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Syria Live: The Deaths on Easter Sunday

Al Jazeera English's Zeina Khodr reports on citizen journalists, scrutinising the opposition as well as the regime

See also Syria Round-Up: Insurgent Advances and Foreign-Supplied Weapons
Syria Video Discussion: The Divisions In the Opposition
Mali (and Beyond) Live: At Least 7 Killed in Timbuktu Fighting
Sunday's Syria Live Coverage: Getting the Story Wrong on US Intervention

1959 GMT: More Rebel Firepower in Aleppo. To drive home the point that the rebels of the Liwaa al Tawid Brigade are deploying a significant amount of firepower, a reader shares a video of either a T-62 or T-72 tank (hard to distinguish between the two from this angle) used against the regime's base in the area of the Jandalla Roundabout, near the Aleppo Central Prison (see update 1932).

It appears that the scope of this offensive is quite large, spanning a stretch or bases and industrial buildings that stretch between the Jandalla Roundabout and the Central Prison to the north. This suggests that this operation was carefully planned, especially since so many heavy vehicles and field guns have been deployed to the area at the same time.

It's unclear if the rebels captured the prison. Still no sign of regime airforce in any of the videos we've seen, however.

1939 GMT: Death Toll Rises. According to the Local Coordination Committees, 114 people have been killed so far today. Nearly half of those are in Damascus and its countryside, which matches the dozens of videos we've seen of smoke rising all across the capital today after intense shelling and rocket campaigns. The LCC report's geographical breakdown is as follows:

52 martyrs were reported in Damascus and its suburbs; 19 in Homs;18 in Aleppo; 16 in Idlib; 5 in Deir Ezzor; 3 in Hama; and 1 in Daraa.

Beyond our note about the LCC's figures, we should stress that the reports from the front lines of battle are unlikely to have been reported fully in these numbers, mainly because the verification techniques used by the LCC often preclude the most recent reports from the battlefields. These verification requirements also mean that the LCC's numbers usually do not include Assad's soldiers, as the opposition often does not have access to the bodies afterwards in order to confirm the deaths. The VDC, a database partially populated by the LCC's numbers, does record, to the best of its abilities, regime losses, and it does differentiate between combatants and non-combatant deaths. However, the VDC's website has been offline since Friday - we're not sure why, but its loss is significant as it is an extremely transparent source of information from which casualty figures can be verified.

1932 GMT: Rebels Attack Aleppo Central Prison. The rebels have deployed a significant amount of fighters and heavy equipment in northeastern Aleppo. One of the key targets was the Central Prison, northeast of Jundalla Square where there was also heavy fighting (map).

In that video, note the field gun, and the zu-23-2 antiaircraft machinegun. Below, we see a 2S1 Gvodzika self-propelled howitzer, another serious weapon:

We believe this is one of the rebel field guns, captured from nearby bases. We're not 100% sure, but this could be a 125mm Sprut anti-tank gun or possibly a 122mm Howitzer. Not only do we get to see it fire here, but we get to see the impact of the shell.

A smaller weapon, which may also be an anti-tank gun:

We should say that there are dozens of videos, including some that show more heavy equipment, like what appears to be the gun turret from a BMP attached to a pickup truck, likely after the original vehicle was destroyed. We should also note that the Liwaa al Tawid, the Unification Brigade, a group of Islamist units, appear to have led the way.

With this much rebel weaponry at a single battle, this close to a major city, this begs an obvious question - is Assad's airforce to stretched that they were not able to respond to this?

1603 GMT: Death Toll Rising. According to the Local Coordination Committees, 80 people have been killed so far today nationwide:

37 martyrs were reported in Damascus and its suburbs; 16 martyrs in Idlib; 13 martyrs in Aleppo; 6 martyrs in Homs; 4 martyrs in Deir Ezzor; 3 martyrs in Hama; and 1 martyr in Daraa.

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 cooperates with an independent organization to populate 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 often a mix of insurgents and civilians, and never include regime casualties. Syrian State Media has stopped reporting regime casualty figures.

Also see our description of the Local Coordination Committees and how we utilize their reports in the Columbia Journalism Review.

As noted earlier, the VDC's website is currently down.

1515 GMT: Croatian Multiple Rocket Launcher. Now, our first videos that the 12-tube Croatian rocket launcher has been used in combat in Daraa province. Several keen-eyed readers have pointed out that the weapon is visible in 2 videos in Om el Miathan, Daraa province, reportedly taken yesterday. That town is near the frontlines just east of Daraa (map). The weapon is reportedly targeting a regime base in the area that protects the provincial capital. In other words, this weapon has now been spotted on the front lines in Daraa province and in Damascus near the international airport - both areas that are a key focus for the units that have received the foreign arms:

1453 GMT: Rockets Rain in Damascus. We made a big deal about the discovery of a Croatian multiple rocket launcher in the hands of the Syrian rebels.

See our separate Syria Exclusive: New Arms for Insurgents --- The Case of the Croatian Multiple Rocket Launcher.

Because it is a big deal, for reasons we've already suggested. One of those reasons is that multiple launch rockets are unguided, but have a fairly long range, meaning they can do a great deal of damage if they are not used with restraint.

However, the rebels are hardly the only ones using rockets like this. While there's been no proof that the rebels have used multiple launch rockets irresponsibly (yet), in the case of the regime's rocket attacks, there is a significant body of evidence to suggest just that. Several videos match the eyewitness reports that dozens of rockets have been fired from the Mezzeh airport west of the city towards points west, south, and east. This video reportedly shows about 35 rockets headed all the way across the city towards East Ghouta. Not the haze - the winds in Damascus are over 20 miles per hour, stirring up a significant amount of dust today. Other videos taken earlier, like this one, show the sand particles in the air. These weapons are extremely inaccurate when used like this, against a heavily populated area, according to experts we've consulted.

1424 GMT: Regime Pushes into Darayya, But Rebels fight Back. The CFDPC, a network of activists working to report the news of Damascus, have this update on today's fighting in Darayya, a key suburb to the west of the capital.

#Daraya #Damascus #Syria - 1st April 2013

Military reinforcements headed towards the Daraya suburb of Damascus and they include 7 tanks, 3 BMP vehicles, 6 cars equipped with Doshka and many vehicles for the transport of "shabbiha" (Assad mercenaries) coming from the Mezzeh military airport through the southern highway.

Artillery and rocket shelling continue to target the suburb from the military checkpoints surrounding the suburb, while the humanitarian situation is very difficult.

They have posted a series of videos that show the destruction as a result of the fighting, one of which shows a tank and a BMP racing towards the city. This one caught our eye, however. It shows a group of rebels using a Croatian-made M79 Osa, a heavy machinegun, and small arms to attack the regime forces:

Still, most weapons used by the rebels still come from Assad himself, as seen in this video where rebels have captured a stockpile of weapons from an Assad checkpoint in Darayya:

The regime continues to throw all it can at Darayya, but the rebel resistance is stiff and resisted Assad's onslaught for months without end.

1352 GMT: UN Planning for Assad's Fall. No longer is the UN focusing on a diplomatic solution to the crisis, according to Al Jazeera English. Now, the focus is on preparing a peacekeeping force to move in after Assad's (likely inevitable) collapse:

Al Jazeera's James Bays says, "After more than two years of bloodshed, the UN is preparing for a decisive event, including the possible fall of Bashar al-Assad. Of course, no one knows exactly what will happen or when."

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon has put his own deputy in charge, Jan Eliasson.

"About six months ago, our day-after planning was mostly to what degree we could restore institutions... help with the reconciliation process... but I must admit, now the focus is more on the concern of what state of affairs we will have to deal with after the end of this conflict," Eliasson told Al Jazeera.

0855 GMT: Destruction. A sign of the destruction in the two-year conflict --- footage last month of the ruins of a synagogue in the Jobar section of Damascus:

Interestingly, however, there's no talk of intervening to stabilize the country before Assad's ouster or to end the conflict more quickly. The only focus appears to be a contingency plan to fix the country after the rebels have toppled the regime.

And even this contingency plan is in doubt because of the crippling divide inside the security council.

However, James Bays also adds that militaries are planning for intervention, from the US to Europe to Turkey, regardless of the political debates, just to prepare for a possible change in policy.

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

0825 GMT: Opposition Divisions. The Joint Command of the Free Syrian Army, in an open letter, has criticised the Muslim Brotherhood, "We hold you responsible for delaying victory of the revolution and the fragmentation of the opposition."

The letter is a sign of the tension between key factions in the opposition military and the political leadership. Ghassan Hitto, elected as Prime Minister-designate by the Syrian National Coalition, is backed by the Brotherhood, as are many other members of the leadership.

The election of Hitto last month led to a split, with 11 senior members of the Coalition resigning. The subsequent resignation of Moaz al-Khatib as head of the Coalition may also have been linked to the development.

The Joint Command said in its letter, "This revolution is not your property and you did not make it. The revolution has been made by the people who are paying with their blood and lives."

In a response posted online, Brotherhood spokesman Amr Mishoh said there was no evidence for the Command's claims, with the Brotherhood playing a proportionate, constructive role both in opposition politics and on the ground: "All of these attempts to deform the Muslim Brotherhood will not succeed and will not stop our patriotic role in the Syrian revolution."

Mishoh claimed the Comamnd's letter represented only the view of its spokesman and not that of the Free Syrian Army or the insurgency.

0715 GMT: Shelling. The aftermath of shelling in the Yarmouk Palestinian camp in southern Damascus:

0705 GMT: Key Site Off-Line. The website of the Violations Documentation Center, which has been off-line since Friday morning, is still down.

0645 GMT: Casualties. The Local Coordination Committees claim that 146 people were killed on Sunday, including 97 martyrs in Damascus and its suburbs and 32 in Homs Province.

There are stories to be discovered behiind those numbers, and beyond them. For example, activists are claiming a large exodus of residents from the Sheikh Maqsud district of Aleppo, after shells hit the area, destroying homes.

Areas in and around Damascus, such as Kafar Batna and the Yarmouk Palestinian camp, were also struck on Sunday.

Then there are the deaths that will probably not reach the statistics, given the LCC's focus on civilians and the ban on State media on reporting casualties among the regime military. Footage has been posted of insurgents with the bodies of Syrian troops, reportedly killed in an ambush in Idlib Province.

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