Posted by Joshua on Monday, August 1st, 2011
Here are two reports, copied below: One from Syrian TV and another from al-Jazeera English of what is happening in Hama.
They could not be more different.
The Syrian TV clip shows a montage of video from Hama purporting to show armed elements shooting at military from the streets and rooftops.
The al-Jazeera airs interviews with Hama activists stating that they are being attacked with tanks and have no weapons but rocks to defend themselves. It shows civilians shot and running. It includes pictures of government tanks and of a central mosque with a large hole near a window.
The Syrian TV footage ends with dead but still bleeding Syrian soldiers being thrown over a bridge railing into the `Assi (Orantes) River. When this footage of the dead soldiers surfaced yesterday, the video I first saw claimed that it was taken in Jisr ash-Shaghour about a month ago. Now it is claimed as footage from Hama. I do not know what the truth is, but the sound records opposition elements talking about the bodies as “soldiers – jaysh” and disparaging them.
Syrian TV News about Hama
Al-Jazeera English coverage of Hama (I cannot embed the video but it follow the link to watch)
This is a sample of a nightly demonstration in Midan, Damascus 7-31. The Midan is close to the heart of old Damascus and known as the traditional neighborhood of the grain merchants who distributed the wheat, barley and other food stuff of the Hawran in the South. It was an important launching site of revolt against the French in 1925. Many observers see these demonstrations as indicative of growing unrest in the capital itself.
DAMASCUS, Aug. 1 (Xinhua) — Syria’s state-run television aired late Monday an amateur video footage, showing armed men in the focal point city of Hama shooting at law-enforcement forces and dumping their bodies in the city’s Orontes River.
The footage showed armed men holding rifles, some of them were masked and dressed in rags, shooting at law-enforcement members in Hama and dumping their bodies in the Orontes River while shouting “God is great.”
In the same context, the official SANA news agency quoted an unnamed official as saying that armed groups have “started an intensive armed attack” on Monday’s eve using live ammunition and Molotov against a number of official headquarters and police stations in the central province of Hama.
The source said the gunmen are carrying guns and roaming the city on motorcycles, adding that army units are still carrying out their missions there in eliminating barricades and barriers set up by those “saboteurs.”
Meanwhile, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad visited Monday a number of wounded army officers and policemen at the Military Tishrin Hospital in Damascus, whom the authorities say were gunned down by “armed gangs.”
Syria said hundreds of policemen and security officers were killed and many others wounded by alleged armed groups it blames for the four-month-old unrest in the country.
Earlier Monday, Lt. Gen. Riyad Hadad, head of the political department in the Syrian army, said Syria is facing the “closing chapter” of the conspiracy.
In an interview published by al-Baath newspaper on Monday, Hadad said the army is ready to make every sacrifice to safeguard the security of the country.
This Arabic announcement from a group in Hama purporting to speak as “Free Syrians” defends the state’s entrance into the city.
بيان حماه – التجمع الوطني السوري الحر –
مدينة حماه هي مدينة سورية بإمتياز وهي تعود الى سيادة الأراضي السورية وتسير تابعة للقانون السوري ودستور سوريا الحالي كأي مدينة من المدن السورية وان دخول الجيش هو ايضا قانوي ودستوري ليحافظ على تماسك ووحدة الأراضي السورية وحيث ان التجمع يرفض اي ثورة مسلحة تقوم على الارض السورية بنزعة دينية او طائفية لانها تشكل تهديدا مباشرا على باقي افراد الشعب الا ان التجمع الوطني السوري الحر يرفض ايضا اي هدر للدماء من ابناء المدينة بداعي التسلح الاهلي الدفاعي او اغلاق الطرق ويحمل التجمع المسؤولية على عاتق الدولة عدم محاسبة المتطرفين من خالف القانون وقتل بدم بارد وتحميلها المسؤولية بعدم اللجوء الى الحوار السياسي الصريح مع الشريحة المتظاهرة فإن التجمع يطالب الحكومة السورية بإظهار دلائل واضحة ودامغة لاثبات حجم التهديد الذي كان يمارسه اهل المدينة على سيادة القانون والسيادة السورية التي لا لم يكن للجهود السياسية حله وتبرير هذا التدخل العسكري القمعي، واستنادا على ما سبق وحسب ما تورده الحكومة السورية من حقائق لا ريب فيها، فان التجمع الوطني السوري الحر سيتخذ احد موقفين اما تعليق علاقة التجمع مع الحكومة السورية والانضمام الى الفئة المتظاهرة السلمية من الشعب السوري المعزز بأراضه الى حين تنفيذ مطالبه الحقيقية بالحرية والدمقراطية ومحاسبة الفاعل كائن من كان او الاستمرار في نهجنا الحالي عن طريق التواصل بين الحكومة السورية والأطياف السلمية المتظاهرة من الشعب فيما يضمن سيادة للشعب السوري على ارضه ضمن القانون والدستور، وحتى ذلك الحين نحن ماضون في تحقيق اهدافنا ورؤيتنا المنبثقة من ميثاق و بيان التجمع الأساسي.
التجمع الوطني السوري الحر
(Reuters) – Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin accused the United States Monday of living beyond its means “like a parasite” on the global economy and said dollar dominance was a threat to the financial markets.
The Obama administration said Monday that it was studying possible new sanctions and other unilateral measures against Syria, as members of the U.N. Security Council were expected to gather to talk about the renewed crackdown by Damascus. The White …
WSJ [Reg]: Preventing Civil War in Syria, 2011-08-01
BY ELLIOTT ABRAMS
Syria remains rocked by antiregime protests that have endured since March, and the country may be headed for civil war. That’s because unlike in Egypt or Tunisia, sectarian rivalries are central to Syrian politics. That adds an element of danger to the situation—but also points the way toward how dictator Bashar al-Assad may fall, especially if the West takes the proper initiative.
Syria’s population is 74% Sunni Muslim. Yet the Assad regime is Alawite, an offshoot of Shiite Islam—often considered heretical by orthodox Sunnis—that comprises only 10% or 15% of Syrians. The best-armed and best-trained divisions of the Syrian army …
Police commandoes pursue armed gunmen in Syria’s Hama. Russia – 1/8 Tass 18
BEIRUT, August 1 (Itar-Tass) —— The anti-rebel special forces are chasing down armed gunmen, who are terrorizing the civilians in the Syrian city of Hama. The armed rebels against the current Syrian authorities started storming the state agencies and police stations in the city, which is situated 210 kilometers north of Damascus, since early morning, the Syrian Interior Ministry reported on Sunday. The fires broke out in many buildings after the lootings. The gunmen took hostage the civilians and waged the sporadic fire from the house roofs. The security forces “gave a rebuff to armed gangs, which are driving motorcycles,” the ministry said in a statement. Eight police officers were killed.
The Interior Ministry asked the Syrians for help “to find underground shelters of gunmen in order to unarm them and bring to justice.” Armed extremists pose “a major threat to peace in Syria,” the statement runs.
Meanwhile, Al Jazeera reported that 145 people were killed in various Syrian regions, including 1133 residents in Hama alone. Since the start of riots in the middle of March this is the largest number of casualties for one day in the country. Hama, which had been blocked by the troops for a month, was stormed by the elite forces, which constitute the defence of the current rule, for the past day.
The armored forces are being reinforced around a neighboring industrial center of Homs (165 kilometers north of Damascus), Al Jazeera reported. Local residents are afraid that the ongoing events in Hama may recur in Homs. The special forces entered several settlements in the Damascus suburbs, particularly Al Kiswa, Harasta and Muamadia, where the opposition staged large-scale rallies demanding for President Bashar Assad to be toppled. Over 220 people were detained in Muamadia, Al Jazeera reported.
The Syrian national television reported about the clashes with the rebels in Deir Az Zor, which is an administrative center in the province of the same name in north-eastern Syria. This city on the Euphrates River is populated with the comers from the Bedouin tribes, which joined the anti-governmental actions quite recently.
SYRIAN ARMY SHOWS GROWING SIGNS OF STRAIN
By Jeffrey White – WINEP
Although the Syrian army has shown signs of fraying for some time, the potential for more serious fissures is beginning to emerge. As Ramadan commences, the Syrian government is stepping up efforts to suppress unrest, with special emphasis on the cities of Hama and Dayr al-Zawr. The regime has faced serious challenges in these areas and reportedly killed tens of people there during operations over the weekend and into today. These and other ongoing internal security efforts are placing serious strain on its forces, particularly the army.
The government’s response to the demonstrations since March has involved isolating areas of disturbance; arresting protestors, movement leaders, and uninvolved civilians; terrorizing the population with “disappearances” and shootings; conducting raids against centers of resistance; and, when these measures have proven insufficient, carrying out assaults with tanks, infantry fighting vehicles, and helicopters. At the core of these tactics has been a willingness to use major violence against largely peaceful and unarmed demonstrators. This weekend’s operations in Hama and Dayr al-Zawr are typical of this pattern.
Other reported problems include the formation of a so-called “Free Syrian Army” under a former colonel, the defection of a brigadier general at the Homs military academy, the killing of at least one colonel for refusal to obey orders, and the continuing desertion of junior officers and enlisted men. These reports cannot be confirmed, and the exact scale of desertions is difficult to determine. Yet current trends suggest that the army’s loyalty and cohesion are not just fraying, but beginning to tear….
Repression alone is not working for the regime. Damascus does not have a viable political formula for swaying the protestors, much less ending the turmoil. Given the regime’s track record, the opposition no longer believes its promises of a better future. The most likely outcome, then, is escalating conflict with increasing violence.
In particular, the opposition will likely take on an increasingly armed aspect in the face of brutal repression, and as growing numbers of soldiers defect and join its ranks…..Taken together, these prospects augur a much more violent future for Syria and its people.
The opposition keeps on saying that the security forces are exhausted. I imagine they are far from exhausted – or perhaps, even if they are exhausted, they are far from giving up the ghost. They have the power and tools.
Everything depends on how the Sunnis can build leadership and union amongst themselves. Parliament in the 1950s collapsed because the Sunni parties refused to cooperate and all turned to the military and extra-parliamentary politics for advantage. I am not sure they have developed a true sense of “national community” in the ensuing 50 years. It is clear that the Sunnis will no longer be ruled by the minorities and humiliated. But whether they can work together to build a disciplined and better alternative remains to be seen.
Guest Post: BRICS in the UNSC and the Prospects for Syria, August 1, 2011
Underground In Beirut
A Syrian Activist Continues the Fight From Lebanon
By Josh Wood in Boston Review
One night last January, Rami Nakhle bounced toward the Lebanese border on the back of a motorcycle. A gang of smugglers—the kind who usually transport guns, drugs, fuel, and more mundane commodities—had agreed to take him from Homs, Syria, to Beirut, less than one hundred miles away.
To get out of Syria, Rami had promised to pay $1,500—six months’ salary for the average Syrian—cash to be paid on arrival, by a friend. The smugglers ordered him to ditch his small bag by the side of the road and proceed with only the clothes on his back, though this may have been a trick to cheat him out of his belongings. Smugglers can be dangerous people to deal with, but it was a risk worth taking. Rami had just been discovered by the Syrian security services. He had few options but to leave….