A woman yells at Syrian pro-regime militia whom she claims killed her son
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Wednesday's Syria (and Beyond) Live Coverage: Battles from Deir Ez Zor to Damascus's Suburbs
1906 GMT: Syria. There are a series of reports that suggest that Manaf Tlass, a high-ranking general in the Syrian Republican Guard, and a member of Assad's inner circle. Tlass is a trusted member of the regime, and a long-time friend of Assad's, but he is also a member of an extremely powerful Sunni family, and rumors have been spreading that he and his brother were increasingly frustrated at the actions of the regime. The Guardian reports:
Tlass's defection was reported by Syriasteps, a news website linked to the country's security apparatus. It said that "a highly placed source in intelligence has confirmed that General Manaf Mustafa Tlass has fled to Turkey", and quoted a security official as saying: "His escape does not mean anything."
While The Guardian offers an excellent overview of the importance of Tlass, and Reuters offers some additional context, we'd caution that this news is still unconfirmed. For hours we've been hearing these rumors, but have put off publishing them for want of a better source. By now, however, many major news agencies are reporting the story.
1841 GMT: Syria. Earlier we posted video of shells falling on the Baba Amr district in Homs. For several hours activists have been reporting shelling of the Juret al Shayah district, in central Homs as well (map). Now, LCCS posts dramatic footage reportedly showing a building that collapsed from the shelling there (watch past 30 second mark):
Further to the south, there are reports that al Qusayr (map) has been totally hammered by shelling today. The LCC posts an amazing piece of footage, claiming to show the shells falling on the city. Once again, these match, generally, eyewitness reports:
1555 GMT: Syria. One of the Youtube channels that posted the pictures of the destroyed trucks in Izaz (map, see update 1524 GMT) has also posted this video, which matches reports posted by several pro-FSA accounts on Twitter. It reportedly shows the national hospital in the city having been captured by the Free Syrian Army.
We have not been able to verify the video.
In the last few seconds, what sounds like an airplane or helicopter can be heard, and then a loud sound that could be a gunshot:
1531 GMT: Syria. This video reportedly shows smoke rising from Baba Amr, an area of Homs that was reportedly heavily shelled today:
However, there are rumors, posted on an opposition Facebook page, that at least one helicopter was shot down by insurgents. Videos appear to show a damaged building near a railway station on fire. The insurgents claim that the videos are proof that they shot down a helicopter, however the videos are inconclusive:
1524 GMT: Syria. Since this morning there have been rumors that a convoy of commercial vehicles from Turkey were fired on in northern Syria, specifically in the embattled town of Azzaz (or Izaz, map). Now, Zaman News, perhaps one of Turkey's most respected papers, reports that 4 vehicles, reportedly simultaneously attacked by helicopters and gunfire from troops and armored vehicles.
According to the report, the vehicles were carrying textiles from Jordan, through Aleppo, and were on their way to Killis, Turkey, and points beyond when the vehicles were attacked.
An activist on Twitter, who also helped with the translation, shares this video which has been making the rounds through the Syrian opposition today:
Video of the Turkish trucks that where destroyed by Assad's forces without any reason other than being Turkish youtu.be/Wwo-0_TLQ1o— Turk4Syria (@Turk4Syria) July 5, 2012
1505 GMT: Bahrain. Opposition society Al-Wefaq claims that last night, during a series of raids by security forces across several villages, houses were ransacked, 11 arrests were made and several citizens were "assaulted and beaten". Those beaten include an "11 year old boy from Sanabis," who, after being detained by police, "was then found in the street in a bad condition, with visible signs of severe beating on his body". Al-Wefaq adds the following photographs, which we are unable to verify:
1454 GMT: Bahrain. This report from EA correspondent John Horne:
Ali Hassan, the 11-year old boy accused of participating in an anti-government protest, appeared in court today. Whilst the charges against him weren't dropped, the judge ruled that he could return home where he "must be monitored by a social worker for a year". Ali's case triggered international outrage after it emerged that he had spent nearly a month in prison, following his arrest in May on seemingly specious grounds. This week, Amnesty launched an urgent campaign, arguing that Ali's treatment was in contravention to Bahrain's own Penal Code, not to mention the UN Convention for the Rights of the Child, to which Bahrain is a signatory.
1400 GMT: Syria. The spark that moves Turkey towards action in Syria could be fire - wildfires, in particularly, that the Turkish government says are burning at four points along the border. The Turkish government has accused the Syrian regime of lighting the fires, that have now crossed over into Turkey:
Mehmet Harbi, a forestry official, claimed the fires were "deliberately started" at four different points on the Syrian side of the border and spread to Turkey due to strong winds. Turkey's state-run TRT television said Syrian forces are believed to have started the fires to deny shelter to rebels along the border area. Harbi and TRT provided no evidence to substantiate their claims.
For weeks, there have been videos of burning crops, trees along major highways, and other examples of fire being use to, according to activists, cut the supplies of the opposition. Two days ago, video showed shelling, smoke, and fire in the western areas of Idlib province, an attempt to cut the supply lines of the insurgent Free Syrian Army. It has been impossible to determine who has lit these fires, or how they started, but the pattern of evidence suggests that forces in opposition to the Assad regime have been disproportionately affected by the burning crops and brush land.
If the fires spread further, this could be the excuse that the Turkish government needs to finally conclude that the Assad regime is a fundamental threat to Turkish security.
All eyes are fixed on the border.
James Miller takes over today's live coverage. Big thanks to Scott Lucas for getting us started so early this morning, despite being on the road today.
0620 GMT: Syria. Insurgents are claiming that they have captured the town of Salqin in Idlib Province.
Brown Moses has more information and videos, including a compilation of the fighting and a woman admonishing shabiha (pro-regime militia) who allegedly killed her son (see top of entry):
The "provisional" decision followed publication of a photograph of a Swiss grenade, taken by a reporter shadowing insurgents in the town of Marea, north of Aleppo, at the end of June.
0440 GMT: Syria. While international media have been following the verbal battle between Syrian and Turkish leaders, after President Assad's forces downed one of Ankara's jet fighters and killed two pilots, the physical battle continues along the border. Yesterday Turkish journalist Memet Aksakal, speaking from Turkey's border town of Killis, told The Guardian of six days of bombardment of the Syrian town of Azzaz.
At the moment when we look from the border we see black smoke rising from the town. We see sometimes helicopters but mostly it is being shelled by tanks.
Many people from the town are trying to escape, but they are scared to get out of their houses. So far 24 houses have been damaged by bombing. Yesterday we heard 10 children have been killed.
Yesterday and also today, helicopters were attacking.
I think there is a danger of a new massacre.
The Local Coordination Committees of Syria reports that 70 people were killed by security forces on Wednesday.