Syrian Revolution Digest – Tuesday, 18 December 2012

Syrian Revolution Digest – Tuesday, 18 December 2012


Syrian Revolution Digest – December 18, 2012 

Call it a civil war wrapped in a revolution wrapped in an enigma wrapped in a guess – it’s all that and more, I profess. It’s a holy war slowly morphing into an unholy descent into hell. Not that anyone can really tell how it will all end.

Today’s Death Toll: 128 (including 11 children and 9 women)

42 in Damascus and Suburbs (including 4 in Tal Mneen), 21 in Daraa (including 5 executed publicly in the Naziheen Refugee Camp), 16 in Hama, 14 in Homs (including 3 were publicly executed in Al-Nuqeira), 13 in Aleppo, 12 in Idlib, 9 in Deir Ezzor, and 1 in Hassakeh.

Points of Random Shelling: 242


Rebels managed to liberate the town of Hilfaya in Hama Province, and were joined by many defectors from the loyalist militias. In Damascus, rebels took complete control of District of Hajal Al-Aswad (LCC).

Reporters Without Borders grants its Freedom of the Press Award to Mazen Darweesh, the well-known Syrian human rights activist currently languishing in jail.



Russia Sends Warships Toward Syria for Possible Evacuation

Syrian Rebels Battle Palestinian Fighters in Damascus

Richard Engel of NBC Is Freed in Syria The identities of the kidnappers and their motives were unknown. But an article on the NBC News Web site quotes Mr. Engel as saying their captors “were talking openly about their loyalty to the government” of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.


Special Reports

Wounded, starving crowd ill-equipped Damascus hospital
As the civil war escalates around the capital, doctors are treating up to 100 injured a day at the 400-bed Damascus Hospital and have had to use local anesthetics even for complicated operations, WHO spokesman Tarik Jasarevic said. Cases of severe acute malnutrition in children being referred to the hospital from rural Damascus, Deir al-Zor, Hassakeh, Deraa and Homs have risen to 7-8 a month from 2-3 in previous months, he said, and staff and patients have difficulty reaching health care facilities due to deepening insecurity.

What a Bosnian Mass Grave Can Teach Us About Syria’s Civil War
… perhaps the greatest justice could be found in ensuring a way for the international community to act, to prevent such slaughters. For whether they are yesterday’s mass graves in Bosnia, or today’s mass graves in Syria, the sick, sticky scent of death will linger, long after the international community fails to act.

When Assad Dropped the Façade
Given that Lesch has consulted for the American government, and that his access to al-Assad was itself an act of public diplomacy on the part of Syria’s Ba’athist regime, the value of his work is to shed light on the deeply ambiguous relationship between Western officialdom and that regime in the last few decades—and the embarrassing series of about-turns that ensued when this relationship was confronted with the Arab Spring in 2011.

Rubble and Despair of War Redefine Syria Jewel
As temperatures drop and the weakened government’s artillery thunders on, Aleppo is administered by no one and slipping into disaster. Front-line neighborhoods are rubble. Most of the city’s districts have had no electricity and little water for weeks. All of Aleppo suffers from shortages of oil, food, medicine, doctors and gas. Diseases are spreading. Parks and courtyards are being defoliated for firewood, turning streets once lined with trees into avenues bordered by stumps. Months’ worth of trash is piled high, often beside bread lines where hundreds of people wait for a meager stack of loaves.


Syria Deeply

Social Media Buzz: Rebels Lose a Charismatic Commander
Abu Furat defected after he received orders to shell a village in Latakia earlier this year. He joined the Islamist Tawheed Brigade, the largest rebel group in Aleppo, and would often pop up in videos from the frontlines, always ready with an uplifting and compassionate message.


Video Highlights

Leaked video documents use of missile launchers by pro-regime militias in the battles in the Eastern Ghoutah Region, Damascus Another leaked video documents the use of heavy artillery in pounding the town of Zabadani

Meanwhile, MiGs keep pounding Eastern Ghoutah: Douma , Kafar Batna Arbeen Harasta Hamouriyeh and helicopters keep dropping explosive barrels: Saqba Dead and wounded in Arbeen

To the West, the town of Moadamia was also pounded

In Damascus City, the pounding of Yarmouk Camp continues MIGs took part

In Hama, rebels celebrate the liberation of the town of Kafar Zeitah

Prisoners Finally Charged for Paraguay Land Skirmish

By Brendan Oliver Bergh
Impunity Watch Reporter, South America 

ASUNCIÓN, Paraguay – Six months ago, on June 15,  violence ripped through the small land-locked country of Paraguay as a land eviction turned into a shot out which left six police officers and eleven civilians were killed in what has been dubbed the Curuguaty massacre. Now amid rallies and controversies prosecutors have finally levied charges against 12 peasants deemed guilty of murder, criminal association and invasion of property.

Protest in Paraguay demanding justice for massacre. (Photo Courtesy of Reuters)

However the event that forced Ex-President Fernando Lugo out of office has not ended as gunmen early December 2nd burst into the home of Vidal Vega and killed him in front of his wife. Vega was a witness to the atrocity, and one of the last surviving members of the Landless Peasant Movement.

Vega was a leader who lobbied for years to redistribute land that had been illegally seized by Senator Blas Riquelme  in the 1960s. While advocating a non-violent and legal return of the land, it was the lack of results and a ruling by the Paraguayan Supreme Courts in favor of Riquelme’s estate which caused peasants to lose their patience and re occupy the land.

Early on June 15, a large police convey entered the tract of land at Curuguaty to evict the nearly 50 peasants that been illegally occupying the land. The officers arrived unarmed, expecting only non-violent resistance from the men women and children currently occupying the land when gunfire filled the air. Witnesses disagree as to whether the peasants opened fire or infiltrated gunmen are to blame, but agree that the civilians and officers alike were riddled with bullets and when reinforcements arrived 17 people were dead.

With the death of Vega, the people of Paraguay demanded an answer and investigation for the death of the peoples leader. Days later over 4,000 people marched to the National Pantheon of Heroes demanding “justice” for their slain heroes and a release of the prisoners currently held and being prosecuted for the slaughter of Curuguaty. Organized by the Human Rights Coordinator of Paraguay the people have demanded compensation for the victims, police and peasants combined.

While the administration has pledged to fully investigate the murder of Vidal Vega there is no indication that they will budge on the protesters other demands. The marchers called for the release of political prisoners and return of the land, there does not seem to be any attempt by the executive, legislative or judicial bodies to return the land seized during the 1960s.

 For further information, please see:

BBC – Paraguay Peasants Charged Over Deadly Land Clash – 16 December 2012

El Mundo – Massive March In Paraguay For The Return Of Democracy And Justice For Curuguaty – 12 December 2012

El Mundo – Slain Peasant Leader Vidal Vega, A Key Witness In The Killing Of Curuguaty – 3 December 2012

Huffington Post – Vidal Vega Dead: Paraguay Peasant Leader Killed In Paraguay By Gunmen – 2 December 2012

El Mundo – A Violent Eviction In A Rural Hacienda Paraguay Kills 17 – 15 June 2012

Syrian Revolution Digest – Saturday, 15 December 2012

The Ring of Fire!

Syrian Revolution Digest – December 15, 2012 

As the ring of fire grows tighter and tighter around Damascus, there are still those who think the fire is containable. This revolution might have shattered some illusions for some people, but others seem to cherish their illusions more than life and reason. For them, catastrophe is not an option they are willing to consider, which is why catastrophe becomes inevitable. The aftermath is dawning upon us, and if we think things are messy now, we don’t have long to wait before we discover how wrong we are. Still, it was all worth it, no matter the price.  

Today’s Death Toll:131 (including 5 women and 6 children)

36 in Damascus and suburbs, 26 in Aleppo, 18 in Homs (mostly in Rastan), 17 in Idlib, 12 in Daraa, 6 in Deir Ezzor, 8 in Hama and 3 in Raqqa.

Points of Random Shelling: 256


Rebels brought down a helicopter in Hassakeh and captured loyalist soldiers in Deir Ezzor as well as a major arms depot in Aleppo (LCC).

In Jordan, officials who defected from the Syrian government announced that they had formed a new opposition group led by Mr. Assad’s former prime minister, Riyad Farid Hijab, one of the highest-ranking officials to desert during the conflict. The group, called the National Free Coalition of the Workers of Syrian Government Institutions, aims to keep state structures intact if Mr. Assad’s government falls, Reuters reported.



Foreign Minister Blames Sanctions for Syria’s Troubles

Iran warns against Patriot deployment on Syria frontier

Syrian rebels gaining ground in Aleppo, opposition says

Palestinian faction leader Jibril leaves Damascus: rebels

Key rebel commander killed in Aleppo

UN contingency plan to deploy up to 10,000 peacekeepers in Syria – reports

Push Begins in EU to Arm Syria Rebels

UN, EU urge more Syria aid as conflict enters ‘new phase’

NATO says Syrian Scuds hit ‘near’ Turkey

Zarqawi’s brother-in-law reported killed while leading Al Nusrah Front unit


Special Reports

A Bread Shortage Is the First Big Test of a Transitional Council in Aleppo
In August, the prominent doctors, engineers, pharmacists and businessmen sheltering here established the Aleppo Transitional Revolutionary Council, a kind of city government in exile for the liberated portions of the city. Mr. Khanji, 67, a civil engineer with a long history of opposing the Syrian government, serves as its president.

Syrian refugees on run: ‘I want people to feel our pain’
“I feel so much ashamed of myself, being in a warm place and having my violin with me and playing music while people have to stand in long queues in order to have something to eat,” he says.

Syrians sounding alarm over growing food shortages
The Sahel al Ghab plain, in Hama province, used to be one of Syria’s richest agricultural regions, producing grain, olives, rice, cotton and sugar. But this year has been disastrous because of the war. Several people from the area said their land wasn’t being farmed because of shellfire from regime-loyal villages.


Syria Deeply

Jabhat al Nusra Shows Its Bloody Mark on Aleppo
Jabhat Al Nusra, now a U.S.-designated terrorist group believed to have links with Al Qaeda, still wins fans in Syria for its disciplined, ferocious fighters. It is considered the most effective fighting force against the Assad regime, and its latest film highlighting attacks in and around Aleppo seeks to bolster that reputation. In an hour-long video… Jabhat al Nusra takes us behind the scenes of its suicide bombings and attacks on military bases, demonstrating its craft and explaining the reasons behind what it describes as jihad against the Assad regime.


Video Highlights

Rebel leader Abu Furat hours before his martyrdom Before his death, Abu Furat sent a message to the Alawite community in Syria, telling them that in spite of Assad, Sunnis and Alawites will always live in peace and harmony Abu Furat made his address while greeting an Alawite defector.

Rebels in Khan Touman, Aleppo, take control of a major arms storage depot , ,

Rebels in Deir Ezzor capture soldiers from the units protecting the Mayadin Military Airport Sounds of clashes in Deir Ezzor City The pounding of the city continues as well

Kurdish opposition launch a new political union in Qamislo, Hassakeh Province

Locals in Beit Sahem, Damascus, pull bodies from under the rubble after an aerial raid on their town

To the south, rebels and loyalists clash in Moadamia, Damascus In Al-Hajar Al-Aswad, shelling leaves several buildings on fire To the east, aerial raids against the towns and villages of Eastern Ghoutah continues , To the north of Damascus City, MiGs pound the town of Yabroud To the West, the pounding of the town of Zabadani along the border with Lebanon continues

63 Arrested In Hunt for the Kidnappers of Minister’s Mother

By Ryan Aliman
Impunity Watch Reporter, Africa

ABUJA, Nigeria – Nigeria’s army had arrested 63 people in raids as they searched for Mrs. Kamene Okonjo, Nigerian Finance Minister Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala’s 82-year-old mother who was kidnapped on Sunday. Although Mrs. Okonjo was released by her abductors five days after she was taken, the dozens of people arrested by the army remain in custody.

The Inspector General of Police ordered the police to spare no efforts in ensuring that Mrs. Okonjo’s abductors must be arrested to face justice. (Photo courtesy of Radioxyzonline/Vanguard)

Since Mrs. Okonjo’s kidnapping, both the military and police department had been on a wild hunt to find the kidnappers, conducting raids in various parts of Southern Nigeria and arresting all potential suspects.

“Already, the Inspector General of Police (IGP) has deployed his men and they are working round the clock on the issue. The IGP is on top of the situation. However, I have instructed the IGP to deploy specialist officers from Abuja if need be, to help in fishing out the culprits,” the Finance Minister told the press as he described the action taken by the police.

The IGP, meanwhile, promised the public that not only will the police rescue the Finance Minister’s mother, but they shall “fish out” her abductors and their accomplices as well. The IGP said, “operatives shall ensure that no stone is left unturned in unravelling the mystery behind the abduction of Mrs. Okonjo and bringing the evil perpetrators to book.”

In a place where kidnapping is considered “a lucrative criminal enterprise”, Nigerian forces have been taking such matters more seriously over the past years. Reports show that they have grown increasingly intolerant of suspected kidnappers, often shooting them on sight – as they did in November to 13 people suspected of abducting a Turkish man.

They would even go so far as to arrest their own. On Tuesday, the Delta State Police ordered the arrest and detention of two police officers who were supposed to be on duty at the palace of Mrs. Okonjo on the day she was kidnapped. It remains unclear whether or not they were involved in the abduction itself.

The man who dropped off Mrs. Okonjo on a main road near her home in southern Nigeria on Friday was also arrested.

Delta state governor Emmanuel Uduaghan believes that because of the stringent security measures and intensified manhunt carried out by the law enforcement agencies, Mrs. Okonjo’s kidnappers decided to let her go. “The army and police have been on their trail and a lot of raids have been done. I think because of the heat they dropped her off on the highway,” he told BBC.

When asked what was being done with those in custody now that Mrs. Okonjo has been freed, army spokeswoman Roseline Managbe simply answered, “those arrested are being questioned.”


For further information, please see:

Reuters – Kidnappers free Nigeria minister’s mother, official says – 14 December 2012

BBC News Africa – Nigeria’s Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala’s mother freed by kidnappers – 14 December 2012

Reuters – UPDATE 1-Nigeria arrests 63 in hunt for minister’s kidnapped mother – 13 December 2012

Information Nigeria – Okonjo-Iweala’s Mother’s Kidnap: Delta CP Says 2 Policemen Have Been Arrested – 12 December 2012

Reuters – Policemen held over kidnap of Nigeria minister’s mother – 12 December 2012

This Day Live – IG Orders Arrest of Abductors of Okonjo-Iweala’s Mother – 11 December 2012

Information Nigeria – Okonjo-Iweala’s Mum’s Kidnap: Suspect Arrested – 10 December 2012

Syrian Revolution Digest – Friday, 14 December 2012

Failure to Launch!

Syrian Revolution Digest – December 14, 2012 

This Friday’s rallies in Syria were held under the slogan “the only terrorism in Syria is practiced by Assad.” This comes in response to U.S. decision to designate Jabhat Al-Nusra as a terrorist organization. The U.S. ignored the fact that most members fighting under the emblem of al-Nusra care little for its ideology and has little connection to its leadership abroad, but joined because they need its resources, something the U.S. was asked to provide months ago and failed to do. The U.S. is failing to connect with the Syrian people even as it finally seeks to help. Delayed, reluctant and ineffectual support begets disdain and rejection, not appreciation. Yet, contrary to popular sentiments, reason dictates that we still need American support, political and material, and if America is listening to reason, then, she would know she has much to lose than reputation and goodwill if she failed to provide it this time around.

Today’s Death Toll:106 (including 5 women and 8 children)

49 in Damascus and suburbs (including 4 in shelling of Hajar Aswad and 4 were shot in a funeral in Barza in addition to unidentified martyrs in Qaboun), 21 in Idlib, 11 in Aleppo, 8 in Daraa, 5 in Homs, 5 in Deir Ezzor, 4 in Hama, 2 in Qunaitra and 1 in Hassaka.

Points of Random Shelling: 262


Heavy clashes took place in Damascus and suburbs, with rebels downing a MiG near the Damascus International Airport. Rebels also shelled the military airport in Deir Ezzor and downed a MiG there as well. In Aleppo, more than 100 soldiers and officers defected from the Defense factories following a rebel attack (LCC).



U.S. Officials: Syria Has Prepared Several Dozen Chemical Bombs

Russia Steps Back From Envoy’s Comments on Syria

Patriot missiles a warning to Syria’s al-Assad


Special Reports

Assad’s chemical card
There are plausible scenarios in which Assad would use CW in a tactical manner against his domestic enemies—and it’s not at all clear that he wouldn’t get away with it. Assad will fight tooth and nail to maintain control over Damascus, while also securing the route from Homs to the coast (an area that witnessed regime ethnic cleansing attacks)… Obama has now offered Assad another loophole with the designation of the Jabhat al-Nusra group as a terrorist organization. As soon as news came out that the designation was forthcoming, the regime rushed to claim that rebels had seized control of a toxic chlorine factory in east Aleppo, and may now use these chemicals in an attack. Such bogus stories set the stage for a possible attack in the future and provide Assad, and his backers in Moscow, with enough to muddy the waters.

In Syria, hunger spreads as war intensifies
Conditions are especially dire in the northern city of Aleppo, where civilians enduring incessant clashes and air raids in rebel-held districts say hunger is a new threat to survival in the 20-month-old revolt against President Bashar al-Assad.

Syria’s Kurds face uncertain future if Assad falls
The regime’s exit from Kurdish areas has sparked mistrust between the rebels and Syria’s third biggest ethnic group

Syria: a scathingly beautiful photograph of the edge of starvation
Artfulness only adds to this picture’s stark reality. Here is a sinister new chapter in the war between Assad and his people

Under Siege, Damascus Gets Desperate for Food and Fuel
As rebel fighters advance on the Syrian capital, those caught in the middle suffer from food, gas, and power shortages. Mikel Ayestaran on how Damascus residents are struggling to ride out the storm.

The Syria-North Korea Scud Missile Link
One day apart, North Korea launched a long-range missile to much fanfare, and the Assad regime fired Scud missiles on the rebels. Eli Lake on how the Hermit Kingdom helped Syria with the technology—and why chemical weapons might be next.

Russia and Its Syrian Debacle: When the Enemy of My Friend Becomes My Friend
For Russia, there are no good options left. The NCC is made up mostly of academics and dissidents with no military wing, and it has little hope of turning the situation in Russia’s favor if Assad is overthrown. “They have zero influence in Syria,” says Hassan Al-Huri, a Syrian businessman in Moscow who owns the Picasso restaurant and hosted his countrymen there. “If anything, the Syrian people now hate them for associating with the Russians,” he told me after the dinner was over. That means Moscow has no choice but to accept the loss of its last real foothold in the Middle East, says Fyodor Lukyanov, the editor of the journal Russia in Global Affairs. Says he: “Maybe they have no more illusions.”

Syrian opposition forces say they are on brink of major victory in Aleppo
If Syrian rebels succeed in breaching an infantry school in Aleppo, they will gain some strategically critical pieces of territory, a windfall of supplies, and possibly a slew of regime defectors.

As Syrian Rebels Close In, Assad Has Cards To Play
He still has thousands of loyal troops and a monopoly on air power. A moribund diplomatic process has given him room to maneuver despite withering international condemnation. And the power of Islamic extremists among the rebels is dashing hopes that the West will help turn the tide of the civil war by sending heavy weapons to the opposition.

Syrian Rebel Seeks Prisoner Exchange to Free Hostages
The commander, Amar al-Dadikhi of the North Storm brigade, which has been holding the prisoners at an undisclosed location in Syria’s northern countryside, said in interviews that he would free the hostages if the Syrian government released two prominent opposition figures and if Lebanon freed all Syrian activists in government custody.



George H. Wittman: Syria Backstory
If Assad is to be replaced, who will replace the Alawites?

Michael Young: For Obama, it’s not too late on Syria
… the U.S. must rebuild its relationship with Syrians. This will be important for many reasons: to isolate the jihadists; to have a say in likely future talks between a post-Assad Syria and Israel over the Golan Heights; and to block Iran out of the country, and in that way contain it regionally. With some attention, this is achievable.


Syria Deeply

Interview with Robert Ford: The Terror Stamp on Jabhat al Nusra

The High Military Command

Over 550 defector and revolutionary gathered recently in Antalya and elected a body made up of 261 representatives, which in turn elected a High Military Command made up of 30 individuals (11 officers and 19 civilians). The country was divided into 5 “fronts,” and each was represented by 6 members in the HMC. The 30 members then elected a joint-chief-of-staff, Brig. Gen. Salim Idriss. Brig. Gen. Idriss will be advised by 5 officers and 5 civilians representing the five fronts.

The HMC will be considered the highest military authority in the land. The head of the HMC will be the future Minister of Defense to be named by the Coalition when the transitional government is announced. The HMC will nominate 5 people, and the Coalition will have to choose one of them for the post. The HMC will do the same for the post of Minster of Interior. The specific linkages between the two ministerial posts have not been specified at this stage. Any rebel suspected of violations will be tried by a Syrian court, not an international one.

Eastern Front Northern Front Homs Central/Western Southern
1 Col. Ziad hajj Obaied (Pilot) Ahmad Issa Al-Shaikh Lt. Col. Qassim Saadeddine (Pilot) Brig. Gen. Abdulmajeed Dbeis Zahran Alloush
2 Major Adnan Muhammad Al-Kawkab Mustafa Abdulkareem Rami Al-Dalati Lt. Mazen Qneifdi Khalid Hussein Al-Arnous
3 Raghib Basheer Tomeh Jamal Khalid Maarouf Lieutenant Abdulhaleem Ghannoum Kamal Hammami Col. Khalid Muhannad al-Hourani
4 Yelmaz Sa’eed Col. Abdul-Jabbar Al-Oqaidi Iyyad Jom’ah Houthaifah Mustafa Al-Shoughri Fadi Saad Al-Assimi
5 Faraj Hammoud Al-Faraj Muhanna Jaffaleh Munthir Ahmad Sarras Youssef Muhammad Al-Hassan Lt. Col. Abdallah Al-Rifai
6 Dr. Omar Dada Ahmad Obeid Col. Abdurrahman Souais Saddeddine Al-Hashimi Ibrahim Al-Toushi

The Advisory Council (working under the chief-of-staff)

1) Col. Fateh Hassoun (Homs Front)
2) Oussama Sayih Al-Juneidi (Homs)
3) Major Muhammad Al-Abboud (Eastern)
4) Saddam Al-Jamal (Eastern)
5) Col. Mustafa Hashim (Central)
6) Abdul-Fattah Aroub (Central)
7) Lt. Col. Abdulbassit Al-Taweel (Northern)
8) Abdul-Qader Al-Saleh (Northern)
9) Brig. Gen. Ziad Fahd (Southern)
10) Bashar Awad Al-Zoubi (Southern)

The HMC also created 5 specialized offices to manage the military operations in each front:

Eastern Front Northern Front Homs Central/Western Southern
Operations Col. Raghib Al-Hamad Gen. Hussain Al-Oqaidi Lt. Abdllah Bahbouh Capt. Bassil Sillo Major Majeed Al-Sayyid Ahmad
Intelligence Lt. Omar Tarrad Major Ali Zain Lt. Omar Shamsi + Zakariya Taha Col. Muhammad Awad Capt.  Jawad Sa’eed
Provisions Lt. Oussama Al-Jassem Muhammad Mustafa Al-Bakkour Lt. Ikrimah Bakkour Manar Al-Shami Capt. Ahmad Nayif
Finance Major Mustafa Ibrahim Lt. Col. Fadel Al-Hajji Ahmad Abdurrahman Al-Hamwi Col. Maher Al-Nabhan Capt. Mazid Dahhan
Transitional Justice Lt. Col. Ahmad Ayid Al-Khalaf Brig. Gen. Abdurrahman Al-Hassan Khaid Bakkar + Ghanim Saadeddine (Esq.) Abdurrazzaq Freijeh Muhammad Al-Wazir

A number of specialized committees have also been set up.


Video Highlights

Rallies like this one in Kafrenbel, Idlib Province and Elbab, Aleppo, took place all over the country today, as per custom.

Clashes near a security headquarters in Aleppo , ,