See also Syria Analysis: Recognising A War of Attrition br>
Syria Audio Feature: Assessing the Latest in Aleppo and Beyond --- Scott Lucas with Monocle 24 br>
Thursday's Syria (and Beyond) Live Coverage: The Insurgents Hold Out in Aleppo
2022 GMT: Syria. The Local Coordination Committees report that 150 people have been killed today by security forces. Seventy-five of the deaths were in Aleppo, with 45 "unidentified corpses" found in the Salah Ed Dine district.
2012 GMT: Syria. The demonstration in Kafromeh in Idlib Province today:
1904 GMT: Syria. Earlier, Al Jazeera reported that a shell had hit a bakery in the Tariq al Bab district of Aleppo (map), killing many, including 3 children. Now, an activist shares a disturbing video:
1837 GMT: Syria. Time to connect some dots...
First, an activist shares this report, a translation of other reports circulated on Twitter. We're not sure of the original source, but if this report is true then that will come to light soon:
FSA unification continues - 4 main units in Homs including Baba Amr martyrs battalion & Ansar battalion have unified into the Truth Brigade.— (@HamaEcho) August 10, 2012
We've seen similar trends elsewhere. Still, it's hardly incontrovertible proof that the FSA is becoming more centrally organized.
Also today, the US State Department announced that Hilary Clinton would be traveling to Turkey for emergency meetings about the Syrian crisis:
Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton plans to discuss other options Saturday, during emergency meetings in Istanbul with Turkish government leaders and opponents of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. The one-day stop in Turkey follows a 10-day diplomatic trip to Africa.
“She certainly will be looking to see whether there is anything else we can do that will have a positive impact rather than a detrimental impact on the overall situation in Syria,” a senior State Department official said Friday.
How are those two reports related? Well, three days ago an activist made some statements that the entire opposition was reforming. According to this report, local leaders, both civilian and military, had agreed to work with the major international Syrian opposition leadership, and that the focus would be on unifying command structures, and establishing rules of law. And two days ago, the Local Coordinating Committees released a "Code of Conduct" that would establish rules of war to govern the Free Syrian Army, an interesting statement coming from an organization that has resisted the idea of insurgency.
The kicker - the "47th," this activist who made the predictions, also said that Clinton would be headed to Turkey to ensure that this process was going smoothly.
In short, everything in the prediction appears to be coming true. Either "the 47th" is very lucky, or he knows something that we don't.
Another interesting prediction - "the 47th" said that some FSA fighters had been trained on the proper use of heat seeking missiles, and would be deployed accordingly at the direction of this new opposition leadership. Well, we haven't seen that come true yet, but if his luck holds out, or if he knows something we don't, then we'll be watching for the heat-seeking missiles.
75 martyrs were reported in Aleppo, including 45 unidentified corpses that were found in the Salaheddine district; 22 martyrs in Idlib; 14 in Damascus and the Damascus Suburbs;13 in Homs; 6 in Deir Ezzor; 5 in Daraa; 4 in Hama; and 1 in Lattakia.
This number does not include regime members. If reports from Kafranbel are true, dozens, or maybe more, soldiers were killed in Idlib province alone, to say nothing about the battles in Aleppo.
1750 GMT: Syria. We had previously reported that the theme of this Friday's protests were a call for a no-fly zone. Now, it seems that there is a slightly more accurate translation:
The name of the Friday in Syria today is "Supply Us With Anti-Aircraft Weapons". Clear demand from the people for arms for the FSA.— Nora Basha (@Nora0315) August 10, 2012
1650 GMT: Syria. Earlier we posted video, and some tongue-in-cheek humor, that showed "5000 AK-47's" reportedly captured by Free Syrian Army fighters in Aleppo. One Twitter user, with a keen eye, says that many of the guns look more like World War II era StG 44's, produced in Germany:
Without good lighting, it's pretty hard to know. But the FSA is reporting that it has got its hands on a lot of guns in Aleppo.
According to the report, the FSA destroyed 6 tanks and 5 armored BMPs. The FSA reportedly captured 10 BMPs, 3 tanks, and other equipment. The biggest claim, and the hardest to confirm, is the report that 300 Assad soldiers have been killed, but the regime only killed 112 people, most of whom were civilians, with an additional 450 people injured in the fight.
None of that is confirmed, however the one thing that is clear is that the amount of armor and tanks destroyed seems accurate, based on reports that we've seen. And despite the heavy death toll to civilians and insurgents, the Free Syrian Army, and not the Syrian regime, still controls the town.
That same activist shares 3 videos that seem to show a Free Syrian Army in control of the battlefield:
1603 GMT: Syria. According to the LA Times, FSA sources are reporting that not only have they recaptured the Saleh el Dine area of Aleppo (map), they have made significant gains in the Hamdania district as well (map):
There were unconfirmed reports also that regime soldiers have begun to make a quick withdrawal from the adjacent Hamdania neighborhood, where troops and tanks have been stationed for weeks, firing on Salahuddin.
The conflicting accounts could not be readily reconciled because the government has severely limited the access of outside media to the conflict zone.
This is unconfirmed news, but if true, this is a significant military blow to the Assad regime. This is the heart of the Assad military complex in Aleppo. If Assad is losing these districts, it means that the FSA has expanded its control beyond where it was before yesterday's Assad advance.
1600 GMT: Syria. This is a lot of guns:
Average FSA soldier in Aleppo after capturing 5000 AK-47s :)youtube.com/watch?v=6EsCle… LOL— (@HamaEcho) August 10, 2012
1534 GMT: Syria. We still have yet to hear any main stream journalists report on whether or not the Saleh el Dine district (map) has fallen back to the FSA, but more videos are pouring in that show FSA fighters in the district. Thursday, The Guardian reported that Assad forces were blowing holes in buildings so that they could advance into the district without moving armor down the main streets. In this video, the FSA is moving through what sure looks like the Saleh el Dine district, utilizing similar holes in the wall:
Also, this video is interesting - the FSA fight is calling to the Assad soldiers, encouraging them to defect:
1522 GMT: Syria. Yesterday the Free Syrian Army repelled an Assad military attack on Kafranbel, a key town in Idlib province (map), destroying several tanks and armored vehicles, and reportedly killing many of Assad's infantry. Today, the city is once again the site of many battles. Videos show FSA soldiers hiding from heavy gunfire, or engaged in close-quarter fighting. Then there is this report, matched by video, that the FSA has captured a T-72 tank, a BMP armored vehicle, and another military transport:
Meanwhile, on the other side of the city, Syrian State media reports that insurgents have launched an attack against the international airport (map). While the Syrian media says that the attack was defeated, it gives credence to reports that the FSA has been launching attacks on the airport which has also been used to launch helicopters and fighter jets used against the city.
1426 GMT: Syria. There are some claimed reports from the Saleh el Dine district of Aleppo (map) that are important if true, though are unconfirmed. The first, in a video that's location is difficult to visibly verify, a report that many Assad soldiers have been ambushed and killed:
The second claim is even more dramatic - a video shows many streets cleared of Assad fighters, with the FSA in control. The streets could be the Saleh el Dine district in Aleppo, as it is similar to other videos, but there are no definitive landmarks to verify it. The claim goes beyond this - that the entire district has been retaken by the Free Syrian Army:
This claim is unverified. We do see plenty of evidence that the FSA is once again on the offensive, however, and our sources suggest that at least part of the district is in FSA hands.
1406 GMT: Syria. The conflict is having impacts on the humanitarian situation in Syria that extends far beyond the obvious. One major problem is that medicine production is down, at the same time when prices are increasing, income decreasing, and people need the aid the most. The World Health Organization (WHO) is growing increasingly concerned about the situation, particularly as violence is escalating in Aleppo:
“The recent escalation of clashes had resulted in substantial damages to the pharmaceutical plants located in rural Aleppo, Homs and Rural Damascus, where 90 per cent of the country’s plants were located,” a WHO spokesperson, Tarik Jasarevic, told reporters in Geneva today. “Many of these plants had now closed down, thus resulting in a critical shortage of medicines.”
Prior to the violence which has wracked the Middle Eastern country, Syria produced 90 per cent of its medicines and drugs locally.
However, this production has slowed down due to insecurity, the decreased availability of raw materials, sanctions and increased fuel costs stemming from the violence that has killed an estimated 17,000 people, mostly civilians, since the uprising against President Bashar al-Assad began some 17 months ago.
But some help is on the way. More organizations, like the Turkish IHH, are launching programs to help both refugees and those inside Syria. And today, in a northern border crossing (map) that has been bitterly contested for weeks, there are signs that aid shipments are arriving:
1352 GMT: Syria. The fighting continues in the Saleh el Dine district of Aleppo (map), where the Free Syrian Army appears to be ambushing regime forces in the small alleys and sidestreets. It's hard to get a sense of progress made by either side, but there are some videos of the fighting.
This video reportedly shows an FSA fighter shooting an RPG at an unseen target beyond the walls of this alley:
FSA fighters putting down a stream of gunfire at an unseen target:
The 200-member Assembly will name a Prime Minister, pass laws, and serve until there are full parliamentary elections after a new constitution is drafted next year.
An economist and former Libyan ambassador to India who had lived in exile since the 1980s, Magarief was a leading figure in Libya's oldest opposition movement, the National Front for the Salvation of Libya, during the years of the Qaddafi regime.
1322 GMT: Syria. The death toll is shockingly high for this early hour. The Local Coordinating Committees claim that 91 people have already been killed by regime forces:
51 martyrs were reported in Aleppo, including 45 unidentified corpses that were found in the Salaheddine district; 15 martyrs in Idlib; 10 in Damascus and the Damascus Suburbs; 5 in Deir Ezzor; 4 in Daraa; 3 in Hama; 2 in Homs; and 1 in Lattakia.
The LCC reports do not usually distinguish between insurgents and civilians, and never include regime forces killed in combat. Syrian State media has also long since stopped reporting that latter.
An activist shares a terrible video reportedly showing protesters lying on the streets in the New Aleppo district (map), after security forces opened fire on an anti-government demonstration. New Aleppo is not far from Saleh el Dine where the heaviest fighting has been over the last few days.
1310 GMT: Syria. Mazen Darwish, the head of the Syrian Centre for Media and Freedom of Expression (SCM), an imprisoned citizen journalist, was due to appear before a judge on August 6th. But Syrian Air Force Intelligence failed produce Darwish to the judge. Now, Reporters Without Borders is growing increasingly concerned about the fate of Darwish, and other detainees, as well as the bout of new arrests in recent days:
Darwish, of whom there has been no news since his arrest, will therefore be tried by a special military court that holds its hearings behind closed doors at military police headquarters in the northeastern Damascus district of Qabon. It does not allow defendants to be represented by a lawyer, its proceedings are completely secret and its sentences are carried out immediately.
The judge presiding the 6 August hearing also rejected requests by lawyers to defend the eight other defendants - Yara Badr, Razan Ghazzawi, Mayada Khalil, Sana Zetani, Hussein Gharir, Hani Zetani, Mansour Al-Omari and Abdel Rahman Hamada - and adjourned the case until 29 August.
The last four - Hussein Gharir, Hani Zetani, Mansour Al-Omari and Abdel Rahman Hamada - are, like Darwish, being held incommunicado. Reporters Without Borders calls on the Syrian authorities to reveal where they are being held.
As one of our longtime readers notes, we've covered the the various arrests of Darwish, who along with several other prominent citizen journalists have been arrested many times since December.
1253 GMT: Syria.. Claimed footage of Free Syrian Army fighters in Salah Ed Dine in Aleppo today:
1253 GMT: Syria.. Claimed footage of Free Syrian Army fighters in Salah Ed Dine in Aleppo today:
Binnish in Idlib Province (map):
And the Shaar district of Aleppo (map):
1240 GMT: Syria. Extracts from today's statement by British Foreign Secretary William Hague of increased aid to the insurgency:
We will expand our support to the Syrian people and the Syrian political opposition, with an extra £5 million in non-lethal practical assistance. This will help protect unarmed opposition groups, human rights activists and civilians from some of the worst of the violence. This is in addition to and separate from our humanitarian assistance.
We expect that our assistance will include trauma and medical supplies for civilians in areas under regime control, and could include items such as paramedic trauma kits, specialist trauma treatment for surgical equipment, field dressings, antibiotics, painkillers, and water purification kits to respond to the cutting of fresh water supplies.
I have agreed in principle that our assistance to the opposition will include communications equipment, to help political activists overcome the regime’s communications blockade and ensure their message gets to the outside world....Our help is likely to include, for instance, mobile phones, satellite phones and radio equipment which can be used to warn civilians of impending regime assaults.We will help build local capacity among Syrian doctors to collect forensic evidence of torture that can be used in future trials. We will provide more training to support the documentation by Syrian activists of human rights violations and abuses, and to support steps to help Syrian opposition groups to uphold human rights.
I have also agreed in principle that our assistance should include life saving protective equipment for civilians to help those carrying out vital work in the crossfire and this could for instance include body armour.
Our assistance does not include lethal assistance to the armed opposition, and we will of course be careful to whom we provide the practical help that I have mentioned.
1220 GMT: Syria. This video was reportedly taken today outside the central mosque in Harasta (map). The area has been site of heavy fighting in recent weeks, though we haven't seen reports of violence on Friday.
Every Friday has a themed protest, agreed after a vote on opposition Facebook pages. Today's is "The People Need a No-Fly Zone".
1156 GMT: Syria. In our last entry we posted video of a protest in Kafer Zita, Hama province (map). There are now reports, including one from the Local Coordinating Committees, that the town is now under a sustained artillery and rocket assault.
1120 GMT: Syria. Today is Friday. On every Friday since the start of the uprising last March, large crowds have congregated in nearly every town and village, gathering to protest after Friday prayers. Those protests are often dispersed by security forces, usually with extreme force. It's worth remembering that this is how the insurgency started - soldiers who refused to fire on peaceful protesters joined in arms against the Assad regime. Soldiers who were tired on the killing then made efforts to form perimeters to protect the peaceful protesters. Soon, these efforts turned into a full-blown revolution.
Today, there will be shelling, there will be blood, but there will be protests despite this. Those protests will likely be markedly smaller, because of all the violence, but they will persist..
Here are just a few examples. There will be more as the day develops.
Posted by The Guardian, a demonstration in Kobani, northern Aleppo province (map). While Kobani is under the control of Kurds, who liberated the city from the Assad regime in recent weeks, the large flag is that of the Syrian opposition:
Another from Kobani:
A small protest in the little town of Elmah, Daraa Province (map):
A funeral in Al Absmo, a small town in Aleppo Province (" target="_blank">map):
Prayers for the victims of the conflict in Kaferzita, Hama (map):
While the open announcement deserves attention, this issue may be more important --- is London putting out the news to cover even more significant covert support, as it denies that the £5 million is being used for arms?
0805 GMT: Syria. State news agency SANA covers Aleppo by praising "heroic" armed forces for "cleaning" areas of "the armed terrorists groups" and "fleeing Gulf-Sheikhs mercenary terrorists". Sections named include al-Halk, al-Asiyleh, Bab al-Nasr, Halab al-Jadida, al-Nairab, and Salah Ed Dine.
The agency declares, "Citizens and inhabitants welcomed the army members, expressing their support to the army's efforts to clean their quarters from terrorists."
0520 GMT: Syria. The situation in Aleppo, where insurgents and regime forces have been fighting for almost three weeks, is unclear this morning. Reports from Thursday indicate that the Free Syrian Army has pulled most of its forces from Salah Ed Dine, the neighbourhood where the clashes began, but there have been no significant updates for almost 12 hours.
If Salah Ed Dine has been "lost" by the Free Syrian Army, which was promising a counter-attack last night, attention will shift to other sections where its members are still present, including Hanano, Saif al-Dawla, Shaar, and Shakour.
Meanwhile, the insurgents are seeking to consolidate their hold on territory beyond Syria's largest city, raising the question, as I argued in a radio interview on Thursday, if the regime might win a major battle but lose a war. In at least one case, however, the regime was trying to break that grip on Thursday, with heavy fighting and bombardment of Kafranbel in Idlib Province.
The Local Coordination Committees of Syria claim 142 people died at the hands of security forces on Thursday. The LCCS focuses on documentation of cases where civilians have been killed, so insurgent casualties --- especially in Aleppo --- are unknown. The regime has stopped publishing figures about losses among its forces.