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Syria Update, December 14, 2012 (Institute of Middle Eastern, Islamic and Strategic Studies. By Sherifa Zuhur)

15 Dec

Syria Update, December 14, 2012 (Institute of Middle Eastern, Islamic and Strategic Studies. By Sherifa Zuhur

Early death toll: More than 90 killed including 33 civilians.

Thursday’s death toll: 192 killed.

The U.S. reaction to Syria’s use of SCUD missiles on its opposition seems to be that it’s terrible to use SCUDs on one’s own population, but so long as the weapons were not tipped with chemical weapons, there may not be any further response. http://e-ring.foreignpolicy.com/posts/2012/12/12/syrian_scud_missile_escalation_perplexes_us_stuns_white_house

A 17 year old tries to rescue a woman shot by a sniper. She dies anyway.

Demonstrators in many provinces of Syria protested the U.S. designation of al-Nusra Front as a terrorist group today. http://www.naharnet.com/stories/en/64669-syrian-protesters-slam-u-s-blacklisting-of-al-nusra-as-fighting-rocks-capital-north


A convoy from Manchester & Wales brought ambulances and medical supplies to Syria (well worth watching) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H2OkQpQvcyM

The Theater:

Aleppo province:

The opposition has reportedly taken the Aleppo military academy.

The Syrian military resumed shelled of al-Sukkari, al-Halk, Salah al-Din, and al-Sakhour. Gunshots were reported at al-Lermon.

Clashes were ongoing between regime forces and the fighters of the Nusra Front near the defense factories close to the town of al-Sfeira. Clashes also continued near the al-Mushat infantry academy and there was shelling in that area.

The regime forces and the opposition engaged in clashes near the management college on the Aleppo-Damascus highway near al-Zarbeh killing 6 opposition fighters and 8 regular troops. The soldiers and officers guarding the college were captured. Yesterday the opposition took over the air-defense force’s battalion in Khanaser.

Damascus province:


Today, the regime forces pounded the southern districts of Damascus in response to Thursday’s car bombs at army residences which killed 24 . http://en.trend.az/regions/iran/2099208.html

Dr. Abdullah Qayruzm, member of Parliament died of wounds received in one of the car bombs that exploded near the Ministry of the Interior in Kafrsouseh reported on Wednesday.

The Syrian government forces resumed shelling on Asali, Barazeh, Hajar al-Aswad, al-Qadam, Tadamun, killing a man in Barazeh. 3 opposition fighters were killed fighting with pro-Assad Palestinian militia fighters in clashes that included Uruba street, the Falastin hospital, near the Khalsa building, Thalatheen street in Yarmouk camp, and parts of Hajar al-Aswad.
On Thursday, a car bomb killed 16 in the southwestern suburb of Qatana. Those killed included 7 children and some women.

The Syrian regime forces shelled Daraya and the Eastern Ghouta. Clashes were fought near Daraya and Mu’adamiyya.

Clashes took place in the towns of Aqraba , al-Hjeira and in Sa’sa’. The Syrian regime shelled the towns of al-Hjeira, Mesraba, Muqeilabiyya, Sayyida Zaynab, and Zakiya.

Dara`a province:

The Syrian regime’s forces carried out raid and arrests in al-Khat al-Shamali in Dara`a. The Syrian military’s shelling of Tseel at dawn today killed three men. The Syrian military also shelled Mzeirab, Tafas and Tal Shihab.

Heavy clashes took place in the town of al-Na`ima and in Seida.

Deir az-Zur province:


One opposition fighter was killed in clashes in Deir az-Zur city.

Hama province:


The Syrian military shelled Aqeirbat, al-Latamna, Mas`oud, al-Na`ima and Qanbar.
Clashes broke out near the checkpoint close to the military grain depot to the east of Sooran, killing two opposition fighters. Then, the regime forces shelled Sooran and the nearby villages, killing 1 man.

Homs province:

Clashes occurred in the morning near the presidential mosque in We’er in Homs.

The Syrian military forces shelled the city of al-Qseir killing one man and badly wounding others.
Idlib province:

Syrians protested against the U.S. labeling of Nusra Front as a terrorist organization, chanting “Jabha al-Nusra is part of us!” They said the U.S. should have labeled Bashar al-Assad a terrorist instead. One said that he did know if, and it didn’t matter if the leader of Jabha Nusra is Jordanian, the members are Syrian. http://www.aljazeera.com/video/middleeast/2012/12/20121214164411696160.html

The Syrian regime forces bombarded al-Bara, Deir Sharqi, Freika, Jarjanaz, Kafr A’weid, Shalekh, and the countryside near Jusr al-Shughour.

The Syrian airforce carrying out heavy bombing raids over Ma`arat al-Nu`man. Clashes took place by the Wadi al-Deif military base.

Latakia province:

The Syrian air force shelled the town of Salma, and nearby villages in the Jabal al-Akrad.

The U.S. plans to send 400 troops and 2 Patriot missile batteries to Turkey to help defend it against attacks by the Assad regime.
The Netherlands and Germany have already consented to send two Patriot missile batteries (each) and 360 Dutch and 400 German troops to Turkey.

Syrian shells were fired into the Lebanese border towns of Menjed, al-Noura and Hekr Jenin. The International Crisis Group produced this report on the effect of the Syrian conflict on Lebanon. http://www.crisisgroup.org/en/publication-type/media-releases/2012/mena/a-precarious-balancing-act-lebanon-and-the-syrian-conflict.aspx

The Russian deputy foreign minister, Mikhail Bogdonov said on Thursday for the first time that an opposition victory cannot be ruled out and that there is a “trend” (ongoing) in which the Assad government is losing control of territory. After the US congratulated Russia for “waking up,” Russia’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Alexander Lukashevich insisted on Friday that Russia had not and will not change its position on Syria.
The NCC, the opposition group opposed to the National Council for the Syrian Revolution (and which the FSA regards as being pro-Assad) is in Moscow because Russia wants to use the NCC to negotiate with Assad. Their position is complicated and sometimes contradictory, and the opposition inside Syria do not trust them for various reasons, including the fact that they do not call for Assad to leave power. Haytham Manna, of the NCC said that the US should not support both a peace deal and the opposition since the two avenues contradict each other, whereas most Syrians would argue that they will accept whatever circumstances ends Assad’s rule, so long as he and those who support the regime, step down, leave the country and cease their killing of Syrian citizens. http://world.time.com/2012/12/14/russia-and-its-syrian-debacle-when-the-enemy-of-my-friend-becomes-my-friend/

The Arab League’s peace plan may go to the United Nations if Assad does not sign onto the plan. There is some frustration that Assad has held out for weeks after signaling some willingness to comply with the plan. Reuters later reported that Qatar had stated it had information that Assad would sign the plan. http://www.reuters.com/article/2011/12/17/us-syria-idUSTRE7B90F520111217
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.

Syria Update, December 12, 2012 (Institute of Middle Eastern, Islamic and Strategic Studies. By Sherifa Zuhur)

12 Dec

Syria Update December 11, 2012. (Institute of Middle Eastern, Islamic and Strategic Studies. By Sherifa Zuhur)

Early death toll: 62

Yesterday’s Death toll: 262 killed (al-Arabiyya) 163 killed (LCC)

Scud missiles were fired from Damascus province into the north of the country according to two unnamed US officials: http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/middle_east/official-syria-fires-scud-missiles-at-insurgents-in-the-north/2012/12/12/8774e50c-448a-11e2-8c8f-fbebf7ccab4e_story.html

Syrians are dying from lack of medicine and medical treatments in addition to shellings from Assad’s air force and snipers’ bullets.

Aleppo province: 2 opposition fighters and 2 civilians died as a result of shrapnel wounds or in clashes with the regime forces in al-Nayrab and al-Hawoot. Clashes took place in al-Sakhour and near the al-Kendi hospital. The regime forces moved into the hospital last night. Rockets were shot at the al-Sabil neighborhood. The regime forces shelled the Bani Zayd, Layramoun and Sakhour neighborhoods.

The Syrian governmental forces shelled the town of Qubtan al-Jabal and Mare`. In Mare’ 3 civilians were killed including a child. The regime shelling of al-Sfeira killed 6 civilians including 3 children and a woman.

In Jarablus, which is FSA-held: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bvUZ-0850EM&feature=player_embedded

Yesterday, the opposition shelled the al-Shaykh Maqsoud neighborhood which is mostly home to Syrian Kurds and displaced civilians. Two shells hit near Dar al-Sha`b and killed 3 children and a man and 19 civilians were wounded in additional mortar shelling of the neighborhood.

Damascus province: Today, an explosion targeted the front of the Ministry of the Interior in Kafrsousa and killed and wounded 25. An IED exploded in al-Mazzeh 86 and is thought to be motivated by sectarian hatred. A rocket shot into the Yarmouk camp killed 2 men. Clashes resumed on Thalatheen street. Heavy gunfire was reported in al-Qaboun and clashes took place in al-Tadamoun. The regime forces shelled the southern neighborhoods. Activists sealed off a road in al-Baramkeh on Tuesday to protest against the massacres Assad’s forces have committed in Syria’s cities

1 opposition fighter was killed near the department of Motor Vehicles between Harasta and Irbeen. Tuesday, fierce fighting took place at the same location as the FSA confronted governmental military forces
The Syrian regime forces shelled the town of Daraya, killing 8 men. The regime forces killed 5 people in the shelling of Irbeen. Those dead include a man, his brother and his 3 sons. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wzJSKtsMe_U&feature=youtu.be

Dara`a province: The Syrian military shelled the towns of Keheel and al-Ghariyya al-Gharbiyya, killing an adult and a child in the latter. The regime forces detained and then tortured to death a man from the town of Deir Bakht.

Deir az-Zur province: 4 opposition fighters were killed in clashes near the Deir az-Zur military airport. 7 opposition fighters died in various areas of the city of Deir az-Zur; one of these was an opposition leader.

Hama province:

An explosion in the Akrad Ibrahim neighborhood of Aqrab killed between 125 and 150 civilians and damaged houses on Tuesday. Almost all killed are Alawites. Aqrab is near the town of Houla where a massacre took place on May 25, 2012.

Three explanations are circulating.
1) Ten pro-regime Alawi gunmen barricaded themselves in houses of civilians. A delegation including 2 shaykhs and a retired officer came to negotiate the release of the civilians, and then the delegation was prevented from leaving. Clashes broke out between the Alawi gunmen and opposition fighters from Houla, then explosions led to the civilian casualties.
2) Explosions were set off near the homes of Syrian Alawites of the town.
3) The pro-regime militiamen held the Alawite civilians hostage in the buildings and when the opposition tried to free them, the explosions were set off killing the civilians.

Hassakeh province: Clashes took place in Ra’s al `Ayn between Kurdish fighters of the PYD and the opposition’s Ahrar Ghweiran brigade, injuring five of the latter, who were transported to Turkey for treatment.

Idlib province: The Syrian regime forces raided the town of Benin which is near Ma`arat al-Nu`man and shelled it using artillery. Clashes took place between regular and opposition troops from several factions including the Nusra Front near the Wadi al-Dayf military base and the Za`lana checkpoint and 3 military vehicles were destroyed.
Tuesday, 6 regular soldiers defected from the Wadi al-Dayf military base. The Nusra Front and other opposition fighters have surrounded the base and clashes took place there. The regime’s airforce bombarded Ma`arat al-Nu`man, the town of Ma’arshamsha, and the town of Deir Sanbal.

Raqqah province: The regime forces shelled the Sabahiyya neighborhood of the city of Raqqah. Opposition fighters attacked a military motorcade passing near Mansoura. The regime forces shelled the village of Safsaf.


Tuesday, Syrian governmental forces shelled across the border, destroying two houses in the village of al-Tufayl, Lebanon.

U.S. President Barack Obama has recognized the Syrian National Coalition, saying that the group must organize itself effectively and be committed to a transition respecting the rights of women and minorities. He also said the al-Nusra Front was connected to al-Qa’ida. http://abcnews.go.com/Politics/OTUS/exclusive-president-obama-recognizes-syrian-opposition-group/story?id=17936599#.UMgNZGAuihY

Greece expelled the Syria ambassador and two Syrian diplomats from the country. Greece shut its own embassy in Damascus about 5 months ago.
The Syrian government has issued an arrest for the ex-prime minister of Lebanon, Saad Hariri accusing him of sending weapons to the Syrian opposition. http://gulftoday.ae/portal/f1249ad4-2b99-44ae-b766-0b3c7085c3c8.aspx
Human Rights Watch accused the Syrian government of using incendiary bombs in at least 4 locations since mid-November. http://www.hrw.org/news/2012/12/12/syria-incendiary-weapons-used-populated-areas
Shaykh al-Thani, prime minister and foreign minister of Qatar has called on Bashar al-Assad to step down to avoid more bloodshed.
Syria: A Brief Chronology

1918 October. Troops led by Amir Faisal, the son of Sharif Hussein of Mecca capture Damascus ending Ottoman rule.

1920 March. Faisal is proclaimed the King of Syria.

1920 July. The San Remo conference creates the mandate system placing Syria under the mandate of France. French forces occupy Damascus.

1925-1926. Nationalist uprising known as the Syrian revolution escalates. French forces bombard Damascus, Suwaida and other locations. The rebels led by Sultan al-Atrash go into exile. (Faisal becomes the ruler of Iraq)

1928. A constituent assembly drafts Syria’s constitution.

1936. A treaty between France and Syria is negotiated in which France grants independence but retains military presence and economic management. It is never fully enacted.

1940. After France falls to the Germans, the Vichy government controls Syria.

1941. The Free French and UK forces invade Syria and Lebanon, oust the Vichy government and occupy Syria (and Lebanon).

1946. The French withdraw from Syria.

1947. Michel Aflaq and Salah al-Din Bitar form the Arab Socialist Ba`ath Party.

1949. Three military coups take place, in the third one, Adib Shishakli assumes power.

1958-1961 Syria and Egypt join in the United Arab Republic under President Gamal abd al-Nasser. A group of Syrian army officers overthrow the UAR in 1961.

1963. A military coup results in a Baathist cabinet and the presidency of Amin al-Hafiz.

1966 Salah Jadid leads a coup against the civilian Baathist government and takes office. Hafez al-Assad is defense minister.

1970. November. Hafez al-Assad overthrows Nur al-Din al-Atasi and puts Salah Jadid in prison.

1971. Hafez al-Assad is elected President in a referendum.

1973. Hafez al-Assad does away with the Constiutitional requirement that Syria’s president be a Muslim. Riots result which were suppressed by the army.

1973. In the October war with Israel, Syria fails to recapture the Golan Heights.

1976. June. Syria intervenes in the Lebanese civil war.

1979 – 1980. A network of Muslim organizations begin an uprising against the government, attack the military and are attacked by the army.

1980. Syria backs Iran in the Iran-Iraq war.

1982. Islamist uprising in the city of Hama is put down brutally, as many as 30,000 civilians are killed.

1982. Israel invades Lebanon and forces the withdrawal of Syrian forces from some areas.

1987. Syria redeploys troops to Lebanon.

1989 December. Committees for the Defense of Democracy, Freedom and Human Rights (CDDFHR) formed in Syria, an underground human rights organization with a newsletter, Sawt al-Dimukratiyya.

1991. Syria participates in the Madrid peace conference, but is shocked by the secret Oslo peace agreements.

1994. Basil al-Assad, the president’s son dies in a car accident.

1998. Rifaat al-Assad, the vice president and president’s brother is relieved of his position.

2000. Hafez al-Assad dies and is succeeded by his son Bashar al-Assad despite the fact that Syria is a republic.

2000-1 In the Damascus Spring, intellectuals, artists and writers began meeting and discussing politics in groups like the Kawakibi Forum, the Atassi Forum and the National Dialogue Forum which called for an end to emergency laws and restoration of political freedoms.

2002 Bashar al-Assad and his team, especially Hasan Khalil, the head of military intelligence began a crackdown on the dialogue groups, closing them and arresting their members, incarcerating, torturing and killing them.

2002 The United States alleges that Syria is developing chemical and possibly nuclear weapons.

2003 The CDDFHR held its first public meeting in Cairo. It later opened 9 offices outside of Syria, in the Middle East and Europe.

2003 Israel carries out a air strike on a Palestinian militant camp near Damascus.

2004 March. Clashes take place between Kurds, Arabs and regime forces in the northeast of Syria.

2004 September. The U.N. Security Council calls for all foreign forces to leave Lebanon, a resolution directed at Syria.

2005 Former Lebanese Prime Minister Hariri is assassinated. In April, Syria finally withdraws its forces from Lebanon.

2006 Iraq and Syria restore relations.

2007 Syrian dissidents Kamal Labwani and Michel Kilo are sentenced to lengthy terms in Jail and Anwar al-Bunni, a human rights lawyer is sent to jail.

2007 September. Israel carries out an air strike on an area in northern Syria where a nuclear facility had been under construction.

2008 July. Bashar al-Assad meets with Lebanese President Michel Suleiman and re-establishes relations with French President Nicolas Sarkozy.

2009 The IAEA says it has found undeclared man-made uranium at a reactor in Damascus.

2010 The U.S. reinstates sanctions against Syria because of its support for terrorist groups and provision of SCUD missiles to Hizbullah.

2011 March Peaceful protests begin in Syria to demand political freedom and the release of political prisoners.

2011 May. The Syrian government begins a military crackdown on the protests targeting Homs, Banyas, Dara`a and areas of Damascus.

2011 October. The Syrian National Council brings together dissidents from outside and inside of Syria. Russia and China veto a U.N resolution condemning Syria.

2011 November. The Arab League votes to suspend Syria due to the governments attacks on its own civilians.

2012 May 25 Government forces and militia members massacre more than 100 in Houla.

2012 July. The Free Syrian Army increases military actions and seizes parts of Aleppo and Damascus. The Syrian military struggle to retake these areas.

2012 August 15 The Organisation of the Islamic Conference suspends Syria due to its attacks on its citizens.

2012 August. The Syrian military and militia members massacre more than 500 people in the town of Daraya over two and a half days.

2012 September 2. The Syrian military begin a campaign to retake opposition-dominated neighborhoods of Aleppo, promising victory within 10 days (but well into October they were still battling in the same areas.) September 5: 45 people were summarily executed by the Syrian regime in al-Akramiyya in Aleppo. September 21: 90 soldiers defected from the infantry academy in Aleppo. A trial of five persons began in Syria of persons who kidnapped a defected Syrian officer, Hussein Harmoush who had handed him back to the Syrian government.

2012 October. Massive shelling of Syrian cities and villages continues. Hizbullah operatives are returned dead to Lebanon after battling in Syria on behalf of the Assad regime. Syria fires into Turkish territory killing five civilians and continues to fire into Syria from the 3rd of Oct until the end of the month. This initially caused NATO to issue a statement of readiness to defend Turkey.

2012 November: With support from the GCC states and the United States, a new Syrian opposition coalition was created called the National Coalition of the Forces of the Syrian Revolution and Opposition. Elections had been held by the Syrian National Council, but claims were made that the new entity was more broadly representative and the new coalition plans to create a transitional government and work toward the downfall of Bashar al-Assad and his institutions.

2012 December 11. A massacre of 125 to 150 civilians took place in Akrad Ibrahim neighborhood of Aqrab in Hama province, due to explosions set off by opposition fighters from Houla. Some explanations were given concerning shabiha who took over the civilians’ houses. 12th Unnamed US government sources say that Syrian government fired SCUD missiles at the opposition from Damascus into the north of the country. The U.S. Dept. of State also said the Syrian military was using barrel bombs with an incendiary device inside of them. Human Rights Watch charged Syria of using incendiary bombs in 4 locations since mid-November. Repeated claims that Syria was about to or might use chemical weapons spread through the media.