Sunday, December 2, 2012

Hard Landing!

While internet services might have been restored, Syria’s international airports in Damascus and Aleppo remain closed as battles throughout the country intensify. Meanwhile, political opposition groups seem close to forming a transitional government, but the divide with rebels continues to grow.  In short, the sum total of our collective follies in Syria still favors chaos and continued bloodshed at this stage.

Saturday December 1, 2012

Today’s Death Toll: 138, including 13 children and 5 women: 70 in Damascus and Suburbs (25 in Beit Lahm massacre), 22 in Aleppo, 17 martyrs in Daraa (most in Tafas), 10 in Deir Ezzor, 10 in Idlib, 8 in Homs and 1 in Hama. Points of Random Shelling: 188. Clashes: 101. In Damascus, rebels downed a MiG in Dmair in Damascus Suburbs, and conducted a fierce attack on Aqraba Checkpoint leading to closure of Damascus International Airport Highway and massive loses among regime forces. Rebels also shelled a military barracks in Harran Al-Awameed near to Damascus International Airport and attacked several regime’s checkpoints in Harasta, Zamalka and Rankous. In Daraa, rebels stormed Border Point 34 near the Cavalry Battalion and Border Point 44 near the Naseeb Border Centre with Jordan. In Idlib, rebels blocked an attack by a military convoy (LCC).

In Jordan, 4 children have so far died on account of extreme cold weather in Al-Zaatari Refugee Camp.

Activists in Dar Azzah, Aleppo Province, claim that their town has been hit with Scud 7 missiles.


Special Reports
But Prince said only four Internet cables connect Syria to the outside world. Three of them run underseas, and the fourth is an overland line through Turkey. "In order for a whole country outage, all four of these cables would have had to been cut simultaneously," he wrote. "That is unlikely to have happened." … The last four sites accessed on CloudFlare before the outage were a photo-sharing site, a Syrian news site, a Muslim-oriented social networking site and a porn site, according to Prince.
Some are torn by ideology: In a family, some remain fiercely loyal to Assad, alienating those who became regime opponents. Despite years of discrimination under the Assad family rule, even some Sunni Muslims back him, whether out of fear of the alternative or belief in the regime narrative boasting of Syria as an oasis of secularism and stability in a turbulent region. Others families are divided by circumstances: Young army conscripts find themselves fighting for a regime they fear defecting from even as their brothers join the rebels.
Twenty months into the revolution against President Bashar al-Assad, the Syrian opposition is finally receiving international recognition. But rebel leaders say it won’t matter unless the West starts sending them weapons—and blame the U.S. for standing in the way. Mike Giglio reports.
For months, rebels fighting to overthrow President Bashar al-Assad have used Skype, a peer-to-peer Internet communication system, to organize and talk to outside news organizations and activists. A few days ago, Jad al-Yamani, an activist in Homs, sent a message to rebel fighters that tanks were moving toward a government checkpoint. He notified the other fighters so that they could go observe the checkpoint. “Through Skype you know how the army moves or can stop it,” Mr. Yamani said.
New Zealand freelance journalist Glen Johnson has been in the war-torn Syrian city of Aleppo and gives a first-hand account of what the locals are living through.
The best way to understand what is going on in Syria is by listening to what Syrians have to say about their own country. Here, you are introduced to three different voices from the Syrian opposition, to show the diversity and richness of Syrian voices.
I ask the rebel local commander, Muatasim Bila Abul Fida, how he thinks all of this will play out. His answer strikes me as very honest. “Without the help of Iran and Hezbollah, he would be gone by now,” he says of the Syrian president, Bashar al-Assad. But even after he goes, there will be a great sorting out. “It will take five or six years,” he adds, because the Islamist parties “want Shariah, and we want democracy.” … Without a strong, galvanizing Syrian leader with a compelling unifying vision, backed by the international community, getting rid of Assad will not bring order to Syria. And disorder in Syria will not have the same consequences as disorder in other countries in the region. … We could be entering a new age of Middle East border-drawing — the do-it-yourself version — where the borders of the Middle East get redrawn, not by colonial outsiders from the top down but by the Middle Easterners themselves, from the bottom up.
In the last three weeks, the military dynamics in Syria have shifted so dramatically that, although it’s too soon to predict an endgame, it is clear that the Assad regime is now losing the war. This has had a galvanizing effect on Western powers, now panicking about their lack of influence with the armed opposition.

Video Highlights

In this video from Ras Al-Ain, the Kurdish majority town captured by Jihadis from Jabhat Al-Nusrah two weeks ago, we see loyalist soldiers caught by the Jihadis pleading for their lives, asserting that they are Sunnis. One claims to be a Sunni from Daraa. But the Jihadis keep ignoring their pleas. At one point they shoot the arm of one of the most insistent interlocutors, the shooting takes place when the interlocutor conveniently goes off-camera, then returns with what appears to be blood on his arm and falls to the ground. Eventually, one of the Jihadis seem to be executing all prisoners even as they lie on the ground asserting that they are Sunnis and chanting “God bless the Free Syrian Army.” As the Jihadis were preparing to leave, one of them says: “you should have known you were messing with Al-Qaeda, with Jabhat Al-Nusra.” This gratuitous signature statement volunteered at the end, among other inconsistencies, threw doubts on the clip in the minds of many of the activists who reviewed it. Another problematic feature is the fact that the assertive interlocutor to whom we alluded above seems to have sprung back to life near the end (3:57) and is “shot” again repeatedly, but doesn’t seem to die. There is no blood anywhere coming out of the bodies after being shot. Jabhat Al-Nusrah has a deservedly bad reputation among activists and its affiliation with Al-Qaeda is known, but activists refused to be fooled and many believe this video to be a fabrication, awaiting the opinion of experts

This video, on the other hand, is genuine. It shows a couple of rebels roughing up a pro-Assad colonel whom they arrested. He, too, is shouting “God bless the Free Syrian Army,” to no avail

Iran’s Al-Alam TV wanted to document the conditions along the highway leading Damascus International Airport: traffic is down to a trickle and at 1:30 we can hear the sounds of heavy artillery in the background. We are also shown a checkpoint manned by loyalist militias

Reports from the ground indicate that rebels control around 20 military bases around Damascus, and a 20 KM stretch of the highway leading to DIA. The fighting around the airport is said to have intensified forcing a total blackout in the areas, even as power and internet services seem to have been restored elsewhere.  

The ensuing aerial bombardment left many dead in Dhiayabiyeh Including children

An old woman in Lattakia explains how the local church was destroyed during shelling by pro-Assad militias as she curses Bashar Al-Assad

Locals in Binnish, Idlib chants slogans against the “secular” Syrian National Council and National Coalitions and demand the establishment of a Caliphate

In Ma’arrat Al-Nouman, rebels bring down a MiG

Aerial bombardment leaves many dead in Sfeireh, Aleppo ,

In Aleppo City, rebels firing improvised bombs at a checkpoint manned by pro-Assad militias Pulling bodies from under the rubble in Al-Ansari