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Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Syria: Bashar al-Assad not heard from on Armed Forces Day!

Rest In Peace Gore Vidal - October 3, 1925 to July 31, 2012

I took this picture at the Arlington West Memorial Day commemoration in 2006. It was my great honor to know him through our common work in the Los Angeles peace movement and specifically the continuing Veterans for Peace project known as Arlington West, Santa Monica. He was an early supporter of my film project that became Vietnam: American Holocaust. He will be missed.


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The Syrian regime has "proven" that Bashar al-Assad is alive and well and on post for a third time since an explosive decapitation attempt in Damascus took out four of his top repression chiefs on July 18th. The first two were via undated video without audio. This latest pronouncement came via a written statement to the troops.

I woke up to news reports that quoted Assad's speech and I thought I would be writing a very different diary today. I knew that Bashar al-Assad was scheduled to address the troops today. It was Armed Forces Day in Syria and traditionally Assad gives a morale building speech to the troops on state TV. This would seem to be more important than ever today. Not just me, all the Assad watchers have been waiting for this day. Yesterday the twitter hash tag #assad was alive with anticipation.

I brought up Al Jazeera English Live even before I got out of bed and when I heard them quoting from Assad's speech, they didn't report that it was a written speech, not at first; I thought for sure the gig was up and I would have to write a diary saying that I was wrong and that Bashar al-Assad had clearly been proven to be among the living. But no, not yet!

Reuters is reporting:
Assad praises troops but his whereabouts are mystery
Wed, 1 Aug 2012 10:24 GMT
By Erika Solomon

Aug 1 (Reuters) - President Bashar al-Assad told his troops on Wednesday that their battle against rebels would determine Syria's fate but his written message gave no clues to his whereabouts two weeks after a bomb attack hit his inner circle.

Assad has not spoken in public since the bombing in Damascus on July 18 killed four of his close security aides although he has been seen on television.

His latest remarks - made as the two sides battled for control of Syria's commercial capital Aleppo - appeared in a statement in the military's magazine to mark armed forces day.

But it was not clear exactly when or where he was speaking, indicating heightened concern over his personal security in the wake of the bombing at the defence headquarters in the capital.
What I don't understand is why there aren't more voices in the major media expressing doubts about Assad's continued well being? For example, Reuters attributes the secrecy over Assad's whereabout to "heightened concern over his personal security" two week after the deadly explosion, but I have already proven that he swore in his new Defense Minister in the Presidential Palace in Damascus the day after the explosion, if the pictures and video (without audio) released by SANA are to be believed.

I know I often see things differently and so far, in every "proof" that has been offered by the Assad regime of his continued leadership and well being, proofs that seem to be accepted without question by the MSM, I see the opposite. I see further proof that all is not well in the house of Assad.

I mean come on! We have a regime with a proven track record of lying and photoshopping. It has been two weeks now since a massive explosion in a security building took out four of his top war planners at a meeting that Bashar, the CnC, would most likely have attended.

Since then, and at this critical phase in his nations history, when his personal leadership and authority could easily mean the success or failure of his cause, we have not heard from Bashar al-Assad. Why? Give me a good reason.

I'll give you one, the same one I gave the day after the explosion: Bashar al-Assad is either dead or seriously injured.

I think that the current extremely aggressive and bloody offensive by what remained of the Assad regime after that 18 July explosion, is a desperate attempt to consolidated some kind of hold onto power before that cat gets out of the bag. Further, I suspect that the MSM and the major intelligence services are now complicit in this cover-up because it also buys them time to work out some kind of "transition" that is acceptable to them. More than anything they fear the disorderly collapse of the Syrian state, and for that reason they are keeping silent on the fate of Bashar al-Assad, even if the silence leads to continue bloodshed in Syria.

If that turns out to be the case, there will be a heavy blood debt to pay in a number of capitals far from Damascus.


This just in from ABC News:
General Assembly to Ask Syria's Assad to Step Down
By PETER JAMES SPIELMANN Associated Press
UNITED NATIONS August 1, 2012 (AP)

Arab countries pushed ahead Wednesday with a symbolic U.N. General Assembly resolution that tells Syrian President Bashar Assad to resign and turn over power to a transitional government. It also demands that the Syrian army stop its shelling and helicopter attacks and withdraw to its barracks. A vote is set for Thursday morning.

The draft resolution takes a swipe at Russia and China by "deploring the Security Council failure" to act. Moscow and Beijing have used their veto in the smaller, more powerful Council three times to kill resolutions that could have opened the door to sanctions on Syria.

While the 193-member General Assembly has no legal mechanism for enforcing a resolution, an overwhelming vote can carry moral and symbolic power. Voting is by simple majority, and there is no veto.

A very good little documentary about the Free Syrian Army:


Today from EAWorldView on Syria we have these reports:
Syria Live Coverage: Aleppo --- This Does Not Look Like Regime "Victory"
Wednesday, August 1, 2012 at 11:42 Scott Lucas



1730 GMT: Syria. Back from a break to find the Syrian National Council has criticised Tuesday's executions by insurgents of members of the Barri clan in Aleppo.
Khalid Saleh, a member of the group's executive committee, said, "The persons executed were well known to be responsible for many deaths on Aleppo. Nonetheless, we firmly believe everyone deserves a just trial even in the case of field trials."
1340 GMT: Syria. Mona Mahmood, who spoke earlier with a the head of the Free Syrian Army's Military Council (see 1255 GMT), has now obtained parallel claims from Basheer al-Haji, the spokesman of the Tawheed ("Unification") Brigade in Aleppo.
Al-Haji said the Brigade, made up of 3500 fighters, was formed by the Free Syrian Army to fight in the city. He claimed insurgent advances:

We are in control of nine neighbourhoods which are at the eastern part of the city and three others at the western part of the city.

By controlling these neighbourhoods at the eastern side of the city, we are in full control of the civilian airport.
We extended our control of the western side of the city to al-Rawsa neighbourhood where the artillery college is. This is the base used by the regime to fire against the city.
On Tuesday's execution of members of the pro-regime Barri clan, reportedly carried out by the Brigade, al-Haji said:

We were in a truce with the Berri clan, which are shabiha clan. We asked them to stay at home and not to support any part of the fight but they did not comply to the truce.

We were attacking one of the police stations in the city and Berri clan began shooting against us from behind. They killed 15 members of the FSA. We were in big clashes with them and were able to kill 20 of them and arrest another 50.
Then we held a field trial for them. We have judges and lawyers who are in the opposition. They found that seven of the Berri clan were involved in killing and they decided to execute them. Others are kept for trial after the collapse of the regime.
We are keeping a lot of prisoners for trial after the collapse of the regime as long as their hands are clean of the Syrian people's blood, otherwise we kill them immediately.
1315 GMT: Turkey. The Turkish military has carried out a drill with about 25 tanks in the southeast of the country near the Syrian border.
The manoeuvres occur after Turkey has sent three convoys of tanks, weapons, and ground-to-air missile batteries to the border.
1312 GMT: Syria. Claimed footage of a house set ablaze by shelling of the Khamidiya section of Homs:

1255 GMT: Syria. Mustafa al-Sheikh, the head of the Free Syrian Army's Supreme Military Council, has spoken to The Guardian from "the Syrian-Turkish border". He claimed insurgents hold 70% of Aleppo, where the humanitarian situation is "a disaster": "There is no wheat at all, we live on lentils and groats stored by people at their homes, we get water from wells, power comes and goes."
Al-Sheikh not only defended Tuesday's execution of members of the pro-Assad Barri clan but predicted further incidents:

The Barri clan...have a long history of being pro-regime shabiha and they have been involved in a lot of killing in Aleppo.

The regime used to provide them with light weapons and knives and gather them in schools to go and launch their attacks against civilians. Just before they left one of the schools they were caught by the FSA and killed.
In this war in which we left alone to fight such a vicious regime, everything is possible and legitimate and as long as the international community keeps looking at Syria in such carelessness, you will see more of that and even worse.
Al-Sheikh also said the Free Syrian Army could accept the presence of foreign fighters in Syria:

Al-Qaida are now in different places in Syria, they work separately, they are even in Aleppo. We do not work with them. They have Syrian and Arab fighters and they have their own targets and weapons.

They are different hardline groups. We do not deal with them but we do not mind their work anywhere in Syria.
1245 GMT: Syria. Activist "The_47th" has an ominous assessment of the aftermath of Tuesday's execution of members of the pro-Assad Barri clan in Aleppo:






1125 GMT: Libya. A bomb has shaken the Department of Military Intelligence in Benghazi early Wednesday, damaging the building.
There were no injuries. The identity of the attackers is unknown.
A bomb was defused outside the iconic Tibesti hotel on Sunday, while a hand grenade hit the appeals court and a rocket punctured the outside wall of the main prison last Friday.
1025 GMT: Syria. The United Nations mission in Syria says its observers have witnessed regime fighter jets opening fire on insurgents in Aleppo.
Spokeswoman Sausan Ghosheh also said the UN had confirmation that the insurgents now have heavy weapons of their own, including tanks.
0959 GMT: Syria. CNN's Ivan Watson and Raja Razek report from a school converted into an insurgent-run prison in Aleppo Province. They say there were signs that captured shabiha militia were beaten, while regular regime military were treated better.

0954 GMT: Syria. Al Jazeera English's Jane Ferguson reports on the Free Syrian Army's announcement that it will re-use regime land mines against President Assad's forces:

0948 GMT: Syria. In a written statement for Armed Forces Day, President Assad has commented on the insurgency, "The fate of our people and our nation, past, present and future, depends on this battle," as he praised the "heroic" armed forces as "heroic" as the defender of "just causes".
0913 GMT: Syria. Amnesty International has posted a report, based on the observations of one of its staff in Aleppo in May, which harshly criticises the regime:

Scores of demonstrators and bystanders, most of them young men and boys but including several children and older men, have been shot dead and hundreds injured in the city by security forces and the notorious shabiha, the armed militias working alongside government forces. Some of the victims were bystanders who were not taking part in the demonstrations.

Families of demonstrators and bystanders shot dead by security forces have been pressured to sign statements saying that their loved ones were killed by “armed terrorist gangs”.
Wounded people risk arrest and torture if they go to hospital. Doctors, nurses and first-aiders who provide life-saving medical treatment to injured demonstrators in makeshift secret “field hospitals” have themselves been arrested, tortured and even killed by government security forces.
Activists organizing protests and those suspected of participating in demonstrations, making or distributing anti-government leaflets or opposition flags, or otherwise supporting protesters are often arrested and detained arbitrarily without access to their families or lawyers. Detainees are routinely tortured, in some cases to death. Some have been subjected to enforced disappearance; their families have been unable to obtain any information about their fate and whereabouts since their arrest.

0908 GMT: Syria. US NBC News has reported that insurgents have acquired a small supply of surface-to-air missiles for the first time.
A Western official did not dispute the claim.
NBC said the Free Syrian Army had obtained nearly two dozen missiles, also known as man-portable air-defense systems (MANPADs) delivered via Turkey.
0816 GMT: Syria. An opposition website has posted this explanation of Tuesday's execution of captured members of the Barri clan (see 0642 GMT):
When the uprising began, the Barris started to show off their “patriotism”. The regime provided them with a list of prisoners the Barris had asked for to help them in attacking protesters. Their leaders financed Aleppo’s Shabiha [pro-regime militia]....
Al Barris would go to mosques to attack protesters using knifes etc. The majority of Aleppo’s martyers were killed by Al Barris.
When the FSA [Free Syrian Army] arrived in Bab Al Nairab and besieged it, the two sides agreed a truce on Monday. Al Barris had proposed it. One of the Al Barris’ conditions was to keep the picture of Bashar al Assad posted on their premises. The rebels agreed, although they had the upper hand to avoid clashes.
Today, the Barris killed one of the rebels in Al Marjah district. The FSA then entered the Barri's stronghold. They captured the clan’s leaders. They killed some of those who resisted, families and children were allowed to leave the neighbourhood.
0642 GMT: Syria. The Brown Moses blog summarises Tuesday's capture and execution of members of the Barri clan, accused by activists of drug and gun dealing and of the killing of Free Syrian Army members. In this video in Arabic, a Free Syrian Army commander puts forward the circumstances of the execution of the Barri men:

0635 GMT: Syria. The Local Coordination Committees report 87 people were killed on Tuesday by security forces, with 22 of the deaths in Aleppo Province.
0530 GMT: Syria. In its only brief reference to Aleppo this morning, State news agency SANA declares, "Armed forces continued chasing the fleeing terrorist groups in the area of Ard al-Sabbagh in Salah Eddin neighborhood in Aleppo, killing and injuring a large number of terrorists, some of them holding Arab and African nationalities."
The website does not attempt the line, as it did days ago, that regime forces had cleared the insurgents out of Syria's largest city. That's understandable --- information and video from other sources indicated that, far from pushing the insurgents out of neighbourhoods like Salaheddin and Sakhour, President Assad's forces were facing continued resistance and that the Free Syrian Army was able to bring in reinforcements.
Indeed, there were two dramatic episodes that pointed to the ascendancy of the insurgents in parts of the city. The Free Syrian Army attacked three police stations, occupying them for part of the day and reportedly causing dozens of casualties. Then last night footage emerged of the capture of the Barri clan, well-known supporters of the Assad regime and --- according to their critics --- renowned for their violent, criminal activity. Further video testified that the head of the family, Zaino Barri, and other members were executed.

Click here for a list of my other blogs on Syria

Syria: Ceasefire faltering as mass protests breakout12:38 PM PT:

Monday, July 30, 2012

Big Explosion hits Damascus Syria

Last Updated 5:43pm pst

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Suddenly my tweeter feeds are alive with reports of big explosions followed by heavy gun fire in Damascus.













I consider that confirmed. Something big just started in Damascus.

More as this develops.



Apparently now the Assad Regime is shelling various parts of Damascus from the Qasiyoon Mountain according to @IbnOmar2005

Big explosion from shelling on #Damascus from Qasioun mountain | 4:51pm pst 30 July 2012




At 5:18pm pst we have this report:
Damascus Suburbs : Beit Sahm: A shell landed on the outskirts of town and several buildings were damaged

The fear is gone | Protest in Damascus today | 30 July 2012



In the face of the growing strength of the Free Syrian Army as growing revolutionary force in Syria, the US government wants to see the apparatus of state violence preserved without Bashar al-Assad. according to an new article from Reuters:
US defense chief: Syria military must remain intact when Assad goes
Mon, 30 Jul 2012 23:31 GMT

WASHINGTON, July 30 (Reuters) - Government forces in Syria should be held together when President Bashar al-Assad is forced from power, the U.S. defense secretary said on Monday, warning that the mistakes of the Iraq war must not be repeated.

Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, in an interview with CNN during a visit to Tunisia, said maintaining stability in Syria would be important under any scenario that sees Assad leave power.

"I think it's important when Assad leaves, and he will leave, to try to preserve stability in that country," Panetta said.

"The best way to preserve that kind of stability is to maintain as much of the military and police as you can, along with security forces, and hope that they will transition to a democratic form of government. That's the key." More...

FSA Statement on the treatment of Assad detainees | 5:36pm pst 30 July 2012



Here are my related diaries on Syria:
UPDATED: Syria's Charge D'Affaires Quits London Post
BREAKING: Ground assault on Aleppo begins!
BREAKING: Protests across Syria in spite of Assad regime violence
ALEPPO: Step outside the Matrix and witness the Horror
UPDATED: US fears massacre in #Aleppo, #Syria
BREAKING: Reports of clashes between Jordan Army & Assad's Syrian army
BRAKING: Obama stops Putin from re-arming Assad in Syria
Syria: Foreign meddling increases as crisis builds
BREAKING: Aleppo, Syria bombed with fighter jets
BREAKING: Syria issues a correction, it has no WMD to use
BREAKING: Arab League asks Assad to step down!
Bashar al-Assad: New images released as slaughter continues in Syria
no blood for oil
BREAKING: Activists report toxic gas attack in Deir ez-Zor, Syria
Glenn Greenwald sees Islamist Terrorism as main issue in Syria
Will Syria's Assad make a chemical attack in Damascus on Saturday?
BREAKING: I know where Syria's President Bashar al-Assad is!
BREAKING: Massive Fire near #Assad's Presidential Palace in #Damascus, #Syria
BREAKING: Is Syria's Bashar al-Assad dead or dying?
BREAKING: Damascus explosion kills Defense Minister, other key figures
The battle for Damascus is coming
BREAKING: General Strike in Damascus
BREAKING: Intense fighting reported in Damascus now!
BREAKING: Syrian defector spills beans as important new defection reported.
Does Syria's Assad have something on Kofi Annan?
Tremseh Massacre in Syria: What we know
BREAKING: ~227 reported massacred by Assad's forces in Tremseh, Syria today!
Syria: Is Assad regime on the verge of collapse?
BREAKING: Russian Warships reported in Syria
BREAKING: #Russia changing on #Assad but not as fast as conditions in #Syria
UN Observers say violence in Syria is ‘Unprecedented’
BREAKING: Defection of major Assad insider reported in Syria
BREAKING: WikiLeaks releases 2.4 million #Syria emails
When did "Never Again" become "Whenever?" | #Douma
BREAKING: Incredible mass rally in Aleppo, Syria today!
BREAKING: HRW releases torture report on Syria
BREAKING: Syrian General defects with 293 to Turkey
BREAKING: Items not in the MSM on Syria
My response to Phyllis Bennis: Where is the non-violent opposition in Syria?
BREAKING: Syrian Air Force attacks Douma, 10m from Damascus, thousands flee
BREAKING: As Syria Burns, UN Blows More Smoke
BREAKING: Kofi Annan to propose Syrian unity gov't sans Assad!
BREAKING: Douma, Syria under massive attack, another massacre feared
BREAKING: Another mass defection from Syrian army
BREAKING: #NATO says No War in #Syria shoot down of #Turkey jet
NATO meetup tomorrow as more defect from Syria
BREAKING: Turkey calls for NATO consult on downing of jet by Syria
BREAKING: Senior Syrian Officers Defect
UPDATED: Russia reported to be preparing to evacuate from Syria
BREAKING: Syria fighter pilot defects
BREAKING: Britain stops Russian ship carrying attack helicopters for Syria
BREAKING: Russian troops headed to Syria
Qaddafi forces Strike Back in Libya
BREAKING: UN suspends mission in Syria
Libya & Syria - two videos - no comment
BREAKING: Russia denies supplying Syria with NEW attack helicopters
Syrian people rise up against the massacre
Another "Houla style" massacre in Syria
Fake Houla Massacre Photo: Was the BBC set up?
Idlib, Syria protest today on anniversary of Kent State killings
BREAKING: Massive protests in Syria following Friday pray
Syria is bleeding
Syria: Ceasefire faltering as mass protests breakout

Senior Syrian diplomat to Armenia defects

BREAKING @ 6:22pm pst New shelling reported in Damascus



Look for Assad's warplanes and attack helicopters to start dropping like flies. Reuters is reporting that the FSA is receiving surface-to-air missiles for the first time:
Syrian rebels acquire surface-to-air missiles: report
WASHINGTON | Tue Jul 31, 2012 7:40pm EDT

(Reuters) - Rebels fighting to depose Syrian president Bashar al Assad have for the first time acquired a small supply of surface-to-air missiles, according to a news report that a Western official did not dispute.

NBC News reported Tuesday night that the rebel Free Syrian Army had obtained nearly two dozen of the weapons, which were delivered to them via neighboring Turkey, whose moderate Islamist government has been demanding Assad's departure with increasing vehemence.

Indications are that the U.S. government, which has said it opposes arming the rebels, is not responsible for the delivery of the missiles. More...

BREAKING 3:42pm pst The FSA are currently attacking the headquarters of the Syrian army in Aleppo. The regime has over 80 tanks and many more soldiers stationed here.


There are also reports of a new massacre in Deir ez-Zor, three families slaughtered and rumors that the new defense minister has been killed. If they pan out, look for another BREAKING NEW diary.

More Breaking News 12:53pm pst We have new reports of heavy shelling by Assad forces of Qarah on the south side of Damascus.

This dairy was titled Syria: Why do certain Kossacks appear to support the Assad regime? but then this just came in on tweets and the Al Jazeera Live Blog:
A senior Syrian diplomat in Yerevan has defected to join the ranks of the opposition, an Armenian foreign ministry official said on Tuesday.

The Syrian consul in Armenia, Mohammad Hussam Hafez, "has resigned and, as far as I know, joined the opposition to Assad," the official told AFP, adding that the diplomat had flown to Dubai on Monday.

The Armenian foreign ministry had cited a diplomatic note from the Syrian embassy that said Hafez "has left his post", without providing further details.
Now I know some Kossacks have complained that I overuse BREAKING, but at the time of this posting a Google news search found only two other items about this very fresh and significant news.

4:56pm pst Protest in Shaar neighbourhood of Aleppo tonight



This is for Blue Wind who complained that a video of a protest in Damascus that I posted yesterday only showed about 20 people in it.

Protest in KafrSouse Damascus tonight 6:06pm pst


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There are a handful of people here at the Daily Kos that are as passionate it their criticism of those opposing the Assad regime as I am for them. They agree with the Assad regime's characterization of the opposition as foreign backed armed terrorist gangs led by Islamic extremists bent on expelling or killing all non-believers and establishing an Islamic caliphate. In their view, the truth victims of the Syrian conflict are the Syrian civilians that are caught in the middle of a fight between two warring factions. They are very fond of pointing out that both side have committed human rights abuses so in their eyes both sides are equally bad.

No doubt there were HR abuses in US prison camps during WWII but that didn't make them the equal of Auschwitz.

They don't acknowledge the mass demonstrations of the Syrian people or the support expressed in them for the Free Syrian Army. They seek at every point to build a wall between the FSA and the people and they see the struggle as being driven much more by sectarianism that a genuine desire for democracy and freedom. They see the Syrians who oppose the Assad regime as the dupes of western imperialism and the GCC.

It is easy to identify who these Kossacks are because they usually show up within minutes of my publishing a new diary on Syria to critique it. They post long passages of pro-Assad propaganda to the comments sections of my diary. They agree up and down the line with the Assad regime's view on the crisis and they will strongly deny that they are pro-Assad.

I disagree. I think they are performing a vital function for the Assad regime by their propaganda activities and it doesn't really matter what their motives are, objectively they are supporting one of the most tyrannical governments that even existed.

However, in recent weeks we have seen a virtual tsunami of defections from the Assad regime. How long before these Kossacks defect? Maybe this excellent report from Al Jazeera's Anita McNaught can help them decide. Also they should look at StephLamy's diary today Syria: Eyes On The Screen, Ears On The Ground. It has a lot of information useful for a facts-based analysis of the Syrian situation.

Government forces withdrew from the town of Al Bab, according to rebel forces, who claim it was the army's last urban base in the region outside of Aleppo city. The people of Al Bab took their captured tank on a victory lap around the town, after the Assad army fled the town and its prized military assets were left behind. The freeing of the army base and the capture of the tank does not mean all the danger is over for the town. There is still danger in the air, as planes and helicopters fly overhead almost every day. Al Jazeera's Anita McNaught reports from Aleppo Province.

EAWorldView has his report on Syria for Tuesday:
Syria (and Beyond) Live Coverage: Gathering Fight In and Around Aleppo
Tuesday, July 31, 2012 at 15:05 | Scott Lucas



Uncollected rubbish piles up in Aleppo


1616 GMT: Syria. The United Nations High Commission for Refugees has reported that more than 276,000 Syrians have fled the country.

More than 70,000 Syrians sought refuge in Turkey and more than 140,000 have crossed into Jordan. Lebanon hosts more than 31,000 Syrian refugees, Iraq has 11,000, and up to 25,000 are in Algeria.

1613 GMT: Syria. Claimed footage of captured members of the al-Berri clan, well-known supporters of the regime in Aleppo --- the men were seized after a battle in the Bab al-Neyrab neighbourhood:

1605 GMT: Syria. A device found in the insurgent takeover of the police station in the Hanano section of Aleppo --- The Guardian explains that it is a basat al-reeh, or “flying carpet”, in which a victim is tied to a flat board with his/her head suspended in the air or with his/her limbs stretched:

1413 GMT: Syria. Melissa Fleming, spokeswoman for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, has declared, "Thousands of frightened residents are seeking shelter in schools, mosques, and public buildings."

Fleming continued, "These are people that haven't fled the city as they haven't had the means or feel it is too dangerous to make that journey and we are getting indications that the journey is fraught with armed gangs and road blocks blocking the way."

The UN official said about 7,000 people have taken refuge in university dormitories and many more are camped out in 32 schools, each housing 250-350 people.

1404 GMT: Syria. Claimed 5-minute video of the Free Syrian Army's attack on the Salhin police station in Aleppo (see also 1246 GMT):

An assault on the station in the Hanano district:

1328 GMT: Iraq.Two car bombs in central Baghdad, exploding minutes apart, have killed at least 13 people and wounded 30, police and hospital sources said.

1246 GMT: Syria. Claimed video of the Free Syrian Army in control of the police station of Bab al-Neirab in Aleppo, one of two they reportedly attacked today (see 1236 GMT):

1243 GMT:Syria. Claimed footage of insurgent reinforcements in the Salaheddin section of Aleppo today:

1236 GMT: Syria. Unconfirmed reports are circulating that insurgents have overrun two police stations in Aleppo, killing between 40 and 60 members of the security forces.

1232 GMT: Syria. State news agency SANA has ended its blackout on news from Aleppo (see 0615 GMT). The website reports that security forces "vanquished terrorists in Salah Eddin neighborhood...inflicting heavy losses upon them and seizing their weapons". "Authorities" also "pursued an armed group which intimidated the civilians in al-Jameeliya area, killing 11 terrorists, while the authorities killed 6 others in Saadallah al-Jaberi Square", and they "pursued an armed terrorist group which horrified the citizens through shooting fire randomly in al-Mohafaza area".

1028 GMT: Syria. Up to five insurgent commandrs have been killed in fighting --- the Local Coordination Committees report the death of Mohammad Lababidi in Marjeh and Khaled Damook in Tal Refaat, and the BBC's Ian Pannell said three commanders were slain in Aleppo on Monday.

1013 GMT: Syria. More first-hand accounts from Aleppo --- Kim Sengupta of The Independent of London from the Salaheddin neighbourhood:

All the stores in street were shuttered apart from one with a "special offer" on display --- trays of Molotov cocktails. Standing among the bottles, 19-year-old Amir Mohammed Hasif explained how they were made and added: "My three sisters helped make them. They cannot join in the fight, but they want to contribute as much as possible in other ways."

The revolutionaries in Salaheddine came from a number of different battalions, with the Abu-Bakr detachment from the town of Al-Bab among the first volunteers for this extremely dangerous front line. "We are taking only the best ones who offer to come," Abdul Fawzi Hussein said. "We are winning, but Assad is like a wounded snake, he will keep striking. We don't want brave boys to come and then go back to their mothers as martyrs."...

The revolutionaries were not totally united. One base flew the black flag with gold Koranic inscriptions favoured by extreme Islamists and the fighters there polite but suspicious of strangers. "We know about them, but they keep to themselves," Abdul Fawzi Hussein said. "We shall have to deal with them in the future, but for now our focus is on Salaheddine and Aleppo. If we hold Salaheddine, I am sure, Inshallah, if we lose Salaheddine then we shall have difficulty holding on to other areas we have in Aleppo. We must liberate Aleppo."

Erika Solomon of Reuters on the outskirts of the city:

Whenever rebels idle their trucks on the street, residents come up asking for help to get gasoline for their cars. Many beg the fighters to open more bakeries so the breadlines move faster, and spare people an exhausting hours-long wait in the hot sun. But some in line nod approvingly. "They don't let anyone cut in, no one is better than anyone else now. The bakers aren't allowed to hike prices on us," says Umm Khaled, her face wrapped in a conservative black veil. "For the first time in this city, I feel like all of us are equal."

Down the street, a crowd of men gather to watch rebels inspecting a burned out police station they stormed last week. Papers, stray shoes and police caps litter the charred building. One man shakes his head as he watches the scene. "We don't even know these fighters, they don't talk to us much. But people here just accept whoever has power," one man whispered. "I'm not with anyone, I am with the side of truth. Right now, that is only God."

1007 GMT: Yemen. For the second time in three days, tribesmen loyal to former President Saleh and demanding jobs have tried to storm the Ministry of Interior.

Dozens of tribesmen exchanged gunfire with security forces preventing them from entering the Ministry, a source said.

On Sunday, around 100 tribesmen occupied the Ministry, demanding to be enlisted in the police force. They agreed to vacate it on Monday after officials promised to heed their demands.

Meanwhile, a Yemeni official said the governor of oil-producing Maarib Province was mediating with the kidnappers of an Italian Embassy security officer for his release. The officer was seized on Sunday.

1003 GMT: Syria. A snapshot in The Irish Independent of life in Aleppo, from grocer Hassan Farouk, who fled the city with his wife and children:

The first time we were shelled on my street ten days ago, I rushed to the area and found three bodies with their heads blown off ...A few days later a family of six was killed. I tried to pick up the bodies but they were in pieces and I could not complete the task. After that my children begged me to leave.

0852 GMT: Syria. Al Jazeera reporter is injured by shrapnel from a shell as he interviews an insurgent in Aleppo on Monday:

Khashram was taken to Turkey for treatment, where he was reportedly conscious and in stable condition.

0645 GMT: Syria. Claimed footage of regime shelling of Homs on Monday:

The destruction in the Jouret al-Shayyah section:

0615 GMT: Syria. Make of this what you will --- State news agency SANA makes no reference on its website this morning to the events inside Aleppo or developments such as the battle for the Anadan checkpoint. Its coverage is limited to this brief item:

Authorities clashed with an armed terrorist group who were riding four SUV cars equipped with machine guns in Dara Ezza and Qabtan al-Jabal axis in Aleppo countryside.

An official source told SANA reporter that the authorities destroyed the four cars, killing the terrorists.

0520 GMT: Syria. A day of uncertainty over the fight in Aleppo, with conflicting claims and little information from the centre of the clashes in neighbourhoods like Salaheddin. The regime asserted that it had retaken that district; insurgents countered that they were still present and, indeed, were in 60% of the city

However, what was certain is that --- despite the use of shells, tanks, and helicopter gunships, President Assad's military has still not taken control throughout Aleppo.

Meanwhile, insurgents could claim a significant victory, attacking a regime base and taking the Anadan checkpoint, only three miles to the northwest. The logistics is as important as the location --- the Free Syrian Army now occupies a path from the Turkish border to Syria's largest city.


BREAKING @ 6:22pm pst New shelling reported in Damascus



Look for Assad's war planes and attack helicopters to start dropping like flies. Reuters is reporting that the FSA is receiving surface-to-air missiles for the first time:
Syrian rebels acquire surface-to-air missiles: report
WASHINGTON | Tue Jul 31, 2012 7:40pm EDT

(Reuters) - Rebels fighting to depose Syrian president Bashar al Assad have for the first time acquired a small supply of surface-to-air missiles, according to a news report that a Western official did not dispute.

NBC News reported Tuesday night that the rebel Free Syrian Army had obtained nearly two dozen of the weapons, which were delivered to them via neighbouring Turkey, whose moderate Islamic government has been demanding Assad's departure with increasing vehemence.

Indications are that the U.S. government, which has said it opposes arming the rebels, is not responsible for the delivery of the missiles. More...

BREAKING 3:42pm pst The FSA are currently attacking the headquarters of the Syrian army in Aleppo. The regime has over 80 tanks and many more soldiers stationed here.


There are also reports of a new massacre in Deir ez-Zor, three families slaughtered and rumors that the new defence minister has been killed. If they pan out, look for another BREAKING NEW diary.

More Breaking News 12:53pm pst We have new reports of heavy shelling by Assad forces of Qarah on the south side of Damascus.

This dairy was titled Syria: Why do certain Kossacks appear to support the Assad regime? but then this just came in on tweets and the Al Jazeera Live Blog:
A senior Syrian diplomat in Yerevan has defected to join the ranks of the opposition, an Armenian foreign ministry official said on Tuesday.

The Syrian consul in Armenia, Mohammad Hussam Hafez, "has resigned and, as far as I know, joined the opposition to Assad," the official told AFP, adding that the diplomat had flown to Dubai on Monday.

The Armenian foreign ministry had cited a diplomatic note from the Syrian embassy that said Hafez "has left his post", without providing further details.
Now I know some Kossacks have complained that I overuse BREAKING, but at the time of this posting a Google news search found only two other items about this very fresh and significant news.

4:56pm pst Protest in Shaar neighbourhood of Aleppo tonight



This is for Blue Wind who complained that a video of a protest in Damascus that I posted yesterday only showed about 20 people in it.

Protest in KafrSouse Damascus tonight 6:06pm pst


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There are a handful of people here at the Daily Kos that are as passionate it their criticism of those opposing the Assad regime as I am for them. They agree with the Assad regime's characterization of the opposition as foreign backed armed terrorist gangs led by Islamic extremists bent on expelling or killing all non-believers and establishing an Islamic caliphate. In their view, the truth victims of the Syrian conflict are the Syrian civilians that are caught in the middle of a fight between two warring factions. They are very fond of pointing out that both side have committed human rights abuses so in their eyes both sides are equally bad.

No doubt there were HR abuses in US prison camps during WWII but that didn't make them the equal of Auschwitz.

They don't acknowledge the mass demonstrations of the Syrian people or the support expressed in them for the Free Syrian Army. They seek at every point to build a wall between the FSA and the people and they see the struggle as being driven much more by sectarianism that a genuine desire for democracy and freedom. They see the Syrians who oppose the Assad regime as the dupes of western imperialism and the GCC.

It is easy to identify who these Kossacks are because they usually show up within minutes of my publishing a new diary on Syria to critique it. They post long passages of pro-Assad propaganda to the comments sections of my diary. They agree up and down the line with the Assad regime's view on the crisis and they will strongly deny that they are pro-Assad.

I disagree. I think they are performing a vital function for the Assad regime by their propaganda activities and it doesn't really matter what their motives are, objectively they are supporting one of the most tyrannical governments that even existed.

However, in recent weeks we have seen a virtual tsunami of defections from the Assad regime. How long before these Kossacks defect? Maybe this excellent report from Al Jazeera's Anita McNaught can help them decide. Also they should look at StephLamy's diary today Syria: Eyes On The Screen, Ears On The Ground. It has a lot of information useful for a facts-based analysis of the Syrian situation.

Government forces withdrew from the town of Al Bab, according to rebel forces, who claim it was the army's last urban base in the region outside of Aleppo city. The people of Al Bab took their captured tank on a victory lap around the town, after the Assad army fled the town and its prized military assets were left behind. The freeing of the army base and the capture of the tank does not mean all the danger is over for the town. There is still danger in the air, as planes and helicopters fly overhead almost every day. Al Jazeera's Anita McNaught reports from Aleppo Province.

EAWorldView has his report on Syria for Tuesday:
Syria (and Beyond) Live Coverage: Gathering Fight In and Around Aleppo
Tuesday, July 31, 2012 at 15:05 | Scott Lucas



Uncollected rubbish piles up in Aleppo


1616 GMT: Syria. The United Nations High Commission for Refugees has reported that more than 276,000 Syrians have fled the country.

More than 70,000 Syrians sought refuge in Turkey and more than 140,000 have crossed into Jordan. Lebanon hosts more than 31,000 Syrian refugees, Iraq has 11,000, and up to 25,000 are in Algeria.

1613 GMT: Syria. Claimed footage of captured members of the al-Berri clan, well-known supporters of the regime in Aleppo --- the men were seized after a battle in the Bab al-Neyrab neighbourhood:

1605 GMT: Syria. A device found in the insurgent takeover of the police station in the Hanano section of Aleppo --- The Guardian explains that it is a basat al-reeh, or “flying carpet”, in which a victim is tied to a flat board with his/her head suspended in the air or with his/her limbs stretched:

1413 GMT: Syria. Melissa Fleming, spokeswoman for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, has declared, "Thousands of frightened residents are seeking shelter in schools, mosques, and public buildings."

Fleming continued, "These are people that haven't fled the city as they haven't had the means or feel it is too dangerous to make that journey and we are getting indications that the journey is fraught with armed gangs and road blocks blocking the way."

The UN official said about 7,000 people have taken refuge in university dormitories and many more are camped out in 32 schools, each housing 250-350 people.

1404 GMT: Syria. Claimed 5-minute video of the Free Syrian Army's attack on the Salhin police station in Aleppo (see also 1246 GMT):

An assault on the station in the Hanano district:

1328 GMT: Iraq.Two car bombs in central Baghdad, exploding minutes apart, have killed at least 13 people and wounded 30, police and hospital sources said.

1246 GMT: Syria. Claimed video of the Free Syrian Army in control of the police station of Bab al-Neirab in Aleppo, one of two they reportedly attacked today (see 1236 GMT):

1243 GMT:Syria. Claimed footage of insurgent reinforcements in the Salaheddin section of Aleppo today:

1236 GMT: Syria. Unconfirmed reports are circulating that insurgents have overrun two police stations in Aleppo, killing between 40 and 60 members of the security forces.

1232 GMT: Syria. State news agency SANA has ended its blackout on news from Aleppo (see 0615 GMT). The website reports that security forces "vanquished terrorists in Salah Eddin neighborhood...inflicting heavy losses upon them and seizing their weapons". "Authorities" also "pursued an armed group which intimidated the civilians in al-Jameeliya area, killing 11 terrorists, while the authorities killed 6 others in Saadallah al-Jaberi Square", and they "pursued an armed terrorist group which horrified the citizens through shooting fire randomly in al-Mohafaza area".

1028 GMT: Syria. Up to five insurgent commandrs have been killed in fighting --- the Local Coordination Committees report the death of Mohammad Lababidi in Marjeh and Khaled Damook in Tal Refaat, and the BBC's Ian Pannell said three commanders were slain in Aleppo on Monday.

1013 GMT: Syria. More first-hand accounts from Aleppo --- Kim Sengupta of The Independent of London from the Salaheddin neighbourhood:

All the stores in street were shuttered apart from one with a "special offer" on display --- trays of Molotov cocktails. Standing among the bottles, 19-year-old Amir Mohammed Hasif explained how they were made and added: "My three sisters helped make them. They cannot join in the fight, but they want to contribute as much as possible in other ways."

The revolutionaries in Salaheddine came from a number of different battalions, with the Abu-Bakr detachment from the town of Al-Bab among the first volunteers for this extremely dangerous front line. "We are taking only the best ones who offer to come," Abdul Fawzi Hussein said. "We are winning, but Assad is like a wounded snake, he will keep striking. We don't want brave boys to come and then go back to their mothers as martyrs."...

The revolutionaries were not totally united. One base flew the black flag with gold Koranic inscriptions favoured by extreme Islamists and the fighters there polite but suspicious of strangers. "We know about them, but they keep to themselves," Abdul Fawzi Hussein said. "We shall have to deal with them in the future, but for now our focus is on Salaheddine and Aleppo. If we hold Salaheddine, I am sure, Inshallah, if we lose Salaheddine then we shall have difficulty holding on to other areas we have in Aleppo. We must liberate Aleppo."

Erika Solomon of Reuters on the outskirts of the city:

Whenever rebels idle their trucks on the street, residents come up asking for help to get gasoline for their cars. Many beg the fighters to open more bakeries so the breadlines move faster, and spare people an exhausting hours-long wait in the hot sun. But some in line nod approvingly. "They don't let anyone cut in, no one is better than anyone else now. The bakers aren't allowed to hike prices on us," says Umm Khaled, her face wrapped in a conservative black veil. "For the first time in this city, I feel like all of us are equal."

Down the street, a crowd of men gather to watch rebels inspecting a burned out police station they stormed last week. Papers, stray shoes and police caps litter the charred building. One man shakes his head as he watches the scene. "We don't even know these fighters, they don't talk to us much. But people here just accept whoever has power," one man whispered. "I'm not with anyone, I am with the side of truth. Right now, that is only God."

1007 GMT: Yemen. For the second time in three days, tribesmen loyal to former President Saleh and demanding jobs have tried to storm the Ministry of Interior.

Dozens of tribesmen exchanged gunfire with security forces preventing them from entering the Ministry, a source said.

On Sunday, around 100 tribesmen occupied the Ministry, demanding to be enlisted in the police force. They agreed to vacate it on Monday after officials promised to heed their demands.

Meanwhile, a Yemeni official said the governor of oil-producing Maarib Province was mediating with the kidnappers of an Italian Embassy security officer for his release. The officer was seized on Sunday.

1003 GMT: Syria. A snapshot in The Irish Independent of life in Aleppo, from grocer Hassan Farouk, who fled the city with his wife and children:

The first time we were shelled on my street ten days ago, I rushed to the area and found three bodies with their heads blown off ...A few days later a family of six was killed. I tried to pick up the bodies but they were in pieces and I could not complete the task. After that my children begged me to leave.

0852 GMT: Syria. Al Jazeera reporter is injured by shrapnel from a shell as he interviews an insurgent in Aleppo on Monday:

Khashram was taken to Turkey for treatment, where he was reportedly conscious and in stable condition.

0645 GMT: Syria. Claimed footage of regime shelling of Homs on Monday:

The destruction in the Jouret al-Shayyah section:

0615 GMT: Syria. Make of this what you will --- State news agency SANA makes no reference on its website this morning to the events inside Aleppo or developments such as the battle for the Anadan checkpoint. Its coverage is limited to this brief item:

Authorities clashed with an armed terrorist group who were riding four SUV cars equipped with machine guns in Dara Ezza and Qabtan al-Jabal axis in Aleppo countryside.

An official source told SANA reporter that the authorities destroyed the four cars, killing the terrorists.

0520 GMT: Syria. A day of uncertainty over the fight in Aleppo, with conflicting claims and little information from the centre of the clashes in neighbourhoods like Salaheddin. The regime asserted that it had retaken that district; insurgents countered that they were still present and, indeed, were in 60% of the city

However, what was certain is that --- despite the use of shells, tanks, and helicopter gunships, President Assad's military has still not taken control throughout Aleppo.

Meanwhile, insurgents could claim a significant victory, attacking a regime base and taking the Anadan checkpoint, only three miles to the northwest. The logistics is as important as the location --- the Free Syrian Army now occupies a path from the Turkish border to Syria's largest city.


Click here for a list of my other diaries on Syria

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Syria's Charge D'Affaires Quits London Post

Last Updated 3:00PM PST
Breaking News | Al Arabiya | 2:25pm pst | There are large clashes between the #FSA and #Assad's gangs in the largest square in the city of #Aleppo, Saad Allah AlJabri Square. Pray that God brings the FSA great victory!
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Syria's Charge D'Affaires to London has become the latest high level diplomat to defect from the Assad regime according to numerous tweets and Sky News which is reporting:
Syria's Charge D'Affaires Quits London Post
3:39pm UK, Monday 30 July 2012

Syria's charge d'affaires has left his London post because he is "no longer willing to represent a regime that has committed such violent and oppressive acts".

The Foreign Office said Khaled al Ayoubi's decision illustrated the "revulsion and despair" the regime's actions were provoking amongst Syrians.
A spokesperson for the FCO said: "We urge others around Bashar al Assad to follow Mr al Ayoubi's example; to disassociate themselves from the crimes being committed against the Syrian people and to support a peaceful and free future for Syria."

I have much more to report today, with a special focus on defections and protests. There are more defections to tell you about. for example another brigadier general, who was the Deputy police chief of Latakia has defected, with 11 other officers, to Turkey. The more Syrian soldiers learn from their own experience that the government's story that they are fighting "foreign backed terrorist armed gangs" is a lie, the more they slip away. This is why bringing the fight to Aleppo and Damascus will finish off the regime.

Also it appears that the Free Syrian Army is not only holding its own in Aleppo, it is actually been gaining ground! It is now claiming to control 60% of Aleppo, up from 40% before the regime struck back. Although the Assad forces have been able to use their standoff weapons, warplanes, helicopters and long range artillery, with murderous effect; the FSA has turned Aleppo into a graveyard for tanks and the regime doesn't dare let the troops go in lest they defect.

And while everyone has been focused on the fighting in Aleppo, Deir ez-Zor has been taking a pounding and is looking more and more like the site of another massacre. Meanwhile, Damascus is not as quiet as some would have you believe.

So check back late for more. This London defection is hot, so I wanted to get it out fast.

Ten Protests among Hundreds Yesterday

Demonstration all the cities affected | Nasrhlheik | Qrva | 30 July 2012



Singer Abu Malik leads protesters in song | Hama | 29 July 2012


Evening Demonstration Demanding Freedom Bastan | Aleppo | 29 July 2012



City of Mare `demonstration evening | 29 July 2012



Hasaka: demonstration Sunday, "senior Kurdish DFI represent us" | 29 July 2012



An evening rally support for the cities affected Arbeen Damascus | 29 July 2012



An evening rally support for the cities affected in Homs | 29 July 2012


An evening rally support for the cities affected in Idlib | 29 July 2012



Demonstration on tenth day of Ramadan in Klli Idlib | 29 July 2012



Demonstration in Aleppo | 29 July 2012


Defections

Most low level defector don't have the option of just retreating from the fight. They know they will be shot by the Assad regime if they are caught, and their families will the slaughtered if they can be found.
This make defection very difficult and is why you see whole units defecting together with their families.

Syrian Consul in Nigeria defects | 30 July 2012



Syrian Air Force pilot defects together with his two sons Talal | 30 July 2012



Military Security branch defects to form Radio Free Deir Al-Zour | 29 July 2012


More defections in the Damascus Suburbs | 29 July 2012



More defections to the FSA in the Idlb | 29 July 2012



Colonel leading a Captain defect | 30 July 2012



Defection of Lieutenant Hamza Keziz and the formation of a new brigade | 30 July 2012



First assistant security officer Khaled Bakri defects in Aleppo | 30 July 2012


Defection of al- Asad Sgayn | 29 July 2012



Sergeant Solomon defects Acer | 30 July 2012



A group of officers defect in the free city of Mohassan Bdiralzor | 30 July 2012


Death & Destruction







Regime shelling destroys home in Homs, Syria | 30 July 2012


Results of Assad regime massacre carried out in Deir al-Zour | 29 July 2012
WARNING - VERY GRAPHIC - Click [RED PILL] to View.

Free Syrian Army Victories

Valerie Amos Under-Secretary General for Humanitarian Affairs has issued a statement saying "that some 200,000 people have fled fighting in Aleppo and surrounding areas in the last two days." Of course,, in as much as Aleppo was a city of 2.5 million, that leaves a lot of people unaccounted for.

MUST SEE! Life in Aleppo today - Saving survivor of a massacre after a bus is targeted by a regime tank, killing 17 | 28 July 2012


Ivan Watson of CNN is in Syria and this morning he reports on significant FSA victories around Aleppo:
Syrian rebels seize military base outside Aleppo
updated 11:24 AM EDT, Mon July 30, 2012

Northern Syria (CNN) -- Rebels captured a government military base Monday on the outskirts of Aleppo, the hotly contested Syrian metropolis that has seen more than a week of bloody clashes.

The base had about 200 Syrian troops and appeared to be under attack by rebels from three sides overnight.

"The battle lasted around nine hours," said Fazad Abdel Nasr, a rebel commander working in the northern Aleppo suburbs. Nasr said six regime soldiers and four rebel fighters were killed.

The rebels also gained heavy equipment to supplement the lesser weapons they had been fighting with.


"We captured four tanks in good condition, and they are now in the hands of the Free Syrian Army. Two were destroyed," Nasr added.

Despite the boost for the rebels, the relentless battle for Syria's largest city raged on Monday.

Al Jazeera correspondent Omar Khashram was wounded during heavy fighting in a central Aleppo neighborhood. A cameraman and driver working with Khashram, who was being treated in a hospital in Turkey, told CNN that shrapnel from a shell penetrated gaps in the correspondent's flak jacket in Aleppo's Salahuddin neighborhood.

U.N. observers have reported a surge in violence in Aleppo, with helicopters, tanks and artillery being used, mission head Lt. Gen. Babacar Gaye said Monday.

Regime forces launched missiles and shelled from attack helicopters, opposition activists said. More...

Ivan Watson of CNN:
Some of at least 4 government tanks I saw the rebels capture near Anadan, north of Aleppo.


Multiple images of the same thing from different sources make events easy to verify. On the otherhand, the fact that the Syrian government was easily caught trying to pond off footage shot in Hamdanieh from Salah Eddine, shows how hard really convincing video is to produce. Here is some video of those captured tanks:



Clearly they are proud of their new acquisitions, and rightfully so. They probably represent the most potent new weapons in the rebel arsenal and they weren't purchased with Saudi dollars, smuggled in by Qatar or vetted by the CIA.

Those tanks attracted a lot of cameras. This is the best:



Erika Solomon of Reuters has filed this report from Aleppo:
Aleppo rebels under fire, Syrian fighter jet flies over
Mon Jul 30, 2012 11:57am EDT

(Reuters) - The Syrian military stepped up its campaign to drive rebel fighters out of Aleppo on Monday, firing artillery and mortars while a fighter jet flew over a district the army said it had retaken the day before.

However, opposition activists denied government forces had entered the Salaheddine district, which lies in the southwest of the country's biggest city and straddles the most obvious route for Syrian troop reinforcements coming from the south.

Hospitals and makeshift clinics in rebel-held eastern neighborhoods were filling up with casualties from a week of fighting in Aleppo, a commercial hub that had previously stayed out of a 16-month-old revolt against President Bashar al-Assad.

"Some days we get around 30, 40 people, not including the bodies," said a young medic in one clinic. "A few days ago we got 30 injured and maybe 20 corpses, but half of those bodies were ripped to pieces. We can't figure out who they are."

The opposition Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said 40 people, including 30 civilians, were killed in Syria on Monday. Two rebel fighters died in Salaheddine.

Outgunned rebel fighters, patrolling in flat-bed trucks flying green-white-and-black "independence" flags, said they were holding out in Salaheddine despite a battering by the army's heavy weapons and helicopter gunships. More...

Here is another column of 13 tanks and other vehicles that was seized in Aleppo. The Free Syrian Army claims they will soon be used in their new push on Damascus. | 30 July 2012




Again, there are multiple videos... | 30 July 2012



Tarak Barkawi has published this very insightful assessment of the fighting on the Al Jazeera website:
Victory for Free Syria
Syrian troops will soon regard everyone outside their own units as potential enemies.
Last Modified: 30 Jul 2012 09:04

Recent events and news reports have revealed the military character of the fighting in Syria. They make it possible to assess the likely course and outcome of the war.

Especially significant are accounts of Syrian troops holed up in their bases in the countryside, unable to move about except in armoured vehicles. Some bases are apparently only being resupplied by helicopter. What's even more demoralising for the Syrian army are reports that the rebels now have effective anti-tank weapons. It appears that Syrian tanks and other armoured vehicles are being taken out of action by home-made improvised explosive devices (IEDs) as well as by more advanced weaponry provided by foreign backers.

In rural areas, these developments mean that the rebels can effectively control large swathes of territory with relatively weak forces. Confining regular forces to bases is a dire sign for the government in any insurgency. The authorities no longer govern much of the population, and can no longer extract taxes and recruits from it.

However, Syrian forces are likely to become even more murderous when they do venture out of their laagers. They will regard everyone outside their own units and regime-friendly areas as potential enemies. There are reports of regime tanks firing their machine guns into buildings as they race by.

Notably, the forces of "Free Syria" have demonstrated an ability to strike into the heart of Syria's great cities. The fighting in Damascus and Aleppo is a sure sign of the growing military capabilities of the rebels. Along with the assassination of four senior officials, there can be no more stark indicators that the days of the Assad regime are numbered. More...

Chris Stephen thinks that Aleppo is the new Stalingrad in the Scotsman:
Analysis: Time is on the side of the guerillas in Assad’s Stalingrad
Monday 30 July 2012 00:52

THE battle for Aleppo is shaping up to be Syria’s Stalingrad, and it is the forces of president Bashar al-Assad which are staring defeat in the face.

While the Syrian army has the tanks, artillery and attack helicopters, it is the Free Syrian Army which is in the driving seat and which chose this battle.

For a guerrilla army, no environment is more of an equaliser than a city, with its narrow streets and tall buildings. Cities are an environment that conventional armies dread.

All the advantages are with the defender. The Free Syrian Army militias have plentiful protection from the artillery and helicopter gunships, and a pulverised building is as good a strongpoint as an intact one.?Tanks are acutely vulnerable in the restricted spaces – witness recent film posted by activists showing Free Syrian Army units knocking out Assad’s armour with Molotov cocktails hurled from alleys and rooftops.

Advancing infantry must stumble through unfamiliar terrain, with a hundred places for a sniper to conceal himself.

Not for nothing did Free Syrian Army commander Abdel Jabbar al-Oqaidi declare at the weekend that Aleppo would be Assad’s “graveyard.” More...

From EAWorldView on Syria Monday we have:
Syria (and Beyond) Live Coverage: Is Aleppo "A Nail in Assad's Coffin"?
Monday, July 30, 2012 at 13:25 | Scott Lucas



1921 GMT: Syria. The Guardian has a pair of stories on the growing role of jihadists in the conflict. Martin Chulov, drawing from residents and a Turkish smuggler, reports on the growing number of foreigners crossing into Syria from Turkey in the past two weeks, some saying that they are planning to travel to Aleppo to join the battle.

Many of the men reportedly come from the Caucasus, while others have arrived from Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Gulf Arab states.

Insurgent leaders say about 15-20 foreign fighters have been crossing each day since mid-July, trying to join up with an estimated 200-300 foreigners already in the country.

Ghaith Abdul-Ahad speaks to Syrian fighters who claim connections with Al Qa'eda and car bombings.

1629 GMT: Syria. Claimed footage of Free Syrian Army attacks on regime forces in the Engineer's building, City Centre building, and police headquarters in Homs:

1542 GMT: Syria. The commander in charge of the Free Syrian Army near Aleppo, Colonel Abdel Naser, has given more details on the insurgents' takeover of the Anadan checkpoint, three miles from Aleppo (see 0817 and 0836 GMT).

Naser said Free Syrian Army fighters had overwhelmed the Hryatan army base, next to the checkpoint, at around 5 a.m. this morning:

It was a successful operation. We took eight tanks and 10 armoured vehicles, as well as mortars and lots of weapons. We also took prisoners....Two tanks and one armoured vehicle managed to escape..

1535 GMT: Bahrain. Six medics who were arrested during last year's unrest and tried before a military court, will receive the verdict on their appeal on 1 October.

The medics were in the Court of Cassation today to challenge convictions that were upheld by a civilian court in June (see 0620 GMT entry

1442 GMT: Syria. Footage of slain Syrian soldiers in Aleppo, with the Hamdaniya-Salaheddin road in the background:

1430 GMT: Syria. Britain's Foreign and Commonwealth Office has announced that the Syrian chargé d’affaires, Khaled al-Ayoubi, has left his post.

The FCO claimed:

Ayoubi has told us that he is no longer willing to represent a regime that has committed such violent and oppressive acts against its own people, and is therefore unable to continue in his position. Ayoubi was the most senior Syrian diplomat serving in London. His departure is another blow to the Assad regime. It illustrates the revulsion and despair the regime’s actions are provoking amongst Syrians from all walks of life, inside the country and abroad.

The statement continued, "We urge others around Bashar Al-Assad to follow Ayoubi’s example; to disassociate themselves from the crimes being committed against the Syrian people and to support a peaceful and free future for Syria."

1330 GMT: Syria. Official United Nations video of the new head of UN monitors, General Babakar Gaye, visiting Homs and Rastan on Sunday:

1306 GMT: Syria. Insurgents stopping and checking vehicles in Aleppo:

1253 GMT: Bahrain. A large protest marched last night through the village of Mahazza on Sitra, the island which has been nicknamed the capital of the Bahrain revolution, with pro-democracy demonstrators chanting for the downfall of the AlKhalifa monarchy.

Opposition party Al-Wefaq claimed that police attacked the protesters, resulting in around 25 injuries, some with deep wounds from a reportedly new type of weapon. Activists shared this video of the march:

1224 GMT: Syria. Insurgents on streets of the Ansari section of Aleppo as a regime helicopter flies overhead:

1214 GMT: Syria. The Joint Command of the Free Syrian Army has put out a "national salvation" proposal for a political transition with military and civilian figures.

The draft proposes the establishment of a Higher Defence Council charged with creating a Presidential Council, which in turn would appoint six military and civilian officials to lead a future transition.

The Higher Defence Council should include "all Military Council leaders in Syria's cities and provinces, as well as all the high-profile defected officers and others who have contributed to the revolution", the Joint Command statement said. Among the proposed Presidential Council's responsibilities would be "to put forward draft laws for referendum and...to restructure the security and military apparatus".

1017 GMT: Iraq. David O'Byrne of the Financial Times reports on the complex "oil diplomacy" amongst Turkey, Iraqi Kurdistan, and the Iraqi central government:

Ordinarily, news of six road tankers carrying tiny quantities of unrefined crude oil 700km to a coastal port would not warrant much comment.

But the fact that six Turkish tankers have carried crude from the Kurdish-controlled region of northern Iraq to the Turkish port of Iskenderun is a different matter.

The trucks entered Turkey on Thursday carrying crude extracted by companies operating in northern Iraq in defiance of the central government. Their final destination was unclear but it appeared the crude would be exported from one of several port facilities around the bay of Iskenderun, two of which are operated by Botas, Turkey’s state pipeline operator.

0938 GMT: Syria. Another Turkish convoy of troops, missile batteries and armoured vehicles has left its base in Gaziantep Province and headed towards Kilis Province near the Syria border

Television footage from Dogan News Agency showed at least six armoured vehicles atop trucks traveling along an asphalt road. Buses and covered trucks that appeared to be personnel carriers were also in the convoy of about 20 vehicles.

Turkey also sent convoys to the border on 28 June and 22 July.

0929 GMT: Syria. A 28th general and the deputy police chief of Latakia has defected and fled to Turkey overnight with 11 other Syrian officers and 600 other people, a Turkish official has said.

0920 GMT: Yemen. Ian Pannell's first-hand report from Aleppo this morning on BBC radio, talking about "intensified fighting" and "increased suffering" among civilians:

0912 GMT: Yemen. About 100 armed tribesmen loyal to former President Ali Abdullah Saleh stormed the Ministry of Interior on Sunday, demanding to be enlisted in the police force.

The tribesmen briefly held employees hostage but continued to occupy the building.

Later, gunmen kidnapped an Italian embassy security officer.

0906 GMT: Turkey. Mehmet Ezer of Turkish Weekly reports on the effect in southeastern Turkey of the Syrian conflict:

Hatay, on the border between Turkey and Syria, is feeling the brunt of the unrest in the neighboring country with many local businesses on the brink of bankruptcy. Some firms are unable to pay their debts tourism is almost nonexistent>.

The southern province of Hatay, which borders Syria to the north, has never before seen a crisis like the one currently unfolding, Hatay Industrialists and Businessmen Association (HAS?AD) President Gülay Gül has said in an interview with daily Hürriyet.

Gül said many companies in the province had reached the brink of bankruptcy because of the crisis in Syria and its impact on the local economy. Two years ago 2.5 million people passed through Hatay’s two border crossings for tourism, but now this number has dropped to zero, she said.

“Industrialists, logistical firms, exporters, importers, tourism firms and the agriculture sector have all been impacted very seriously. Local tradesmen, merchants and businessmen have also been hurt economically. The local population is tense,” said Gül. She also noted that companies that had taken out loans to grow their businesses are really suffering and that those with debts to banks were on the verge of bankruptcy.

0836 GMT: Syria. Footage of the fighting and the aftermath at the Anadan checkpoint, three miles northwest of Aleppo, seized by insurgents this morning after a ten-hour battle (see 0817 GMT):

0832 GMT: Syria. There are competing claims this morning about the fight in the Salaheddin district of Aleppo.

A "security source in Damascus" has claimed, "The Syrian army took control of part of Salaheddin district and continues its offensive"; however, Colonel Abdel Jabbar al-Oqaidi, head of the Free Syrian Army military council of Aleppo, denied the report and said regime troops had "not progressed one metre". He added, "We launched a new assault from Salaheddin during the night, and we destroyed four tanks."

0826 GMT: Syria. The BBC's Ian Pannell reports from Aleppo:

A hole-in-the-wall bakery had just reopened its doors after being closed for more than a day. Most food shops in the turbulent districts are now closed.

Rebel fighters tried to marshal the crowds as hundreds of hungry and increasingly desperate residents clamoured for the thin round loaves.

Suriya had finally reached the front of the queue and the middle-aged mother thrust her hand through the railings outside the bakery, grasping for the bread. Like many poor Syrians she has a large family to feed and with no fresh fruit or vegetables available this is her only chance to get food.

"A lot of poor people are suffering from a lack of food and water," she complained. "Many are going to bed hungry."

Pannell also writes, amid bodies, from a school being used as an insurgent base:

She was the girl with no name. When we returned to the rebel base, she was lying on her back on the floor, where she appeared to be sleeping. The teenager had a pale complexion and wore a pretty red dress, her lower body draped in a blanket.

I noticed our translator, sat at her side, was crying. I had been wrong, the girl was not sleeping - she was dead, killed in a government artillery strike, the blanket masking her wounds.

"Who is she?" I asked. No one knew. She had been found in the road near to where the shell had landed.

0817 GMT: Syria. An AFP journalist reports that insurgents have seized a strategic checkpoint, securing free movement between Aleppo and Turkey.

"The Anadan checkpoint, five kilometres (3 miles) northwest of Aleppo, was taken this morning at 5:00 am (0200 GMT) after 10 hours of fighting," said insurgent General Ferzat Abdel Nasser.

The AFP journalist said the insurgents captured seven tanks and armoured vehicles, and destroyed an eighth vehicle. Six soldiers were killed and 25 were taken as prisoners, General Ferzat said, adding that four of his own men died in the fighting.

0811 GMT: Syria. Activists report regime attacks on insurgent positions in Aleppo early this morning.

The Syrian Revolution General Commission said the southwestern district of Salaheddin, where insurgents entered Aleppo this morning, has been shelled, while the Local Coordination Committeessaid the eastern neighbourhood of Sakhur was hit by shells and by machinegun fire, with regime forces deploying helicopter gunships.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said clashes between troops and insurgents erupted near the Air Force's intelligence headquarters in the Zahraa district.

0646 GMT: Bahrain. The February 14 Youth Coalition has announced a series of daily protests, starting today and culminating on Saturday with a demonstration in solidarity with political prisoners.

0643 GMT: Syria. Claimed footage of insurgents attacking a building with pro-regime shabiha militia in Aleppo on Sunday:

0638 GMT: Kuwait. Thursday's arrest of a member of Kuwait's ruling family for tweeting political opinions has been strongly criticised. AFP reports:

In tweets that Sheikh Meshaal wrote over the past few days, he said he would contest the next parliamentary election becoming the first royal in Kuwait to do so, and also vowed that if he became an MP he would expose corruption among top officials.

He also complained that the Kuwaiti constitution entrusts power to only one branch of Al Sabah family --- the descendants of Mubarak Al Kabeer, who ruled Kuwait from 1896 to 1915.


0634 GMT: Bahrain. Last Thursday, opposition society Al Wefaq launched "Darkness Gangs", a campaign to raise awareness of "constant attacks on homes" by Bahrain police since the start of the uprising in February 2011.

The Ministry of Interior reacted with a statement on Saturday, put out by Bahrain's PR firms into the Western media:

Bahrain's Interior Ministry says it is opening investigations into possible rights violations by police during crackdowns on opposition protesters....

Bahrain has said before that it will look into abuses but this is one of the most forcefully worded pledges.

0631 GMT: Iraq. Six people were killed by car bombs on Sunday with a further 21 wounded.

One bomb was detonated at a market in Al-Muqdadiyah, killing four people, with the other bomb killing two policemen just east of Fallujah. In Kirkuk, "a magnetic 'sticky bomb' wounded Major Rabih Nadhim of the Oil Protection Force."

0625 GMT: Syria. The head of the opposition Syrian National Council, Abdel Basset Sayda, is reportedly visiting Iraqi Kurdistan in a bid to convince Kurdish leaders to join the opposition.

A high-ranking official in the Syrian Kurdish National Council said Sayda arrived in Erbil on Sunday and will meet the president of the Kurdistan Regional Government, Massud Barzani, and other senior officials. The meetings will include Syria's Supreme Kurdish Council.

The official said that Sayda, who is Kurdish, had made a secret visit to Kurdistan to meet Barzani and other leaders after he was chosen in June to head the SNC.

0620 GMT: Bahrain. An appeal by six medics, currently facing prison sentences between 6 months and 5 years, will be heard before the Court of Cassation this morning.

Last year, the medics were arrested, abused, and tried before a military court. This June, as nine of their colleagues were acquitted, the six medics had their sentences reduced but their convictions were upheld.

On Saturday, Physicians for Human Rights called upon the court to overturn the remaining convictions:

“The charges against these medical professionals are representative of a broad and systematic attack on Bahrain’s health system by the government of Bahrain," said Richard Sollom, deputy director of PHR. "Dropping all charges against the medics—whose ethical duty was to treat all injured people—is imperative if there is to be true justice and political reform in Bahrain."

0520 GMT: Syria. The Local Coordination Committees of report that at least 114 people died at the hands of security forces on Sunday, including 41 in Damascus and its uburbs, among them 36 slain in the suburb of Moadamiyeh'; 33 in Daraa Province, most in Sheikh Meskeen massacre; and 11 in Aleppo Province.

0500 GMT: Syria. We start with a comment by US Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta on Sunday as he started a tour of five Middle Eastern countries:

If [the Syrian regime] continues this kind of tragic attack on their own people... I think it ultimately will be a nail in [President] Assad's coffin.

What Assad has been doing to his own people and what he continues to do to his own people makes clear that his regime is coming to an end. It's lost all legitimacy.

It's no longer a question of whether he's coming to an end, it's when.

The situation on the ground is not as clear-cut. Fighting continued in several neighbourhoods on Sunday, with an estimated 200,000 of Aleppo's 2.5 million residents having left Syria's largest city. Despite the use of helicopter gunships, tanks, and intense ground fire, the Assad military failed to dislodge the Free Syrian Army from areas it has occupied for more than a week.

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