Britain Channel 4's Jonathan Miller on the flight of a group of Syrians to Jordan
See also Syria Audio Feature: The Israeli Airstrikes...Now What? --- Scott Lucas with the BBC br>
Israel, Palestine (and Beyond) Live Coverage: UN Declares Jewish Settlements in West Bank "Illegal" br>
Thursday's Egypt (and Beyond) Live Coverage: Will There Be a "National Dialogue"?
2215 GMT: Where is the Aid Money Going? Al Jazeera's James Bays reports:
Sue Turton adds her own analysis:
The chance of aid reaching some of the most in need is very slim.
The UN channels all its aid through Damascus and the main distributor of this aid is the Syrian Arab Red Crescent which operates predominately in government-controlled areas.
The activist network, Avaaz, calls this supply line an "insane and immoral handout" to the Syrian regime.
Aid workers inside Damascus tell us that even aid earmarked for disputed areas outside of the city is often commandeered by government soldiers never to be seen again.
The SARC's own website lists the areas it has distributed aid to in Aleppo. All are held by the regime.
We've heard occasional stories of Red Crescent heroics.
2014 GMT: European Officials Report from Azaz. ANA, the organization started by Rami al Jarrah, tours Azaz, in northern Aleppo province, with Koert Debeuf, of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe (ALDE) party of the European Parliament.
1956 GMT: Opposition Ready to Negotiate. After significant debate, the Syrian National Coalition is now ready to negotiate a political deal to end this crisis, as long as Bashar al Assad is not part of the talks - a condition that the United Nations Special Envoy Lakhdar Brahimi has accepted:
The Syrian opposition has said it is ready for exploratory peace talks with the regime after gaining UN backing for its position that Bashar al-Assad himself "would have no role" in a transitional government.
[Opposition National Coalition leader Moaz al-Khatib] arrived in Munich having survived a challenge to his leadership from Islamists inside the coalition, who objected to his offer, first made on his personal Facebook page, to talk to the regime while Assad remained in power. The objection had been that Assad had to leave office before talks could begin but Khatib defended himself against criticism at an emergency coalition meeting in Cairo on Thursday, saying that the talks would remain conditional on the release of thousands of political prisoners.
1945 GMT: Tanks. This video was reportedly taken today in Darayya, what was once the largest suburb of Damascus, just west of the most important districts in the capital - an area which has been occupied by rebels, despite the relentless bombardment of the Syrian military - for months.
It shows tanks, and a BMP, racing through the city, bombarding the buildings without even aiming. Without the support of infantry, many tanks have been destroyed in the city, so this could be a tactic to keep from being hit by the rebels.
But the rebels have tanks too. In a change in the tides to the south of Damascus, rebel tanks now actively move through parts of Daraa province:
1916 GMT: Rebel Ingenuity. Over the last year and a half we've rebels uses IEDs, homemade rockets, slingshot explosive-launchers, and other self-made weapons. We've also seem them capture, and destroy, hundreds (at least) of armored vehicles. However, this video is unique. We've never noticed a gun turret from a BMP armored vehicle mounted to the back of a pickup truck.
This vehicle is reportedly attacking a major military base in northwest Aleppo.
1850 GMT: Fallout from Israeli Airstrike. The opposition leadership group, the Syrian National Coalition, has condemned Israel's airstrike, while at the same time condemning the actions of the Syrian regime:
The Syrian opposition coalition has condemned Wednesday's air raids by Israel as an attack on Syria's sovereignty.
But, in a statement, the Syrian National Coalition also criticised the hypocrisy of the Syrian government for denouncing the raid while at the same time launching air strikes against its own civilians.
Syria has written to the UN to protest against the raids. It also summoned the head of Undof - the force which monitors the ceasefire in the Golan Heights between Israel and Syria.
Up to now, many in the opposition have been quiet about the Israeli airstrike. There is a certain sense that "the enemy of my enemy is my friend." However, that would be an easier sentiment to champion if the "enemy of their enemy" was not Israel. Reading between the lines, the National Coalition spent more time in their statement detailing the crimes of the regime, and the lack of international response. In other words, the condemnation of the airstrikes is more of a formality - and perhaps a reminder that further intervention from Israel will not be welcomed.
1830 GMT: Rebels Consolidate Gains in Aleppo. Yesterday we reportedly that, according to videos posted by rebels, the insurgents had captured the Sheihk Saeed district in Aleppo. Today, the LCC offers this confirmation:
The FSA liberated the entire Sheikh Saeed neighborhood after theysuccessfully took over the last site that was controlled by regime forces
The fact is that the rebels have been slowly making progress in Aleppo over the last several weeks, chipping away at territory controlled by government forces, and maneuvering outside the city against remaining military bases. It's too early to see if this can be counted as a momentum shift, but the rebels appear to be advancing slowly not just in Aleppo but in Idlib and Damascus as well. With rebel gains in Daraa coming at a much faster pace, some analysts are beginning to think that the stalemate that has pervaded for several weeks seems to be lifting.
1648 GMT: Rebels Surge in Daraa Province. The rebels have reportedly destroyed an Assad military convoy, including several armored vehicles, in Busr al Harir, in Daraa province:
These weapons were reportedly captured by rebels in Bosra al Sham, closer to Jordan's border:
The speed that the rebels have been gaining ground and winning battles in Daraa province has taken many by surprise. However, there is a growing body of evidence that the Syrian rebels are receiving foreign weapons, smuggled over the boarder from Jordan. Brown Moses has compiled the video evidence of foreign weapons in Syria, many of which appear to be Yugoslavian.
There's many more videos on the same channels as the above videos showing these same weapons in use in Busr al-Harir, and it's very hard to not conclude that the Syrian opposition in that area has recently received at least one shipment of arms from abroad, likely from nearby Jordan, and with a strong possibility the shipment originated in one of the countries that made up the former-Yugoslavia. A couple of examples of these same weapons have also recently been seen in the Deir Ez Zor and Aleppo regions, so that raises the question of whether or not this apparent smuggling operation is operating in those regions as well.
The media center of Horan Al-Awameed suburb gave this report: "FSA managed to damage a T82 tank and 3 BMP vehicles and to shoot down 2 planes, the first a civilian Iranian plane carrying weapons and the second a MIG that landed in Al-Seen airport in Dumair."
There may have been a single Syrian Air Flight earlier today, traveling from Cairo, but the status of that flight is unknown. Regardless, that aircraft does not match the video we posted earlier.
This report should still be treated as unconfirmed, though if the flight really was an Iranian AirForce flight, and it crashed on the government controlled airport, then it's unlikely that the Syrian or Iranian government will report the incident or release pictures or videos.
We've also yet to independently confirm the other claims made in this report.
1558 GMT: Protests In Aleppo. Another large protest in reported in Aleppo:
Awesome protest in Bustan Al-Qasr Aleppo (where the river massacre was perpetrated). The colorfulness is brilliant. youtu.be/cxDwLK7uVfc— Omar (@omarsyria) February 1, 2013
And then there is this video, reportedly taken in the Al Sukkari, in south-central Aleppo:
1458 GMT: Widespread Friday Protests. Every Friday, my inbox is filled with hundreds of videos of protests across Syria. It's anecdotal evidence, but today there seem to be more than we've seen in recent weeks. Also, every Friday protest has a theme, voted on by activists using Facebook. This week's theme - "The International Community is a Partner in Assad's Crimes." Below is a sample of a few of the protests we've seen.
People gather in a bombed-out square in the always defiant Kafranbel, in Idlib province, where a sign is held, written in English, which reads "We will bring Assad to justice, no matter what lives it takes, no matter how much catastrophe." (thanks to Catmari in the comments):
Protesters gather in Khirbat Ghazalah, in Daraa province:
A fairly large crowd gathers in the small town of Bizah, just east of Al-Bab, Aleppo province:
A protest in Zablatani, east of Damascus, where protesters have to gather in a side street to protect themselves from airstrikes or artillery:
And a protest in the central Al Shaar district of Aleppo, not far from the front lines of the battle for control of the city:
This is just a small sample, but in many towns and cities Syrians have risked their lives to take to the streets to protest. While mass bombings and massacres send a loud and clear message, the voices of the protesters in the street seem to be lost amid the noise.
27 martyrs were reported in Damascus and its suburbs; 30 in Aleppo; 5 in Daraa; 3 in Idlib; and 2 in Hama.
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.
1438 GMT: Damascus International Airport is Closed. Obviously, the claim we posted below that rebels have shot down an Iranian Airforce Boeing 747 is significant. The story is also unconfirmed. However, according to Flightstats.com, there are no scheduled departures or arrivals. Given the status of the fighting in the area, this should not come as a surprise, but the question remains --- regardless of whether the rebels actually successfully shot down an aircraft trying to land at DAM, what is this airplane seen in the video, and why is it trying to land at an airport that is surrounded by rebel fighters?
1428 GMT: Fighting Across Lebanon's Border. Journalist Ali Hashem reports that there has been more fighting on the Syrian border:
Lebanese military sources: Three soldiers are reported killed in clashes with gunmen in Ersal on the borders with #Syria— Ali Hashem علي هاشم (@alihashem_tv) February 1, 2013
This is the first post we're seeing about this claim. We'll keep you posted.
1410 GMT: Claim of the Day. The blogger Brown Moses has forwarded a video of rebels firing on a Boeign 747-131 --- one that reportedly belongs to the Iranian Air Force --- near the Damascus International Airport:
The markings on the plane do appear to be consistent with an Iran Air Force Boeing 747-131(SF) (see a picture here). This video reportedly shows the plane smoking after it crashed:
The rebels claim that the plane was carrying weapons to the Assad regime.
The rebels have a significant amount of firepower near the airport, and rebel tanks and heavy anti-aircraft machineguns have been drawing ever closer to the airport all week. Still, without footage of the wreckage, or some other evidence, it's going to be hard to verify this report.
One thing is clear, this represents another escalation of an already deadly conflict.
James Miller takes over today's live coverage. Thanks to Scott Lucas for getting us to the afternoon.
1400 GMT: Talks. Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Gennady Gatilov. using Twitter, has poured cold water on reports that Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov will join US Vice President Joe Biden and United Nations envoy Lakhdar Brahimi in talks with opposition National Coalition head Moaz al-Khatib in Munich on Saturday: "As it stands today, there is no such meeting mentioned in the programme of the Russian foreign minister."
Aid workers found an estimated 45,000 displaced people living in "appalling" conditions in makeshift camps.
Azaz is located opposite the Kilis camp, which hosts about 10,000 Syrian refugees, on the Turkish side of the border.
1101 GMT:Talks. UN Report has published United Nations envoy Lakhdar Bahraimi's presentation to the UN Security Council on Tuesday, with a stark description of escalating crisis and bloodshed:
I thought that the sickening attack at the University of Aleppo earlier this month was the most revolting illustration of the immense suffering this conflict is inflicting on the people of Syria: the mass murder of nearly one hundred students and displaced persons living on the Campus, and the wounding of scores of others had no military value. It was killing for the purpose of terrorising and inflicting harm on the civilian population and little else.
But then came those unbearable images brought back by Lyse Doucet of the BBC from the rural settlement of Haswiyeh near the city of Homs; there, we saw that it was still possible to reach even worse levels of horror. In this rural, and until then rather peaceful part of Syria, God knows how many peaceful, helpless civilian men, women and children were literally slaughtered and burned by cruel, evil men.
But the tragedy simply does not have an end. Just before coming down, we read of yet another horror, in a suburb of Aleppo this time; sixty-five bodies discovered with their hands tied and shot in the head.
Or look also at the nearly 30 bakeries targeted in the course of 2012, often when long queues of people were waiting to buy a loaf of bread.
Brahimi put forth a six-point plan, centred upon a "transitional Government with full executive powers", negotiated between "the opposition and a strong civilian-military delegation representing the Government".
In a significant shift from the June plan of his predecessor Kofi Annan, offered after an international conference in Geneva, Brahimi said Bashar al-Assad will have to step down during this process: “It is largely understood that 'governing body with full executive powers’ clearly meant that the President would have no role in the transition."
The meeting ---- which will include U.S. Vice President Joe Biden, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, United Nations envoy Lakhdar Brahimi, and Syrian National Coalition President Moaz al-Khatib - will be the first time that the US and Russia havejoined each other for talks with the Syrian opposition.
The planned meeting followed al-Khatib's declaration this week that he is willing to negotiate with the Assad regime provided it meets certain conditions such as the release of political prisoners.
0540 GMT: Fighting and Casualties. After Wednesday's Israeli airstrikes on a Lebanon-bound convoy carrying missiles and on a defence research facility, yesterday's events returned to the "normal" of attacks and skirimishes near and in Damascus.
Insurgents shelled a military barracks near the Yarmouk camp in south Damascus, with clashes reported inside the camp. The Free Syrian Army attacked a checkpoint in the Ain Tarma district, where Reuters photographer Goran Tomoasevic had captured dramatic images of fighting earlier this week. The regime continues its bombardment of insurgent-held suburbs.
Elsewhere, there as fighting in the Sheikh Saeed area of Aleppo, and regime warplanes reportedly destroyed a bridge in Deir Ez Zor Province.
Of the 106 deaths claimed by the Local Coordination Committees, 58 were in Damascus and its suburbs.