Saturday, August 4, 2012

Deaths by the Bucket, Shame by the Pound!

We don’t get reports of individual deaths anymore; it’s always a massacre here, a massacre there, accompanied by videos of mangled bodies and body parts, and ravaged surroundings. Mass murder and destruction in staccato mode, quickly accelerating, continuing ad absurdum, making assertions of common humanity seem rather meaningless if not hypocritical.

Friday August 3, 2012

Today’s Death toll: 128. The Breakdown: 12 in Damascus City, 20 in Aleppo City, 14 in Homs City, and 14 in Deir Ezzro Province.

Cities & Towns Under Shelling: Harasta, Arbeen, Moadamiah, Harran Al-Awameed, Ain Terma, Zabadani, Madaya, Eltal, Dmeir, Hameh, Yelda, Rankous, Qarrah (Damascus Suburbs), Sit Zeinab, Al-Qadam, Midan, Al-Hajar Al-Aswad, Yarmouk, Kafar Sousseh, Mazzeh, Qaboun, Barzeh (Damascus City), Daraa City, Khirbet Al-Ghazaleh, Tafas, Bostra Al-Sham, Na’eemah, Mseifrah, Jimreen, Hraak (Daraa), Rastan, Talbisseh, Houla, Tal Kalakh, Al-Qusayr, Al-Hosn, Al-Ghanto, Al-Bouaydah, Old Homs (Homs Province), Hreitan, Elbab, Eizaz, Marei, Bayanoun (Aleppo Province), Haffeh, Jabal Al-Akrad (Lattakia), Deir Ezzor City, Mouhassan, Albou Kamal (Deir Ezzor Province), Kafar Zeiteh, Hawash, Shahshabo, Hama City (Hama Province), Jabal Al-Zawiyeh, Ma’rrat Al-Nouman, Saraqib, Maar Shoureen, Ariha, Kafroumah, Al-Rami, Khan Shaikhoon (Idlib).

News
U.N. Condemns Syria's Campaign Moscow, Damascus Blast World Body's Largely Symbolic Reprimand; Conflict Has Now Displaced 1.5 Million, Agency Says


Op-Eds & Special Reports
‘Crazy’ Enough to Take On Syria? Who is next in line for “mission impossible” after Kofi Annan quit his role as international peace envoy to Syria in the face of intractable divisions among world powers over how to end the conflict?

Syria: Young Fighters Prepare for Battle in Aleppo They call themselves “the martyrs of freedom” and they tell us that they cannot wait to get in the fight. Tonight, they are going to Aleppo, where President Bashar al-Assad said the battle would determine the fate of Syria.

As Conflict Continues, Assad’s Arms Under Strain With diplomatic efforts dead and the future of Syria playing out on the battlefield, many of the Syrian government’s most powerful weapons, including helicopter gunships, fighter jets and tanks, are looking less potent and in some cases like a liability for the military of President Bashar al-Assad.

Syria banks face deposit challenge as civil war expands Now that rebels have carried Syria's civil war from remote villages to the capital and the commercial hub, a banking system that survived 16 months of unrest will face its biggest test.

Syria files reveal regime espionage Secret files recovered in a security station in al-Bab illustrate the regime's deep-seated culture of spying.

Bread Is Staple As Syria Rebels Press Strategy Kamal Hamdan, a Lebanese economist who has worked extensively in Syria, said both sides were engaged in efforts to replace the peacetime economy with wartime alternatives. “They are expecting a civil war that will take a long time and you have to sustain the daily life of the areas you are controlling,” he said. “It’s part of the game.”

Tony Badran: The Syrian conflict’s new phase As the likelihood of Assad reimposing his writ on all of Syria is virtually nil, at this point, securing an Alawite redoubt and forcing a protracted stalemate represent the best possible outcomes for the regime and its Iranian patrons. Assad might even calculate that if he manages to hold out for a few years – and Russia’s Ambassador to the UN, Vitaly Churkin, recently expressed his belief that the conflict could indeed last as long as the Lebanese civil war – he could expect a negotiated settlement that takes into consideration the new facts on the ground. From the Iranians’ perspective, both options would preserve their foothold in Syria.

Interactive: Tracking Syria's defections This visualisation tracks senior military officials, members of parliament and diplomats who quit Assad's regime.

Syrian Activists Face Moral Toll Over Brutal Revolt Against Assad With Kofi Annan citing the escalating Syrian violence in his resignation as U.N. envoy, activists tell Mike Giglio they’re agonizing over their armed revolt and the methods they’ve had to use in their revolution against Assad.

Syria conflict finds a voice in hip-hop As the conflict in Syria rages, the violence and chaos is finding expression among writers and musicians, including one hip-hop act from Damascus, write Samer Mohajer and Fay Rajput in Beirut.

How 'pro-regime' Aleppo became one of Syria's biggest battlegrounds Aleppo was long regarded as immune to the uprising sweeping the rest of Syria, but the deaths of several students helped galvanize a dormant opposition.

Syrian rebels ignore world's fears in struggle for Aleppo Battle for Syrian city appears to be nearing decisive phase with reinforcements continuing to bolster Free Syrian Army

Q&A: What options are left in Syria? CNN's Tim Lister weighs in on what options the United States might have, where the U.N. goes from here and what are likely scenarios for the battle for Syria's two biggest cities.

Whispers of peace in Syria With the resignation of Kofi Annan as UN peace envoy, Syrians must now find their own solution. Reports show a 'silent majority' quietly turning against Assad – and toward peace.

Syria opposition plans for post-Assad era The Syrian National Council is deep into organizing an alternative to the regime of President Bashar Assad that could include those already in state institutions or even the ruling Baath Party, a senior member of the opposition group said Friday… Basma Kodmani: "Manaf Tlass, he has been a decent person. He has behaved in a respectable way, and he definitely should be part of a big plan of transition and organizing the opposition," she said. "Whether he is in a position to play a leading role, I think that is a different story ... He needs to part of the opposition before he can say `I will lead the opposition.'"

Syrian Shadow Boxing In a year of diplomatic duels between Moscow and Washington at the United Nations over Syria, is the Obama administration actually getting what it wants?... “the bloody standoff may portend a protracted conflict that not only harms American and Russian interests in Syria, dealing a blow to the Obama administration's efforts to reset relations with Moscow, but which may condemn Syrians and their neighbors to a long and bloody war.”


Safe Zones and Summary Executions

Only through the establishment of safe zones can revenge killings and summary executions be minimized. Towns and villages controlled by rebels at this stage are under siege and under constant shelling by Assad’s heavy artillery, helicopter gunships and now even MiGs. This situation is not ideal for holding prisoners over longer periods of time, or ensuring their safety. Rebels who can barely feed themselves and who have to continuously fight against incursions by pro-Assad militias cannot afford to take many prisoners, yet, they cannot just afford to let prisoners go and have to face the again in the battlefield. Unless rebels have secure places to which they can transport prisoners of war, their decisions in this regard will be dictated by the prevailing chaotic and emotional conditions in the battlefield, and the requirements of basic survival.

We have been clamoring for the establishment of safe zones in Syria for over a year now, because such zones offer safety and security not only to civilians running away from Assad’s oppression, but also to prisoners of war captured by the rebels. Those who are truly concerned about decreasing violations and infringements of basic rights should help us establish the necessary conditions that can minimize such occurrences. By helping rebels establish safe zones in liberated areas of Syria, international conventions regarding treatment of prisoners of war can be respected and transitional justice processes can begin at earnest, creating a credible alternative to warzone justice.

By continuing to oppose the idea of safe zones, targeted airstrikes and arming rebels, western leaders are saving themselves many headaches, but they are not saving Syria. Eventually, rebels will force Assad out of Damascus and Aleppo, but the two oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world will be left in ruins, and Assad will still be there in his enclave along the coast, and the war will still go on. Those who think they can wait until Assad is gone and that the only thing “a coalition of the willing” can do at this stage is to “begin preparing for the massive task of stabilizing and rebuilding Syria once al-Assad is gone” are delusional. Assad’s designs are clear: he intends on staying as player in the field, one way or another. Russia and Iran are unwavering in their support of him, because so long as he remains in charge of even a sliver of Syria, their interests are served. You can’t rebuild an Aleppo or a Damascus once they are destroyed. And if we wait until these scenarios begin to play out at earnest, the same experts advising nonintervention today will have more reasons to advise the same tomorrow.

For that’s what it is all about really: Syria is another Sykes-Picot state that many experts are already willing to consign to the dustbins of history. What yesterday’s intervention produced, today’s nonintervention destroys, the human cost of it all notwithstanding.

Video Highlights

These soldiers captured by rebels in Daraa Province say they were forced into service. They hail from all parts of Syria, including Aleppo, Hama and Damascus Suburbs, all are Sunnis: the cannon fodder for Assad’s war http://youtu.be/eeN0HLbmYxw

A smuggled video from the town of Kafrenbel, Idlib province, shows how Assad troops use civilians as human shields, forcing them to chant for Assad http://youtu.be/KfV1Cd2FVgQ

A local activists speaks to a NBC reporter and his Arabic interpreter explaining that, as an activist, he is not a neutral observer but he does not fabricate news: “there is something more powerful than fabrications” http://youtu.be/lBUba-3Ghjo  He says that he wants to speak out more on camera now in order to correct mistakes. Newer figures are emerging on the scene who exaggerate the number of the dead in certain circumstances, not realizing that this hurts the credibility of all their work http://youtu.be/lBUba-3Ghjo The interview took place in the town of Marayan, Jabal Al-Zawiyeh Region, Idlib Province. At one point, the activists turn the table on their guests and interview NBC correspondent Richard Engle. His description of how different towns are attacking the convoys sent by Assad as reinforcements to loyalist troops besieging Aleppo City is pretty telling

In Hama City, an attack on the local neighborhood of Bab Qibli begins even as some of the local rebels are performing prayers http://youtu.be/p5hA4oiNJRo

Battles in Aleppo City intensified after rebels took control briefly of the local state TV and Radio headquarters. Eventually, MiGs were called in and they took part in pounding the complex and surrounding areas http://youtu.be/GtbVAr17sj0 , http://youtu.be/1m73d9-DLmA , http://youtu.be/dfDZXorvQIw , http://youtu.be/qfD57S9lxOw MiGs took part in the pounding of Salaheddine Neighborhood as well http://youtu.be/S4KIb00JYGA , http://youtu.be/rJgN3qg7i5Q , http://youtu.be/pInIMYodWhY The neighborhood was pounded with heavy artillery as well http://youtu.be/ILRBYeXOMyQ A victim of sniper fire lies in the street http://youtu.be/62tc6ZDqNbw Another http://youtu.be/Of-5ecsdPCk

In other parts of the city, rebels take part in cleaning the city and collecting the trash, as Al-Jazeerah correspondent looks on http://youtu.be/VYg6QHAyyYU While attention shifted over the last few days to the issue of retribution killings, the main story remains that of summary executions by pro-Assad militias http://youtu.be/aPWe4nczUCA

In the nearby city of Elbab, the local Brigade affiliated with the FSA promise to join the fight for the liberation of Aleppo City http://youtu.be/efTnEogchXU

The pounding of Deir Ezzor City intensifies http://youtu.be/mt2ks_T1N-A , http://youtu.be/3VFkxTA3piM So do the clashes http://youtu.be/Bbsm0ZeTEak , http://youtu.be/38FglyKPkRk Dead bodies of locals fill the street, activists unable to retrieve them on account of sniper activities http://youtu.be/rWdHdt51J-o A local rebel addresses the camera promising liberation and victory even as the clashes continue http://youtu.be/ErWX4gI35Z8 Due to lack of media attention to their plight, local activists produced their own reportage of the situation in their city (Arabic) http://youtu.be/_54onApAU74

In the nearby town of Mayadeen, local rebels manage to “liberate” a local security station in an early dawn raid http://youtu.be/OBVI8cNHJxU , http://youtu.be/xdTwxuB-R_U taking over some tanks in the process http://youtu.be/WTpkzI5HJZo , http://youtu.be/RSd1P9pb4mg , http://youtu.be/M-YNgt6FD7Y

The pounding of Rastan, Homs Province, continues http://youtu.be/bjNPMIQyVVk and of Houla http://youtu.be/aUClSOf8tyI , http://youtu.be/CXuZFjkaKb0

The pounding of Tadamon Neighborhood, Damascus City, leaves many injured http://youtu.be/NDabwEpTf2k and dead http://youtu.be/4DB522oZBjI , http://youtu.be/GDHNaEzfLnk

The adjacent neighborhoods of Assaly, Dafelshawk, Yarmouk, Al-Qadam and Al-Hajar Al-Aswad were pounded as well: Assaly http://youtu.be/zN-6oBsCOZA , http://youtu.be/Wd5rtXS2v78 The adjacent suburbs of Saqba and Houmriyeh in Eastern Ghoutah Region were also pounded http://youtu.be/KjyNPUwNOlo

To the West, the pounding of the towns of Zabadani and Madaya continues http://youtu.be/SMzlj-v1MME

The pounding of Bosra Al-Harir, Daraa Province (August 2) leaves many dead, including local rebels http://youtu.be/m9bo3vgfNQM , http://youtu.be/73Wasz309jQ , http://youtu.be/NVE2WxJyEMs , http://youtu.be/26BhAJOnzKw

In Lattakia Province, the village of Ouwaynat in Jabal Al-Akrad Region continues to be pounded http://youtu.be/20ZEl6QTwHA