View Syria - 2012 June 26 - EA Worldview in a larger map
An interactive map of Tuesday's developments in Syria
See also Syria Audio Feature: Scott Lucas with Monocle 24 "No Negotiation Possible --- This is War" br>
Bahrain Document: Court Testimony of Abdulhadi Alkhawaja "I Have Been Subjected to Torture" br>
Saudi Arabia Feature: Interview with the "Eastern Province Revolution" br>
Tuesday's Syria (and Beyond) Live Coverage: NATO Meets Over Downing of Turkish Jet
2220 GMT: Syria. Below we have posted an interactive map, compiled by myself and our intern, Josh Moss. Each flag on the map links to a specific live entry, an effort to impose order on a bloody and chaotic day in Syria. You can click on the link below the map to see it in a large window.
View Syria - 2012 June 27 - EA Worldview in a larger map
42 martyrs were reported in Idlib, 15 in the Damascus Suburbs, 14 in Deir Ezzor, 10 in Daraa, 10 in Homs, 8 in Qamishli, 3 in Hama, 1 in Hasakeh, and 1 in Aleppo.
The numbers are staggeringly high, as they have been all week, and most of last week. The number of dead children is just heartbreaking, however. Among the dead, 10 year old Badreddine Sadeq, killed today in Aleppo:
2132 GMT: Syria. This video shows a massive plume of smoke rising above a heavily shelled area below. But this is not some remote countryside, this is Harasta, only a stone's throw from the capital of Syria, Damascus (map):
2119 GMT: Syria. Earlier today there were reports of protests stretching from Aleppo University to the Salaheddin district (map). This video shows the front of one of the marches on the university campus:
However, there are reports that one of the main marches was disrupted with gunfire. There are also earlier reports of large night protests, but now the LCCS reports that a 10 year old was killed when those crowds were fired on by security forces.
2103 GMT: Syria. But this might be the most interesting video we have seen today from Idlib Province. Despite the reports of widespread violence, an activist suggests that this convoy of vehicles is retreating just north of al Bara (map):
We note that Mark's assessments are typically sharp and informed, but it is possible that these soldiers are not retreating, but are simply redeploying.
2048 GMT: Syria. If the videos from Saraqeb are disturbing, the videos from nearby Ma'arrat al Nouman (map) are far worse. This video shows a brave man racing through the city while shells explode nearby and rockets race through the sky:
What is the aftermath? All these videos are graphic, so I will simply list them.
We analyze the numbers, look for patterns, and derive meaning from those patterns. What we find is a dynamic and complicated picture that is always shifting. But those numbers, those little pieces of data, are human beings, dying in droves. And all it takes is to watch a video like this graphic video of a man breathing his last breaths today to remember the horror of the Syrian conflict.
2028 GMT: Syria. EA's sources report that the central Idlib city of Saraqeb (map) has paid a steep price today. Confirming some of these reports, activist Rami al Jaraah earlier reported that the city had been shelled for more than 12 hours. We are just now starting to see video, as the internet was cut, and it's an ugly picture.
The first video that strikes our interest is this one. A very large convoy of tanks and armored vehicles is visible. However, at the end of the video, there appears to be one vehicle that has been destroyed by the Free Syrian Army:
A firefight near a destroyed tank:
Mostly, however, it is civilians dying, not army soldiers or insurgent fighters. One video shows a collapsed building, reportedly the work of a shell. Another shows an injured man who was evacuated from a nearby town and it being rushed to a field hospital. This video shows a young man (likely a teenager) on a makeshift hospital bed, and yet another shows a man, clearly not a fighter, with bloodsoaked shorts in a wheelchair.
Yet despite all the violence, protesters have braved the night to hold funerals for the fallen, and chant their protests to the sky:
23 martyrs were reported in Idlib,13 in DeirEzzor, 15 in the Damascus Suburbs,10 in Homs, 10 in Daraa, 8 in Qamishli, 3 in Hama, and 1 in Aleppo.
There are many things particularly striking about this number. First of all, the deaths in Qamishli are extremely noteworthy. The northeastern city lies near the border with Turkey (map), and is widely considered to be the last major city to join the revolution. According to activists and EA sources, the population has been losing confidence with the Assad regime at a rapid pace since winter, and the regime has used increasingly heavy-handed tactics there. However, the 8 who died did not die in Qamishli itself, but, according to activists, were killed while defecting from the army. Is that claim true? That's impossible to verify. However, if enough people in the city believe it is true, then expect more demonstrations, and potentially more defections.
The next thing that strikes us is that Idlib, Daraa, Damascus, and Deir Ez Zor are all in the midst of intense violence, with the military trying to confront insurgents, and many civilians caught in the crossfire.
1928 GMT: Syria. News coverage of Syria today is likely dominated by the report that a Syrian television station was raided and 7 employees and journalists were reportedly killed. The Syrian government blames "terrorists," while some in the opposition have condemned the attack. The New York Times offers an alternative explanation, one that goes further than an insurgent strike on pro-government media:
Col. Malik Kurdi, a spokesman in Turkey for a rebel commander, Riad al-Assad of the Free Syrian Army, said the attack was the result of the defection of a group of Republican Guards who had decided to change sides and attacked other guards at the station who had remained loyal.
If confirmed, his assertion would be another sign of unraveling control in Damascus, where violence has increased markedly, including an attack on the Republican Guard base near the presidential palace on Monday. There was no way to independently verify Colonel Kurdi’s claim.
The videos sparked this response from another activist, who is frustrated by the characterization that this is simply a "Sunni uprising."
Every single day I post protests by Druze, Christians, Kurds, and Ismailis in Syria but Western analysts will still call it Islamist revolt.— abuhatem (@abuhatem) June 27, 2012
1621 GMT: Syria. For two days we've been reporting on the intense military campaign against Kafer Shams, on the road between Daraa and Damascus (see update at 1506 GMT, and this map). Now the LCCS gives us this summary, suggesting that it has become a battleground between defected soldiers and the Syrian military:
The town is living a tough humanitarian condition since Monday after a large defection in a military barrack near the town. The defected soldiers got heavy weapons of Malyutka missile, heavy machine guns, and different kinds of weapons and ammunition.
Regime’s army is besieging the town and shelling fiercely and randomly at houses using mortars, tanks, personnel carriers, and anti-aircraft, amid a complete cut off electricity, water, and internet.
The number of martyrs has risen to at least 22, who fell from bombing, slaughtering, and shot dead, including a mother and her children. 10 defected soldiers are among the martyrs, they weren’t identified because they were deformed from direct bombing by tanks.
Siege on the city continues and huge military reinforcements arrived, where several neighborhoods were stormed, and random killing of residents by regime forces was reported.
Shelling of mosques and a sever lack of first aid and medical equipment, and the town is in a very tough humanitarian condition. Several wounded were martyred despite their minor injuries due to the lack of first aid.
1615 GMT: Bahrain. Activist Zainab Alkhawaja has been shot in the leg with a tear gas canister, fired by riot police, during a protest in Buri today. Fellow activist Said Yousif reported that the police attacked without warning:
Maryam Alkhawaja, also a prominent activist, says her sister has now been taken to hospital.
10 martyrs were reported in Damascus Suburbs, 9 in Deir Ezzor, 8 in Idlib, 4 in Homs, 2 in Hama, and 2 in Daraa.
Meanwhile, sources close to Syrian super-activist Rami al Jarrah report that Saraqib, to the north of these towns (map), has been shelled for more than 12 straight hours, and rumors are circulating that the military is preparing for raids across that area. Ma'arrat al Nouma, just south (map), has also been under heavy attack.
Yesterday, the Syrian military raided these towns and lost several armored vehicles as well as a helicopter. It is possible that the military is preparing even heavier raids to make send a message.
1506 GMT: Syria. The city of Jassim, in Daraa province, has been heavily shelled today, according to multiple sources. The city is south of Kafer Shams, which was heavily shelled yesterday, and is on the road between Daraa and Damascus (map). Another video reportedly shows shabiha patrolling the streets today, though we're not sure if that is before or after the shelling.
While we can't currently verify the information, we'll probably see signs if there is a large battle in Deir Ez Zor soon. As it stands, heavy violence is reported there today. As there is a delay in video uploads, the battle may very well be underway.
1442 GMT: Syria. EA's editor-in-chief Scott Lucas has spoken to Monocle Radio today about the crisis in Syria. Scott's take - forget about talking diplomacy, we're in a civil war. "We're into a new phase in the Syrian conflict where I don't think a negotiated solution is possible. To put it bluntly, one side will have to win and one side will have to lose --- and quite clearly lose --- before we get close to a resolution."
1428 GMT: Syria. A fascinating video - this appears to be video leaked from the Assad regular army. It shows artillery firing at unknown, and likely very distant, targets. According to the description of the video, it was taken on a nearby airfield (possibly here, map), and shows artillery firing at Deir Ez Zor. It's dated today, but that also can;t be verified.
Why would such a video exist? Soldiers in the military routinely leak footage, sometimes to brag about their activities, or sometimes as an act of defiance because they disagree with the Assad regime's use of force but are afraid to defect. Also, members of the Syrian opposition have been known to pay for videos, encouraging leaks.
1412 GMT: Bahrain. A photograph of Nabeel Rajab, the head of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights, after he was freed from detention this morning (see 0750 GMT) --- Rajab (left) is with the BCHR's Said Yousif Almuhafda:
1357 GMT: Syria. United Nations envoy Kofi Annan is summoning permanent members of the UN Security Council for a conference this Saturday on Syria, but he has not invited Iran or Saudi Arabia.
Annan also invited Turkey and representatives of the Arab League, including diplomats from Iraq, Kuwait and Qatar, to the gathering in Geneva.
Russia has been seeking an international meeting which includes Iran, but the US objected to Tehran's presence.
"When the other side refuses to sit at the table of dialogue and insists on the policy of provoking successive crises in a way that causes serious damage to the supreme interests of Iraqi people, the prime minister found himself forced to call for early elections," declared a statement on al-Maliki's website.
An effort to persuade President Jalal Talabani to call a no-confidence vote stalled earlier this month, but this week cleric Moqtada Sadr, whose followers are in the coalition, called on the Prime Minister to institute reforms or face re-election.
1342 GMT: Syria. Claimed footage of a regime tank burning in Idlib Province. UPDATE - James Miller adds that this video was taken yesterday, and clearly shows that the wreckage of the vehicle is a burning tank, perhaps a T-72 as initially claimed. A BMP vehicle was also destroyed. This town, Ma'arrat Dibsah, is north of Ma'arrat al Nouman, and is close to where a helicopter was destroyed yesterday (map, also see yesterday's live coverage, Tuesday's Syria (and Beyond) Live Coverage: NATO Meets Over Downing of Turkish Jet):
1315 GMT: Syria. Video of the damaged buildings of the pro-regime television channel al-Ikhabriya after it was attacked by gunmen who set off explosives ---=at least seven people died, according to the Minister of Information:
HRW said groups of up to 200 refugees, accompanied by members of the Free Syrian Army, were subjected to sustained machine gun and sniper fire, killing three civilians and wounding 11.
The organisation also asserted, from a Syrian army defector, that guards on the Jordan border had been ordered to shoot at anyone trying to leave or enter the country without passing through an official border post and that some of the soldiers refused to carry out the order.
Civilian refugees also said they were fired upon by Syrian soldiers when crossing the border into Iraq.
1105 GMT: Syria. According to Minister of Information Omran al-Zoebi, seven people were killed and others kidnapped in this morning's attack by gunmen on a pro-regime television station al-Ikhbariya in Drousha, about 20 kilometers (12 1/2 miles) south of Damascus.
“What happened today is a massacre, a massacre against the freedom of the press,” al-Zoebi said. “They carried out a terrifying massacre by executing the employees.”
An Associated Press photographer who visited the compound said five portable buildings used for offices and studios had collapsed, with blood on the floor and wooden partitions still on fire. Some walls had bullet holes, he said.
An employee at the station said several other staffers were wounded in the attack, which happened just before 4 a.m. local time. He said the gunmen kidnapped him along with several station guards. He was released but the guards were not.
1050 GMT: Syria. Burhan Ghalioun, the former head of the Syrian National Council, crossed into Idlib Province yesterday to meet opposition activists and insurgents (see pictures and video in Live Coverage). Today he told Al Jazeera that he was able to drive about freely and that "part of the country is liberated".
0940 GMT: Syria. United Nations investigators have concluded that regime forces have committed human rights violations, including executions, across the country "on an alarming scale" during military operations over the last three months:
The situation on the ground is dangerously and quickly deteriorating. In the increasingly militarized context, human rights violations are occurring across the country on an alarming scale during military operations against locations believed to be hosting defectors and/or those perceived as affiliated with anti-government armed groups, including the "Free Syrian Army".
The team, led by Paulo Pinheiro, is reporting to the UN Human Rights Council, which is discussing the situation today.
The investigators said that they were unable to determine who carried out a mass killing of more than 100 people in Houla in May, but "forces loyal to the government may have been responsible for many of the deaths".
The report also cited multiple accounts of killings by armed opposition groups, including the increased use of improvised explosive devices. It expressed concern that insurgents were "using children as medical porters, messengers and cooks, exposing them to risk of death and injury".
The team, which conducted nearly 400 interviews, said it had collected photographs, videos, satellite imagery and documentary evidence during investigative missions this spring. It is updating its secret list of identified perpetrators for possible use by a future mechanism of criminal justice.
Further concern has been expressed in a speech by Jean-Marie Guehenno, the deputy to UN envoy Kofi Annan:
The country is now engulfed by various types of violence, including sectarianism, with serious implications for the region.
Large segments of the Syrian population continued to mobilize against the government, the government's military response and the attacks by opposition forces have intensified, and public support for the armed opposition appears to have increased.
The agreed cessation of violence in all its forms, effective as of 12 April and which was the basis for the Mission's deployment, held only briefly. The second week of May saw a return to unrestrained and increasing hostilities, which have now reached or even surpassed pre-12 April levels.
0850 GMT: Bahrain. A court in has ruled that three police officers accused of killing three protesters --- Ali Ahmed Abdullah, Issa Abdul Hassan and Hani Abdul Aziz Goma --- should be tried for murder.
The three policemen were originally facing the lesser charge of manslaughter and could now be sentenced to death if convicted, according to the Information Affairs Authority.
Activists said post-mortem examinations last year found the victims had been shot at close range.
A fourth policeman was sentenced in absentia to five years in prison, convicted of wounding a protester by firing birdshot.
Oman has detained more than 30 people in the last three weeks over protests that erupted following strikes at oil facilities.
There were 15 defendants at Monday's hearing, four of whom were accused of defamation and incitement to further protests and strikes and eleven charged with illegal assembly.
The first tanker, the Amin, was due to reach the port of Baniyas late on Tuesday to collect Syrian oil, while a second vessel with a delivery of diesel fuel, the Alvan, will arrive later this week.
Syria's refineries are set up to process the country's light crude oil mainly into lighter products such as naphtha and gasoline, leaving it short of diesel.
Tracking data shows the MT Tour, another UN-sanctioned Iranian tanker that picked up a cargo of sanctioned Syrian oil earlier this year and took it to Iran, is collecting another shipment. It is nearly empty and sailing towards the Red Sea..
Rajab was arrested on 5 May, briefly released, and detained later in the month. He faces charges of insulting Bahrainis on Twitter and participating in illegal marches.
0745 GMT: Syria. A protest last night in Salaheddin salutes the Egyptian people:
0720 GMT: Syria. Bloomberg, citing "a US State Department official", reports, "A meeting of world powers to discuss ending the conflict in Syria won’t happen unless Russia first agrees that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad must be replaced."
On Monday, State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland put up a further obstacle to Russia's initiative for an international conference, saying the US does not “think that Iran has a place at the table” because it is “aiding and abetting the Assad regime on the ground in the murdering of its own people".
0705 GMT: Syria. Amnesty International has claimed that two medical students and a first-aid medic were tortured to death after they were detained by Air Force Intelligence on 17 June: "The discovery of the charred and mutilated bodies of three young medical workers a week after their arrest in Aleppo city is yet further evidence of the Syrian government forces' appalling disregard for the sanctity of the role of medical workers."
Amnesty said the three men, all studying at Aleppo University, "were part of a team of doctors, nurses and first-aiders who have been providing life-saving medical treatment in makeshift 'field hospitals' set up to treat demonstrators shot by security forces and who could not therefore go to state-run hospitals for fear of being arrested, tortured or even killed."
The bodies of the men were found in the early hours of 24 June in a burned-out car in the Neirab suburb of Aleppo. Medical personnel said the bodies showed signs of torture, as well as gunshot wounds and burns, and Amnesty wrote that it has seen photographs backing up the claims.
0615 GMT: Syria. State television is reporting "a brutal terrorist attack by an armed terrorist group" the building of the pro-regime al-Ikhbariya TV channel, killing three employees.
State news agency SANA said the men planted explosive devices after they ransacked the headquarters, destroying the newsroom studio.
0605 GMT: Kuwait. Thousands of Kuwaitis protested on Tuesday against a court ruling that effectively dissolved an elected Parliament, in which the opposition had a majority, and reinstated a legislature more amenable to the Government.
The crowd gather in Erada Square opposite the Parliament building and chanted, "We will not surrender", as they denounced the corruption of MPs.
Last week the Emir suspended the latest Parliament, chosen this spring, after it had forced the resignation of two Ministers and demanded the interrogation of another. The court overturned the suspension but said the latest elections had been improperly conducted, effectively dismissing the assembly.
0515 GMT: Syria. In a televised speech last night, President Assad told the newly-appointed Cabinet, "We live in a real state of war from all angles. When we are in a war, all policies and all sides and all sectors need to be directed at winning this war."
Assad's declaration following a day of Free Syrian Army advances. Reports indicated that insurgents had consolidated control of areas in the northwest and had taken positions around Aleppo, including the seizure of a regime military base west of Syria's second city. Activists claimed, with some support from video, that more than 20 tanks and armoured vehicles were destroyed by insurgent fire.
There were mass demonstrations in Daraa in the south. And, in a highly symbolic move, Burhan Ghalioun --- the Paris-based academic and former head of the Syrian National Council --- was able to cross the border into Idlib Province and visit with opposition activists. The brief stay, captured in photographs and video, drove home the point that President Assad's regime could no longer keep its challengers outside the country.