Syria Update, August 21, 2012 (Institute of Middle Eastern, Islamic and Strategic Studies. By Sherifa Zuhur)

22 Aug

Syria Update August 21, 2012 (Institute of Middle Eastern, Islamic and Strategic Studies. By Sherifa Zuhur)

The death toll reached 195.

Fighting continued in Aleppo where the opposition said it now controlled about 2/3 of the northern part of the city, or 60% of the city. An airstrike hit a bakery causing about 20 casualties.

The SAA shelled Mereaa in Aleppo today.

The Syrian military has stepped up its use of air power in recent weeks leading to higher casualities and speculation about the potential for no-fly zones.

An al-Hurra reporter, Bashar Fahmi and his cameraman, Cuneyt Unal were captured by the SAA yesterday. A Japanese female journalist, Mika Yamamoto, who worked for Japan Times was killed today by shabiha in Suleiman al-Halabi in Aleppo. Her body was brought to Turkey by opposition fighters. Three other reporters are missing – two are Arab, one a Lebanese woman and the other an Arab male working for a US media outlet. The other missing reporter is Turkish.

The SAA entered al-Moadamiyeh from four points today and raiding homes, killing 23 opposition fighters and shooting three men execution style. Dozens of bodies were found dumped in a building in this town.

The SAA executed medics in al-Harak in Dara`a today. The SAA shelled Dael in Dara`a.

A Hong-Kong based company, PCCW Ltd. is keeping the Syria connected to the Internet ever since Turk Telecom dropped it service on August 12th. Cables run under the sea from Syria to Cyprus, Egypt and Lebanon and PCCW is a part-owner of some of these cables.

Here are some reports of Syrian black humor about the crisis including a joke which I heard and circulated many months ago:

Lebanon: Clashes erupted between supporters of Bashar al-Assad and the Syrian opposition in Tripoli, killing 7 and wounding at least 100 people. These began Monday and continued on through Tuesday night between the Bab al-Tebbaneh area (Sunni) and the Alawite Jabal Mohsen a hillside area which overlooks Bab al-Tebbaneh.

A car bomb exploded in Gaziantep, Turkey, very near the Syrian border last night, killing 9 and wounding 68. The target seems to have been the Karşıyaka Police station. The PKK announced today that it was not responsible for the bombing.

U.N. peace envoy Lakhdar Brahimi will be based in New York.

French President Francois Hollande met with representatives of the SNC and its head, Abd al-Basset Sida.

Russian foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov reacted to Barack Obama’s comments regarding the threat of chemical weapons in Syria saying that direct intervention (by the US) in Syria is impossible, but he said the West is seeking an excuse to intervene.

Refugees: Many of Syria’s Circassian community are fleeing the country, some for Kabardino-Balkariya, a province of the Caucasus whose population is 2/3 Circassian.

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.


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