Saturday, January 12, 2013

Dystopia!

Reality is stranger than any fiction, and Syria 2013 promises to be the strangest reality of all. There is something purely Dickensian, particularly Kafkaesque and all Orwellian clearly at work here, as our Dystopia unfolds. How Dikwellian!

Friday January 11, 2013

Today’s Death Toll: 101, including 13 children and 8 women: 40 martyrs were reported in massacre of Nahiya Al-Houl in Hassaka,17 martyrs were reported in Aleppo, 16 in Damascus and its Suburbs, 11 in Hama, 8 in Daraa, 4 in Idlib and 2 in Homs (LCCs).

Points of Random Shelling: 341: 11 points were shelled by warplanes, 4 points by barrel bombs, 3 points by Cluster Bombs and 1 points by Phosphorus Bombs. The mortar shelling was reported in 132 points, the artillery shelling in 126 points and the missile shelling in 53 points in different parts of Syria (LCCs).

Clashes:  The FSA clashed with the regime forces in 141 locations. FSA rebels liberated the Taftanaz Military Airport in Idlib and captured many military vehicles and ammunition. In Aleppo, FSA shelled Manag Military Airport. In Basr Al-Harir, Daraa, they blew up ammunition storage facility. In Hassaka, the FSA stormed Hoqoul Tishreen checkpoint. In Hama, FSA destroyed several military vehicles and attempted to secure a road in order to break the siege in Taibat Al-Imam. Clashes continue (LCCs).

News
Syria rebels seize base as envoy holds talks The capture of Taftanaz air base, after months of sporadic fighting, could help rebels solidify their hold on northern Syria, according to Rami Abdelrahman, head of the pro-opposition Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. But Yezid Sayigh, at the Carnegie Middle East Centre in Beirut, said it was not a game-changer, noting that it had taken months for the rebels to overrun a base whose usefulness to the military was already compromised by the clashes around it. "This is a tactical rather than a strategic gain," he said.
Failure of Syria Talks Signal Conflict May Be Long Struggle "There's little sign that we're any closer to any political solution to this crisis," said Chris Doyle, director of the Council for Arab-British Understanding. "Because there are divisions in the international community between the United States and Russia, between key regional powers like Saudi Arabia and Iran, there is not a core constituency who are pushing for one single solution to the crisis in Syria."
Panetta: US Troops Securing Syria’s Chemical Weapons Not an Option in ‘Hostile Atmosphere’ Panetta said Thursday that the U.S. is “not working on options that involve boots on the ground.” But he added that ” you always have to keep the possibility that, if there is a peaceful transition and international organizations get involved, that they might ask for assistance in that situation.  But in a hostile situation, we’re not planning for that.”
John Kerry's words on Syria's Assad certain to draw scrutiny Sen. John Kerry has held up Syria as a country that could bring peace and stability to the Mideast and predicted that the now-disgraced government of President Bashar Assad would pursue a legitimate relationship with the United States… Conservative websites have mocked the relationship as a Kerry-Assad "bromance," seizing on comments the Senate Foreign Relations Committee chairman has made in speeches and during his six visits to Syria.
Space Station Astronaut Calls for Syria Peace "The perspective that we are subject to, that we are privileged enough to see directly with our eyes, is one I think would benefit everyone, to go around the world in just slightly over 90 minutes... you see it as one place," Hadfield told a news conference streamed from the International Space Station. "And so when we do look down on a place that is currently in great turmoil or strife, it's hard to reconcile the inherent patience and beauty of the world with the terrible things that we can do to each other as people and can do to the Earth itself," he said.

Syria denounces peace envoy who hinted Assad must go "In Syria...what people are saying is that a family ruling for 40 years is a little bit too long," Brahimi told the BBC, referring to Assad, who inherited his post from his father Hafez al-Assad, who seized power in 1970 and ruled for 30 years. "President Assad could take the lead in responding to the aspiration of his people rather than resisting it," the veteran Algerian diplomat said, hinting the Syrian leader should go.
NATO reports another Scud launch in Syria, but what are the Scuds hitting? While there is scant evidence of the Scuds landing anywhere in Syria, there have been no indications that the missiles landed across any of Syria's national borders. Turkey, to Syria's north, has reported no ballistic missiles landing in its territory. Fear that Syria might fire missiles into Turkish territory has, however, prompted NATO to move Patriot missile batteries into southern Turkey, along the Syrian border.
Four held in London over suspected Syria links Metropolitan police counter-terrorism unit arrest one man at Gatwick airport and three in dawn raids in east London


Special Reports
The Rebellion
"We formally formed the unit in November. It provides all kind of information to (opposition) politicians and fighters. We are independent and just serve the revolution," said a rebel intelligence officer who goes under the name Haji... the organization appears to operate independently from the main opposition Syrian National Coalition and the Free Syrian Army, effectively answering to itself.
By continuing to capture arms and ammunition, the rebels have become more self-sustaining. This suggests that the international community could best help them not so much by providing arms (except for a few types of antiaircraft and antitank weapons), but by building their capability to use heavy weapons and providing intelligence on regime forces. Such capacity building would also help empower the relatively moderate elements in the opposition. This is important both during the war and afterward, when the most militarily capable rebel units will likely wield the most political influence.
Mohammed Afar is 11 years old. The modified AK-47 assault rifle he carries stretches to nearly two-thirds his height… “He is a great shot,” says his father, Mohammed Saleh Afar. “He is my little lion.”… He says he admires the fighters from Jabhat al-Nusra—composed of hardline Islamists subscribing to Takfiri ideology—and recently designated a foreign terrorist organization by the United States. Al-Nusra have proven effective in battle, winning itself scores of supporters.
President Bashar Assad sounds another death knell for diplomacy

The Country
“I’m a Christian. There’s a big difference here between Christians and Alawites. Alawites are special cases, they are always number one,” Abu Skandar says.

The Humanitarian Front
Widespread flooding has occurred, swamping tents and overwhelming the drainage system in the Za’atari camp, with deep mud making it harder to drain the water and for water-removal trucks to access the camp, UNICEF noted in a news release.
In June, Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières-France (MSF) opened a hospital in the Idlib region in northern Syria, an area under rebel control. Located behind the front lines, the hospital has 15 beds and a staff of approximately 50, including 10 international MSF workers. Designed to perform war surgery, the facility also offers medical and surgical emergency care as the front moves further away. MSF’s Belgian and Spanish sections managed two other hospitals in Syria. Fabrice Weissman, MSF’s operations advisor, returned from a mission in Syria in early December. He was particularly struck by the breadth of the needs and the lack of international response.
Little Mohammad, who is no older than seven years, every day roams the streets of his Aleppo neighborhood looking for his parents who died in overnight shelling by Syrian regime forces.
The only medical facility still functioning in the village is a secret clinic, run by local people and a few Syrian health workers. Under intense shelling, the clinic’s volunteer staff are struggling to treat large numbers of injured people and taking huge personal risks to keep the clinic running and to evacuate the most seriously injured to hospitals outside the village.

UN envoy Brahimi implied President Assad might not have a role in a future government, while Russia says only Syrians can make that call. Meanwhile, rebels said they took control of a key military base.

Two Appeals for Serious Action
Editor’s note: Michael Spindelegger, Karl Erjavec, Eamon Gilmore and Villy Søvndal are the foreign ministers of Austria, Slovenia, Ireland and Denmark, respectively. The views expressed are their own.
A referral to the ICC – which has repeatedly been suggested by the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay – has several advantages. The Court is a neutral and impartial institution that investigates and prosecutes the most serious crimes on all sides. A referral would give the leaders of the Syrian opposition a strong argument to call for discipline among its diverse forces. It would give the members of the al-Assad regime a further reason to question their allegiance. And it could assist the search for a political solution to the conflict. As we saw in other crises, parallel political and judicial processes are mutually supporting. There is no decision to be taken here between either peace or justice – a sustainable, long-term solution requires both.
U.N. agencies: Stop the suffering in Syria Three of the United Nations' most senior executives have written a joint opinion piece exclusively for CNN.com. They are Antonio Guterres, the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees; Ertharin Cousin, the executive director of the World Food Program; and Anthony Lake, executive director of the U.N. Children's Fund or UNICEF.


The World Outside Our Shoes

American human rights activist, Carl Wilkens (@CarlWilkens), director of World Outside My Shoes, an educational non-profit "committed to inspiring and equipping people to enter the world of 'The Other' -  'The Other' may be under our own roof or on the other side of the globe," paid a visit to Al-Zaatari Refugee Camp in Jordan last month and produced the videos below. Conditions have grown increasingly worse in the last few days on account of snowfall and the freezing rain.  


In 1994, Carl and his family were living in Rwanda when the genocide broke out. Carl sent his wife and children to Burundi with an American convoy but Carl felt he could not leave his friends behind, many whom were Tutsis. Carl saved about 400 people from the Gisimba Orphanage. His presence at the orphanage was enough for the militia not to slaughter everyone inside its walls. Today, Carl travels the United States to speak with students, teachers, and parents about his experience in Rwanda.

We need more American and international activists like him to be involved and build pubic pressures on various western government to play a more proactive part in alleviating the suffering at least.

Incomplete Swap

While rebels released their 48 Iranian hostages in one go, the regime is yet to honor its commitment: hundreds have been released, but hundreds more await, including all the big names, people like Tal Al-Mallouhi, Mazen Darweesh and Lt. Col. Hussain Harmoush. Reasons for the delay are not clear.

Airbase Capture

Local activists report that the capture of the Taftanaz Military Airport was delayed for many weeks because Jabhat Al-Nusra fighters insisted on going it alone preventing other rebel groups from taking a too active part. Now, JN has several helicopters in its possession, and reportedly several of their members can pilot one.

Rebels from Jabhat Al-Nusra destroy a helicopter gunship at Taftanaz Military Airport http://youtu.be/1TTsotBbBiI Closer Look at the wreckage and the dead pilots http://youtu.be/OXLE-2Ku88w And pound the airport http://youtu.be/kOaplsN_Qpg MiGs pound rebel position around the airport http://youtu.be/3X8w3iS3eqM But, on Friday, rebels manage to storm the entire airport and consolidate their hold. Parading their gains http://youtu.be/tyq4K59Sso4 , http://youtu.be/-Then24i2gM , http://youtu.be/cNXY4OtmOKM Rebels now have a number of helicopters under their control http://youtu.be/ublEzaKIv54 , http://youtu.be/X4XDbbY37o8 , http://youtu.be/r_e2nXPHvII

Video Highlights

The Little Match Boy of Damascus: no comment necessary http://youtu.be/-uEbc2NXB-A

Video clip found on the mobile of a captured loyalist militiaman is a montage showing missile launchers in action against rebel position in the town of Daraya, Damascus. The song in the background praises Assad and is replete with cultural references particular to the Alawites http://youtu.be/N5g2Ry40dfs This video from an activist a street littered with the dead bodies of pro-Assad militias after rebels managed to repel their recent attack on the restive suburb http://youtu.be/trqYb__4hqU

A brief documentary about Syrian refugees in the town of Arsaal, Lebanon (English subtitles) http://youtu.be/49USydscMCc

Clashes in Basr Al-Harir, Daraa continue http://youtu.be/66vDXiWUylM , http://youtu.be/RN7NAPiTu68 Rebels destroy a tank http://youtu.be/u4txngFq6-U Rebels rescue their wounded http://youtu.be/3Zxrv_HVh_4 , http://youtu.be/3Zxrv_HVh_4 In nearby Nahteh, shelling claims many lives http://youtu.be/uPq8T1uGYHE

Fighter jets resume their raids on restive neighborhoods in Eastern Ghoutah, Damascus: Saqba http://youtu.be/Tp8jFJ901E8 Hamouriyeh http://youtu.be/jinZnO3AmsA But in nearby Jisreen, children find time to play in the snow http://youtu.be/Fvi-hY0Q584 While rebel tanks roam the streets of nearby suburbs http://youtu.be/s_2fhFn2YOs

In the town of Zabadani along the border with Lebanon, snowfall gives locals some relief from pounding, but increases their suffering due to lack of power and heating fuel, as this local activist describes  http://youtu.be/Fj1FtMhKYIM Similar testimony from a different local http://youtu.be/p6fpup7mGE4 Snowfall continues http://youtu.be/b7PL05v7720 But on Friday, the shelling resumed http://youtu.be/SDpZz56OTDE

In Damascus City, clashes continue in Yarmouk Camp http://youtu.be/yE4R0-3VccI Meanwhile, the military airport at Mazzeh continues to be sued as staging grounds for missile attacks against restive suburbs around the city http://youtu.be/DbL-kwpXUi8


In Aleppo, cold weather notwithstanding, rebels continued pounding the military airport at Managh http://youtu.be/WXXT7ARLDMs , http://youtu.be/iL8uGgWipa4 , http://youtu.be/6QIr8w1vfdk

Despite the severe cold, hundreds of small rallies took part in towns and neighborhoods across Syria: Manbij, Aleppo http://youtu.be/WZDSbOfvS6U Jobar, Damascus http://youtu.be/8DUVVenXNqA Hama City http://youtu.be/4vzWg8QHP2I Al-Kashif, Daraa http://youtu.be/OeNhYcPuujQ Boustan Al-Qasr, Aleppo City http://youtu.be/utOtPFcsrOs Salqeen, Idlib http://youtu.be/IwKQ5yKWA8Y Arbeen, Damascus http://youtu.be/BeIkjjgKqy4