Government forces move through Qusayr, captured by the Syrian military last Wednesday
Entries in Syrian National Coalition (43)
Insurgent commanders in the besieged town of Qusayr, near the Lebanese border, have appealed for help and warned of dire consequences if it does not arrive:
If all rebel fronts do not move to stop this crime being led by Hezbollah and Assad's traitorous army of dogs...we will soon be saying that there was once a city called Qusayr.
Malek Ammar, an opposition activist in Qusayr, said, "The town is surrounded and there's no way to bring in medical aid."
Ammar said about 100 of 700 wounded needed oxygen: "What we need [insurgent units] to do is come to the outskirts of the city and attack the checkpoints so we can get routes in and out of the city."
Qusayr has been under sustained shelling and attacks for almost two weeks. On Wednesday, the Syrian military captured the nearby airbase of Dabba, cutting off the town on all sides and bolstering their positions.
Elsewhere, insurgents blockaded in the eastern Ghouta, east of Damascus, appealed for help on Facebook, claiming Assad's forces were "preparing to commit more massacres".The fighters said they held the opposition Syrian National Coalition, whose members have spent a week arguing in Istanbul over the orgnaisation of the leadership, responsible for their plight.
George Sabra, the acting head of the opposition Syrian National Coalition, has confirmed that the group will not attend any international "peace" conference.
However, whereas the Coalition's formal declaration on Wednesday emphasised its demand that President Assad step down as part of any transitional government, Sabra's statement said the condition was the international community's intervention to end the Syrian military's siege of Qusayr, near the Lebanese border.
Then Sabra declared, "The National Coalition will not take part in any international conference or any such efforts so long as the militias of Iran and Hezbollah continue their invasion of Syria."
The Syrian Central Bank has said that Iran has opened two lines of credit totaling $4 billion to Damascus and plans on opening up a third.
"Iran continues to support Syria, by opening one line of credit worth a billion dollars to finance the import of different items and another line of credit worth three billion dollars to finance the purchase of petrol and associated products," Central Bank Governor Adib Mayale said.
Mayale said Iran was considering an additional loan of $3 billion to bolster the Syrian economy amid war and international sanctions.
Insurgents fighting in Qusayr
has rejected Russian demands that, for an international conference, there should be no pre-condition of the departure of President Assad.
"We have been very clear that any transitional period must start with the departure of Assad and the heads of the security services," Khalid Saleh, the spokesman of the SNC, said Tuesday.
Saleh also said the Free Syrian Army must receive "major shipments of weapons" and "must be able to control more areas of Syria before we start thinking about the conference".
US President Barack Obama and Turkish Prime Minister Recep Erdogan have given a joint press conference in a rainy White House Rose Garden. One would think with both world leaders on the same stage that topics like terrorism on the Turkish/Syria border, the ongoing Syrian crisis, and the sectarian strife in Iraq would be major priorities. They were not. These topics were not raised until more than halfway through Obama's opening comments, and there was no news beyond echoing very general statements that mirror the policies that have been more-fully expressed at other times.
Syria was clearly not on the agenda, though another journalist makes an important note that this may soon change:
Note that PM Erdogan will have 2 hour private dinner w/pres Obama tonight, it's when, Erdogan says, will talk Syria in depth #rosegarden— ilhan tanir (@WashingtonPoint) May 16, 2013
More notable might be the questions from the press. Due to rain, the press conference may have been shortened, but the 1st question asked to Obama was about a domestic scandal (the IRS) and the 1st question to Erdogan was about Turkey's policies towards Israel. In other words, while having both leaders on record at the same time, some really interesting questions could have been asked about how these two leaders will pursue their most pressing common problem. Instead, they were squandered on offering the leaders an opportunity to echo talking points that they're already given.
Claimed footage of US "non-lethal" aid moving to insurgents inside Syria
1920 GMT: Chemical WeaponsLocal Turkish officials say they testing blood samples taken from Syrian casualties, brought over the border this week, to determine whether they were victims of a chemical weapons attack.
The samples were sent to Turkey's forensic medicine institute after several Syrians with breathing difficulties were brought from Syria's Idlib Province to the Turkish town of Reyhanli in Hatay Province along the border..
47 martyrs were reported in Damascus and its suburbs; 23 in Aleppo; 9 in Idlib; 8 in Homs; 3 in Daraa; 2 in Deir Ezzor; 2 in Hama; 1 in Raqqa; and 1 in Lattakia.
That number is over an hour old. With the amount of violence reported, expect it to rise by morning.
2059 GMT: Opposition Group Calls for Rebellion to "Correct its Path". The Local Coordination Committee of Douma has called for the unification of all rebel groups under the control of the Free Syrian Army east of Damascus. The goal is not just about combat effectiveness, however. The unification is important " for the sake of supporting and achieving the revolution goals in freedom, and dignity and in toppling the regime and building up a civil democratic state for all Syrians regardless of their backgrounds and religion."
Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu and US Secretary of State John Kerry at Saturday's Friends of Syria meeting
1935 GMT: Opposition Criticises Lack of International Action
Moaz al-Khatib, the leader of the Syrian National Opposition Coalition, has confirmed the resignation he announced last month.
A Coalition official said, "Khatib is resigning to denounce the international community's lack of real action on behalf of the Syrian people," after the opposition requested "specific, precise and immediate action to protect Syrian civilians from the use of ballistic missiles and chemical weapons".
Khatib had met US Secretary of State John Kerry before Saturday's Friends of Syria meeting. Kerry announced a doubling of "non-lethal" aid to $120 million from Washington, but it was not enough to satisfy the Coalition.
"The result in Istanbul was less than the Syrian people expected," Hisham Marwa, a senior member of the Coalition, said. "The US said that the use of chemical weapons was a red line for the Assad regime but the regime is using them and nothing has happened. We expected more. Russia sends Assad tonnes of weapons every week."
1523 GMT: Sectarian Threats on the Front Lines of Homs. Some of the rebels who captured the Al Dabbaa airport in Homs (see update 1320) appear to have chanted sectarian slogans. According to The Guardian, a translation of a video from Syrian rebels indicates a strong sectarianism in the language of some of the victorious rebel groups.
Mona Mahmood translates a speech given by a bearded leader in the clip. He says:
"Let the Arab leaders knee under the feet of the mujahideen and heroes of Quasir. We are fighting the most vicious enemy in the world the Shia and the Nusairi. The Shia and Nusairi are gathered against us to destroy Quasir."
It came as the British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Right uploaded a video claiming to show three soldiers from the ruling Alawite sect being tortured by rebels in Homs province [Warning: disturbing content].
The clip shows three naked men with plastic blindfolds in oil drums being repeatedly kicked, slapped and spat at by rebels.