Devastation and casualties after Saturday's aerial shelling of Al-Bab near Aleppo (Warning: Graphic Images)
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Saturday's Syria Live Coverage: Insurgents Storm The Prison in Idlib
2150 GMT: Casualties. The Local Coordination Committees report that 103 people have been killed today, including six women and 11 children. Forty-one of the deaths were in Damascus and its suburbs, 18 in Homs Province, and 16 in Aleppo Province.
1650 GMT: A Russian Criticism. In unexpectedly critical remarks, Prime Minister Dmitri Medvedev has said, "It seems to me that [President Assad's] chances of staying (in power) are shrinking day by day."
Medvedev said Assad had made a mistake early in the two-year conflict, "He should have acted much more quickly and reached out to the peaceful opposition, which was ready to sit at the negotiating table with him. It's a grave error on his part, perhaps fatal."
Medvedev maintained Russia's position against foreign intervention, "I repeat once again: It is for the Syrian people to decide. Not Russia or the United States or any other country."
1230 GMT: Aleppo. The battlefield in the al-Sheikh Sa'id neighbourhood of Aleppo:
The tensions had been simmering for months in the northern Syrian town of Saraqib. Civilian antigovernment activists had complained of rebel fighters who needlessly destroyed a milk factory and treated residents disrespectfully. A growing contingent of jihadist fighters from the ideologically extreme and militarily formidable Nusra Front was suspicious of the activists’ secular, nonviolent agenda.
On Thursday, mistrust erupted into confrontation. Masked men believed to be with Al Nusra raided the headquarters of two secular civilian grass-roots organizations — setting in motion one of the most dramatic tests yet of the makeshift system of local governance that civilians and fighters have established in Saraqib, a rebel-held town....
The dispute in Saraqib began when a group of masked men raided two organizations run by local activists, a new cultural club and a social work office, the activists said. At the second office, where Danish journalists and two visiting female Syrian activists were staying, the men seized fliers advocating nonviolence and ordered the group to leave town by sunrise, according to activists and one of the journalists, a filmmaker. The masked men were angry, the witnesses said, in part because the visiting Syrian activists were not covering their hair in accordance with the practice of many pious Muslims. The men also declared that they preferred foreign journalists entering the country to be men.
0950 GMT: The War Reaches the Coast. In a separate entry, we post Martin Chulov's first-hand report of fear and uncertainty in Latakia, with its large Alawite population, as conflict nears the city on the coast.
Meanwhile, Karen Leigh continues her series of first-hand accounts for Syria Deeply. In her latest article, she speaks with a Free Syrian Army battalion commander:
"There is no problem between [everyday] Alawites and Sunnis. But we have tension with the regime, and those who support the regime are Alawite,” Adnan tells me. That said “the regime is mixed between Alawites, Christians, and Sunnis. We don’t have a problem with the people, we have a problem with the regime. We [in the FSA] are liberal people, we like everyone.
“If the regime falls, we will start a new fight with the shabiha, and they have 100 leaders. There are three big groups of shabiha [pro-regime militia] that have famous leaders, like Rami Makhlouf [Assad’s wealthy cousin], who has 2,000 shabiha followers. Our problem isn’t Assad—everyone wants him to leave now. Our problem is with these 100 names. A lot of them escaped from Damascus to Latakia, and now they’re preparing to fight.”
Agency spokesman Mohammed Abu Asaker said Turkey, Lebanon, and Jordan each have over 150,000 refugees, who are registered or awaiting registration. He said the actual number of Syrians who have fled could be higher, given that not all come forward to register.
Lebanon and Jordan each requested emergency assistance last week to cope with the rising numbers of Syrians in their countries.
0655 GMT: Shelling and Casualties. After Friday's visual drama of the insurgent storming of the prison west of Idlib city, reportedly freeing hundreds of the more than 10,000 prisoners, Saturday returned to the "normal" of opposition attacks and regime shelling.
Insurgents fired on Mezzeh Airport and the Presidential Palace in Damascus. The Free Syrian Army reportedly shot dead three soldiers at a checkpoint in Deir Ez Zor Province
President Assad's planes continued their bombardment of Damascus suburbs, persisting in their weeks-long assault on Darayya. The headline was taken, however, by video from Al-Bab near Aleppo which pointed to a deadly strike on the town. Activists claimed at least 10 people were slain amid the devastation.
The Al-Bab deaths were among 129 reported by the Local Coordination Committees on Saturday, including 44 in Aleppo Province and 40 in Damascus and its suburbs.