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Syria Live Coverage: Regime Fires SCUD Missiles on Aleppo?

Aftermath of claimed SCUD missile strike on the Jabal Badro district of Aleppo on Monday night

See Also today's Tunisia (and Beyond) Live Coverage: Plan for New Government Collapses
Monday's Syria Live Coverage: Hezbollah Emerges in the Conflict

1934 GMT: Explosions - a Universal Experience. From western Damascus to the eastern suburbs, as well as in the southern districts of the capital, heavy shelling is reported in every corner of Damascus. Across Daraa and Idlib provinces, similar patterns can be seen. It's anecdotal evidence, but it seems that the amount of firepower pounding Syria's cities is even more brutal than on a typical day.

The death toll, which is still rising, reflects this. The LCC now reports that 142 people have been killed nationwide. Even though some of these people were killed last night in Aleppo, this still marks an escalated death toll, and when the total number of those killed in the reported Scud missile attack are counted, the full fury of this violence is evident. Here is the distribution of casualties according to the latest report from the LCC:

fifty one martyrs in Aleppo, most of them were uncovered from the Badrou district masscare yesterday, fifty eight martyrs in Damascus and its suburbs, eleven martyrs in Idlib most of them in Shaghar town, nine martyrs in Homs, five martyrs in Hama, three martyrs in Deir Ezzor, three martyrs in Raqqa, and two martyrs in Daraa.

Keep in mind that this number also does not include all of the regime soldiers killed in combat, and if the LCC is likely to undercut any numbers, it is rebel fighters on the front lines, away from the civilian opposition. Some estimates suggest that several hundred combatants are being killed each and every day in the last few weeks, a mix of regime soldiers and rebel fighters, though it's likely that this rate is unsustainable and reflects the ferocity of the fight in certain areas.

Regardless, we'll wait to see if this latest wave of shells and explosions drives the death toll even higher.

1643 GMT: Death Toll Rising. According to the LCC, 122 people have died today, though that includes some bodies removed from the rubble in Aleppo after last night's reported Scud attack.

51 martyrs were reported in Aleppo (most of them were pulled from a massacre committed in Badro neighborhood yesterday), 43 in Damascus and its Suburbs, 11 in Idlib (most of them in Shughr town), 6 in Homs, 3 in Raqqa, 3 in Hama, 2 in Daraa and 2 in Deir Ezzor.

The steepest climb in the death toll is in Damascus, where many reports of heavy fighting, heavy shelling, and airstrikes continue to pour in.

1511 GMT: Death Toll Rising. According to the Local Coordination Committees, 110 people have been killed so far today, though as the LCC notes some of these people were killed last night in the suspected Scud missile strikes in Aleppo:

50 martyrs were reported in Aleppo (most of them were pulled due to the massacre of Bedro neighborhood yesterday), 33 in Damascus and its Suburbs, 11 in Idlib (most of them in Shegr town), 6 in Homs, 3 in Raqqa, 3 in Hama, 2 in Daraa and 2 in Deir Ezzor.

1450 GMT: Mortars Land Near Assad's Palace. According to a leak from a Syrian official, published by the Associated Press, mortars have rocked Tishreen Palace in Damascus today (map):

The official said the rounds struck Tuesday near the southern wall of the Tishreen palace, in the capital's northwestern Muhajireen district, but caused only material damages.

No casualties were reported and it was unclear whether Assad was in the palace. He has two others in the city.

1428 GMT: Russian Tank Parts Stopped in Finland. Finnish customs officials have intercepted a shipment of tank parts that it says were being shipped from Russia to Syria, in violation of the European Union's arms embargo:

For investigative reasons and due to the secrecy provisions of the Finnish Act on the Openness of Government Activities, the preliminary investigation authorities are not able to comment on the consignor or consignee of the goods. However, initial information indicates that the case involves a commercial transport from Russia to Syria.

1354 GMT: Scud Missile Impact in Tal Rifat. Scott Lucas started today's coverage with a video showing the reported impact site of a Scud missile in Aleppo, in the Jabal Badro district of Aleppo. However, as we reported yesterday, there were also large missiles, reportedly Scuds or other long-range ballistic missiles, that have fallen in several areas of northern Syria. One of the areas reportedly hit hard was Tal Rifat, to the north of Aleppo. The video below reportedly shows the impact crater of that strike:

According to some sources, 5 missiles were fired from the base of the 155 regiment in northern Damascus last night. Others say that number is much higher. One opposition source has posted a list of claimed impact sites. According to the report, which includes some details, 13 Scud missiles hit Aleppo province last night. Some of those locations we were aware of early on as the reports were coming in last night, however we cannot confirm all those locations yet.

1338 GMT: Car Bombing in Damascus. A car bomb has torn through the Jdaydet Artouz suburb of western Damascus (map). According to the CFDPC, a network of activists working to report on the news in Damascus, earlier reported that at least 3 people have been killed, but that number has risen to 5. This is their earlier report:

3 dead, including a 12 year old boy, and more than 25 wounded as a result of the car bomb that exploded today in the Jdaidet Artouz Al-Fadel area of Damascus. People are still searching for casualties.

The reported site of the blast, which appears to have torn the facade off this building.

1316 GMT: Humanitarian Crisis. The number of people inside Syria who are in desperate need of help has skyrocketed, according to the UN:

More than four million people inside Syria are in desperate need of aid, up from 2.5 million in September, the UN's humanitarian agency said Tuesday.

That report's data ended on February 17th. Meanwhile, contaminated water getting into the Euphrates river in the east has led to an outbreak of Typhoid, according to the World Health Organmization (WHO):

An estimated 2,500 people in north-eastern Deir al-Zor province are infected with the contagious disease, which causes diarrhea and can be fatal, the United Nations agency said.

Those are people inside Syria, but the refugee crisis has also exploded, according to the latest UN assessment:

"As of the 17th of February, we have over 850,000 Syrian refugees who are awaiting registration or have been registered," agency spokesman Babar Baluch told reporters in Geneva on Tuesday.

Only a year ago, the United Nations said 33,000 Syrians had fled the conflict which erupted in March 2011 as the regime of President Bashar al-Assad launched a bloody crackdown on protests.

1255 GMT: Death Toll Rises. 47 people have already been killed today, according to the Local Coordination Committees (translation by me, and Bing):

Twenty-four martyrs in Damascus and its countryside, ten martyrs in Idlib, mostly in the town of Al Shughour, five martyrs in Homs, three martyrs in al Raqqqa, two in Aleppo, and one martyr in Daraa and Deir ez-Zor.

See our note on the casualty figures posted by the LCC.

1240 GMT: Battle for Damascus. For weeks, Assad has pulled his forces closer to the capital, at the expense of his military efforts away from Damascus. That, combined with strategically located Alawite neighborhoods, and lots of regime bases on high ground, will make Damascus a hard target for the rebels. In an article published last week at the Daily Beast, I discuss this very problem with reporter Mike Giglio. Today, The Guardian interviews a member of the Free Syrian Army, Captain Ala'a Albasha of the Saif al Sham Damascus Brigade, who discusses what the rebels need to do differently in Damascus:

The nature of Damascus forced FSA fighters to fight a guerrilla war not like other cities. We are also very careful about the safety of the people. It is difficult to launch rockets and mortars in heavy populated areas ...We feel we are progressing with the increasing number of defected soldiers who come everyday to join us. They are so useful with the intelligence information they are providing us of the regime's plans and stores ...

The fighters in the capital's countryside are working to provide safe passages to launch more attacks against the centre of the city. We also want to connect the liberated areas to create a gap within Damascus that divides the city into two halves. We are launching a battle now, named "Supporting Darayya at the western Ghouta" ...

We are trying to make every district busy either with engagement or attack of a checkpoint or targeting the military convoys of the regime. The new strategy we are adopting now in Damascus is to seize as many weapons as we can from the regime itself and provide protection to the civilians as well as their daily basic requirements, food, fuel, water and electricity ...

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

1139 GMT: Hezbollah v. the Insurgents. Free Syrian Army spokesman Louay Almokdad has posted a statement giving the Lebanese organisation Hezbollah 48 hours to cease attacks in Syria or face retaliation inside Lebanon.

For months, the FSA has claimed Hezbollah fighters have fought for the Assad regime; however, the conflict escalated last week with reports that Hezbollah now controls eight villages inside Syria near the Lebanese border. The insurgents accused Hezbollah of using heavy arms in carrying out attacks on other villages.

Hezbollah has not directly confirmed its presence, but did say that three Lebanese men had been killed and at least 14 wounded last weekend in "self-defence" against Syrian insurgents.

The Syrian Ambassador to Lebanon has denied any Hezbollah involvement.

1130 GMT: Regime Attacks. Activists report continued regime assaults on the Damascus suburb of Darayya, under siege for more than three months.

Residents say fighter jets have carried out three air strikes, with helicopters dropping explosive barrels.

Syrian troops have reportedly reinforced from Al-Mazzeh airport through the Southern Ring Road, including four tanks, eight pick-up trucks with heavy machine guns, and numerous vehicles carrying troops and pro-regime militia.

1055 GMT: US Arming Insurgents? Back from an academic break to find the continued spinning over the level of American aid to the insurgency, with officials putting out messages through The New York Times:

With conditions continuing to deteriorate, officials could reopen the debate over providing weapons to select members of the resistance in an effort to break the impasse in Syria. The question is whether a wary Mr. Obama, surrounded by a new national security team, would come to a different conclusion.

The reality beyond the spin? The US Government is already involved in the provision of weapons to the insurgents --- although it is not directly supplying the arms, it is co-ordinating the arrangements with the countries who are.

0835 GMT: Russian Evacuation? Russian officials have said two planes with humanitarian aid from Moscow are en route to Latakia and may return with Russians wanting to leave Syria.

The Ilyushin-62 and Ilyushin-76 planes are carrying 46 tons of assistance.

0825 GMT: SCUD Attacks. Claimed video this morning of recovery efforts in the Jabal Badro district of Aleppo, reportedly hit by a SCUD missile last night.

0545 GMT: SCUD Attacks. Claims emerged Monday night that the Syrian military fired SCUD missiles on Aleppo, killing at least eight civilians, including a child, in the Jabal Badro district.

Activists said the death toll could rise as bodies were pulled from destroyed buildings.

Claimed photograph of a man crying for slain members of his family:

There were clashes in other areas of Syria's largest city, in a military stalemate since insurgents entered neighbourhoods last July, and a large shell --- possibly a missile --- hit Tal Rifaat, north of Aleppo.

The Local Coordination Committees claim 99 people were killed on Monday, including 30 in Damascus and its suburbs, 23 in Aleppo Province --- "mostly in the shelling with Scud missiles" --- and 12 in Idlib Province.

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