Saturday, February 2, 2013

Back to Forgotten Basics!

The more developments in Syria become less about what Syrians want and more about what different regional and international actors want, the more likely the breakup scenario gets and the more dangerous the Jihadi threat becomes. It’s time we went back to the basics in order to avert disaster: the people want to topple the regime.

Friday February 1, 2013

Today’s Death Toll: 94 martyrs, including 3 children and 3 women. 34 martyrs in Damascus and Damascus Suburbs, 29 in Aleppo, 7 in Daraa, 7 in Idlib, 6 in Hama, 6 in Homs, and 5 in Deir Ezzor  (LCCs).

Points of Random Shelling: 403 points, including 16 points that were shelled by warplanes; 5 points by Explosive barrels; 2 point using cluster bombs and 1 point with vacuum bombs, 177 points were shelled with mortar, 144 points with heavy caliber artillery, and 59 points with rockets (LCCs).

Clashes: 122 locations. Successful rebel operations included an attack on the Tal-el-Sheikh-Hadid checkpoint in Aleppo City, an attack on the Shamdeen Square checkpoint in Damascus City, and attack on a Shabiha gathering point in the town of Bosr Al-Harir in Daraa resulting in the confiscation of 3 tanks (LCCs).

U.S. Embassy Blast in Turkey ‘Act of Terror,’ Possibly Linked to Syria Turkish officials say the bomber who killed two Friday at the U.S. Embassy in Ankara belongs to an outlawed leftist group. The attack could be linked to Syria.
Deadly Firefight on Lebanon’s Border With Syria There were conflicting reports about the nature of the clash, in which security forces were ambushed as they pursued a wanted man, but the episode played into fears that the accelerating influx of Syrians could spread the conflict into Lebanon.
Opposition slams Syria’s Assad, says it would take tougher line against Israel for airstrike Syrian opposition leaders and rebels on Friday slammed President Bashar Assad for not responding to a rare Israeli airstrike near Damascus, calling it proof of his weakness and acquiescence to the Jewish State. The opposition’s sharp reaction underlines how those seeking to topple the Syrian leader might be more prepared to tangle with Israel if they came to power.
Envoy makes "last appeal" for Syria as officials meet (Reuters) - Senior U.S., Russian and U.N. officials, along with the leader of the Syrian opposition, were all expected at a security conference in Munich on Saturday, providing a rare opportunity for talks to revive efforts to end the civil war in Syria. Moscow and the United Nations, however, played down Syrian opposition assertions that its leader would hold a joint meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, U.S. Vice President Joe Biden and U.N. envoy Lakhdar Brahimi in Munich.
UNHCR reaches rebel-held area of North Syria for first time The U.N. refugee agency said on Friday that it had reached an opposition-held area of north Syria for the first time and found about 45,000 displaced people living in appalling conditions. A senior U.N. official voiced fears that other parts of the country could contain similar untold stories of suffering and he said Syria faced systematic destruction. 420,000 people in Homs desperate for aid: UN “These people need life-saving assistance,” UNICEF spokeswoman Marixie Mercado told AFP, pointing out that many of the 420,000 people most in need of help were living in “shelters with blasted-in windows.” “It’s extremely cold, and you have 20 to 25 families in a room… These are harsh conditions for kids,” she lamented, stressing that an acute lack of access to safe water and hygiene facilities coupled with children missing vaccinations was a recipe for disaster.
Vacation on Syria’s Front Lines Goes Wrong for Russian Judge Although most Russian media reports on the incident framed it as an example of the perils of “extreme tourism,” the agency’s casual reference to Mr. Berezhnoy’s past service in military intelligence got the attention of several reporters in Moscow, who were trying to puzzle out what he was doing in Syria… The fact that several of the ANNA video reports are subtitled in English has led to some speculation that the producers of the clips could be working, officially or unofficially, in support of a Russian foreign policy aim: to cast the Syrian government’s battle with “terrorism” in a more positive light for viewers outside Russia.
Jordan staggers under fallout of Syria conflict A flood of Syrian refugees and disrupted trade due to the 22-month-old revolt against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad burden a frail economy that has already had to turn to the IMF. Any emergence of Islamist rule in a post-Assad Syria could embolden Islamists who are the main opposition group in Jordan. And rising Islamist militancy among Syrian insurgents threatens the security of the Western-backed kingdom next door. Jordan also frets that protracted sectarian turmoil might shatter Syria's territorial integrity, with incalculable results for its neighbors in an already volatile Middle East.

Special Reports
Hizballah is not Israel’s only concern – or perhaps even the most worrying. Details of the Israeli strikes make clear the risk posed by fundamentalist militants sprinkled among the variegated rebel forces fighting to depose Assad.   The jihadists are overwhelmingly home-grown Sunni militants but also include foreigners drawn to the fight from across the Muslim world. Loosely organized into several fighting groups, some fighters embrace the almost nihilist ideology associated with al-Qaeda. But jihadist groups are less vulnerable to the same levers that have proved effective against Syria and other states –  such as threats to its territory — or even the frank interests of an organization like Hizballah, which as a political party plays a major role in Lebanon’s government.
What is most important now is to avert a failed state, akin to Somalia, that would provide militant extremists with a haven and possible access to chemical weapons in a key strategic location. This could also result in a wider sectarian conflict throughout the region.

Video Highlights

As people held their usual Friday anti-regime rallies in towns and neighborhoods all over the country, clashes and bombardment continues in all the usual hotspots. Here are some highlights:

Clashes between loyalists and rebels in Khan Al-Assal, Aleppo , , ,

Elsewhere in Aleppo, a MIG carries out a raid against the neighborhood of Bani Zeid

Clashes in Ashrafieh, Aleppo City , , Rebels used tanks in their attack

Regime forces intensify their attack on the town of Salma in northern Lattakia , ,

Clashes in the suburb of Harasta, Damascus, continue , The pounding of Al-Qadam neighborhood in Damascus City continues Meanwhile, the clashes in the old train station continue , , The devastation

In Basr Al-Harir, Daraa, local rebels destroy an attacking tank

The pounding of Deir Ezzor City intensifies ,

The pounding of the town of Rastan, Homs Province, continues So dos the pounding of nearby Al-Houleh

Leaked video shows regime militias pounding Homs City with heavy artillery and missile launchers

Highlight of rallies: Boustan Al-Qasr, Aleppo City Bza’ah, Aleppo Elbab, Aleppo Menbij, Aleppo Kobani, Aleppo Amudeh, Al-Hassakeh Kafrenbel, Idlib Binnish, Idlib , Kafroumah Jobar, Damascus City Al-Wa’er, Homs City Nasseeb, Daraa