Wednesday 30 May 2012

Syrian Observatory for Human Rights: The current number of civilian martyrs in Syria today (Wednesday 30/5/2012), documented by the SOHR with name and reason of death, has risen to 45.

-In Homs 10 killed. 3 civilians have been killed in the city of Homs so far, including a rebel fighter. In Reef Homs, 4 people were killed in the city of al-Qaseer, where the regime has been bombing several neighbourhoods; the surrounding villages arewitnessing clashes. Adnan Darweesh, a non-military rebel fighter with the Ali bin Abi Talib brigade, was killed after midnight when a rocket targeted his car near the cement factory in Rastan by syrian troops. A man was killed in Houla by the Syrian army’s bombardment of the area.

-In Hama province a non-military rebel fighter died during clashes in Kafarzeita, Reef Hama.

– In Dera’a 10 people were killed. 6 civilians killed in an ambush set out for them on the Teeba Mata’iya road. 3 people from Inkhil were killed and there was a martyr from the town of Nawa, the reasons of their death is still unknown.

-10 martyred in Reef Dimashq. A young man was shot and killed after midnight by security services in Dareyya, 5 killed in Douma, the cause of death still remains unclear. 4 people were shot and killed in the town of Thiyaba by regime forces during a funeral procession.

-In Aleppo 11 martyrs. A child was martyred in al-Jeena, Reef Aleppo, by wounds she suffered days ago during the bombing of Atarib. One person was killed in A’azaz by a sniper. 5 people from the same family were murdered by unknown gunmen in northern Reef Idlib, another family member soon died from wounds he suffered during the attack. 3 civilians were killed in Atarib during the Syrian forces’ raid, one of them was summarily executed.

-In Idlib province 2. Bassam al-Khalaf, leader of the Iqtiham brigade, part of the Shuhada’ Jabal az-Zawiya battalion, was killed in battle. A child died of wounds she received this morning in Ma’arat al-Nu’man.

-In Deir Izzor, an 18-year-old was shot dead by unknown gunmen in the city.


A defected soldier and first lieutenant were killed during clashes in Kafarzeita.

A first sergeant in the syrian army was assassinated by unknown gunmen in Deir Izzor. No less than 18 members of the regular forces were killed during clashes and attacks on checkpoints in Reef Hama, Idlib and Dera’a. 4 soldiers were killed when an armed vehicle was targeted in Reef Aleppo.

Four-year-old Kurdish child and father killed by Syrian forces

DAMASCUS, — Kurdish activists said Tuesday that a four-year-old Kurdish child and his father were killed by Syrian forces.

“Syrian forces raided Shebaa town on the outskirts of Damascus on Sunday and started shooting indiscriminately at passers-by in reprisal of a demonstration organized by the people of the town” said one Kurdish activist.

“The indiscriminate shooting resulted in the death of Izzaddin Aziz, a Kurdish young man from the Ras al-Ain city, in addition to his four year old son Mohammed”

Kurdish areas of Syria have been the scene continuous protest against the Syrian regime. However, few clashes between the Kurdish protesters and the Syrian forces have taken place, unlike the rest of the country.

In the capital city, the Kurdish populated neighborhoods joined a general strike, where store and shop owners kept their doors closed, in protest against the Syrian regime for the Hola massacres, Homs province, blamed on the security forces. The Friday massacres resulted in the deaths of over 10 people among dozens of children.

Syrian Uprising 2011 Information Centre: Summary (30/05/2012): At least 39 martyrs fell today, mostly in Damascus suburbs, Daraa and Homs, where Homs city, Rastan, Qusayr and Houla – that’s right, Houla – are under heavy shelling. The Russians continue to stick like glue with ASSad CHILDKILLER and his clown at the UN, Bashar Jaafari, whose increasingly hysterical attempts to defend an indefensible regime at least have a degree of comedy value. Meanwhile, proving that the Syrian diplomatic service is not TOTALLY devoid of dignity, Hazem Chehabi, the Syrian Consul General in California, resigned in protest at the Houla massacre. See the map for more info. Google map

 11-year-old Houla Massacre Survivor?11-year-old Ali Alsayed witnessed and survived the Houla Massacre on May 25, 2012. He watched the army enter his house, arrest his brother and uncle, and kill his mother and siblings. The security forces thought he was dead as he laid among his dead family members. After they left, he fled his house and ran barefoot to his uncle’s house. The next day he discovered while watching Addounia TV (Syrian government channel) that his uncle and brother were killed. His uncle was forced to declare on television that armed gangs killed his children, not the security forces. Ali tells his heartbreaking story, and begs his listeners and the international community for help.

Chief UN observer ‘deeply disturbed’ after more bodies found in Syria: 30 May 2012 –

The head of the United Nations Supervision Mission in Syria (UNSMIS) said today he was “deeply disturbed” after the discovery of 13 more bodies last night, just days after UN observers confirmed the killing of over 100 men, women and children in the village of Houla.UN observers reported that the 13 bodies were discovered in the area of Assukar, 50 kilometres east of the city of Deir Ez-Zor, in eastern Syria. All the bodies had their hands tied behind their backs and some appear to have been shot in the head from a short distance, according to UNSMIS.

Major-General Robert Mood is “deeply disturbed by this appalling and inexcusable act,” said an UNSMIS statement, adding that “he calls on all parties to exercise restraint and end the cycle violence for the sake of Syria and the Syrian people.”

The UN estimates that more than 9,000 people, mostly civilians, have been killed in Syria and tens of thousands displaced since the uprising against President Bashar al-Assad began some 15 months ago.

The massacre in Houla last weekend, which was strongly condemned by the Security Council and a host of UN officials, will be the subject of a special session of the Geneva-based UN Human Rights Council on Friday. This will be the Council’s fourth special session on Syria since the crisis in the Middle Eastern country began some 15 months ago.

Following a briefing by video-conference to the Security Council on the latest developments, the Deputy Joint Special Envoy of the UN and the Arab League for the Syrian Crisis, Jean-Marie Guehenno, today told reporters in Geneva that it is important that Member States and the Human Rights Council discuss the situation in Syria.

“Particularly on the Houla massacre, it’s important that the truth, the facts be established in a way that nobody can challenge,” Mr. Guehenno said. “That is essential.”

He said he told the Council that the parties need to re-commit to a full cessation of violence: “The Government of Syria needs to take steps to convince, I would say, not only the international community but more importantly the Syrian people that it is ready for a new course.”

This needs to be demonstrated through “concrete and significant” gestures on the cessation of violence, as well as on the issue of detainees and humanitarian access, he added.

“Most importantly, all Syrians must convince themselves that guns cannot be the solution,” Mr. Guehenno noted. “Only political negotiations, as envisioned in the six-point plan, can restore genuine peace and stability to the country.”

The six-point plan – put forward by Joint Special Envoy Kofi Annan in March this year – calls for an end to violence, access for humanitarian agencies to provide relief to those in need, the release of detainees, the start of inclusive political dialogue that takes into account the aspirations of the Syrian people, and unrestricted access to the country for the international media.

NOW! Lebanon
[local time]
 21:49 Syrian forces launched a fresh assault on Wednesday on the site of last week’s Houla massacre, forcing villagers to flee heavy shelling in fear of more carnage, a watchdog and the opposition said.
 21:44 Syrian security forces shelled the Aleppo town of Al-Atareb, Al-Jazeera quoted activists as saying on Wednesday.
 21:38 Syrian security forces heavily shelled Homs’ Rastan and Houla and set agricultural lands on fire, Al-Jazeera reported on Wednesday.
 20:31 The US Treasury’s economic sanctions chief said Wednesday that he will travel to Russia soon to discuss putting more pressure on President Bashar al-Assad regime in Syria.
 20:13 Six people were killed following the shelling of the Daraa town of al-Taybeh by Syrian security forces, Al-Arabiya reported on Wednesday.
 19:46 The government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad “only understands violence,” the rebel Free Syrian Army said on Wednesday, adding that it believed the regime was on its last legs.
 19:35 Syrian security forces shelled the town of Houla and demolished five houses, Al-Arabiya reported on Wednesday.
 19:07 The UN Security Council on Wednesday held talks on the Syria crisis as two massacres in five days hardened international calls for action.
 19:05 Fierce fighting erupted on Wednesday between regime troops and rebels near Damascus and in Homs province, a watchdog said, while reporting 39 more people killed across Syria.
 18:21 Syrian newspapers suggested on Wednesday that the Western expulsion of Damascus diplomats could jeopardize Kofi Annan’s peace plan, but also accused the UN-Arab League envoy of being one-sided.
 18:16 Washington slapped sanctions on the Syria International Islamic Bank Wednesday, saying it had helped the Damascus regime skirt sanctions placed on the country’s leading bank.
 18:13 Diplomats will discuss the massacre in the Syrian town of Houla at a special session of the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHCR) on Friday, a spokesperson said.
 16:26 The death toll in Syria increased to 25 people on Wednesday, Al-Arabiya quoted activists as saying.
 15:47 Syrian security forces prevent the funeral of film maker and photography student Bassel Shehade from taking place, Al-Jazeera reported on Wednesday.
 14:47 Germany sees no grounds to speculate on military options in Syria, a Foreign Ministry spokesperson said Wednesday, a day after France’s president said armed force was not ruled out.
 14:30 German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle will host talks with his new French counterpart next Monday centered on the crisis in Syria and the situation in Iran and Afghanistan, a diplomatic source told AFP.
 14:28 Syrian forces on Wednesday killed 17 people, Al-Jazeera television quoted the Local Coordination Committees as saying.
 14:15 Russia’s position on the Syrian crisis is encouraging the regime of President Bashar al-Assad to commit “savage crimes,” the main opposition coalition said on Wednesday.
 14:04 Russia on Wednesday condemned the “counterproductive” expulsion of Syrian envoys from European and other capitals, saying it would damage diplomatic efforts to end the 14-month crisis.
 13:39 UN-Arab League peace envoy Kofi Annan on Wednesday said the situation in Syria is “complex” and urged an intensification of international efforts to end bloodshed that has killed thousands of people.
 13:21 Syria ordered the Dutch charge d’affaires on Wednesday to leave the country, the foreign ministry said, in an apparent reaction to the expulsion of Syrian diplomats by a slew of Western countries.
 13:19 Syrian President Bashar al-Assad must step down if joint UN-Arab League envoy Kofi Annan’s peace plan is to be saved, the head of the main opposition coalition said on Wednesday.
 13:15 The UN observer mission chief in Syria, Major General Robert Mood, said on Wednesday he was “deeply disturbed” by the killing of 13 people in eastern Deir az-Zour, calling it an “appalling and inexcusable act.”
 13:12 Syrian forces on Wednesday opened fire on anti-regime protesters in Damascus’ Al-Hajjar al-Aswad in the presence of international monitors, Al-Jazeera television quoted the Local Coordination Committees as saying.
 12:37 Turkey ordered all Syria’s diplomats Wednesday to leave the country within 72 hours following the massacre of more than 100 civilians in Houla, the foreign ministry said.
 12:12 Thirty bodies were transferred to a field hospital in Homs’ Qusayr on Wednesday, Al-Arabiya television quoted the Local Coordination Committees as saying.
 12:10 Syrian security forces arrested nine children in the town of Kansafra in the district of Edleb, Al-Arabiya television quoted activists as saying.
 12:07 Syrian army on Wednesday raided the Daraa towns of Hayt and Sahem, Al-Jazeera television quoted the Local Coordination Committees as saying.
 11:53 China on Wednesday restated its opposition to military intervention in Syria, as Russia sought to halt fresh UN Security Council action after a massacre of civilians sparked global fury.
 10:11 Russia on Wednesday cautioned against taking new UN action on Syria after the massacre of 108 civilians in Houla and sought more time for global envoy Kofi Annan’s imperiled peace plan to work.
 9:49 Japan has told the Syrian ambassador in Tokyo to leave the country, the foreign ministry said Wednesday, as international outrage grows over brutal mass slayings blamed on the government in Damascus.
 9:15 MORNING LEADER: Envoy Kofi Annan has urged Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to act now to end 15 months of bloodshed, warning the country has reached a “tipping point” as Western nations ordered out its top diplomats.
 9:03 A total of 98 people, including 61 civilians, were killed in violence in Syria on Tuesday, as clashes raged between regime troops and rebels, monitors said.
 9:00 Australia said Wednesday it was open to discussions about military intervention in Syria as threatened by France, but warned of significant challenges getting it off the ground.

Channel 4: The searing grief of Houla’s survivors + video

Crossing no man’s land from the last Syrian government checkpoint into the centre of Houla is an edgy business. The UN officer commanding the patrol advised us: “Keep at least 50 yards between you and the vehicle in front. If the shooting starts the plan is to turn round and get the f*** out. Remember again you’re on your own here – good luck.”

So it’s a straight run for a mile or so to the next roundabout where a dead horse bloated and rotting in the middle of the road is the point where you know you have crossed the line. This does not mean safety from either snipers or shelling.

“They’re under a hell of lot of pressure to let us in this morning,” the same UN officer advised us speaking on condition of anonymity, “after the Kofi Annan visit yesterday.”

Indeed, all the way from Homs across the line into rebel held Houla, we heard not a single shot, nor any incoming artillery.

At the first signs of human life in rebel territory loud shouts of “freedom, freedom, freedom”, v-signs for victory and by the time we had managed to get out of our van we were completely mobbed by people shouting and crying in a mixture of relief, shock and anger.

At once we were pulled physically from house to house by people desperate to get their story to the outside world. Within minutes we meet 25-year-old Younis, lying in a room with two gunshot wounds in his torso. He’s telling us, weakly, how he was trying to help an 11-year-old boy on Friday when he was injured. The boy was shot dead.

A 15-year-old girl lies on another bed not 10 yards away describing how she witnessed the Shabiya militia crouching behind a window as she tried to flee. She too was shot.

Abdul Bari, 30, describes how he came by blast wounds during the protest after prayers on Friday.

Whether we like it or not we were pretty much dragged onto the streets again. On one hand an 8-year old boy shot in the arm, next to him a man showing us video on his telephone of two children, their throats slit so deeply they are virtually decapitated.

Another man suddenly approaches, educated with good English. He has gone through the emotions to reach cold, measured anger.

Over the next three hours I will deliberately ask him the same question to see if his story alters in any detail. It does not. He is willing to be interviewed and identified on camera. But to protect him we do not do this. Channel 4 News knows his name and full identity.

He describes in detail the world has not heard before what happened on Friday. He matters because over the next five hours we spend in Houla, scores of people will corroborate his story in various details.

He describes how there was intense shelling of the ground for several hours. After that the Shabiya – armed militia – entered the town from the southern to south western direction. He says there were around 100 of them dressed in military uniforms. They approached Dam Road which connects the large reservoir to the Houla villages. He says – and all agree – these men were Shia and Alawite who had come from specific Shia/Alawite villages to the south and west of Houla.

He names several villages and later we are taken to a rooftop where we can see those villages from the overwhelmingly Sunni town of Houla.

Two names come up time and again – Kabu and Felleh. They are so close, not more than two or three mile as the most. He goes on describing how the killers had written Shia slogans on their foreheads as they went house to house searching out and slaughtering Sunni families.

He says to us: “They have slaughtered us, they have killed us. When this is all over we will be victorious. And we will go there. And we will find them out and we will slaughter them and we will kill them. We will kill their men, women and children as they killed our men, women and children.”

Time again we are told there are many bodies still to be recovered.

On Sunday, I saw myself two bodies the UN is unaware of. At the mass grave containing at least 100 bodies – mostly women and children -they have been careful to leave a large open trench to take more corpses which will be simply wrapped in cloth – coffins are impossible. They do not even have running water or electricity in this town. Let alone luxuries like coffins.

The UN clearly agrees with their assessment. This afternoon part of their mission was the retrieval of more corpses but the difficulty is that they lie in areas close to Syrian army checkpoints considered too dangerous to reach.

There is an overwhelming and searing grief. What can you say? What can you do? What can you offer an elderly man, Abdul Hamad, who knows not only that his daughter was killed but that her throat was hacked with a knife, it seems, wielded by men who live just a few miles distant.

BBC: UN confirms new killings in Syria days after Houla

Observers from the UN have confirmed the discovery of 13 shooting victims in Syria as international outrage continues after the Houla massacre.

The men’s bodies were found near the eastern city of Deir al-Zour, with their hands tied behind their backs, some apparently shot in the head.

UN mission chief Maj Gen Robert Mood said he was “deeply disturbed” by the “appalling and inexcusable act”.

Hopes of a new initiative over Syria have been dented by Russia and China.

A Russian minister ruled out any action by the UN Security Council soon, saying Moscow “categorically” opposed foreign intervention.

The US ambassador to the UN, Susan Rice, has said a further escalation of the conflict in Syria is the likeliest scenario now, with it spreading to other countries in the region. She was speaking after a closed meeting of the UN Security Council in New York.

Her British counterpart, Mark Lyall-Grant, said that a third element, including jihadists, was now active in Syria. He called them “spoilers”.

Turkey is expelling all Syrian diplomatic staff from Ankara, a day after a number of Western states announced a co-ordinated series of expulsions in response to the killing of 108 people in Houla last week.

As many as 15,000 people have been killed since the revolt against the rule of President Bashar al-Assad began in March of last year.

One of the organisations monitoring the violence, the UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, reported 39 new deaths in attacks across Syria on Wednesday. The figure, quoted by AFP news agency, included 15 government soldiers.

Expulsions ‘counterproductive’

Gen Mood said the remains of the 13 men had been discovered on Tuesday night in al-Sukar, east of Deir al-Zour.

“All the bodies had their hands tied behind their backs and some appear to have been shot in the head from a short distance,” he said in a statement.

He called on all parties to the Syrian conflict to “exercise restraint and end the cycle of violence for the sake of Syria and the Syrian people”.

China and Russia, which both wield a veto at the UN Security Council, have blocked two previous resolutions calling for tougher action on Damascus.

Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Gennady Gatilov said Moscow was “categorically against any outside interference in the Syrian conflict” because it would “only exacerbate the situation for both Syria and the region as a whole”.

A spokesman for China’s foreign ministry reiterated Beijing’s opposition to military intervention in Syria or forced “regime change”.

Russia’s foreign ministry added in a statement that the expulsion of Syrian diplomats from leading Western states seemed to be “counterproductive”. “After all, vital [diplomatic] channels… end up being closed,” it added.

Turkey’s move goes further than Tuesday’s co-ordinated action by other states, which restricted their expulsions to the most senior staff. However, Syrian consular staff in Istanbul will remain.

In another development, Syria’s honorary consul in California, Hazem Chehabi, resigned, saying he could not continue in his post after the “barbaric” massacre in Houla.

Children and women

Troops, tanks and artillery were all supposed to have been withdrawn to barracks in April as the first step on the ground under the six-point peace plan of UN and Arab League envoy Kofi Annan.

But it simply has not happened, says the BBC’s Jim Muir in neighbouring Lebanon.

Amid the reports of continuing violence, it appears Mr Annan’s talks with President Bashar al-Assad and opposition figures in Damascus on Tuesday have had no immediate impact on the ground.

Mr Annan’s deputy, Jean-Marie Guehenno, told the UN Security Council on Wednesday that direct talks between the Syrian opposition and the government were currently “impossible”, according to a diplomat who spoke to Reuters news agency on condition of anonymity.

Colonel Qassem Saadeddine, a rebel spokesman said to be currently inside the province of Homs, told AFP the government “only [understood] violence”.

Forty-nine children and 34 women were among those killed in Houla, near Homs, last Friday and Saturday.

Witnesses have told the UN the vast majority of killings were committed by pro-government shabiha militiamen.

The UN Human Rights Council will hold a special session on Syria on Friday looking into the killings, officials said.

Taldou, Houla region

  • The region of Houla, in the west of Syria, comprises several villages and small towns
  • The village of Taldou lies around 2km south-west of the main town, also called Houla
  • The area is in the province of Homs, which has seen heavy fighting in recent months
  • Houla’s villages are predominantly Sunni Muslim, but the region is ringed by a number of Alawite villages – the sect of the Syrian president Bashar al-Assad

Guardian: Moscow pledges to block UN over foreign intervention in Syria30 May 2012: Russian minister maintains foreign military action after Houla massacre will only worsen violence in Syria

Russia has made clear that it will block UN support for foreign military intervention in Syria, scotching slim hopes that the massacre of more than 100 people at Houla would break the impasse in the international response to the continuing violence.

Moscow’s crucial support for Syria’s president, Bashar al-Assad, has not changed after confirmation from a UN human rights body that 108 people, including 49 children under the age of 10, were killed in the weekend incident near Homs, mostly in summary killings by the feared shabiha militia, linked to the Assad regime.

“We have always said that we are categorically against any intervention in the Syrian conflict from the outside, as this would only worsen the situation and would lead to unpredictable consequences both for Syria itself and the region on the whole,” said Gennady Gatilov, Russia’s deputy foreign minister.

UN security council pressure on Syria was “premature,” Gatilov said, adding that Russia would use its veto to block any initiatives on foreign military interference.

In another atrocity the bodies of 13 men were found near Deir al-Zor. The men had their hands bound and some appeared to have been shot in the head. It was not clear whether this was linked to Syrian state media reports of an “armed terrorist group” blowing up a nearby oil pipeline. General Robert Mood, head of the UN monitors, called it an “appalling and inexcusable act”. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights meanwhile reported 39 further deaths in attacks across Syria on Wednesday. The toll included 15 government soldiers.

In continuing reverberations from the Houla killings, Turkey and Japan announced on Wednesday that they were expelling Syrian diplomats, following similar action by Britain, France, the US, Canada and others on Tuesday. Syria said it was expelling the Dutch charge d’affaires after its own ambassador to the Netherlands was declared persona non grata. Al-Ba’ath, a government paper, scorned what it called “ugly, bloody and dramatic shows”.

Britain and other EU countries are now pushing the UN human rights council, meeting in Geneva on Friday, to demand an independent investigation, complete with forensic experts, into the Houla killings. Syria, which denies responsibility, says it is conducting its own inquiry, which is due to be completed this week.

Jean-Marie Guéhenno, deputy to Kofi Annan, the joint UN-Arab League envoy to Syria, briefed the UN security council in New York on Wednesday after Annan met Assad in Damascus on Tuesday.

Annan described Syria as being at a “tipping point”. But diplomats said they did not expect him to propose drastic changes to his failing six-point peace plan.

Guéhenno reportedly told the council by video link from Geneva that engagement between the Assad regime and the opposition was now impossible.

The most immediate question is whether the 300-strong UN supervision mission in Syria (UNSMIS) will be reinforced amid signs that the US is doubtful on the grounds that its presence has not reduced violence over the last six weeks. Its current mandate expires on 30 July. But no one has come up with an alternative diplomatic strategy.

Western efforts remain focused on trying to persuade Russia to exert pressure on Assad, despite repeated pronouncements such as Gatilov’s and Moscow’s characterisation of the worldwide expulsion of Syrian diplomats as counterproductive.

Vladimir Putin, Russia’s president, is due in Paris for talks on Friday amid hopes he can be persuaded to revive the idea of hosting a Moscow conference for representatives of the Syrian government and opposition as part of the political process at the heart of the Annan plan.

China, like Russia a veto-wielding permanent member of the security council, has also repeated its opposition to foreign military intervention and forced regime change. A foreign ministry spokesman in Beijing said: “The fundamental route to resolving the Syrian issue is still for all sides to fully support Annan’s mediation efforts and push all the relevant parties to carry out diplomatic dialogue.”

The Russian and Chinese positions opposing any UN action were the main item on the website of Sana, Syria’s official news agency on Wednesday.

Friday’s session of the UN human rights council is being convened at the urgent request of Qatar and Turkey. Its conclusions are non-binding but a call for an independent investigation into the Houla killings would mean added international pressure on Damascus.

In another development on the diplomatic track, Syria’s honorary consul in California, Hazem Chehabi, resigned, saying he could not continue in his post after the “barbaric” massacre in Houla. Defections from the Syrian government have been rare over the last 14 months.

The US treasury announced that it was imposing sanctions on a leading Syrian bank as it sought to step up economic pressure on the Assad regime.