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Man behind the Curtain for al-Qaeda in Syria is Assad

Monday, July 23, 2012

Aleppo, Syria bombed with fighter jets

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The horrific violence being applied by the Assad regime, and which is costing thousand of Syrians their lives seems to have slipped from the headlines of the world's media as its focus shifted to the tragic death of twelve people at the hands of one in the United States. I have just finished watching my morning news round-up, an hour of Al Jazeera and a half-hour each of France24 or Russia Today. All of them failed to even mention that the Syrian government was now bombing its largest city with jet air crafts in a terrible new escalation of the Syrian regimes attack on its own people. One writer, in discussing the attack on Aleppo, titled his piece today "Syria's Strategy Of Modern Blitzkrieg."

Major cities don't get bombed all that often and nothing creates as much death and destruction as air strikes from war planes, so already this should be news, but rarer still is a country bombing its own people. I have noticed generally in the past week that the level of killing by the Assad regime on the ground, particularly the intense use of tanks, artillery, helicopter gunships and now jet bombers to kill Syrians opposed to the regime, has been greatly underreported. While that have been a lot of reports about the comings and goings of diplomats and officials, and reports of clashes with the Free Syrian Army and their success in capturing some border crossings. Very little is being reported about the many, many massacres the Assad regime has been committing across Syrian with its army and shabiha forces. While the figure of 19,000 killed in the Syrian civil war has gotten wide publicity, the fact that there are also 65,000 missing and 216,000 detained has gotten less notice. And now the bombing of cities by jet aircraft is to be given no notice?

Fortunately at least the BBC News is reporting it on their website:
Syria conflict: Aleppo bombed by fighter planes
24 July 2012 Last updated at 11:14 ET

Fighter jets have bombed eastern areas of Syria's second city Aleppo, a BBC reporter near the city says.

The attack is seen as a significant escalation in the conflict.

It is thought to be the first time that warplanes have been used in Aleppo, our correspondent says.

Rebels launched an offensive against Aleppo at the weekend in an attempt to wrest control of the city from the army. Fierce fighting has been reported close to Aleppo's historic Old City.

Helicopter gunships were reportedly involved in the clashes earlier on Tuesday, the BBC's Ian Pannell says from the outskirts of Aleppo.

Pro-government troops bombarded the city, Syria's commercial centre, with shells and rocket fire as the government attempted to take back districts seized by the rebels. More ...

Wed Jul 25, 2012 at 8:08 PM PT:

More Breaking News from Syria you won't see on the MSM or Russia Today:

Massive rally against Assad regime last night. These are the terrorists being bombed


Assad regimes fires on peaceful protest in Zahraa area of Aleppo last night


Bombing the neighborhood of Aleppo Alsakhur and Hanano and displacement of residents


People fleeing Aleppo today, these people have nowhere to go.





10:21 AM PT:

10:52 AM PT: Other news outlets are starting to chime in. Here is the NY Times piece:

Use of Warplanes Is Reported in Syrian Conflict

By RICK GLADSTONE and NEIL MacFARQUHAR

Published: July 24, 2012

Syrian armed forces battling insurgents in Aleppo, Syria’s second-largest city and commercial hub, have bombed its eastern areas with fighter jets, a BBC correspondent traveling with the insurgents reported Tuesday.

If confirmed, the use of warplanes would signify an escalation by the Syrian government in its effort to crush armed resistance in the nearly 17-month-old conflict. More...

The Telegraph has this:
Syria: 'war planes bomb Aleppo'

Fighter jets have reportedly launched bomb attacks on Syria's second city of Aleppo, which, if confirmed, would be the first time Assad forces had used war planes against citizens.

By Barney Henderson, and agencies

3:41PM BST 24 Jul 2012

Syrian fighter jets launched strikes on Aleppo on Tuesday afternoon, according to the BBC. If such a tactic is confirmed, it would lead to a significant escalation in the 16-month-long conflict.

Reports of the strike came after eight people were killed in a mutiny at Aleppo prison.

Security forces "opened fire with bullets and tear gas on the detainees at Aleppo central prison in response to a peaceful sit-in organised by prisoners because of the great injustice of which they are victims," the Syrian National Council said in a statement.

"Eight people were martyred and a fire broke out inside the prison."


The statement said regime forces had fired on the prison from helicopters as the fire raged inside, preventing help from arriving at the facility. More...

Also Spiegel OnLine International has just release a new report on that finds that the Assad regime paid the shabiha to carryout the Houla Massacre. This may before a separate diary. It is that important!
A Syrian Bloodbath Revisited

Searching for the Truth Behind the Houla Massacre

By Christoph Reuter and Abd al-Kadher Adhun

07/23/2012

...

The region is also surrounded by a ring of Alawite villages, where the Syrian army has established bases from which it continues to fire at Houla with tanks and artillery. The regime provides arms to the villages, which in turn supply the pro-regime shabiha militias, which have set up checkpoints on area roads and are participating in attacks.

Taldou itself, home to more than 15,000 people before the revolution, is under the control of its own residents. They have formed a unit of the FSA, which protects them from smaller attacks, but not from bombardment. Parts of the village, including one of the areas where the massacre took place, remain inaccessible, because they are within the range of army snipers positioned on a ridge outside the town.

The SPIEGEL team spent two days in Taldou, where it was able to move about freely, interview surviving members of the Sayyid and Abdul Rassak families and speak with witnesses. Some of the witnesses spoke on camera, while others wanted to remain anonymous, because they still have relatives in prison or in cities controlled by the regime. To prevent collective memories from interfering with their own experiences, the witnesses were interviewed individually and asked what they had seen and heard.

After Friday prayers on May 25, the residents of Taldou formed their usual protest marches against the regime. But then, in the early afternoon, army forces began heavily bombarding the village from several surrounding bases. FSA units launched counter-attacks on a number of army checkpoints. Witnesses, though, say that there were hardly any FSA fighters in Taldou on that afternoon, which is why the advancing death squads faced no resistance. It was still broad daylight when the first wave arrived.

...

If the rebels had truly committed the massacre, why has the army continued to fire at and shell Taldou for months, including the days when the SPIEGEL reporters were there? And if the FSA was behind the massacre, why did a large number of army officers from Houla defect to the FSA afterwards?

After the massacre, Taldou residents buried the dead in a square in the center of the village. They say that there were more bodies than the 108 counted by the UN observers. Although this can no longer be verified, it makes sense, because many of the bodies could only be recovered days after the troops had withdrawn. Much more...


Alex Thomson has a sobering piece out today on the outcome of the Assad regimes apparently successful attempt to regain full control of Damascus:
Assad's 'iron-fist defence' of Syrian capital
Tuesday 24 July 2012 3:40 pm

Yesterday it was Midan. Today it was al-Qaboon. In both the picture is pretty clear, that any rebel fighters in these areas have been driven from them. This is a comprehensive victory of the Assad Regime in its own backyard and capital.

The crackling of automatic fire, the crumbling explosion of incoming shellfire, the helicopter gunships quartering the city and firing machinegun bursts – all those sounds have gone pretty much from Damascus today. Replaced by the rather more prosaic hooting of car-horns.

Every now and then army trucks packed with cheering soldiers pass up the city’s main boulevards. It is not a good idea to film one of the world’s most secret armies – even in their moment of triumph.

When you spend any time in places like Midan and al-Qaboon among the rubble and debris, it seems hard to appreciate that just a week ago some excitable reports were predicting this was the final moment for President Assad.

Now the government will take great confidence from the iron-fist defence of the capital and will not be overly worried about the cost in terms of hearts and minds. This is about power. The maintenance of power. The demonstration of power. The use of power. More...

We get more coverage on the fighting in Aleppo from EAWorldView today:
Syria (and Beyond) Live Coverage: Heavy Fighting in Aleppo
Tuesday, July 24, 2012 at 9:46 | James Miller

See also Syria Analysis: Turkey Adjusts Its Strategy Amid Kurdish and Russian Complications Syria Feature: Searching for the Truth of the Mass Killing in Houla Syria Feature: US Officials --- We Are Hindered by "Intelligence Gaps" Inside Country Monday's Syria (and Beyond) Live Coverage: A Divided Country



1610 GMT: Syria. There are several activist reports of heavy fighting near a central hospital, the Dar Al-Shifa hospital, in the Shaar district of Aleppo (map). According to one activist Facebook page, the area has been under heavy attack from helicopters and heavy machine guns. another activist shares a live-stream (finished now) reportedly showing helicopters operating in the area.

This area is east of Bab al Hadid, but there are areas in the west of the city that are also sites of battles and regime shelling campaigns.

Nearly every corner of Aleppo is currently either a battleground, or is being attacked by shells or helicopters.

1556 GMT: Syria. More evidence that the FSA controls Bab al Hadid, in the center of Aleppo (see map and last update):


1550 GMT: Syria. A group of activists share this live feed from the Bab al Hadid district in the center of Aleppo (map). The district is in the heart of the city, where fighting is reported. According to earlier reports, the FSA has control of the area. On the left is a stream from Daraa:

Watch live streaming video from syrianfreedom at livestream.com

1535 GMT: Syria. The BBC and Al Jazeera have both confirmed that reporters on the ground, and activists, are reporting that they witnesses Mig fighter jets bombing locations inside Aleppo.

This is a huge escalation. As the battle for Aleppo is heating up, the general consensus, nay, the common knowledge, has been that the regime military is very strong in the city, and the lightly armed Free Syrian Army could not possibly hope to stand up to them. This is direct evidence to the contrary, as it may be the very first time that fighter jets have bombed ground targets (there are rumors of other examples, but certainly in no place as important at Aleppo).

The FSA is making remarkable progress in Aleppo. Expect the regime to continue to drastically escalate its counterattacks.

However, a few things need to be kept in mind - every bullet fired in Aleppo and Damascus is a testament to the weakness of the Assad regime. This is, supposedly, their territory. Also, these two cities are among the only areas that had a working economy. Now, that illusion is shattered. The Free Syrian Army has proven, once again, that it is strong. At the end of the day, the FSA is likely to gain new recruits, new defectors, and is likely to gain new arms. The regime's military, however, can only take losses.

We'll stress that though these are very credible sources reporting this news of a jet being used, they are unconfirmed reports. It would be nice if their was video, or other confirmation. However, the rest of the news from Aleppo suggests that whether the news of the jet is real, the regime has another major fight on its hands.

1430 GMT: Syria. The Guardian has three quick pick-ups. The first, a report on Now Lebanon, that fighters from the Free Syrian Army are trying to come to the aid of a prison revolt in Aleppo:

People from inside the prison contacted members of the [rebel] Free Syrian Army to try and get some help. The FSA fighters responded to the phone call and surrounded the prison. The FSA fought with the army around the prison and called the general of the prison warning him to stop [the violence ...


The prisoners feel that there is hope and that the FSA will free us.

The second pickup, a remarkable claim from a BBC reporter inside Aleppo:


The third report, that the neighborhoods of al-Hadid, "Shaaar" and al-Sakhour have already fallen to insurgents, and the FSA is moving towards Al Nasr (map).

A rebel group in Aleppo, calling itself General Unity, has claimed control of four districts in the city, writes Rima Cherri.

Speaking via Skype from Aleppo its spokesman, Basheer Al Hejjie, told the Guardian:

"General Unity was established for the purpose of liberating Aleppo. We have successfully taken control of Saladin, al-Hadeed, al-Sakhour, and al-Shaaar."

The government forces committed a huge mistake when they brought their tanks to Aleppo to fight us. Yesterday, we captured two of their tanks, and fighting continues

If this report is true, then the FSA is holding territory in many different areas, from the east to west, the north to the south, in Syria's largest city.

1342 GMT: Syria. A quick rundown of the headlines in Damascus - Assad's military is focused on many key areas that were held by the opposition in the last 7 days, breaking into homes and making arrests, shelling neighborhoods, and even burning homes and shops of suspected anti-regime activists or supporters of the Free Syrian Army.

The areas receiving the harshest treatment are in the north and east. Barzeh, Qaboun, Irbeen, and Harasta (map). Videos show widespread destruction, and activists report heavy-handed arrest campaigns, as the military tries to disrupt the opposition in the area and intimidate residents.

In Nahr Eshe (map), in the south, columns of tanks hold the area. The CFDPC offers this summary of today's events:

Summary of the events since early morning till now:

After the siege, the artillery shelling and shelling by helicopters for 10 days, after the displacement of more than 90% of residents, thousands of members of the 4th division stormed the Nahar Eishe area of central Damascus raiding each house or shop without exception.
Assad forces stormed the neighborhood from several sides:

1 - from the international highway

2 - from the side of the Ministry of Transport

3 - from the side of the Consumer Corporation

4 - from the Dahadeel area.

Tanks and armored vehicles closed all the entrances preventing entry or exit to Damascus in general; regime forces enter each home, destroy the doors, loot and smash or burn the houses (they burn the houses if the occupants are wanted, while houses are just looted and destroyed if the occupants are not wanted).

The campaign of regime forces is still ongoing and it's the largest since the beginning of the revolution.



1320 GMT: The Guardian picks up an alarming report, carried by activists on the ground and by the rights group Avaaz, that there have been live rounds fired inside a prison in Homs in order to put down what may be a prisoner revolt.

What's interesting about the report - the BBC appears to have confirmed the gunfire.

The witnesses in communication with prisoners inside report that the prisoners are scrambling to get fresh air because of all the teargas. At least 3 have reportedly died as a result of live rounds.

James Miller takes over today's coverage. A big thanks to Scott Lucas for getting us through the morning.

1116 GMT: Syria. Residents and activists report that insurgents are fighting Syrian troops and intelligence forces at the gates of Aleppo's Old City, a United Nations World Heritage site.

1056 GMT: Syria. Turkey's Dogan News Agency is claiming that "thousands" of Iraqi Kurdish fighters are moving into Syria from Iraq's Zakho region, chanting, "We are going to get Qamishli".

The site posts video of the men travelling on foot. It says that, while they are unarmed, there are armed guards on the hills protecting their advance.

On Monday, Massoud Barzani, the President of the Iraqi Kurdistan Regional Government, said that Syrian Kurdish fighters were being training in Iraq. The day before, the KRG had declared, "A number of newspapers and websites have published reported that Kurdish Peshmerga forces have entered Kurdistan of Syria, but we firmly reject that news as baseless and far from the truth,”

1050 GMT: Syria. The opposition Syrian National Council is pulling back a comment by senior member George Sabra, made to AFP (see 0948 GMT), that it would support a transitional government led by regime figures if President Assad stepped down.

The SNC leader of the SNC, Abdel Basset Sayda, denied the statement on Al Jazeera Arabic, while Sabra said his remarks had been "misconstrued".

1042 GMT: Egypt. State media and the Freedom and Justice Party, linked to the Muslim Brotherhood, reports that Minister of Irrigation Hesham Mohamed Qandil has been named Prime Minister by President Morsi.

0954 GMT: Bahrain. The latest court hearing of Nabeel Rajab, the head of the Bahrain Human Rights Centre (see 0620 GMT), has been adjourned until 5 August, when a verdict will be issued.

0948 GMT: Syria. A senior official of the opposition Syrian National Council, Georges Sabra, has told AFP, "We would agree to the departure of [President] Assad and the transfer of his powers to a regime figure, who would lead a transitional period like what happened in Yemen."

0941 GMT: Syria. The head of the Arab League, Nabil Elaraby, has said the days of the regime are numbered.

Speaking after an Arab League meeting which called on President Assad to step down, Elaraby declared, "There is now no talk about political reform, but a transfer of power."

Asked about the political survival of Assad, "I cannot define a period, but the regime cannot continue for a long time."

0838 GMT: Syria. The Local Coordination Committees report 37 people killed so far today. It claims 16 deaths in Hama Province, including those slain when a shell fell on a vehicle with people fleeing Latamneh, and 11 in Aleppo, including nine detainees in the Central Prison (see 0825 GMT).

0835 GMT: Bahrain. Claimed footage of overnight clashes in Sitra between security forces and protesting youth:

0825 GMT: Syria. The opposition Syrian National Council has said eight people have been killed in an overnight protest at a prison in Aleppo during the night.

"[Security forces] opened fire with bullets and tear gas on the detainees at Aleppo central prison in response to a peaceful sit-in organized by prisoners because of the great injustice of which they are victims," the SNC said in a statement. "Eight people were martyred and a fire broke out inside the prison."

The statement said regime forces had fired on the prison from helicopters as the fire raged inside, preventing help from arriving at the facility.

The Syrian Revolution General Commission asserts that nine prisoners were slain.

There was also trouble last week in the central prison in Homs, with activists claiming two inmates were killed.

0705 GMT: Syria. The Foreign Ministry has tried to walk back Monday's statement by spokesman Jihad Makdisi that Damascus could use chemical weapons if it was attacked.

Syria had always denied that it possesses the weapons. The Foreign Ministry claims this morning:

The goal of the statement and the press conference wasn't to declare but rather to respond to a methodical media campaign targeting Syria to prepare world public opinion for the possibility of military intervention under the false premise of weapons of mass destruction (similar to what happened with Iraq) or the possibility of using such weapons against terrorist groups or civilians, or transporting them to a third party....

Such allegations are completely false, noting that nonetheless they are dangerous allegations as they are made by the same sides that are rallying against Syria in mass media and international circles, noting that these are the same sides that fabricated lies about Iraqi weapons of mass destruction which turned out to be false later....

Makdisi's statements were meant to explain the state's general defensive policies in response to false media speculations and allegations, stressing the need to commit to precision and professionalism in news related to Syria and putting them in the proper context.

0620 GMT: Bahrain. Nabeel Rajab, head of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights, is back in court today in the appeal of the three-month sentence he received earlier this month for "insulting" Tweeter messages. tweeting. Last night, activists in Bahrain held a rally outside Rajab's house calling for his immediate release. Former AlWefaq MP Sayed Hadi Al Mosawi, according to 14 February Youth Media, said:

We are standing by a man who embarrassed the regime by a simple tweet that was twisted to accuse him. Nabeel was able to fight against the regime using the international law - that's why they wanted to arrest him. Nabeel is using an international law and not a local law that they can manipulate to suit their wants and needs.

At the first appeal hearing on 19 July, Nabeel was put into a glass cage so he could not be heard. At a court appearance three days earlier, Rajab had said:

You sentenced me unjustly to 3 months on fabricated and false charges....You will not be able to change my convictions that the Prime Minister is a corrupted person who is not fit to manage the state. You will not be able to change my convictions or stop me whether you sentenced me to 3 months or 3 years or 30 years.

Yesterday, Amnesty International issued a statement calling for all prisoners of conscience to be released, specifically mentioning Rajab. Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui, Amnesty's MENA Deputy Programme Director, said:

The charade of justice has gone on too long in Bahrain, and all prisoners of conscience must be set free immediately and unconditionally before these appeals take place. All convictions against them should be quashed.

Tomorrow sees further appeal hearings for Younis Ashoori, Ali Humaidan and Jaffer Salman, three Bahraini citizens who were arrested, abused, and sentenced before a military tribunal last year and have remained behind bars ever since.

0540 GMT: Syria. The Local Coordination Committees reports that 175 people were killed by security forces on Monday, with 90 of the deaths in Damascus and its suburbs.

0515 GMT: Syria. Fighting spread and grew more intense in Aleppo, the country's largest city, on Monday. Video offered dramatic images of street battles in neighbourhoods such as Hananon and of the Free Syrian Army destroying and capturing tanks. Foreign reporters in the city witnessed the clashes and wrote that the insurgents, who claimed the capture of the Salaheddin area, were "ightly armed and confident but army remains far stronger".

CNN posts a video report from Atareb, halfway between the Turkish border and the Syrian commercial capital Aleppo, noting that insurgents control the town and adding detail on an attack which we noted with footage over the weekend: "The commander of the local rebel brigade, Ahmed el Faj, was killed on Friday along with at least 11 of his fighters, rebels said, during a botched attack on a nearby regime-controlled police school."

Here are my related diaries on Syria: 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

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