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Monday
Jul162012

Syria (and Beyond) Live Coverage: Fighting in Damascus


View Syria - 2012 July 16 - EA Worldview in a larger map

An Interactive map of today's events. Click on the location to see a link to our news entry, or click on the link above to open the map in a larger window

See also Syria Audio Feature: "Gradually The Regime is Losing Control" --- Scott Lucas with Monocle 24
Bahrain Feature: The Underground Network of Doctors
Turkey Analysis: Syria and Barzani Unsettle Ankara's Official Policy on Kurdistan
Bahrain Feature: The Stalling of Economic Reforms
Sunday's Syria (and Beyond) Live Coverage: "Battle" or "Massacre" in Tremseh?


2020 GMT: Syria. The LCC reports that 84 people have been killed today, including civilians and Free Syrian Army soldiers:

In Hama there were 29 martyrs, 20 in Homs, 9 in Damascus, 8 in Aleppo, 8 in Daraa, 4 in Deir Ezzor, 3 in Idlib and 3 in Damascus Suburbs.

The number may be surprising for some readers, as the amount killed in Damascus appears to be extremely low considering the scale of the fighting today. There are a few possible reasons for this. First, and perhaps most importantly, the fighting did not seem to progress. Though it was widespread, the FSA did not capture any significant territory, and the security forces did not dislodge any FSA positions. Though the FSA didn't necessarily hold ground, and the battle lines in some areas were fluid, the FSA was not directly challenged by the regime.

However, the numbers simply reflect that while the battles in Damascus are relatively new, the battles in Hama, Homs, Aleppo, Idlib, Daraa, and Deir Ez Zor are raging. While any one day may post a higher or lower casualty figure, in parts of the country "civil war" isn't a designation from the Red Cross, it's now a familiar reality.

However, with reports of conflict continuing well into the night in Damascus, that number may still rise. If there are dead or injured too close to battle, those numbers may not be released for some time.

Tomorrow will likely see a continuation of some of this fighting, so stay tuned.

1958 GMT: Syria. The video is dramatic, but nowhere near as dramatic as the location - the LCC claims that this was taken in Daf Shouk, Damascus (map). Daf Shouk is both further north and further east than previous reported violence today. With so many reports, it's not surprising that we're still finding new locations of fighting. But what is surprising is how widespread the fighting inside the capital city was today:

1816 GMT: Syria. The Gulf Center for Human Rights has called for the immediate release of Bassel Khartabil, a well know computer programmer who was arrested in March but has yet to be charge with a crime.

EA's John Horne finds this video, courtesy of Hama Echo, that was tweeted yesterday showing Sunday's protests in Dar Shouk. As the crowd gathers, gunfire sounds and many run:

Bassel Khartabil is an information technology teacher and computer engineer specialising in open source software development. He is a well-known contributor to global software and culture communities like Creative Commons, Mozilla Firefox, Wikipedia, Open Clip Art Library, Fabricatorz, and Sharism.

Bassel Khartabil has been in detention for five months, however, no information has yet been released by the authorities concerning any charges against him. Despite their on-going efforts his family have been denied any contact with him or information concerning his condition. It was recently revealed that he is being held in Kafer Sousa security detention branch 291. This information has caused great concern for his physical and psychological safety, as detainees held there have been subjected to torture and inhumane treatment as uncovered in the recent Human Rights Watch report “ Syria: Torture Centres revealed”.

Khartabil is well known in the open-source information technology circle, but he is just one of tens of thousands of political prisoners who have disappeared into Syria's prisons.

1806 GMT: Syria. There are indications that fighting in Damascus may continue into the night. The LCC posts this video of gunfire in Nahre Eshe (map) at dusk:

Meanwhile, south of the capital, in Sabineh (map), protesters have gathered on a major road, and they too have set up flaming roadblocks to prevent security forces from confronting the crowds:

1739 GMT: Syria. One of the challenges of this conflict is that while the Free Syrian Army insurgents battle with regime forces, peaceful protests persist in nearly the same area. In Nahre Eshe, protesters lit fires to block the roads so that security forces could not descend on the crowds, however only hundreds of meters away full-fledged battles raged.

This is a video of a peaceful protest in Nahre Eshe (map):

This crowd reportedly protested today in the central district of Bab Sraija (map).

1654 GMT: Syria. The LCC reports that fighting has spread to Zahira, another important and central district of Damascus (map):

Clashes are reported near Ashmar Mosque, a well as news of five tanks arriving to the vacinity of the Majed Mosque in Qaa. Sounds of explosions could be heard across the capital

Looking at the map again, this mosque is further north and east than much of the previously reported violence, suggesting that the fighting may be moving towards the center of the city.

1640 GMT: Syria. Zilal forwards us this video, a 5 minute clip (it repeats without sound) showing a group of FSA fighters firing from behind a bus, reportedly today in Midan, Damascus (map):

1600 GMT: Syria. Meanwhile, in Izaz, north of Aleppo, battles reportedly raged again today (map). The Syrian military has been trying to retake the town for weeks, but two videos, and activist reporting, suggest that they have once again failed to do so. The first video, taken behind FSA lines, show insurgents maneuvering to combat enemy troops and armored vehicles:

The next video appears to show tanks redeploying on the outskirts of the town, while FSA sniper and machine gun fire harasses the tank crews. It's interesting that the regime's tanks appear to flee the scene, rather than confront the FSA fighters, perhaps because they fear an ambush:

1548 GMT: Syria. Zilal provides a video showing tanks and troops moving into Nahre Eshe (map). Note the black spots on the highway, spots that match video we posted earlier of fires burning (see update 1240):

1452 GMT: Syria. The Guardian reports that the news of the closing of the highway in Nahre Eshe has been confirmed by the AP:

The fighting in Damascus briefly closed the highway linking the capital with Damascus International Airport to the city's south, an unprecedented development, Mustafa Osso, an activist based in Syria told AP.

He said:

It seems there is a new strategy to bring the fighting into the centre of the capital. The capital used to be safe. This will trouble the regime."

But another Syrian activist, Susan Ahmad, told Al-Jazeera English the fighting was initiated by government forces because the Free Syrian Army had secured a foothold at striking distance from major state installations.

EA has also received information that a highway between Darayya (map) and the capital has also been closed, and battles are escalating there as well.

1447 GMT: Syria. Two videos, both reportedly from Midan (map of area), show smoke rising near minarets. These two mosques appear to be different, and we believe at least one of them is in the north of the district, suggesting that the fighting in Midan is fairly widespread. However, we've yet to definitively pinpoint these locations:

1440 GMT: Syria. We're starting to see videos of alleged sniper victims (graphic) in Nahre Eshe (map). The LCC has this report:

Snipers are ascending to high places and government building, they target anything that moves. There are reports of 3 martyrs. The shelling and clashes in Nahr Esha and Midan continue.

1420 GMT: Syria. Breaking news from Midan (map), provided by the CFDPC:

A military armored vehicle of Assad forces has been destroyed in the Midan area of central Damascus, death of several snipers stationed on the rooftop of buildings targeting passersby. Several members of Assad forces have been killed.

While this news, posted just 2 minutes ago, is unconfirmed, the CFDPC has proven highly reliable in the past.

1407 GMT: Syria. This is another video capture of the live-stream from Al Jazeera Mubasher that appeared to end in dramatic fashion. Just as the gunfire and explosions were heating up, the video went dead. It returned for several minutes, but the Arabic network has not returned to the broadcast for perhaps the last 30 minutes.

The video reports to show a gun battle in Midan, Damascus (map). The FSA soldiers seen in the video are fighting from behind these walls, but the fighting was escalating immediately before the video died. However, the footage is dramatic.

1402 GMT: Egypt. The public prosecutor has ordered former President Hosni Mubarak to return to prison. Mubarak had been released to a military hospital, but according to the prosecutor the deposed dictator's health is improving and he will be returned to prison to serve his life sentence.

1355 GMT: Syria. Yet another central district of Deir Ez Zor has been shelled (approximate location on map):

1330 GMT: Syria. LCC shares this video, showing the Sinaa district of Deir Ez Zor burning after shells landed (map):

The Hamidiyeh district (map) in the center of the city has also been heavily shelled, as are several other districts. There has also reportedly been more blood shed in Al Bukamal, to the south (map).

Damascus may capture the headlines today, for obvious reasons, but this fight rages in nearly every corner of the country today.

1318 GMT: Syria. The following is a screen grab of al Jazeera Mubasher, a 15 minute video reportedly streaming from the Midan district of Damascus (map). The live stream can be found here, but this video shows some of the intense fighting earlier today. The fighting appears to be continuing, according to other streams, and eyewitness reports:

1305 GMT: Syria. MAYDAY in Midan - intense gun battles are reported in this central area of Damascus (map). Al Jazeera Mubasher has a live stream behind insurgent battle lines in the area. Meanwhile, this live stream reports to show large amounts of gunfire echoing over the city:

1259 GMT: Syria. The LCCS posts a different video showing the closing of a major highway in Nahre Eshe (map), effectively crippling traffic flow on a major artery through the capital:

1240 GMT: Syria. According to EA's sources, there is heavy fighting in the Midan, Kafer souseh, Nahre Eshe, Kadam, Tadamon, Asali, and Yarmouk areas of Damascus. We've created a map, which we will update as the day goes on.


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A car, riddled with bullet holes, burns in the Midan district (map) of Damascus. According to the CFDPC, the car was fileld with Assad thugs, and it was destroyed by FSA fighters.

There are two primary elements to the opposition in Damascus - peaceful protesters, and Free Syrian Army insurgents. While the FSA is engaged in gun battles, the protesters are using this opportunity to demonstrate and to show other signs of defiance.

We've spoken with Zilal, an activist associated with the Coalition of Free Damascenes for Peaceful Change (CFDPC), a network of activists who report on Damascus and the surrounding areas. She has this report:

[The news] I received in Nahar Eishe (map) is that people blocked the Damascus - Daraa international highway in solidarity with Midan, Tadamon, and other areas.

And then there were sounds of gunfire from machine guns from Assad forces after people blocked the road.

1201 GMT: Syria. Demonstration this morning in Kafarouma in Idlib Province:

1156 GMT: Syria. Morocco has asked the Syrian ambassador to leave the country immediately, and Damascus has retaliated by declaring the Moroccan ambassador persona non grata.

1153 GMT: Syria. The Local Coordination Commitees of Syria reports that 16 people have died so far today.

1149 GMT: Syria. Videos testify to deaths in Rastan, near Homs, from regime attacks (see 0600 GMT) --- one of the latest clips shows a mother mourning her slain children.

1139 GMT: Syria. The New York Times, which used a weekend report to turn last weekend's mass killing in Tremseh into a "battle" between the regime and insurgents, takes a much different line today:

The observers who visited on Sunday counted more than 50 houses that had been burned or otherwise destroyed, with pools of blood and human remains seen in a number of them, the latest statement said.

It said the team had interviewed 27 residents of the village, who confirmed that the attack started at 5 a.m. on Thursday with the village being shelled, followed by a ground assault.

The army conducted house-to-house searches, demanding that males produce their identification cards. Some were killed on the spot, while others were taken away, the residents said, according to the United Nations statement.

“The attack appears targeted at army defectors and activists,” the statement said. The United Nations also said the weaponry used against the village included artillery, mortars and small arms, with a doctor and his children among those killed when a mortar shell struck their house.

1135 GMT: Syria. Claimed footage of Major-General Adnan Sillu, the former head of Syria's chemical weapons programme, announcing his defection:

1131 GMT: Syria. Claimed footage of shelling of Jourat al-Shayyah section of Homs today:

1126 GMT: Syria. Activists and residents report continuing clashes in Damascus, with armoured vehicles moving into the southern district of Midan (map), snipers deployed on rooftops, and sounds of machine gun fire.

"Security forces entered the neighbourhood, there is a real war going on right now," a resident in Midan said.

Another activist said, "The rebels are trying to hold the army off in al-Zahra al-Jadeeda (neighbourhood). There is fighting there and the sound of bombardment and rocket-propelled grenades is echoing from there."

Activists said that at least five people were killed and dozens more wounded in Sunday's fighting and that they expected more casualties today.

One activist said, "There were thousands of fighters in some of those suburbs [of Damascus]. Some of them were killed but a lot of them fled and they've been heading to the capital itself."

1111 GMT: United Arab Emirates. Officials said on Sunday they are investigating a group, “subordinate to foreign organisations and agendas”, that “aims to commit crimes against state security and challenge the constitution and basic principles that government in the state is based on”.

The State news agency reported, “Prosecutors ordered the group’s arrest and issued orders for their arrest pending investigations. Investigations are continuing to uncover the extent of the conspiracy this group and its members were planning.”

0631 GMT: Syria. Claimed sounds of fighting in the Kafarsouseh section of Damascus this morning:

0625 GMT: Syria. Iranian cartoonist Maya Neyestani offers a pointed comment on the United Nations and the violence:

0600 GMT: Syria. Claimed footage of men trying to rescue a woman and children from a shelled house in Rastan in Syria:

0510 GMT: Syria. While debate continued over responsibility for last Thursday's mass killing in Tremseh, with the regime denying any responsibility --- this was a "military operation", in which no heavy weapons were used, not a "massacre" --- the clashes and deaths continued through the country. The Local Coordination Committees reported that 72 people died at the hands of security forces.

Beyond the casualties, the significance lay in reports of fighting across several neighbourhoods in Damascus. There were clashes in Kafarsouseh, Tadamon, Qabir Atika, and even the central area.

The Red Cross recognised the spread of the fighting, declaring, "We are now talking about a non-international armed conflict in the country."

Claimed video of insurgents in the streets of Damascus on Sunday

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