Saturday 4 August 2012

Shelling of Aleppo:

Syrian Observatory for Human Rights: Final report on the documented deaths for 4/8/2012. More than 220 Syrians were reported, and verified, as dead by the ongoing bloodshed in Syria this Saturday (4/8/2012).

The dead include 134 unarmed civilians, 31 rebel fighters, 5 defected soldiers, and no less than 52 members of the regular armed forces. 134 Unarmed Civilians:

-In Deir Izzor Province 23 civilians were killed. 12 were killed in the city,10 killed by bombardment on the al-Hameidiya neighbourhood, 1 was shot in the Deir al-A’tiq neighbourhood, his identity is still unknown.1 was shot by a military checkpoint in the al-Sna’a neighbourhood in the city. 7 civilians, including 3 women, were killed by bombardment on the al-Mayadin city in the morning. 2 civilians, including a woman, were killed by bombardment on the al-Bukamal city. 1 died of wounds he received earlier by bombardment on the al-Hseiniya area, Reef Deir Izzor.

-In Aleppo Province 18 civilians were killed. 8, including a woman, were killed by bombardment on the neighbourhoods of Salah al-Din, Hanano, Jusr al-Neirab, al-Sakhur, al-Sukri and Dawar al-Kura. 1 died of wounds received earlier by bombardment on the al-Sukri neighbourhood yesterday. A child was martyred by sniper fire in the Afioul area. 1 was shot by sniper fire on the al-Hamdaniya road.A child and woman were killed by gunfire and bombardment on the Khal al-A’sal village. 2 were killed by bombardment on the towns of al-Abzmo and Ma’arsta, Reef Aleppo. A civilians from the al-Bab city was shot by pro-regime militants. 1 from the Tal Ref’at town was killed when his car was targeted by a helicopter. A civilian from the Kobani town was found dead in the city of Damascus.

-In Reef Dimashq Province 30 civilians were killed. 5, including a woman and child, were killed by bombardment on the Douma city. 1 was killed under unknown circumstances after he has disappeared for a week. 1 was shot by regime forces in the city, and another was shot by regime forces in the Jobar neighbourhood in Damascus. 4 civilians were killed by gunshots, bombardment and clashes in the A’rbin town. 2 were killed by bombardment and gunshots in the al-Hama village. 11, including a woman, were killed in the Harasta city that witnessed gun shots and bombardment by regime forces. 3, including a woman, were killed by bombardment on the al-Zabadani town, evening today. 4 were killed in the Hamouriya town by gunshots and bombardment on the town today. 1 was shot by sniper fire in the Yalda town, Reef Dimashq.

– In Latakia Province 2 civilians were killed. 1 was killed after midnight friday-saturday by bombardment on the Salma town in Jabal al-Akrad. A girl was killed by bombardment on the al-Dueirka village, Reef Latakia.

-In Homs Province 6 civilians were killed. 2 were killed by helicopter gunshots by the al-Sa’n town. 2 civilians from the Talbisa town were killed after they have been kidnapped by pro-regime militants. 1 was killed by bombardment on the al-Rastan city. 1 was shot by regime forces in the al-Insha’at neighbourhood, Homs city.

-In Idlib Province 5 civilians were killed. 1 died in Ma’aret al-Nu’man of wounds he received earlier by bombardment. 2 civilians from the Taftanaz town were killed in one of the security headquarters in the city of Aleppo. 1 was shot by regime forces in the Ariha town. 1 was shot by sniper fire in the Saraqeb town.

-In Damascus Province 19 civilians were killed. 10 were killed by bombardment and gunfire on the Jobar neighbourhood. 2 were killed during clashes with regime forces in the Rukn al-Din neighbourhood in the city. The names of 3 casualties, who were directly shot by regime forces in the al-Kzaz neighbourhood yesterday, was documented. 3 were killed in the al-Yarmouk camp, 1 died of wounds he received earlier by bombardment, 2 including a child were killed by gunshots in the camp.

-In Dera’a Province 3 civilians were killed. 1 was shot by regime forces in the Tasil town. A girl was killed by bombardment on the Nahr A’isha neighbourhood in Damascus. 1 was killed by bombardment on the Mukhayam Filastin (Palestinian camp) in Damascus

-In Hama Province 13 civilians were killed. 11 were killed by gun shots accompanied by regime forces’ raid on the Zur al-Heisa village in the al-Latamna town. 2 were shot by regime forces in the towns of al-Jabin and Ma’ardas, Reef Hama, 1 of them is an emigrant.

***15 unidentified corpses were found in the city of Damascus, they were killed recently. 6 of them, including a child, were shot on the al-Mutahaleq al-Janubi (southern ring road) in the Jobar area. The 9 other corpses were found in the neighbourhoods of al-Mukhayam al-Filastini (Palestinian camp), Mukhayam al-Yarmouk and al-Tadamon.


31 Rebel Fighters:

-In Dier Izzor Province a fighter was killed by bombardment on the city neighbourhoods.

-In Aleppo Province 2 fighters were killed. A fighter was shot by regime forces in the city. A fighter was killed by bombardment and gunfire in the Khan al-A’sal village.

-In Reef Dimashq a fighter was killed by bombardment on the al-Zabadani town.

-In Homs Province 3 insurgents were killed. A rebel fighter was killed during clashes with regime forces in the Jouret al-Shayah neighbourhood. 2 fighters were killed by an ambush set up for them by regime forces on the Homs-Palmyra road.

-In Idlib Province 8 Insurgents were killed. 7 fighters were shot by regime forces in the al-Hueisa, Reef Idlib. A fighter died of wounds he received earlier during clashes in the city.

-In Damascus Province 11 fighters were killed. A fighter was killed by bombardment and gunfire on the Jobar neighbourhood. 2 fighters were killed during clashes with regime forces in the Jobar neighbourhood. 8 fighters were killed during clashes with regime forces in the Rukn al-Din neighbourhood in the city.

-In Dera’a Province 5 fighters were killed.. 2 fighters from the al-Sanamein town were killed by bombardment on the al-Tadamon in Damascus.3 fighters were killed during clashes with regime forces in the al-Lajat area, Tal Shehab and Qarfa village in Reef Dera’a.


A defected soldier was killed during clashes with regime forces in Aleppo. 2 defected soldiers were killed by an ambush in Hama Province. A defected soldier was shot by sniper fire in Reef Homs. A defected soldier was shot by regime forces in Reef Dimashq.


At least 52 regime forces were killed by the targeting of regime forces’ vehicles and centers and clashes in the provinces of Idlib, Dera’a, Homs, Damascus, Reef Dimashq, Hama, Aleppo and Deir Izzor.


NOW! Lebanon
[local time]  21:04 Four army officers including a general and a colonel defected, Al-Arabiya quoted activists as saying.
 20:42 Clashes between the rebel Free Syrian Army and regime forces took place near the immigration and visa office in Aleppo, Al-Arabiya quoted activists as saying.
 20:40 Israeli soldiers shot and wounded a Syrian man trying to breach a frontier fence in the southern Golan with a pair of wire cutters on Saturday, a military spokesperson said.
 19:49 The death toll in Syria rose to 113 on Saturday, Al-Arabiya quoted activists as saying.
 19:13 Clashes erupted in Damascus’ Rokeneddine and Al-Salihiyya neighborhoods between rebels and regime forces, Al-Arabiya quoted activists as saying.
 18:22 Syria’s armed forces pounded the rebel-held Salaheddin district of the northern city of Aleppo from the air and ground on Saturday, a rebel commander told AFP.
 18:20 The Syrian army now has the whole of the capital under its control, a brigadier-general on Saturday told journalists visiting the neighborhood of Tadamon, the scene of heavy fighting earlier.
 17:32 Arab states will not accept a new international envoy to Syria after Kofi Annan’s resignation unless his or her mandate is to clearly negotiate a transfer of power, Qatar’s prime minister said on Saturday.
 16:54 Saturday’s death toll in Syria reached 64 people, Al-Arabiya quoted activists as saying.
 16:34 An AFP feature details how Aleppo’s residents are divided in their loyalties between the rebels and the regime.
 16:31 The International Committee of the Red Cross Saturday appealed to all parties in the conflict in Syria to respect international humanitarian law as the violence endangers more civilians.
 16:27 China on Saturday accused countries that oppose its position on Syria of undermining attempts to find a political solution to the conflict, after voting against a new UN resolution on the crisis.
 15:00 Forty-eight Iranian pilgrims were kidnapped from a bus in the Syrian capital on Saturday, their embassy’s consular chief in Damascus told Iran’s state television.
 14:57 About 650 Syrians, including a defecting brigadier general, have fled to Turkey in the past 24 hours amid the escalating violence in Syria, a Turkish official said on Saturday.
 14:36 The European Union called on Lebanon Saturday not to send Syrian refugees back across the border, expressing concern that they were not being protected and could face torture if forced to return.
 13:04 Saturday’s death toll in Syria has increased to 31, Al-Arabiya quoted activists as saying.
 13:02 The battle for Aleppo has not yet begun, and shelling by troops is just the start of what is to come, a senior Syrian security official in the region said on Saturday.
 12:37 Defected Syrian general Manaf Tlass held talks with Turkish Foreign Ministry officials during a surprise visit to Ankara, a Turkish diplomat told AFP on Saturday.
 11:38 Paris will use its presidency of the UN Security Council to push for humanitarian aid for the Syrian people while the political impasse persists, France’s ambassador to the UN said Saturday, warning that Russian and Chinese intransigence could lead to “a final disaster.”
 11:22 Syrian forces killed 10 people in Damascus’ area of Jobar, Al-Arabiya quoted activists as saying.
 11:19 Last month was the deadliest in Syria since a revolt erupted in March last year, with about 1,000 people killed each week, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said on Saturday.
 10:58 Syrian television presenter Mohammed al-Saeed, kidnapped from his Damascus home in mid-July, has been executed, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said on Saturday.

 10:15 At least 13 people were killed across Syria on Saturday as fierce fighting raged in Aleppo and Damascus, the country’s two biggest cities, a rights group said.
 8:10 The UN General Assembly overwhelmingly passed a resolution Friday slamming the Security Council’s failure to act on the Syria conflict, which UN leader Ban Ki-moon said has become a “proxy war.”
 8:04 Hackers took over the blogging platform of the Reuters news agency and posted “fabricated” stories said to include an interview with a Syrian rebel leader, the company said Friday.
 8:02 Russia on Friday blasted a UN General Assembly resolution on Syria, calling it “blatant” support for rebel groups battling President Bashar al-Assad.
 7:58 French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius Friday hailed the UN General Assembly’s adoption of a resolution slamming the Security Council’s failure to act on Syria and said Paris had fought to get it passed.
 7:36 Syrian forces clashed with Free Syrian Army members in Aleppo’s neighborhoods of Al-Furqan and Salaheddine, Al-Arabiya quoted activists as saying.

Reuters: Syrian leader Assad’s planes pound vital prize of Aleppo

ALEPPO, Syria – President Bashar al-Assad’s forces used artillery, planes and a helicopter gunship to pound rebel positions in Syria’s biggest city, witnesses said, in a battle that could determine the outcome of the 17-month uprising. | Video

After U.N. Security Council paralysis on Syria forced peace envoy Kofi Annan to resign last week, and with his ceasefire plan a distant memory, rebels were battered on Saturday by the onslaught they had expected in Aleppo and the capital Damascus.

“There is one helicopter and we’re hearing two explosions every minute,” said a Reuters witness in Aleppo, Syria’s commercial hub.

Syrian forces struck at Aleppo’s Salaheddine district, a gateway into the city of 2.5 million people that has become the frontline of an increasingly sectarian conflict that has killed some 18,000 people and could spill into neighboring countries.

A local rebel commander said his fighters were preparing for a “strong offensive” by government forces on the city.

In Damascus, jets bombarded the capital as troops kept up an offensive they began on Friday to storm the last rebel bastion there, a resident said.

Both cities – vital prizes in the battle for Syria – had been relatively free from violence during the 17-month uprising but fighting flared in Damascus after a July 18 bombing which killed four of Assad’s inner circle and also erupted in Aleppo.

On Saturday, a rebel commander in Aleppo said he expected a Syrian army attack on rebels “within days”, echoing the head of the U.N. peacekeeping department, who said there had been a “considerable build-up of military means”.

“We know they are planning to attack the city using tanks and aircraft, shooting at us for three to four days and they plan to take the city,” Colonel Abdel-Jabbar al-Oqaidi said.


Rebels tried to extend their area of control in Aleppo from Salaheddine to the area around the television and radio station, but were pushed back by Assad’s troops, an activist said.

Syrian television said a large number of “terrorists” were killed and wounded after they tried to storm the broadcaster.

After Annan’s resignation, the U.N. General Assembly voted on Friday to condemn the Syrian government and criticize the U.N. Security Council’s failure to agree tougher action, in a resolution that Western diplomats said highlighted the isolation of Assad supporters Russia and China.

Russia called the vote a “facade of humanitarian rhetoric” behind which Assad’s foreign enemies were arming the rebels and worsening the violence that has elements of a proxy war between Sunni and Shi’ite Islam which could spill beyond Syrian borders.

Assad is a member of the Alawite faith, an offshoot of Shi’ite Islam that has dominated Syrian politics through more than 40 years of his family’s rule in a country that has a Sunni Muslim majority.

The mostly Sunni Muslim Gulf Arab states and Turkey have called for Assad to go. Assad still has the backing of Shi’ite Iran and Lebanon’s armed Shi’ite Hezbollah movement.

In Damascus, a resident in the Adawi neighborhood just north of the central Old City reported that jets had pounded an area of the capital on Saturday.

Syrian television said an armed terrorist group had committed a massacre in the Damascus suburb of Yalda. The television station said 20 people had been killed. It was not immediately possible to verify the incident as Syria restricts foreign media access.

A bus-load of 48 Iranian pilgrims were abducted by gunmen in Syria on Saturday, Iranian and Syrian media reported, the latest in a string of kidnappings of visitors from the Islamic Republic.

(Additional reporting by Mariam Karouny in Beirut, Yeganeh Torbati in Dubai and Ben Blanchard in Beijing; Writing by Yara Bayoumy; Editing by Robin Pomeroy and Sophie Hares)

Guardian: War for Aleppo: battle rages in city that will determine fate of Syria

Skirmishes have broken out in Aleppo as rebels pour in to confront regime loyalists in what will be a decisive clash …

Syria’s agony prolonged while Russia and America pursue regional agendas

A man runs for cover during clashes in Aleppo4 Aug 2012: Superpowers line up with different Middle East neighbours to jostle for influence as Syrian bloodshed continues

Kofi Annan, who has resigned as the United Nations and Arab League special envoy on Syria, has had a bad press in certain quarters of late. Whether the plan that bears his name – to bring a halt to the killing and a political transition – was ever realistic in the first place, Annan, at least, was honest in his efforts to bring an end to the violence without widening the conflict.

Annan has been criticised for his past history, largely by those whose default is to prefer intervention over talking. He has been criticised, too, for the style of his meetings with President Bashar al-Assad, ignoring the fact that his role was a diplomatic one, not to deliver a non-existent ultimatum. That Assad, with the support of Russia and China, has resisted Annan’s overtures can hardly be laid at his door.

The same cannot be said of the UN security council members whom Annan was supposed to be serving. While it has become a commonplace – and rightly so – to criticise Russia for its determination to support Assad and undermine Annan’s efforts, the US has not been much more honest. As Reuters revealed on the day of Annan’s resignation, President Barack Obama secretly signed a presidential “finding” authorising covert aid to Syria’s rebels, while US allies in the region provided weapons. Given that Annan’s plan called for a cessation of violence on both sides, he was undermined by Washington as well as Moscow and Beijing, even if, in the final analysis, more blame can be attached to the latter pair.

In diplomacy as well, Annan – as he made clear in his resignation press conference in Geneva on 2 August – has been ill-supported by both Russia and the US, which have preferred posturing to genuine negotiation. That was sharply dramatised by the blunderbuss dilomacy of both Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov and US secretary of state Hillary Clinton at the UN meeting on Syria on 30 June, where the two powers could not even agree on the most basic parsing of the communique that they had spent a day discussing, with Clinton arguing that it meant “Assad must go” and Lavrov immediately disputing that. It is precisely this that Annan meant when he referred on Thursday to the continued “finger-pointing and name-calling in the security council”.

It is perhaps apocryphal but a colleague insists he overheard Clinton in an aside insisting to Lavrov as they left one of the closed sessions that he should desist from “contradicting her”. Whether it is true or not, it does reflect a resentment in some quarters over Clinton’s personal style as secretary of state, which has seemed to some less diplomatic than abrasive and uncompromising. The reality is that the players in Syria’s agony have been more interested in their own agendas than in ending the bloodshed and civilian suffering. Leaders of the incoherent and fractured Syrian opposition have sometimes seemed more interested in jostling for influence; Russia, Iran and Hezbollah back Assad for their own diverse reasons; while Gulf states, including Qatar and Saudi Arabiahave been pursuing their own regional interests, not least proxy competition with Iran.

“You have to understand: as an envoy, I can’t want peace more than the protagonists, more than the security council or the international community for that matter,” said Annan. “My central concern from the start has been the welfare of the Syrian people. Syria can still be saved from the worst calamity – if the international community can show the courage and leadership necessary to compromise on their partial interests for the sake of the Syrian people.”

The alternatives to the Annan plan look no more practical and appealing than they did before the former UN secretary general’s efforts. Those backing the wholesale arming of opposition factions – already receiving arms and assistance from various quarters – cannot answer a fundamental question: how they would prevent sophisticated weapons ending up with the minority of jihadi groups operating in Syria or indeed with Free Syrian Army units like the one that videoed itself murdering bound shabiha prisoners, unquestionably a war crime.

There are no right solutions to the conflict in Syria now, only least bad ones that mitigate the risk of regional destabilisation. They will not be found until those who say they care what happens in the country put aside their differences and begin to talk about the interests of Syrians.