Syria Update August 18, 2012 (Institute of Middle Eastern, Islamic and Strategic Studies. By Sherifa Zuhur)
The death toll is currently 119.
The regime forces continued to bomb Azaaz in Aleppo province with warplanes this morning. It shelled the neighborhoods of al-Sukkari, al-Fardos, Bustan al-Zahra and Kallasa. There were clashes in al-Masharqa and near the airport. More clashes with the opposition took place near Saadallah al-Jabri Square in the center of Aleppo and in the Salahaddin neighborhood. The SAA claimed to have cleared the Saif al-Dawla area of opposition on Saturday, however such claims were earlier made of Salahaddin and proved to be untrue, or temporary.
Clashes are ongoing in al-Qadam in Damascus. Forty bodies were found underneath wreckage (from shelling) in al-Tal near Damascus.
There was heavy fighting in Tadamun in Damascus also showing that despite the government’s claims that it had cleared Damascus of “terrorists,” the opposition’s forces continue to have a presence.
The SAA proceeded in a convoy towards Bab al-Hawa, a northern border crossing held by the FSA. The FSA clashed with them and protesters were seen welcoming the FSA. This video also shows some refugees commenting on Brahimi’s appointment as special envoy. http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/video/2012/aug/18/syrian-rebels-turkish-border-lakhdar-brahimi-video
The neighborhoods of Nahr Aisha, Hajar al-Aswad and Dahaleel in Damascus were shelled this morning.
The SAA continued shelling and attacking areas of Homs including al-Rastan, and the city of Herak in Dara`a.
The SAA continued shelling Abu Kamal in Deir az-Zur and the towns of al-Kashkiyya and Abu Hamman. Tanks were seen on the road to Mayadeen. There was heavy shelling of Mayadeen.
An AFP reporter focused on foreign jihadists coming into Syria to fight. http://www.yourmiddleeast.com/features/syrian-revolt-attracts-motley-foreign-jihadi-corps_8900
Defections: According to former oil minister Abdo Hussamaddin, the Syrian Vice President Farouq al-Sharaa has been trying to leave Syria, but is under house arrest. Syrian state television has denied that al-Sharaa has “thought for a moment” about leaving Syria or defecting, but al-Sharaa has not spoken for himself. His cousin defected last week. Al-Sharaa, 72, and one of Assad’s hardline old guard leaders was last seen on television at the funeral of those security officials killed in a Damascus bombing last month.
The UN observers are leaving Syria and Babacar Gaye, the departing UN mission leader said that the Syrian army and the opposition are failing to protect civilians.
Lebanon: Three Syrians were kidnapped by a group of 5 or more men on the road to the Beirut international airport on Friday. Their money was stolen and they were released today.
Two men on a motorcycle kidnapped Elias Adip al-Qarqoush of Souk al-Gharb, Aley by jumping into his car and forcing him to drive to Zeaitriyyeh in Fanar. There they locked him up, beat him severely and repeatedly asked if he backed the Syrian revolution. They robbed him of LL 300,000 and released him today.
Russia, China, Syria, the U.S. and other nations welcomed the new United Nations envoy to Syria, Algerian Lakhdar Brahimi.
President Obama has declared that Assad is standing in the way of the Syrian people’s need to determine their future. All assets of the government of Syria are to be seized in the U.S. and no U.S. person may have any transaction with the Syrian government, invest in Syria, or have any dealings with Syria’s petroleum industry. http://www.whitehouse.gov/blog/2011/08/18/president-obama-future-syria-must-be-determined-its-people-president-bashar-al-assad
Iran’s Chairman of the Majlis’ National Security and Foreign Policy Committee, Alaeddin Boroujerdi met with the Turkish ambassador to Tehran, Umit Yardin and called on Turkey to help negotiate the release of the 48 Iranians who were kidnapped in Syria.
Refugees: Some Syrian refugees in Turkey expressed skepticism about Brahimi’s appointment as a mediator and said that nothing will change unless the world will support the FSA.
Additional space or shelter is needed for Syrian refugees in the Biqa` and northern Lebanon who are currently staying in school buildings. The UNHCR explained that the schools will opening soon. Medicins Sans Frontiere said that at least a 1,000 are living in overcrowded conditions in the Biqa` and Wadi Khalid and are being overcharged for rents in Tripoli. In Tripoli some are staying in storage units for which they pay $100 to $150 a month. MSF’s report showed refugees are not getting medical care. http://www.dailystar.com.lb/News/Local-News/2012/Aug-18/184998-additional-shelter-needed-for-syrian-refugees-in-lebanon-unhcr.ashx#axzz23vAUC3dk
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.