Tuesday 29 January 2013

The Syrian International Conference took place in Geneva 28-29 January 2013. The Geneva Conference concluded with a Declaration which was agreed with the delegates, see SKS ‘Reports’: Geneva Declaration

Syrian Observatory for Human RightsFinal death toll for Tuesday 29/1/2013: Approximately 230 Syrians were killed, including tens of unidentified corpses. The dead include: 72 civilians (including 12 children), 73 summarily executed men (65 were found in the Bustan al-Qasr neighbourhood of Aleppo), 33 rebel fighters, 6 defected soldiers, 42 regular soldiers. 

145 Unarmed civilians:

-In Aleppo Province 74 civilians were killed. 8 civilians, including a girl and 5 children (2 were under the age of 1), were killed by waplanes’ bombardment on shells falling on the Safeera town of Reef Aleppo. A man was shot by sniper in the Bustan al-Qasr neighbourhood of Aleppo city. 65 young men were found dead near the Qweiq river in the Bustan al-Qasr neighbourhood of Aleppo city, whom were handcuffed and shot in the head, 25 of their names have been documented, so far.

Information was received about the further discovery of at least 15 unidentified corpses in the Qweiq river in the Bustan al-Qasr neighbourhood of Aleppo city, but that no one had been able to take them out because of the presence of snipers.

-In Homs Province 10 civilians were killed. 9, including 3 children and 4 women, were killed by bombardment on the Rastan city and the Za’farana village of Reef Homs. A man died of wounds he received by bombardment on the Hola area, 3 days ago.

-In Dera’a Province 12 civilians were killede. 6 men were shot by regime forces in the Nowa town. 2 were shot by regime forces in the towns of al-Sheikh Miskeen and al-Yaduda. A man, from the Kharbat Ghazala town, was shot by regime forces in Damascus city. 1 was tortured to death after his detainment by regime forces, in the Nowa town. A man died of wound he received by bombardment on the Dera’a city, earlier. 1 was killed by bombardment on the Heet village of Reef Dera’a.

-In Reef Dimashq Province 15 civilians were killed. 8 men were killed by bombardment on cities and towns of Daraya, al-Sbeina, and Harasta. 3, including a child, died of wounds they received by bombardment on towns and cities of al-Nashabiya, Duma, and A’rbeen, earlier. 1 was shot by a military checkpoint in al-Ghuta al-Sharqiya. 3 unidentified corpses were found near one of military checkpoints between the cities of al-Ma’adamiya and Daraya, whom were summarily executed by regime forces’ gunfire, according to activists from the area.

-In Damascus Province 17 civilians were killed. 8, including a child, were killed by bombardment on the Jobar, Qadama, Hajar al-Aswad, and Zuhur neighbourhoods of Damascus city. A man, from the Barza neighbourhood, was summarily executed by regime forces. 1, from the Qadam neighbourhood, was tortured to death after his detainment by regime forces, earlier. 3 corpses were found, 2 of them were unidentified, in the neighbourhoods of Jobar and al-Qabun. 4 unidentified corpses were found in the A’sali neighbourhood of Damascus city,whom were summarily executed by regime forces’ gunfire.

-In Idlib Province 5 civilians were killed. A child was killed by bombardment on the Ma’arshureen town. A young man, from the Hzano town, was found dead, he was detained at a regime forces’ checkpoint, 4 days ago, and marks of torture were evident on his body. A prisoner was killed, when rebel fighters and regime forces were clashing in the Idlib central prison. A man was shot by a military checkpoint in Reef Idlib. A man died of wounds he received by bombardment on the Ma’arat Harma town of Reef Idlib.

-In Hama Province 9 civilians were killed. 5, including 2 women and a child, were killed by bombardment on the Maghyer village and the Hyaleen town of Reef Hama. A child was shot by sniper in the Ta’awuniya neighbourhood of Hama city. A man was killed by bombardment on the Karnaz town of Reef Hama. A man, from the Hyaleen town, was shot by regime forces in the Hama central prison, according to activists. 1 died of wounds he received by bombardment on the Kafarzeeta town, earlier.

-In Deir Izzor Province 3 civilians were killed. A man was killed by warplanes’ bombardment on the Buleel town of Reef Deir Izzor. A man died of wounds he received by bombardment on the Mayadeen city, earlier. A man, from the Bukamal city, was tortured to death, after his disappearance for several days, in Damascus city.

33 Rebel fighters:

-In Aleppo Province 5 fighters were killed. 3 were killed during clashes with regime forces in the Sheikh Sa’eed neighbourhood of Aleppo city. 2 were killed during clashes with regime forces in the Reef Safeera town.

-In Homs Province 7 fighters were killed. 3 were killed during clashes with regime forces in the neighbourhoods of Old Homs and Jobar in Homs city. 1 was killed during clashes with regime forces in the Mheen town of Southern Reef Homs. 3 were killed during clashes in the villages of al-A’miriya and al-Za’farana of Reef Homs.

-In Dera’a Province 8 fighters were killed. 1, from the Namer town, was killed by an ambush, regime forces had planned for him. 7 were killed during clashes with regime forces in the Busra al-Sham town and around the Busr al-Hareer town.

-In Reef Dimashq Province 4 rebel fighters were killed during clashes with regime forces, gunfire, and bombardment on the cities and towns of Daraya, Duma, and A’in Mneen.

-In Damascus Province 2 fighters were killed during clashes with regime forces around Mokhayam al-Yarmuk.

-In Idlib Province a rebel battalion leader was killed during clashes with regime forces on the Areeha-Mhambel road.

-In Hama Province 3 fighters were killed. 2 were killed during clashes with regime forces around the Karnaz town of Reef Hama. 1 , from Reef Hama, was killed during clashes in the Za’farana village of Reef Homs.

-In Deir Izzor Province 3 rebel fighters were killed during clashes with regime forces and bombardment on several neighbourhood of Deir Izzor city.


-A defected lieutenant, a defected sergeant, and 4 defected soldiers were killed during clashes with regime forces in Reef Dimashq, Reef Homs, Reef Dera’a, and al-Hasaka.

-News were received about the death of 20 civilians by bombardment on the Tal Hasel and Tal A’ran villages of Reef Aleppo.


No less than 42 regime forces were killed during clashes in several provinces: 11 Deir Izzor, 6 Dera’a. 6 Damascus and Reef Dimashq, 5 Homs, 3 Hama, 9 Aleppo, and 2 in Idlib.

Aleppo massacre: Aleppo city: The SOHR managed to document the names of 17 of the 65 bodies pulled out so far today from the al-Quweiq river in the Bustan al-Qasr neighbourhood of Aleppo. Several sources in the city reported the the total number of dead could reach to 80 since there are still bodies floating in the river.The men were between the ages of 20 and 30. They were killed by a point blank gunshot to the head. Several had their hands tied.

5 videos documenting the number of summarily executed men pulled out of the al-Quweiq river:(18+)

See NOW! Syria for daily news as it comes in

Reuters: Sixty-five found executed in Syria’s Aleppo: activists

BEIRUT – At least 65 people, apparently shot in the head, were found dead with their hands bound in a district of the northern Syrian city of Aleppo on Tuesday, activists said.

The British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which says it provides objective information about casualties on both sides of Syria’s war from a network of monitors, said the death toll could rise as high as 80. It was not clear who had carried out the killings.

Opposition activists posted a video of a man filming at least 51 muddied male bodies alongside what they said was the Queiq River in the rebel-held Bustan al-Qasr neighborhood of Aleppo.

The bodies had gunshot wounds to their heads, and their hands were bound. Blood was seeping from their heads and some of them appeared to be young, possibly teenagers, and dressed in jeans, shirts and sneakers.

The Queiq River rises in Turkey and travels through government-held districts of Aleppo before it reaches Bustan al-Qasr.

“They were killed only because they are Muslims,” said a bearded man in another video said to have been filmed in central Bustan al-Qasr after the bodies were removed from the river. A pickup truck with a pile of corpses was parked behind him.

It is hard for Reuters to verify such reports from inside Syria because of restrictions on independent media.

Government forces and rebels in Syria have both been accused by human rights groups of carrying out summary executions in the 22-month-old conflict, which has claimed more than 60,000 lives.

Rebels pushed into Aleppo, Syria’s most populous city, over the summer, but are stuck in a stalemate with government forces. The city is divided roughly in half between the two sides.

The revolt started as a peaceful protest movement against more than four decades of rule by President Bashar al-Assad and his family, but turned into an armed rebellion after a government crackdown.

More than 700,000 people have fled, the United Nations says.


In the eastern city of Deir al-Zor, insurgents including al Qaeda-linked Islamist fighters captured a security agency after days of heavy fighting, according to an activist video issued on Tuesday.

The fighters freed prisoners from the building, it added.

The video, posted online, showed men armed with assault rifles cheering as they stood outside a building that they said was a local branch of Syria’s intelligence agency.

Some of the fighters carried a black flag with the Islamic declaration of faith and the name of the al-Nusra Front, which has ties to al Qaeda in neighboring Iraq. The video also showed tanks, which appeared to be damaged, and a room containing weapons.

The war has become heavily sectarian, with rebels who mostly come from the Sunni Muslim majority fighting an army whose top generals are mostly from Assad’s Alawite sect, an offshoot of Shi’ite Islam. Assad has framed the revolt as a foreign-backed conspiracy and blames the West and Sunni Gulf states.

Fighting also took place in the northern town of Ras al-Ain, on the border with Turkey, between rebels and Kurdish militants, the Observatory said.

The insurgents have been battling fighters of the Kurdish People’s Defence Units for about two weeks in the area, and scores of people have died in the violence.

(Reporting by Alexander Dziadosz and Oliver Holmes; Editing by Kevin Liffey)

Syria “breaking up before everyone’s eyes:” envoy tells U.N.

UNITED NATIONS – U.N.-Arab League mediator Lakhdar Brahimi warned the U.N. Security Council on Tuesday that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad may be able to cling to power for now but the country is “breaking up before everyone’s eyes,” diplomats told Reuters.

Brahimi appealed to the 15-nation council to overcome its deadlock and take action to help put an end to the Syrian civil war. However, it was not clear whether his latest report, which diplomats said was his bleakest since his appointment last year, would persuade Russia to agree to support concrete U.N. steps to try to halt the bloodshed.

Brahimi suggested that attempts to end the 22-month-old conflict, which has claimed more than 60,000 lives according to U.N. figures, had not progressed in the last two months. He said it was up to the Security Council to end its impasse.

“The country is breaking up before everyone’s eyes,” Brahimi was quoted as saying by diplomats inside the closed-door meeting. “Only the international community can help and first (and) foremost the Security Council.”

“I told the council that I’m embarrassed to be repeating the same thing,” Brahimi told reporters after the meeting. “Syria is being destroyed, bit by bit.”

He said the principles of a political transition in Syria, agreed to at talks among major world and regional powers in Geneva in June last year, could form the basis for a Security Council plan of action.

“In the Geneva communique the meaning of full executive powers (for a transitional government) must be clarified, but it clearly means that Assad should have no role in the transition,” one diplomat quoted Brahimi as saying.

The mediator told the council that Assad may be able to hold onto power for the time being, but that “the Syrian regime’s legitimacy has been seriously, probably irreparably, damaged.”

Russia has said that insisting on Assad’s departure as a condition for peace negotiations between the government and the opposition forces would prevent such talks from ever taking place. The opposition, backed by the United States and much of Europe, has made plain that Assad can play no role in a future Syrian government.

The Security Council has been deadlocked since 2011 over Russia and China’s refusal to consider sanctions against Assad’s government. They have vetoed three resolutions condemning Assad’s attempts to crush what began as peaceful protests inspired by other Arab Spring uprisings.

Moscow has joined the Damascus government in criticizing the United States, FranceSaudi Arabia, Qatar and Turkey for supporting the Syrian rebels.


“There’s no obvious way forward,” U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice told reporters after the meeting. “I don’t have any promises of any big breakthrough.”

Brahimi will attend a dinner with the ambassadors of the five permanent Security Council members – the United States, Russia, China, Britain and France – later on Tuesday to discuss ways to end the deadlock, diplomats said.

“I am now calling on the Security Council to take action,” Brahimi told reporters.

He also played down rumors that he was planning to resign, though he added that it was not a job he had wanted.

“I’m not a quitter,” he said. “The United Nations has no choice but to remain engaged with this problem, whether I’m there or not. The moment I feel that I am totally useless I will not stay one minute more.”

Western diplomats said Russia is more concerned with countering U.S. influence in the Middle East and maintaining some level of Russian leverage in the region than it is with protecting Assad.

Brahimi said “unprecedented levels of horror” have been reached in Syria, and that both the government and the opposition forces have committed atrocious crimes.

Highlighting his point about atrocities, opposition activists said at least 65 people had been found shot dead with their hands bound in the northern Syrian city of Aleppo on Tuesday in what they called a “new massacre.

Diplomats said Brahimi has grown extremely frustrated at the inability of the Security Council to unite behind him. His predecessor, former U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan, voiced similar frustration when he resigned in August.

British Ambassador to the United Nations Mark Lyall Grant told reporters that he hoped the council could finally overcome its deadlock.

“It is horrendous that the brutality of the regime goes on, the number of deaths is increasing the whole time, and the Security Council is still not able to put its full weight behind the U.N. special envoy’s efforts,” he said.

The United Nations is not present in all parts of Syria but it is maintaining limited aid operations. It has warned, however, that it needs more money and better access on the ground.

The United Nations will hold a pledging conference in Kuwait on Wednesday to seek $1 billion of aid for Syria’s neighbors sheltering 700,000 registered refugees, and an additional $500 million to bankroll humanitarian work for 4 million Syrians inside their country.

Brahimi told Security Council members that the regional outlook was also worrying.

“Syrian factions are getting cross-border support from neighboring countries,” a diplomat quoted Brahimi as saying. “Syria is becoming a playground for competing forces. None of the neighbors is immune to the fallout consequences of the conflict.”

(Additional reporting by Michelle Nichols; Editing by Christopher Wilson and Mohammad Zargham)

Guardian: Syrian rebels recover scores of bodies from Aleppo river as floodwaters recede

29 Jan 2013: Syrian regime and rebels blame each other for one of Aleppo’s biggest massacres, with final death toll ‘expected to reach 120’

Rebel groups in Aleppo say they have recovered more than 100 bodies from a small river in the south of the city and say more are yet to be dragged from the water after what appears to be one of the biggest massacres to have taken place in the war-ravaged city.

A video posted online today showed rows of bodies, most of them men in their 20s and 30s, with their hands tied behind their backs and evident bullet wounds to their heads. The graphic footage showed blood seeping from the corpses across silt left on the watercourse’s concrete bank by floodwaters that have recently receded.

One witness at the scene said he counted 108 bodies and rebel groups said they expected the final death toll to climb to as many as 120, though the Guardian was unable to independently verify the number of dead. The corpses were found on Tuesday morning in Bustan al-Qasr, in the southern city centre. The site is near one of several frontlines that divides opposition groups in the east and south of Aleppo from loyalist forces in the north.

Where the men were executed is not yet clear. Winter rain has given the river a strong current in recent weeks and initial assessments suggested that the bodies could have been carried some distance.

The Syrian regime blamed “terrorist gangs” for the killings, a term it uses for all groups fighting against it. A regime official in Damascus suggested that rebel groups were now leading a recovery in an attempt to “cover for their crimes”.

A Syrian official told Agence France Presse: “We will disclose the identities of those killed as soon as we are able to secure the bodies, which is a difficult process since the area is in the hands of terrorist groups.”

Rebel groups, however, blamed the Syrian government for the killings, suggesting that some of the victims had crossed into loyalist areas then disappeared. None of the victims had identification cards.

Residents of rebel-held eastern Aleppo have reportedly arrived at the site where the bodies were found to try to identify missing relatives. The remains were loaded into trucks and taken to the nearby Zarzur Hospital, where rebel officials were trying to organise an identification process.

Syria Aleppo massacreCredit: Guardian graphicsA resident of rebel-held eastern Aleppo who called himself Omar al-Halabi told the Guardian that 11 bodies had been identified by nightfall and claimed by their families for burial.

“Their relatives said that they live in … areas under the control of the FSA like Ansari, Sukari and Al-Bustan districts,” he said. “None were members of the Free Syria Army [FSA].

“I spoke to a guy who was able to identify his brother and his friend’s bodies,” he said. “[He] said that his brother and his friend were heading to one of the districts which are still under the control of the Syrian army in Aleppo and they did not come back three days ago. These two men were in their fifties.

“Other bodies were identified by their relatives who said that they had been detained at the Air Force Intelligence headquarters in Aleppo 10 days ago.”

An eyewitness to the recovery effort said several bullets were fired during the day from buildings to the north.

Extrajudicial killings have become increasingly frequent in many parts of Syria over the past six months. However, Tuesday’s death toll in Aleppo is believed to be without precedent in the city since rebels launched an assault there in July.

In the months since then, the opposition has entrenched itself in the east of the city and the regime has hunkered down in the north-west. The south-western suburbs of Saif al-Dawli and Salahedin remain battleground areas. Few residents cross the divide, which is manned on one side by Syrian soldiers and sniper positions and on the other by rebel groups.

As fighting and atrocities continue, Syrian citizens are leaving the country in increasing numbers. Over the past six weeks, an extra 200,000 refugees have sought shelter in Lebanon, Turkey, Jordan and Iraq, the UN High Commission for Refugees said on Tuesday.

More than 700,000 people have now fled Syria, the UN said, with 21,000 crossing into Jordan in the past week alone – about five times the number seen in previous weeks.

The UN has appealed for $1.5bn (£950m) in aid to fund shelter, food and education for Syrian refugees but says it has so far been able to secure only 3% of that figure from international donors.

With the violence in Syria showing no sign of abating, aid needs are likely to intensify in the first half of the year at least. At least another 1.5 million Syrians are believed to be internally displaced.

While some food aid, as well as homegrown fresh produce, has been delivered to battle zones such as Aleppo in recent weeks, there is no guarantee that supply lines can continue to be secured.

Fighting erupts near flashpoint areas of Aleppo most days. The site where the bodies were found is one such area, considered a no-go zone for the few remaining locals.