Thursday 9 February 2012

These people are very very afraid of what may be coming in Homs. It’s not OK for people to have to live this way!

 Kurdish artists support change in Syria
Syrian Uprising 2011 Information Centre: SUMMARY (09/02/2012): Another very bloody day – at least 145 martyrs, 117 in Homs, enduring a 6th day of bombardment. Zabadani, Madaya, Rastan all under heavy fire too. Meanwhile many military reinforcements have arrived in Idlib where several of the main cities are under fire – Ma’rat al-Nu’man, Khan Shaykhun, Saraqib and Idlib itself.  Syria – Thursday 09/02/2012 – Google Maps
Following an official invitation from the Chinese government to the National Coordination Body for Democratic Change in Syria [NCB], a delegation arrived in China two days ago to convey to Chinese officials the true picture of the need to develop a political program that paves the way to the transitional stage, so as to avert the dangers of a spiral of violence, civil war and foreign military intervention.The delegation comprised of Dr. Haytham Manna – Head of NCB in Exile, and three leaders from the NCB inside Syria: the lawyer Rajaa al-Nasser, Bassam al-Malek, and Ms. Mais Krydieh. They will be meeting top officials from the Foreign Ministry, the Chinese Communist Party, the Association of Foreign Affairs of the Chinese people, the Institute of International Studies, the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, and the Institute of Contemporary International Relations.

The delegation met the Vice Foreign Minister for the Arab Region, Mr. Xie Hangsheng who stressed the need for complete separation between the veto of China, and China’s position on security and military policy towards the Syrian authorities. China supports the just demands of the Syrian people and respects the broader national consensus on the transition scenario, and supports the Arab Plan of Action but it does not consider the Security Council the most appropriate place to achieve this, especially when it
“forces some States to vote before having sufficient serious dialogue about the proposed resolution, especially as we see what happened to enforce change in the situation in Libya.”

For his part, the head of the delegation Haytham Manna in his speech said,
“The National Coordinating Body is aware that self-change alone should be possible, and this would preserve the honour and sovereignty of the new democratic civilian state that the Syrian people with all its components aspires to have: Syria’s full citizenship and inalienable rights for all children, people and the diverse nationalities; free citizens and people who are capable of building their own modern civil state; and to recover the occupied territory – a new Syrian friend of all free nations and liberation movements in the world. ”

More than 7,800 martyrs have now been recorded since the start of the uprising. Of those more than 2,850 have fallen in Homs. This is a video tribute to one of them – Mazhar Tayara, a 24 years old activist who was martyred on 04/02/2012 during the heavy bombardment of Khaldiyeh neighbourhood. Mazhar, one of the heroes of the revolution. R.I.P.
 Mohammad Mazhar Tayara, Citizen Journalist died in Homs Massacre February 4 2012

Syrian Observatory for Human Rights:
The death toll of people who were killed today and for whom the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights has records has risen to 75 martyrs.
– 63 martyrs were fallen in the city of Homs among them are 54 people who were killed during the shelling of the neighbourhoods of Bab Amr, Bab Al-Sebaa, Al-Khaledia, Kerm Al-Zeyton and Al-Inshaatt. An 11-year-old girl and a 16-year-old boy died from injuries sustained in the town of Talbeesa. Also, 5 civilians including an 11-year-old boy were killed during the bombardment of the city of Al-Rastan. And a young man was killed at a security barrier in the village of Al-Zaafrana and another person was killed in gunfire during the storming of the city of Al-Qusaire.
– An 18-year-old girl was killed in the city of Maarat Al-Numaan in Idlib district
– 10 people including a family consisting of 5 members were killed during the shelling of Zabadani city in Rif Dimashq Governorate.
– And one person died from injuries sustained yesterday in the village of Tesseel in Daraa.
Meanwhile 3 defected soldiers were killed in clashes in the city of Al-Qusaire in Homs. And an officer in the Syrian regular army was killed during the bombardment of the city of Al-Rastan city. And 5 members of the regular army and security forces were killed in clashes in the city of Al-Qusaire. 7 members of the security forces were killed in Daraa in an ambush that targeted 2 mini-buses they were using on Damascus-Daraa motorway.

DAMASCUS SUBURBS (09/02/2012): If one of the aims of the relentless bombardment of Homs is to intimidate people elsewhere then it isn’t working – it certainly isn’t intimidating the school kids who have been continuing to protest daily across Syria. This was today in the Damascus suburb of Qatana. “Hurry up and leave Bashar!”
 Qatana, Damascus Suburbs 09/02/2012
Bosra AlSham_9-2-2012.mp4
 Syria emerges as a nexus of the regional power struggle

Update (09/02/2012): More than 100 martyrs are reported to have fallen already, 90 of them in Homs where the continuous shelling of Baba Amru, Insha’at, Khaldiyeh, Karam al-Zaytun etc. continues. Rastan (north of Homs) is also under heavy shelling and in this video you can see 2 of todays victims who have fallen there. In Qusayr (SW of Homs) the military has shelled a school though we don’t know if it was empty or not. Elsewhere in Syria, the city of Ma’ret Nu’man in Idlib is also under attack while Zabadani has also been under fire for 6 days and more tanks have been seen heading there this morning.
 Rastan 09/02/2012 (GRAPHIC)

Homs (08/02/2012): Subtitled video from 2 doctors working in Baba Amru Homs. They are now treating patients in a mosque because the field hospital has been repeatedly hit and destroyed. “We do not have any facilities to treat the huge number of injuries in these small makeshift rooms…we request humanitarian organisations, human rights groups and international groups to intervene immediately.”

 An SOS Call – Baba Amro (08/02/2012)

 Syria, Homs, a report about the medical situation in a field hospital in Homs .. 

NOW! Lebanon
[local time]  22:25 Britain has no plans to help arm Syria’s opposition, Foreign Secretary William Hague said on Thursday.
 22:22 Some 40,000 Syrian troops have quit their government’s crackdown on rebels against President Bashar al-Assad’s rule, Republican US Senator John McCain said Thursday.
 21:46 Thursday’s death toll in Syria has risen to 145 people among them 11 children, Al-Jazeera quoted activists as saying.
 21:19 The Syrian army is bombing Homs’ neighborhood of Baba Amro with rockets and mortars, Al-Arabiya television reported.
 20:40 President Bashar al-Assad’s regime appears intent on killing its own citizens, British Prime Minister David Cameron said in Stockholm on Thursday, calling for a regime change.
 20:04 A Syrian Red Crescent unit disappeared after entering the Damascus town of Madaya on Thursday, Future News reported.
 19:56 Free Syrian Army commander Colonel Riad al-Assaad called Thursday on Syrian expatriates in the US to aid the Free Syrian Army.
 19:30 The major powers gave a cautious welcome on Thursday to proposals to send a joint Arab League-United Nations mission to monitor Syria’s deadly crackdown on protests.
 19:15 Syrian protesters are massing in front of the Iranian Embassy in Libya, Al-Arabiya television reported Thursday.
 19:12 Thursday’s death toll in Syria has increased to 134 people, Al-Jazeera television quoted activists as saying.
 19:07 The Syrian army is shelling Rastan, killing 70 people in the town, Al-Arabiya television quoted local activists as saying.
 18:19 Lebanese Future News reported on Thursday evening that “there is a remarkable Syrian military deployment on the Lebanese-Syrian border opposite the Lebanese border town of Wadi Khaled.”
 17:15 Thursday’s death toll in Syria has risen to 126 people, Al-Jazeera quoted the Syrian Coordination Committee as saying.
 17:14 Libya has ordered Syrian diplomats to leave the country within 72 hours, just days after the main Syrian opposition group took over Damascus’s mission in Tripoli, the official news agency reported Thursday.
 16:46 A group of young people hailing from South Lebanon launched a Facebook campaign in solidarity with the Syrian people protesting against President Bashar al-Assad’s regime.
 16:04 Thursday’s death toll in Syria has risen to 105 people, among them 93 killed in Homs, Al-Jazeera quoted the Syrian Coordination Committee as saying.
 15:50 Russia said Thursday it took a cautious view of US-backed attempts to forge a “friends of Syria” coalition that may soon meet in Turkey to coordinate humanitarian assistance for the embattled opposition.
 15:42 A Syrian activist in Zabadani told Lebanese Future News on Thursday that the situation in the Damascus town is “tragic,” adding that the Syrian army “is arbitrarily shelling the city.”
 15:36 The opposition Syrian National Council was meeting in Qatar Thursday to discuss developments in their country, where the regime has intensified its crackdown on protesters, an SNC spokesperson told AFP.
 15:10 Some areas in Damascus district are experiencing food and medicine shortages, Al-Arabiya quoted an opposition group as saying.
 15:08 The Syrian army killed five people the in Damascus district on Thursday, Al-Arabiya television quoted local activists as saying.
 14:59 The Russian Foreign Ministry expressed on Thursday its concern over news that Qatari and British forces are present in Syria, New TV reported.
 14:35 A Syrian national was severely injured Thursday after stepping on a landmine along an illegal border post between the Syrian village of Msherifeh and the Lebanese village of Al-Moqaibla.
 14:28 A rebel ambush near Daraa killed at least seven security forces and wounded dozens on Thursday, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.
 14:05 The death toll has risen to 70 people killed by security forces on Thursday, Al-Jazeera reported.
 13:30 Regime forces launched a new blitz on the Syrian city of Homs on Thursday, killing dozens of people, activists said.
 13:13 Syrian security forces killed 50 people on Thursday, most of them in Homs, Al-Jazeera reported.
 13:01 China said Thursday it held talks with a key Syrian opposition group this week, amid fierce criticism of its decision to block a UN resolution condemning the regime of President Bashar al-Assad’s bloody crackdown in dissent.
 12:27 Germany’s foreign ministry announced the expulsion of four Syrian diplomats, AFP reported.
 12:12 The death toll in Syria has risen to 40 people killed by security forces’ gunfire on Thurday, Al-Jazeera reported.
 11:54 A YouTube video purportedly filmed on Wednesday shows a Druze First Lieutenant announcing his defection from the Syrian army. The army officer who joined the Free Syrian Army abroad, says that he chose to defect from the army because “it has always committed crimes against humanity.” He also said that many Shabeeha (thugs) stole body organs from army conscripts and sold them to a number of military hospitals without being punished.
 11:33 The Syrian army is using helicopters to shell Homs, activists told Al-Arabiya.
 10:21 The Syrian army is shelling the Edleb town of Maarat al-Naaman, which has left three people dead and dozens other injured so far, Al-Jazeera reported.
 10:17 Syria’s top Muslim cleric thanked Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad for his unwavering support of Syria’s government as it deals with widespread unrest.
 9:11 The Syrian army shelling of Homs has so far left 31 people dead, Al-Arabiya reported.
 8:25 The Syrian army is shelling many neighborhoods in Homs, Al-Arabiya reported.
 8:18 The Syrian army’s shelling of the Homs neighborhood of Baba Amr left five people dead, Al-Arabiya reported.
 8:04 Rebels inside Syria said Wednesday they need more weapons – not outside boots on the ground – to arm tens of thousands of fighters including regime deserters to topple Bashar al-Assad’s regime.

 7:55 The Syrian army is heavily shelling the Homs neighborhood of Baba Amr, and there are reports of a number of casualties, according to Al-Jazeera.
 7:54 The Arab League and United Nations are considering sending a joint observer mission to Syria, UN leader Ban Ki-moon said Wednesday, as he warned the deadly crackdown could worsen.

Recent, though futile, efforts to resolve the crisis in Syria have demonstrated the absence of leadership from global powers such as the U.S. and likely set the stage for possible contagion. The unwillingness of the major powers to intervene in crises such as in Syria — a marker of what Eurasia Group has called the G-Zero World — has allowed regional players to step into the breach, notably Qatar via the Arab League. But the League’s efforts have also exposed a regional power vacuum and tensions among Middle East nations that could potentially escalate into a proxy war in Syria.

The Arab League’s late-January initiative called on President Bashar al-Assad to step down, leaving the vice president to negotiate with the opposition, but it reflects neither the complexity of the Syrian conflict nor the domestic power balance. For example, the opposition is still deeply divided and there is still considerable support for the regime among business interests and some minorities. The Syrian regime is likely to retain power throughout most of 2012, but the risk of collapse will rise considerably in the last quarter.

Other players have taken advantage of major powers’ unwillingness to get involved in Syria. Qatarhas been pushing for more hawkish Arab League policy on Syria, but the organization lacks the power to push through such initiatives. Turkey, Iran, and Saudi Arabia have also staked out a role. But, the lack of interest in producing a negotiated solution effectively means that the Syrian regime can disregard the Arab League on many issues.

Divisions in the League between Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) states and other members also limit the group’s ability to formulate and pursue effective policies. The 24 January decision by the GCC to withdraw monitors from Syria highlights this division. Both Egypt and Algeria, traditionally important players in the organization, are uncomfortable with what is increasingly seen as Qatari and Saudi dominance. In the near term, Egypt’s leverage will likely decrease given its own political transition, but major stakeholders (such as the military and the Muslim Brotherhood) will eventually seek a more proactive foreign policy. Within the GCC, there is also a subtle, but important, tension between Qatar and Saudi Arabia. Saudi royals are wary of Qatari calls for direct military intervention as a tool for democratic reform in Syria or any other Arab countries, a precedent that could be later used against Riyadh.

Syria is a key part of the regional balance of power between moderate pro-U.S. states and the so called resistance camp lead by Iran. Seeking a broader realignment in the Middle East, regional powers are likely to increase their support of their local allies. Saudi Arabia, Turkey, and Qatar are actively encouraging the uprising driven by conservative Sunnis. Meanwhile, Iran is providing the Assad regime with intelligence, and technological equipment to suppress the uprising.

The Syrian conflict has fanned Sunni-Shiia tensions and the risks of contagion in Lebanon, Jordan, and Iraq are considerable. In Iraq, Sunnis are emboldened by a resurgence of conservative movements across the Middle East. Lebanon could become more unstable as the Syrian conflict has divided political factions in an increasingly delicate struggle. Jordan’s own communities could reconsider their allegiance to the Hashemite monarchy as communal divisions between Jordanians of Palestinian descent and tribal elites begin to increase. Potential Syrian or Iranian support toKurdish separatist groups in Turkey is likely to become a problematic issue. Finally, covert action by either the Sunni axis (Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and the Arab League) or Shiias (Iran and Iraq) entails significant risks to regional stability and could spur a violent proxy war that would hurt the business environment and oil flows.

Ayham Kamel is an analyst in Eurasia Group’s Middle East practice.

CNN U.N. considers Arab League plan for joint mission in Syria as attacks escalate

BBC:  Syria crisis: Shelling ‘kills dozens’ in restive Homs

The Syrian army has launched fresh mortar and rocket attacks in the city of Homs, as the government continues a push aimed at crushing rebel forces.

Activists say 95 people have been killed so far on Thursday. Hundreds have reportedly died since last week.

Homs, Syria’s third-largest city, has been a leading focus of unrest in the 11-month uprising against President Bashar al-Assad’s rule.

UN chief Ban Ki-moon condemned the “appalling brutality” of the onslaught.

The international community is struggling to find a way to resolve the crisis after Russia and China blocked a UN resolution drafted by Arab and European countries on Saturday.

The assault on Homs, which began late on Friday, is focused on districts that are controlled by rebel forces.

The worst shelling has been in the Baba Amr district, where activists say 50 people were killed on Wednesday alone.

The BBC’s Jim Muir, in neighbouring Lebanon, says there are armed rebels in the area, but also many civilians.

Ali Hazuri, a doctor in Baba Amr, told AFP news agency that the intense bombardment had resumed early on Thursday after an overnight lull.

“The shells are raining down on us and regime forces are using heavy artillery,” he said.

During lulls in the onslaught, Syrians are using loudhailers to appeal for blood donations and medical supplies, the Associated Press news agency reports.

The Human Rights Watch group said the blockade of the city by government forces meant victims of the shelling were being denied adequate medical treatment, saying makeshift hospitals were being overwhelmed with the dead and wounded.

Syria restricts access to foreign media and casualty figures cannot be independently verified.

The army says it is fighting foreign-backed armed groups. Army defectors have joined rebel forces in Homs and other parts of Syria in recent months.

Government troops have stepped up operations at Syria’s borders in an effort to stop arms reaching the rebels, reports say.

Continuing army operations against rebels are also being reported in the northern city of Idlib, the southern province of Deraa, and the town of Zabadani, north of Damascus.

The Local Co-ordination Committees, a network of anti-government activists monitoring the violence, say a total of 105 people have been killed around the country on Thursday, including 95 in Homs.

Meanwhile, Germany announced it was expelling four diplomats from the Syrian embassy in Berlin, following the recent arrest of two people suspected of spying on Syrian opposition figures in Germany.

Libya said it was giving Syria’s charge d’affaires and staff in Tripoli 72 hours to leave the country, months after it recognised the Syrian opposition as the legitimate authority.

And in a blog post the British ambassador to Syria Simon Collis – who has been recalled to London for consultations – said “time and again” he had witnessed peacefully protesting Syrian civilians being beaten by “regime thugs”.

‘Missed chance’

Speaking at the UN in New York on Wednesday, Mr Ban said the failure to agree a UN resolution on Syria had encouraged Damascus “to step up its war on its own people”.

The BBC’s Paul Wood reports from inside Homs

He added: “I fear that the appalling brutality we are witnessing in Homs, with heavy weapons firing into civilian neighbourhoods, is a grim harbinger of worse to come.”

He also said the Arab League was hoping to revive its monitoring mission in Syria – which collapsed last month amid the escalating violence – in possible collaboration with the UN.

British Foreign Secretary William Hague said efforts were focused on tightening the “diplomatic and economic stranglehold on this murdering regime”, and said there were no plans for Britain to arm Syrian rebels.

The UN resolution vetoed by China and Russia backed an Arab League peace plan that would have seen President Assad hand power to a deputy to oversee a transition.

Russia said the proposal amounted to regime change.

Human rights groups and activists say more than 7,000 people have been killed by Syrian security forces since the uprising began last March.

The UN stopped estimating the death toll in Syria after it passed 5,400 in January, saying it was too difficult to confirm.

Mr Assad’s government says at least 2,000 members of the security forces have been killed.
Map of Homs

Analysis: Shashank JoshiAssociate fellow, Royal United Services Institute

The most important factor [in the resilience of the Syrian army] is the deepening and widening of the uprising over recent months. Those once wedded to peaceful protest now judge that taking up arms is the only viable option.

One important milestone has been the outbreak of violence this month in Syria’s second city, Aleppo. The army is increasingly stretched across fronts that it did not have to worry about last year.

It took days to regain control of suburbs around Damascus, and the town of Zabadani – scarcely 20 miles (32km) north-west of Damascus – was entirely seized by rebels last month.

These growing commitments thin out, and increase the strain on, loyal units. The paradox is that more fighting means more defections, but failing to do so risks conceding territory on which the armed parts of the opposition can regroup and consolidate.