Syria Update, October 29, 2012 (Institute of Middle Eastern, Islamic and Strategic Studies. By Sherifa Zuhur)
An extremely heavy air shelling campaign began today, with 60 airstrikes, as if the Syrian government wants to demonstrate its ability to strike at the opposition and civilians, at the end of a brief ceasefire which was not fully observed by other side, but during which casualties dropped by about one-third (about 500 people were killed over the 4-day ceasefire). The shelling hit Damascus and Idlib province hard as well as other areas. http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=_s4iqh_GFNA
Death toll: More than 120 killed including 53 civilians.
Aleppo province: The Syrian military shelled the Maqamat neighborhood, killing 3 civilians and shelled the al-Ma`adi neighborhood killing 3, including a child. A sniper killed one opposition fighter in Itha’a. The Syrian military shelled Bab al-Qadam. Sectarian tensions in Aleppo are the subject of this Agence France Presse article: http://www.naharnet.com/stories/en/58683-communal-tensions-simmer-in-syria-s-aleppo
A group of Syrian activists, intellectuals and media workers issued a statement condemning the arrest of Lebanese journalist Fidaa Itani by an armed opposition armed group in the suburbs of Aleppo.
The Syrian military bombarded the town of Hayyan, killing 2 and shelled al-Sfeira. Opposition fighters tortured to death a Syrian Kurd, Khaled Bahjat Hamdu, age 37, after they captured him 3 days ago near Hayyan. He was one of the 120 released yesterday, but was so weak from the torture by electricity, that he died.
Damascus province: The Syrian military shelled Hajar al-Aswad, killing 6 civilians including a child. A Syrian military shell hit a bus killing several children. Here is footage of a hit mini-bus. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_GDlv9JgyM0&feature=player_embedded
The Syrian military shelled Qadam killing one man. A sniper killed one man in Jobar. An unidentified body was found in al-Zahra. A protest against the Assad government took place in Rukn al-Din. http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=SYpMz6tmHwU
A car bomb killed 5 civilians in Jaramana (but 10 according to Syrian state television). The Syrian military fired on Sidi Meqdad killing 3. The Syrian military shelled Duma, killing 3. Seven opposition fighters were killed in clashes and shelling in Duma.
A civilian was killed at a checkpoint at Qatana. Two unidentified bodies were found in Mu’adamiyya. In Harasta and the farm areas of Rankous, 12 opposition fighters were killed in clashes and shelling by the Syrian military.
Dara`a province: The Syrian military detained a civilian from the town of Da`el and tortured this person to death. The Syrian military shelled the town of al-Na`ima killing a media activist.
Deir az-Zur province: The Syrian military shelled the neighborhoods of Joubeila and Al-Aarfi. A car bomb exploded near the al-Wahda church in the city of Deir az-Zur and it killed one man. A sniper shot (and apparently killed) a pregnant woman and wounded a child who was with her. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OEV5JlPNyKE
Hama province: The Syrian military shelled the town of Qal`at Madiq killing one child. One civilian died from wounds incurred in an explosion in the city of Hama one week ago.
Homs province: The Syrian military shelled the neighborhood of Deir Ba’lba in Homs, which killed 5 opposition fighters. Medical workers in this town are asking for medical supplies so they can treat the wounded; they are experiencing severe medical shortages.
Clashes took place in Baba Amro killing 1 opposition fighter. The Syrian military shelled the town of Talbisa, killing a child. Unknown gunmen killed a man from the village of Umm al-Emd.
Idlib province: The Syrian military shelled Khan Shaykhoun and Ma`arat al-Nu`man killing 3 male civilians and a child. One opposition fighter was killed in clashes with the Syrian military in Ma`arat al-Nu`man. The Syrian military shelled Heish killing one opposition fighter. One opposition fighter died of wounds in Salqin. The Syrian military shelled the town of al-Barra killing 3 civilians. The Syrian military bombarded the town of Um Walad killing 1 woman. One man died due to a landmine near the Syrian-Turkish border.
Refugees: Last night 374 Syrians fled to Jordan including an 82 year old and a 9 day old baby. Among them, 122 school-aged children whose first question was whether they can attend school. The Jordanian government is making it possible for them to do so.
Eleven Syrian soldiers were taken into custody by Turkish authorities as they fled the border town of Azmarin which is now controlled by the opposition. http://www.todayszaman.com/news-295263-security-forces-detain-11-syrian-soldiers-fleeing-to-turkey.html
Lakhdar Brahimi, the U.N.-Arab league special envoy to Syria was in Moscow today meeting with Foreign Minister, Sergei Lavrov. After his meeting he stated, “ I have said and it bears repeating again and again that the Syrian crisis is very very dangerous, the situation is bad and getting worse,” and “If it’s not a civil war, I don’t know what it is.” He said that the failure of the ceasefire, which Russia had supported, will not discourage him from finding a solution to the crisis.
The United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon expressed deep frustration at the failure of the Syria ceasefire and stressed the need for international unity to end the violence.
Turkey shelled Syria today after Syrian shelling hit the village of Besaslan in southern Hatay province.
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.
Photographs and an article for those unfamiliar with the Syrian conflict here: http://edition.cnn.com/2012/08/24/world/meast/syria-101/index.html
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.