An Assad helicopter shot out of the skies over Damascus
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2115 GMT: Syria. Claimed footage of the Free Syrian Army shortly after they captured a missile facility:
The opening statement, from a unit of the FSA in the Damascus suburb of "Eastern Ghouta", says a group stormed a rocket maintenance and modification base in the area of Iftrees, finding rockets in a ready-to-launch state and clamed some had been modified to carry unconventional warheads.
According to the statement, "It is not unlikely for the regime to resort to using rockets with unconventional warheads such as chemical, biological or other warheads. The Higher Military Council calls upon Arab nations and the international community to rapidly intervene militarily to save the lives of Syrians before this regime takes revenge with a new level of crime that would have catastrophic consequences on the entire region."
However, Brown Moses, analysing this video from the base, questions the unconventional warfare claim: "What we can see in this video are SA-5 surface to air missiles....It also seems very unlikely these missiles would actually be any use to the FSA without the correct equipment and training, as well as enough time to move them to a safe location before the Syrian Army responded."
"The majority of casualties are caused by buildings crashing down on civilians," said general surgeon Abu Abdu, who works as a general surgeon in Al-Shifaa.
The hospital mortuary received the corpses of four people on Tuesday, including the crumpled remains of a woman and a young boy, crushed to death when their homes collapsed. Another 17 people were wounded in aerial attacks, including a young girl, who was reportedly hit by a shower of shrapnel that fell on her kindergarten. The hospital also treated an insurgent who took a sniper bullet to the stomach.
Abu Abdu estimated a daily average of 25 civilians killed and 100 wounded since clashes in the city between troops and insurgents escalated on 20 July.
1511 GMT: Syria. An Iranian Revolutionary Guard commander has stated that Iran has sent armed forces and "basij" paramilitary into Syria, and will send additional forces:
Iran is now sending hundreds of rank-and-file members of the IRGC and the Basij — a plainclothes volunteer militia answering to the Guards — to Damascus....
Many of the Iranian troops hail from IRGC units outside Tehran, these people say, particularly from Iran's Azerbaijan and Kurdistan regions where they have experience dealing with ethnic separatist movements. They are replacing low-ranking Syrian soldiers who have defected to the Syrian opposition, these people said, and mainly assume non-fighting roles such as guarding weapons caches and helping to run military bases.
Iran is also deploying IRGC commanders to guide Syrian forces in battle strategy and Quds commanders to help with military intelligence, Mr. Sazegara and the current IRGC members said.
See the entry in our Iran live coverage for additional details.
1500 GMT: Bahrain. EA's John Horne reports:
Bahrain courts today extended by one week the detention of 12 year old boy Mirza Abdulshaheed, according to a report shared by Said Yousif Almuhafda of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights. Mirza, from Almalkya village, is reportedly accused of burning tyres and blocking roads. The following pictures, circulated on sociail media, are claimed to have been taken from within the court room. The first shows Mirza (right) during the hearing, the second captures the child prisoner distraught and refusing to be taken back to detention.
1446 GMT: Bahrain. Maryam AlKhawaja, acting head of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights, has written an open letter to President Morsi of Egypt following what she describes as "unjust and hostile treatment" at Cairo airport on Sunday. Mayram writes:
I had a 7-hour layover in Cairo and was going to enter the country to see Egyptian friends before boarding my connecting flight to South Africa scheduled on the same day. I was granted an entry approval at the airport. Shortly thereafter, I was called back and asked to wait. Then, my passport and travel documents were taken by the police. I was informed afterwards that I will not be allowed into the country due to “top secret reasons.”
To no avail, I repeatedly asked about what the “top secret reasons” were, and why I was not informed of their nature even though they concerned me. I was told that it was a matter of “national security and intelligence.” I was not given the information because the security officials at the airport told me “they could not provide me with the reasons as they themselves did not have access to it.”
Upon the arrival of my Egyptian attorney, he insisted on finding out why I was considered a threat to the national security of Egypt, and how they could deny me entry after they had stamped my passport with approval.
In response, we were told that “if I insisted on not leaving voluntarily, I would be forcibly deported to Bahrain.” To further intimidate me, I was also informed that the Bahraini government had issued an arrest warrant with my name.
Maryam continues, noting the similar experience she had at Cairo airport in April, when authorities threatened to block her entry.
1439 GMT: Bahrain. EA's John Horne reports:
The trial of leading human rights activist Zainab AlKhawaja on charges of tearing a picture of the King was adjourned this morning adjourned until September 4th "to hear prosecution witnesses", according to Said Yousif Almuhafda of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights. Zainab also had her request for release denied.
The charges of "destroying government property" relate to an alleged incident when Zainab was in detention in May, however they were only brought against her following her arrest on August 2nd after she held a solitary protest on crutches. Zainab is also facing three further trials on charges of 1) "illegal gathering" and "inciting hatred against the regime"; 2) obstructing traffic during a protest; and 3) an appeal by the prosecution in the case where she was acquitted in May of "insulting an officer". Amnesty International considers Zainab to be a prisoner of conscience and has called for her immediate and unconditional release and the dropping of all charges against her.
Activists in Bahrain have been raising the profile of women's rights and female prisoners over recent weeks. Yesterday in Sitra, protesters demonstrated under the title, "Our Women, the verses of resistance". The protest was ultimately attacked with tear gas. This comes just over a fortnight after a similar protest "over the targeting of female protesters" as well as a report by the Bahrain Center for Human Rights on the targeting of "pro-democracy women with arbitrary arrests".
1429 GMT: Syria. There has been a car bombing in Damascus that has targeted Assad supporters. Reuters reports:
Seven people were killed and scores were wounded when a car bomb exploded on Tuesday at a funeral in Damascus, witnesses said, in an attack that an activist group said had targeted supporters of President Bashar al-Assad.
They said the bomb exploded at the entrance to a Druze cemetery in the Jaramana district of southeast Damascus, hitting the funeral procession of two men killed in bombings a day earlier.
One witness counted seven bodies on the street after the blast, and said as many as 150 people were wounded. Another said she saw charred bodies including children.
1421 GMT: Gulf States/US. Last year US arms sales massively spiked, and the majority of those arms sales went to Saudi Arabia, with a significant portion going to other US Gulf allies. While the media's focused on the repercussions for Iran, the bottom line is that the move is part of a permanent geo-political shift. While we didn't really have time to discuss the implications for pro-democracy movements (in the short term, there won't be implications, but in the long term there may be), the bottom line is that the US is less interested in stationing large amounts of troops in the Middle East, and would prefer to see those forces shifted into the Pacific theater.
James Miller went on the radio (at 1 AM his time) to discuss the implications of the latest report.
Under the new law, the president will be entitled to announce a state of emergency for a week to order the arrest of anyone representing a threat to security.
Mekki insisted that the new law would not represent a return to the 1981 emergency law, in force under ousted President Hosni Mubarak, which expired at the end of May.
The minister said that over the coming days, he will discuss proposals to toughen the penal code with a group of human rights advocates and NGOs.
"The sound of explosions prevails in the [Harasta] town centre and warplanes are seen over the skyline," said the Syrian Revolutionary General Council, adding that smoke could also be seen rising from the nearby Qaboon district.
Sieda said the opposition was making "serious" preparations and consultations, although the announcement of a transitional government but was not imminent.
On Monday, French President Francoise Hollande called on the Syrian opposition to quickly form a provisional government, saying Paris would recognize it. However, US officials siad this was premature because the opposition is too fragmented.
1105 GMT: Syria. Up to 200,000 Syrian refugees could flee to Turkey if the conflict worsens, the UN refugee agency has said.
"We are already looking at potentially up to 200,000 and are working with the Turkish government to make the necessary plans," Sybella Wilkes, spokeswoman of the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees, said. "We are ready to send in stocks at very short notice."
More than 74,000 Syrian refugees have registered in Turkey, which is building at least five new camps in addition to the existing nine.
Last week Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu indicated Turkey could not take more than 100,000 refugees, pointing to Ankara's support for camps just inside Syrian territory.
148 martyrs were reported in Damascus and its Suburbs (including 42 martyrs in Zamalka, 39 in a new massacre in Daraya, and 25 in Mouadamiyeh) 28 in Daraa (including 11 in Jiza; most of them are women and children), 12 in Idlib; most of them in Ariha, 11 in Aleppo, 8 in Deir Ezzor, 10 in Homs.
As one can plainly see, most of the reported deaths occurred inside Rif Dimashq, either in Damascus itself or in the suburbs around the nation's capital. This is a trend that has been repeating for more than a week now, with each day bringing more and more death in Damascus. The regime appears committed to ridding the area of the Free Syrian Army, its supporters, and anyone who could even possibly join the FSA.
There was a noticeable difference in yesterday's violence, however, namely that the Free Syrian Army was firing back. The FSA successfully shot down a military helicopter over northeastern Damascus, and there were reports of pitched battles to the east of the capital.
However, the amount of insurgent combatants killed in the Damascus area is extremely low, especially when compared to insurgent deaths elsewhere. According to the VDC database, since Sunday, August 19th, a total of 667 civilians and only 11 non civilians were killed in the Damascus region. Compare this with the 1480 civilians and 152 non civilians killed nationally, and it's clear that the civilians, not the insurgents, are still the targets of the attacks around the capital.
And now, the violence in Syria is complicating the international stance on the crisis. France's President Francois Hollande has called for the international recognition of a transitional Syrian opposition government (a move that the US declined to follow). Turkey, for its part, has said that it can no longer take in many more refugees, and called for the international community to get involved and create a safe haven inside Syria:
“We will emphasize that this burden now needs to be shared by the whole international community, not just by Syria’s neighbors,” Turkey’s Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said Monday, describing the stance he plans to take when the UN Security Council meets Thursday to discuss the humanitarian issues resulting from Syria’s 18-month-old conflict.
The question becomes whether these efforts will gain any momentum in the international community. While that questions is being answered, the Syrian regime continues to pound Damascus, Aleppo, Daraa, Hama, and Homs, while the FSA continues to make gains in Homs and Deir Ez Zor. Will this recent violence for the international community to act, and will it bring a change in momentum for either the regime or the insurgency?