Monday, August 6, 2012

The Ever-Thickening Plot!

With all the focus on Aleppo, the real story is still unfolding in Damascus City and Suburbs, as the daily death toll and the military operations which continue to spread to more and more neighborhoods clearly show.

Sunday August 5, 2012

Today’s Death toll: 139 (Saturday) 125 (Sunday). The Breakdown: the toll includes 6 women and 9 children. 59 killed in Damascus and Suburbs (including 20 in a massacre in Irbeen), 25 in Aleppo, 14 in Idlib, 11 in Daraa, 5 in Homs, 5 in Deir Ezzor and 5 in Hama.

Cities & Towns Under Shelling: Harasta, Arbeen, Moadamiah, Harran Al-Awameed, Deir Al-Asafeer, Ain Terma, Zabadani, Madaya, Eltal, Dmeir, Hameh, Yelda, Rankous, Qarrah (Damascus Suburbs), Sit Zeinab, Al-Qadam, Midan, Tadamon, Al-Hajar Al-Aswad, Yarmouk, Kafar Sousseh, Mazzeh, Qaboun, Barzeh, Salhiyeh, Ruknaddine, Dafelshawk (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).

Newsflashes: *** Syria first and only cosmonaut, Major General Muhammad Faris, defects and crosses the border into Turkey http://youtu.be/jAEKtby9Ymk Gen. Faris has lived in Aleppo City. He went as Research Cosmonaut on Soyuz TM-3 to the Mir space station in July 1987 *** Reports by The Daily Telegraph that the Muslim Brotherhood is forming and arming its own militias inside Syria have been confirmed by spokesman for the Brotherhood, Molham Aldroubi, in an interview with Asharq Al-Awsat (Arabic). Activists on the ground have making similar claims for months saying that Brotherhood members and supporters have been stockpiling weapons, saying they are meant for use to maintain order after the fall of the Assad regime.

News

Muslim Brotherhood establishes militia inside Syria The Muslim Brotherhood has established its own militia inside Syria as the country's rebels fracture between radical Islamists and their rivals, commanders and gun-runners have told The Daily Telegraph.
Syria looks bleak, admits William Hague William Hague has described the situation in Syria as 'bleak' and said that a peaceful solution to the 17 month-long crisis is now unlikely.
Iranian pilgrims kidnapped on trip to Syria Dozens are seized by gunmen in the Damascus area, prompting Iran's foreign minister to ask Turkey to intervene. Meanwhile, fighting continues in the Syrian city of Aleppo.
Syrian leader Assad's planes pound vital prize of Aleppo President Bashar al-Assad's forces used artillery, planes and a helicopter gunship to pound rebel positions in Syria's biggest city, witnesses said, in a battle that could determine the outcome of the 17-month uprising.
Equestrian: Syrian rider says Olympic effort for "all Syrians" His father Mohamed Hamcho was added to the European Union sanctions list in March and the U.S. Treasury Department sanctions list a month later.
Rebels fill Aleppo power vacuum, some disapprove those found guilty of killing civilians or rebel fighters will be sent to "courts" in Azaz to be judged by the top commander of the Amr bin al-Aas brigade, identified only as Ahmed. "We use Sharia (Islamic law) to judge our prisoners," Ahmed says in Azaz. "We use a number of judges who are have studied Islamic law and a number of witnesses and judge them accordingly."
Photojournalists captured by Islamist militants in Syria feared beheading John Cantlie and Jeroen Oerlemans faced constant death threats and were shot while trying to escape.
Turkey training rebels, says FSA fighter There is a special training programme based in Turkey at secret camps run by the Turkish military, she says. "The Turkish people are really helping us. Lots of people are getting training in those camps." "The training is really professional. You can only sleep four hours a day. "You have to climb mountains, you get weapons training. It's hard work."
Dozens reported killed in Damascus as Syria rebels try to halt advance on Aleppo Free Syrian Army fighters told CNN that two large columns of government troops were heading toward Aleppo, the Middle East nation's most populous city. One is moving from Latakia on the Mediterranean coast and the other from Damascus.

Op-Eds & Special Reports

State Department and Pentagon Plan for Post-Assad Syria The administration’s efforts have been driven by a bleak prognosis shared by most officials: Mr. Assad’s fall would be likely to set off a grave, potentially violent and unpredictable implosion in a country strained by even more tribal, ethnic and sectarian divisions than Iraq, possibly in the midst of a presidential election campaign at home.

Turkish bloggers divided over policy on Syria Secular and nationalist critics accuse the government of openly supporting the Syrian opposition, risking a regional war, a new rift between Sunni and Shiite sects and opening the way for the creation of Islamist and Kurdish states in Turkey’s neighborhood. The AK Party government, on the other hand, blames the opposition for supporting the atrocities of the Assad regime.

As Syria War Roils, Unrest Among Sects Hits Turkey As Syria’s civil war degenerates into a bloody sectarian showdown between the government’s Alawite-dominated troops and the Sunni Muslim majority, tensions are increasing across the border between Turkey’s Alawite minority and the Sunni Muslim majority here.

Victory closer, divisions deepen in Syria opposition "Several opposition groups have adopted an increasingly fundamentalist discourse and demeanour, a trajectory that mirrors the conflict's gradually deadlier and more confessional turn (and) popular loss of faith in the West," the International Crisis Group said in a report.

Russian rubles for Damascus? Like China, Russia wants to lessen the influence in the region of the West and its allies such as Saudi Arabia. That's why Moscow not only supports Syria, it also cooperates with Iran, Syria's closest ally. Russia quite obviously doesn't have a problem with the human rights violations perpetrated by the Assad regime, so it seems plausible that Russian rubles will continue to flow to Damascus.

Robert Fisk: Syria's ancient treasures pulverised So the looting and destruction lies at the door of all sides in the Syrian conflict, along with the thieves who move in on all historic sites when the security of the state evaporates. In truth, Syria has always suffered – and the regime always tolerated – a limited amount of theft from historical sites, to boost the economy in the poor areas in the north of the country and to enrich the regime's own mafiosi. But what is happening now is on an epic and terrifying scale.

The likelihood of a prolonged stalemate, however, does not mean that we should cease thinking about possible outcomes in a post-Assad Syria. And it is important for policy makers in Washington and in other capitals to divest themselves of what might be called the “Bosnia fallacy.”

As Yugoslavia was imploding, the Bosnia fallacy was the belief that the various ethnic and sectarian groups in Bosnia still would give their first loyalty to an amorphous idea of “Bosnia” and would trust “national” institutions to represent them and protect their interests. …

Some believe that in the event of Assad’s death (or a significant weakening of his power), different groups in Syria might reach out to the opposition to discuss a transition of power. One easily could envision a future meeting in Istanbul that would lay the groundwork for replacing the current Syrian Republic with a Syrian Union, based on resurrecting some of the entities that existed during the first part of the French mandate (1920–1936), including separate Alawite and Druze states as well as regional cantons based on Aleppo and Damascus.

Saudi Arabia helped broker an end to the devastating civil war in Lebanon with the Taif Accords in 1989; in principle, a similar agreement, which would recognize Sunni ascendancy in Syria but institutionalize a series of protections for other groups, could be viable and in line with stated Saudi interests and concerns.

A Lisbon-style agreement such as the initial plan for Bosnia might not satisfy the Sunni majority—which might hope to exercise control over all of Syria based simply on sheer numbers—and minorities might have to accept smaller cantons and less influence in a post-Assad Syria. But given that similar results emerged in places such as Bosnia and Iraq only after years of fighting, might not Syrians themselves be willing to accept such compromises, albeit reluctantly?

The success of any such agreement also would require the outside powers—including the West, Turkey, Saudi Arabia and the Gulf States—to support such a process. If a deal can be facilitated along these lines—however imperfect it may be—then it may be possible to minimize the problems that inevitably will arise in a post-Assad Syria.

We are hopeful the rebels will ultimately prevail, but it remains a deeply unfair and brutal fight, and the speed and manner by which it is won matter enormously. All evidence suggests that, rather than peacefully surrendering power, Assad and his allies will fight to the bitter end, tearing apart the country in the process. America’s disengagement from this conflict carries growing costs — for the Syrian people and for U.S. interests…

The U.S. reluctance to intervene in Syria is, first of all, allowing this conflict to be longer and bloodier, a radicalizing dynamic. Contrary to critics who argue that a greater U.S. role in Syria could empower al-Qaeda, it is the lack of strong U.S. assistance to responsible fighters inside the country that is ceding the field to extremists there…

First, we can and should directly and openly provide robust assistance to the armed opposition, including weapons, intelligence and training. Whatever the risks of our doing so, they are far outweighed by the risks of continuing to sit on our hands, hoping for the best. American help should go to those groups that reject extremism and sectarianism in both word and deed. As in Libya, the relationships we build with armed groups inside Syria now will be indispensable going forward.

Second, since the rebels have increasingly established de facto safe zones in parts of Syria, the United States should work with our allies to reinforce those areas, as Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton suggested last week. This would not require any U.S. troops on the ground but could involve limited use of our airpower and other unique U.S. assets.


Video Highlights

The Battle for Damascus continues despite regime’s claims of “victory.” Now, parts of Damascus City are being shelled at night from positions on top of Mount Qasayoun http://youtu.be/t97sWAEQc60 On Saturday, nighttime shelling touched the neighborhoods of Salhiyeh (where the tomb of medieval Sufi master Ibn Arabi is located) and Ruknaddine http://youtu.be/CLlAhr1mKbg , http://youtu.be/Mt9FSETTU2g

Pro-Assad militias stormed the Palestinian camp of Yarmouk in Damascus City and carried out a number of Summary executions http://youtu.be/CoJw_kLkC4U , http://youtu.be/9e_bv2hrkqo In nearby Tadamon, locals keep finding bodies in the streets http://youtu.be/fSkbR-2gXjc , http://youtu.be/n9YIHKDkX8Y , http://youtu.be/0lSllhyzlu0 , http://youtu.be/njzfuUVNLfE Most are obviously the victims of summary executions http://youtu.be/GujCHFd64h8

And suburbs around Damascus are under constant pounding: Artouz http://youtu.be/w7kwYJ2ckFE Deir Al-Asafeer http://youtu.be/cY2m2Gcf0qM Kafar Batna http://youtu.be/hjp0xoIO-zc , http://youtu.be/iibnM94Ek0w Hamouriyeh http://youtu.be/kf9Ov2vHoMg

Helicopter gunships continue to be deployed: Deir Al-Asafeer http://youtu.be/M5SLd1gC7iY

Al-Tawhid Brigade in Aleppo succeeds in destroying a fighter jet as it was landing in Aleppo’s Airport. But we only see thick black smoke rising up in the background http://youtu.be/2QpDuQaub3s Local activists report that in addition to MiGs, the regime is also using Czech made L-39 fighter jets. The make of the fighter jets notwithstanding, they are still being deployed in the fight against rebels in neighborhoods around the city http://youtu.be/e2qAiVCbQh4 , http://youtu.be/eY3mjVUx-hQ

Meanwhile, back in Aleppo City, Assad’s fighter jets targeted areas near the ancient citadel http://youtu.be/egdEUMm2CiM Clashes took place in different parts including: Hanano http://youtu.be/UqKPPlQEnms , http://youtu.be/QMGUaK98l28 Shaar http://youtu.be/er-NndilDmU , http://youtu.be/369wkLwCM3s , http://youtu.be/BV4Qk3Lzy3w Buildings catch fire http://youtu.be/18M1uQNG0tY Sukkari http://youtu.be/STHrDdAekxs Bab El-Hadid http://youtu.be/ip-GxscqWRY

The neighborhood of Salaheddine gets pounded as well http://youtu.be/URuv7xWiIZs , http://youtu.be/BqL4ayUIlZk Members of the FSA patrol the neighborhood http://youtu.be/GrVHXs1eqYE , http://youtu.be/KLTTTK07zJM Elsewhere in the neighborhood, other rebel fighters raid a supply center for the local security forces and mange to get some much needed supplies http://youtu.be/GrVHXs1eqYE Rebel reinforcements arrive http://youtu.be/NYvxfKaebSg , http://youtu.be/kMldbkfQFJI Clashes ensue http://youtu.be/U4oYSXtLVsc A report from the first line of battle http://youtu.be/lmIgF1Dzgio When needed rebels become firefighters http://youtu.be/Q0Bt_4z24Y4

An eight-minute drive through the neighborhood of Bab El-Hadid, Aleppo City http://youtu.be/lnjvJ5bDsCw  An FSA convoy drives through http://youtu.be/oiznlM8zKYs

Brigadier General, Mustafa Al-Shaikh, head of the High Military Council, pays a visit to the liberated town of Dar Azzah http://youtu.be/gWBHC55PHhE Earlier, Brig. Gen. Al-Shaikh, paid a visit to the town of Taftanaz, Idlib province, deeper into Syrian territory http://youtu.be/hi4RFp0ilGA

An FSA unit based in the Province of Qunaitra managed to arrest the local security chief, General Hussam Haidar. Here, one of their members conducted an interview with him, I which the General says that he hasn’t done anything wrong, and that he was unable to defect on account of his bad health. He then, encourages his family members to refrain from doing wrong http://youtu.be/Bsbp2jBcpis

In Homs City, parts of Baba Amr Neighborhood catch fire on account of the constant shelling http://youtu.be/YlPmYNo8JB0 In Khaldiyeh, local activists find 6 unidentified bodies in the nearby fields, obviously the victims of summary executions http://youtu.be/WxvN7RF_E3U And the pounding continues http://youtu.be/rSZBXaDAGbY

The pounding of the nearby town of Talbisseh continues http://youtu.be/1dM00D61ohg And Rastan http://youtu.be/c5L2GmnoE9Y , http://youtu.be/wn7mckWHU-A , http://youtu.be/iQg5intEL90

In Lattakia, tanks taking part in the indiscriminate pounding of Al-Akrad Mountain http://youtu.be/KW6L5dbQ-tY , http://youtu.be/0jdrjP0A490

The siege and pounding of Deir Ezzor City continues http://youtu.be/gWfW8wR33KQ 

In Hama Province, the pounding of the village of Zor Al-Heesah http://youtu.be/Xq__MxPgIr4 leaves many dead http://youtu.be/kCuyTfYgvpw In Hama City, clashes took place in Hadir http://youtu.be/pJ0_ulZmGYo Qoussour http://youtu.be/atW5YfHuDYw Hamidiyeh http://youtu.be/IapCryjx83I

The heavy pounding of the town of Marribeh, Daraa Province, continues http://youtu.be/DVEqli0n_R0

By Syrian Cartoonist Ai Ferzat