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Friday
Jan182013

Syria Live Coverage: Another Mass Killing, Another Dispute of Responsibility

Today's demonstration in Kafranbel in Idlib Province

See also Syria Feature: Who Carried Out the Mass Killing in Haswiyeh?
Algeria (and Beyond) Coverage: At Least 30 Hostages Killed in Rescue Attempt
Thursday's Syria Live Coverage: Who Bombed Aleppo University?


2015 GMT: Al Jazeera Reporter was Activist. Al Jazeera English provides more information on the Al Jazeera reporter who was killed in Daraa:

"The Syrian journalist, 33, used the pseudonym of Mohamed Al-Horani, was shot with three bullets, during covering the fights at the front lines in the town of Busra Al-Harir in the countryside of Daraa." the news channel said in a press release on Friday.

An Al Jazeera Media Network spokesperson affirmed that "targeting its collaborating journalists and crews will not change the editorial method and guidelines adopted by the network since it was launched 16 years ago for the sake of delivering the truth".

AJE's liveblog says that Horani was a "freelancer."

Al Jazeera says that this is another example of the regime targeting journalists. But here's the problem. A video shows the minute he was shot. The first and obvious problem is that he was traveling with armed combatants, which means that he was vulnerable to being targeted by an opposing faction. Rules of war dictate that journalists and medical professionals should not be specifically targeted, but if they are traveling with combatants then this prohibition is more or less out the window. The second problem is the method in which he was killed. Horani, his cameraman, and a group of insurgents arrive at a street. First, an armed (and fast moving) insurgent runs across the street. After a pause, Horani then runs. He is not as fast, and the sniper has had time to line up a shot. The sniper opens fire, and Horani falls.

The sniper may not have known that a member of the press was in the area, expected an insurgent to cross the road, and likely did not have enough time to properly discern that Horani was not an insurgent. A combat veteran we showed the video too shook his head, because the folly of Horani's decision was so obvious to him.

This begs another question. According to Al Jazeera, this is a freelance journalist who was first an activist in Syria. He began to work for Al Jazeera after he was arrested and then released from prison. Did this man have any training in journalism? Was he objective? Was he properly trained by Al Jazeera to protect himself in a warzone? Or was he just given a camera and set loose?

1950 GMT: Death Toll Hits 151. According to the Local Coordination Committees, 151 people have been killed, including 58 in Damascus and its suburbs and 41 in Aleppo Province.

This week will easily go down as the bloodiest week of 2013. Even conservative estimates place this week's death toll at nearly 1000, with most estimates saying that between 1000 and 1200 people have been killed in the last 7 days. This is amazing, especially considering that the victims of the Hasiweyah massacre are not counted in most of these figures, and the day is not over yet.

The Local Coordination Committees (LCC) is an activist network operating both inside and outside of Syria. They claim to use stringent verification processes to ensure that a member of the LCC can vouch for any information posted either on their Facebook page or their website. The LCC also populates a database of those killed in the Syrian conflict, which can be seen at the website for the Center for Documentation of Violations in Syria.

The LCC's casualty figures are a mix of insurgents and civilians, and never include regime casualties. Syrian State Media has stopped reporting regime casualty figures.

1925 GMT: Al Jazeera Journalist Killed. According to LBC, Mohammad al-Masalima Abou al-Nemer, also known as Mohammad al-Hourani, was shot by a sniper in Darayya today. A video shows the minute he was shot as he and several insurgents tried to run across a street. The AFP also carries the report:

"Mohammed Hourani was shot dead by a regime sniper in Basr al-Harir in the province of Daraa, while he was covering the clashes there," the pan-Arab news channel said. Before joining Al-Jazeera, the Arab world's most widely viewed news channel, Hourani was an activist in the revolt against President Bashar al-Assad, the broadcaster said.

He is the second journalist to die in less than 24 hours, after Belgian journalist Yves Debay was reportedly shot by a sniper in Aleppo yesterday.

1446 GMT: Evidence of House-to-House bloodshed near Homs. We've updated our separate feature about the Hawiyeh massacre to add new evidence from the BBC's Lyse Doucet, who has been given a tour of the village. What Doucet obseerved leads credence to the claims that house-to-house raids were conducted and civilians were massacred in their homes. The culprit, however, is still very much unknown.

See also Syria Feature: Who Carried Out the Mass Killing in Haswiyeh?

1415 GMT: Fighting in Southeast Damascus. According to the LCC, not only have airstrike campaigns intensified today across the eastern suburbs, but there are intense battles for the control of the "Management of Air Defense" building in Maliha (map). Meanwhile, Darayya to the west of the capital is still under siege, and intense bombing campaigns have reportedly rocked this suburb again as the regime still has not regained control after weeks of siege:

James Miller takes over today's live coverage. Thanks to Scott Lucas for getting us through the morning.

1250 GMT: Car Bombs. State news agency SANA is reporting that two car bombs have exploded in Daraa al-Balad in southern Syria, near Friday prayers at a mosque. It says there have been casualties.

The opposition Local Coordination Committees are also reporting explosions.

State TV is also claiming that rockets fired by insurgents have hit a building in central Aleppo.

The televsion report showed a collapsed building and crowds of people pulling bloodied bodies from the rubble. The number of casualties was not given.

1245 GMT: Refugees. France 24 reports on conditions in refugee camps through the case of Mohammed Melsi, who hanged himself on Tuesday in southern Lebanon after his family fled the Yarmouk camp in south Damascus.

1200 GMT: Protests. The message from today's protest in Kafranbel in Idlib Province (see top of entry): "Aleppo University Massacre Proved That Pro-Humanity Claimants Are Actually Pro-Terrorism By Ignoring Assad's Violations".

The rally in Binnish:

1150 GMT: A Journalist is Killed. The opposition Aleppo Information Center is reporting the death of war correspondent Yves Debay during fighting in Aleppo.

Debay, a former Belgian soldier, turned to journalism and dcoumentary-making in 1985. He covered the Lebanese civil war, the two Gulf wars, the war in Yugoslavia, and the 2001 war in Afghanistan. In 2005 he established Assault magazine in France.

0705 GMT: Confusion over a Mass Killing. Yesterday we began Live Coverage with a note of the continuing dispute over responsibility for Tuesday's double explosion at Aleppo University, which killed more than 80 people.

This morning we begin with conflicting claims over another mass killing on Tuesday, this one in the village of Haswiyeh near Homs.

Accounts on the day indicated scores of people had been slain. Activists said regime troops or pro-regime militia were the assailants; State media did not mention the incident.

The estimated toll rose during the week, with one activist group claiming more than 100 killed, but the cause of the deaths was still unclear. Then on Thursday, Bill Neely of Britain's ITV filed a report from the area: residents were pointing to opposition fighters or men in "black uniforms and...headbands with Jihadi slogans" as the assailants. Some locals were claiming that the Islamist insurgency Jabhat al Nusra was responsible.

In a separate feature --- originally posted in Live Coverage last night --- James Miller works through what we do and do not know.

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