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Entries in Omran al-Zoubi (6)


Syria Today: US and Russia Manoeuvre Over Support for Assad

1930 GMT: Even Government Sources Admit Baniyas is Different.

The Baniyas massacre on Syria's coast may be a singular event that stands out as being dramatically different than all the other massacres. For starters, the scale of the massacre is at least among the worst of all of Syria's massacres, though some reports suggest that it may be magnitudes worse than any event that has taken place since the start of this crisis. Also, this incident had a clearly sectarian nature to it that is not disputed - Alawite militias loyal to President Assad targeted Sunnis, many of them children, and killed them en masse. In a thorough, nuanced, and eloquent description of the massacre, the New York Times' Anne Barnard and Hania Mourtada point out that the Assad government typically blames civilian deaths on "terrorists" even when their own forces and loyalists are implicated. This time, however, even the government admitted that its people were responsible for a mass killing, though they tell a different tale than Baniyas's residents:

Multiple video images that residents said they had recorded in Bayda and Ras al-Nabeh — of small children lying where they died, some embracing one another or their parents — were so searing that even some government supporters rejected Syrian television’s official version of events, that the army had “crushed a number of terrorists.”

One prominent pro-government writer, Bassam al-Qadi, took the unusual, risky step of publicly blaming loyalist gunmen for the killings and accusing the government of “turning a blind eye to criminals and murderers in the name of ‘defending the homeland.’ “

The article chronicles some of the evidence and eyewitness reports. It also argues that there were those who were trying to break with the sectarian nature of the killings even while the violence was ongoing. In the end, however, it's a must-read article on a story that has been under-reported.

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Syria Today: Another Week of Stalemate?

1613 GMT: Rebels Make "Rules of War" Videos.

Al Jazeera English reports that a non-government organization, Geneva Call, has helped the Syrian National Coalition to develop videos that spell out the codes of conduct for rebel fighters that explain the international standards that their fighters should follow:

1546 GMT: Rebels Reportedly Shoot Down Helicopter.

The LCC is reporting that a "warplane" delivering supplies to the Abu ad Duhor airbase has been shot down (map). "Warplane" is a strange linguistic feature unique to Syria, as it sometimes means "military helicopter" or "military airplane," but helicopters have often been used to supply this besieged air base at the intersection of Hama, Idlib, and Aleppo provinces. Furthermore, several sources are posting this video:

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Syria Today: Damascus Warns Israel of "All Possibilities"

2016 GMT: Massacre in Baniyas.

Though it was lost in the news of a massive Israeli airstrike in the capital, and lots of buzz about chemical weapons, this weekend there was a disturbing development on the coast of Syria, in Baniyas. The area is primarily populated by Alawites, however several some villages have a primarily Sunni population, and it appears that it is the Sunni villages that have been attacked. Perhaps more than 100 people have been killed in several villages. An activist has posted this summary, excerpted below, which has links to four graphic videos, though EA has not yet been able to verify the report:

The campaign of shelling and massacres in Banias and its villages stopped today; however, the fear of massacres still continues among the people. Security forces opened the road today to the neighborhood of Ras Al-Naba' and Batraya. The smell of the corpses of the martyrs has spread throughout the city. The Red Crescent accompanied some of the people to remove the bodies, which led to the discovery of more bodies of martyrs, who were field-executed and slaughtered with knives (especially children). There is a huge number of martyrs who have not yet been documented. Regime forces dug up a large hole on the outskirts of the city as a mass grave for the martyrs of Ras Al-Naba'.

The neighborhood of Ras Al-Naba'a and the village of Bayda are declared a disaster-zone and not suitable for further life whatsoever, after witnessing a campaign of ethnic cleansing of the Sunnis on the coast by Assad forces.

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Syria Today: A Chemical Weapons "Game-Changer"?

Insurgents seize a regime tank near Homs

1625 GMT: Limited Use of Chemical Weapons Part of Assad's Strategy? Pundits are arguing for or against foreign intervention in Syria, and much of their analysis of this week's chemical weapons claims are shaped by that goal. Chemical weapons analysts have focused on the available evidence, and have offered their criticism or support of the claims that Assad used of chemical weapons in that light. Today, however, two analysts focus on the wider strategic situation in Syria, and how chemical weapons claims fit into that picture.

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Syria Live Coverage: Opposition Boycotts International Talks Over Aleppo Deaths

See also Iran Analysis: A Revolutionary Guard Commander is Killed in Syria --- What It Means for Tehran and the Middle East
Syria 1st-Hand: Burning Army Boots to Stay Warm in Aleppo
Mali (and Beyond) Live Coverage: At Least 78 Killed in Fighting in North
Friday's Syria Live Coverage: At Least 53 Killed by Bombs in Damascus

1820 GMT: Regime Attacks. Shelling in the Jobar section of Damascus:

1630 GMT: Casualties. The Local Coordination Committees report 95 people killed, including 32 children and eight women.

Of the deaths, 59 were in Aleppo Province and 17 in Damascus and its suburbs.

The relatively high number of children and women slain and the proportion in Aleppo Province probably reflect escalating regime rocket and missile attacks which have hit civilian housing.

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Syria Live Coverage: The Fighting from Damascus to Idlib

Protest in Kafranbel on Friday: "Peoples always win over their tyrants. The Syrians are not an exception. Watch your steps."

See also Egypt (and Beyond) Live Coverage: Overnight Clashes In and Beyond Cairo
Friday's Syria Live Coverage: Watching the Attack in Damascus

2120 GMT: Casualties. The Local Coordination Committees have updated today's death toll to 145, including ten children and eight women.

Of the casualties, 54 were in Damascus and its suburbs and 45 were in Aleppo Province.

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