Tag Archives: Russia

Interview with Dr. Sherifa Zuhur following the Election of Abd al-Fattah al-Sisi as President

6 Jun

I was recently interviewed for MENA (Middle East News Agency). I have requested, but not yet received a link to whatever is published.


Sherifa Zuhur, IMEISS   Interview given to Ahmed Bahaa  on June 5, 2014.

Q. After the official declaration of Abdelfatah El- Sisi winning presidential elections, do you think that the call for reconciliation in Egypt is in favor of him or against him?

**This question is not clear. Do you mean “the call for a reconciliation with the Muslim Brotherhood?” With the Ansar Bayt Maqdis and other groups attacking the government? Is there a concrete group calling for reconciliation?

  1. I do not believe that the issue of reconciliation with the Muslim Brotherhood – if that is what you mean — is first on the list of Egypt’s priorities at the moment. My sense is that a majority of Egyptians at present do not want any reconciliation with the banned Muslim Brotherhood, and that it was the public which insisted (for most of autumn 2013) that the transitional government enact a ban, rather than the other way around. Therefore I don’t think those external observers, such as U.S. neoconservatives or think tanks, which have opposed the new government like Carnegie or Middle East Institute or those writing for CFR’s Foreign Policy have any reason to order the Egyptian public or government to “reconcile.” Obviously, there are also some Egyptians who have been involved in demonstrations at universities and who protest the exclusion of the Muslim Brotherhood, but they are not numerically large, nor can they claim a moral high ground after so many instances of unnecessary violence which hurt and terrified their fellow Egyptians.


Last summer, in the midst of the crisis at the end of June 2013, Field Marshal al-Sisi, then the Minister of Defense made at least three efforts to mediate with President Morsi and via him to the General Guidance Council of the MB. They rejected all of those efforts which might have resulted in a compromise government following new elections.   In some areas of Egypt, such as Kafr al-Dawwar, Menya, and most notably the Sinai supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood (or in the Sinai, their extremely violent allies) are still threatening others and trying to coerce them – in the Sinai, this remains an extremely volatile situation.


  1. How do you see the future of American-Egyptian relations in the light of El-Sisi’s as president and, will he focus on enhancing Egypt’s relations with Russia to put pressure on America?

A. I was asked about the announced Egyptian-Russian deal whereby financing was to be provided from the Gulf states a few months ago. After the usual round of reprintings, this particular story went silent.

President Putin was among the first of the world leaders to congratulate President al-Sisi on his electoral win. Apart from that gesture, I don’t think Egypt will overturn its long-term relationship with the United States for Russia, nor would it particularly pressure the United States if Egypt were to obtain weaponry or defense systems from Russia. Diplomatically, it is wise for Egypt to build ties of cooperation and friendship with many countries and not solely with the United States.

So long as US Muslim organizations filled with Muslim Brotherhood supporters or Americans who believe they and only they hold the key to democratic development are pressuring members of the U.S. Congress to hold off on approving elements in U.S. military aid to Egypt, we can’t be sure what either government will decide to do. Given that John Kerry, the U.S. Secretary of State is also very convinced of Egypt’s importance as a regional ally, I would be very surprised if Egyptian-American relations do not improve as the country carries out parliamentary elections and President al-Sisi embarks on his tasks over the next year.


  1. Will El-sisi succeed in fighting corruption which is represented in deep state or “Mubarak’s” state?

A. Egypt is no longer “Mubarak’s state.” I do not agree with the theory that the “deep state” lives on its own and has been unaffected by the revolution and subsequent governments. Also, no-one can say at this moment what will or will not be achieved. President al-Sisi’s (and I would appreciate it if you would kindly retain his title when you print my remarks, and not put “al-Sisi” alone) first and most difficult task is actually to restart Egypt’s economic engine. Promoting transparency, or preventing corruption is something that must be put into place in every department of every ministry. As the government is also a very large employer of many poorly paid functionaries, the issue of fighting corruption is also one of making certain that people – public and private employees – can make ends meet.

As for the high-level sort of corruption that you may be suggesting, which is very difficult even for countries like the U.S. to track and regulate, here too, guidelines and better practices must be implemented.


  1. How do you see the future of El-Nour salafist party in the light of the new constitution which forbids religious parties? And will it continue to support El-Sisi?

The al-Nour party has managed to subvert the intent of not allowing religious parties by promoting religious principles for social life, and declaring that political life will remain guided by a civil state. Its agenda is obviously similar to the da`wah of the Muslim Brotherhood and to convince others to adopt the same principles. But, here again, we see that the religious right in many countries are involved in politics usually supporting those who agree with their principles. I imagine the al-Nour party will continue to support the current government because they have pledged to do so.  Many of President al-Sisi’s supporters who want Egypt to abide by its civil tradition are very concerned by the salafis, including al-Nour. Certain issues will probably divide them, once the as yet unelected legislative assembly begins to do its work.


  1. Do you expect that El-sisi will release the activists detained recently?

A. I do not know. I understand that the judiciary is fiercely pressing for its own independence. But I personally think it would be wise to

a) fine the al-Jazeera journalists for their lack of proper permits — if it was the case that they were in lieu of these, and drop charges of conspiracy

b) to provide amnesties to those protesters who have not engaged in violent actions.

Traditionally Ramadan has been a period when amnesties were offered in other countries, where admittedly, circumstances differed.


From Russia and Egypt to Obama’s Vision (If one exists) By Sherifa Zuhur

17 Feb


1. Spent the day today responding to Prof. X – or rather biting my tongue.  Prof. X has  especially objected to a previous post I wrote at this blog about a former Fellow of the War College, Gen. al-Sisi and a post by an eyewitness to the so-called Nahda massacre (i.e. the ending of the Nahda demonstrations.)  I stand by what I wrote.  

The professor-student relationship is a very tenuous one.  We don’t shape anyone’s minds, we merely have an opportunity to offer certain thoughts on certain topics.  I’ve had many fabulous students who I admire greatly – including some journalists now working in Egypt, a WHO official, an environmental specialist, an expert at the United Nations, aides to politicians, and my military/governmental ‘students’ were in a special category as working professionals at the time of their studies.  

2. Here is some information from an interview today on the 2/2 Egyptian-Russian ‘deal’.

Q.  On the cooperation agreement between Egypt and Russia
SZ My understanding is that there may be a military cooperation agreement & that in turn could lead to an economic agreement – for now it is simply to be an intergovernmental commission on trade  and economic cooperation –
— but certainly it will be unlike that of the Nasserist era.   The agreement dates back to the Russian officials’ visit to Egypt in November 2013.  Had the U.S. not suspended military aid to Egypt, then Egypt might not have been as eager for this alternative source of aid, but anyway it is to be financed by Saudi Arabia and the U.A.E. as is not a ‘gift’ of aid as in the U.S. – Egyptian arrangment.
Q. Undoubtedly Putin is trying to increase his role in the area. He sells weapons to Syria (without mentioning other clients like Sudan or Algeria) and is going to have an important role even in Egypt. How U.S. perceives the Russian strategy in Middle East?
SZ  Generally, the U.S. sees Russia’s strategy in the Middle East as adversarial but multi-stranded.  For ex. the interest of Russian middlemen in oil futures is not necessarily synonymous with official policy – but in general we can speak of politics, arms, and markets.  The entire world has changed since the previous Arab Cold War in which the U.S.-Soviet enmity played out to some degree in a block of states allied with the U.S. who were opposed to others with more favorable relations with the USSR or Eastern bloc.
Q  According to some reports and analysis, Putin would have pledged $2 billions of military aid (Mig, anti-aircraft systems and anti-tank missiles among these). Firstly, may you tell me, specifically, which weapons Russia will sell to Egypt?
 SZ.  One cannot be specific  when the deal hasn’t yet been officially announced.   Yes, there were statements made by a Russian official (and published in al Akhbar which given its orientation,  may or may not be accurate.  These quoted Mikhail Zavaly (senior official with Russia’s arms export agency Rosoboronexport ) who said Russia was offering “modern helicopters, air defense equipment and the modernization of previously purchased military equipment,” Then Vedomosti printed that  negotiations were ongoing about the sale of MiG-29M/M2 fighter jets, low range air defense systems and Kornet anti-tank rockets.
– Are those new weapons well suited from a strategical point of view to fight the jihadist and terrorist security threat the Egyptian state is facing right now in Sinai and in mainland Egypt?
SZ No.  The fighter jets – known as Super Fulcrum are  supposed to be better suited for other types of attacks; the Syrian air force wanted to order them (the reports don’t give specifics) they have a longer range & can hit multiple targets.  One might expect Egypt to want Apache helicopters or drones which Israel is using in the Sinai.  Air-defense systems would be intended to protect Egypt against Israel most probably, and have no utility in the Sinai in the current situation.    Although it is true that the Israeli’s employ Iron Dome & that system has protected Eilat and other areas from rocket attacks.
 The campaign in the Sinai is a counterterrorist effort which differs from conventional warfare.
– How will Egypt finance such a purchase?
SZ Apparently Saudi Arabia and the UAE would pay Russia on behalf of Egypt.
Q – Sisi relies on Saudi’s and Gulf states’ financing. As you know, last July the Saudi prince Bandar had a meeting with Putin where he tried to convince the Russian leader to stop financing al-Assad in Syria (letting him understand his control on jihadist groups in Chechenia). How do you see the fact that it is now Saudi Arabia that is paying for the Russian weapons sold to Egypt? Especially with reference to the Syrian Great Game.
SZ I hope you do not print the various reports about what Prince Bandar is and isn’t doing – I don’t know that the above is accurate in the least.  Saudi Arabia’s official position on Syria is quite different; it wished to protect Syrian civilians and move towards a transitional government.
There is no “Syrian Great Game” – there is a genocide against the civilians of that country.  Saudi Arabia, which had allowed Syrian expatriates to organize charity and aid has been accused of doing much more of course, and now funds groups in the FSA and beyond.   Now, very sadly this conflict has continued instead of reaching a negotiated settlement by the world community.  Anyway,  we can speculate that Morsi might have involved Egypt militarily, but Egypt’s current government apparently has no intention of intervening in Syria.
–   Will the deal bring more costs for Egypt as it has to “adapt” once again to Russian weapons or given the nature of the Egyptian military industry – specialized in “linking or adapting” the two weapon systems Egypt will have economical advantages?
Egypt already has many outdated Russian tanks, submarines and systems, which were either updated, or replaced or remain obsolete.  It also has Western manufactured aircraft and naval systems.  There is no need to link the various types of weapons or military craft; they merely need to function.  There are no economic advantages to having outdated weaponry, nor to having materials exclusive to one national manufacturer – the issue here is really political – it is advantageous to have more than one source of weapons available to Egypt.
-And who does really benefit from this deal? Is it something that mostly benefits the military-industrial complex?  It will undoubtedly benefit Russia’s military-industrial manufacturers, just as the U.S. deal over many years benefitted the U.S. manufacturers.
– Do you think that Obama has, somehow, progressively lost interest in the area (or part of that area) because of other priorities? If that’s the case, what are those other priorities?
Obama, rather strangely, announced at the very beginning of his first term that he would be disengaging from the Middle East and communicated to DoD (Dept of Defense)  that the focus would shift to Asia.  This message might have been lost as he also simultaneously said he would “engage’ diplomatically with the region in a new manner – to contrast with Pres. Bush.  No-one knew what that meant, exactly.  He has supported covert warfare in Yemen, Somalia, and elswhere in Africa, and in Pakistan – but withdrew from Iraq and plans to withdraw this year from Afghanistan.  This diminished funding for engagement in the Middle East, even though the Arab spring brought about much unanticipated activity and new threats, including in Iraq – now destablized to the point that its government had to request external assistance in current campaigns there to resecure areas threatened once again by jihadist insurgents.
In Egypt, Obama’s administration, and the State Dept. as well as certain U.S. senators/congresspersons have angered and alienated Egyptians since 30th of June by insisting on restoration of the “rights” of the Muslim Brotherhood.  Now, Kerry, as Sec. of State has been rather more diplomatic about this, but is outshouted by U.S. media and DC-centered think tanks continuing a very sharp attack on the Mansour-Beblawi government and Egypt’s sovereign rights to determine its own policy vis-a-vis any given political group.  The Egyptian view is that matters are gradually stabilizing since there is a new, much-improved Constitution, and presidential and parliamentary elections will follow.  Obama’s views on Egypt are somewhat of a mystery, one hopes it is not true that the U.S. had planned for moderate Islamists to dominate the region from Tunisia to Egypt to Yemen to (if Assad were overthrown) to Syria. Apparently his administration regards the rapprochement with Iran as a great feather in its cap, although Iran retains centrifuges and an ability to produce nuclear materials and has thoroughly and poisonously aided Syria’s Assad.   It does not seem likely that events in the Middle East will quiet down so some similarly dramatic effort could be made in Asia, but maybe that is the president’s intended foreign policy goal before his term ends.
The following was published a few days ago in al-Ahram http://english.ahram.org.eg/NewsContent/1/64/94399/Egypt/Politics-/Strong-EgyptRussia-relations-can-be-spurred-by-cul.aspx

Syria Update, January 1, 2014 – Institute of Middle Eastern, Islamic and Strategic Studies. By Sherifa Zuhur

1 Jan

Syria Update, December 31, 2013 – January 1, 2014   (Institute of Middle Eastern, Islamic and Strategic Studies.  By Sherifa Zuhur)

Death toll

On 28/12/13  185 Syrians were killed including 90 civilians,

130,433 Syrians killed from 18/3/2011 when the first protestor was  shot and killed in Dar’a until 30/12/2013.  The dead include 46,266 civilians (including 7,014 children and 4,695 women).


Disarmament teams gave up & ships returned to port, #Syria‘s chemicals not destroyed by 12/31/13 deadline. https://now.mmedia.me/lb/en/nowsyrialatestnews/527994-ships-return-to-dock-as-syria-chemical-deadline-missed


A missile fired by Assad’s regular forces hit a bus in Aleppo today.  http://www.dailystar.com.lb/News/Middle-East/2013/Dec-31/242769-10-dead-as-syria-regime-shell-hits-bus-in-aleppo-city.ashx#axzz2p70lwxrj


Could the war in Syria last another 10 years? http://www.strategicstudiesinstitute.army.mil/index.cfm/articles/Will-the-Syrian-Civil-War-Last-10-More-Years/2013/12/30


Syria’s government said invitations to the Geneva II conference had not been sent out as planned by December 28th. Blamed the delay on oppositions delay in attendance list.  http://www.dailystar.com.lb/News/Middle-East/2013/Dec-31/242760-syria-says-peace-meet-invites-unsent-blames-opposition.ashx#axzz2p70lwxrj




An older woman describes hunger, lack of medicine, medical treatment, the cold and deprivation under the siege by Assad’s forces.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sZ3n5Yohszk


Ten videos on Syria from 2013 collected by Brown Moses which made a difference



Syria is the deadliest country in the world for journalists according to the International Federation of Journalists – worse than Iraq.  108 journalists were killed in 2013 in Syria. http://www.dawn.com/news/1077513/108-journalists-killed-in-2013-syria-deadliest-ifj




Refugees and Relief:   In support of the Refugee Council’s effort to settle Syrian refugees in the U.K.  http://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2013/dec/31/least-uk-syrian-refugees




Aleppo  provincehttps://maps.google.com/maps?hl=en&q=map+of+aleppo+province&ie=UTF-8&hq=&hnear=0x152ff85ac00b17c9:0xf68ea3d8dc74b61b,Aleppo+Governorate,+Syria&gl=us&ei=R9DLUKfTFoWO0QHBuIHABA&ved=0CC8Q8gEwAA


A missile fired by Assad’s regular forces hit a bus in Aleppo today.  http://www.dailystar.com.lb/News/Middle-East/2013/Dec-31/242769-10-dead-as-syria-regime-shell-hits-bus-in-aleppo-city.ashx#axzz2p70lwxrj



Violent clashes were fought between regular forces and forces of the revolution in the neighborhood of Maysaloon.  Regular forces bombarded areas in the town of  Tadaf


More than 517 people were killed in two weeks of continuous ‘barrel bombs’ dropped on Aleppo by helicopters and air force. This included 471 civilians, of these 151 children, 46 women, 34 revolutionary fighters and 12 ISIS fighters.


On Saturday, 64 civilians and 4 rebel fighters were killed. One of the rebel fighters died during clashes with regime forces in al-Rashdeen. Snipers killed two other rebel fighters in Salahadin and al-Khaldiyye neighborhoods.  Of the civilians, 25 were killed by (the so-called barrel bombs on the Tariq al-Bab neighborhood (3 women, 4 children and a young journalist. 14 civilians were killed in an airstrike on al-Maysir neighbourhood, including 4 women and 4 children. Regime bombardment killed three children in the city of A’zaaz.  Two civilians died from their injuries from airstrikes on al-Mash’had and al-Haidariyye a few days ago. 15 civilians, amongst them 5 children, were killed in an airstrike on areas in al-Marjeh neighbourhood about a week ago.



Damascus province:   https://maps.google.com/maps?hl=en&q=map+of+damascus+province&ie=UTF-8&hq=&hnear=0x1518e6dc413cc6a7:0x69e5b88ad5b0817b,Damascus+Governorate,+Syria&gl=us&ei=_s_LUPTwHqWw0AHTtYDQAg&ved=0CC8Q8gEwAA


Regular forces bombed areas in the city of Yabroud and the Rima area near Yabroud.


Clashes between the regular forces and the FSA:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GPRa3OPy71w&feature=youtu.be

On Saturday, 6 civilians and 10 rebel fighters were killed.  One rebel fighter was killed in clashes with regime forces in Jobar.  8 fighters were killed in clashes in al-Dameer, eastern and western al-Ghouta, and al-Reef al-Junoubi.. Two children died from injuries incurred by a rocket on Douma several days ago.


Dara`a provincehttps://maps.google.com/maps?hl=en&q=map+of+daraa+province&ie=UTF-8&hq=&hnear=0x15195fa1016e8de7:0xff6b41761235d49c,Daraa+Governorate,+Syria&gl=us&ei=u9DLUPDfIcXq0gGRwIHADQ&ved=0CC8Q8gEwAA


On Saturday, 2 civilians and 1 rebel fighter were killed.  Regime bombardment on Mukhayam Daraa and the town of Oum Walad killed 2 men.



Deir az-Zur province:




Assad forces bombarded areas in the neighborhood of the old airport.  Information was received about Jabhat Nusra’s bombing of 3 buildings where regime forces were stationed in the neighborhood of Jebailah with casualties among the regular forces. A car bomb  for the bombing of fighters Front victory three buildings stationed forces the system in the neighborhood Jubailah .  A car bomb blew up a commanding officer in the town of Asharh


On Saturday, 13 rebel fighters were killed. One of them was killed in clashes between regime forces and NDF fighters in  the village of al-Jafra village.  The others were killed in clashes with regime forces, among them a 14 year old rebel fighter and a rebel commander.



Hama provincehttps://maps.google.com/maps?hl=en&q=hama+governorate&ie=UTF-8&hq=&hnear=0x15248293d5052f19:0x6e6de1581c39ed96,Hama+Governorate,+Syria&gl=us&ei=CdPLUKKbIqyF0QHB94HQAw&sqi=2&ved=0CIEBELYD


Regular Syrian forces bombed areas in the town of Kafrzeita.  There were violent clashes between regular forces and revolutionary fighters dominated by the latter for several days.



Hassake province

https://maps.google.com/maps?hl=en&q=AlHasakah+Governorate,+Syria,+google+maps&ie=UTF-8&hq=&hnear=0x400976912dee2dfb:0x1735b67e4a2454b0,Al-Hasakah+Governorate,+Syria&gl=us&ei=UMLTUOKtN4ra0QG9-oHYBg&ved=0CC8Q8gEwAA  Clashes took place between the fights and protection units of the Kurdish YPG and National Defense Forces near the train station in the city of al-Hassakeh.  A fighter died and two were wounded.



Homs province:   https://maps.google.com/maps?hl=en&q=homs+governorate+google+map&ie=UTF-8&hq=&hnear=0x15230eeab10528a7:0x65655b88027a8699,Homs+Governorate,+Syria&gl=us&ei=BFPRUM6RBaTI0AHw1ICoCQ&ved=0CDMQ8gEwAA


Five died after a mortar shell fell on Saha Hajj al-Atef in the neighborhood of Karam al-Shami in the afternoon.  The old areas of Homs were bombarded by regime forces.  A surface-to-surface missile fell on the neighborhood of Waer.



Idlib province:   https://maps.google.com/maps?hl=en&q=idlib+governorate+google+map&ie=UTF-8&hq=&hnear=0x152500e6cc6ed27b:0xe59a7e2f651fc24c,Idlib+Governorate,+Syria&gl=us&ei=51PRUIiREsaB0AHN_YD4BQ&ved=0CC8Q8gEwAA


Some hopes and dreams for 2014 in Idlib http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8ytwtDHiOpg&feature=youtu.be


On Saturday one civilian and 3 rebel fighters were killed or died of injuries. 2 fighters were killed in clashes with regular forces in Reef Homs. 1 man from the Sarmin town was tortured to death in the regime’s prison.


Raqqa province: https://maps.google.com/maps?hl=en&q=map+of+ar-raqqah+province,+Syria&ie=UTF-8&hq=&hnear=0x153719cee4c60ce7:0x9d4657e00e899ab6,Ar-Raqqah+Governorate,+Syria&gl=us&ei=PJ_bUKrTBObF0AGMuYHwBw&sqi=2&ved=0CC8Q8gEwAA


On Saturday, 2 civilians and 1 rebel fighter were killed. 1 rebel fighter died of wounds received earlier in clashes with regular forces near the 93rd division in the A’in I’ssa area. 2 children were killed by shells that fell on the al-Tabaqa.






Lebanese army uses anti-aircraft defense on Syrian helicopters bombing Lebanese territory yesterday http://news.asiaone.com/news/world/lebanon-army-fires-syria-aircraft-after-raid-source


Soyuzneftegaz has signed a 90 million dollar deal with Damascus to explore offshore energy in the Mediterranean; an additional reason for Putin to continue supporting Assad.  http://www.foreignpolicy.com/articles/2013/12/27/putin_s_mediterranean_move#sthash.PUpuZNpw.dpbs


Syria asks the U.N. Security Council to prosecute Turkey and all countries supporting militants who are fighting the Assad government. http://www.presstv.ir/detail/2013/12/31/342887/syria-asks-unsc-to-prosecute-turkey/


Russia will install Iskander surface (nuclear) missiles to Syria (according to Israeli sources)  http://www.hurriyet.com.tr/english/world/9691338.asp?scr=1





Syria Update, November 8, 2013 (Institute of Middle Eastern, Islamic and Strategic Studies. By Sherifa Zuhur)

9 Nov

Syria Update November 8, 2013. (Institute of Middle Eastern, Islamic and Strategic Studies. By Sherifa Zuhur)

Thursday’s Death toll: 130 Syrians killed including 26 civilians and 33 regime soldiers.

U.S. presses Syria to participate in peace talks. (Apparently they did not hear what Syrians told the Russians). http://www.newsdaily.com/article/b4c822e8e783b1ef185da347dc7e7e3a/us-presses-syrian-opposition-to-agree-to-peace-talks

The new coalition Jaish al-Islam will reportedly get funding from Saudi Arabia and training from Pakistan. http://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/nov/07/syria-crisis-saudi-arabia-spend-millions-new-rebel-force?CMP=twt_gu

Al-Jazeera aired a message from Ayman al-Zawahiri from last May when he dissolved Jabhat al-Nusra in favor of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Sham (ISIS). As Jabhat al-Nusra rejected this order, it’s not really clear what he or al-Jazeera intend by the repetition of al-Qa’ida’s order. https://now.mmedia.me/lb/en/nowsyrialatestnews/519756-al-qaeda-chief-zawahiri-says-isis-to-be-dismantled-to-operate-as-the-islamic-state-of-iraq-

Refugees and Relief

The United Nations has launched a major campaign to vaccinate refugees against polio: http://www.channelnewsasia.com/news/health/20-million-kids-in/879908.html

German scientists writing in Lancet, the medical magazine warned that vaccinating Syrian refugees will not likely stop the spread of polio (it needs to be addressed inside of the Syria as well). This strain of polio may have come from Pakistan. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-24854920

Aleppo province: https://maps.google.com/maps?hl=en&q=map+of+aleppo+province&ie=UTF-8&hq=&hnear=0x152ff85ac00b17c9:0xf68ea3d8dc74b61b,Aleppo+Governorate,+Syria&gl=us&ei=R9DLUKfTFoWO0QHBuIHABA&ved=0CC8Q8gEwAA

Syrian regime troops unleashed a very heavy barrage on rebel-held areas around Aleppo’s International airport at 5:30 a.m. local time, focusing on the Brigade 80 base (which formerly was held by the air defense force) trying to retake it. Rebels now control the road from here to al-Bab and don’t want to lose that route.

9n. Sfeira: Fierce shelling with explosive barrels by warplanes targets the city
19h Talaaran | Clashes between the Free Syrian Army and Assad forces on the town’s outskirts.
16h Fierce clashes between FSA and regime forces in Khaldyeh neighborhood of Aleppo. A military convoy consisting of four tanks tried to break into Khalidiya and Bain Zeid neighborhoods
15h FSA was targeting regime groups stationed in an-Nairab military air base and the oil factory with mortar shells resulting in direct hits.
14h Regime artillery shelling on Bani Zeid and Alshrafiyyeh districts.
14h Fierce clashes between the FSA and regime forces in Khalidiyyeh, Bani Zeid and Alshrafiyyeh districts.
9h Regime warplane bombardment on Sabkhet Aljabbul area in the eastern rural area.

Damascus province: https://maps.google.com/maps?hl=en&q=map+of+damascus+province&ie=UTF-8&hq=&hnear=0x1518e6dc413cc6a7:0x69e5b88ad5b0817b,Damascus+Governorate,+Syria&gl=us&ei=_s_LUPTwHqWw0AHTtYDQAg&ved=0CC8Q8gEwAA

A mortar fell on the Tadamun neighborhood, causing injuries. Regime forces bombarded the Jobar neighborhood. Regime forces bombarded the Madniya area of the Qadam neighborhood. 5 rockets fell on the Qassa’ neighbourhood of central Damascus, 1 mortar fell on George Khoury square, no reports of casualties. Clashes on Filasteen street in the Yarmouk camp.

Parts of al-Hejeira and al-Mqeilabiya were shelled by regime forces. 2 mortars were launched into the al-Assad suburb. Regime forces bombarded Deir Attiya.

In Muaddamiyyat Asham
: Fierce clashes between the FSA and regime forces on several fronts coupled with fierce regime artillery shelling on the city. Clashes are most intensified on the northern and western fronts. One civilian was killed in artillery shelling of the factories area.
Assad forces launched rockets at the towns of Al-Blaliyyeh, Hizrma and Nashabiyyeh as they clashed with the FSA on several front lines in Almarj area.
Regime artillery shelling on the city of Zabadani, Madaya and the western mountain in the area. There was fierce shelling on Bait Sahm
 and al-Asali. Fierce clashes on the outskirts of Daraya between the FSA and regime forces.
Shellng resumed on al-Milahah and Hajirah al-Balad.
In al-Qassa
, several civilians were injured when a mortar shell fell near Burj Arrus. Two civilians were killed in Bab Tuma and others injured when a mortar shell fell on al-Sheikh Ruslan.

Several civilians were killed and injured as a result of regime artillery shelling on the liberated districts in al-Sayida Zainab amid fierce clashes between the Free Syrian Army (FSA) and Assad forces on several front lines in the city.
Regime shelling on Douma and Yabroud and on the town of Khan Asheeh in the western Ghouta.
Assad forces have struck Almathniyah area with rocket shelling.
In Harasta, the FSA clashed with regime forces near the administration of military motor vehicles.
Damascus Rural | Harasta
The Free Syrian Army (FSA) is fiercely clashing with Assad forces near the Administration of Military Motor Vehicles.
The regime forces launched a scud missile at northern Syrian territories from al-Qutaifah.

Dara`a province: https://maps.google.com/maps?hl=en&q=map+of+daraa+province&ie=UTF-8&hq=&hnear=0x15195fa1016e8de7:0xff6b41761235d49c,Daraa+Governorate,+Syria&gl=us&ei=u9DLUPDfIcXq0gGRwIHADQ&ved=0CC8Q8gEwAA

Parts of Inkhil and Nawa cities were bombarded by regime forces, 1 defected soldier was killed as a result in Nawa, and several were injured. Regime forces bombed the town of Ma’arba.

18h Heaving shelling and rocket fire on Tareeq Assud and on Eastern Ghariyyeh

18h Inkhel
: Assad forces are shelled the city with artillery and clashed with the Free Syrian Army on the eastern front line of the city.
17h Nahteh
: One civilian was killed and a number of others injured as a result of regime artillery shelling on the town.
16h Regime forces fired on an-Naeemeh
 and launched rockets at Saida.
16h Regime forces shelled al-Mseifrah
 and shelled Ataman, and fired artillery at Kaheel.
Many civilians injured in the shelling on Tareeq Assud and Dar’aa Albalad
14h Regime artillery shelling on Busra Ashaam
 on the eastern quarter.
13h At Inkhil
, the FSA targeted the 15th brigade with mortar shells.
8 h. Regime shelling resumed on Dael.

Hama province: https://maps.google.com/maps?hl=en&q=hama+governorate&ie=UTF-8&hq=&hnear=0x15248293d5052f19:0x6e6de1581c39ed96,Hama+Governorate,+Syria&gl=us&ei=CdPLUKKbIqyF0QHB94HQAw&sqi=2&ved=0CIEBELYD

The ISIS executed an Alawi family: 4 children 2 women and 2 men who were picking olives in their farm in Khneifees village, near Salamiya city. Clashes took place near the villages of Taloul al-Hamr and Khneifis between rebels and ISIS against regime forces and the Popular Committees. 4 children died from an explosion from the remnants of regime bombardment on the village of Rasm al-Ahmar.

14h Fierce clashes between FSA and regime forces near Samman and Kafr checkpoints along with shelling from Zein Al-Abdeen mountain targets the liberated villages
13h Jabal Shaheshbo: Rocket launchers shelling targeted the mountain’s villages
12hHarbanfseh: Many wounded were reported due to rocket launchers shelling in the town
10h Fierce clashes between FSA and regime forces in Aleppo Road neighborhood near the civil defense checkpoint
9h Harbanfseh: Continuous shelling
9h Sahl Al-Ghab: Artillery shelling from Jourein checkpoint targetted Hweiz and Hweijeh villages
8h Zeroun: Fierce artillery shelling from the rural development checkpoint targetted the village

Hassake province

On Thursday, sources confirmed that the YPG (Kurdish forces) took over over 2 villages west of Tal Tamer city, on the highway to Aleppo, after violent clashes with the ISIS, Jabhat al-Nusra and allied rebel groups. Yesterday the YPG took over the villages of Ghebesh and Tal Shemarin, which are inhabited by Syrian Assyrians.

Homs province: https://maps.google.com/maps?hl=en&q=homs+governorate+google+map&ie=UTF-8&hq=&hnear=0x15230eeab10528a7:0x65655b88027a8699,Homs+Governorate,+Syria&gl=us&ei=BFPRUM6RBaTI0AHw1ICoCQ&ved=0CDMQ8gEwAA

Rebels captured a huge arms depot in Homs at Mahin yesterday. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WARWstvdvKM

Idlib province: https://maps.google.com/maps?hl=en&q=idlib+governorate+google+map&ie=UTF-8&hq=&hnear=0x152500e6cc6ed27b:0xe59a7e2f651fc24c,Idlib+Governorate,+Syria&gl=us&ei=51PRUIiREsaB0AHN_YD4BQ&ved=0CC8Q8gEwAA

At 17:00, Jabal Zawyeh: Fierce warplanes shelling targets Al Rami village
At 15:00, Khan Sheikhoun, FSA targeted the al-Faqeir checkpoint with mortar shells. At 12:00 Khan Sheikhoun: There was fierce artillery shelling from Khzanat camp targets west of the city
At 11:00 Qmeinas: Fierce artillery bombardment from the brick factory targeted the village.

Raqqa province: https://maps.google.com/maps?hl=en&q=map+of+ar-raqqah+province,+Syria&ie=UTF-8&hq=&hnear=0x153719cee4c60ce7:0x9d4657e00e899ab6,Ar-Raqqah+Governorate,+Syria&gl=us&ei=PJ_bUKrTBObF0AGMuYHwBw&sqi=2&ved=0CC8Q8gEwAA

Violent clashes between regime and rebel forces near the 17th battalion, near Raqqah city; reports of human losses on both sides. activists accuse the ISIS of blowing up the al-Sheikh Bandar shrine in Ratla village before the Ayman al-Zawahiri speech was aired (on al-Jazeera)

Turkey’s police continued clashing with Kurdish protesters over construction of a border wall at Cizre which the latter say is an effort to separate Kurds in Syria from Kurds in Turkey. These clashes have been ongoing for several days. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OdbQTxhSCkA

John Kerry, U.S. Secretary of State wants the international community to step up its support for Syria’s refugees, warning of the stress which host countries are undergoing: http://jordantimes.com/kerry-urges-intl-action-on-syrian-refugee-crisis

Syria’s main opposition, the National Coalition refuses to participate in talks in Moscow. Russia’s Foreign Ministry claimed the SNC said it would previously participate, but in fact, it has been adamant about not participating in dialogue with Assad and not unless it is clear that Assad will leave power.

U.S. presses Syria to participate in peace talks. (Apparently they did not hear what Syrians told the Russians). http://www.newsdaily.com/article/b4c822e8e783b1ef185da347dc7e7e3a/us-presses-syrian-opposition-to-agree-to-peace-talks

Syria Update, May 7, 2013 (Institute of Middle Eastern, Islamic and Strategic Studies. By Sherifa Zuhur)

8 May

Syria Update May 7, 2013. (Institute of Middle Eastern, Islamic and Strategic Studies. By Sherifa Zuhur)

Monday’s death toll: 130 Syrians were killed yesterday including 37 civilians, 48 opposition fighters, and 29 regular soldiers

Internet connections in Syria were cut off today. Many websites were unreachable. It is thought that the government has initiated the shut-down.

Syria’s Children: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OfqT3ioJ02g

Anthony Cordesman of CSIS discusses Syria’s air defense capabilities in light of Israel’s recent attacks.

Video of the Israeli airstrikes on Syria http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/worldviews/wp/2013/05/06/astonishing-video-from-the-israeli-air-strikes-on-syria/

Here a commander speaks about the need to cleanse Baniyas of the Sunnis who support the revolution . Note the shaykh seated to his left. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zjF1r7VzcHA&feature=youtu.be

Important report on religious freedom in Syria in light of the conflict.

Refugees and Relief:
The UN Humanitarian office said the number of internally-displaced Syrians has reached 4.25 million. The numbers doubled over last month.

Riots take place and there are attacks on FSA members by the Syrian mukhabarat in the Syrian refugee camp, Zaatari in Jordan. https://now.mmedia.me/lb/en/reportsfeatures/zaataris-mukhabarrat-wars

Aleppo province: https://maps.google.com/maps?hl=en&q=map+of+aleppo+province&ie=UTF-8&hq=&hnear=0x152ff85ac00b17c9:0xf68ea3d8dc74b61b,Aleppo+Governorate,+Syria&gl=us&ei=R9DLUKfTFoWO0QHBuIHABA&ved=0CC8Q8gEwAA

A number of local councils demonstrated peacefully in Masaken Hanano to denounce the silence of the Arab world on the crisis in Syria.

Regime forces targeted Azaz and Menagh airports with heavy machine gun fire today.
A man from the town of al-Zbadiya was killed Monday. The Syrian regime bombarded the market of the town of Safira Monday killing a child, 2 men and one unidentified man.

Damascus province: https://maps.google.com/maps?hl=en&q=map+of+damascus+province&ie=UTF-8&hq=&hnear=0x1518e6dc413cc6a7:0x69e5b88ad5b0817b,Damascus+Governorate,+Syria&gl=us&ei=_s_LUPTwHqWw0AHTtYDQAg&ved=0CC8Q8gEwAA

FSA shelled the Division 67 at al-Qalamun with a cannon 106. Morsed Seydnaya is now under FSA control – ammunition there includes a cannon 23 mm http://youtu.be/k26UaAtmckohttp://youtu.be/nq40PWBE-http://youtu.be/tRtoEnNNi-A
Heavy clashes took place at Masken Najha near Division 58 where officers, security forces and shabbiha were staying, burning a large part of it and which killed many inside with rockets. http://youtu.be/xtWXFFD94Jk

At Al Abbasiyeen, in Damascus, a sniper unit killed two of Assad’s shabbiha http://youtu.be/nuUg4vSrpvE who had been targetting d cars at the Al Qabun Highway.http://youtu.be/Msr6bm9EY4c

Two mortars were launched into the Qudseyya suburb this morning. Regime shelling of Darayya killed two rebels and there were clashes in the town of Hazarma. In clashes between regime forces and opposition in Douma, three rebels were killed. Douma was shelled with mortars. The regime forces bombarded the town of Adra near the 14th military base.

The opposition launched a rocket into the Mezzeh 86 neighborhood where there are security and shabiha enclaves http://youtu.be/-CqbFKNo8vo
(and which is inhabited by civilians from the Syrian coast (Alawites)). Regime forces bombarded the Jobar and Qaboun neighborhoods. In Barzeh, clashes took place from late last night.

Violent clashes occurred near the town of Beit Sahm and there was heavy artillery bombardment on that town.

Dara`a province: https://maps.google.com/maps?hl=en&q=map+of+daraa+province&ie=UTF-8&hq=&hnear=0x15195fa1016e8de7:0xff6b41761235d49c,Daraa+Governorate,+Syria&gl=us&ei=u9DLUPDfIcXq0gGRwIHADQ&ved=0CC8Q8gEwAA

Opposition fighters in the Golan Heights abducted four UN peacekeepers from the Philippines according to Josephine Guerrero of the U.N. The four were patrolling near the al-Jamlah locality in the ceasefire zone between Israel and Syria just where 21 Filipino peacekeepers were seized by Syrian rebels in March. The opposition claimed they were trying to protect the UNDOF peacekeepers from clashes and said they would soon release them.

Deir az-Zur province:


On Monday (the 6th) 2 civilians and a rebel fighter were killed. 2 men were shot to death near entrances to the city of Deir az-Zur.

The Assad government carried out its 326th consecutive day of military attacks on the city of Deir az-Zur on May 5th

Adham Jasem Nayef Al-Jneid, an FSA member was killed in clashes in the neighborhood of as-Sina`a in Deir az-Zur.

A sniper (Assad-loyalist) killed Samer Nabeel Al-Furati, 22 years old in As-Sina`a in Deir az-Zur.

The Syrian military shelled the village of Marrat killing Heba Turki al-Hammadi; a young girl, as well as Ibrahim Turki al-Hammadi (a young boy) and Rahaf Turki al-Hammadi.

A regime sniper killed Ibrahim Al-Ibrahim, 18 years old at the Death passageway in Deir az-Zur

Recently “documented” martyrs.

Ammar Saleh Al-Hosson died in the regime shelling of HamidiyYa neighborhood, 2-5-2013

A sniper killed Hammadi Khalaf Al-Hussein, FSA member from Al-H’sainiyeh village. He was killed in Rushdiyya in Deir az-Zur (4-5-2013)

In clashes with the regime military, Oudai Abboud Al-Khalaf, a 27 year old FSA member was killed in as-Sina`a 4-5-2013.

Hama province: https://maps.google.com/maps?hl=en&q=hama+governorate&ie=UTF-8&hq=&hnear=0x15248293d5052f19:0x6e6de1581c39ed96,Hama+Governorate,+Syria&gl=us&ei=CdPLUKKbIqyF0QHB94HQAw&sqi=2&ved=0CIEBELYD

Syrian troops carried out a series of raids and arbitrary arrests in the al-Hmeidiya neighbourhood and there were summary executions in the area on Monday. The Syrian military shelled the town of A’rfa (on Monday). Clashes took place between regular and rebel forces in the al-Baroudiya neighborhood of the city of Hama with casualties. The Syrian air forces bombardment of Kafrzeita killed two men from Tibet al-Imam.

The regime shelling on Aleppo Way in Hama leaves smoke

Hassake province

Regular forces bombarded the village of Kherba. An IED exploded in al-Wahda street of al-Qameshli on Monday.

Homs province: https://maps.google.com/maps?hl=en&q=homs+governorate+google+map&ie=UTF-8&hq=&hnear=0x15230eeab10528a7:0x65655b88027a8699,Homs+Governorate,+Syria&gl=us&ei=BFPRUM6RBaTI0AHw1ICoCQ&ved=0CDMQ8gEwAA

The pro-regime Hezbollah popular defense committees clashed with opposition fighters near al-Sloumiya. There were reports of casualties on both sides. Regular forces shelled the fields outside the al-Wa’er neighborhood on Monday and caused injuries.

Idlib province: https://maps.google.com/maps?hl=en&q=idlib+governorate+google+map&ie=UTF-8&hq=&hnear=0x152500e6cc6ed27b:0xe59a7e2f651fc24c,Idlib+Governorate,+Syria&gl=us&ei=51PRUIiREsaB0AHN_YD4BQ&ved=0CC8Q8gEwAA

Regular forces shelled Taftanaz and M’artmasrin on Monday.

Latakia province:

Syrian regime forces killed two Jordanian fighters and several Saudi Arabian snipers in their operations against the opposition in Salmeh, Tartiah, Kafar Dalbeh, al-Dareh, and Borj al-Ahrash where the Saudi fighter, Mash’al al-Saleh was killed. http://www.islamicinvitationturkey.com/2013/05/07/syrian-troops-kill-several-saudi-jordanian-terrorists-in-outskirts-of-latakia/

Here, bombs explode that had been dropped by aircraft in Salma.

Quneitra province: https://maps.google.com/maps?hl=en&q=Quneitra+governorate+Google+maps&ie=UTF-8&hq=&hnear=0x151eb4afcd3e069f:0xbcbbd63808a65623,Quneitra+Governorate,+Syria&gl=us&ei=Ch77ULCILuyP0QG67YDoDQ&ved=0CC0Q8gEwAA

Eighteen opposition fighers were killed in clashes with regular forces in al-Quneitra. (Four of the fighters were from Jasem in Dara’a, five from Inkhel, two from Nemr 1 from al-Hara, 2 from Samlin, 1 from Zamrin and 3 from the Kafr Shams)

Violent clashes took place in the town of Ghadir al-Bustan, in the liberated Golan territories, between rebel and regime forces. Regime forces are bombarding parts of Ghadir al-Bustan, Qarqas and al-Hiran. Oposition fighters reportedly took over he 2nd company, the 23rd and 29th battalions and the security branch in Kodna. The opposition targeted the 61st brigade’s checkpoints in the area.

Raqqa province: https://maps.google.com/maps?hl=en&q=map+of+ar-raqqah+province,+Syria&ie=UTF-8&hq=&hnear=0x153719cee4c60ce7:0x9d4657e00e899ab6,Ar-Raqqah+Governorate,+Syria&gl=us&ei=PJ_bUKrTBObF0AGMuYHwBw&sqi=2&ved=0CC8Q8gEwAA

Two opposition fighters were killed in clashes with regular forces near the al-Tabaqa military airport yesterday.

Tartous province https://maps.google.com/maps?hl=en&q=tartous+syria&ie=UTF-8&hq=&hnear=0x15217e77890fb9a3:0xa072a491096e24b,Tartus%E2%80%8E,+Syria&gl=us&ei=_WuJUZnrLK664APwrIGwDg&sqi=2&ved=0CKQBELYD

The city of Tartous and surrounding areas are calm and the regime forces are no longer carrying out detentions and raids. Two massacres were committed in the area: in the Ras al-Nabe’ neighbourhood of Banias and in the village of al-Beyda killing about 80 persons including many children. Hundreds fled the coastal areas after the massacres. http://www.abc.net.au/news/2013-05-05/hundreds-flee-amid-reports-of-syria-massacres/4670066

Here is the commander of the Baniyas operation discussing his goals


Ali Akbar Salehi, the Iranian foreign minister met with President Assad on Tuesday and said it was time to dissuade Israel from any further attacks on Syria.

A press conference was held in Amman with Nasser Judeh and Ali Akbar Salehi of Iran who said “We refuse any solution forced from outside. We are against any foreign intervention in Syria. We have seen what has happened in some countries, which I will not name,
after they faced foreign intervention. We don’t want history to repeat itself in Syria… Israel would not dare to attack Iran, you can be sure of that. However we are ready for any worse case scenarios, but at the same time, we are sure that Israel would not undertake such an operation.” Judeh claimed there are no foreign troops in Jordan.

Turkey’s Prime Minister Recep Erdogan called Israeli air strikes on Syria unacceptable but also said the strikes give Assad an opportunity to cover up the massacre of civilians at Baniyas. http://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2013/05/07/Turkey-PM-says-Israeli-air-strik
John Kerry, US. Secretary of State began talks in Russia with President Vladimir Putin on Syria today, seeking “common ground” with Russia. Russia said it will act to maintain stability in Syria. http://www.aljazeera.com/news/europe/2013/05/20135716287710849.html
Lady My Friend, Being Arab Tires Me 

(popularly called the “Green Land of Tunisia” poem)

(translated by Mohja Kahf)

Green land of Tunisia, here I come, a lover,
bearing with me book and rose.
Carthage, here comes to you the Damascene
who takes love as a calling. Where he goes,
boughs bud at his beckon and bloom green.

Damascus’ moon and domes and wheat
and songbirds go with me wherever I go.
Water has its beginning in my hometown;
wherever you lean your head, you hear it flowing.
Poetry’s a little bird that wings around Damascus,
well-met by poets who rise quickly to respond.

White jasmine started in Damascus too,
and so did Time. My townfolk
worship Beauty; it melts them,
and they melt it. Thus, Love happened first
in Damascus. So did the horse gallop
from Damascus first to victory. In Damascus,
ancient languages and lineages live. It is Damascus
gives meaning to the name of Arab.

Sea nymphs of Carthage, riverbeds run dry
and, though there should be no turning back from love,
old friends are gone, and paths divided; why?

Where now are the women who love like they pray?
I have forgotten not one woman’s name,
not one woman’s breasts.

Some wore my poems and my tears,
some loved, and some mistrusted me.
I loved them all, and now I am betrayed.

Shall I take them to account? A man
can never win with women by account.
I don’t repent my having loved—I cannot stand
the silly scene of lovers going around
repenting of their love.

Now we come to it: the night’s festivities.
Am I supposed to rhyme on demand?
Am I the palace singer with no clothes?
My tongue can’t find my tongue,
my mouth is full of stones. Carthage!
Where does a poem come from, you suppose,
when God is dead, and charlatans are lords?
Tyrannized by day, we’re terrorized by night.
Our breadloaves smell of state surveillance.
They pull apart our phrases, and our fingers from our hands.
With what is a writer left to write?

Poetry comes not just from the pen;
it comes from underneath the eyelids,
from the vision. But poets
of today are some third sex: they speak
not Arabic, not speech of foreign lands,
their syntax jumbled and their words a fog.
They blab into a void to nobody;
they buzz, so many flies
on the mere surface of the wine, while those
to whom writing is a fire
and they are wood and match, and burn their lives in it,
and give us joy, get no reward. Whores
and thugs wear silks, and leave the writers rags.

Lady my friend, being Arab tires me
The map has made exiles of us all.
The state of our nation is a joke.

In clear Arabic I call my tribe and call—
no one answers. If not for their robes,
I would not think our leaders Arab folk at all.
They kiss-kiss, by Arab way of greeting,
but behind each other’s necks, their fangs are bared.

Carthage, shall we raise a toast to our downfall?
The cup cannot hold enough drink
to bring me to enough oblivion.

From Fertile Crescent to North Africa, we’re cursed:
dictatorships, police states, guard patrols.
We fight amongst ourselves with daggers thrust,
and over what? Some dried-up pits of dates.
It’s all the same, with or without the oil.
Our leaders seem to stash it in their balls
to piss away while people bleed and toil.

Green land of Tunisia, what will save us?
There are no holy books left in the land.
All the caliph’s horses have dropped dead—
of embarrassment. High honor’s a mirage
melting on the Arab sand.

Lady my friend, being Arab wears me down.
The edges of my wound are riverbanks.
So if I scream at those I love in these our times,
it is to wake up love and all the lovers.

And if I call the Arab world a darkened pit,
it is a world I live in and would light.
If I rage at Arab chiefs it is so that
they may yet find some spark inside those robes.

Oh Carthage, Carthage, Carthage,
can I ever hope now to return to your bosom?

Do not hate my passion,
for passion is my nature,
and God, Glorious be His Glory,
doth pardon all the sins of poetry.

Syria Update, April 25, 2013 (Institute of Middle Eastern, Islamic and Strategic Studies. By Sherifa Zuhur)

26 Apr

Syria Update, April 25 2013. (Institute of Middle Eastern, Islamic and Strategic Studies. By Sherifa Zuhur)

Aftermath of a shelling in Qusayr (which killed 10, see below)

President Assad uses his connections to try to convince the US and American media that they are supporting “Islamic terrorists” and the wrong side of the war in Syria. http://www.nytimes.com/2013/04/25/world/middleeast/syria-campaigns-to-persuade-us-to-change-sides.html?hp&_r=0

PLEASE sign to demand the release of Syria’s nonviolent prisoners (and share)

Strategy by the Syrian regime has shifted to seeking control of the highways. http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/afp/130425/syria-army-shifts-war-highways

Where does Syria’s Shi`a community stand? Some Shi`i joined the opposition. http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/features/2013/04/201342491851986116.html

Aleppo province: https://maps.google.com/maps?hl=en&q=map+of+aleppo+province&ie=UTF-8&hq=&hnear=0x152ff85ac00b17c9:0xf68ea3d8dc74b61b,Aleppo+Governorate,+Syria&gl=us&ei=R9DLUKfTFoWO0QHBuIHABA&ved=0CC8Q8gEwAA

Yesterday (Wednesday) the minaret of the Umayyad Mosque of Aleppo has collapsed because of the violent clashes taking place next to it. This minaret has been in place for almost 1000 years,; it was built at the time of the Seljuk empire in the 11th century.

Damascus province: https://maps.google.com/maps?hl=en&q=map+of+damascus+province&ie=UTF-8&hq=&hnear=0x1518e6dc413cc6a7:0x69e5b88ad5b0817b,Damascus+Governorate,+Syria&gl=us&ei=_s_LUPTwHqWw0AHTtYDQAg&ved=0CC8Q8gEwAA

The Syrian regime forces captured al-Oteiba to the east of Damascus after five weeks of battle yesterday in a setback to the opposition. http://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2013/04/26/Syrian-troops-capture-key-town-near-Damascus.html

Opposition fighters from the town of al-Oteiba (taken over yesterday by regime forces using the airforce, tanks and multiple rocket launchers ) have released this video about the creation of a new battalion, Liwa’ al-Shabab al-Sadiqeen (Battalion of the Honest Men). They state that they have resisted the Assad regime for 40 days without adequate support from others.

Heavy clashes took place in Harasta. Unknown gunmen shot an engineer in the village of Kafrhour.

Dara`a province: https://maps.google.com/maps?hl=en&q=map+of+daraa+province&ie=UTF-8&hq=&hnear=0x15195fa1016e8de7:0xff6b41761235d49c,Daraa+Governorate,+Syria&gl=us&ei=u9DLUPDfIcXq0gGRwIHADQ&ved=0CC8Q8gEwAA

Footage of the killed brigadier general of the 38th brigade in Rif Dara`a. He was killed last month on 23/3/2013 after rebels from several factions, including al-Nusra, stormed the 38th battalion. His head is decapitated in the second video.

Hama province: https://maps.google.com/maps?hl=en&q=hama+governorate&ie=UTF-8&hq=&hnear=0x15248293d5052f19:0x6e6de1581c39ed96,Hama+Governorate,+Syria&gl=us&ei=CdPLUKKbIqyF0QHB94HQAw&sqi=2&ved=0CIEBELYD

Jabat al-Nusra and other opposition battallions targeted an armored vehcilce in Tariq Halab in the city of Hama, burning alive some regular soldiers.

Homs province: https://maps.google.com/maps?hl=en&q=homs+governorate+google+map&ie=UTF-8&hq=&hnear=0x15230eeab10528a7:0x65655b88027a8699,Homs+Governorate,+Syria&gl=us&ei=BFPRUM6RBaTI0AHw1ICoCQ&ved=0CDMQ8gEwAA

Three airstrikes were carried out on the city of Homs today. Violent clashes occurred in the city of Homs between regular and opposition forces at the outskirts of the neighborhoods of Wadi al-Seih and Jouret al-Shayah. Regular forces shelled these areas which they have been trying to invade. The Syrian military shelled areas of the town of Sakhna which are currently controlled by the al-Islam battalion.

The Syrian regime forces bombarded the villages of al-Tiba and al-Koum from the air, killing 1 civilian and injuring 12. The Syrian regular forces bombarded the al-Basatin area of Palmyra. At least 4 security forces were killed by an ambush on the Homs-Palmyra road.

Air strikes in Qusayr (see also above) were carried out by the Syrian military. And killed 10. http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=GcTG9TT8lXE

Opposition fighters accuse Hizbullah of widening the war by their attacks in this area. http://www.voanews.com/content/syria-opposition-accuses-hezbollah-of-widening-war/1648619.html

Idlib province: https://maps.google.com/maps?hl=en&q=idlib+governorate+google+map&ie=UTF-8&hq=&hnear=0x152500e6cc6ed27b:0xe59a7e2f651fc24c,Idlib+Governorate,+Syria&gl=us&ei=51PRUIiREsaB0AHN_YD4BQ&ved=0CC8Q8gEwAA

Clashes occurred at the edges of the town of Kamam killing 3 rebel fighters. Both regular and national defence units have been trying to overtake this town. A woman died today in the village of Daba`a from wounds received there in the regime’s aerial bombardment. The Syrian regular forces shelled the towns of al-Dar al-Kabira, Nahlaiya and Kafrnajd. The latter two were shelled by Syrian military at the al-Mastouma encampment near the city of Idlib.

Raqqa province: https://maps.google.com/maps?hl=en&q=map+of+ar-raqqah+province,+Syria&ie=UTF-8&hq=&hnear=0x153719cee4c60ce7:0x9d4657e00e899ab6,Ar-Raqqah+Governorate,+Syria&gl=us&ei=PJ_bUKrTBObF0AGMuYHwBw&sqi=2&ved=0CC8Q8gEwAA

Opposition forces were hit by the Syrian regime in airstrikes today in Raqqah, Hassakeh, Damascus, Idlib and Dara`a provinces. https://now.mmedia.me/lb/en/nowsyrialatestnews/warplanes-hit-rebels-across-syria-watchdog


Hikmat Massarwa, a member of Israel’s Arab minority attended a remand hearing at the Central District Court in Lod, near Tel Aviv, on Thursday.
Israel charged Massarwa this month with security offenses for joining Syria’s rebel forces against President Bashar al-Assad and said that he had associated with radical fighters.

Some members of the U.S. Congress (and Senator John McCain) urged President Barack Obama to take action to “secure” Syria’s chemical weapons after he warned Thursday that strongman Bashar al-Assad likely used them against his own people. http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/afp/130425/us-lawmakers-demand-action-syria-chemical-weapons

Jordan’s ambassador to the United Nations, Zeid al-Hussein sent a letter to the United Nations security council saying that the Syrian refugee influx is a humanitarian crisis and a threat to Jordan’s security and stability. http://www.theprovince.com/news/Jordan+tells+Syrian+refugee+influx+threatening+security/8295950/story.html

This op-ed states that the US is “inching” toward action in Syria. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-us-canada-22303554

Russian foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov slams the “Friends of Syria” and exposes Russia’s differences with Turkey on Syria. http://www.todayszaman.com/news-312876-lavrov-slams-friends-of-syria-lays-bare-differences-with-turkey.html

A Primer on Syria’s Chemical Weapons

Sherifa Zuhur. Director, Institute of Middle Eastern, Islamic and Strategic Studies.

In August of 2012, U.S. President Obama warned the Syrian government not to use chemical weapons and stated that their use would be unacceptable. He also promised to aid the opposition. http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=bsO3ehh8UEk

The opposition has demanded an inquiry into the current use of chemical weapons (CW) on 3/18/13 in an incident in Khan Assal in Aleppo province. http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/sns-rt-us-syria-crisis-chemicalsbre92j0r4-20130320,0,1185396.story Thus far, the U.S. ambassador has said it is unlikely. But if it occurred, would the U.S. make good on its promise to punish Bashar al-Assad’s government or not? To the first question — have chemical weapons been used?

Syria’s chemical weapons program dates back to 1973 when Syria obtained mustard and sarin from Egypt. It is one of the strongest programs in the Middle East region. Syria’s current chemical weapons development is being supervised by Iranian scientists. Ever since 1989, the focus of the program has been on improving the accuracy and distance of potential strikes via the delivery system. Six years ago, Syria possessed 100 to 200 sarin-filled warheads (in 2008) there may be more today. The country has SCUD missiles and SS-21 missiles, both of which may be fitted to CW warheads.

Between late November and early December of 2012, the U.S. government was provided information indicating that Syria was mixing and moving its CW stores, probably for intended use. Photographs showed soldiers preparing precursor chemicals, and army units loading CW onto military transport. In this same period there were some claims of use of a gas or chemical weapon by those injured in Homs and other areas, and some of the injured were biopsied. The most recent claims of March 18, 2013 involve an attack on Khan al-Assal, an area in Aleppo, where the opposition had captured a police academy, and where the Syrian government troops and air force had been attacking in an effort to recapture. It appears the Syrian air force used a missile which then mistakenly hit Syrian forces in the opposition-held area, killing 16 Syrian troops and 10 opposition fighters. (SOHR 3/18, 3/19) The Syrian government’s claim that it was the opposition which had and used CW follows its pattern of terming the opposition “terrorists,” and also may have been expressed to cover up the mistake made by the Syrian military for firing on its own fighters. The missiles were fired from the Nayrab district. The opposition quickly denied that it has any such weapons; indeed the stockpiles are held by the Syrian government (Youtube and Barnard, NYT 3/19/13) Breathing difficulties, bluish skin and suffocation of some of the 26 victims were reported and a Reuters reporter confirmed seeing these symptoms and smelling chorine in the air.

In December one of the fighting groups of the FSA seized one of Syria’s facilities about 40 miles from Aleppo near the Euphrates river, the SYSSACO plant which manufactures chemicals including chlorine. At the time, al-Akhbar, a Lebanese newspaper sympathetic to the Assad regime claimed that there were 100-kilogram tanks of chlorine at that facility. ( http://digitaljournal.com/article/338771 ) The rebels declared the area a closed zone. It seems highly unlikely that the 3/18 bombing could have come from these stocks, or direction.

Events are moving swiftly. Here the Mujahidin Shura Council seizes poison gas (type unidentified) from the Khan Toman military warehouse. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XnANeCjPCuc&feature=youtu.be
But we should remember that the filled warheads and missiles are in the hands of the Syrian government, its researchers and military.

Previous Use of an CW Agent

The Syrian military attacked the city of Homs (which has been besieged for months) on December 23rd. Victims of attacks on that day suffered from nervous system, respiratory and gastrointestinal symptoms after inhaling a gas on that day. Medical personnel and activists reported the incident, and the U.S. State Department engaged in an investagion from the U.S. Consulate in Istanbul but concluded CW had not been used. Some of the victims of this attack continued to suffer after fleeing as refugees and I was told that some biopsied tissue was returned to the U.S. for evaluation but have not seen any conclusions.

Other Possibilities.

Tear gas is used by the Syrian military (as by other police and militaries) but it is not considered CW, as it is non-lethal. Other CW elements like chlorine, phosgene and mustard gas have been used since World War One in warfare, and are possessed by the Syrian government Chlorine is a powerful agent which burns the throat, nose, eyes and lungs and may kill via asphyxiation. It is water-soluble and masks or the use of a wet cloth have been used to protect against the gas. Phosgene is even deadlier than chlorine, and as a war gas is often mixed with chlorine.

Syria has not signed, nor acceded to the Chemical Weapons Convention. Its primary rationale for not renouncing chemical weapons is that Israel poses a threat to Syrian security. Jane’s Defense has reported on Syria’s upgrading of its CW since 2005, a process reliant on Iranian assistance.

There is no strong evidence that Iraq’s chemical weapons were moved to Syria (although there is no proof they were not, one may surmise that Syria’s CW program is robust on its own).

Syria obtained the design for the Soviet Scud warhead using VX back in the 1970s. It appears that Syria has the capabilities to produce CW agents on its own; it has procued nonpersistent nerve gas since 1984. There is confirmation of its possession of sarin since 1986. Syria’s CW program began with CERS, its Scientific Study and Research Center in Damascus and later, plants in al-Safira, Hama and Homs were established.

By 1987, Syria had sarin-filled warheads on Scud missiles and since then its focus is to increase range and effectiveness of strike capability. After 1997, Syria obtained warhead that could be fitted with bomblet-filled cluster heads and Syria worked to develop V-agents. There appear to be stockpiles of mustard and sarin and the country may have between 100 and 200 Scuds fitted with sarin warheads. As well as sarin and mustard to use in artillery shells or other air-dropped forms. Syria recently conducted a missile test (in August of 2012); Iranians were reported to be present for the tests. Iran and Syria had signed a defense cooperation agreement in June of 2006.

In the summer and fall of 2012, there were 2 warnings that chemical weapons stockpiles were being moved within the country and one claim (by a U.S. official) that Syria has begun mixing sarin – the components are to be stored separately.



These claims prompted warnings from the United States, France and other nations including China. Russia and Syria denied that Syria would use its chemical arsenal.

Syria’s Biological Weapons Program

Syria is a signatory to the Biological Toxic Weapons Convention, but has not ratified that Convention. Just as its CW program is very advanced, its biological weapons program is also quite robust.

Israeli and German sources state that Syria has botulinum toxin, ricin and Bacillus anthracis, and some other sources state that Syria also has plague, smallpox, aflotoxin, cholera, camelpox and tularemia. Syria then, possesses A, B, and C pathogens and toxins. Syria has advanced pharmaceutical capabilities and thus could have (and according to some accounts has) obtained dual use equipment needed for pharmaceutical and defense research and development. It has research centers in Damascus and Aleppo. Certain U.S. sources are certain that Syria can produce anthrax and botulism, but what was not known is whether it has a formal program to develop delivery systems for these weapons. A 2004 Swedish Defense Agency report said there was no evidence of a defensive or offensive biological weapons program in Syria. However, the US Arms Control and Disarmament Agency, the CIA, and the DIA have stated opinions to the contrary as have scientists and specialists. Other experts believe that Syria’s CERS (Scientific Studies and Research Center) has the capabilities and expertise to work on these systems, probably involving the use of drones and UAVs, or adapting warheads and cluster munitions to deliver the biological agents.(Cordesman, 2008) Russian advisors are said to be working with the biological warfare program. An American expert contends that there was a transfer from the Iraqi biological warfare (defensive and offensive programs), namely the camelpox virus.

Cordesman claimed that there were some indications that biological variations on ZAB-incendiary bombs and PTAB 500 cluster bombs and Scud warheads were being tested. Syria is technologically capable of designing adapted delivery systems which would have “the effectiveness of small theater nuclear weapons.” However he also noted that the Nuclear Threat Initiative (NTI) held a far more restrained view of Syria’s capabilities in BW development.

A detailed, but accessible interview with Jill Dekkar is here:

Syria Update, March 1, 2013 (Institute of Middle Eastern, Islamic and Strategic Studies. By Sherifa Zuhur)

2 Mar

Syria Update, Mar.1 2013. (Institute of Middle Eastern, Islamic and Strategic Studies. By Sherifa Zuhur)

Early death toll: 70 reported killed including 21 unarmed civilians.

Yesterday’s death toll (2/28/13): 140 killed including 57 unarmed civilians.

Moaz al-Khatib claims the Syrian opposition is committed to peace and to protecting minorities in Syria. http://levantdream.blogspot.com/2013/02/translation-moaz-al-khatibs-press.html

General Salim Idriss, the chief of staff of the Syrian opposition’s supreme military council, told the Associated Press that the opposition needs weapons. Food rations and medical supplies will not help them win against Assad’s forces who have superior air power.

Syrians meet challenges in trying to find basic resources – food and electricity. Civilians play a role as well as the fighting groups. http://www.nytimes.com/2013/03/01/world/middleeast/syrian-civilians-take-reins-in-test-of-self-government.html?smid=fb-share&_r=1&

Refugees and Relief:
The number of refugees fleeing Syria increased by more than 13,000 people in a single day, which means that one million Syrians will have fled their country by next week.
The total number of registered refugees and individuals awaiting registration was 953,310 as of 27 February, according to the UN’s figures.

ALERT Need help from ANYONE who can help obtain medicine to treat scabies. There is an outbreak in the refugee camps in Amman (outside of Zaatari). Needed Ivermectin (by Merck). We understand the Carter Foundation buys from Merck. Can anyone connect us to the Carter foundation and get this medicine a.s.a.p.? The NAAMA medical mission can bring it to Jordan March 22nd on its trip. Please help if you can.

Aleppo province: https://maps.google.com/maps?hl=en&q=map+of+aleppo+province&ie=UTF-8&hq=&hnear=0x152ff85ac00b17c9:0xf68ea3d8dc74b61b,Aleppo+Governorate,+Syria&gl=us&ei=R9DLUKfTFoWO0QHBuIHABA&ved=0CC8Q8gEwAA

The Syrian military bombarded Masaken Hanano in Aleppo, killing 2 civilians, including 2 women and 4 children. The regime forces also bombarded the Haydariyya neighborhood. Clashes continued near the police academy and near the Nayrab military aiport.

9 civilians killed in regime attack on Anadan. Assad’s forces captured key parts of Tel Shghaib which will allow them to bring supplies into Aleppo province from Hama province again. The opposition still holds much of the city and the rural areas around it, but they cannot prevail and are outgunned and unable to overcome the regime’s air force.
Warplanes bombed the city of al-Bab today. It has been confirmed that many civilians were killed when regime forces stormed the village of al-Malkiyya and other villages surrounding the city of al-Sfeira. Differing reports claim 50, or 70, or even 100 civilians were killed in al-Malkiya alone, but due to the regime forces present, the opposition has not been able to interview survivors and so it calls for the International Committee for the Red Cross to investigate.

Damascus province: https://maps.google.com/maps?hl=en&q=map+of+damascus+province&ie=UTF-8&hq=&hnear=0x1518e6dc413cc6a7:0x69e5b88ad5b0817b,Damascus+Governorate,+Syria&gl=us&ei=_s_LUPTwHqWw0AHTtYDQAg&ved=0CC8Q8gEwAA

This video shows a bus burning after the shelling of al-Qaboun yesterday http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uRqrUueQyXA&feature=youtu.be
Several shells were fired on the Sayyida Zeinab area.

The Syrian regime fired mortar shells on the neighborhood of al-Hajar al-Aswad. Regime forces carried out several air raids on areas in al-Ghuta al-Sharqiyya from the side closest to Zamalka. Regime forces bombarded the city of Daraya and the Ma’damiyat al-Sham.
Clashes also took place in Daraya between opposition fighters and regime forces which have been attempting for months to take over this city. Regime forces bombarded the town of Thayabiya at midnight Thursday into early Friday.

Dara`a province: https://maps.google.com/maps?hl=en&q=map+of+daraa+province&ie=UTF-8&hq=&hnear=0x15195fa1016e8de7:0xff6b41761235d49c,Daraa+Governorate,+Syria&gl=us&ei=u9DLUPDfIcXq0gGRwIHADQ&ved=0CC8Q8gEwAA

Regime forces based near the Thala military airport shelled the town of al-Karak al-Sharqi.

Deir az-Zur province:


The Free Syrian Army announced on Friday that it took hold of a Scud missile equipped with chemical warheads in Deir al-Zour which had belonged to the Assas government. https://now.mmedia.me/lb/en/nowsyrialatestnews/fsa-claims-seizing-regime-scud-missile

A man who had disappeared for 6 days, was found dead near his house in the city of Deir az-Zur today. An opposition fighter was killed in clashes in the city of Deir az-Zur and an opposition fighter died of wounds received in clashes in the al-Hweiqa neighborhood of Deir az-Zur. 2 opposition fighters were killed in clashes with regular forces and shelling near the 113th division in the countryside of Deir Izzor.

Hama province: https://maps.google.com/maps?hl=en&q=hama+governorate&ie=UTF-8&hq=&hnear=0x15248293d5052f19:0x6e6de1581c39ed96,Hama+Governorate,+Syria&gl=us&ei=CdPLUKKbIqyF0QHB94HQAw&sqi=2&ved=0CIEBELYD

The regime forces bombarded the village of Jnan. Clashes occurred today between opposition fighters and regime forces in many of the villages and towns of southern countryside of Hama province.

Hassake province

Kurdish Defense fighters have taken over the city of Qahtaniya from the Assad govt. and then handed over authority of the city to a city council. https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=343130352461976&set=a.150495128392167.28686.121855461256134&type=1&theater

Regime forces recaptured the al-Ya’rubiya border crossing with Iraq, which had been captured yesterday by opposition fighters from the al-Nusra Front and Ahrar al-Sham. Regime forces also recoccupied more than half of the Ya’rubiya city, which is by the crossing. Sporadic gunfire can be heard in the city.

Clashes occurred in the city of Rmeilan between regime forces and the fighters of the Kurdish People Protection committee which took most the city and besieged the remaining regime forces inside the security centers.

Homs province: https://maps.google.com/maps?hl=en&q=homs+governorate+google+map&ie=UTF-8&hq=&hnear=0x15230eeab10528a7:0x65655b88027a8699,Homs+Governorate,+Syria&gl=us&ei=BFPRUM6RBaTI0AHw1ICoCQ&ved=0CDMQ8gEwAA

A woman was killed today in the regime shelling of Rastan.

Today was declared the Friday of “One Ummah, One Flag, One War” on the 265th day of the siege of Homs. The Syrian military bombarded 16 areas (and killed 3 persons): al- Houleh, Bab Draib
Bab Tudmur, al-Hamidayya, al-Souk al-Masqouf, Bani Sibai’
Bustan Al Deewan, al-Warsheh, al-Safsafeh, Bab Turkman, Bab Al Masdood, Souq al-Naoura, Bab Hood, Talbiseh, Jouseyeh and Palmyra.

The regime forces were stationed at barriers around al-Houleh and shelled the city heavily, more than 32 shelles fell. The regime forces near the ancient castle of Homs bombarded the old districts of the city. Protests were held by civilians and the FSA today:

In Palmyra, a rocket launcher stationed on the radio station tower launched rockets out to the orchards of the city.

Sa’deen Saeed Al Shahoud, from Reyad Al Salehin brigade was tortured to death by the regime forces today in Maheen after being arrested on Maheen road. The Syrian military forces resumed their bombardment of Talbiseh, particularly of al-Mushajar al-Janubi.

Civilians in Talbiseh protested and called for support to the FSA:

Civilians held protests in the old and New al-Waer districts calling for the toppling of the Assad regime in Freedom Square, at the al-Omari mosque and al-Ferdous street and at the Rawdah mosque.

Idlib province: https://maps.google.com/maps?hl=en&q=idlib+governorate+google+map&ie=UTF-8&hq=&hnear=0x152500e6cc6ed27b:0xe59a7e2f651fc24c,Idlib+Governorate,+Syria&gl=us&ei=51PRUIiREsaB0AHN_YD4BQ&ved=0CC8Q8gEwAA

Reigme bombardment of Sarmin killed a woman today. In clashes with regime forces, an opposition fighter from Ourm al-Joz was killed near the al-Qarmid military checkpoint.


The U.S. and 11 other nations agreed yesterday to change the balance of power on the ground in Syria. But is this resolve too little and too late? http://www.theworld.org/2013/02/washington-syria-rebels/

U.S. Secretary of State, John Kerry held talks with Turkish Foreign Minister Davatoglu on Syria in Turkey. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-middle-east-21626428

Vladimir Putin and Barack Obama discussed Syria and other issues by telephone today after Obama called Putin.
A Syrian Russian-made SCUD missile landed in Iraq in Yoush Tapa, in Ninevah province, terrifying the residents. Yoush Tapa is 3 kilometers from the Iraqi-Syrian border between Telafar and Baaj,

Croatia will be withdrawing about 100 peacekeeping troops from the Syria-Israel border due to reports that Syrian opposition fighters have been armed with Croatian weapons, according to Croatia’s president. The Croatian government is concerned that its troops will be targeted by Syrian regime soldiers. As well, President Ivo Josipovic said the security situation in the Golan Heights has deteriorated and thus Croation soldiers are not safe. http://abcnews.go.com/International/wireStory/croatia-pull-troops-golan-18626237
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.