Posted by Joshua on Sunday, July 24th, 2011
Opposition supporters launch attack on Homs army college – Telegraph
By Adrian Blomfield
President Bashar al-Assad’s once unshakable grip over Syria appears to have slipped further after suspected opposition sympathisers attacked an army college in Homs.
Residents in the city, Syria’s third largest, said two loud explosions at the compound were followed by the sound of sustained gunfire. A number of ambulances were later seen driving into the college.
“Smoke rose from inside the premises,” one resident was quoted as saying on Saturday. “The injured were taken to the military hospital. It looked like an operation of some sort.”
Later in the day, a passenger train was derailed in central Syria, an incident the government blamed on saboteurs within the opposition, although it provided no evidence. The train, which was carrying troops and civilians, crashed after a section of track was torn up, killing the driver and injuring a number of passengers.
But it is the attack on the military college in Homs, the first of its kind since the Syrian uprising began in March, which will most alarm the Assad regime.
It raised renewed fears that elements within the opposition are increasingly determined to challenge the regime with force, even if the majority of protests still remain largely peaceful….
HOMS, (SANA) – A group of saboteurs on Saturday targeted a train in al-Souda area in Homs at 03:00 am while it was traveling from Aleppo to Damascus with more than 480 passengers onboard most of them are children, women and patients who were traveling to undergo surgeries.
SANA Correspondent mentioned that those terrorist groups loosed parts of the railway as the train derailed and its cabin was burnt and the driver was martyred while a number of the passengers were injured.
Official source: the sabotage act aimed at committing massacre against innocents
An official source at the Interior Ministry announced that the sabotage act aimed at committing a massacre against 480 innocent passengers traveling from Aleppo to Damascus.
“The Ministry urges all citizens to cooperate with security and police apparatus to give any information available about the saboteurs and criminals who exploit and hide behind demonstrations to carry out terrorist acts that target civilians as well as damaging private and public properties,” the source added.
It underlined that the authorities will firmly and decisively deal with those saboteurs.
Homs Governor Ghassan Abdul-Al described the sabotage act as a heinous crime against a train which transports women, children and patients who were heading for Damascus for treatment.
In a statement to SANA, Abdul-Al referred to the existence of railroad pieces that were loosed by the saboteurs, clarifying that a freight train had crossed from an opposite direction from Homs to Aleppo before 1.00 a.m. when the railroad was safe and tight, adding this leads to the fact that sabotage happened between 1.00 and 3.00 a.m.
About the motives of saboteurs to select this spot to commit their crime, the Governor said that the area of the incident is considered as an arch for the railways from a mechanical point of view, so any derail or sliding will be deadly, but the care of God has rescued that train.
He pointed out to the presence of tracks for motorcycles’ tires near the bride that was selected to derail the train, particularly the road is very slippery here and might lead to a huge number of losses.
Director of the Railways’ General Establishment George Makaabari added that selecting this place to carry out the criminal act by saboteurs indicate their plot was targeting to kill all passengers, particularly they have loosed the links of the railroad and a number of beams to a distance of scores of meters.
R. al-Jazaeri / Mazen
The Syrian government claims that:
The bodies of three more men were found dead in Homs.
68 gunmen arrested in Homs on Friday and a large amount of weapons confiscated which include 800 Kalashnikov (ak47) rifles, 250 sniper rifles and 4 RPG launches.
Also, Aldounia tv reports in Al Areeda, one of the Syrian/Lebanese borders, border control officers confiscated 556 hi-tech mobile phones, in addition to $110,000 hidden inside a water tank onboard a bus travelling from Lebanon to Aleppo.
Two Citizens: We Were Kidnapped, Tortured by Armed Terrorist Gangs, SANA, Jul 24, 2011
HOMS, (SANA) – Two citizens from Homs Governorate on Saturday said they were kidnapped and severely tortured by armed terrorist groups.
One of the kidnapped citizens, Ali Sharif al-Jirdi, told the Syrian TV that while he was on his way back to his house in al-Abbasyyah district in Homs, an armed gang of around ten terrorists armed with rifles and knives kidnapped him.
He added that he tried to escape but they tied him up and blindfolded his eyes before moving him to a cache in the district along with other kidnapped citizens.
Al-Jirdi pointed out that while he was detained he heard moaning voices from neighboring rooms, adding that he saw a corpse while he was transferred to other room.
“I heard members of the gang agreeing on hitting us with stones on our heads and throwing us in trash containers”, he said.
Al-Jirdi indicated that the terrorists took their IDs and cell phones. Al-Jirdi added that after the gang left him he heard moaning voices from a nearby citizen, adding that he tried to untie him but he couldn’t.
“After a while, army personnel saw us and asked for medical help from the National Hospital of Homs, they told me later that the person who was near me, Thaer al-Ali, was martyred because of the severe torture he suffered”, he said.
For his part, Yasir Hashim al-Ali, said that while he was on his way back to Homs city, a group of armed people kidnapped and tortured him.
Al-Ali added that they took him to the second floor of a building before moving him again to another house where they hit and tortured him on the pretext that he is dealing with the army.
Trouble began in the Syrian town of Al-Bukamal this past weekend. Like in so many Syrian cities and towns, people took to the streets in protest against the government of President Bashar al-Assad.
And, like in so many protests, security forces from the central government are accused of responding brutally, surrounding the town and, activists say, killing a handful of protesters, including a 14-year-old boy.
But this time, soldiers in a local battalion defended the protesters. Activists say more than 100 soldiers joined their cause.
Now authorities in the central government are offering a deal to the tribal leaders of Al-Bukamal: Hand over the defectors, they say, and we’ll leave you alone. Activists say negotiations are ongoing.
….The tribes of this region, though, are not just confined to Syria — the same tribes span into Iraq, too. All that separates them is a border fence — albeit one with razor wire and Hescos, a type of sand-filled bomb barrier.
The border is so fortified now because during some of the most violent years of the Iraq war, it was here that militants and weapons crossed from Syria into Iraq.
Syrian state TV recently claimed that route is being reversed, and that the guns and fighters are now coming into Syria, to help in the fight against the government.
NPR asked a local border commander, who did not want to be identified, about the claim. Through an interpreter, he said they are trying to do their best to protect the borders. But, he adds, it is a long border — there must be some cases of infiltration. He says they’re doing their best with the little they have…
Resistance On The Iraqi Side
Driving away from the border into the town of Qaim on the Iraqi side, there’s a dusty strip of vegetable stands, mini-markets and car-parts shops. This is the wild west of Iraq. People say it’s the kind of place where, just a few years ago, when you walked outside, you’d say a prayer as if it was your last prayer ever.
At the time, al-Qaida and insurgents were very active here. The area has calmed down now, but just across the border, with the troubles in Syria, things are starting to flare up again.
Ahmed Abdulkadir, the owner of a shop that sells curling irons and toasters, was part of the original resistance to the U.S. occupation here. That resistance later turned against more extreme insurgents from al-Qaida who’d come by way of Syria.
Abdulkadir says everyone here has a relative across the border in Al-Bukamal, and everyone is waiting to see if the tribal leaders will reach a truce with the government or if security forces will crack down again. He says the Syrians have now closed the border, and that means a lot less business for him.
Asked if former resistance fighters in Qaim will find ways to help support the resistance in Syria, Abdulkadir says, with a wink: What goes around comes around.
A Better Life In Syria?
The troubles in Syria are not just affecting businesses and tribes. They’re also affecting the thousands of Iraqis who fled to Syria during the war’s most violent years.
One woman, who goes by the name Umm Salwan, fled Iraq when insurgents fired a rocket at her house. She says life in Syria has been hard. But until recently, it was still better than Iraq.
That changed with the protests and the crackdowns.
Through an interpreter, she says that she told her husband: “Listen, I have suffered enough. Five years is enough. I want to go see my family and see what I have to do … to find a solution.”
Umm Salwan and three of her four children took a bus back to Iraq, where her parents’ house has only a few hours of electricity a day.
She says she came here to find that things are much worse — that there is nothing here.
For now, Umm Salwan says she wants to return to Syria. But with the land border closed, she’ll have to spend her savings on plane tickets.
A National Forum & A Conference in Damascus, (Dp-news – Sana)
DAMASCUS- The National Forum for Syrian Expatriates on Saturday started activities at the Sheraton Hotel under the title “My Motherland Syria” with the participation of more than 150 expatriates.
The event aims at supporting the comprehensive reform led by President Bashar al-Assad rejecting any foreign interference in Syria’s internal affairs.
It also stresses complete adherence to the national cohesion as a basis for all the Syrian people.
Also in Damascus, the 1st National Conference for Administrative, Economic and Social Reform focused in its final session on the legal rules and their role in modernization, as well as the objective view of administrative reform. …..
Tunisia Experiences Secular-Religious Rifts – Turkish Weekly, Saturday, 23 July 2011
… More than six months has passed since the revolution began. In that time, over 90 political parties have been licensed to operate, and many figures from the old regime have been removed.
But there remain innumerable issues which have not been resolved, and new problems have arisen, beyond the unemployment, corruption and financial crisis which already occupy our attention here.
The debate now is about religion versus secularism….
“This situation is getting worse – and rather ridiculous – because there is no intelligent analysis or discussion of the real problem, only the creation of antagonism and contempt between groups of people with different opinions.
“For 23 years we didn’t know about politics; we used to talk only about football,” Hassen Aldawess, an activist in his twenties, said. “Now everyone thinks he is some kind of genius, and what was a solid stand by a united nation [during the revolution] has become a weak population divided by religious and cultural differences. The only side who will profit from this is the current government who gain more time to continue with its failures.”
…. If the Tunisian youth allows extremist groups to win power, and don’t fight against the sham of the transitional government – then we won’t win the rewards of our revolution.
Syrian soap operas sidelined by protests and censorship
By Phil Sands, Jul 23, 2011, The National
…Najdat Anzour, the drama producer – long considered critical of Syria’s autocratic regime – was among those outraged by what he derisively called the “milk statement”.
In response, he and 21 production companies issued a notice of their own, announcing they would never again work with anyone who had signed the petition, saying they had “offended both the Syrian nation and its government”.
“The milk statement lied about the situation in Deraa,” Mr Anzour, now viewed as firmly pro-regime, said in an interview. “There was never any shortage of food or milk. It was a political statement. The authorities were dealing with armed terrorist groups in Deraa.