Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Plight of the Refugees!

For all the talk about humanitarian assistance and concerns, the wellbeing of refugees remains an afterthought for most officials working on the Syrian crisis.

Monday September 3, 2012

Summary of Trends Since August 10

* The average daily death toll across Syria has now risen to 200 martyrs, most of whom civilians, including many children. Massacres in certain places, especially in Damascus Suburbs, now routinely claim the lives of 50 locals and more. On August 25, one particular heinous massacre in the Damascene Suburb of Daraya claimed the lives of 510 locals by final count.

* Summary executions by pro-Assad militias operating in and around restive towns and suburbs occur daily and seem part of a systematic effort to subdue rebels and drive a wedge between them and local populations. But while some criticism of the Free Syrian Army and its tactics can occasionally be heard in local circles, the plan seems to be faltering. As sectarian sentiments increase and more people with scores to settle with regime militias and supporters emerge on the scene, more local FSA brigades will likely form but will await further influx of arms before they start operating at earnest. These new groups will likely be more sectarian in both character and creed.

* Pounding cities and towns using helicopter gunships and fighter jets is now a commonplace occurrence throughout the country. But, due to a recent though limited influx of more advanced weapons, local rebels are rising up to the challenge. Over the last two weeks, several helicopter gunships and two fighter jets have been downed. More significant, however, is the recent move to attack local military airports, a trend that began in Idlib Province with attacks on the Taftanaz and Abou Al-Zouhour Airports where a number of helicopters were destroyed. Still, the pounding of restive towns and villages continues. Pilots often drop barrels full of high end explosives to ensure maximum impact. Meanwhile, the stinger missiles and MANPADs which had been sent to the rebels are still on hold in warehouses controlled by Turkish authorities.

Syria rebels appear to be targeting air bases Syria rebels reportedly capture an air base and antiaircraft missiles in the east, apparently the latest attempt to thwart the government's air superiority.

New UN Syria envoy: Diplomatic solution 'nearly impossible' Lakhdar Brahimi, the new international mediator for Syria's conflict, said searching for a solution was like "standing in front of a brick wall."

Syrian Minister Assails Egyptian and Turkish Leaders Syria’s top government spokesman declared Monday that the refugees fleeing its borders were welcome back “at any time,” mocked the presidents of Egypt and Turkey for their condemnations and called the armed opposition unfit for negotiations.

Op-Eds & Special Reports
Peace in Syria: A 'very, very difficult task' Alluding to the possibility of chemical weapons being used in Syria by Assad, Western governments say, 'We have not ruled out any options as this crisis deepens.' In the meantime Russia, Syria's closest ally, says Syria has no plans to use such weapons. 

Bashar al-Assad Lost The Support of Aleppo’s Wealthy When the Shelling Started Many well-off residents of this besieged Syrian city found life good under Bashar al-Assad’s regime. But when the government began indiscriminately attacking rebels and residents alike, Assad’s support from Aleppo’s upper class has evaporated, writes Mike Giglio.

Tony Badran: Bashar’s cult of personality The Obama administration continues to insist that Syria’s “state institutions” must be preserved. However, what the Samaha case makes clear—by drawing a direct line from Assad’s assets in Lebanon to his deputies in Syria—is that Assad has arrogated to himself all of the Syrian institutions that really matter: the security establishment. In other words, the effect of the White House’s policy is not just to preserve Alawite hegemony in Syria, but to preserve the cult of personality that Bashar has institutionalized—even after Bashar himself is gone.

A war artist in Syria observes life amid the chaos When British artist George Butler recently crossed the border from Turkey into Syria, he was greeted in the town of Azaz by abandoned tanks and piles of rubble from war-damaged buildings. But normal life was continuing amid the chaos, and George - under the protection of the Syrian Free Army - started to sketch and paint watercolours of the scenes he observed.

Syrians fleeing war start to trickle into Europe That is raising calls for a more focused European response to a refugee crisis that has seen over 200,000 Syrians flee to Jordan, Iraq, Lebanon and, especially, Turkey. From there, a determined, and usually richer, few press on to the EU borders, mainly into Greece, with most hoping for asylum further north.
Syrians at refugee camp struggle with choking sand and wretched conditions More than 26,000 people at Zataari – two-thirds of them children – who have escaped civil war are facing up to a harsh new life

The FSA: how to lose support and alienate people in no time FSA leaders should take heed that a guerilla army can only attain success if it is mindful of its relationship to the people, because that is the only guarantor of their continuity. They should also be completely transparent regarding their military plans and financial concerns, so that they can defend themselves against rising accusations of corruption. If the FSA really want to be seen as defending Syria, it should make people feel safe thanks to its presence. Empty slogans can't feed a hungry kid or put a roof over the heads of a displaced family.

Reports from activists based in Antakya claim that the Turkish government has begun implementing a recent decision to relocate all Syrian refugees in Hatay Province who refuse to stay in the assigned camps to other provinces. The decision could affect as many 50,000 people, most of whom women and children of rebels and activists who are playing a vital role in delivering supplies to rebel groups in Syria. As such, the decision could have extremely negative repercussions on the course of the Syrian Revolution.

The decision of the Turkish government, some have speculated, seems motivated by fear that pro-Assad infiltrators embedded among the refugees could carry out terrorist attacks in the province where many Alawites of Syrian decent live. Recent bombings in nearby Gaziantep were blamed by Turkish authorities on Kurdish rebel groups sponsored by the Assad regime. Not too long ago, the Assad regime formed the Front for the liberation of Iskandarone (Hatay), a Turkish-controlled province claimed by Syrians. Assad is said to have previously signed a secret deal with the Turkish government relinquishing Syria’s claim to the Province. He has obviously changed his mind. The leader of the Front is said to have made contacts with a number of Syrian rebel groups acting along the borders promising them amnesty and compensations should they join his Front. Turkish authorities might have heard of this development and seem to be concerned.
Turkish authorities, however, might have paid closer attention to the rallies that took place on Saturday featuring thousands of Alawites demanding expulsion of Syrian refugees. Pro-Assad infiltrators seem to have embedded themselves in a more welcoming community than the refugees.

Meanwhile, frustration stemming from the decision to relocate refugees could actually backfire and encourage some rebels to accept the offer extended by the Front. One way or another, Turkey is being drawn into the Syrian conflict. The only choice, it seems, is whether Turkish authorities want the conflict to play out mostly on their territory, or on Syrian territories. So far, they don’t seem to be getting it.

For now, some families of rebels have been given hours to leave Hatay. Also, some refugee camps that straddle the borders came under heavy pounding earlier on Monday, soon after Syrian TV called on refugees to return home. 

Video Highlights

Rural Damascus – summary executions take place on a daily basis: Kafar Batna http://youtu.be/HHrYAlcpRK8 Arbeen http://youtu.be/sANnjxmu6DE Sometimes bodies are burnt, whether after death or alive, it’s hard to tell, Zamalka http://youtu.be/P2ID3xfhz48 Elsewhere, the pounding keeps claiming lives: Jobar http://youtu.be/OW6RHBnb2IQ

Aleppo City – the pounding of restive suburbs continues: Al-Itha’a http://youtu.be/-9gCK8JBE68

Aleppo Province, El-Bab: fighter jets drop barrels full of explosives on the town http://youtu.be/IbdDag-fkuY People search the rubble for victims http://youtu.be/jbqDdxrxHI0

Deir Ezzor City: people pull the dead from under the rubble http://youtu.be/qH6A434ZMz0

Homs City: the pounding of the old neighborhoods continues http://youtu.be/NKCoLiOZSBE , http://youtu.be/WcRXv3G0rf8