Wednesday 10 October 2012

Syrian Observatory for Human Rights:Summarized final death toll for Wednesday 10/10/2012. More than 230 Syrians were killed yesterday. The dead include: 109 unarmed civilians (13 children) , 48 rebel fighters, a defected lieutenant, defected captain, 3 defected soldiers and no less than 66 regime forces.
– In Idlib province 47 were killed ( 31 rebel fighters and a child). 6 rebel fighters were killed during clashes with regime forces in the M’aret al-Nu’man city and its surroundings. 21 , including 14 rebel fighters, 2 women and a child, were killed by clashes and bombardment on the Khan Sheikhour town and its surroundings. 

– In Reef Dimashq province 43 were killed ( 2 rebel fighters and 3 children).

– In Aleppo province 27 were killed (4 rebel fighters and a child). 15 were killed by bombardment on the neighbourhoods of Bab Antakya, Qadi A’skar, al-Sakhour, Karm al-Jabal, al-Zabdiya and Jusr al-Haj.

– In Deir Izzor province 8 were killed ( 4 rebel fighters and a rebel commander). 7 from the Deir Izzor city were killed.

– In Homs province 10 were killed ( A rebel fighter and 5 children).

– In Dera’a province 9 were killed ( 2 rebel fighters and a child) . 2 unidentified corpses were found in the al-Karak al-Sharqi town. An unidentified corpse was found by the Namr town.

– In al-Raqqa province 5 were killed (A rebel commander and 2 children) .

– In Hama province 6 were killed (2 rebel fighters).

– In Latakia province 2 were killed (A rebel fighter). A young man was tortured to death by one of the regime military checkpoints in the Latakia city. A rebel fighter from the Qneines neighbourhood was killed during clashes with regime forces in Reef Aleppo.


– A defected lieutenant, also the leader of an armed rebel group, was killed during clashes with regime forces in Idlib. A defected captain and 3 defected soldiers were killed during clashes in Aleppo and Idlib.


**Mohammad al-Ashram, a photographer who worked for the Syrian Al-Ikhbariya news channel was assassinated by unknown gunmen in the city of Deir Izzour**

*There have been reports of more bodies being found in the town of Deir al-Asafir, which has been suffering military operations and clashes for several days. There are also reports of civilian deaths caused by the bombardment on the Bab Jenin, Jusr al-Haj, Bustan al-Qasr, and al-Sakhur neighbourhoods of Aleppo.*

The names of 2 civilians who were earlier summarily executed by regime forces, in one of the detention facilities, in Ma’arat al-Nu’man were today documented by the SOHR.


– No less than 66 regime forces were killed by IED attacks on machinery, targeting of checkpoints and clashes in several Syrian provinces. 9 in Reef Dimashq, 12 in Aleppo, 5 Deir Izzor, 8 Homs, 21 Idlib, 4 Dera’a and 7 in al-Raqqa.

Preliminary death toll for Wednesday 10/10/2012: More than 170 Syrians killed so far today. The dead include: 72 unarmed civilians, 39 rebel fighters, a defected lieutenant, a defected captain, 3 defected soldiers and no less than 53 regime forces. 72 Unarmed Civilians:

– In Idlib province 10 civilians were killed. 7, including 2 women and a child, were killed during clashes and bombardment on the Khan Sheikhun town and it’s surroundings. 3 were killed by bombardment on the al-Tman’a town.

– In Reef Dimashq province 34 were killed. 3 were shot by sniper fire in the towns of Harasta and A’rbin by the Jusrin town. 3 were shot by regime forces in the Qatana and al-Tal towns. A woman and and 2 children were killed by bombardment on the Hamurya town. 6 men were killed by bombardment on the Douma city. A civilian from the Babila town was shot by the Sidi Meqdad military checkpoint of Damascus city. A burned corpse was found inside a car in the Harasta town. 2 unidentified civilians were found dead in the al-M’adamiya town and the Duma city. More than 10 unidentified corpses were found in an old well, the circumstances of their death is still unknown. 5 corpses were found in the Jesreen town, whom were shot after being detained by regime forces, 3 days ago, according to activists from the town.

– In Aleppo province 6 were killed by bombardment on the Bab Antakia and Qadi A’skar neighbourhood of Aleppo city.

– In Dera’a province 4 were killed. 1 was tortured to death after his detainment by regime forces in the Nawa town. A child was killed by bombardment on the al-Ghara al-Sharqiya town of Reef Dera’a. 2 men, from the Kafarshams and Mahja towns, were shot by regime forces in the Hajar al-Aswad neighbourhood of Damascus city, according to activists from the area.

-In Latakia province 1 civilian was tortured to death after being detained by a regime checkpoint in the city of Latakia.

-In Deir Izzour 3 civilians were killed. 1 from the city was killed by regime gunfire in the Qudsayya suburb of Damascus. An unidentified woman was shot by sniper in the Jbeila neighbourhood. A media activist’s death was documented , who was shot by regime forces in the Jura neighbourhood, 2 days ago.

-In Hama province 2 civilians were killed. A woman was killed by the bombardment on the town of Kafarzeita. 1 was found dead, after a week of his detainment by regime forces in the Soha village.

-In Homs Province 8 civilians were killed. 3 children were killed by bombardment on the Ghanto village. 3 civilians, including a child, were killed by bombardment on the Qseir city. 1 civilian was killed due to bombardment on the Bab Sba’ neighbourhood of Homs city.

-In al-Raqa Province 4 civilians, including a woman, were shot by regime forces in the Kharbar al-Riz town of Reef al-Raqa.

*There have been reports of more bodies being found in the town of Deir al-Asafir, which has been suffering military operations and clashes for several days. There are also reports of civilian deaths caused by the bombardment on the Bab Jenin, Jusr al-Haj, Bustan al-Qasr, and al-Sakhur neighbourhoods of Aleppo.*

The names of 2 civilians who were earlier summarily executed by regime forces, in one of the detention facilities, in Ma’arat al-Nu’man were today documented by the SOHR.


39 Rebel Fighters:

Idlib province: 26 rebel fighters were killed. 6 were killed during clashes with regime forces in the city of M’aret al-Nu’man and its surroundings. 14 were killed by clashes and bombardment on the Khan Sheikhoun town and its surroundings. 6 rebel fighters from the towns of Jusr al-Shughur, al-Habit, Taftanaz, Basandina and A’zmarin were killed during clashes with regime forces in Reef Idlib.

Aleppo province 3 rebel fighters were killed. 1 rebel fighter was shot by sniper fire in the al-Mayser neighbourhood, and 2 were killed during clashes in the city.

Deir Izzour: 5 rebel fighters were killed. 4 rebel fighters, including a leader of a rebel battalion, were killed by clashes in the city of Deir Izzour. 1 was killed during clashes with regime forces in the Muhasan town of Reef Deir Izzor.

Latakia: A rebel from the Qneines village was killed during clashes in Reef Aleppo.

Homs: 1 rebel fighter, from the Qaryatain town, was killed during clashes with regime forces in Reef Dimashq.

Dera’a: 1 rebel fighter was killed during clashes with regime forces in the Kharbat Ghazala town.

Hama: 2 rebel fighters were killed during clashes with regime forces in the Shughr area of Reef Hama.


A defected first lieutenant, who also headed a rebel group, was killed by clashes with regime forces in Idlib. A defected captain and 3 defected soldiers were killed during clashes in Aleppo and Idlib.

**Mohammad al-Ashram, a photographer who worked for the Syrian Al-Ikhbariya news channel was assassinated by unknown gunmen in the city of Deir Izzour**
No less than 53 members of the regime forces were killed as a result of IED attacks on machineries, checkpoint targeting, and clashes in several Syrian provinces: 6 killed in Reef Dimashq, 9 in Aleppo, 5 in Deir Izzour, 7 in Homs, 15 in Idlib, 4 in Dera’a, 7 in al-Raqa.

NOW! Lebanon
[local time]
  21:02 Turkish jets forced a Syrian plane to land over suspicious cargo, AFP reported on Wednesday.
 19:36 Syrian rebels launched an attack on troops in second city Aleppo’s landmark Umayyad Mosque on Wednesday sparking clashes inside the 13th century place of worship, a military source told AFP.
 19:31 Wednesday’s death toll has increased to 129, Al-Jazeera quoted activists as saying.
 18:26 Free Syrian Army members clashed with Syrian soldiers in the Al-Qaboun neighborhood in Damascus, Al-Arabiya quoted activists as saying.
 18:05 Wednesday’s death toll has increased to 112, Al-Arabiya quoted activists as saying.
 17:17 Wednesday’s death toll has increased to 109, Al-Arabiya quoted activists as saying.
 17:07 Syrian forces summarily executed a woman and her five children in Kherbet al-Roz near Ar-Reqqah, Al-Jazeera reported.
 16:59 Damascus rejected on Wednesday a call by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon for the regime to initiate a unilateral ceasefire, AFP reported.
 16:50 Rebels sought on Wednesday to block military reinforcements sent by the Damascus regime to the town of Maaret al-Numan, which the insurgents captured the previous day, a rebel source said.
 16:43 The death toll in Syria has increased to 93 people, most of them killed in and around the capital Damascus, Al-Arabiya quoted activists as saying.
 16:19 Syrian Observatory for Human Rights chief Rami Abdel Rahman said on Wednesday that more than 30 people were killed and others injured in the shelling of the town of Deir al-Asafir in the Damascus district.
 16:10 Forty-eight Iranians held hostage by rebels in Syria and threatened with execution were in “good health,” Iran’s Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi said on Wednesday.
 15:04 Wednesday’s death toll has increased to 71 people killed across Syria, Al-Arabiya quoted activists as saying.
 14:19 A Syrian TV cameraman was killed on Wednesday in eastern Deir Ezzor, AFP reported.
 13:51 Seventeen unidentified bodies were discovered in Daraya in the Damascus district on Wednesday, Al-Arabiya quoted activists as saying.
 13:06 More than forty people have been killed during the Syrian regime forces’ Wednesday shelling of the Aleppo-district town of Bab Jannin, activists are reporting.
 13:05 The town of Deir al-Asafir in the Damascus area was shelled by regime forces today, Al-Arabiya quoted activists as saying.
 12:48 Syrian regime forces killed 23 people across Syria on Wednesday, al-Arabiya quoted activists as saying.
 12:13 The Syrian regime forces’ shelling of Homs’ Qusayr left several people killed or injured, activists reported.
 12:08 A YouTube video purportedly filmed on Tuesday shows the assault and capture of a Syrian air defense base in the Damascus district by the rebel Farouq Bridgade as well as other Free Syrian Army forces. The footage includes the preparations for attack, the onslaught itself, and the eventual capture of the base with its arms and ammunition haul.
 11:56 Turkey’s top military commander on Wednesday warned of a stronger response if Syrian shells continue to land on Turkish soil, the private NTV television network reported.
 11:46 The rebel Free Syrian Army took over the Great Ummayad mosque in central Aleppo, Al-Jazeera quoted activists as saying.
 11:32 Syrian forces on Wednesday hammered rebel belts in the central city of Homs, where besieged residents desperately pleaded for humanitarian assistance, and in the northern city of Aleppo, a watchdog said.
 11:11 British police said on Wednesday they had arrested two people at London’s Heathrow Airport in connection with alleged terrorist acts in Syria.
 11:10 A YouTube video uploaded on Tuesday shows rebels taking over As-Salam checkpoint as regime troops surrender and hold white flags in the Homs town of Khan Sheikhoun.
 10:57 Syria’s army has rushed extra troops to Idlib after a strategic town in the northwestern province was seized by rebels, cutting off routes to the embattled commercial capital Aleppo, a watchdog said Wednesday.
 8:32 The first formal camp inside Syria for civilians driven from their homes by the nearly 19-month conflict began admitting displaced families on Tuesday, an AFP correspondent reported.
 8:25 The US military has sent a task force to Jordan to help it handle an influx of Syrian refugees and prepare for scenarios including loose chemical weapons, The New York Times reported Wednesday.

REUTERS: In shifting Syria conflict, Assad assumes command of forces

The picture is deceptively normal. Posted on the Facebook page of President Bashar al-Assad of Syria, it shows the first lady Asma, dressed in jeans and a t-shirt, accompanying her daughter and three sons on their first day back at school.

Two of the boys wear camouflage shorts with khaki t-shirts and caps, in keeping with the spirit of a ruler under siege. Yet when she dropped off Hafez, the eldest, named after his strongman grandfather, only one other child had arrived in class because of rebel attacks in Damascus that morning.

More than 18 months into the battle for Syria, an estimated 30,000 people are dead and the country is disintegrating.

The rebels are outgunned by the government but can still strike at will, and Assad has assumed personal command of his forces, still convinced he can prevail militarily.

U.N. mediation efforts headed by Algerian diplomat Lakhdar Brahimi are adrift and there is no indication Western pressure on Assad will translate into real military support for Syria’s rebel forces. Russia and Iran continue to back Damascus.

Supporters of Assad say the government has steadied its nerve after a wave of defections and rebel attacks on strategic government targets since the summer.

A Facebook picture of Assad dressed in military uniform sums up his transformation since a bomb attack in July killed his inner circle security leadership, including his brother-in-law and defense minister.

Recent visitors say the 47-year-old president has taken over day-to-day leadership. They speak of a self-confident, combative president convinced he will ultimately win the conflict through military means.

“He is no longer a president who depends on his team and directs through his aides. This is a fundamental change in Assad’s thinking,” said a pro-Syrian Lebanese politician with close ties to Assad. “Now he is involved in directing the battle.”

The endgame may have changed too. “Nobody is now talking about the control of the regime over all of Syria, they talk about the ability of the regime to continue.”

Until recently, the Lebanese politician said, people asked daily who would defect next. But for some time now there had been no significant military defections.

“The fighting nerve is steady. The Iranians and the Russians may have helped them. Their ability to manage daily and control the situation has improved.”

The government has decided to focus its effort on essential areas – the capital Damascus, the second largest city of Aleppo, and the main highways and roads.

Other close observers of the conflict say Assad is deluded if he believes he can prevail.

“The problem is the regime lives in its own world. It is clear the people are rejecting this idea – the regime’s narrative – that it is a secular regime set upon by extremists, a battle between good and evil and Bashar will one day be vindicated. Bashar is not the victim. He is the cause of the violence,” said a Western diplomat.


The conflict has spiraled into a civil war with almost daily massacres and sectarian killings which some observers say make Assad’s fate almost irrelevant.

“Everybody is kind of hypnotized by the issue of whether Bashar is president or not, whether he is leaving or not,” said one Arab official. “I fear the problem is much bigger than that. The problem is to see how Syria is going to survive, how the new Syria is going to be born.”

The feuding among the opposition and its failure to unite under one command is one factor that has helped Assad to hold on. There is still no serious effort to unify the opposition.

Some rebel groups, made up of moderate liberals and Islamist zealots, have clashed with each other militarily, activists say. Their religious and ideological disagreement is displayed in the open on Islamist web sites with individuals trading insults.

“The opposition has got to grow up and get its act together and stop just reciting this mantra, Bashar must go, Bashar must go,” the Arab official said. “There are other things they can do starting with some unity among them.”

“One has got to gather all sorts of building blocks that are lying around and make of them a viable construction. It is terribly important to see how violence can be stopped. It is creating walls of hatred between neighbors. It is becoming more and more sectarian,” he said.

The rebels have so far failed to sustain gains in the face of superior government firepower. They have lost many bases that they had won in the suburbs of Damascus and elsewhere. Frustrated, they seem to have switched tactics to suicide bombings and hit-and-run attacks.

“Militarily the regime is more relaxed but from a security position the country is falling apart,” said the pro-Syrian politician.”An explosion might happen anywhere, an assassination might happen, the situation is chaotic and out of control.”

Having seen the country of 23 million become an arena in which foreign players are fighting proxy wars, mediators have come to the same conclusion – that the longer the conflict lasts the more Syria will become beyond rescue.

Talk of political reform – as demanded originally by peaceful protesters wanting greater freedom, democracy and an end to vested interests by an Alawite minority ruling a Sunni Muslim majority – have long ceased to be realistic.

Only an orderly transition can save Syria, they say.

“The solution will have to involve regime change not only the change of one man. The problem is how to engineer this momentous change in a country that is complicated and where fighting has further complicated things. This certainly cannot all happen overnight,” the Arab official said.

A Western envoy familiar with Syria said U.N. envoy Brahimi was trying to find a formula.

“By virtue of what has happened, the destruction and the fighting – if you don’t have a transitional government with a strong army, Syria will be lost for a long time,” he said

Hopes for the Brahimi mission are dim given that arms and funds are still flowing to rebel groups, while Assad’s forces are still getting Russian and Iranian support.

“The Russians and the Iranians are even more robust. They support them with funds and political support and technical expertise,” said the Lebanese politician.

Despite a collapse in revenues, a halt in oil sales and tourism income, and a fall in the value of the national currency, the economy has so far avoided meltdown. But this may only be a temporary respite for a government spending heavily on its military campaign. Support from Iran, its own currency collapsing, cannot be relied on indefinitely and the Syrian government’s capacity to withstand economic headwinds is diminishing.

“The following five or six months will be essential in the battle and not like the past four or five months that have passed. The Americans would have completed their election, the Russians will have evolved their position and the situation in Iran will have crystallized,” the Lebanese politician said.

“Until now, the Arabs have not changed their position, the Americans don’t want to be decisive and the Russians haven’t seen one factor that makes them back track one iota from their position. For the Russians, the matter is bigger than a naval base in Tartous, they can secure it through negotiations, it is about their role in the region.”


For the average Syrian citizen, the primary preoccupation remains violence, insecurity and chaos.

In Damascus, shops open during the day but life grinds to a halt by late afternoon, residents say. The government and army have set up roadblocks. They carry out searches of neighborhoods, they storm houses and arrest activists.

There is a sense of despair among residents. Kidnapping on sectarian grounds and also for ransom is rife. In rebel-controlled areas devastated by government firepower, resentment simmers among people who believe the rebels have brought havoc.

Most analysts predict a long battle. The stakes are high for Assad and his two million Alawite community – an offshoot of Shi’ite Islam linked religiously and politically to Iran and Lebanon’s Hezbollah. Bashar cannot leave easily.

There are people tied to him, there are people who fought a battle with him, he cannot abandon them and wash his hands of them,” the pro-Syrian politician said.

Observers say, Russia is unlikely to give up its ties to Syria and get out of the Mediterranean.

And Iran looks unlikely to abandon its strategic ally.

“It is not easy for the nerve centre, the leadership in Iran to abandon or leave Syria because when we say Iran is giving up Syria it means it is getting out of the regional power play which means it will lose a lot of its external influence,” said the Lebanese politician.

Yet officials from countries aligned against Assad remain hopeful that there will be a trigger to bring him down.

Until then, regional and Western powers are working on measures that need to be in place for a time when Assad is gone to avoid a post-Saddam-style, anarchic power vacuum.

“There will be some event which causes the regime to fall. The fall of Damascus, a regime coup, or something else. I can’t predict what the trigger will be but the regime will fall,” said the Western diplomat.

(Additional reporting by Laila Bassam; Dominic Evans and Mariam Karouny; Editing by Angus MacSwan and Janet McBride)

British police arrest two in Syria “terrorism” investigation

LONDON – British police have arrested a man and a woman at London’s Heathrow airport as part of an investigation into travel to Syria in support of “alleged terrorist activity”, police said in a statement on Wednesday…

US military in Jordan, has eyes on Syria chemical weapons:

A team of U.S. military planners is in Jordan to help the Amman government grapple with Syrian refugees, bolster its military capabilities and prepare for any trouble with Syria’s chemical weapons stockpiles, U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said on Wednesday.

The team, led by special operations forces and comprising about 150 troops, mainly from the U.S. Army, is constructing a headquarters building in Amman from which to work with Jordanian forces on joint operational planning and intelligence sharing, a senior defense official said.

The official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the team had been in Jordan for several months and was there when Panetta visited King Abdullah in early August. The number of troops in the team has since grown, but there are no specific plans to expand it further, the official said.

“We have been working with Jordan for a period of time now … on a number of the issues that have developed as a result of what’s happened in Syria,” Panetta told a news conference in Brussels.

Panetta said those issues included monitoring chemical weapons sites “to determine how best to respond to any concerns in that area.”

A second U.S. official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the small team of planners was not engaged in covert operations and had been housed at the King Abdullah II Special Operations Training Center, north of the capital, Amman, since the early summer.

While the United States has not intervened militarily in Syria, President Barack Obama has warned Syrian President Bashar al-Assad that any attempt to deploy or use chemical or biological weapons would cross a “red line” that could provoke U.S. action.

Late last month, Panetta said Syria had moved some of its chemical weapons stocks to better secure them, but stressed that the country’s main chemical weapons sites remained intact and secure under government control.

The U.S. military planners in Jordan are not focused solely on chemical weapons.

“We’ve also been working with them to develop their own military operational capabilities in the event of any contingency there,” Panetta said.

“And that’s the reason we have … a group of our forces there,” he added.

A public website detailing the training center in Jordan can been seen here

About 294,000 refugees fleeing 18 months of conflict in Syria have already crossed into Jordan, Iraq, Lebanon and Turkey, or await registration there, the U.N. refugee agency estimated late last month. Up to 700,000 Syrian refugees may flee abroad by the end of the year, it estimated.

(Additional reporting by Phil Stewart in Washington; Editing by Warren Strobel and Peter Cooney)

A river out of Syria: Scores of Syrian civilians, many of them women with screaming children, are crossing Orontes, a narrow river marking the border with Turkey, to flee the fighting in Azmarin and surrounding villages. Residents on the other side of the river, from the Turkish village of Hacipasa, help pull them across in small metal boats. 15 PHOTOS

Syrian passenger plane at Esenboga airport in AnkaraGuardian: Syrian passenger plane flying from Moscow forced to land in Ankara

10 Oct 2012: Turkey says it has intelligence that plane was carrying ‘non-civilian’ cargo to Syria …

Prince Bandar bin Sultan – profileSaudi Arabian intelligence chief has been coordinating policies towards Syrian uprising.

Prince Bandar bin Sultan has been coordinating Saudi Arabia‘s policies towards the Syrian uprising since being appointed intelligence chief by King Abdullah in July. Bandar’s reputation as an inveterate networker and hawk have fuelled anticipation about how he will handle the bloodiest crisis of the Arab spring.

In 1983 Bandar, the king’s nephew, became Saudi ambassador to Washington, where he spent 22 years. He was close to presidents Reagan and both Bushes – and was even known as “Bandar Bush”. He negotiated huge arms deals for the Kingdom – including the infamous £43bn al-Yamamah agreement with the UK. The Guardian reported allegations that he had received £1bn in secret payments from BAE.

Part of the mystery surrounding him involved his role in backing the Mujahideen who fought the Soviet Union in Afghanistan with CIA support in the 1980s. He is famously hostile to Iran, the Saudi kingdom’s great rival, and is said to advocate links with Israel, seeing it as a lesser threat than the Islamic republic.

The normally flamboyant Bandar – he has a penchant for cigars and flies in a private Airbus – had kept a low profile since returning to Riyadh in 2005 and becoming head of the national security council. But he was often photographed with senior US officials, most recently during a visit by the CIA director, General David Petraeus.

Bandar took over the Syria “file” from the king’s son Abdelaziz, a deputy foreign minister. The move also followed rumours of inefficiency at the intelligence agency. Bandar organized the visit of Manaf Tlass, the Sunni general and Assad associate who defected from Syria in July. Shortly after his appointment it was rumoured – evidently falsely – that he had been killed in an explosion in Riyadh. Iranian and pro-Assad media suggested it was retaliation for the assassination of four of Assad’s senior security chiefs in a bomb attack in Damascus a few days earlier.

Veteran Saudi-watchers say that decision-making in Riyadh, where government is highly personalised and the senior royals ageing, is currently in poor shape. The king is 88 and frail, Crown Prince Salman, 76, abroad and the foreign minister, Prince Saud al-Faisal, 72, convalescing.

In a rare public glimpse of his movements, Bandar was reported to be in the Qatari capital Doha on Wednesday, holding talks with the Emir, Sheikh Hamad. It would be surprising if the Syrian crisis was not on their agenda. “We need to wait and see what Bandar will do with the Syria file,” said one Saudi source. “People will be watching carefully.”

Arms supplies to Syrian rebels dry up amid rivalries and divisions 

In Aleppo there is still no sign of the heavy weapons for which the rebels have pleaded and ammunition is running low.

In the battle for northern Syria the most important front is far from Aleppo. It is across the border in the southern Turkish town of Antakya. Here rebels, who now move around with increasing ease, are engaged in daily bids for patronage with those who keep the insurgency running.

Over the past year, and especially since May, when weapons started to arrive, Bashar al-Assad‘s enemies have met their benefactors in Antakya’s backstreets, coffee shops and hotel lobbies and made a case as to why they should receive help.

The rivalries of Arab and Gulf politics, divisions between the west and Russia, fear of Syria’s bloody crisis spreading beyond the country’s borders to drag in Iran or Lebanon all make supplying arms to the rebels a sensitive and murky issue.

Now, it seems, the supply is drying up. On Aleppo’s frontlines, there is still no sign of the heavy weapons for which the rebels have pleaded. Ammunition is running low. “They are giving us enough to keep this fight going, but not enough to win it,” complained Abu Furat, a commander. “I’m sure that’s not going to change until after the American elections. I’m not sure everyone can survive until then.”

The men with the money and influence in Antakya are envoys sent by the Sunni world’s political elite or business leaders. One name comes up more than any other – a Lebanese MP named Okab Sakr.

“Every time Okab is in town the weapons start to move across the border,” said a rebel colonel from the Jebel al-Zawiya region, who calls himself Abu Wael. “The problem is he is very particular about where those weapons go.”

Sakr is a member of the Future movement of the Lebanese opposition leader, Saad Hariri. According to colleagues in Beirut he has been given the role of gun runner-in-chief. Sakr has become a polarising figure among Syria’s fragmented opposition; those he supplies see him as a saviour; those who miss out hold him responsible for the faltering rebel cause.

Dissatisfaction with Sakr’s role goes further. The US, always jittery about backing the uprising, is opposed to calls by Saudi Arabia and Qatar to supply rebel groups with equipment needed to combat aircraft and tanks – an issue raised by Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney on Monday. Jordan and Turkey appear to share Washington’s concerns.Confirmation on Wednesday that the US had sent a military mission to Jordan to help build a headquarters on the border with Syria and to improve Jordan’s military capabilities underlines worries about possible spillover.

“It’s about indirect intervention,” said Mustafa Alani of the Saudi-financed Gulf Research Centre in Abu Dhabi. “The money is there, arms can be supplied. But the Jordanians and the Turks are hesitant. Turkey is allowing some weapons in but there are a lot of restrictions. People are waiting for a shift after the US election.”

Another growing problem is a lack of co-ordination between Qatar and the Saudis – the likely subject of Wednesday’s talks in Doha between the Emir and the Saudi intelligence chief, Prince Bandar. King Abdullah is said to be growing impatient with the difficulties of the Syrian crisis. According to Syrian opposition activists, the Saudis now sponsor only rebel groups which are at odds with those backed by Qatar and Turkey, which are often linked to the Muslim Brotherhood.

“The Qataris are much more proactive than the Saudis,” said one well-placed Arab source. “The Saudis are not interested in democracy, they just want to be rid of Bashar. They would be happy with a Yemeni solution that gets rid of the president and leaves the regime intact.”

Intelligence chiefs from Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and France reportedly met in Turkey in early September along with the CIA director general, David Petraeus. But they apparently failed to reach agreement on a co-ordinated strategy.

US officials say the opaque nature of the opposition and the creeping presence of foreign jihadis are behind their pressure on Riyadh and Doha. “They have both been given a yellow light by the Americans,” said a Lebanese minister aligned to the Future movement. “The Saudis see yellow as yellow, but the Qataris have seen it as green. Their connections with and supply to the opposition have continued, perhaps escalated. The Americans are especially against handing out anti-aircraft missiles. They will not accept these things falling into the hands of jihadis. Imagine having to do a Stinger buy-back programme like Afghanistan all over again.”

Now the Saudis are signalling that they are reaching the limits of what they will do in the face of US objections, concern about the resilience of the Assad regime, fears that extremists will dominate the opposition – as well as the risks of “blowback” from jihadis returning home.

The initial armed support for the rebels resulted in two substantial shipments of automatic weapons, ammunition and rocket-propelled grenades, delivered in May and June from Turkey. Since then, large-scale gun-running has dried up.

“The Saudis were the most enthusiastic by far about getting weapons to the rebels,” said a former Lebanese MP. “They were public about it and committed. That was until July.” By the middle of that month, foreign jihadis started trickling into Syria looking to join the fray.

The rebel military council, a group of defected senior officers, is opposed to the foreigners and wary of Syria’s own Islamist groups, who have been organising and arming in the rural areas between Aleppo and Idlib.

Riyadh worries too about its home front, where the Syrian issue is kept alive by the likes of Sheikh Adnan Arour, a rabidly sectarian Salafi televangelist. Official media continue to bombard the public with images of atrocities carried out by Alawites – Assad’s ruling sect. But non-establishment clerics who wanted to launch a fundraising drive to aid Syria were ordered to hold off. An official campaign raised more than $100m in a few days.

“The Saudis fear that there will be blowback from Syria like there was from Iraq and Afghanistan,” said Alani. “They don’t want chaos. They want the Syrian military to take over. The whole region wants that, including the Israelis. Everyone wants an organised structure of army officers who will keep weapons under control and make sure that they are handed in.”

Now the Saudis are pushing the armed Syrian opposition to form a “salvation front” with unified command and control on the ground and, crucially, an ability to collect weapons once fighting has ended – a lesson learned the hard way from Libya. The Saudis are backing brigadier-general Manaf Tlass, the most senior defector yet from the military – from a key Sunni family – as part of a drive to win over other figures from the Syrian army and security establishment. “It’s no good calling for them to be held accountable for crimes,” warned Alani. “They need to be told they will get support.” Next week the Qataris are hosting a conference to try to unite a host of squabbling opposition groups.

But there is little optimism about prospects for any immediate improvement. “It’s all a bit of a mess,” said analyst Shadi Hamid of the Brookings Institution in Doha. “Everyone is waiting for someone else to do a better job. It can’t be the Saudis or the Qataris or the Turks. It’s got to be the Americans. If we are looking at Gulf support it’s certainly been a big story, but that’s not the reality. There’s a big gap between what people think the Gulf countries have been doing and what they are actually doing. Not that many weapons have been delivered.”

BBC: Turkey intercepts Syrian plane

Turkish fighter jets force a Syrian passenger plane, suspected of carrying weapons, to land at Ankara airport amid tensions between the neighbours.