Syria Update, August 31, 2012 (Institute of Middle Eastern, Islamic and Strategic Studies. By Sherifa Zuhur)
Mid-day death toll is 67.
Yesterday’s death toll was reported at 164 by the local coordination committees and at 119 by the SOHR in London.
The SAA is shelling the town of Abu az-Zuhur near the airport taken yesterday. Clashes continued at the airport. The opposition reportedly stormed the officers’ (this is a military airport) billeting areas. The FSA shot down a 4th helicopter at Abu az-Zuhur today.
The SAA has been shelling Ram Hamdan and Bzeit in Idlib province. A little girl was killed in Bzeit and houses have been destroyed.
At 5:30 pm the SAA shelled Kafranbel from helicopters. Reports of casualties.
The opposition attacked a security building in West Aleppo and clashes continued in the neighborhoods of Sayf al-Dawla and Salaheddin. The opposition is carrying out a new offensive in and near Aleppo. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/08/31/syria-rebels-offensive-aleppo_n_1846043.html
8 were killed and 30 wounded in al-Bab which is FSA-held.
The opposition captured 9 Syrian regime troops near Sayyida Zainab in Damascus.
Four bodies were found by the sides of the Mutahaleq al-Janubi road in the Jobar neighborhood of Damascus.
The SAA bombed Rankus, a resort town to the north of Damascus.
The SAA attacked the town of Naimah in Dara`a.
The SAA opened fire on a non-violent anti-regime protest in al-Damir in Damascus province and the SAA attacked a similar protest in al-Fayha in Hama.
A bomb exploded near the mosque of al-Rahma in the neighborhood of al-Qusur in Hama.
The SAA shelled the neighborhoods of al-Hamidiya and al-Jabalya in Deir az-Zur.
The SAA raided and burned homes in Dara`a al-Balad.
The SAA shelled Dael in Dara`a heavily, and during the Friday prayers. The SAA shelled Basra al-Sham in Dara`a.
Clashes took place in Enkel in Dara`a.
The SAA shelled al-Rastan in Homs killing one person.
The SAA targeted the funeral procession of Abdenaser Qatreeb, shelling with mortars in Basames village..
Friday anti-regime demonstrations took place after salat al-jum`a all over Syria. Held in al-Damir, Yalda in Damascus province, in Qodsiyya, and Assali and Hajar al-Aswad in Damascus although the SAA blocked roads into Damascus today; in Dara`a city in al-Kashef, and al-Qusur, and the town of al-Yaduda in Dara`a and in Khirbet al-Ghazaleh, in Douma, in Deir az-Zur, in Kafr Zeita in Hama province and Aleppo street and Bab al-Qabli in Hama; in Baza`a and Jarables near Aleppo, in Maskan Hanano in Aleppo, in Kfar Rouma in Idlib, in Qamishli, in al-Ghawta in Homs, in Kafr Nabel in support of the FSA, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wu5-A2McTvY&feature=player_embedded
; in Harasta http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9oMq–UDG8Q&feature=youtu.be
Several demonstrations were held in Hassake and in al-Houla in Homs
The protesters shout: “Death is better than humiliation,” “The people want the end of the regime,” “Martrys, you are heroes!” “We do not kneel except before God,” “Treacherous soldier, shame on you!,” “How beautiful you are, oh Freedom!” “Daraya, a flame that will never die.”
Slogans and signs coming from Kafranbel say: “We demand an alien invasion to save us” and “Only in Syria, the rate of everyday martyrs exceeds the rate of rainfall.”
The International Red Cross has only 50 members in Syria, all confined to Damascus and the group has not been able to provide any medical aid convoys from there for two weeks. IRC says the situation is deteriorating in Syria.
Kidnapped/Detained : The Czech Ambassador to Syria Eva Filipi who is in charge of U.S. citizens in Syria since the US embassy closed, said that U.S. reporter Austin Tice was detained near Daraya. The Syrian government has not publicly confirmed the reporter’s status. The Washington Post and McClatchey news service called for his release.
The bodies of 5 Syrian civilians kidnapped 2 days ago from Kreim in Sahle al-Ghab by pro-regime armed men were found today. Another 10 men had been kidnapped.
A hundred Turkish journalists held a demonstration in front of the Syrian embassy in Ankara to protest the detention of two Turkish journalists, Cunayt Unal and Bashar Fahmi in Syria. They have been missing for 11 days and it is presumed they are being held by government forces because Unal appeared in a video on Syrian state television, bruised and appearing to be under extreme duress. http://www.trust.org/alertnet/multimedia/pictures/detail.dot?mediaInode=bc4b9c4f-c572-4ae4-bdcf-c4519932a6b4
France’s President said his country will channel 5 million Euros in aid to liberated zones in Syria’s north and south so that Syrians can directly help civilians who may want to remain in their country. Such liberated zones actually require no-fly status, but the U.N. Security Council has not, and will likely never approve that status. However, as in other wars in this century, it is possible that a multinational coalition could create such no-fly zones without the approval of the Security Council which is deadlocked by Russia, China and Iran’s opposition to other nations’ proposals for Syria. http://in.reuters.com/article/2012/08/31/syria-crisis-zones-idINL6E8JV4SS20120831
Turkey plans to continue to pursue diplomatic efforts (similar to the above French plan) to protect Syrian civilians within Syria in safe-zones.
The SOHR reported that Turkey has issued a new law prohibiting Syrians from living in cities on the border with Syria. If caught, they are to be deported to the refugee camps or expelled from Turkish soil.
United Nations head, Ban Ki-Moon UN chief Ban Ki-moon told Syria’s prime minister and foreign minister in a meeting in Tehran that fighting must cease in Syria “with the primary responsibility resting on the government to halt its use of heavy weapons.” He went on to say that all parties must cease violence.
In the Golan Heights, controlled by Israel, Syrian Druzes protest in Majdal al-Shams against Bashar al-Assad, but one report shows that another part of this population, fearful of the Syrian regime, defends it, self-censors or shuns the opposition. http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2012/aug/31/golan-heights-divided-support-assad-syria?newsfeed=true
The Iranian parliament’s Middle East advisor, Hossein Sheikholeslam insulted President Morsy in respone to his comments at the Nonaligned Movement Summit meeting saying that Morsi “did not have the necessary political maturity to lead a NAM summit.” Sheikholeslam said Morsi expressed Egypt’s views but ignored NAM principles.
Sweden will donate 2.99 million Euros in aid for Syrian refugees to the United Nations refugee agency.
Basic Facts about Syria:
Population: 22,530,746 Ethnicities: Arab 90.3%, Kurds, Armenians, and other 9.7% Religious Groups: Sunni Muslim (74%, other Muslim (includes Alawite, Isma`iliyya, Druze) 16%, Christian 10%, Jewish (very small numbers).
GDP Growth Rate: -2% (2011) GDP: $64.7 billion
GDP Growth Rate: -2% (2011)
Unemployment: 8.3% Youth Unemployment (ages 15-24): 19.1% (female unemployment in that age category is 49.1%
Internet Users: 4.469 million (2009)
Exchange Rate: 46.456 Syrian pounds per US dollar
Military Expenditures: 5.9% of GDP (2005)
Population Growth Rate: -0797.% (since the conflict)
Population Age Structure: 0-14 years: 35.2%; 15-64 years: 61%; 65 years and over: 3.8%
Literacy: male 86% female 73.6%
Urban Population: 56% of total (2010)
Syrian Arab Army (prior to the conflict) 220,000 regular and 280,000 reserves. Of the 200,000 career soldiers, 140,000 are Alawi.
Syria’s Golan Heights is occupied by Israel and 1,000 members of a U.N. Disengagement Observer Force patrol a buffer zone.
A few of Syria’s historical and archaeological treasures are: the remains of Palmyra (Tadmur), and the citadel of Ibn Maan, the early Bronze Age site of Ebla, the Citadel of Aleppo constructed by Salah al-Din al-Ayubi and the khans, madaris, suqs and Great Mosque of Aleppo, the theater and ruined town at Bosra (also site of the Mabrak an-Nabi where the Prophet Muhammad’s camel kneeled) the Canaanite city of Ugarit at Ras Shamra, Douro-Europas, the Greek colony on the Euphrates near Salhiye, Tal Faras and Tal Muhammad Diab in Hassake, Tal Brak, the Bronze Age Atchana, Ain Dara, sites at Qanawat, Shahba, and Suwaida, the Ummayad mosque, the citadel, suqs and other sites in the Old City in Damascus such as the Street called Straight, the Azm palace and the Tekiyye mosque complex in Damascus the chapel of St. Sergius in Ma`lula, the Hijaz railway station, the Crusader castle, Krak de Chevaliers, Salah al-Din’s castle built on the Saone fortress, Jaabar Castle, the Great Mosque an-Nuri, the mosque of Khalid ibn al-Walid and many churches and older buildings in Homs, and the citadel, Roman era water-wheels and khans of Hama.