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Thursday
Jan032013

Syria (and Beyond) Coverage: UN --- Death Toll Passes 60,000

People run from a regime airstrike on the Damascus suburb of Douma --- activists report that there were 20 deaths

See also Libya Satire: A Beginner's Guide to Democacy...and Slapstick
Wednesday's Syria (and Beyond) Live Coverage: Aleppo Airport Is Briefly Closed


2044 GMT: Syria. An airstrike on the Jobar section of Homs today:

1726 GMT: Syria. Insurgents drive a captured regime in the Jabal al-Zawiya area:

1720 GMT: Egypt. Prosecutor General Talaat Abdallah has ordered an investigation into a complaint by two lawyers that the Muslim Brotherhood illegally receiving $1.5 billion from the US Government.

Lawyers Mohamed Ali Abd al-Wahab and Yasser Mohamed Sayab quoted Mitt Romney, the Republican candidate in the 2012 Presidential election, as saying that the Obama Administration had supported the Brotherhood with the money.

The lawyers also claimed that the Brotherhood has armed militias involved in violence during and after the uprising against the Mubarak regime.

1716 GMT: Egypt. The UAE site Al-Khaleej, via Al-Monitor, reports on the split in Salafist parties in Egypt.

The largest Salafist faction, Nour, finished second to the Muslim Brotherhood in Parliamentary elections last year, but has since been riven by clashes among its leadership.

1616 GMT: Syria. The Local Coordination Committees say 95 people have been killed today, including 11 children and 6 women.

The casualties include 43 from Damascus and its suburbs, with 20 in the suburb of Douma.

1503 GMT: Syria. Long-time dissident Michel Kilo, now in Paris, offers his view of the political situation in an interview with Syria Deeply:

I do not know how we can prevent sectarian clashes without a national program that brings in all parties. This integrated program does not exist today, since the opposition had missed the opportunity of drafting and implementing it. Today I think we need a kind of program, that will encourage everyone to collaborate in a joint national project, in order to cut the route to a sectarian conflict or at least reduces the possibility [of it].

There are people in the system who can play a role in the future of Syria…some of those who are now in power, especially those who are defecting from power and Assad’s family to join the people....

My fear is that we will move from a crisis to overthrow the regime to a new crisis, extending civil war and chaos, political and armed. Plus we shouldn’t forget that Syria is destroyed, and much of the people are homeless, hungry, or displaced, and this atmosphere will encourage chaos.

1456 GMT: Iraq Reuters reports more violence in Iraq:

1450 GMT: Bahrain. The Washington Post picks up on the case of detained photojournalist Ahmed Humaidan, including Wednesday's feature from our correspondent in the Kingdom.

See Bahrain Photo Special: The Life, Work, and Detention of Photojournalist Ahmed Humaidan

1350 GMT: Israel-Palestine. Israeli forces raided the West Bank city of Jenin today in search of a suspected Palestinian militant, setting off clashes with residents who threw rocks and petrol bombs, an Israeli security source said.

On Tuesday, Israeli soldiers disguised as Palestinians raided the village of Tamoun, arresting a member of the Islamic Jihad group. Several dozen Palestinians were injured in ensuing clashes, medical officials said.

In today's latest raid, the soldiers clashed with some 500 Palestinians, forcing them out of Jenin. An elderly Palestinian woman was slightly injured by a dog used by Israeli forces during the operation.

The city is under the control of the Palestinian Authority, which exercises limited self-rule in the West Bank, but Israel reserves the right to carry out its own operations.

1150 GMT: Syria. Reports continue to circulate of heavy fighting as insurgents try to take the military base at Taftanaz Airport in Idlib Province.

Hundreds of insurgents, including the Islamist groups Al-Nusra Front and Ahrar al-Sham, fought soldiers around the airbase.

There are also report of combat around the Deir Ez Zor military airport in the east of the country.

1125 GMT: Libya. Libyan media report that the head of the Benghazi Criminal Investigation Department, Abdulsalam al-Mihdawi, was abducted on Wednesday evening in the city by an unknown armed group.

There have been a series of attacks on police stations and assassinations of top security personnel in Libya's second city in the last year.

The abduction comes days after Minister of Interior Ashour Shuwail and Chief of Staff Yousef Mangoush visited Benghazi and announced new plans to counter the worsening security situation.

1105 GMT: Syria. Another refugee story, from Carol Morello of The Washington Post:

In Turkey, the 13 government-established camps are full with more than 140,000 refugees. Now, the government is denying official entry to any more refugees trying to escape the brutal civil war in Syria. Turkey has not authorized many international humanitarian groups to operate within the country, so most nongovernmental organizations are focusing their efforts on refugee camps inside Syria, close to the Turkish border in areas where Syrian planes have dropped bombs.

But still the refugees come, walking over mountains, trekking through minefields and traveling across rivers in small tubs pulled by rope from one bank to the other.

Often it falls to ordinary Turks, such as the villagers of tiny Davutpasa, to provide the refugees food and shelter. The 700 residents of Davutpasa, most of whom are farmers or government workers, have taken in about 400 Syrians in the past two months. Local men bring them firewood, and women come by to teach them how to bake bread in the outdoor ovens that are common.

1050 GMT: Israel-Palestine. The Israeli Prime Minister's spokesman has said that West Jerusalem has not yet decided whether to resume transfer of tax revenues to the Palestinian Authority.

Ofir Gendelman said the Government will announce its position in the coming days.

At the start of December, Israel withheld the $100 million per month it collects on behalf of the Authority. The move was ostensibly because of $200 million owed to Israeli electricity companies, but it was widely seen as punishment for United Nations recognition of Palestine as an Observer State.

1030 GMT: Syria. Rana Sweis, writing for The New York Times, portraying growing difficulties for Syrian refugees in Jordan:

Shaking with fear, Abu Abdel Hadi tripped and fell three times in the dark as he fled across the desolate desert from Syria into Jordan.

The 65-year-old was clutching his grandchildren, intent on shielding them from snipers who often lie in wait along the border. But that night the family — 19 members in all — made it safely through the danger zone.

Now all they dream about is going back. While they wait, they are housed in a tiny, freezing apartment with no windows, cracked walls and worn carpets piled on top of one other.

Their most recent threat: frigid winter weather. The temperatures are down to 0 degrees Celsius (32 Fahrenheit) at night, and prices of basic commodities, including gasoline and electricity, are rising.

“We suffer from the cold and we are poor here but we are safe,” said Abu Abdel Hadi, whose last name is being withheld for safety reasons. “When we came here we thought we would stay one week, maybe one month, but it’s been six months and now we learn to live with the uncertainty.”

About 80 percent of Syrian refugees across the region are not housed in camps, according to the U.N. refugee agency. Many of them live in grim apartments along narrow dirt roads, blending in with poor Jordanians.

Jordan has drawn waves of refugees in the past, but this one is particularly severe. The flood of refugees is straining the limited resources of the Jordanian government and aid agencies, though agencies say they are also trying to steer funds to poor Jordanians. Foreign assistance is only trickling in, leaving many in need.

In Lebanon the Cabinet is meeting today to discuss the refugee issue, as "the aggravating situation of this file requires an emergency plan".

Lebanese media reports 150,000 registered and 50,000 unregistered Syrian nationals now in Lebanon, with the total expected to rise to 300,000 by July.

The plan also considers the "miserable situation of the communities hosting these refugees".

0930 GMT: Turkey. Former army chief İsmail Hakkı Karadayı has reportedly been detained as part of an investigation into a "postmodern coup" almost 16 years ago.

On 28 February 1997, the Turkish military forced the departure of the coalition government, led by the now-defunct conservative Welfare Party (RP), claiming a rise of religious fundamentalism. The coup introduced a series of restrictions on religious observation, including an unofficial but widely practiced ban on the use of headscarves by women. The military was purged of members with suspected ties to religious groups and even observant Muslims. Newspapers were closed down.

About 60 people have been arrested in relation to the coup, including retired General Çevik Bir, then the second-highest-ranking general in the army at the time.

0630 GMT: Syria. The United Nations made headlines Wednesday with its report that more than 60,000 people have been killed since the beginning of the uprising against the Assad regime in March 2011.

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay said data analysis indicated 59,648 people had been slain by the end of November 2012: "The number of casualties is much higher than we expected, and is truly shocking."

Indeed, the figure exceeds even that put out by organisations which have provided the most detailed accounting of deaths, such as Syria Tracker and the VDC. However, as EA's James Miller explained, this is not surprising: the UN's examination of 147,349 reported killings included the deaths of regime troops and security forces, usually left out of the databases of the activist groups.

As the UN was putting out its report, an incident near Damascus was graphically turning numbers into images. A regime airstrike on a petrol station in Mleiha reportedly killed at least 30 people, with video showing charred and dismembered bodies.

The Local Coordination Committees claimed 47 people were slain in Mleiha, with a total of 207 people dying across the country on Wednesday.

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