Syria Update, August 23, 2012 (Institute of Middle Eastern, Islamic and Strategic Studies. By Sherifa Zuhur)
Current death toll 181, mostly in or near Damascus.
Summary: More have been killed recently in Damascus than in Aleppo where media attention has been focused. Of these, far more are civilian deaths, and many are being killed execution style with their bodies dumped in third locations – it appears that the Syrian regime is targeting civilians in opposition-held areas as a tactic to break popular support for the opposition. There has been a 40% to a 50% increase in casualties per day recently (simply scroll backwards over these updates)
Defections continue but few are reported in the media except for the highest-ranking military officials, or diplomats. Here too, the regime holds the trump cards – the families of those who may defect are certain to be targeted unless the defector can arrange for their escape and transit.
The numerous stories of weapons and heavy weaponry provided by Gulf countries appear to be just that – stories. The supposed ground-to-air missiles have not materialized. France has put the most positive spin on potential safe no-fly zones; the U.S. has approached this issue with denials or cautious “possibles.” Most countries and the European Union are emphasizing the need for humanitarian aid.
A non-violent demonstration was held today in Damascus
Clashes broke out on al-Thalatheen Street in Damascus between government troops and opposition.
Clashes occurred in al-Qadam and al-Asali in Damascus.
The SAA shelled Ain Tarma, Zamalka and Arbaeen in Damascus.
The SAA shelled from al-Hajar al-Aswad to Daraya and there were multiple clashes today. A resident said the area looked like Gaza and that “fear is everywhere.”
The SAA moved into Daraya and pounded the town for 24 hours killing 15 and wounding 150 and then soldiers began to carry out house-by-house raids.
The SAA raided a hospital in al-Hrak in Dara`a and reportedly arrested wounded patients.
The SAA regained three Christian areas of Aleppo. The districts of Sulaimaniyeh, Jdeideh and Talal had been taken by the opposition over the weekend.
About 3:30 EST a man was released in Bustan Pasha by regime forces. He had been tortured and the purple marks of beatings and cigarette burns on his back show clearly in a photograph.
The SAA carried out what has been described as a massacre in Mu’adamiyyeh leaving 21 dead. Later in the day, Mu’adamiyyeh was shelled again.
Rustam Gelayev, the son of a Chechen rebel has been killed in Syria. Some reports said he had been fighting in Syria, but a relative said he was studying in Syria, decided to leave and was killed before he could leave the country via Turkey.
Kazutaka Soto, the husband and partner of Mika Yamamoto, a Japanese journalist described how she was gunned down in Aleppo by regime troops who could see that she was a woman. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/middleeast/syria/9491716/Husband-of-Japanese-journalist-killed-in-Syria-speaks-of-attack.html
Syrian deputy foreign minister, Faisal Meqdad accused Turkey of providing the opposition (“terrorists”) with arms and military bases and said that the Syrian government will cooperate with Lakhdar Brahimi, the Algerian diplomat who is the United Nations and Arab Leagues’ Joint Special Representative for Syria.
Nasser al-Kidwa has been appointed as the United Nations and Arab League’s Deputy Joint Special Representative for Syria. Al-Kidwa is a Palestinian diplomat and the nephew of Yasser Arafat.
Borders: Syrian airplanes crossed into Iraqi airspace to carry out raids on Albu Kamel, the border town currently held by the opposition.
The SAA bombed al-Harrak on the Syrian Jordanian border. Half the town has been destroyed.
Lebanon: Kataeb youth protesters called on Lebanon’s foreign minister Adnan Mansour to act – to call Syria’s ambassador in for discussions and to dissolve the Lebanese-Syrian Higher Council. For his part, Adnan Mansour said there was no reason to expel Syria’s ambassador to Lebanon or recall the Lebanese ambassador in Syria.
International: Italy’s foreign minister, Giulio Terzi said that the country will host an international meeting to explore international roles and responsibilities vis security, reconstruction, humanitarian efforts and institution building in a post-Assad Syria. (LR)
France’s defense minister, Jean-Yves Le Drian recommended that the international community support no-fly zones over parts of Syria but not close all of the nation’s air space.
U.S. and Turkish officials met in Istanbul to discuss potential scenarios in Turkey, including those in which the Assad government utilizes chemical weapons. The U.S. readying biohazard gear for such a contingency. Officials are also concerned about securing chemical weapons if Assad leaves (or is forced out of) office and discussed short-term aid for refugees.
Refugees: About 3,000 Syrian Armenians fled to Armenia since March and about the same number have applied for citizenship there. http://www.yalibnan.com/2012/08/23/over-3000-of-syrias-armenians-fled-to-ancestral-homeland/
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.