Wednesday 17 October 2012

Syrian Observatory for Human Rights: Preliminary death toll for Wednsday 17/10/2012: Around 90 Syrians have been killed today, so far. The dead include: 35 Unarmed civilians, 13 rebel fighters, 1 defected soldier, a local official, and not less than 36 regime forces. 35 Unarmed civilians:

-In Reef Dimashq Province 13 civilians were killed. An infant, a man, and an unidentified civilian were killed during clashes and regime forces’ bombardment on the Duma city. 3 men were killed by gunfire and bombardment, when regime forces stormed the town of al-Shayfuniya. 4 were shot in the Bilaliya town. A child was killed by bombardment on the Hazrama and Bait Sahm towns. 2 unidentified bodies were found in the Ma’adamiya town.

-In Homs Province 4 civilians were killed. A woman and a child were killed by bombardment on the Khaldiya village. A child was killed by bombardment on the Teir Ma’ala village of Reef Homs. A man died of wounds he received during bombardment on the Hola town, yesterday.

-In Aleppo Province 4 civilians were killed. 3 civilians were killed in the city of Aleppo, 1 died of wounds he received by bombardment on Suq al-Hal ( al-Hal market), 10 days ago, 1, from the Hamidiya neighbourhood, was found dead after he’s been disappeared for several days, and 1 was shot by sniper in the Bustan al-Zahra neighbourhood. In Reef Aleppo, a woman was killed by bombardment on the Tadef town.

-In Idlib Province 10 civilians were killed. 7, including 4 women, were killed by bombardment on the Kafarnabel town. 1 was killed by bombardment on the Bdama village. A child died, due to injuries he received by the al-Wees military checkpoint’s sniper fire, near the Saraqeb city, 2 days ago. A man, from the Ma’arat Msreen town, was shot by a military checkpoint in Reef Idlib.

-In Dera’a Province 1 civilian was shot by sniper in the Dera’a al-Balad neighbourhood of Dera’a city.

-In Hama Province 1 civilian was shot by sniper in the Bayad neighbourhood of Hama city.

-In al-Raqa Province a man and his son were killed by bombardment, targeting their house in the Tabaqa city of Reef al-Raqa.

13 Rebel fighters:

-In Reef Dimashq Province 3 fighters were killed. 2 were killed during clashes and regime forces’ bombardment on the Duma city. 1 was killed by bombardment on the Hazrama and Bait Shahm towns.

-In Homs Province 4 rebel fighters were killed during clashes with regime forces in the Qseir city.

-In Aleppo Province a rebel commander was killed during clashes with regime forces in the perimeters of the Kweires military airport of Reef Aleppo.

-In Idlib Province 3 rebel fighters were killed during clashes with regime forces in Reef Ma’arat al-N’uman.

-In Dera’a Province 1 rebel fighter was killed during clashes with regime forces in the Ma’raba town of Reef Dera’a.

-In Latakia Province a rebel commander died of wounds he received by shrapnel, during bombardment on the Shughur village of Reef Latakia.


-A defected soldier was killed during clashes with regime forces in Reef Dimashq.

-News were received about the discovery of at least 6 civilian corpses, including children, whom were shot by regime forces in the villages of al-Ghuta al-Sharqiya, according to activists from the area.

-A local official was assassinated in Damasxus, who died today, effected by his injuries of when he was shot yesterday night in front of his house in Damascus.


-Not less than 36 regime forces were killed when heavy machinery were targeted and helicopters were brought down, and due to clashes in several Syrian Provinces: 12 Idlib, 7 Aleppo, 6 Reef Dimashq, 3 al-Raqa, 5 Homs, and 3 in al-Qneitra.

NOW! Lebanon
[local time]  21:29 Saudi Arabia will grant visas to Syrians wishing to perform the hajj pilgrimage to Mecca, set to begin next week, the Saudi ambassador to Lebanon said on Wednesday.
 21:17 An explosion rocked the Damascus area of Qudsiyah, killing a number of Republic Guard troops, activists said.
 21:12 Bulgaria’s government announced on Wednesday it planned to build a temporary shelter on the border with Turkey to cater to Syrian refugees fleeing unrest at home and transiting Turkey.
 20:49 Turkish artillery struck back at Syria on Thursday after a Syrian mortar bomb landed on Turkish territory, local sources quoted by news agency Anatolia said.
 20:09 Fresh EU sanctions against President Bashar al-Assad’s regime are “a new link in a chain of actions that lend political, economic and media support… to armed terrorist groups,” a Syrian Foreign Ministry official said Wednesday.
 19:08 A mortar bomb fired from Syria landed Wednesday in southeastern Turkey but caused no casualties, Turkish NTV reported, citing local officials.
 18:47 Syrian regime forces have killed 106 people on Wednesday so far, including 30 in Damascus, Al-Arabiya quoted activists as saying.
 18:27 Syrian regime forces have been heavily shelling the Aleppo area of Bnai Zeid amid massive migration, activists reported.
 17:56 The security forces’ shelling of Aleppo with explosive barrels killed 12 people, activists reported.
 17:17 Pope Benedict XVI has engaged the Catholic Church in pushing for peace in Syria by dispatching a high-profile delegation to a country where Christians are divided on support for the rebels.
 16:54 They embrace differing philosophies and boast varying strengths but the five armed groups occupying Syria’s Atme village near the Turkish border are united in one common goal: overthrow of the regime.
 16:53 A British trainee doctor appeared in a London court on Wednesday charged with kidnapping two Western journalists in Syria.
 16:50 Arab League chief Nabil al-Arabi on Wednesday called on the Syrian government and its armed opposition to agree on a truce for the Muslim Eid al-Adha holiday that starts on October 26.
 16:47 There are near daily clashes in Syria close to the Lebanese border between rebels and fighters loyal to the Lebanese Shiite movement Hezbollah, an ally of the Syrian regime, local people report.
 16:28 The death toll in Syria reached 70 people on Wednesday, activists reported.
 16:18 A YouTube video uploaded on Wednesday shows a Syrian regime warplane exploding after it was reportedly shot down by rebels in the Idlib town of Deir al-Gharbi.
 16:00 Syrian regime forces targeted Souq al-Ithnayn in Edleb’s Kfarsajna with air raids, activists said.
 15:26 Fierce clashes broke out between regime forces and the rebel Free Syrian Army in Karam al-Jabal in Aleppo, activists said.
 15:05 Wednesday’s death toll in Syria reached 29 people, mostly killed in the Damascus district, activists said.
 14:42 Syrian Minister of National Reconciliation Ali Haidar said on Wednesday that he was prepared to cooperate with the Syrian opposition in the context of a political solution to the Syrian crisis.
 14:33 Syria’s 19-month conflict could set the entire region ablaze, international peace envoy Lakhdar Brahimi told reporters in Lebanon on Wednesday.
 14:24 The Syrian authorities have tightened security measures around government buildings in Damascus for fear of new rebel attacks, a pro-government daily reported on Wednesday.
 13:23 Rebels downed a helicopter in a key area of northwest Syria, AFP reported activists as saying Wednesday.
 13:13 Syrian forces stormed the town of Mashra and destroyed dozens of houses, Al-Jazeera reported.
 13:08 The Free Syrian Army attacked the Syrian regime artillery headquarters in Aleppo,  Al-Jazeera reported.
 12:39 Syrian warplanes Wednesday blitzed rebel targets around the strategic northern town of Maaret al-Numan while ground forces shelled opposition belts outside the capital Damascus, a watchdog said.
 10:05 Syrian forces killed eight people on Wednesday, Al-Jazeera quoted activists as saying.
 10:01 The Syrian army shelled Qusayr and Homs’ neighborhoods, Al-Jazeera quoted activists as saying.
 9:00 MORNING LEADER: Syria has said it is prepared to explore a truce proposal by international peace envoy Lakhdar Brahimi, even as it unleashed multiple air strikes on rebel positions on a key highway. In reply, the exiled opposition said it would welcome any ceasefire but that the ball was in the government’s court to halt its daily bombardments.

Reuters: Syria envoy says bloodshed could engulf Middle East

BEIRUT – The international mediator on Syria said on Wednesday its civil war risks spilling across borders to engulf the Middle East and appealed for a temporary truce he said could mark a small step towards defusing 19 months of conflict.Video

The international mediator on Syria said on Wednesday its civil war risks spilling across borders to engulf the Middle East and appealed for a temporary truce he said could mark a small step towards defusing 19 months of conflict.

Lakhdar Brahimi, the U.N.-Arab League envoy, has proposed that both President Bashar al-Assad’s forces and rebel fighters seeking his overthrow hold fire during the Islamic feast holiday of Eid al-Adha that starts next week.

Syrian authorities, who blame rebels for the failure of an April ceasefire plan, guardedly welcomed Brahimi’s proposal but said any initiative must be respected by both sides. Turkey, one of Assad’s harshest critics, andIran, one of his strongest allies, both backed the plan, in rare agreement.

Thirty thousand people have been killed in the uprising, which began with peaceful demonstrations and now pits mainly Sunni Muslim rebels against an Alawite president. There are fears of broader Middle East sectarian conflict between Sunni powers sympathetic to the rebels and Shi’ites who back Assad.

“This crisis cannot remain within Syrian borders indefinitely. Either it will be addressed or it will increase … and be all-consuming,” Brahimi told reporters in Beirut after talks with Lebanese leaders.

The British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said at least 90 people had been killed in Syria by late afternoon on Wednesday, after 150 people died the day before.

The death toll has topped 1,000 a week for at least two months as divided world powers have condemned the bloodshed in what has become a largely stalemated conflict, but failed to agree on a political solution.

On Sunday, Brahimi appealed to leaders in Iran – Assad’s strongest regional ally – to support a proposal for a ceasefire to mark Eid al-Adha, expected to begin at dusk on October 25.

“For us, there isn’t any sacrifice too great if the blood stops flowing in Syria even for a day, an hour,” Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu told a news conference in Ankara, saying he had discussed the plan with his Iranian counterpart.

“The Arab League, Turkey and Iran have declared their support for this proposal,” he said, adding he expected those who backed the plan to make a statement on Friday.

Iran’s state news agency quoted President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad as saying Iran backed the temporary ceasefire plan and believed free elections were the right way forward.

Syrian officials have questioned whether the disparate rebels, who agreed on a joint leadership on Tuesday [ID:nL5E8LGRQ5] to encourage supporters to provide them more powerful weapons, could commit to or honor any ceasefire deal.

But Brahimi said opposition figures had told him any ceasefire by Assad’s forces would be reciprocated immediately.

“We heard from everyone we met in the opposition, and everyone (else) we met that, if the government stops using violence, ‘We will respond to this directly’,” he said.

“We hope this will be a very small step that would save the Syrian people … because they are burying hundreds of people every day.”


Anti-Assad activists posted videos on Wednesday of what they said was a Syrian military helicopter spiraling to the ground and exploding in flames.

Rami Abdelrahman, head of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, said that the helicopter had been downed near Maarat al-Numan. “Some rebels say they used anti-aircraft missiles,” he told Reuters by telephone from Britain.

Amateur footage of rebels using shoulder-mounted surface-to-air missiles have emerged in the past few days, and France’s Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said that heavy weapons acquired by the insurgents have forced Assad’s air force to bomb rebel-held areas from high altitude.

“In a certain number of these zones, Bashar al-Assad is bombarding them with MiG fighter jets, and what is particularly horrible is that he is bombarding them with TNT,” Fabius said.

“But at the same time there are now weapons that are forcing the planes to fly extremely high, and so the strikes are less accurate,” he said before meeting civilian members of rebel councils that run areas outside government control.

France began channeling money and humanitarian aid to rebel-held parts of Syria in August to support self-rule and try to create an alternative to the Damascus government.

However, the French plan falls well short of the foreign-protected safe havens the opposition says it needs and offers little hope of relief to civilians fleeing the chaos.

Russia, which sold Syria arms worth $1 billion last year, and China have vetoed three resolutions favored by Western powers condemning Syrian authorities and opening the way to U.N. sanctions on Damascus.

Fabius said Moscow’s stance would only cement chaos in Syria, adding that he had told Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov that: “If you continue to oppose a change of regime, then the extremists risk taking control.”

Russia denies trying to prop up Assad, who allows Russia to maintain a naval supply facility in the port of Tartus that is its only military base outside the former Soviet Union.

But Moscow says Syria’s crisis must be resolved without foreign interference, particularly military intervention.

Turkey, which has led calls for international intervention, has bolstered its military presence along its 900-km (560-mile) border with Syria in recent weeks and has been responding in kind to gunfire and mortar shells flying over the border.

It has warned of a more robust response if the spillover continues and its armed forces fired back on Wednesday after a shell landed 3 m (yards) inside its territory in the Hatay border province, the local governor’s office said.

Syrian Foreign Ministry spokesman Jihad Makdissi said Damascus hoped Brahimi’s talks in the region, including with countries which back the rebels, could herald “something which leads to the success of a constructive initiative”.

Makdissi said Syria had previously committed to Arab and U.N. initiatives but that they had been thwarted by “armed groups and the countries that influence them”.

(Additional reporting by Ayat Basma and Oliver Holmes in Beirut, Nicolas Vinocur in Paris, Seltem Iyigun and Nick Tattersall in Istanbul, Marcus George in Dubai; Editing by Michael Roddy)

Rebels forcing Syrian jets to bomb from high altitude: FrancePARIS – Syrian rebels have acquired heavy weapons that have forced the government’s air force to bomb rebel-held zones indiscriminately from high altitude, France’s foreign minister said before meeting rebel groups on Wednesday…

BBC: Syrian opponents consider truce

The Syrian government and opposition indicate that they are willing to consider a ceasefire for Eid al-Adha proposed by the UN envoy, Lakhdar Brahimi.

Spokesman Jihad al-Makdisi told the BBC that the government would listen to any initiative to end the crisis, but that both sides would need to be involved.

The opposition meanwhile said they would match any government ceasefire.

Dramatic video, said to have been shot in Syria, has emerged of a helicopter exploding in mid-air.

The authenticity of the footage could not be independently confirmed.

Syrian rebels told al-Jazeera TV that they had downed a Syrian army helicopter in the north-western province of Idlib.

Meanwhile, Turkey’s armed forces returned fire across the border into Syria after a Syrian mortar shell landed just inside Turkey’s Hatay province earlier on Wednesday.

No-one was hurt by the Syrian shell, said Turkish officials of the latest in a spate of cross-border incidents that have heightened tensions between the neighbours and prompted each to ban the other’s planes from their airspace.

‘Microscopic step’

Mr Brahimi wants a truce over the Islamic holiday of Eid al-Adha, which starts on 25 October, to “allow a political process to develop”.

In an interview with the BBC on Tuesday evening, Mr Makdisi said the government in Damascus would listen to any initiative Mr Brahimi might have to “stabilise the situation in Syria and end the crisis, whether on the occasion of Eid al-Adha, independence day or any other anniversary”.

“If we want the initiative to succeed, it is not enough for only the Syrian [government] side to be bound by it,” he said.

“But at the same time, I would say that calming down the situation is in the interest of the Syrian government because we support a political solution and dialogue under this umbrella without preconditions.

“The purpose of [a ceasefire] is not calm itself but transition to a political dialogue between Syrians themselves.”

After holding talks with Lebanese Prime Minster Najib Mikati in Beirut on Wednesday morning, Mr Brahimi called on Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to take the lead in implementing the ceasefire.

He revealed that the Syrian opposition had told him that any ceasefire observed by government forces would be reciprocated.

Lakhdar Brahimi in Beirut (17 October 2012)Lakhdar Brahimi has appealed to Syria’s neighbours to help him negotiate a ceasefire

“We heard from everyone we met in the opposition, and everyone [else] we met that, if the government stops using violence, ‘We will respond to this directly’,” he said.

“The Syrian people are burying hundreds of people each day, so if they bury fewer people during the days of the holiday, this could be the start of Syria’s return from the dangerous situation that it has slipped and is continuing to slip toward.”

Mr Brahimi also warned neighbouring countries and regional powers who have been supporting the Syrian rebels: “It is not possible that this crisis will stay inside Syrian borders forever.

“Either it has to be taken care of or it will spread and spill over and consume everything. A truce for Eid al-Adha would be a microscopic step on the road to solving the Syria crisis.”

A ceasefire negotiated by his predecessor, Kofi Annan, in April broke down within days and was followed by an escalation in the conflict.

Human rights and opposition activists say more than 30,000 people have been killed since anti-government protests erupted in March 2011.

UN warns of jihadists in SyriaA UN commission on human rights abuses in Syria warns of the increasing risk of foreign Islamist militants radicalising an already volatile conflict.

A UN commission on human rights abuses in Syria has warned of the increasing risk of foreign Islamist militants radicalising the conflict.

Lead investigator Paulo Sergio Pinheiro said the presence of hundreds of “radical Islamists or jihadists” was particularly dangerous.

There have been increasing reports of foreign fighters entering Syria.

A man is due in court in London on Wednesday accused of kidnapping a British photographer in Syria in July.

Shajul Islam, 26, faces charges of imprisoning John Cantlie and Dutch journalist Jeroen Oerlemans against their will for nine days.

He was detained after arriving at Heathrow Airport last week on a flight from Egypt.

Truce bid

Presenting the UN commission’s first report for a month, Mr Pinheiro pointed to “a dramatic rise in sectarian tensions” and singled out the role of foreign militants.

He said that while they were not a powerful army invading Syria “they are not combating for democracy and freedoms but they are combating for their own agendas”.

Damaged buildings in Marat al-NumanSyrian forces have continued to attack rebel-held positions in Idlib and Aleppo provinces

Syria has for some time blamed much of the violence on foreign-backed “terrorist groups” and UN envoy Lakhdar Brahimi said last month that Damascus estimated that the number of foreign fighters in the country was into the thousands.

Mr Brahimi has been visiting a series of Middle Eastern capitals, putting forward a proposal for a ceasefire to mark the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Adha, which starts at the end of the month.

Syria’s foreign ministry has shown some interest in the plan but has said it requires the commitment of all sides if it is to succeed.

Exiled opposition leader Abdel Basset Sayda told AFP news agency that rebel fighters would halt hostilities when government forces did so.

Meanwhile, Pope Benedict XVI is to send a delegation to Damascus in the next few days, to show solidarity with the Syrian people.

Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone said church leaders could not be “simple spectators to the tragedy taking place in Syria”. Expected to take part in the delegation is New York Cardinal Timothy Dolan.

The bloodshed continued in several areas of Syria on Tuesday, reports say.

Unverified footage posted by anti-government activists indicated that warplanes had attacked rebel-held areas in Aleppo and Idlib provinces.

The UK-based activist group, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which says its reports are impartial, says government jets carried out the most intense raids on the Marat al-Numan area since rebels took it over a few days ago.

The city is a key point on the road from Aleppo to the south.

UK charges man over Syria kidnapping

A 26-year-old man charged with the kidnap of a British photographer in Syria has been remanded in custody after appearing in court.

Shajul Islam is accused of imprisoning John Cantlie and Dutch journalist Jeroen Oerlemans against their will.

He was arrested at Heathrow airport on 9 October and appeared at Westminster Magistrates’ Court on Wednesday.

Mr Cantlie, who had worked for the Sunday Times, was taken hostage by Islamist militants in Syria in July.

Earlier, a 26-year-old woman who had been arrested at Heathrow alongside Mr Islam on suspicion of terrorism was released without charge.

Speaking at the time of their arrest, Scotland Yard said the pair had flown to the UK from Egypt and confirmed both were British.

Two addresses in east London were searched under the Terrorism Act in connection with police inquiries, the Met added.

Wednesday’s court hearing was told by prosecutor Piers Arnold that Mr Islam – a trainee doctor who studied at St Bart’s and University London Hospital – had joined a jihadist group in Syria and worked as a medic for them.

There could be 15 British nationals in the jihad camp in Syria, he said.

The court also heard that the accused had been arrested on a flight back from Egypt with his wife and one-year-old daughter.

Mr Islam was remanded in custody. The next hearing will take place on 2 November at the Old Bailey.

Guardian: Syrian army helicopter ‘shot down by rebels’ – video | Video obtained from social media purports to show a Syrian army helicopter being shot down in the Syrian province of Idlib. The helicopter 

Syrian rebels may have acquired surface-to-air missiles – Telegraph:  Newly released video footage shows a Syrian military helicopter exploding, apparently after being struck by hostile fire