Syria Update, August 29, 2012 (Institute of Middle Eastern, Islamic and Strategic Studies. By Sherifa Zuhur)
Current death toll is 108.
Fierce fighting occurred between the SAA and the opposition at Taftanaz, a military airport between Idlib and Aleppo. The FSA shelled the airport and the SAA shelled the town of Taftanaz nearby. Fourteen SAA troops were killed. A different news source reported that the opposition destroyed 10 helicopters.
Clashes continued in different neighborhoods of Aleppo. The city’s buildings, monuments and people have been damaged and displaced by the fighting raging since July 20, 2012. http://www.rawstory.com/rs/2012/08/29/syrias-aleppo-bears-scars-of-five-week-battle/
The SAA continued its third day of an assault entailing bombing and strafing of the suburbs of East Ghouta in Damascus. Combat helicopters shelled Saqba and the neighborhood of Zamalka. At least 27 people were killed in the eastern suburbs and thousands fled, either into Damascus or to the north towards Dumair. http://in.reuters.com/article/2012/08/29/syria-crisis-damascus-idINL6E8JTILK20120829
There were clashes reported in Qaboon in Damascus and in Jubar, killing civilians. The SAA conducted house-to-house raids in Ain Tarma, killing civilians.
The SAA shelled Kfar Batna approximately every minute for a period today. The SAA also shelled Irbin.
The SAA shelled Jurat al-Shiyya, Khaldiyya and Old Homs in Homs today.
Bashar al-Assad blamed Turkey for the bloodshed in his country, opposed an international buffer zone, and praised regime forces for their role in the conflict, and said the struggle against the “rebels” will take time in a television interview today (Addunia). He also said the government had discussed the defections from the military and the government, implying that the government might have stopped the defections (by killing or imprisoning people) but that they had decided to let them go, “let’s facilitate their exit.”
Bassma Kodmani resigned from the Syrian National Council on Tuesday saying that the group needed to be replaced by a new political authority (there is a talk of a transitional government) and that it was centering around personal agendas. Here is a rough translation of what she posted on Facebook yesterday:
As to what happened in the Syrian National Council as of this day.
I was among a small group of Syrians, founders of the National Council in the summer of 2011, I had the honor to serve the Syrian revolution with whatever ability I have, [and promised] that I would help carry its message internationally, was responsible for its Foreign Relations (department) for 9 months in light of the international difficulties.
The Council experience has carried the project of building a national framework and political reference for all spectrums of the Syrian people at home and abroad; it could be a roof for the Syrian House that protects the country and protects the people. But today, alas, we stand without a roof and without protection against horrific massacres of Hula, and Daraya, and the blood of people flowing in the streets of our towns and villages. The project did not achieve its objectives and did not earn the requisite credibility and did not maintain the confidence that people gave its operations, and moved away from the path that we wanted for it when it was created.
And so I had promised myself since the beginning of the revolution to fight for the people’s rights and freedom, unity and independence of our country; I won’t stop supporting the revolution and revolutionaries with all of my energy, and I will continue the march from outside the council, where I see the working space to be wider than working from within. I had the honor to work with many colleagues and loyal patriots of all political and ideological currents, whom I respect and appreciation and I am confident that our paths will converge in the service and building our country Syria.
Freedom for our people and compassion for the souls of our martyrs,
28 Ab (August) 2012
One may download the full report of the “Day After” project for Syria in English or Arabic on USIP’s page here http://www.usip.org/publications/the-day-after-project
Jordan’s Prime Minister Fayez Tarawneh said today that Jordan will expel those Syrian refugees who attacked and wounded 20 policemen during clashes at Zaatari refugee camp yesterday which erupted over conditions at the camp.
In reaction to the bottleneck situation where Syrian refugees have been prevented from entering Turkey, and Iraq’s refusal to admit refugees, Human Rights Watch issued an appeal to nations adjacent to Syria to keep their borders open to Syrian refugees and to donor nations to increase their funding to refugees. HRW also said that any safe zone established shouldn’t be “used to prevent people from fleeing.”
Russia called for a “meticulous” and “impartial” investigation into the barbaric violence in Daraya where hundreds of civilians were massacred. The United Nation’s Ban Ki-Moon has already called for an investigation.
Italy held closed talks on the future of Syria today with senior officials from other countries.
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 where the Prophet Muhammad’s camel kneeled) 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, and the citadel, Roman era water-wheels and khans of Hama.