Before last night's assault by Syria regime forces on Homs, killing hundreds of people, Al Jazeera English's Jane Ferguson got inside the city to interview insurgents, activists, and residents:
Entries in Homs (58)
Gilles Jacquier, a French journalist, was killed in Syria today, apparently when his vehicle was hit by an RPG. He was part of an official delegation of Western journalists, escorted by the Syrian Information Ministry, on a highly-controlled tour of the embattled city of Homs.
Jacquier leaves behind work, which reveals his bravery and dedication, in conflict areas such as Iraq, Afghanistan, Tunisia, Kosovo, Haiti, Zaire, Israel, Algeria, and Syria.
Residents of Homs show observers the body of a 5-year-old child killed by gunfire
Looking at the evidence of the last two days, witnessed by the observers on the ground, the situation in Syria is unsustainable. This evidence clearly implicates the Assad regime, but regardless of who is at fault, this situation is clearly a humanitarian disaster. Contrary to earlier statements by Mohamed Ahmed Mustafa al-Dabi, nothing about what we have posted above is "reassuring."
To borrow from the Latin phrase, "who is watching the watchers?" As it turns out, thanks to the citizen journalists, the Arab League will now find it very difficult to create their own narrative without mentioning these scenes.
And as these amateur videos spread through the media, the Arab League is likely to feel more international pressure to finally act to end the crisis in Syria.
I don't need to sugar coat this: there are a lot of people who have no faith in the Arab League mission in Syria. For starters, we already know what they will find. International observers, though limited in both numbers and opportunities to investigate independently, have given us conclusions. According to US Ambassador Robert Ford, or the UN delegation that visited in August, or the few reporters brave enough to smuggle themselves into Syria, President Assad is killing a lot of people and torturing many. And there is only one way to end this mess, with Assad giving up power.
Few of these facts are in question. Much of the counter-narrative provided by the Syrian regime has either been proven false or is a weak defense --- "some individuals are guilty of crimes" --- for the scale of the regime's carnage. If only half the claims of the activists are true, then the number of people who have died from violence in Syria this year is four times greater than in Egypt.
So why are there observers present, who are they, what will they see, and what will they do about it? Let's work backwards.
In Bayada, Homs, protesters run through the trash to escape sniper fire.
See also Friday 23 December LiveBlog: Syria, Bahrain (and Beyond) LiveBlog: The Damascus Bombs
Bahrain Special: Last Night It Rained Tear Gas br>
1710 GMT: The "Strike of Dignity", shutting down shops and schools in support of protests against the regime, continues across Syria. Footage from Kisweh outside Damascus:
1635 GMT: Upsetting scenes continue to unfold across the Middle East today, whilst the suffering wrought by yesterdays events comes to us through videos and reports. None of this violence has stopped the spirit of protest, with demonstrations taking place in Syria, Bahrain, Yemen and beyond.
Did Assad order his loyalists to shoot? Is he guilty of crimes against humanity? These questions will not be answered here. But we can venture from this footage if these forces --- not under his control, according to the President --- responsible for human rights abuses, atrocities, and civilian casualties on a wide scale.
Assad --- "Indiviual Mistakes" Led to Deaths
Everyone in Homs is a victim. The longer this continues, the more people who will die from acts of violence, most (at the hands of the Syrian regime and its supporters. And the longer this continues, the greater the possibility of retaliation. Despite the best efforts of the leadership of the Syrian opposition, the calls for unity in the street, and the inclusion of Alawites and Christians into these organisations, and the efforts of the overwhelmed and under-equipped Free Syrian Army, more civilians will die and sectarian flames will be fueled. The fears and reports of the violence of sect upon sect will become a self-fulfilling prophecy.
"What we haven't seen yet is large-scale political defection. But those who have defected have talked about the fact that there are many others who are willing to defect, who are beginning to question whether or not Assad can survive this. And, you know, the economic impact is just incredible on the country. And it's really only a matter of time before the defectors or before more leaders decide to jump ship on Assad."
Anadan, Aleppo: Sanamein in the south:
Sanamein in the south:
1952 GMT: It may not look like much, but this video could be significant. The LCCS reports that this was taken in Kafar Zeta, Hama, and the cameraman holds sign with today's date. There have been reports of defections in the area, and gunfire can be heard in the city. The scene is otherwise quiet, suggesting that whoever is shooting is not shooting at protesters. Also, at one point tracer fire can be seen, suggesting that this conflict is more serious than the gunfire in the foreground. It appears that fires can be seen in the distance:
1949 GMT: Activists report a large evening protest in the Damascus suburb of Harasta:
1940 GMT: The video claims to show that Assad's supporters were actually bused to the event in Lattakia today. From the details in the video, there is no way of verifying that report: