Posted by Joshua on Monday, August 1st, 2011
Syrian Forces Renew Strike on Restive City of Hama
By NADA BAKRI and ANTHONY SHADID, August 1, 2011
BEIRUT — Syrian security forces bombed the Syrian city of Hama for a second day on Monday in as the government pressed its campaign to crush a four-month old popular uprising against the regime of President Bashar al-Assad. On Sunday, at least 70 people were killed when the military and security forces assaulted Hama and other restive cities before dawn, in the broadest and fiercest crackdown yet.
The shelling resumed on Monday in the early hours of the morning as people were returning home from mosques where they performed dawn prayers, according to residents and protesters. At least three people were killed, according to activists.
Obada Arwany, an activist reached by telephone, said that tanks had entered two neighborhoods, Al-Qousour and Al-Hamidiya, and bombed residential buildings there. One man died as his was sleeping in his house from a bomb and another as he was getting in his car from a sniper’s bullet.
“The city is like a ghost town,” Mr. Arwany said. “We were not expecting this at all. Hama is getting massacred.”
One protester was also killed in Deir al-Zour in northwestern Syria, according to the Local Coordination Committees, an opposition group that helps organize and document protests.
The simultaneous raids on several cities on Sunday came a day before the holy month of Ramadan began, a time in which Syrian activists have vowed to escalate their uprising with nightly protests. The scale of the assault and the mounting death toll underlined the government’s intention to crush the uprising by force, despite international condemnation and its own tentative and mostly illusory reforms ostensibly aimed at placating protesters’ demands. ….
Since June, Hama has been largely free of security forces, allowing it to assert a measure of independence. In recent weeks, residents have built makeshift barricades, using streetlights, cinder blocks and sandbags to prevent security forces from re-entering. The defenses, however, stood little chance against tanks and armored vehicles, which began their assault from four directions before dawn.
Many in Syria had believed that the government would not dare try to retake Hama, given its bloody history with the government. …
Sobbing, Mr. Arwany said residents shouted “God is great” as they stood in the tanks’ paths. He said that he had seen dead and wounded scattered among the barricades in the streets, the shooting too ferocious for residents to retrieve or rescue them. The gunfire intersected with rallying cries broadcast from loudspeakers in the city’s mosques.
“They know that Hama is not armed,” Mr. Arwany added, “that is why they launched this campaign. “They are cowards. They are coming here to kill us because they know they can.”
The Syrian government offered a very different account of the events, which was contested by everyone reached by phone in the city. It said dozens of gunmen had set up on rooftops and were “shooting intensively to terrorize citizens,” the Syrian state news agency SANA reported. It said insurgent groups had set fire to police stations, vandalized public and private property and set up roadblocks and barricades.
“Army units are removing the barricades and roadblocks set up by the armed groups at the entrance of the city,” the news agency reported.
The version of events echoed the government’s longstanding contention that it faces an armed uprising led by militant Islamists and backed by foreign countries. This time, it said, armed men carried guns and rocket-propelled grenades, though not a single weapon was seen in the streets when a New York Times reporter visited last month.
J. J. Harder, the spokesman for the American Embassy in Damascus, termed the government’s account “nonsense” and called Syrian officials “delusional.”
Hamedieh Mosque in Hama with a large hole in it made by a large weapon
I don’t think either side is near the end of their capacities,” says Paul Salem, the director of the Carnegie Endowment’s Middle East Center in Beirut. “So I don’t think there will be any conclusion. Clearly the regime has a lot of fight and staying power. The population and the [general] mood is not at all about to end or throw in any towels. This will be a month that takes us more vigorously toward something resembling civil war.” “The frequency of protests certainly is important [but more important] is which towns decide to join,” says Mr. Salem. “If Aleppo and Damascus decide to join, then it’s all over. If they don’t join, then the regime survives. It doesn’t matter so much if Hama goes from three protests to nine protests, it’s still Hama.”
The BBC’s Jim Muir, in Beirut, say Hama still seems to be largely under the control of its own inhabitants rather than the government.
Tanks and troops which had tried to take control of the city on Sunday, withdrew to the outskirts overnight but now seem to be pushing ahead again, he adds.
Intense shooting also broke out in the eastern city of Deir al-Zour overnight, Rami Abdul-Rahman, the head of the London-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, said.
Government attempts to crush continuing protests across Syria has brought strong international condemnation.
Russia, in its strongest criticism yet of President Bashar al-Assad, called for an end to “repressions”.
“The use of force against both peaceful civilians and representatives of state structures is unacceptable and should be stopped immediately,” the foreign ministry said in a statement on Monday.
DAMASCUS, (SANA) – In a statement on Sunday, the Ministry of Interior said that armed terrorist groups attacked at dawn official and security facilities and police stations in the city of Hama in an attempt to murder and kidnap policemen and vandalize and burn their contents, opening fire randomly around town to terrorize citizens and prevent them to going to work.
The statement said that law-enforcement forces engaged these groups to protect innocent civilians and preserve public and private properties and facilities, deploying in several areas in the city.
During these confrontations, 8 policemen were martyred and a number of police stations in Hama and its countryside were burned along with a number of police motorbikes. A number of gunmen were also killed.
The statement urged citizens to cooperate with security and police forces and provide information about the gunmen, warning against dealing with the armed terrorist groups and harboring them.
The statement stressed that the authorities will work hard to track down the terrorist wherever they are and arrest them and bring them to justice, and that they will continue work to restore security and stability in Hama.
Defense Minister Ehud Barak on Monday said the end of Syrian President Bashar Assad’s rule is likely near, Army Radio reported. “He can hold out a few more weeks, just on inertia,” he was quoted as telling members of his Atzmaut Knesset faction, …
It is a well organized and balanced attempt to catalog how the uprising in Syria is affecting Kurds. The most recent updates explain how the new party law will affect Kurdish parties:
The provisions that a party may not be founded on a »regional basis«, that members must come from at least half of all Syrian provinces, and that the party must reflect the »national structure« of Syrian society make the foundation of an explicitly Kurdish-oriented party impossible.
How Kurdish parties stood on the Istanbul and Damascus “National Salvation” opposition meetings:
The other Kurdish parties declined to participate in Damascus because, according to Salih Gedo, member of the politburo of the Kurdish Left Party in Syria, they were not represented on the preparation committee. Nor did any party members take part in the Istanbul conference, though a few independent Kurds in exile did. They left the event shortly after the beginning however, when it was discovered the rights of Kurds would not be considered.
Additionally, on July 16, 2011, Mishʿal at-Tammu announced the withdrawal of the Kurdish Future Movement from the »National Rescue Conference«. At-Tammu legitimized this step by the fact that the participants in the Istanbul conference would not have adhered to decisions reached in Damascus. He criticized the fact in the closing statement from Istanbul, the existence and rights of the Kurds in that »part of Kurdistan which has become attached to Syria« were not mentioned.
It also lists the number of Kurds arrested, killed, and disappeared and gives reasons, places and other vital information that provides an overarching picture of teh extent to which Kurds are participating in demonstrations and being .
UN Security Council Will Discuss Syria Today, Britain Says
Aug. 1 (Bloomberg) —
The United Nations Security Council will meet to discuss Syria today, Britain said, after at least 150 people were reported killed yesterday as troops sought to reassert control over anti-government protesters.
The council will meet in New York, a spokeswoman for the U.K. Foreign Office in London said by telephone, declining to be identified in line with government practice. Foreign Secretary William Hague said today securing a resolution condemning the violence will be “difficult work.” China and Russia have been blocking a U.S. and European-backed draft in the 15-member body since late May.
“I would like to see a United Nations Security Council resolution to condemn this violence, to call for the release of political prisoners and to call for legitimate grievances to be responded to,” Hague told BBC Radio 4’s “Today” program. “We want to see stronger international pressure all round.”
Syria’s security forces, (AFP), 1 August 2011
DAMASCUS — Here is a breakdown of Syria’s armed forces, after President Bashar al-Assad praised troops for “foiling the enemies”, a day after security forces reportedly killed nearly 140 in a crackdown on protests.
According to the latest edition of the Military Balance, published by the International Institute for Strategic Studies in London, the country’s defence budget in 2009 was at $1.87 billion/1.29 billion euros for a gross domestic product of $53.3 billion.
· Troops: The Syrian army consists of 325,000 troops, of which 220,000 are in the army, 5,000 in the navy, 40,000 in the air force and 60,000 in air defences.
Paramilitary forces are estimated at 108,000, of which 8,000 are in the gendarmerie, under the authority of the interior ministry, and 100,000 in the popular militia of the Baath party, which has been in power since 1963.
As regards reservists Syria’s army has 314,000 troops, while there are 4,000 in the navy, 10,000 in the air force and 20,000 in the air defences.
· Structure: The ground army has seven armoured divisions, three mechanised infantry divisions, a special forces division and a Republican Guard, created in 1976 and charged with state security.
The efficiency of the special forces and the Republican Guard is considered to be superior to that of the army in general.
· Equipment: the army is equipped with mainly Russian-made material, and includes 4,950 tanks. It has a large arsenal of missiles, whose command is based in the northern city of Aleppo.
The navy has two frigates. The air force has 555, mainly Soviet-built, fighter planes.
Even if its material is globally considered obsolete since the disappearance of the Soviet Union, its main ally and supplier, Syria’s military is one of the biggest in the Arab world.
Amal Hanano’s lates post on Jadaliyya, “Its not him, it’s them.”