Syria Update August 20, 2012 (Institute of Middle Eastern, Islamic, and Strategic Studies. By Sherifa Zuhur)
Today’s death toll is currently at least 84.
The first day of the Eid al-Fitr saw increased shelling by the government, protests by civilians which followed the Eid prayers, heavy casualties of at least 170, and food shortages and the second day of Eid has begun with similarly heightened attacks. Some Syrian refugees said they have no Eid this year, that Eid will come when Assad leaves. Others were addressed by Tawwakul Karman of Yemen.
Heavy shelling in Aleppo caused two homes in the al-Sakhour and Qadi Askar neighborhoods to collapse, killing 14. The opposition has made advances in the areas of al-Jadida and Maadi Telal. The Tawhid Brigade of the FSA reports that it attacked the Sulaimaniya checkpoint.
Clashes took place in Mezzeh in Damascus. The SAA was employing heavy artillery and helicopters. The SAA moved in the early morning to surround Mouadamiyyeh (Mu’adamayt Asham) and began bombarding civilians and opposition.
The SAA was also shelling al-Daraya. The shelling of both areas is here:
Ten bodies showing signs of torture were discovered in al-Qabun in Damascus. Shabiha had tossed the bodies out of vehicles, so it’s not yet known where they were killed. They had been tortured with electricity, cigarette butts and had stab wounds, and some of their heads had been crushed. (Abu Omer al-Qabouni/Guard.) Among them were a 7-yr. old boy and a 5-yr. old girl who were identified by name by the source who said their family had been trying to flee by car. He said it is impossible to hold funerals or go near the cemeteries, instead bodies are buried in mosques, parks or gardens.
The FSA brigades are unifying and swearing an oath (in a previous summary) the FSA has circulated to promise to uphold international laws in treaties according to #The_47th (a tweeter). One such brigade in Hama: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jEL7OmNnFic&feature=player_embedded
And the Southern Coastal Turkmen Brigade here:
(also see Youtube videos for al-Tawhid and al-Ansar al-Islam brigades)
U.N. observers are continuing to leave their hotel in Damascus as their mission has expired.
There were intense clashes and shelling in Dara` killing including 2 children, and 2 women (their mother and grandmother).
The Syrian jihadist group al-Nusra has denied any link to al-Qa’ida. Aaron Zelin of the Israel-allied Washington Institute for for Near East Policy claims the group is using a web-site that had been used by Ayman al-Zawahiri. However, many U.S. analysts do not acknowledge the range of posters on Islamic website, or the self-motivated status of various jihadist actors.
The Syrian Foreign Ministry reacted to a statement by Lakhdar Brahimi the new peace envoy to Syria saying those who speak of ‘civil war” is false and [civil war is only in]“heads of conspirators.” Brahimi had said “There are a lot of people who say that we must avoid civil war in Syria” and that he believes “that we are already there for some time now. What’s necessary is to stop the civil war and that is not going to be easy.”
Borders: Four Syrian artillery shells landed in Turra, Jordan near the border wounding a girl and sending 4 others to the hospital who were later released.
The Turkish government’s distribution of aid to Syrian refugees yesterday actually took place on Syrian soil just over the border from Reyhanli.
Lebanon: Two more Syrian men were kidnapped in Lebanon, Mohammed Mashhadani of Idlib was abducted by four men after midnight outside his home in Bidnayel Ibrahim Ahmad al-Yehya was kidnapped in Mraijeh (in Beirut) by men in a four-wheel drive on Sunday afternoon. Also two men, Mohammad Masoud and Jumaa al-Hajij were believed abducted from Hayy al-Seryan in Ashrafieh, also at the hands of men in a four-wheel drive. The Lebanese authorities have made no arrests in the wave of kidnappings set in motion by the al-Mekdad clan and Human Rights Watch issued a statement calling on authorities to act promptly.
International: Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Gennady Gatilov blamed a ‘massive supply” of Western-made arms via “third countries” for the failure of efforts to end the Syrian conflict through diplomatic means.
Prince Saud al-Faisal, the Foreign Minister of Saudi Arabia said that Bashar al-Assad is maneuvering to gain more time and that he has not abided by any of the international bodies’ (UN or Arab League’s) stipulations for a ceasefire.
French President Francois Hollande will meet with Lakhdar Brahimi today.
France’s Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said that Syria has cash only sufficient for a few more months and that the regime’s repression of its people is costing about €1 billion per month. The French are discussing the possibility of no-fly zones and would be ready for any type of intervention, Fabius said, if there is a clear international mandate. France presides over the UN Security Council and has called for a meeting of foreign ministers to discuss Syria in New York on August 30, 2012. (WSJ) http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10000872396390443855804577601021698252322.html?mod=googlenews_wsj
Russia Today claimed that a high-ranking Syrian military official died in hospital in Moscow and his body was returned to Syria.
Refugees: A man died today in the Zaatari refugee camp in Jordan in a fire in one of the tents. The police are investigating. The Zaatari camp houses more than 7,000 and several protests have broken out over poor conditions in the camp. More than 150,000 Syrians are now in Jordan and close to 70,000 in Turkey.
The Turkish foreign minister Ahmet Davutoglu suggested that if the number of Syrian refugees rises above 100,000, they could not be hosted within Turkey and the Turkish government might create camps in a “safe zone” within Syria. This idea has been floated several times in the last few weeks and could provide further legitimacy for the establishment of no-fly zones.
Tawwakul Karman, Nobel Peace Laureate from Yemen addressed Syrian refugees in Boynoyugun Camp in Hatay province, Turkey, telling them not to lose hope and that they will return to freedom. http://www.arabnews.com/node/408997
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.