Syria Update, October 26, 2012 (Institute of Middle Eastern, Islamic and Strategic Studies. By Sherifa Zuhur)
Death toll: More than 80 killed today
Yesterday’s death toll: More than 140 including 71 unarmed civilians and among those, 5 children.
The unmonitored ceasefire to mark the Eid al-Adha holiday was supposed to mean that the Syrian military would cease air operations for four days, but reserved the right to respond to the opposition. Whenever there is an unmonitored ceasefire, it is likely to be broken by both sides, as has occurred. The regime continued using its artillery in some areas and regime-paid snipers continued firing, and the car bomb set in Damascus is most probably the work of regime-supporters, even though the al-Nusra Front refused the ceasefire. Syrians who said there was no Eid holiday were justified in that sentiment, but Lakhdar Brahimi is nevertheless on the right track in pushing for the ceasefire, if only because it shows that negotiation is possible.
On Tuesday, Bashar al-Assad issued a general amnesty but that does not include any of the thousands who have been detained without charge, or those being held under the ant-terrorism law which has been used to detain, imprison and torture many supporters or suspected supporters of the opposition. Amnesty International issued a call for all prisoners of conscience to be freed in Syria.
Aleppo province: The commander of the opposition forces in Aleppo. Col. Abd al-Jabbar Mohammad Aqidi appeared at a protest today. The FSA made gains yesterday (Thursday) in areas including al-Ashrafiyya, al-Midan and Sleiman al-Halabi. The opposition fired on Kurdish protests involving civilians from al-Shaykh Maqsoud and al-Ashrafiyya neighborhoods, which killed one protester and wounded five others.
VIolent clashes took place between Syrian military forces and opposition fighters at a military checkpoint near the al-Malhab military barracks of Aleppo city.
Damascus province: Thousands protested today against the Bashar al-Assad government during the Eid al-Adha holiday and what was a partial lull in the fighting.
Five were killed and 32 wounded in a car bomb attack near the Omar Ibn al-Khattab mosque and a playground built for the Eid holiday in Daf al-Shok. http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/10/26/us-syria-crisis-idUSBRE88J0X720121026
A sniper shot one person in al-Jobar. Clashes took place in al-Asali and in al-Madaniyya. An unidentified corpse was found in the fields of the town of al-Keswa. A sniper killed a young woman in Harasta city. A sniper killed a child A in Duma, which was shelled today. A sniper killed 1 near the edges of the town of A’rbin. A tank can be seen here firing in the eastern part of the Ghouta, today. http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=3IB1090WsIc
Yesterday, the body of father Fadi al-Haddad, priest of the Mar Elias church in the city of Qatana was discovered. He had been previously kidnapped by unknown gunmen.
Dara`a province: Demonstrations took place today across the province to protest the regime of Bashar al-Assad. Here is one march held in Dara`a http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JIQcrSQYt3k&feature=player_embedded
The Syrian military tried to disperse the demonstrators in Dara`a, despite the truce that had been declared, firing on them and wounding them. Several people were wounded when Syrian security forces opened fire on a mosque in Daraa’s Ankhal during Friday prayers, activists said.
Three Syrian soldiers were killed and eight were wounded, most of them critically, in a car bomb attack in the city of Dara`a.
Hama province: Hundreds protested against the Bashar al-Assad regime in the city of Hama today. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pjEDIdNKO5Y&feature=player_embedded
Homs province: Demonstrations were held to protest the Bashar al-Assad regime today, here in the city of Homs. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_LTncAr93dk&feature=player_embedded
The Syrian military shelled the al-Khaldiya neighborhood, killing one. Gunfire and clashes were reported int eh city of Talkalakh.
Idlib province: Protests were held in Idlib against the Bashar al-Assad government http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b1SKSngRHp4&feature=player_embedded
The Syrian opposition bombarded a building inside of the Wadi al-Dayf base, destroying it and killing at least 9 Syrian military troops, and 4 opposition fighters were killed during clashes there. Despite the ceasefire, the Syrian military shelled the villages of Deir Sharqi, Ma’aret Shourin, Kafrsajna and Has and destroyed homes. 2 unidentified opposition fighters were found dead west of Saraqeb.
Sweida province: Activists painted on the walls, ‘no celebrations in honor of the martyrs’ and sang “In Syria, there is no Eid (al-Adha holiday)” and using paper to mark the names and dates of the fallen http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=IH22wXerr4U
Syria’s President, Bashar al-Assad was shown on television at Eid al-Adha prayers and listening to a sermon.
Borders: The opposition has been besieging the town of Harem at the Turkish border for 11 days and took half the town on October 25th. Many in the city are government loyalists. The Syrian military are firing from the citadel of the town; the opposition has called on UNESCO to ask the military to leave the citadel.
International: The imam of Mecca’s Grand Mosque, Shaykh Saleh Muhammad al-Taleb called on Arabs and Muslims on Friday to take “practical and urgent” steps to stop the bloodshed in Syria that has killed as many as 40,000 people, and said in his sermon at the Eid prayers that, “The world should bear responsibility for this prolonged and painful disaster (in Syria) and the responsibility is greater for the Arabs and Muslims who should call on each other to support the oppressed against the oppressor.”
Saudi Arabia has expelled three employees of Syria’s consulate in Jeddah, saying only that their activities were incompatible with their position without elaborating.
Turkey has denied that it is blocking its borders to fleeing Syrians. Evidence has been collected by Human Rights Watch to the contrary.
Switzerland has extended sanctions against the Syrian government, adding 28 names to a list of Assad supporters. These persons’ assets are frozen and they may not obtain visas. In addition 2 companies were named, Megatrade and Expert Partners, which are suspected of buying weapons or material used by the Syrian government to harm or repress its citizens.
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.