An 8-minute clip of fighting in Hreitan in Aleppo Province on Sunday
See also Syria Opinion: The Vatican's Dangerous Game On "Persecution" Plays Into Assad's Hands br>
2016 GMT: Syria. The discussion continues (see last 2 updates) - Hama Echo offers another blog post that has analyzed videos coming from this artillery site. However, according to the analysis, the second video we've posted is older than the 1st one that claims to have been taken today.
The blog post also analyses what weapons appear to be used, and where those weapons appear to be located. The post focuses on comparing the videos of this camp to the ordinance that has reportedly been used against the city of Homs in the past. It's complicated, but a good read.
Our conclusion? The two videos taken together serve as fairly convincing evidence that shabiha are conducting military operations inside the artillery camp, and are being directly trained by the Syrian military. The evidence is compelling, but not indisputable. The blogger Bjørn H Jespersen offers compelling evidence that the videos show an artillery base in El Waer, Homs (map), with mortars firing in the direction of the populated city.
2002 GMT: Syria. The discussion about our last video is continuing on Twitter. NPR's Andy Carvin offers a possibility:
@JMiller_EA aren't there videos showing army soldiers not sporting proper uniforms, though?— Andy Carvin (@acarvin) June 11, 2012
Looking at the video again, this is not a possibility that can be discounted. However, there is a pattern to the video. Men with no uniform begin to work the gun. It appears that men in uniform approach them, telling them what to do. After a while, a crew that appears to be mostly men in uniform fire the gun.
Clearly, however, this is inconclusive. There is no way of telling, without much more information, who these men firing the guns are.
However, this video is in high-definition:
Clearly, the men in red and black, a uniform known to be worn by some shabiha, appear to be taking orders, maybe even instructions, from the uniformed man. The man in uniform also appears to check the settings on the mortar before it fires. Other potential-shabiha can be seen moving objects around, setting up the camp. The gun in the first video appears on the right of the video, but is not operated.
This video also claims to have been taken in El Waer, Homs.
Why would shabiha fire the artillery? Another Twitter user offers a possible reason:
This is plausible - defections are a real problem for the Assad military, and the more he fights and kills civilians, the higher the defection rate seems to get.
1920 GMT: Syria. Night fell in Syria about 3 hours ago, but the shells keep falling on Talbiseh, a few kilometers north of Homs:
But this video is literally and figuratively the smoking gun - according to the narrator, this is Homs - according to the description, somewhere near the El Waer district. Plain-clothed men, shabiha, can be seen operating this artillery piece. After 2 minutes of the video, it fires at an extremely high elevation, as if it is lobbing shells onto a nearby neighborhood, exactly how the activists report the shells are falling.
If this video is accurate, it serves as very strong evidence that the Syrian military is directly supporting the shabiha, the paramilitary thug-like organization accused of some of Syria's worst crimes. The possibility that shabiha, not the Assad military, is shelling positions is frightening - even if the shabiha wanted to avoid hitting civilian targets, are they highly trained enough to do so?
Unfortunately, there is no way to verify this video, except that it comes via the Sham News Network, which has proven highly reliable in the past.
1841 GMT: Syria. Reuters reports that a Syrian military base, and its armament, was briefly overrun by fighters from the Free Syrian Army before the insurgents retreated in the face of a counter attack.
Insurgents reportedly raided the Al-Ghanto base near al Rastan, capturing weapons, ammunition, and many soldiers whom they say will be will be safe. According to the report, the insurgent attack was so successful because it was coordinated with more than 20 soldiers and officers inside the base, an indication that the loyalty of Assad's soldiers is not as clear as the number of defections would suggest:
Rebel spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Qassim Saad al-Din told Reuters that the rebels had taken AK-47 machine guns and rocket-propelled grenades from the base, but had been unable to remove the larger surface-to-air missiles before the army attacked.
"These missiles were fixed to launchers and were too heavy to remove," he said.
Peter Bouckaert, emergencies director at Human Rights Watch, said the amateur videos appeared to show SA-2 surface-to-air missiles and provided Reuters with an picture from a satellite imagery provider showing the al-Ghanto base in flames.
This video, and others, reports to show the FSA fighters on the base.
Al Rastan has been heavily shelled for several days in a row, and today is no different. This video matches some other eyewitness reports circulating on Twitter, and though it is almost black (watch for the explosions) it claims to show the sounds of the battle for the town, a town which is at least partially under the control of the FSA:
1809 GMT: Syria. Conveniently ignored by those who tend towards simplistic explanations of the conflict, there is considerable tension mounting in Aleppo, particularly among lawyers who believe that the justice system there has become a farce' Regular sit-ins by lawyers and justice workers are being held at the Palace of Justice in Syria's largest city, and the crowds openly voice their support for the protesters, particularly those on the campus of Aleppo University.
An interesting question - why would the regime allow the lawyers to protest? Perhaps because these are some of the more influential people, and a crackdown against the lawyers would be a signal to the middle and upper classes that no one is safe to speak.
35 martyrs were reported in Idlib, 19 in Deir Ezzor, 15 in Hama, 12 in Homs, 8 in the Damascus Suburbs, 5 in Aleppo, 5 in Lattakia and 2 in Damascus.
Earlier, activists were Tweeting about a large explosion in Deir Ez Zor. Now the LCCS posts a graphic video and a report that at least 5 people were killed and 13 injured in an explosion. What makes this unique - even the activists are reporting that this is the work of a "terrorist."
Turning to Syrian State Media, there does not seem to be any reporting about this incident. However, SANA reports that "terrorists" blew up a pipeline 20 kilometers outside of Deir Ez Zor and 2 terrorist car bombs exploded in the Barzeh district of Damascus. They also blame the killings in Al Haffeh and in Idlib province on terrorists (activists say they are the results of shelling by the military and attacks by shabiha), at least confirming the amount of violence in the area.
Our favorite SANA report so far, however, is that the military has raided the neighborhood of Douma, east of Damascus:
The authorities stormed a hideout of an armed terrorist group in Douma area in Damascus Countryside.
An official source told SANA that authorities clashed with the terrorists and killed all of them, adding that one personnel was martyred in the process.
Killed all of them? We'll expect a quiet day in Douma.
1723 GMT: Bahrain. A photograph of 11-year-old Ali Hassan, released from detention today but still facing trial on charges of participating in an illegal assembly (see 0811 and 0835 GMT):
1628 GMT: Syria. The unconfirmed massacre of the hour - LCCS shares a graphic video, uploaded by a Youtube account that is not previously known to us, claiming to show a massacre of more than a dozen citizens of the rural villages of Shaghourit and Qastoun. The villages are on the border of the Hama/Idlib provinces, and are extremely remote. We have not been able to confirm the report, though the LCCS purports to verify all information they post, and has been extremely reliable, even in chaotic situations like the reporting on the Houlah and Qubair massacres.
Another activist seems to know more details, but again these reports are still unconfirmed:
@thebaghdaddy 27 in Shaghoureet alone or in combination with Qastoon (Hama). They're neighboring villages, was a joint massacre :'(— Sumayya Saleh (@Sumayya92) June 11, 2012
35 martyrs were reported in Idlib, 15 in Hama, 14 in Deir Ezzor, 8 in the Damascus Suburbs, 5 in Aleppo, 5 in Lattakia, 5 in Homs, and 2 in Damascus.
1611 GMT: Syria. The latest reports from Damascus are jarring - according to activists, the Barzeh district has been sealed off by military forces, heavy gunfire and explosions can be heard there, and multiple wounded are reported. The reports are hard to decipher, but it appears that the Free Syrian Army fighters began to clash with the security forces after the neighborhood was raided several hours ago, and the battle appears to be escalating.
1554 GMT: Syria. More confirmation of activist reports. All day, there have been reports of widespread violence in Ma'arrat al Nouman and the other villages near Jusr al Shughour in Idlib province (map). The Guardian has spoken to a freelance photographer, Nicole Tung, who reports that she saw at least 9 bodies of people killed by the indiscriminate shelling of the civilian population several nights ago. According to Tung, the doctors, working from field hospitals, are doing everything they can to try to save lives, and even the UN monitors have not been seen:
The LCCS reports heavy fighting between the FSA and the regular army today, and at least 19 people have reportedly been killed across Idlib province today.
1546 GMT: Syria. Activists report that once again the town of Al Haffeh, east of Lattakia, is being shelled. Many casualties are reported, though the reports are still coming in. This video claims to show the shelling of the town, and though we cannot confirm the video it generally matches not only the reports and also the geography of the area:
1536 GMT: Syria. There have been widespread reports of military crackdowns in Deir Ez Zor, in eastern Syria. However, there are also reports of an offensive launched by the Free Syrian Army. This video shows two armored vehicles allegedly destroyed today by the FSA.
Another video reportedly taken in the same areas shows a home burning, reportedly destroyed by military shelling.
1528 GMT: Syria. Talbiseh, north of Homs, is also under attack today, according to activists. This video reportedly shows crops that were lit on fire due to the shelling, but other videos we've seen show widespread damage that activists say was caused today by regime artillery strikes:
1514 GMT: Syria. In an amazing revelation, activists are reporting that the mosque seen in the live-stream from Homs (see update 1408 GMT) is the Khaled ibn Walid mosque, arguably the most important mosque in central Homs. The architecture of the building and the general look of the surrounding area also appears to match the video, and there is heavy shelling reported in the general area.
Though the shelling is periodic, the explosions have not stopped for the last 2 hours.
1444 GMT: Syria. According to the LCC, 52 people have been killed so far today across Syria:
19 martyrs in Idlib, 14 martyrs in Deir Ezzor, 11 martyrs in Hama, 4 martyrs in Homs, 3 martyrs in Damascus Suburbs and one martyr in Aleppo.
A few notes - there is intense fighting reported in Idlib, in Deir Ez Zor, and in Damascus. These numbers also don't include anyone who has been killed in the intense, and ongoing, violence in Homs (see previous updates).
1440 GMT: Syria. The Vatican news agency, Agenzia Fides, a name that literally means "Agency of the Truth," has posted statements by Syrian church leaders that the opposition has demanded that all Christians leave a town south of Homs. The only problem - it doesn't seem to be true. In fact, some of the claims are a verbatim (and unattributed) quote of a pro-Syrian website, and none of the claims appear to have come with any supporting evidence.
This incident raises some serious concerns. Are the Christians in Syria made less safe because the church leadership is buying pro-Assad propaganda, and if things do turn worse for the Christians, will anyone believe their reports? I've covered the incident in a separate article:
See also Syria Opinion: The Vatican's Dangerous Game On "Persecution" Plays Into Assad's Hands br>
1418 GMT: Syria. The Live-stream below is a must watch, but it is not the only source reporting heavy shelling of Homs. In fact, some activists are now claiming that this is one of the heaviest attacks the city has ever seen, and it has been raging for hours.
Another video, reportedly taken earlier in the Jouret al Shayah district in the center of the city, shows heavy smoke and distant explosions:
1348 GMT: Syria. The Syrian government has its own version of events. According to SANA, Syrian State Media, two terrorists have been caught preparing to massacre civilians in Al Haffeh. Syrian TV has broadcast audio, reportedly from an intercepted call, that they claim shows that the terrorists were planning on blaming the government for the attack.
Meanwhile, the same article claims that terrorists have attacked public buildings in the area.
Twelve persons were martyred by warplanes shelling at Bakas village, their names are: Husam Tarboush 10 years, Dima 7 years, Rahaf Asad 4 years, Mohamad Asad 10 years, Rama Bitar 9 years, Fuad Bitar 11 years, Monzer Kadur 27 years, Adnan Atour 13 years, Fatima Atour 8 years, Fatima Abdulwahab 13 years, Mohamad Khalil 25 years old, all fell by regime’s warplanes bombing.
Video has emerged showing what appears to be 10 children wrapped in burial garments in the city this morning:
According to the LCCS, 94 people were killed in yesterday's violence nationwide.
1327 GMT: Syria. James Miller takes over today's live coverage. Thanks to Scott Lucas for getting us started this morning.
There are many reports of violence in and around the capital today. In the center of Douma, activists report that security forces have raided a neighborhood near a mosque and have injured many civilians with indiscriminate gunfire. Heavy gunfire is also reported in the Barzeh district.
Perhaps the most interesting report from Damascus so far today, however, is the claim that the UN observers have visited the Jobar district, east of the Capital, and they are now surrounded by Shabiha and military forces. Jobar is a sensitive area for the regime, as it has an air force base and is reportedly the home of some of the regime's intelligence infrastructure, so it is possible that the security forces are trying to prevent activists from speaking with the observers.
1009 GMT: Syria. United Nations observers and foreign journalists are in Homs --- the BBC's Paul Danahar sends a series of messages:
However, the charge of participation in an illegal march has not been dropped, and Hassan's trial will resume on 20 June.
0831 GMT: Syria. State news agency SANA reports on the burial of "22 army, law enforcement and civilian martyrs" on Sunday, claiming the dead were "targeted by armed terrorist groups while they were in the line of duty in Lattakia, Damascus Countryside and Deir Ezzor".
A clip of the base at Talbiseh in Homs Province:
Subsequent videos claimed to show regime forces attacking the headquarters of the defecting battalion:
0811 GMT: Bahrain. After a weekend of criticism of the detention of 11-year-old Ali Hassan, reaching international media, the regime's outlets have tried to hit back this morning.
Gulf Daily News gives the explanation of prosecutors:
The boy was at a rally and was warned twice to leave and he didn't so they arrested him after that. I am really sorry that he is going through such a hard time, for being arrested is one of the worst nightmares that a child can have.
Hassan was arrested on 14 May. The website says he is now in a juvenile detention facility, allowed one 30-minute visit per week with his family, and then returns to the prosecutors' charge that children are being manipulated: "The child and other children have been used by nefarious groups who are paying them BD3 (about $8) to take part in such acts."
0722 GMT: Syria. A telling remark from Joshua Landis of Syria Comment, who is far from a cheerleader for the opposition: "Syrians have abandoned the regime in spirit, even if they have yet to defect in body."
0645 GMT: Yemen. Mareb Press claims that Republican Guard forces, with tanks and armoured vehicles, surrounded the home of President Abdrabuh Mansur Hadi on Sunday night. The website says Guard commander Ahmed Ali Abdullah Saleh, the son of former President Ali Abdullah Saleh, "failed to control the situation".
0635 GMT: Bahrain. Security forces have reportedly carried out a dawn raid of the house of Sheikh Ali Salman, the General Secretary of the opposition society Al Wefaq, in a suburb of the capital Manama:
Last Thursday, agreement had finally been reached among 22 political parties and the ruling Supreme Council of the Armed Forces on the composition of the panel, suspended in April. However, on Sunday, four liberal parties claimed that the Muslim Brotherhood and Salafist Nour Party were trying to pack the panel with Islamist members, breaking the agreement for an even distribution.
"We were talking about the division of seats between secular and Islamists as 50-50. Then we were surprised to find that all 50 were just for the Muslim Brotherhood and Salafis," said Emad Gad of the Free Egyptian Party. He asserted that the two factions were tryig to push other Islamists into slots meant for secular parties and civil society representatives.
Other secular group, like the Wafd Party, said those who walked out were trying to derail the process.
The headlines were shared, however, with the politics of the opposition Syrian National Council. Its new President, philosophy professor and Kurdish activist Abdulbaset Sieda, used his first press conference to cliam that the SNC --- which has been criticised for in-fighting among its various factions --- would unite to lead the challenge to the Assad regime: “We will expand and extend the base of the council so it will take on its role as an umbrella under which all the opposition will seek shade.”
Sieda then went on the offensive: "We are entering a sensitive phase. The regime is on its last legs....We call upon all officials in the regime and in the institutions to defect from the regime."