Syria Update, August 25, 2012 (Institute of Middle Eastern, Islamic, and Strategic Studies. By Sherifa Zuhur)
The current death toll is 142.
Many bodies were found and at least 15 were killed today in Daraya either by summary execution or otherwise by gunfire. Eight members of the al-Qassaa family were found dead from shots to the head including 3 children, their parents and other family members. Their bodies were found near Mussab ibn Umeir mosque. The bodies of 36 young men were found in a building with living wounded, and another 12 bodies were found in a different basement locations. Most had been shot execution style.
The SAA shelled Dael and Nahata in Daraya today.
Heavy clashes between the SAA and the FSA were reported in al-Jadida in Aleppo.
Aleppo’s residents accused the Syrian government of deliberate attacks on civilians, especially by air, rather than confronting the FSA on the ground.(AJ)
Their comments underscore an Amnesty International Report on the targeting of civilians in the first part of August which can be found here:
Hazano in Idlib province was badly shelled.
At least 41 people have been killed over the last 24 hours in Damascus neighborhoods due to shelling by helicopter and artillery fire. Also, the SAA shelled Damir which is near Damascus.
Kidnappings and Arrests:
Syrian security agents raided the home of Mohammad Omar Oso, a Syrian actor and have taken him to an unknown destination. This follows on the regime’s abduction and arrest of Orwa Nyrabia a film-maker, who was supposed to board a flight to Egypt. Many other artists have been arrested and/or forced into exile. http://www.aljazeera.com/news/middleeast/2012/08/20128258285339471.html
The Syrian opposition released Hussein Omar, one of a group of Lebanese-Shi`i “pilgrims” captured May 22, 2012. His release was confirmed by Turkey and he flew back to Beirut from Turkey today. He said the other captives were safe. http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/08/25/us-syria-lebanon-hostage-idUSBRE87O03620120825
Defections: A group of Syrian officers defected to the FSA yesterday and posted this video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ctkYMKFbP1k&feature=youtu.be
Borders: Iraq has completely sealed its border with Syria, after first temporarily closing the al-Qaim crossing. Iraq wants to ready camps for the refugees. The mayor of al-Qaim said there were about 102 families waiting on the Syrian side of the border, apparently without food or water. http://english.alarabiya.net/articles/2012/08/25/234179.html
Lebanon: Six Syrians who had been kidnapped by the al-Meqdad clan have been released as a goodwill gesture. However, four other Syrians and a Turkish national remain captives.
General Security has arrested Wael al-Khalidy who heads the High Commission for Syrian Relief at Rafik al-Hariri airport.
Gunmen near Hawsh al-Ghanem kidnapped Issam al-Houti, a Kuwaiti national who was driving a car with a Qatari license plate. They opened fire and kidnapped him in a Mercedes 300 seen driving towards Baalbak. A Syrian, Mohammad Mashhadani who was kidnapped Monday near Baalbak was released.
International: A four-person delegation from the Iranian parliament’s National Security and Foreign Policy Commission is visiting Syria for two days for talks with Syrian officials. The delegation includes Alaeddin Bourjerdi, head of the Commission.
There are criticisms of America’s inaction in Syria, and more specifically, that its fears about even “non-lethal aid” falling into the wrong hands has created a convoluted or ineffective system of distribution. For example,e the US State Department claimed that it had provided 900 satellite telephones which are not in the hands of the opposition. http://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2012/08/is-syria-americas-responsibility/261558/
U.S. Republican presidential candidate, Mitt Romney said he is willing to take “whatever action is necessary” to prevent Syrian chemical weapons from spreading or falling into the wrong hands and that ground troops of US allies might be required. He also supports military action to prevent Iran from “becoming nuclear.”
The Swiss government has pledged to support the Union of Syrian Medical Relief Organizations, an independent network of physicians to set up a field hospital at an unspecified location. It promised to contribute 55,000 Swiss francs (45,800 euros).
The Armenian Secret Army for the Liberation of Armenia has issued a vague threat against Turkey for its policy on Syria. ASALA was mostly active in the ‘70s and ‘80s when it carried out assassinations of Turkish diplomats. (Zaman)
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.