Syria Update August 16, 2012 (Institute of Middle Eastern, Islamic and Strategic Studies … by Sherifa Zuhur)
The current death toll is 179.
Yesterday’s death toll included 205 civilians and opposition. (#s of regime force casualties not reported by Local Coordination Committees)
Defections: General Yuarab al-Sharaa who is a cousin of Vice President Farouq al-Sharaa has defected.
The SAA shelled the Qadi Askar area of Aleppo killing at least 35 and also shelled the Baadeen neighborhood.
Warplanes shelled Maarat Masrin in Idlib.
60 dead bodies have been found in the town of Qatna near Damascus.
Many are reported dead in al-Damir in Damascus province.
Regime forces shelled the Hajar al-Aswad area of Damascus resulting in casualties and clashes took place there with the FSA.
Unconfirmed reports indicate that Maher al-Assad lost one of his legs in the bombing of Assad’s security advisors last month.
There have been additional deaths from the Wednesday SAA bombing of Azaaz as at least 15 of the wounded died in hospital in Turkey. The bombing had killed 30 outright and wounded more than 200.
Bashar al-Asaad issued a decree which names three new ministers. One, Sa`d Assalam al-Nayef replaces Wael al-Halqi as prime minister since the prime minister had defected. Najm Hamad al-Ahmad was appointed to the ministry of justice and Adnan Abdu al-Sahni to the ministry of industry but it is not clear what has happened to the ministers previously serving in these positions, or why they were removed.
The 57-member Organisation of Islamic Cooperation suspended Syria’s membership. The OIC chief, Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu said the decision is a message from the Muslim world to the Syrian regime and that the “world can no longer accept a regime that massacres its people using planes, tanks, and heavy artillery.” http://www.arabnews.com/node/421120
Iran strongly criticized the decision to suspend Syria’s membership in the OIC and foreign minister Ali Akbar Salehi said that Syria should have been invited to the summit to defend itself. U.S. State Department spokesperson Victoria Nuland commended the OIC’s decision.
The United Nations Observer Mission to Syria will end on Sunday. The last of the 101 observers will leave next Friday. The unarmed military observers have largely been confined to hotels since June. The U.N. will open a political liaison office in Damascus to monitor events which will probably be staffed by 20 to 30 persons.
Talks were held between German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle with former MP Riad Seif who is a member of the Syrian National Council to discuss efforts towards a democratic transition for Syria. This took place as a closed-door workshop on economic redevelopment for a post-Assad Syria had already convened.
In Lebanon, the al-Mekdad clan claimed to have kidnapped more Syrians in revenge for the kidnapping of their relative (who was identified as a Hizbullah fighter aiding the Syrian regime). On Wednesday, supporters of the al-Mekdads tore through a Beirut neighborhood, vandalizing Syrian stores and blocked the airport road. Today, gunmen from Majdal Anjar set up roadblocks on the highway to Syria and stopped cars. Syrian businessman, Hossam Khasroum was kidnapped in Chtoura, and gunmen attacked politician Joseph Abu Fadel’s car as he drove to Syria. http://news.yahoo.com/lebanese-shiite-clan-vows-abduct-more-syrians-091121235.html
Bouthaina Shaaban, the political and media advisor to Bashar al-Assad met with Chinese officials and in an interview praised Russia and China for their stance towards the bloody conflict in Syria. http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/world/2012-08/16/content_15679589.htm
However an AFP report said that China had urged Shaaban to accept mediation and implement mediation.
Refugees: Activists in Syria’s estimated 10,000 refugees in Egypt have started a charity campaign ahead of Id al-Fitr via the Syrian Charity Kitchen in 6th October City.
The number of Syrian refugees in Turkey has reached 60,000. There are 8 tent camps in the cities of Hatay, Sanliurfa and Gaziantep and there is a camp of pre-fab homes in Kilis which accommodate them. (DS)
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.