Thursday 26 July 2012

Syrian Observatory for Human Rights:Approximately 160 Syrians have been killed on Wednesday 25/7/2012 – 83 unarmed civilians:

-In Aleppo province 23 killed. 15 civilians, including a woman a child and an athlete, were killed in the Salaheddine, Sakhour, and Tariq al-Bab, al-Marjeh and al-Qaterji neighbourhoods. 1 civilian by sniper in the city of al-Bab. 2 by wounds from yesterday’s bombardment on the Hanano and Salaheddine neighbourhoods. 1 by the bombardment on the city of A’zaz, reef Aleppo. 2 civilians were killed, 1 was a woman, when rockets fell on the village of Tel Sha’eib. 1 killed when a rocket fell between the towns of Tel Rif’at and Jabrein. The body of a killed child was found by the al-Sha’ar police station in the city of Aleppo.
-In Hama province 9 civilians dead. 2 children were killed by the regime bombardment on the town of Karnaz. 5 civilians, including a family, 3 of them children, were killed by the bombardment on the town of Qal’at Madiq. 1 youth was killed by heavy machineguns on the edges of the town of Me’erdis. 1 civilian was killed when his car was targeted by regime forces in the village of Tuweini.
-In Homs 10 civilians killed. 1 killed by pro-regime gunmen in the town of Tel Kalakh. The name of 1 inmate from the Homs central prison has been verified, he was killed by regime gunfire inside the prison. In al-Rastan 4 were killed by the bombardment. 1 by a sniper from a checkpoint in the town of al-Qusayr. 2 civilians killed by the bombardment on the villages of al-Dab’a and al-Ghento. 1 from the town of Talbiseh killed from shrapnel wounds.
-In Idlib province 15 killed. 10 civilians were killed, 3 of them women, by the bombardment on the town of Kafrouma throughout the day. 1 killed by the bombardment on the village of Oram al-Jawz. 1 from wounds by the bombardment on the town of Ariha. 1 from the bombardment on the town of Hazano. 1 killed by a checkpoint by the city of Saraqib. 1 by the regime bombardment on Has.
-In Deir Izzor 9 killed. In the Huweika neighbourhood 1 child was killed by gunfire targeting a car she was in and a woman was killed by a sniper. 1 was killed by the rockets and gunfire in the al-Jebeila neighbourhood. The body of 1 inmate from Deir Izzor was delivered to his family, he was killed by regime fire during the prisoner rebellion in Aleppo. 1 civilian was killed by a rocket in the town of Khisham. 4 civilians from the same family were killed when a rocket fell on their home in the al-Qusoor neighbourhood.
-In Reef Dimashq 6 civilians from the town of al-Kisweh were killed, their bodies were found in the orchards of Dareyya, Reef Dimashq. 1 killed by sniper fire in the town of al-Dumeir. 2 civilians were killed by the town of al-Qaysa, they were shot by regime forces when they were on their way home from work.
-In Damascus 2 civilians killed. 2 unidentified persones were killed by bombardment and intense clashes in the al-Asali neighbourhood. 1 in al-Hajar al-Aswad by regime fire.
-In Dera’a 8 civilians killed. 1 by sniper fire in the refugee camp in Dera’a. 1 woman from the city of al-Hirak was killed when her house was shelled by in the town of Sabeena, Reef Dimashq. 1 from wounds by the bombardment of Muzayreeb this morning. A civilian from al-Ghara al-Sharqiya was killed while in the hands of Syrian authorities, he was delivered to the regime by Jordanian authorities. The body of a killed civilian was found by a school in the town of Inkhil, he was detained only yesterday. 1 civilian from the town of Adwan was killed by clashes with regime forces in the town of Sabeena, Reef Dimashq. A civilian from the town of Tamr was killed when his house was stormed in the al-Qadam neighbourhood, Damascus.
-In Raqqah province 2 civilians were killed by gunfire at midnight in the city of al-Raqqah, one of them was a woman.
14 unidentified bodies were found in the al-Qaboun neighbourhood of Damascus, they were killed days ago during the military operations in the neighbourhood.
27 Rebel fighters:
Aleppo prov: 4 killed. 3 rebel fighters were killed by the al-Kallasa police station, which was taken over, and set on fire, by rebels. 1 by wounds from earlier clashes in Reef Aleppo.
Homs prov: 2 rebel fighters killed in Homs, 1 by sniper in al-Qarabees neighbourhood. 1 by clashes on the outskirts of Baba Amr.
Deir Izzor prov: 5 killed. A rebel leader was killed during clashes in al-Mayadeen. 4 rebel fighters, including another rebel leader, were killed by clashes with regime forces in the city of Deir Izzor.
Damascus: 4 killed. A rebel leader was killed from wounds received days ago during clashes in the al-Qaboun neighbourhood. 1 rebel fighter killed in Nahr Eisha. A fighter was killed by regime fire in the al-Qadam neighbourhood. 1 rebel killed in al-Hajar al-Aswad.
Dera’a prov: 2 rebel fighters were killed by clashes in the village of al-Shajara.
Hasaka province: 10 armed rebels were killed when regime forces attacked the village of Kharab Bajar, part of Nahiyat al-Jawadiyeh, Reef al-Hasaka.
A defected first lieutenant and another defected officer were killed by the bombardment of al-Rastan and al-Qusayr, Homs province. 3 defected soldiers were killed during clashes in Damascus.
No less than 41 members of the Syrian armed forces were killed by IEDs, attacks on military vehicles, and clashes in the provinces of Aleppo, Homs, Dera’a and Damascus.

NOW! Lebanon:
[local time]  22:39 The United States warned Thursday that the Syrian regime may be preparing to carry out a massacre in the city of Aleppo, but stuck by its position that there would be no US military intervention.
 22:02 UN chief peacekeeper Herve Ladsous said on Thursday there is “no plan B” for Syria, urging all parties to implement the plan brokered by UN-Arab League envoy Kofi Annan to stop the deadly violence.
 21:47 Clashes broke out between Syrian regime forces and rebel troops near the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in the Qasioun area of Damascus, Al-Jazeera television reported.
 21:29 Syrian forces shelled the area of Darayya near Damascus, killing seven people, Al-Jazeera television quoted activists as saying.
 21:14 Al-Arabiya television is broadcasting live footage of an anti-regime protest in Talmens near Edleb.
 21:07 Clashes broke out between Syrian regime forces and rebels near the commercial bank in Aleppo, Al-Jazeera television reported.
 20:46 Clashes broke out between Syrian regime forces and rebels in the Aleppo neighborhoods of Al-Ferdaws and Al-Ansari, Al-Jazeera television reported.
 20:40 The leader of a Syrian contingent for preserving order in Damascus defected, the General Commission of the Syrian Revolution said.
 20:30 UN heritage agency UNESCO on Thursday urged forces fighting in Syria to avoid damage to historically important cultural sites, in particular in the country’s second-largest city Aleppo.
 20:19 Thursday’s death toll in Syria has risen to 145 people, most of them killed in Damascus and its outskirts, Al-Arabiya television quoted the General Commission of the Syrian Revolution as saying.
 19:50 A top-ranking Russian naval officer on Thursday announced that his country’s warships participating in a Mediterranean drill will not deck in its base in the Syrian port city of Tartus, UPI news agency reported.
 19:43 Syrian troops were massing for a major assault on Aleppo, and hundreds of rebels hunkered down in the strategic northern city’s Salaheddin quarter were steeling themselves to fight and die for their cause.
 19:18 Syrian regime forces shelled Daraa’s Dael, Al-Arabiya television quoted the Local Coordination Committees as saying.
 19:16 Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s regime is bound to topple because of its “abominable behavior,” France’s foreign minister said Thursday as fighting raged in the cities of Damascus and Aleppo.

 18:59 Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has thanked North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un for supporting his “just cause” as his forces battle an uprising against his regime, Pyongyang state media said Thursday.
 18:49 Thursday’s death toll in Syria has increased to 112 people, Al-Jazeera television quoted the Local Coordination Committees as saying.
 18:40 Syrian dissidents meeting in Rome signed a joint appeal Thursday for a political solution to the Syria conflict, calling for a ceasefire, the release of detainees and national reconciliation.
 18:30 Syrian army shelling on Thursday killed at least 16 civilians, including five children, in the small village of Yalda in Damascus province, a rights watchdog said.
 18:06 The humanitarian situation in Syria has taken a dramatic turn for the worse in recent days, placing fresh strain on operations that are already severely under-funded, EU officials said Thursday.
 17:55 Thursday’s death toll in Syria has risen to 90 people, Al-Jazeera television quoted the Local Coordination Committees as saying.
 17:41 Israel on Thursday ramped up security along its ceasefire line with Syria in the occupied Golan Heights as fighting between rebels and President Bashar al-Assad’s regime intensified, Israeli security sources said.
 16:45 Paris prosecutors opened a preliminary probe Thursday into the alleged involvement of French technology firm Qosmos in supplying Syria’s regime with surveillance equipment, judicial sources said.
 16:41 An AFP feature details how Druze in the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights are bitterly split over the conflict in Syria.
 16:33 Ban Ki-moon said on Thursday the UN was failing in its duty to protect Syria’s civilians as he paid a landmark visit to Srebrenica, the scene of Europe’s worst massacre since World War II.
 16:03 Syrian President Bashar al-Assad issued a decree Thursday to establish a court specializing in cases involving “terrorism” in Damascus, the National News Agency reported.
 15:47 Thursday’s death toll in Syria has risen to 56 people, Al-Arabiya television quoted the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights as saying.
 15:27 Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Thursday that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad will leave soon, adding that preparations were underway for a “new era,” Al-Arabiya television reported.
 15:10 Syrian forces shelled Al-Khalidiya and other neighborhoods in Homs, Al-Jazeera television quoted activists as saying.
 14:05 The Syria army is preparing an imminent assault on Aleppo, a security source told AFP Thursday.
 13:50 Syria’s regime confirmed on Thursday the defection of three diplomats, but downplayed its importance and indirectly accused Qatar of encouraging “national division.”
 13:09 Syria’s death toll has increased to 30 people, Al-Jazeera quoted activists as saying.
 12:05 Syrian forces killed 12 people on Thursday, Al-Jazeera reported.
 9:46 Battles raged through the night and into Thursday in several districts of Syria’s second city Aleppo, a monitoring group said, as activists reported clashes in the Palestinian Yarmouk camp in Damascus.
 Syrian troops and rebels sent reinforcements to the intensifying battle in the second city Aleppo while helicopter gunships strafed several neighborhoods of the commercial capital. As the violence increases, high-level Syrian defections are growing, including two more senior diplomats: the ambassadors to the UAE and Cyprus.
 8:41 In restive northwest Syria, the uprising has found an unlikely new partner in the struggle against the regime of President Bashar al-Assad: foreign Islamists who are joining the fight.
 8:11 The United States on Wednesday confirmed the defections of two more senior Syrian diplomats, describing this as further evidence that President Bashar al-Assad’s days are “numbered.”

Guardian: Splits widen within Syrian opposition

Ian Black: As Syria’s rebels look beyond Bashar al-Assad’s overthrow, distrust and jostling for power are eroding their credibility

Syria‘s fractured opposition is to meet for what is set to be a bitter internal debate over forming a transitional government to replace the regime of Bashar al-Assad, now fighting hard to reverse rebel advances.

The secretariat of the Syrian National Council (SNC) – the biggest single coalition of anti-Assad groups – is convening in the Qatari capital, Doha, on Thursday where SNC sources say that Riyad Seif, a respected dissident, is a leading candidate to head a “consensus-based” civilian administration.

But Brigadier General Manaf Tlass, the most important member of Assad’s inner circle yet to defect, is also being mooted as the head of an Egyptian-style supreme military council that could keep the Syrian armed forces intact and loyal, according to SNC officials and foreign diplomats.

In the latest developments on the ground, reports from Aleppo on Wednesday described preparations for a major confrontation between government and rebel forces as well as aeroplanes bombing opposition strongholds in Damascus.

In his first public statement since his defection, Tlass called on Tuesday for the opposition to unite and urged the military to abandon Assad. Tlass has been on a pilgrimage to Mecca, burnishing his Sunni Muslim credentials. Saudi Arabia, France and Russia all want him to play a role.

General Mustafa al-Sheikh, one of the first generals to join the rebel Free Syrian Army (FSA), said he was backing Tlass. But there were immediate objections that the Republican Guard officer is too closely associated with the regime. “Manaf Tlass was not speaking to the opposition or to the people of Syria,” said the analyst Rime Allaf. “He was placing a call to his peers in the army.”

Others say he is tainted by the record of his father, who was defence minister under Assad’s father, Hafez.

Forming a unity government is a contentious issue for the SNC. Abdel-Basset Sieda, its Kurdish leader, was forced on Tuesday to deny reports that he agreed to the transfer of Assad’s powers to another regime figure who would lead a transitional period, as in Yemen.

The SNC had accepted Kofi Annan’s UN-backed transition plans but says circumstances on the ground have changed since last week’s advances by the FSA and the bomb attack in Damascus that killed four of Assad’s top security chiefs.

“The transitional period has already started,” said Obaida Nahas, an SNC member who is close to the Muslim Brotherhood. “Bashar no longer controls the country the same way he did just a few weeks ago. There is a new reality in Syria. The balance of power has shifted.”

Still, the SNC faces serious credibility problems. It is divided internally – between liberals and Islamists and between Arabs and Kurds – and at odds with other groups, such as the Damascus-based National Co-ordination Bureau (NCB), which opposes armed opposition. Several key figures have walked out.

Hazem al-Nahar, a dissident, has described “a Babel of contradictions and competing voices that leaves … regime loyalists and opponents alike mistrustful and dismissive of the Syrian opposition.”

Demonstrating the strength of opinions on the various sides, fistfights broke out at an opposition conference held by the Arab League in Cairo earlier this month.

Foreign backers

The SNC’s critics complain that it is too close to foreign backers such asQatar and Turkey – the organisation is based in Istanbul – and that for all its international links it has failed to secure the Libya-style military intervention it had hoped for. US backing, in particular, has been limited to cash and non-lethal equipment, with some covert intelligence support, the significance of which is hard to gauge.

“Sieda is the not real decision-maker,” complained Khalaf Dawood of the NCB. “He and [predecessor Burhan] Ghalioun are just pawns. The Islamists control the SNC even though there is no democratic basis for that. The Turks and the Saudis are running things and the Americans might be behind them. We don’t want to end up swapping one corrupt dictatorship for another.”

SNC officials emphasise close co-ordination with the FSA, whose men now receive regular pay through the council. “The SNC want to create a war chest so they can bribe fighters on the ground because that’s the only way they can have any leverage on the ground,” said the Syrian commentator Malik al-Abdeh.

SNC leaders say they will shortly set up a base on Syrian soil like the Libyan rebels did in Benghazi.

The SNC has also built up a database to keep foreign governments informed on the structure and activities of the FSA so weapons and money do not end up in the hands of Salafi or jihadi-type groups.

Ausama Monajed, a senior SNC adviser, said: “People inside Syria may say that the SNC is irrelevant, but we do need some kind of solution. We can’t just wait until everything collapses and descends into chaos. The international community needs partners.”

On the ground, where events are driven by the largely autonomous Local Co-ordination Committees (LCCs) – the tansiqiyat – and the FSA, there is deep scepticism. “Everything is now down to the revolutionaries in Syria, including the FSA,” argues the activist and blogger Razan Ghazzawi. Another opposition figure said: “The SNC is somewhat discredited inside Syria and will remain so unless it gets its act together and does something substantial for the people.”

The Lebanese columnist Karl Sharro said: “Ultimately, something new will be born out of the LCCs and the FSA and they will provide more credible leadership than anything the SNC can come up with.”

Others say they expect the SNC to collapse and disappear when Assad goes. The SNC’s position is complicated by the competing agendas of outsiders. France combines historic Syrian links with strong current interest – its intelligence service helped Tlass defect – and is lobbying hard for a transitional government.

Britain fears that could be a distraction from preparing for the practicalities of the post-Assad era. “The key thing is to come together for the transition,” said a UK official. “Forming a government now will lead to infighting and divisions over personalities. There have already been a lot of disagreements – SNC v non-SNC, Arabs v Kurds. Now we need to say to them: ‘This is a new stage and you need to improve your credibility.'”

Syrian forces gather for Aleppo assault: 26 Jul 2012: Tank convoy arrives from Idlib and more troops on way to city for attack on Friday or Saturday, state security source says

 Syria crisis: Assad strikes back with jets in Aleppo and Damascus – Wednesday 25 July 2012

4.55pm: Here’s a summary of the latest developments relating to Syria.

• Aleppo, Syria’s commercial capital, is braced for a major confrontation as hundreds of fighters from both sides stream into the city. Government forces are said to be deployed around the 13th century citadel, with thousands more on their way.

• The BBC in Aleppo and ITN in the Damascus suburb of Douma have both broadcast footage of Assad’s forces bombing opposition strongholds with fighter jets. Both reporters described the sight and sound of jets as “unmistakable”.

• Activists have released disturbing video purporting to show victims of a massacre in the Qaboun district of Damascus. The footage shows the bodies of 11 people, some of whom appeared to have been tortured.

• About half of the UN’s 300 observers have left Syria, Hervé Ladsous, the head of UN’s peacekeeping operations announced in Damascus. The new head of the mission Babacar Gaye, described the situation in Syria as “very difficult”.

• Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov says the US reaction to last week’s assassination of four members of Assad’s inner circle amounted to an endorsement of terrorism.

• Israel’s military chief of staff has warned that an attack on Syria’s stockpile of chemical weapons could trigger a widespread conflict with international repercussions.

• Syria’s envoy to the United Arab Emirates, Abdel Latif Al Dabbagh, has defected after his wife Lamia al-Hariri, who is Syria’s the envoy to Cyprus, announced she was leaving Nicosia.The couple are reported to be in Qatar.

• Brigadier-General Manaf Tlass, the most senior defector so far, has made a video statement offering to lead a transition government in Syria. In the statement broadcast on al-Arabiya, Tlass said: “Allow me to serve Syria after [President Bashar] al-Assad’s era.”

• In the eastern city of Deir el-Zour, the battle appears to be on an endless loop, writes Ghaith Abdul-Ahad. He wrote: “Every day, loyalist troops and tanks stubbornly try to take the city from the rebels. The rebels push them back and the army retaliates by pounding the city with mortar shells and rockets.”

Reuters: Timeline: U.S. policy shifts on Syria in Obama administration

– The uprising against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has changed the course of U.S. policy from one of engagement when President Barack Obama first took office to a call for Assad to step down to increased support for Syrian rebels.

WASHINGTON – The United States said on Thursday it appeared that forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad were “lining up” for a massacre in the city of Aleppo, but again ruled out military intervention in the conflict.

ANKARA – Brigadier General Manaf Tlas, one of the most senior defectors from President Bashar al-Assad’s rule, met on Thursday with the foreign minister of Turkey, Syria’s powerful neighbor which has a stake in shaping any post-Assad leadership.

LONDON – Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s days may be numbered but his fall could be slow and chaos could ensue.