stop this violence,” Lyall Grant added.
The Syrian government and a number of opposition groups had accepted Brahimi’s proposal to hold their fire for the Islamic holiday of Eid al-Adha October 26-29 but there was hardly any lull in the fighting. Feltman told the council that jihadists bore much of the blame for breaking the truce, envoys said.
Feltman told reporters that unity on the Security Council would be key to ending the war in Syria. “Without this, our chances for success are far more limited,” he said.
The Security Council has been deadlocked for more than a year on Syria. Russia and China have vetoed three resolutions condemning the Syrian government and have ruled out the idea of sanctioning Assad’s government.
(Editing by Eric Beech and David Brunnstrom)
Guardian: Here’s a summary of today’s events: • Britain would be prepared to allow Syria’s president, Bashar al-Assad, to be given safe passage to a third country as a way of ending the violence, David Cameron told al-Arabiya. He said: “I am certainly not offering him an exit plan to Britain but if wants to leave, he could leave, that could be arranged.”
• Human rights groups have expressed alarm about Cameron’s remarks. The head of Human Rights Watch said offering immunity to Assad would give him licence to kill his opponents. The Foreign Office said Cameron had not discussed the idea with other world leaders.
• Rebels in Aleppo used three captured tanks to seize the Laimoun checkpoint on the edge of the city on Monday, according to a rebel fighter. Video footage from activist showed a rebel-controlled tank destroying a government tank in the area.
• UN Arab League envoy Lakhdar Brahimi has warned that a “big catastrophe” is unfolding in Syria as the country faces becoming another Somalia. In an interview with al-Hayat newspaper, Brahimi said international efforts are focused now on getting a “binding resolution by the UN’s security council“ to start a political process in Syria.
• The leader of the Syrian National Council Abdel Basset Sayda said he was open to a new opposition council but said his group should remain the cornerstone of the opposition. His remarks appeared aimed at US secretary of state Hillary Clinton who last week urged the SNC to no longer be the visible face of the opposition.
• The grass roots activist group the Local Coordination Committees in Syria says it accepts the need for former Syrian officials in transition government, but rules out negotiation with Assad regime. Spokeswoman Rafif Jouejati said: “We need to keep the lights on in Syria … we cannot afford to completely dismantle the government.”
• A senior rebel commander in Syria says he is backing Mitt Romney in today’s US presidential election because he is the candidate mostly likely to provide weapons to the rebels. Staff general Ahmed Nima, head of the military council in Derra, told the Guardian: “We want him to help us get weapons and impose a no-fly zone in some parts of Syria to put an end to the bombardment by Assad’s planes.”
• The Russian foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov, insists there have been no confidential deals over Assad’s future, after meeting the former Syrian prime minister Riyad Hijab. At a press conference in Cairo, Lavrov said: “We are just concerned with the destiny of the Syrian people and decreasing their sufferings.”
• Hijab has rejected an offer to be part of the US-backed Syrian National Initiative, according to the Telegraph. In an interview with the paper he said he wanted to be a “soldier in this revolution without taking a political position”.