Posted by Joshua on Monday, June 4th, 2012
The United Nations observer team based in Hama, Syria, met with rebel leaders Thursday in Latamneh. The team’s commander, Danish Lt. Col. Peter Dahl, expressed frustration with the lack of a cease-fire.
By David Enders | McClatchy Newspapers
ANTAKYA, Turkey — Despite the international outcry over recent massacres allegedly committed by backers of President Bashar Assad, statistics compiled by human rights activists show that violence in Syria has dropped since a United Nations peace plan went into effect in April and is down sharply from its peak in March.
One measure of violence, however, seems to have increased appreciably: More Syrian soldiers were killed in clashes with rebels in May than in any month since the 14-month-old uprising began.
There were also reports that arrests by Syrian security forces have increased, a violation of the U.N. plan that appears to be a major factor in the violence.
“Every day the Free Syrian Army is becoming stronger,” said Alaa Kaikooni, a fighter who referred to the rebels by the name for most of the loosely organized groups that have taken up arms against Assad….. violence is off 36 percent from its peak and has dropped in each of the months that the plan has been in place.
Those numbers are still incredibly high – the Syrian Network for Human Rights recorded 1,344 deaths in May, including 55 noted after the report was posted on the network’s website Tuesday. Still, that’s far fewer than the 2,101 deaths the network tracked in March or the 1,610 it recorded in April. It’s lower than any month so far this year – with the exception of January, when the network reported that 1,179 people were killed – and below the monthly average of 1,616 deaths from January to May……
Syria President Bashar Assad denies role in massacres
By Rima Marrouch and Patrick J. McDonnell, Los Angeles Times
… “We are facing a real war from outside,” Assad told the Syrian people. “Everyone is responsible for defending the homeland.”
Assad, whose family has ruled Syria for more than 40 years, mocked opposition calls for democracy, declaring: “This democracy that they talked about is soaked with our blood.”
The president, formerly a practicing ophthalmologist, invoked the metaphor of a surgeon in the operating theater as an apparent justification for harsh counterinsurgency tactics in a brutal conflict that has cost more than 10,000 lives.
“Who is the wise man who loves blood?” Assad asked. “When a surgeon enters the operating room and opens a wound, it bleeds. He cuts and extracts. Do we tell him: ‘Your hands are cursed as they are contaminated with blood?’ Or do we thank him for saving the patient?”
…. The Syrian leader assails what he calls a ‘foreign war with internal tools’ and offers no new initiatives to revive the U.N. peace plan.
a majority of 58% in France want to see UN military intervention in Syria. 50% want France to take part. Both figures are significantly higher compared to results of a poll published last February.
I saw massacre of children, says defecting Syrian air force officer
Houla Massacre of 108 Marks New Low in Syria
By: Liz Sly and Joby Warrick | The Washington Post
In a speech Sunday, Assad denied that his government was responsible and blamed the massacre on his opponents, saying it was unimaginable that security forces could do such a thing.
“Whoever did this in Houla could not be a human being but a monster. And even a monster could not carry out such an act,” he told a session of the nation’s newly chosen parliament….
“The people want to execute Bashar,” they chanted, according to a video of one demonstration. Held above the crowd was a big black banner, emblazoned in white with words that are chilling in light of what unfolded later in the day. “Let the world know we die with a smile on our faces,” it said.
And, as was typical on a Friday here and in many other parts of the country, shortly before 1 o’clock in the afternoon, as the protests began, Syrian troops positioned around the area began firing artillery and heavy machine guns to break up the demonstrations.
What happened next is murky, but according to at least two activists in Houla, rebel fighters attacked a Syrian army position overlooking the area. Nine soldiers were killed, including three officers, according to Ahmad Qassem, one of the activists, who said he was given the number by the local hospital. The government, in its account of the killings that day, has said that “several” of its troops were killed in an attack on a checkpoint. The rebel force also suffered casualties, Qassem said….
Houla residents give a very different account. They blame the Syrian army and the loyalist militias known as the shabiha, which they say came from surrounding villages inhabited by members of Assad’s Shiite-affiliated Alawite sect. It is also clear that many questions remain unanswered.
The day began, as is typical on a Friday, with the men of the town gathering after prayers in at least two locations to hold demonstrations against the government. They left Away from the shelling, on the southwestern edge of Houla, a more sinister development began to unfold. A 25-year-old woman who gave her name as Fatima said she saw men in uniforms arriving in the late afternoon in a nearby street where members of the extended Abdel-Razzaq family lived.
Fatima said she assumed that the soldiers were conducting a routine raid, but then she began to hear shooting, which continued for at least an hour.
According to the videotaped testimony of the few survivors, the soldiers were accompanied by irregular shabiha militiamen from surrounding villages and moved through the homes shooting everyone they found…..
A suicide car bomber targeted government offices in the Iraqi capitol of Baghdad at 11:00 a.m. on Monday, killing up to 23 people, and injuring more than 100. The explosion blew up the facade of Iraq’s main religious affairs office for Shiite Muslims,…
Calls for Jihad Split Salafist Movement
By Mona Alami, IPS, AMMAN, Jun 3, 2012
The Arab Spring brought a host of new actors to the political stage. In Jordan, it pushed the Salafists to the fore, where some of the group’s more radical elements are now calling for holy war in neighbouring Syria.
… Jihadist-Salafists, a loosely structured faction who only number around 1,500 in Jordan, have recently begun to stage several demonstrations, the largest of which was held on Apr. 15 this year in the city of Zarqa and drew around 350 protesters. The protest resulted in a violent clash with the police, leaving dozens of wounded policemen and numerous civilian causalities.
In response, the Jordanian regime unleashed a harsh crackdown on the community, raiding several Jihadists’ homes in Zarqa and nearby towns and charging 146 with terrorist activities.
…”Reformers are coming to understand that the community has a greater role to play, whether politically, economically or socially,” said Ibrahim Hamad, himself a Salafist reformist.
The Salafist reformists have also begun coordinating aid to Syrian refugees who have fled the ongoing violence in their country to Jordan.
“They (reformists) are growing in areas where Syrian refugees are present. Up until now they have distributed about five million dollars in aid, 60 percent of which is provided through countries such as Saudi Arabia, Qatar or Kuwait,” Smadi explained.
Alain Gresh sums up the debate on Syria on his blog at Le Monde Diplo. Andrew Tabler outlined five steps the US should take against the Assad regime. Henry Kissinger raised his concerns for military intervention in Syria. ”In Syria, calls for humanitarian and strategic intervention merge …On the other hand, not every strategic interest rises to a cause for war; were it otherwise, no room would be left for diplomacy.” Randa Slim argued that military aid would prolong the fight, while Zbigniew Brzezinski said the crisis “is not as horrible or as dramatic as it is portrayed.” [from Pomed]
Patrick Cockburn: Why war is marching on the road to Damascus
Sunday 03 June 2012, Telegraph
Damascus feels like a city expecting the worst to happen and seeing no way to avoid it. War is spreading across the country and is unlikely to spare the capital. Rebels speak of stepping up attacks in the city and could easily do so in the next few weeks.
I spent the last week in Damascus and the atmosphere reminds me of Beirut in 1975 at the start of the 15-year civil war. Again and again in conversations, people realistically laid out for me the nasty things that are all too likely to happen, but few were able to produce plausible ideas on how disaster might be averted.
“I wish people abroad would stop talking about a civil war starting here because it is still the people against the government,” said one committed member of the opposition as we sat in a café in Damascus (everybody I spoke to has to be nameless, for obvious reasons). She believed that it was only the heavy presence of the security forces that were suppressing mass popular protest in the days after the Houla massacre.
She may have been right, but in practice not a lot was happening. There was less traffic on the streets and foreign TV stations made much play of YouTube postings showing merchants shutting their shops in protest at the Houla slaughter. But, driving around Damascus, the strike’s success was difficult to judge since so many shops and restaurants are shut anyway because of the lack of tourists and the impact of sanctions.
Ibrahim Saif wrote about the economic agenda of the Islamist parties across the region.
They do not call for the nationalization of industries or the renationalization of privatized state-owned enterprises and demonstrate respect for private property rights. All of the parties welcome partnerships with the private sector to implement their proposed projects, particularly when it comes to public utilities and infrastructure. They consistently agree on the need to combat corruption, strengthen the foundations of good governance, eliminate financial and economic waste, and enact socially just policies. And all demonstrate a commitment to international economic agreements, with Morocco and Tunisia in particular focusing on relations with Europe….. Some gray policy zones still exist, in three areas in particular: the role of the state in the economy, which proposals will be prioritized given limited time and resources, and the timetable according to which the parties will deliver promised economic results to the public. And overall, Ennahda, the Freedom and Justice Party, the Justice and Development Party, and the Islamic Action Front all fall short of presenting comprehensive and integrated programs that can realistically transform these states’ economies. Lacking experience, clear priorities, and ways to build and finance ambitious growth plans, all four will face serious challenges in translating their generally reasonable and well-intentioned economic agendas into results….
Rebels kill 80 Syrian soldiers at weekend: watchdog
BEIRUT | Mon Jun 4, 2012
(Reuters) – Syrian rebels killed at least 80 army soldiers at the weekend, an opposition watchdog said on Monday, in a surge of attacks that followed their threat to resume fighting if President Bashar al-Assad failed to observe a U.N.-backed ceasefire.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said local doctors had confirmed the names of 80 dead government soldiers.
Insurgents told the group they had killed more than 100 soldiers and destroyed some tanks in clashes across Syria, including Damascus and Idlib province i rebel Free Syrian Army had announced they would be “free of any commitment” to international envoy Kofi Annan’s peace plan if Assad did not end violence by Friday.
of at least 108 people, nearly half of them children, in the Houla area of Homs province dealt a possibly fatal blow to Annan’s proposed ceasefire, which was supposed to take effect on April 12, but never did.
Rami Abdelrahman, the head of the Observatory, told Reuters that many army checkpoints were destroy in heavy clashes overnight in Idlib province, where many rebels operate.
“A minimum of 4 to 6 checkpoints in the village of Ariha were attacked and destroyed in the last 24 hours,” he said.
The 15-month-old uprising against Assad’s 11-year rule began with peaceful protests, but Syria is now slipping into civil war as rebels fight back against a violent government crackdown.
As UN envoy warns of all-out war, a major has provided crucial evidence on the Houla killings
Martin Chulov, Guardian, Saturday 2 June 2012
Une majorité de 58 % de Français se déclarent favorables à une intervention militaire des Nations unies en Syrie, soit 7 points de plus que lors d’une précédente enquête réalisée en février dernier (51 %), selon un sondage Ifop pour l’hebdomadaire régional Dimanche Ouest France.
Cette hausse a “sans doute un rapport avec la multiplication des crimes de guerre attribués au régime de Bachar Al-Assad, et leur médiatisation ces derniers jours”, analyse l’institut.
Les hommes (65 %) se déclarent davantage favorables à l’intervention que les femmes (52 %). 70% des partisans de la droite l’approuvent, devant les sympatisants de gauche (65 %). Les sympatisants du Front national, le parti d’extrême droite, se disent majoritairement (55 %) contre une intervention des Nations unies en Syrie.
A la question de savoir si la France doit s’engager dans cette intervention militaire, les Français semblent également partagés : 50 % pour et 50 % contre, note l’Ifop. “Ces résultats assez mitigés témoignent néanmoins d’une hausse de 12 points en faveur de l’engagement de l’armée française en Syrie sous l’égide des Nations unies, comparé à février dernier (seulement 38 % des Français se disaient alors favorables à cette proposition”, selon l’Ifop).
Le président français, François Hollande, a déclaré mardi ne pas exclure une intervention armée en Syrie à condition qu’elle soit décidée dans le cadre de l’ONU.