Syria Update, August 30, 2012 (Institute of Middle Eastern, Islamic and Strategic Studies)
The death toll is at 164. The Local Coordination Committees reported that these included 72 deaths in Idlib, 42 found handcuffed (and dead) in Ariha, 31 dead in Damascus or its suburbs, 19 dead in Hama including 16 who had been summarily, 18 dead in Dara`, 11 dead in Homs, 9 in Aleppo, 3 in Deir az-Zour and 1 in Tartus.
The United Nations Security Council meeting today produced neither a resolution nor any concrete action or way forward in the Syrian crisis. The Turkish foreign minister, Ahmet Davatoglu complained that he had expected the meeting to produce results and that an entire generation of Syrians are suffering. The U.S., Russia and China did not even send their representatives to the Council meeting. http://in.reuters.com/article/2012/08/31/syria-crisis-un-idINL2E8JU8Y320120831
The SAA shelled the al-Hajana area in Abu Kamal.
The SAA shelled Khirbet al-Ghazala and Tal Shabeeb in Dara`a.
A mass grave was discovered in al-Shaykh Najjar in Aleppo today. This is said to be another massacre of civilians by the Syrian military.
SAA shelling in the Saif al-Dawla neighborhood of Aleppo killed dozens of people today.
The SAA has heavily shelled Zamalka in the Damascus suburb for a third day by warplanes and artillery. Regime forces took a number of young men and detained them in the town square and it is unclear what has happened to them.
Later in the day, SAA heavily shelled Abu Zuhur in Idlib in response killing at least 20 including 8 women and 9 children.
Early Thursday, the opposition claims to have taken over the Abu Zuhur airport near Idlib. Hundreds of rebels were said to be involved and they then they shot down a jet. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0T4MhMTzaC0&feature=player_embedded
This video shows the pilots ejecting from the aircraft. (al-Arabiyya) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_7yktr9q7Zo&feature=player_embedded
The BBC reported on Assad’s inner circle and recent defections.
David Ignatius interviews Manaf Tlass. http://www.theleafchronicle.com/article/20120830/COLUMNISTS108/308300003/A-Syrian-defector-s-mission
Egypt’s President Mohammed Morsy spoke in support of a free, independent Syria in transition to democracy in a speech at the Nonaligned Movement’s convention in Tehran. “The Syrian people are fighting with courage, looking for freedom and human dignity,” he said. “The crisis in Syria is hanging on all of us. It is our responsibility” …and “We must all be fully aware that this will not stop unless we act.” The Syrian foreign minister Walid Mouellem walked out in protest during his speech. Iran’s Ayatollah Ali Khameini did not mention Syria in his welcome speech to the group.
Ettihad Airways has suspended its flights between Abu Dhabi and Damascus due to the deterioration of the security situation in Syria.
Lakhdar Brahimi intends to visit Damascus, but does not know when he will do so, possibly not until after September 24, 2012, despite the increasing violence in the country. He will attend a hand-over meeting with Kofi Annan in New York next week.
The Syrian National Council issued an appeal to the United Nations Security Council to create a no-fly zone and humanitarian corridors in Syria to protect civilians who are caught in the conflict. The appeal was issued in an effort to influence the Council meeting held today. The French and British foreign ministers made statements which mentioned the difficulties of creating such safe zones, and that it would difficult to convince the Security Council to agree on them, but said they hadn’t ruled anything out as yet.
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.