Syria Update, August 28, 2012 (Institute of Middle Eastern, Islamic and Strategic Studies)
Why am I blogging about Syria? Have been posting on FB and on firstname.lastname@example.org for over a month because:
*Pro-Assad, apologist and anti-Islamist persons, media, academics, and employees are making incredible allegations in the media, cyberspace, and in professional association lists in order to diminish support for the Syrian opposition and Syrian civilian victims. Some have gone to great lengths to deny serious massacres of civilians and Syrian regime sources are blaming the opposition for attacks that state forces and militias have carried out.
*not all news sources report accurately and it is a confusing task to sort through it all. Syria blocked foreign media from entering the country for months, and now permits only certain coverage in some areas while allowing the “embedded” Robert Fisk, an apologist, to be its spokesperson abroad. Some other media post information without requiring verification or multiple sources. Casualty information may refer solely to “martyrs” (the opposition and civilians) or exclude that information. The Syrian regime’s intensified military campaign on the population and opposition is not fully reported – most sources cover only stories on attacks on major cities.
*English-language, Arabic-language and French-language media are limited in different ways – publications may declare objectivity, but in fact, editors impose a certain spin, or themes on their journalists.
*I include the day’s occurrences, except when a report or update is only available later. Casualty figures are incomplete. Many victims remain unidentified, and people are unaccounted for in detention, and as during the Lebanese civil war, many have disappeared.
Today’s death toll is currently 118.
Members of a 45 person Syrian committee, Murhaf Jouejati, Afra Jalabi, and history professor Amr Al-Azm held a press conference in Berlin Germany today to discuss the USIP and German sponsored research, “The Day After, Supporting a Democratic Transition in Syria.” Al-Azm said he was optimistic that a democratic government could replace the Assad regime, and must be inclusive and diverse. He expects there will be a transitional government in the near future. Afra Jalabi said that if the international community would not recognize a transitional government, then it would be premature to announce one. On Monday, President Francois Hollande, had urged the opposition to announce a “provisional, inclusive and representative” government and said he would recognize it . Al-Azm described the project’s efforts to deal with the contingencies of a transitional period. He also said there is more to be done and “those who are struggling for their lives need to be given the necessary tools, beyond just words to help bring down the regime.” http://www.euronews.com/2012/08/28/syria-s-day-after-project/
Also see http://www.nytimes.com/2012/08/29/world/europe/syrian-group-envisions-transition-from-assad.html
A car bomb went off in Jarmana today (in Damascus) killing 12, wounding more than 40 and damaging an apartment building and vehicles. The state news agency claimed that the bomb was targeting a funeral procession being held in the area.
Clashes between SAA and the opposition were reported in Tadamoun in Damascus. Clashes also occurred in Tishrin near Barzeh in Damascus.
Additional bodies were found in Daraya today. (Extremely gory video) This brings the death toll of that massacre up to 400. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ixckVcFInV8&feature=share
Five local men’s bodies were found in al-Qadam today, dumped near the mosque. They had been stabbed and shot; two of their heads had been crushed. Two were identified as Anass Ahmed and Ziyad Abdulwah al-Masseri
The SAA shelled al-Maysar in Aleppo killing 4 persons and 17 wounded. Doctors in the Shifa hospital said the casualty rates given in the media are not accurate, that many more people are being killed.
At least 15 loud explosions were heard within just an hour in Aleppo today where fighting also took place in Maysaloon.
An FSA brigade commander in the Old City of Aleppo said 4 of his fighters had been killed in the last 2 days.
Clashes between the SAA and the FSA took place in al-Haffa in Latakia.
The Syrian government’s fighter jets bombed several areas in the city of Homs.
An air strike in Kafr Nabi in Idlib killed 13.
The SAA dropped flyers dropped by air to threaten the opposition and civilians in the Damascus area. They were signed by the Syrian Army’s and Armed Forces General Command. Whereas flyers dropped previously this summer claimed that an amnesty would be offered (there is no evidence that any amnesties were in fact offered) these state: “The Syrian army is determined to cleanse every inch in #Syria and you have only two choices: Abandon your weapons … or face inevitable death.” And that “No one will help you. They have implicated you in taking up arms against your compatriots,….They drown in their pleasures while you face death. Why? And for whom?”
The FSA claimed to have taken a missile storage site near Damascus where the regime had been altering missiles so they could convey chemical weapons. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UwbFZRLaZ-E&feature=share
Seven Syrians aboard a fishing boat attempting to reach Cyprus drowned last week according to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.
Russia’s Army Chief of Staff, Nikolai Makarov said that Russia will not end or decrease its military presence in and aid to Syria – that it is not “running away,” despite some Russian media reports that the Moscow was to decrease the size of the Tartus naval center, or that the Russian navy would withdraw from the area.
Egyptian police arrested a Syrian man who allegedly threatened to blow up the Arab League’s building. The man’s parents had been killed in Syria in a battle between the SAA and the FSA. He reportedly stopped his car near the building and said he would blow it up unless the Arab League decide against Bashar al-Assad. He had no explosives in his car.
Amnesty International’s website was targeted with fake blog posts, perhaps hacking by President Bashar al-Assad’s supporters. One claimed that Amnesty had found out about prisoner abuse, executions and ‘crimes against humanity’ committed by the Syrian rebels. It called on the United Nations to levy an arms embargo on countries which support the Syrian opposition. Amnesty International removed these blog posts.
Refugees: About 10,000 Syrians are waiting near the Turkish border as they have not been permitted to cross for several days.
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.
A few of Syria’s historical and archaeological treasures are: the remains of Palmyra (Tadmur), and the citadel of Ibn Maan, the early Bronze Age site of Ebla, the Citadel of Aleppo constructed by Salah al-Din al-Ayubi and the khans, madaris, suqs and Great Mosque of Aleppo, the theater and ruined town at Bosra (also site of the Mabrak an-Nabi) the Canaanite city of Ugarit at Ras Shamra, Douro-Europas, the Greek colony on the Euphrates near Salhiye, Tal Faras and Tal Muhammad Diab in Hassake, Tal Brak, the Bronze Age Atchana, Ain Dara, sites at Qanawat, Shahba, and Suwaida, the Ummayad mosque, the citadel, suqs and other sites in the Old City in Damascus such as the Street called Straight, the Azm palace and the Tekiyye mosque complex in Damascus the chapel of St. Sergius in Ma`lula, the Hijaz railway station, the Crusader castle, Krak de Chevaliers, Salah al-Din’s castle built on the Saone fortress, Jaabar Castle, the Great Mosque an-Nuri, the mosque of Khalid ibn al-Walid and many churches and older buildings in Homs, the citadel, water-wheels and khans of Hama,