Syria Second Update August 19, 2012 (Institute of Islamic, Middle Eastern, and Strategic Studies. By Sherifa Zuhur)
Today’s death toll is currently 160. Of civilians and opposition: 51 in Dara`a, 20 burned bodies in Hrak, 47 dead in the suburbs of Damascus, 22 in Aleppo, 11 in Homs, 15 in Idlib, 7 in Deir az-Zur, 4 in Latakia, 1 in Hama and 2 in Hasakeh.
According to the Local Coordination Committees of the opposition, 4,685 were killed during Ramadan including 342 women and 445 children.
The opposition continued to battle in Aleppo, trying to take control of the airport.
Helicopters over Aleppo dropped leaflets today which warned Allepines to stop sheltering the rebels and told the FSA it had a last chance to surrender. Some leaflets stated that “the holder of this pass is allowed to cross security forces checkpoints to surrender. The holder of the pass will be treated well and reunited with his family.” The FSA put no credence in the leaflets. Helicopters resumed bombing the city about two hours after the leaflets appeared. http://edition.cnn.com/2012/08/19/world/meast/syria-unrest/index.html
There was a protest march in al-Jeena in Damascus today. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KopvfSrpHN4&feature=youtube
A protest against the regime and demanding freedom was held in al-Mal`ab, Homs today. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BI-2cagU-6M&feature=youtube
The SAA shelled mosques in al-Rastan in Homs as the Id al-Fitr began. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aS9MDBxAAOQ&feature=youtu.be
Some firing can be heard during the takbir here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ERxZC9yXg8I&feature=youtube
Another protest was held in Wa’er http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZBZkPK85r14&feature=youtube
The SAA shelled al-Maleeha in Dara`a today.
Also, al-Karak Sharqi in Dar`a has been heavily shelled.
Bashar al-Assad was shown on Syrian state television praying at the salat al-`id in the Hamad Mosque early on Sunday as the `Id al-Fitr begins.
The initial protest leading into the current Syrian revolution was held January 11, 2011 and organized by six activists in Damascus. Of the six, Maya Milani is still in Syria, working as a documentary filmmaker, Amer Matar fled to Germany in April, Basil Shehadeh made the film “Children of My City” [on Homs) was arrested, and then fled the country. He was studying film at Syracuse University, returned to film “I Will Cross Tomorrow” and was killed in a regime shelling May 28, 2012.
Defections: Although SANA previously denied that Syrian vice-president Farouq al-Sharaa had defected, Kamal al-Labwani, an opposition figure told al-Arabiyya that al-Sharaa has definitely defected. Sharaa, from Dara`a, lost relatives in the conflict and his whereabouts was unknown on Sunday. He was not present at the Eid al-Fitr morning prayers with Assad. Louay Miqdad, an FSA spokesman said al-Sharaa left Damascus more than a week ago for Dara`a, that the FSA was trying to help him get to Jordan and that the SAA had heightened attacks on the Dara`a province in order to target Sharaa. It is possible the SAA has detained some of his relatives in order to compel him to stay in Syria. However, al-Sharaa’s profile disappeared from SANA’s website on Saturday.
Lebanon: Supporters of Shaykh Ahmad Assir gathered and marched from the Biblal bin Rabah mosque to the Karameh roundabout in Sidon to support the Syrian uprising, protest the kidnappings of Syrians in Lebanon and to denounce Hizbullah’s retention of its weapons.
A disagreement between Lakhdar Brahimi who will serve as Joint Special Representative for Syria and the Syrian National Council has ensued. The SNC asked Brahimi to apologize for his remarks to al-Jazeera that he could not ask Assad to resign because he did not yet know enough about what was happening. Brahimi said he had just been appointed and wasn’t yet clear on the content of his mission. Brahimi said the SNC should at least ask him what he actually said before condemning him.
A German naval vessel off the coast of Syria is able to observe Syrian troop movements inland and is providing that information to the opposition via the US and UK according to Bild am Sonntag. The German defense ministry said that a ship with such capabilities is in harbor in Sardinia.
BG Mark Kimmit who was U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Political and Military Affairs under George Bush (’08-’09) commented that in street-by-street urban fighting , the advantages of a military like Syria’s is neutralized because its air power is fairly useless. He gave the examples of Stalingrad, and the 2 battles of Fallujah to to show that such urban fighting can be protracted. It would be tactically significant were the opposition to capture the airport in Aleppo, but in the end, the target is mainly of symbolic significance as Syria has many other military airports. The rebels need to remain on the battlefield, by staying alive, they are gaining an advantage.
Turkey has begun distributing aid to Syrian refugees on the border of the two countries and has set up a site at Gaziantep to receive international aid, and the Turkish Red Crescent has set up four locations on the border for local donations. Turkey is also setting up four refugee camps in addition to the 8 now operating and the prefab housing site. There will be two new camps in Gaziantep, one in Osmaniye and one in Kahramanmaraş.
Photographs of refugees and rebels by David Rose:
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.