Thursday, November 29, 2012

The Battle for Damascus is afoot, the Battle for Sobriety is not!

Even should Assad lose Damascus, he can still withdraw to coastal strongholds and hunker down for a longtime, while rebels fight over spoils, and Arabs and Kurds battle each other over control of areas in the north and northeast. Without a political process, this crisis will drag on for years.

Thursday November 29, 2012

Today’s Death Toll: 96, including 23 children and 4 women: 51 in Aleppo (most in massacre of Zibdiya and Ansari), 15 in Damascus and Suburbs, 9 in Daraa, 7 in Idlib, 6 in Deir Ezzor, 4 in Hama, 3 in Homs and 1 in Raqqah. Points of Random Shelling: 198. Clashes: 103. In Idlib, rebels downed a helicopter in Binnish and targeted another in Sarmeen. In Homs, they attacked the Military Petrol Station on Homs-Damascus Highway taking many prisoners. In Aleppo, they liberated a missile base as well as the Mintar Airbase. In Deir Ezzor, rebels laid siege to the airport in Mouhassan (LCC).

U.S. weighing whether to arm Syria rebels, ambassador says "The president has never taken arms off the table," Ford told reporters. "But it has to fit within a strategy of leading to a political solution and not where one side seeks to conquer the other militarily. Imagine it this way: How do you convince one side that is losing already to stop fighting when they think their very existence is at threat?" Ford noted that the United States also wants to avoid allowing advanced weapons to fall into the hands of Islamic extremists, who make up a large portion of Syria's insurgents.

Syria "firing mortars to stop refugees:" U.N. aid chief The United Nations humanitarian chief accused Syria on Tuesday of firing mortar bombs near the border with Jordan to prevent refugees from fleeing a civil war that she says is "getting worse day by day".
Twin car bombings ripped through the pro-Assad suburb of Jaramana, killing dozens. Mike Giglio on how both rebels and the government say they didn’t do it.

Special Reports
Under this approach, the United States, United Kingdom and other members of the Friends of Syria, would declare that new contracts with the Assad regime are illegitimate and that our courts should not enforce them if a legitimate successor government in Syria repudiates them. This could deter new loans and investments in Syria's oil or other sectors and send a signal to the Assad regime that the economic pressure will not loosen.
Some eye-catching video shows a disciplined jihadi militia on the move in eastern Syria after ransacking a regime artillery base.
A dark realization is spreading across northern Syria that despite 20 months of violence and recent rebel gains, an end to the war to topple President Bashar Assad is nowhere in sight. As a result, civilians and rebel fighters are digging in, building an infrastructure to secure rebel towns, care for the wounded and escalate the fight against Assad's forces.
A new report reveals that Russia printed and shipped eight planeloads of Syrian currency to Damascus over the summer, providing a critical lifeline to the Assad regime.
According to the documents leaked by Anonymous, Russia has since begun transporting Syria’s patched-up helicopters by air. TIME emailed copies of the documents to the spokesman of Russia’s state arms dealer, Rosoboronexport, who declined to comment on them.
Bashar bashed: After months of slow progress, Bashar Assad’s opponents have the upper hand Meanwhile, the rebels are well aware of what is going on beyond Syria’s borders. “Assad is not going anywhere until the international support for him changes,” says Abu Omar, the commander of a group of Liwa al-Tawhid fighters in Aleppo’s Bab al-Hadid neighbourhood. He points to Mr Assad’s continued backing by Russia and Iran, his main allies, and regrets that America and Britain have refused to arm rebel fighters.
Syria may appear to be a small country, but it is just the type of entagled conflict that can lead to a world catastrophe. It does not take much imagination to see Syria as the Sarajevo of the 21st century, leading to world war.

Following their takeover of the Marj Al-Sultan Airbase south of Damascus, a mere 10 KM from Damascus International Airport, rebels moved in on Tuesday to take over DIA itself. Consequently, Syrian authorities shut down the airport for “routine maintenance.” A day later, internet and cell and landline services were shut down. Is it sabotage? Indeed, the main internet cable feeding into Damascus does run parallel to the highway leading to DIA, but considering the fact that landlines and cellphones were down as well all over Syria Damascus, this is not likely. Is it a sign of panic on part of the regime? I think so. But that does not mean that the endgame is nearing, it’s just the battle of Damascus about to unfold. Slowly, the rebels were encircling Damascus, and the regime might be planning a major offensive to prevent that from happening. Whatever the case maybe at this stage, the battle for Damascus will likely be long and bloody. Let’s not forget here that the better supplied and equipped rebels in Aleppo are still having a hard time liberating the city.

But even should Assad lose Damascus, he can still withdraw to coastal strongholds and hunker down for a longtime, while rebels fight over spoils, and Arabs and Kurds battle each other over control of areas in the north and northeast. Without a political process, this crisis will drag on for years.

But the problem here is that no one seems to want a political process at this stage other than external players will little credibility on the ground: the Russians and Iranians who continue to support the regime and whose vision of a political process is meant to give Assad a lifeline, and the Saudi, Qataris and Turks whose support of the rebels is spotty and continues to be undermined by western, especially American, dithering.

At this stage, buoyed by Russian and Iranian support, Assad will not take a political process seriously, unless he is forced out of Damascus and his backers are thus forced to recalibrate their position. For their part, rebels will keep seeing in a political process an attempt at circumventing their recent successes. Islamists in particular will see a political process as a conspiracy meant to undermine them and their plans for establishing an Islamic state. They will be right of course. Meanwhile, the vision of “victory” espoused by most opposition groups seem to revolve around the belief that rebels will end up “liberating” all of Syria, including Kurdish, Alawite, Druze and Christian majority areas, at which time a political process can be launched and a debate over rights and responsibilities of each national and confessional group can take place. The fact that this vision is nothing short of recipe for a prolonged civil conflict has not dawned upon them yet, and until it does and until they realize that dialogue in the near future will not save the regime but could save the country, the possibility of launching a viable process is nonexistent.

Two technology firms that monitor global Internet traffic report that Syria has been cut off from the Internet. Regular landline phone and cell phones services have been affected as well, Syrian opposition activist Ammar Abdulhamid told me. “Therefore, the possibility of accidental damage can be discounted,” said Abdulhamid. “This is something done intentionally by the regime, and reflects growing desperation on account of the recent advances made by rebels, especially in Damascus.”

The communications blackout may signal that the 20-month-long uprising against Bashar al-Assad has moved to a new and even more violent stage, in what some are calling the battle for Damascus. “With Assad forces now conducting major operations in Damascus,” says Abdulhamid, “they will cover it up as much as possible and create their own version of the truth.” ...

Assad’s desperation, said Abdulhamid, is a product of the rebels’ recent advances. “In the last two weeks, the regime has lost six air bases around Damascus and Aleppo,” Abdulhamid said. “The rebels might not be able to hold all those bases, but they’ve lifted arms from those bases, including the surface to air missiles with which they’ve brought down 9 aircraft in the last two days—5 MiGs, 4 helicopter gunships.”

In effect, the opposition has begun to carve out a small no-fly zone of its own. “The rebels,” says Abulhamid, “are quietly laying siege to Damascus.”

Over the last few days, Assad’s regime has suffered major losses in its clashes with rebels, who have managed to encircle the capital, Damascus, even attacking the International Airport there and forcing a shutdown of its services, said Ammar Abdulhamid, an exiled Syrian pro-democracy activist and fellow at Foundation for Defense of Democracies, in an email to the Daily Dot.

“As such, the move could reflect a sign of growing panic in the regime and could be a desperate move to disrupt communications between rebel groups, even though rebels rely for the most part on satellite communications and short wave radio rather than the internet,” Abdulhamid added. …

As was the case during the Egyptian uprising, shutting down the Internet will only embolden people to rebel and disseminate information anyway they can, Abdulhamid said.

“This shutdown could be a sign that the regime is preparing for a major offensive in Damascus and elsewhere, and wants to delay coverage of the event by international press as much as possible,” he added.

“But that does not make much sense really, considering the widespread use of satellite communications. But if the regime is in a panic mode, then not all its steps would be rational at this stage.”

It’s still unclear how the Internet blackout happened—and for what purpose. While Syria’s information minister blamed “terrorists” for the disruption, others suspect that the government is behind the blackout. “I think we can discount the theory that rebels did the damage, because landlines and cellphones were down as well,” said Ammar Abdulhamid, a Syrian dissident based in the United States and a fellow with the Foundation for Defense of Democracies. “The regime is behind this, and seems desperate because of the recent advances made by rebels in Damascus and elsewhere—but especially in Damascus.”
“The rebels were quietly laying siege to Damascus. Not in the traditional manner, but by capturing key bases around the city and making travel along the major highways a risky affair,” he added. “I think the regime clearly panicked and it might be trying to undertake some major offensive operations in the area to get the situation under control, before the rebels are more organized and better supplied.”

Rebels and activists blame the car bombings in Jaramana on the regime. Jaramana is a mixed Druze and Christian community, but there are many Sunnis, and Iraqi refugees. The regime has been trying to get more recruits for its militias from their ranks, without much success so far. Targeting these communities des not make much sense from rebel perspective, but makes ample sense from the point of view of the regime. The more fear there is, the greater the support it can get, no matter how tentative, especially as things heat up in the City, and rebels continue to encircle the city. The rebels are actually in a position to lay a protracted siege of the city for the bombardment taking place.

The rising popularity of smartphones and the Syrian government’s sharp limits on the movements of independent journalists have made social media an especially vital source of information about the conflict. The abrupt loss of the technology has caused widespread fear, said Ammar Abdulhamid, a fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.

“Not everyone will have access” to news about the conflict, said Abdulhamid, who has close ties to Syria’s opposition. “There will be panic. There will be fear.”

Video Highlights

The pounding of Eastern Ghoutah Region in Damascus continues Inhabitants of Douma evacuate their town gain after another rounds of aerial bombardments In Daraya, several members of the Ziadeh family were killed in aerial bombardment, this is the family of known human rights activists Radwan Ziadeh

Rebels bring down a MiG in Daar Azzah, Aleppo , , The pilot was captured and treated but his wounds were fatal

In Deir Ezzor, MiGs took part in pounding the town Bouleil

Current trend, using more women in pro-Assad militias in checkpoints in Damascus

Kurdish Rebels in Aleppo form their own fighting unit called Azadi

Benefitting from loyalist troops pullout from the region, rebels in Hama come together in a new and larger formation

Rebels in the coastal areas come in a larger formation as well

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Who Speaks for Rayaan?

Pro-Assad militias describe their operations against the rebels in Damascus, Homs and elsewhere as “clearing slums,” but considering that millions of people have been displaced as a result of these operations, the overwhelming majority of whom are Sunnis, the development is nothing less than a massive ethnic cleansing effort. Since, for now, an Alawite enclave along the coast has already been secured, except for regions in north Lattakia, the current drive seems aimed simply at disrupting rebel activities, irrespective of long-term impact. The slums have for decades provided shelter to immigrant families from rural areas searching for jobs and advancement opportunities and emigrant middle class families from the inner cities driven out by inflationary pressures. By pushing them out, the “clearing” operations have produced a major humanitarian disaster. But, judging by increased rebel activities in these areas, the operations have proven a total failure in terms of military strategy. Still, the madness continues, coupled with opposition irrelevance and international indifference. So, who speaks for Aisha and Rayaan? Who speaks for the thousands of children that have been killed in this conflict?

Monday November 26, 2012

Today’s Death Toll: 168, including 6 women and 5 children: 90 in Damascus and suburbs (including 28 who died under torture in Daraya and 6 in Dahadeel), 35 in Aleppo, 11 in Hama, 10 in Homs, 8 in Daraa, 7 in Idlib, 4 in Quneitra, 2 in Deir Ezzor; and 1 in Raqqah Points of Random Shelling: 248: 75 by mortar, 140 by artillery, 33 by missile, 10by warplanes including three uses of barrel bombs, and 2 uses of cluster bombs. Clashes: 140. Rebels liberated a police station at the Jordanian-Syrian border, attacked checkpoints in Quneitra, and repelled multiple regime attempts to storm Daraya and the cities and towns of Eastern Ghoutah in Damascus (LCC).

Syria opposition names London 'ambassador' Originally from the central city of Homs, the 62-year-old former teacher set up the SCHR in 1986 and was imprisoned several times, before moving to London, where he represented the Syrian branch of the Muslim Brotherhood.

Special Reports
The United States has kept its hands in its pockets so far, in part because our diplomats say that the Syrian rebels have long been too fragmented and disorganized for any hope of real cooperation. Will a playground full of dead children sway the State Department to take a more assertive stance? Probably not.
For the regime of President Bashar al-Assad, the stakes in Damascus are nothing short of retaining control of the nation itself. "If they lose Damascus, they lose the state," says Patrick Seale, a British author and Syria expert. Senior security officials within the Assad regime say partial demolitions of pro-rebel neighborhoods in and around Damascus are a key element of an ambitious counterinsurgency plan now unfolding. The plan also involves the expansion of regime-funded militias known as "Popular Committees" within the capital.
As the conflict between the Syrian government and opposition fighters continues, kidnapping has become a source of much needed money in a struggling economy, the BBC's Lina Sinjab in Damascus reports.
Just 25 miles from Aleppo, which has been pounded into dust by Bashar al-Assad's air force, the Syrian town of Afrin is a picture of domestic tranquility. But that's because it's being run by a relatively unknown player in Syria's civil war: Syrian Kurds.
Syrian rebel officers have formed a commission to lay the foundations for a future army and liaise with the political opposition on issues such as arming fighters on the ground, a spokesman said on Monday.
When Syrian rebels seized the border post at Ras al-Ayn on Nov. 8, they celebrated the victory and went on to "liberate" the town, a place where both Arabs and Kurds live on Syria's northeast border with Turkey. But the Kurdish inhabitants quickly saw their "liberation" as a disaster. Within days, dozens were dead in clashes between Kurdish militias and the rebels.
Teen group shows support for Syria


The Foreign Policy Initiative (FPI) invites you to its 2012 Forum to be held on Tuesday, November 27th, at the Newseum's Knight Conference Center, where Members of Congress, foreign dissidents, and leading policy experts will discuss “The Price of Greatness: The Next Four Years of U.S. Foreign Policy.” (RSVP Here).

I am glad to be an adviser in this effort

Students around the country are getting involved in something global and something powerful. With a click of a mouse and a bit of green paint, teenagers across the United States are reaching out, pledging their support and making a difference. Students around the country are becoming ... Syria. “I Am Syria is a campaign for the Syrian people, and its purpose is to let them know that we support them and that they are not alone,” said Abby Cordaro, a sophomore at Immaculata Academy. “Its main goal is to spread awareness about the conflict in Syria.”

More on the I Am Syrian Campaign can be found on its dedicated website. Educators will find this page in particular to be of interest and use.

Meanwhile, no one seems in a position to speak for this little girl. Her name was Rayaan.

Video Highlights

Leaked video shows pro-Assad militias abusing the injured after they stormed a field hospital for rebels. The go from one injured to another asking him to tell them where the weapons are hidden threatening to shoot him if he failed to reply

This leaked video is from Deir Ezzor City shows part of the “sweep” operations conducted by pro-Assad militias in the old market

Rebels attack a checkpoint in Ruknaddine Neighborhood, Damascus City Sounds of mortar fire can be heard in the plush Mazzeh Neighborhood ,

The shelling of the town of Zabadani continues

The pounding of the town of Rastan, Homs Province, continues ,

Fighter jets keep pounding neighborhoods and towns in Aleppo: Bab El-Hawa , Dar Azzah Elsewhere

A local rebel leader calls on “tent officers,” as defectors based in Antakya are known, to come join him and his comrades in the trenches, “there is more honor and dignity in it for you.”  

Monday, November 26, 2012

Age of the Warlords!

As rebels continue to outpace politicians in Syria, the two sides will soon have little to talk about when it comes to governing the liberated territories. By the time politicians have formed a transitional government it will have become irrelevant. The liberated territories belong to the rebels and they are unlikely to cede control to a bunch of squabbling politicians with no vision or leadership potential.

Sunday November 25, 2012

Today’s Death Toll: 117, including 2 women and 14 children: 55 in Damascus and suburbs (including 12 bodies from Daraya found in Mowasa Hospital and 10 martyrs as a result of aerial shelling in Dar Al-Asafeer), 16 in Aleppo, 17 in Daraa, 7 in Homs, 6 in Deir Ezzor, 8 in Hama, 5 in Idlib, and 3 in Quneitra. Points of Random Shelling: 251: 79 by mortar, 129 by artillery, 43 by missiles, 14 by air bombardments, including 2 instances of use of cluster bombs. Clashes: 136. Rebels also liberated Al-Rihanieh Military Camp and the Tishreen Dam (main supplier of electricity to Aleppo). In Damascus, Rebels repelled loyalist attempts to enter the suburb of Daraya and the towns of Eastern Ghoutah (LCC).


Special Reports
The teachers have removed Assad's portraits from classrooms so as not to be seen as regime collaborators, but have left up the ones in headmaster Adnan's office, where they sit on couches at break time and chat. They allow journalists in on their discussions on the anti-regime revolt but ask to be identified only by first name and refuse to have their pictures taken.
At least 700 Palestinians across the country have been killed since the uprising began, according to opposition groups. As the violence ramps up, the Palestinian community is being forced to choose sides, adding another unpredictable element to a murky conflict. “Some Palestinians have been part of the revolution from the beginning, and some groups have sided with the regime,” said Nadim Houry, the deputy Middle East director for Human Rights Watch. “But sometimes even when they’re not part of it, the fight comes to them.”
Syrian rebels are taking a few things into their own hands. They have captured several major oilfields, two in the country’s southeastern province of Deir al-Zour recently, and are extracting oil that is helping to support the people.
The regime of Bashar al-Assad appears to be favoring long-range weapons out of fear that soldiers close to the front lines will defect.
It’s one of the most disturbing horrors of the conflict in Syria: the use of sexual assault as a weapon: Ambassadors Melanne Verveer and Peter Westmacott on how to put an end to the epidemic.

Video Highlights

Aerial bombardment on the town of Deir Al-Assafeir, Damascus, kills a number of women and children , ,

Rebels in Marj Al-Sultan Airbase, Damascus, moving the supplies hey gained from their recent raid , A recap of the liberation process  , Taking over a helicopter , Taking over tanks A destroyed helicopter Rebels managed to as well to secure the release of the few prisoners detained at the Airbase

Rebels in Damascus manage to take control of a Shilka unit as well (Shilka is a “lightly armored, self-propelled, radar guided anti-aircraft weapon system.”) It’s confiscated Shilkas that has so far been used by rebels to bring down helicopters.

Rebels in Aleppo showcase their gains from their recent successful takeover of the headquarters of the 46th Regiment , ,

Rebels and loyalists clash in Deir Ezzor City , Much of the city has been turned into rubble ,

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Due Diligence!

Despite the recent launch of the National Coalition and the positive reception it had in international circles, much still needs to be done in order to ensure opposition unity, at least as it related to the moderate forces. Rebels still need to be brought on board, a decision-making mechanism needs to be agreed, a plan for action needs to be formulated, and a vision for the future of Syria needs to be finally proposed. Almost 21 months have passed since the beginning of the Revolution, and we still don’t have a transitional government or a transitional constitution, yet we still wonder why the international community is not stepping in to support us! In the battle for international recognition and support, we are yet to do our due diligence as opposition groups and activists.

Saturday November 24, 2012

Today’s Death Toll:  82, including 2 women and 4 children: 35 in Damascus and suburbs, 18 in Aleppo, 12 in Homs, 7 in Idlib, 4 in Hama, 4 in Daraa, and 2 in Deir Ezzor. Points of Random Shelling: 219:  67 by mortar; 118 by artillery, 34 by missile, and 10 aerial raids. Clashes: 122. Rebels liberated a checkpoint, downed two helicopters and destroyed a number of tanks and radars in Marj Al-Sultan military airport in the Damascus Suburbs (LCC).

Syria Cautions on Patriots, NATO Reassures Kremlin Ankara and NATO have reiterated that the deployment of Patriot missiles in Turkey along the Syrian border is for defensive purposes only, in a bid to ease Moscow’s fears.
Turkey expects NATO Patriot missile decision within week Turkey expects NATO to make a decision about deploying surface-to-air Patriot missiles along its southern border with Syria within the next week, Defence Minister Ismet Yilmaz said on Saturday.

Special Reports
Rebels who have besieged Sheikh Suleiman army base for nearly two months are confident it will fall in days, giving them full control of a swathe of northwest Syria from Aleppo to the Turkish border. Their optimism has been buoyed by a steady stream of defectors from the ranks of the several hundred troops defending the strategic base, the last major garrison still in army hands between the border and Syria's northern metropolis.
As civil war continues, a generation of Syrian children is living with untold grief and trauma… Children who have been brutalized will reproduce the violence they experience—not because they are “bad” but because violence has saturated their environment.
As one Iranian Revolutionary Guards member told the Wall Street Journal in August, "Iran's borders extend beyond geographic frontiers, and fighting for Syria is an integral part of keeping the Shiite Crescent intact."… So if the Shiite crescent falls, the nations that backed Hamas will have to live with an emboldened Israel in addition to a weakened Iran and Russia—which is exactly what the U.S. and Israel would like to see.
But where is the United States? America has spent months trying to get the Russians and the Chinese to agree to toothless U.N. resolutions to “end the bloodshed,” as though Moscow will abandon Assad and Beijing really cares about chaos in the Middle East. Vladimir Putin is not a sentimental man. But if he believes that Assad can survive, he will do nothing to undermine him. In recent days, France, Britain and Turkey have stepped into the diplomatic vacuum to recognize a newly formed opposition that is broadly representative of all Syrians. The United States should follow their lead and then vet and arm the unified group with defensive weapons on the condition that it pursues an inclusive post-Assad framework. The United States and its allies should also consider establishing a no-fly zone to protect the innocent. America’s weight and influence are needed. Leaving this to regional powers, whose interests are not identical to ours, will only exacerbate the deepening sectarianism.
Now that the short term crisis has transformed into a long term stalemate, the inadequacy of the temporary protection regime of camps in Turkey is revealed. Turkey is a party to international treaties arising from the basic obligation to open its border to refugees. But the international community also has responsibilities.
… the rebel military council leadership was not included in the Doha effort. Military leaders such as Akidi thought they would be invited, but the invitations never came. This has added to demoralization. U.S. and Syrian sources agree that to create military unity, the CIA will have to push friendly intelligence services to pool funding and other support behind a unified command. U.S. officials hope that process will happen over the next month, but rebel leaders fear this could be too late.

Video Highlights

Another Alawite officer defects, Captain Mayyas Saqr Deeb

Rebels in Damascus storm the military airport of Marj Al-Sultan destroying planes and armored vehicles in the process , , One of the brigades taking part in the clashes , A video found on the mobiles of one of the prisoners taken during this campaign shows loyalist militias torturing and mocking a detainee

Rebels and loyalist militias clash in Deir Ezzor City

Saturday, November 24, 2012

No Process No Peace!

As the Revolution embraces her second winter and refugees continue to proliferate, rebels advance in the face of all odds, and opposition groups try to take advantage of their second chance at recognition and relevance. Still, there is no end in sight for our crisis, because the thing that can help bring this end about while ensuring that the Revolution has met its goal of toppling the regime while preserving the integrity of the state is still missing: a credible political process.

Friday November 23, 2012

Today’s Death Toll:  76: 30 in Damascus and suburbs, 17 in Aleppo, 6 in Daraa, 5 in Idli, 4 in Deir Ezzor, 4 in Lattakia, 4 in Hama, 2 in Homs, 2 in Raqqah, 1 in Banyas, and 1 in Quneitra (LCC).


Syria rebels seize army base but 'hotel warriors' struggle Syrian rebels captured an army base in the eastern oil province of Deir al-Zor on Thursday, striking another blow against President Bashar Assad. But Syria's newly-united opposition is struggling to consolidate, and even allies such as Tunisia and Libya have yet to lend their official support.
Maintaining normalcy in war-torn Syria With no solution and no peace agreement in sight, people are increasingly anxiously clinging to the routines of their normal lives.
Just Another Day In Damascus The Syrian government has been using a variety of ammunition, each with a distinctive soundtrack. Many Syrians, including children, knew nothing about the weapons of war before the Syrian uprising began in the spring of 2011. Now they differentiate them by sound alone.

Special Reports
Bashar al-Assad is not the only Arab leader facing marginalisation
Caught at a stage in their lives when they should be concentrating on their studies and having fun with their friends, many Syrian teenagers are now in a position where they have to take on serious responsibilities, yet lack the autonomy of adulthood. And some Syrian teenagers have witnessed truly horrifying scenes, the likes of which most of us will never see in our lifetimes.
From the edges of southern Turkey, you can see the smoke of a single cigarette inside Syria. The Turkish town of Ceylanpinar is around 50m away from the Syrian town of Ras al-Ain. The two countries are separated by a barbed wire fence.
Twenty-one months of conflict between forces loyal to Syria's president, Bashar Assad, and a loose alliance of rebel fighters seeking his ouster, have ravaged the country. Around 40,000 people have been killed, and thousands of homes reduced to heaps of rubble. Some 2.5m Syrians are reckoned to have been forced from their homes. More than 400,000 have registered in neighbouring countries as refugees; tens of thousands more have left of their own accord. For them, the arrival of winter is a curse rather than a blessing. Save the Children, a UK-based charity, reckons 200,000 refugee children are at risk from the cold conditions, confined as they are to ramshackle shelters in hastily-built refugee camps.
The Kurds of Syria may have suffered under the Assads’ boots for nearly 50 years, but they are increasingly worried about the role Salafist groups are playing inside the Free Syrian Army. No matter what the outcome of the war, Salih insists Syrian Kurds are only looking for democratic self-determination within Syria’s borders, without drawing any new ones. For the time being, what has been dubbed the Arab Spring seems to be exactly that: a movement by and for Arabs. Syria’s Kurds are acutely aware of this and only time will tell if they’ll be able to keep Assad,the FSA and Turkey at a distance.
China had large economic interests in Libya, with, according to Chinese media, $18 billion invested in construction projects.  Libya was also home to 35,000 Chinese migrant workers, whom China had to evacuate when war broke out. China’s interests in Syria, however, are very different. “I think the thing ultimately is that in Syria Beijing is facing a lose lose situation," says Sarah Raine, a fellow at the International Institute for Strategic Studies, "because on the one hand Beijing has no love for Assad, no major assets, resource-wise in the country, and not even a particularly sizable Chinese presence to worry about.”
Syrian artists' works reflecting the horror of civil war will be shown in exhibition to support those suffering in the uprising
“You are a black mark on all Alawites,” the officer spat out at one point. He eventually unleashed two muscular goons who dragged Ms. Yazbek through a series of basement torture cells as a dire warning.

“the Coalition was designed in order to sidestep the extremists and save the revolution from their ongoing attempts to hijack it. The reluctance of the international community to intervene in the situation earlier had unfortunately strengthened the hand of extremist elements. The sooner the international community supports the Coalition the sooner we can get the revolution back on the right track.” (More)

Video Highlights

Tal Shihab, Daraa: local rebels destroy an armored vehicle and kill few pro-Assad militias in the process 

The pounding of Damascene neighborhoods and suburbs continues: Jobar Zabadani  Daraya