Protest last night in the Damascus suburb of Barzeh
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Tuesday's Syria (and Beyond) Live Coverage: The Battle of Rastan
However, there is also a report that security forces have raided Daraya, another suburb, and one that has seen regular night time firefights over the last several days. This video reportedly shows the gunfire:
26 martyrs (dead) were reported in Homs, 5 in the Damascus Suburbs, 4 in Daraa, 3 in Idib, 1 in Hama and 1 in Deir Ezzor.
1923 GMT: Syria. The Day after a UN convoy was attacked by Syrian soldiers, the UN observers left the Idlib town of Khan Shaykhoun. According to activists, this is what moved into the town after the observers left - dozens of tanks, maneuvering to the sounds of exploding shells:
1826 GMT: Syria. Activists report that Al Rastan has once again been shelled. The video below shows a bombed-out residential neighborhood, with smoke rising in the background. About 1:20 into the video, a shell hits uncomfortably close to the camera.
While there is fighting between the Free Syrian Army and the Syrian regular forces, most of the shelling over the last few days does not appear to be focused on killing insurgents. The videos of destroyed houses and civilian collateral damage suggest that the regime is retaliating against the citizens of Rastan for the successes of the Free Syrian Army.
Aleppo University: 65 students have been removed from the Faculty of Electricity under the pretext that they had participated in demonstrations.
The report matches video we've posted, and other videos we've seen, showing large scale protests at the Faculty of Engineering, as well as eyewitness reports that security forces descended on the campus to disperse the crowds.
1534 GMT: Syria. According to the Local Coordinating Committees, 32 people have been killed today, though those numbers include 21 bodies that were found after they were killed (likely yesterday) in the Shammas neighborhood in Homs:
23 martyr in Homs, 4 martyrs in Daraa, 2 martyrs in Damascus Suburbs, 2 martyrs in Idlib, and a martyr in Deir Ezzor.
1500 GMT: Syria. The following video was reportedly taken near Krak de Chavaliers, an ancient castle built in the 11th century. The castle is in a strategic location between Homs and Tartus, close to the border with Lebanon. There have been reports that the regime has been attacking the castle over the last week or so, perhaps to deny it to the Free Syrian Army, which has apparently used it on occasion.
The video is somewhat hard to figure out, but it appears that what we are seeing are tank rounds hitting the side of the rock (perhaps trying to destroy the truck, or to hit the cameramen, though the exact purpose of the shelling is unknown. Also, at one point the camera pans upwards, and a lobbed shell (perhaps a mortar?) seems to be arching up the hill, perhaps targeting the castle itself.
1420 GMT: Syria. The Local Coordinating Committee in Daraa shares this video of UN observers in Al Hirak. The town has long had a vocal protest movement, and is occasionally the base of operations for the Free Syrian Army. As a result, many citizens have died, and many more have been arrested, in shelling and tank raids in the town.
The citizens are showing the observers a hole in a building, apparently the result of a direct hit from a shell. The interesting point - on the other side of the hole, there is a clear view, across an open field, of a regime base, complete with what appears to be an armored vehicle.
1402 GMT: Syria. We've noted that the presence of the UN has often endangered the activists who speak with them. Lately, crowds of protesters are attacked by regime forces when they try to greet UN observers, arrests are made, and cities are shelled in retaliation for speaking out against the regime.
Well, the always-witty activists in kafranbel, a town in Idlib that has become the comedic (and sometimes serious) spokes-people of the Syrian opposition, has a message for the UN:
1323 GMT: Syria. While it's very hard to measure how large the Free Syrian Army has become, we know that, thus far, the trickle of defections has not become a flood. However, that trickle has certainly increased in size to a steady flow, especially in the last several weeks. It appears, from what we've seen, that some members of the Syrian regular army were hoping that the UN ceasefire has worked. It hasn't, and there seems to have been an uptick in defections as a result.
These men call themselves the "Martyrs of Freedom" battalion, and are announcing their formation in Idlib:
1307 GMT: Syria. This video was reportedly taken in Kafran Naboude, in the Hama governorate, nestled between Khan Shaykhoun and the hard hit Qa'allat al Madiq, a town build out of the ruins of a crusader castle, a 1000+ year old monument that has been dismantled by Assad forces:
And the LCC posts this video of protests in the School of Electrical Engineering at Aleppo University. The university was closed last week to prevent protests, but it would appear that the protest movement on campus, and in the whole of Aleppo, is growing and has never been stronger:
1252 GMT: Syria. James Miller takes over today's live coverage, while the hard working Scott Lucas has been on the road since the early morning. Let's catch up on the news.
After a day of large headlines, today's news is more muted (thus far). There have been large student protests in Aleppo, where many arrests are reported. Homs is once again under heavy bombardment, and injuries and deaths are reported.
But the big headlines could belong to Khan Shaykhoun, in Idlib province. Guardian posts this video showing the UN monitors leaving the town, with one of their crippled vehicles on the back of a truck. The monitors spent the night in the city and left earlier.
However, there are more reports of heavy shelling today, accompanied by more reports of injuries. It appears that the regime is targeting the Free Syrian Army, and the citizens whom the FSA is sworn to protect.
0625 GMT: Syria. EA's James Miller has been posting for weeks that the US Administration may be more forthcoming in support for the insurgents. Yesterday he added, in staff discussion of the Free Syrian Army's victory in Rastan, that the opposition forces seemed to be getting more and better arms from outside the country:
This morning, Karen DeYoung of The Washington Post complements these assessments in her article, "Syrian Rebels Get Influx of Arms with Gulf Neighbors’ Money, U.S. Coordination":
Syrian rebels battling the regime of President Bashar al-Assad have begun receiving significantly more and better weapons in recent weeks, an effort paid for by Persian Gulf nations and coordinated in part by the United States, according to opposition activists and U.S. and foreign officials.
Obama administration officials emphasized that the United States is neither supplying nor funding the lethal material, which includes antitank weaponry. Instead, they said, the administration has expanded contacts with opposition military forces to provide the gulf nations with assessments of rebel credibility and command-and-control infrastructure....
The U.S. contacts with the rebel military and the information-sharing with gulf nations mark a shift in Obama administration policy as hopes dim for a political solution to the Syrian crisis. Many officials now consider an expanding military confrontation to be inevitable.
Material is being stockpiled in Damascus, in Idlib near the Turkish border and in Zabadani on the Lebanese border. Opposition activists who two months ago said the rebels were running out of ammunition said this week that the flow of weapons — most still bought on the black market in neighboring countries or from elements of the Syrian military — has significantly increased after a decision by Saudi Arabia, Qatar and other gulf states to provide millions of dollars in funding each month.
Syria’s Muslim Brotherhood also said it has opened its own supply channel to the rebels, using resources from wealthy private individuals and money from gulf states, including Saudi Arabia and Qatar, said Mulham al-Drobi, a member of the Brotherhood’s executive committee.
0615 GMT: Syria. State news agency SANA claims, "Three terrorists, one of them Libyan and two others Tunisians confessed that they infiltrated into Syria through the Turkish borders in order to carry out terrorist attacks in coordination with al-Qaeda and militias of the so-called free army."
Meanwhile, we post a feature from an incident earlier this month, "The Regime's "Jihadist" Disinformation?".
0445 GMT: Syria. Last weekend, after a relatively slow day of news, I asked, "A Pause in the Conflict?" Tuesday put that question to rest.
At least 63 people reportedly died across the country, and the violence took on a pattern which promised not only more deaths but also significant changes in the military and political situation. EA's James Miller started the day by considering the wider impact of the Free Syrian Army's stand in Rastan, near Homs --- "if the FSA is now capable of winning victories [like this]...then the regime does not look like one which is secure" --- and he ended it by dissecting news coverage of a bloody day in Khan Shaykhoun in Idlib Province, when 21 people died and a United Nations convoy was attacked.