More items in the news:
Reuters is reporting on a new UN report on Syria released by the United Nations this afternoon:
Deadly abuses intensify in Syria as war worsens: U.N.
By Stephanie Nebehay
GENEVA | Mon Mar 11, 2013 3:57pm EDT
The Syrian government has stepped up indiscriminate, heavy bombardments of cities while rebels are executing prisoners condemned in their own makeshift courts without due process, U.N. investigators said on Monday.
The independent investigators said they were looking into 20 massacres committed by one or the other side and hundreds of "unlawful killings", cases of torture and arbitrary arrests since September in the two-year-old conflict.
"Indiscriminate and widespread shelling, the regular bombardment of cities, mass killing and the deliberate firing on civilian targets have come to characterize the daily lives of civilians in Syria," Paulo Pinheiro, chairman of the commission of inquiry on Syria, told the U.N. Human Rights Council.
The uprising in Syria erupted in March 2011 with largely peaceful protests but escalated into a civil war pitting mainly Sunni Muslim rebels against President Bashar al-Assad, whose minority Alawite faith is an offshoot of Shi'ite Islam.
"In a disturbing and dangerous trend, mass killings allegedly perpetrated by Popular Committees have at times taken on sectarian overtones," the 10-page U.N. report said. "Some appear to have been trained and armed by the government."
Pro-Assad Popular Committee militiamen have been documented as operating across Syria, "where at times they are alleged to be participating in house-to-house searches, identity checks, mass arrests, looting and acting as informants", it said.
The NY Times is reporting that most UN aid to Syria is helping the Assad regime stay in power:
Two months ago, when I wrote a blog at the Daily Kos about the UN aid that was going to Syria, saying:
In Parts of Syria, Lack of Assistance ‘Is a Catastrophe’By DAVID D. KIRKPATRICK
Published: March 8, 2013
SAWRAN, Syria — The United States and other international donors are spending hundreds of millions of dollars on humanitarian aid for Syrians afflicted by the civil war. But here in the rebel-controlled north, where the deprivation is most acute, that money has bought mostly anger and resentment: the vast majority of aid is going to territory controlled by President Bashar al-Assad, and the small amount reaching opposition-held areas is all but invisible.
Rebels argue that the humanitarian assistance is in effect helping Mr. Assad survive the war of attrition. “Aid is a weapon,” said Omar Baylasani, a rebel commander from Idlib, speaking during a visit to a Turkish border town. “Food supply is the winning card in the hands of the regime.”
The biggest obstacle blocking aid from rebel-held areas is the United Nations requirement that its relief agencies follow Mr. Assad’s rules — which limit access to opposition territory — as long as the international assembly recognizes his government. The United Nations agencies are the main conduit for international aid, including most of the total of $385 million that Washington has directed to the cause in 2012 and 2013.
That means that while internally displaced Syrians living in government-controlled areas are cared for in United Nations-run camps, with standard shelter and basic utilities, the many who have fled into opposition territory are plagued by shortages of food, fuel, blankets and medicine. At a civilian medical clinic here in the rebel-held countryside north of Aleppo, the 15 doctors kick out their hundreds of patients each day at 4 p.m. because there is no fuel or power to keep the lights on.
The lack of foreign aid “is a catastrophe,” said Saed Bakur Abu Yahia, the clinic’s director. “We get nothing,” he said, bundled in a winter jacket and rubbing his hands for warmth as he sat in his office.
In interviews, dozens of Syrians living in rebel-held territory in the provinces of Aleppo and Idlib insisted that their towns had received no Western aid and groused about “empty promises.” Only a few most directly involved in aid distribution acknowledged recent visits from international nonprofit groups, and those with knowledge of the meetings insisted that the names of the aid groups remain confidential.
Even the Syrians most involved in the Western effort expressed frustration. “We believe we are owed an explanation over where this money is going, but every time we ask, we can’t get an answer,” said Ghassan Hitto, who runs the aid coordination arm of the Western-backed Syrian national coalition. He estimated that as much as 60 percent of the Syrian population lives outside the Assad government’s control and thus beyond the reach of most aid. It is an assessment that is impossible to confirm but feasible because of the heavy population of the rebel-controlled north.
Among other obstructions, Mr. Assad has blocked any United Nations agencies from the shortest and safest route into rebel territory, across the opposition-controlled border with Turkey. “We do not have the government’s consent,” Mr. Laerke said. “So we cannot, as the United Nations, do that.” More...
The very idea that the United Nations was planning to give to the government of Syria, and you know who that means, over $500 million dollars with no real control, meaning really no strings attached, was to me so incredible that at first I didn't believe it.I got this response from the Daily Kos community:
I have been saying for a long time that that world body, and even the United States, was in reality in Assad's corner, but this bold contribution to his war effort surprised even me.
This diary is nonsense. Keep your politics out of things you know nothing about. The OCHA is not allowed to take sides nor make moral judgements in a conflict.InAntalya
Your ignorance and maliciousness are breathtaking.
Yes. The more I read it the more it comes across as a steaming pile of propaganda to further Claiborne's agenda. Now he's trying to politicize and weaponize humanitarian aid. It's a new low for Claiborne.Blue Wind
Another terrible diary of lies and distortion of facts... As bad as the Assad regime is, an islamic fundamentalist regime in Syria would be worse.Rusty Pipes
Thank you, IA and CB for your service to the reality-based community
And of the "new" NATO support for Assad's opposition. the National out of Australia had this to say:
America's 'shift' towards Syria's rebels is a dangerous illusion
Mar 9, 2013
It's often said that the longer a conflict lasts, the more complicated and difficult it is to find a solution to the conflict. Such a scenario applies completely to the Syrian revolution.
In the past few days, western media outlets have devoted much space to coverage of the supposedly major policy shift the United States has taken with the announcement that the US government will begin directly supporting Syrian rebels with non-lethal aid and training.
This "shift" would be laughable if it weren't so tragic. This change in position will do nothing to accomplish the original goal for which the Friends of Syria group was formed: hasten the end of the Syria conflict. Rather, it will only serve to maintain the horrible, bloody stalemate already established across the country. More...
Whatever their differences with the Islamic fundamentalist opposition group Jabhat al-Nusra, most supporters of the struggle to overthrow Assad, including this writer, found it most unhelpfull that US President Obama decided to the declare them a terrorist organization while they are joined with others in this desperate struggle to put an end to Assad's slaughter. In that context, I found this interview revealing.
On 9 March 2013, Rima Marrouch and Kelly McEvers of NPR got a rare interview with a Jabhat al-Nusra fighter.
NPR: But today you were a bit upset that the media didn't publicize your demonstration.
BH: The problem is that the media has lost its credibility. The media's role is to convey what is happening on the ground without exaggeration. And it isn't the case. It's opposite. Especially when Jabhat al-Nusra was classified as a terrorist organization. It did not commit any terrorist acts outside Syria, and it doesn't have any links to al-Qaida, but it was classified as a terrorist organization. Why? Because it resisted [Syrian president] Bashar al Assad.
Also today the BBC revisited a controversial massacre that took place in January:
When I reported on this horrific massacre two days after it happen in my blog at the Daily Kos, this was the response it got from some members of that community. Daily Kos management has since banned me from their site:
Syria massacre: What happened in the village of Haswiya?
11 March 2013 Last updated at 02:44 ET
After news spread of a massacre in the village of Haswiya in central Syria on 15 January 2013, two accounts of what happened emerged.
Syrian security forces who escorted the BBC team to the site of the killings insisted the 100 deaths were the work of the al-Nusra Front - Islamist militants fighting alongside the rebels.
However, activists said pro-government gangs, known as Shabiha, were to blame.
Since then, the BBC has been trying to piece together the two narratives. Was this sectarian bloodletting by the state-sponsored militia or was it an attack by militants on a village that was supporting the government?
Another villager told how more than 100 people lost their lives.
"There were houses that were burnt with whole families inside them. There are children who were burnt in the arms of their mothers - down in the fields," one couple said.
According to the army, soldiers only entered the village later in the afternoon after villagers raised the alarm. They told the BBC it was then that they cleared the area and took away the bodies.
One woman, who spoke to the BBC off-camera, out of earshot of military minders, said Syrian soldiers were in the village that day, and that some had apologised that "others acted without orders".
Asked why the soldiers didn't protect the villagers, she said: "They were together, they are dressed in the same uniform. They were mixed."
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR), a UK-based activist group, blames pro-government gangs, often referred to as Shabiha.
It described how some victims were "burnt inside their homes while others were killed with knives" and other weapons wielded by gunmen loyal to President Bashar al-Assad.
SOHR said it had also received reports that whole families were executed - one of them made up of 32 members.
Although accounts of the sequence of events vary, a number of sources describe how security forces entered the village around midday.
They describe how buses carrying the military drove to the outskirts of the village before soldiers disembarked and blocked all routes in and out.
It is claimed that soldiers then went from house to house conducting what appeared to be arrest operations and took a number of people away for questioning on the outskirts of the village. Some were later released.
Some sources tell how gunmen then came back into the village an hour or so later and began killing - executing people and burning their bodies. More...
Dude you are becoming a parody of...something. Here's an antidote for those who are still interested in reality.He links to "Syria: Reuters Spreads Another 'Massacre' Lie - Debunked" which claims that Assad's opposition did the massacre at Haswiya
Clay mines any/all sources to justify his warped narrative.Fire bad tree pretty
Hard to lift the fog when you've got the facts wrong.Fire bad tree pretty
there are many theories, rumours and speculation but lots of doubt as to the perpetrators. Which is what should be reported rather than the partial and partisan dreck we get from this diarist.Claudius Bombarnac
Villagers in Huwaisa don't appear to be afraid of the army. They came out of hiding when Bill Neely entered the town accompanied with them. It appears the rebels wanted to use the town as cover for an attack on a nearby military base.Claudius Bombarnac
Getting very tired of Claiborne's 'hit and run'diaries. He makes unsubstantiated claims based mainly on unreliable tweets and unconfirmed reports as soon as there is a whiff of something in his desperate attempts of making "BREAKING NEWS". By the time his stories are debunked and the facts ascertained, he has moved on and produced another.But don't you dare call these people pro-Assad. Don't you dare!