Sunday 5 August 2012

Syrian Observatory for Human Rights: Final report on those killed on 5/8/2012: More than 160 Syrians have been reported, and verified, as dead on Sunday 5/8/2012
The dead include 111 unarmed civilians, 9 rebel fighters, 1 defected soldier, and no less than 42 members of the Syrian regular forces.

111 unarmed civilians:

– In Reef Dimashq province, 36 civilians were killed. A father and his son from Homs province were killed by the bombardment on Dahiyyat Qudseyya. 3 civilians were killed by regime gunfire in al-Shefoonieh area. A lady died suffering from injuries sustained last week in Dareya. A lady was killed due to falling explosives on the town of Ein Tirma. 18 civilians were killed in the city of Irbeen from wounds they received during yesterday’s military operations. 6 civilians, including a woman, were killed by the violent bombardment on the towns of Zamalka, Zbdeen, Madaya, and Harasta. 1 civilian was killed by a sniper in the city of Douma. 3 civilians, including a child, were killed by regime gunfire in the towns of al-Mleha, Hazza, and Jdeidet al-Fadel. The name of a civilian killed yesterday by the regime bombardment on Harasta was documented today by the SOHR.

-In Aleppo province 19 civilians were killed. 2 civilians from the town of Retyan, Reef Aleppo, were killed by regime forces stationed at the al-Kindi checkpoint after they were detained. 6 civilians, including a child, were killed by the bombardment on the neighbourhoods of al-Sha’ar, al-Marjeh and al-Muwasalat in the city of Aleppo. 7 civilians, including a child and two unknown civilians, were killed due to falling explosives on the neighborhoods of Salah al-Deen and Sheikh Khodr. Two civilians from the country side were also killed by regime gunfire in the city. Another two civilians, including a child, were killed due to the explosion of a bomb from the residuals Syrian army in the town of A’zaz in the country side.

-In Idlib province, 13 civilians were killed. 8, including 2 children (boy, girl) and 3 women, were killed by the bombardment on the cities of Ariha and Ma’arat al-Nu’man and the town of Kafarsanjeh. 1 civilian was killed by regime forces on the road to the town of Saraqib. A civilian from the village of al-Bara was killed by a checkpoint’s gunfire on the Damascus Dara’a highway. One was killed by regime gunfire in the city. A man was killed by the bombardment of the town of Taftanaz. A civilian was also killed after regime forces arrested him in the city of Jisr el Shoghoor in the country side.

-In Dera’a province, 7 civilians were killed. A man died after midnight from wounds he received in the town of Busr al-Harir. A civilian was killed after being shot by regime forces in the Tel Shihab border area. A civilian was killed by a sniper in the city of Busra al-Sham. 1 civilian was killed by the bombardment on the town of Nahta al-Ghab, Reef Dera’a. 1 civilian from Dera’a was killed by the bombardment on the town of al-Maliha. A civilian was killed when regime forces stormed the town of al-Yaduda. 1 civilian was killed by pro-regime fighters in the town of al-Sheikh Miskeen.

-In Deir Izzor province, 12 civilians were killed. 1 civilian died from wounds he received during gunfire in the Dummar neighbourhood of Damascus. 2 were killed by regime gunfire in Damascus. 2 civilians were killed by the regime bombardment on the neighbourhoods of al-Jubeila, al-Ummal and al-Huweika in Deir Izzor city. 2 civilians, including a child, were killed by the bombardment on the city of al-Mayadeen. Three ladies were killed by the bombardment on the town of Sheheil, Reef Deir Izzor. A man was killed by regime gunfire in the city of al-Bokamal.

-In Homs province, 3 civilians were killed. 1 by the regime bombardment on the Khaldiya neighbourhood. A young man was shot dead by a military checkpoint on the Damascus-Homs highway. A woman was killed by the bombardment on the city of Rastan.

-In Hama province, three children were killed in the village of Hurbinafseh. One of them was killed by regime gunfire while escaping the village. The other two were killed by regime gunfire and bombardment in the village just before Sunday midnight.

-In Damascus, 14 civilians were killed. Six were killed in al-Tadamun neighborhood by regime gunfire. A civilian in Bab Sreejeh neighborhood was killed by regime gunfire in the town of Yelda in the country side. A woman was killed suffering from injuries sustained due to the bombardment of Jobar neighborhood. Four civilians from al-Yarmook camps were killed, of which a woman died suffering from injuries sustained the day before and the other 3 killed by regime gunfire in the camps. Two civilians were killed suffering from injuries sustained during regime forces’ raid on the neighborhood.

**4 unidentified bodies were found in the Tadamun neighbourhood of Damascus**


9 Rebel fighters:

Aleppo prov: 5 rebel fighters were killed. 1 during clashes with pro regime gunmen in the Sayyed Ali area, 2 by regime fire in the Jam’iyat al-Zahra’, Aleppo city, and 2 during clashes in the city.

Homs prov: A rebel fighter was killed by an ambush set up for him in the city of Homs.

Idlib prov: A rebel fighter was killed by the bombardment in the province, and another fighter was killed during clashes in Salah al-Deen neighborhood in Aleppo.

Deir Izzor prov: 1 rebel fighter killed by gunfire in the city of Deir Izzor.

Damascus: 1 rebel fighter was killed due to an ambush set by regime forces in al-Tadamon neighborhood in ‘al-Ghoota al-Shar’ia’.


A defected soldier was killed during clashes in Deir Izzor.

No less than 42 members of the Syrian armed forces were killed during clashes in Homs, Aleppo, Dera’a, Idlib, Damascus, Reef Dimashq, Deirrezor, and Hama.

Guardian: Turkish troops kill 115 Kurdish rebels as offensive blocks escape routes to Iraq

5 Aug 2012: Government sent 2,000 troops into Hakkari two weeks ago as it tries to stop PKK rebels using Syria as a base for attacks

Turkey‘s security forces have killed as many as 115 Kurdish rebels during a major security offensive over the past two weeks, the country’s interior minister said on Sunday.

Idris Naim Sahin said the rebels were killed in an offensive backed by airpower near the town of Semdinli in Hakkari province, which sits on the border with Iraq. He said the offensive began on 23 July.

Sahin provided few other details, but said the security forces were trying to block the rebels’ escape routes into northern Iraq.

Private NTV television said earlier that as many as 2,000 troops were taking part in the offensive and that public access to some roads was blocked.

Earlier on Sunday, rebels fired on military posts in Hakkari, including the paramilitary station near the village of Gecimli, some 20 kilometres (12 miles) from the frontier.

Orhan Alimoglu, the governor of Hakkari, said the attack near Gecimli triggered clashes that claimed the lives of 22 rebels, soldiers and village guards. At least 15 soldiers, another village guard and five civilians were also injured. There were no reports of any casualties in the attacks on the other posts.

The attack comes some six weeks after a similar raid on a military unit, also in Hakkari, killed 18 rebels and eight soldiers, prompting Turkey’s military to send warplanes and attack helicopters to hit Kurdish rebel targets inside Iraq.

The rebels of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), are fighting for autonomy in Turkey’s Kurdish-dominated southeast region and to maintain bases in northern Iraq, from where they launch hit-and-run attacks on Turkish targets. The conflict between the PKK and Turkish government forces has killed tens of thousands of people since the rebels took up arms in 1984.

The group is considered a terrorist organisation by the United States and the European Union. Turkey has raised concerns that Kurdish rebels could now also exploit a power vacuum in neighbouring Syria and warned it would “not tolerate” any rebel threats from the Syrian territory. Ankara said last month that Turkish Kurdish rebels have seized control of five towns along the border in collaboration with Syria’s Democratic Union Party, an ethnic Kurdish grouping. It has launched military drills near the frontier in a show of muscle aimed at the rebels.

The military on Sunday sent reinforcements to Hakkari, launching ground and air operations to chase the rebels. State-run TRT television said attack helicopters were firing on the rebels’ escape routes in the rugged, mountainous border region.

Turkey’s leaders condemned the attack, which came during the holy Muslim month of Ramadan, and said the government was determined to keep up the fight against the PKK.

Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the prime minister, said the attack was a “dastardly assault” and issued a warning to countries allegedly backing the PKK, saying Turkey was “powerful enough to bring into line enemy-country (puppet masters) who hold the strings of the terror organisation”. Erdogan has recently ruled out negotiating with the PKK and said state security forces would continue their struggle against the group until it lays down arms. The government has acknowledged that some officials have in the past held secret talks with the rebels, but these were subsequently abandoned.

“Terrorism is, sooner or later, doomed to lose and to go up in smoke in the face of the people’s resolve and determination,” Erdogan said on Sunday.

An estimated 20 percent of Turkey’s 75 million population are Kurds. The government is trying to appease the Kurdish minority by granting it more cultural rights.

Erdogan’s government recently announced plans to introduce elective Kurdish classes in schools, building on moves that allowed Kurdish language television broadcasts, Kurdish-language institutes and private Kurdish courses.

However, the government refuses demands by Kurdish activists and politicians for full education in the Kurdish language, fearing it would divide Turkey along ethnic lines.

NOW! Lebanon
[local time]  21:29 The Syrian forces’ airplanes are shelling several neighborhoods in Aleppo, Al-Jazeera reported.
 20:36 Syrian forces and rebels clashed near Kherbet Ghazaleh in Daraa, Al-Arabiya quoted activists as saying.
 19:57 Syrian security forces and rebels have been clashing near the Aleppo international airport, Al-Arabiya television reported.
 17:14 A British photographer who was held hostage in Syria for a week said on Sunday that his captors were international jihadists who included several Britons.
 15:48 The death toll in Syria rose to 54 people, all killed by the security forces, Al-Arabiya quoted activists as saying.
 15:38 Clashes erupted between the rebels and the Syrian army near the military security building in Deir az-Zour, Al-Jazeera quoted activists as saying.
 15:38 Germany’s defense minister again ruled out military intervention in Syria Sunday, warning it should not be considered a knee-jerk response to the failure of diplomatic efforts to end the bloodshed.
 15:26 The Syrian army launched a new bombardment of the rebel-held Salaheddin district of the country’s commercial capital Aleppo on Sunday, a human rights group said.
 14:14 Syria’s army on Sunday completed its deployment of reinforcements to the embattled northern city of Aleppo, ready for a decisive battle, a security source told AFP.
 13:47 Sunday’s death toll has increased to 43, Al-Arabiya quoted activists as saying.
 13:36 The UN refugee agency UNHCR issued a report saying that more than 35,000 Syrian refugees in Lebanon were receiving aid, adding that the number of those registered with the agency was 33,664.
 13:34 Syrian forces clashed with Free Syrian Army members in Aleppo’s neighborhood of Seif ad-Dawla, Al-Jazeera quoted activists as saying.
 12:58 General Muhammed Ahmed Faris, a military aviator who became the first Syrian in space, fled to Turkey on Sunday after defecting from President Bashar al-Assad’s regime, the Anatolia news agency reported.
 11:47 US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will travel to Turkey next Saturday for talks on the conflict in Syria, a State Department spokesperson said.
 11:03 Syrian security forces killed 28 people on Sunday, Al-Arabiya quoted activists as saying.
 11:03 Hundreds of people rallied in Australia on Sunday in support of the Syrian regime of President Bashar al-Assad, urging no intervention by foreign powers in the conflict.
 10:50 The opposition Syrian National Council said on Sunday that the army was hitting key public institutions in its bombardment of rebel fighters in commercial capital Aleppo, some of historical significance.
 10:19 Al-Arabiya television aired footage on Sunday it said it had obtained from Syrian rebels of Iranians kidnapped in Damascus, in which the rebels charge the hostages are elite Revolutionary Guards.
 10:05 The Syrian army launched a new bombardment of the rebel-held Salaheddin district of commercial capital Aleppo on Sunday, a human rights group said.

BBC: Troops ‘mass for Aleppo assault’

More than 20,000 Syrian troops are said to be massing for a full-scale assault on Aleppo within days, as fighting rages for control of the city.

BBC’s Jim Muir in Beirut reports on the capture of 48 Iranians in Syria and the army’s assault on major cities

More than 20,000 Syrian troops are massed around Aleppo, military sources say, as fighting rages for control of the country’s second city.

Fighter jets, helicopters and artillery have pounded rebel positions ahead of a feared full-scale assault within days.

Tanks are trying to push into two key rebel-held areas, the opposition says.

In Damascus, another vital battleground in the war, army sources said rebels had been pushed from a last stronghold. The rebels said they had withdrawn.

Meanwhile, Iran is seeking the release of 48 Iranians kidnapped on Saturday.

Iranian diplomats and Syrian state television blamed the abduction, which took place near the shrine of Sayyida Zainab in a suburb of Damascus, on “armed groups”.

Iran has now asked Turkey and Qatar, both of whom have good relations with the Syrian opposition, to help win the release of the Iranians who it says are pilgrims.

Rebels claimed on Sunday that some of those taken were members of Iran’s elite Revolutionary Guards, according to al-Arabiya television.

Separately, Syria’s first astronaut is reported to have joined the opposition and fled to Turkey, the latest in a series of high-profile defections.

Muhammed Faris met Free Syrian Army (FSA) commanders in Aleppo and gave them his support before crossing the border, the Turkish news agency Anatolia reported.

The FSA is also reporting that three Syrian intelligence offices have defected.

A spokesperson for the group said Colonel Yarab al-Shara and his brother Mohammed Kanaan al-Shara – who are from the same clan as Syria’s Sunni vice president – and Colonel Yasser Ali Hajj have sought refuge in Jordan.

Meanwhile, a British photojournalist who was kidnapped and wounded by Islamist militants in northern Syria has told the BBC up to 15 of his captors were from the UK.

John Cantlie and Dutch photographer Jeroen Oerlemans were held at a camp for a week in July.

Fight for Aleppo

The Syrian military has been steadily building up its forces around Aleppo, massing large numbers of tanks and other armoured vehicles as well as troops, in preparation for a much more intense attack, says the BBC’s Richard Galpin on the Turkish border.

There is already fierce fighting in and around the city as troops try to push rebel forces out from southern and eastern districts.

The army is using tanks to try to break its way into the districts of Salah al-Din and Saif al-Dawla, which lie on the main road into the city, opposition sources say.

Areas where rebels are entrenched have been bombarded by government forces and clashes have been reported in several areas, including in the heart of the old city.

A spokesman for the rebels said they were continuing to push into the centre, moving towards the historic castle in the old city. Opposition sources said there was now fighting around the castle itself – but this has not been confirmed by independent sources.

The rebels, who have also increased their numbers, are well dug in and continue to try to extend the territory under their control, our correspondent says.

The biggest advantage for the government is the use of helicopters and fighter jets; but more troops will also have to fight their way into the city if they are to stand any chance of retaking it, and that will make it a much more even battle, he adds.

Abdel Jabar Oqaida, a commander of the Free Syrian Army in Aleppo, told the AFP news agency that the restive Salah al-Din district had “come under the heaviest bombardment since the battle began” on 20 July.

 BBC’s Jim Muir in Beirut reports on the capture of 48 Iranians in Syria and the army’s assault on major cities

A senior government security official told the agency: “The battle for Aleppo has not yet begun, and what is happening now is just the appetiser… the main course will come later.”

The fight for the key strategic city has been intensifying over the last few days, with Syrian state television reporting that troops had inflicted huge losses on what it called “terrorist mercenaries” in Salah al-Din and in other nearby areas.

‘In government hands’

In the capital, government forces claimed to have pushed out rebel fighters from their final stronghold in the city, the southern neighbourhood of Tadamon. Free Syrian Army forces withdrew, an opposition activist told AFP from Beirut.

State media has reported that the whole of Damascus is now in government hands, almost three weeks after opposition forces launched a series of attacks there. Such reports are impossible to verify and the situation on the ground is changing fast.

Activists say more than 20,000 people – mostly civilians – have died in 17 months of unrest.

Meanwhile, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will travel to Turkey on 11 August for talks on the conflict in Syria, the US State Department said.

Mrs Clinton is adding the stop in Turkey to her lengthy tour of Africa.

Analysis Richard Galpin BBC News, on the Turkish-Syria border

Early last week we started receiving reports from Syrian opposition activists that military convoys were heading for Aleppo from different parts of the country. An eyewitness described seeing tanks, artillery and troop transporters in one particularly large column. Now these army reinforcements have arrived, it seems the “big push” feared by the rebels is either already underway or about to start.

On Sunday for the first time opposition sources say tanks are moving through the districts of Salah al-Din and Saif al-Dowla which lie on the main road into the city. Fighting is also reported near Aleppo’s famous ancient castle in the heart of the old city. The government and rebels are squaring up for the most important battle of this uprising; whoever controls Aleppo can also dominate much of northern Syria.

Reuters: Assad’s forces pound rebel stronghold in Aleppo

ALEPPO, Syria – Syrian army tanks shelled Aleppo and a helicopter gunship strafed rebel positions with heavy machinegun fire as they fought into early Monday for control of the country’s biggest city and key battleground of the 17-month uprising. | Video …

Victory closer, divisions deepen in Syria oppositionBEIRUT – Three separate Syrian opposition groups have floated proposals for a transitional government in the past week, a sign that differences among the many factions opposing President Bashar al-Assad are deepening even as victory seems closer.

With fighting reaching Damascus and Aleppo in the past month, Western countries are increasingly anxious to see the disparate groups agree on a credible plan for a transitional government should Assad fall.

The head of the Syrian National Council (SNC), a long-established opposition umbrella group, said talks would be held within weeks to form a transitional government.

The next day the Free Syria Army, a loosely coordinated group of insurgents fighting Assad’s forces, floated a separate proposal that called for the establishment of a higher defense council bringing together military and civilian figures.

And the day after that, a group of exiled Syrian activists who left the SNC announced a new opposition alliance that also aimed to form a transitional government.

It is neither news nor a surprise that Syria’s opposition is divided. Assad’s opponents include Islamists and secularists, Kurds and Arabs, Sunni Muslims and members of religious minorities, defected army officers and the political activists they once hunted, exiles abroad and fighters on the ground.

The Istanbul-based SNC in particular has come under fire for being out of touch with the fighting in Syria itself. Colonel Riad al-Asaad, nominal head of the Free Syria Army, said it was made up of opportunists who want “to ride over our revolution and trade with the blood of our martyrs”.

Haitham al-Maleh, a former judge, broke away from the SNC to launch the “Council for the Syrian Revolution”.

“I don’t differ with the Syrian National Council over their vision, but over their tactics. I’m different in that I’m working on the ground, and they’re just theorizing,” he told Reuters.

Burhan Ghalioun, the SNC’s former leader, said news of the SNC’s plans to form a transitional government had created “a competitive dynamic” among those who want a role.

“I think we will be able to overcome this competition … I think Haitham’s move was a wrong one and it must be fixed with minimum fuss and without giving it importance,” he told Reuters.

Most alarming for the West, the rebels fighting inside Syria include al Qaeda-style Islamist fighters with a strong sectarian, Sunni Muslim agenda. Secularist opposition figures and members of religious minorities are also worried.

“Several opposition groups have adopted an increasingly fundamentalist discourse and demeanor, a trajectory that mirrors the conflict’s gradually deadlier and more confessional turn (and) popular loss of faith in the West,” the International Crisis Group said in a report.

Western countries fear that sectarian killings could make it difficult to halt the fighting even if Assad falls, and could unleash the sort of mass slaughter that erupted in Iraq after Saddam Hussein was toppled.

Among other issues dividing the opposition is the role of senior defectors like Brigadier General Manaf Tlas, a former member of Assad’s inner circle who fled Syria and has since been hosted by anti-Assad governments in Turkey and Saudi Arabia.

Many opposition activists say Tlas is tainted by his long service under Assad and worry that he will be foisted on them as a future leader. Ghalioun said he sees a military role for Tlas and other defecting officers to retake control of the army and re-establish security in the country. Maleh was dismissive.

“I do not think that Manaf Tlas has a role in the coming time as a leader. He should have announced his defection when he left Syria and said ‘I’m joining the Free Syrian Army and I will fight alongside them,'” Maleh said.

However, some experts say the opposition’s fractiousness has a positive side, showing pluralism emerging after decades of repression under the Assad family’s Baathist rule.

“This is a political society emerging after almost nothing. So the diversity is normal and healthy,” said Nadim Shehadi, Middle East expert at London’s Chatham House think tank.

“This argument about the incoherence of the opposition and the fact the opposition doesn’t constitute an alternative to the regime was used before as an excuse to do nothing,” he said.

“We have to help the opposition to come up with a transition plan and with an alternative.”

(Writing by Yara Bayoumy; Editing by Peter Graff)