It doesn’t really matter if he is still physically alive, politically Assad is dead. The revolution shrunk him into insignificance. He is not even a zombie at this stage, he is simply irrelevant, his fate sealed by a rumor.
Today’s Death Toll: 150 martyrs, including 6 women; 17 martyr under torture and 10 children: 52 in Damascus and Suburbs including 15 under torture in security branch 215; 39 in Aleppo, most martyred due to a SCUD missile attack in Hreitan; 18 in Daraa; 16 in Homs; 8 in Deir Ezzor; 5 in Raqqa; 7 in Hama; and 5 in Idlib (LCCs).
Points of Random Shelling: 283. Shelling with warplanes reported in 19 points; Scud missiles were reported in 3 districts; Surface to Surface rockets reported in 9 districts, the heaviest one was in Aleppo; explosive barrels reported in 6 points; phosphoric bombs reported in Deir Ezzor; cluster bombs reported in Hreitan, Aleppo. Shelling with mortars reported in 102 points, while artillery shelling was reported in 98 point; rocket launchers shelling reported in 99 points (LCCs).
Clashes: 130. Successful rebel operations included shooting 3 warplanes in the town of Alboukamal in Deir Ezzor Province, 1 plane in Khan Al-Sheeh in Damascus Suburbs and another in Jabal Al-Zawyeh in Idlib. In Raqqa, rebels entered the town of Ein Issa after liberating all loyalist checkpoints. In Aleppo, rebels took control of the Sheikh Maqsood Neighborhood (LCCs).
Southern Town in Syria Is Seized by Rebel Fighters The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, an antigovernment group in Britain with contacts throughout Syria, said rebel fighters secured the town, Dael, after more than a day of clashes in which three military checkpoints were destroyed and more than 24 combatants and at least nine civilians were killed. The town, with a population of about 40,000, sits on an important north-south highway that connects Damascus to Dara’a, the southern city that was the birthplace of the March 2011 uprising against President Bashar al-Assad that turned into a civil war. “The entire town, which is on the Damascus-Dara’a road, is now outside the control of government forces,” the Syrian Observatory said in its daily dispatch on the fighting.
20 dead in Scud missile attack in Syria, activists say The missile landed in a populated neighborhood of Hretaan, injuring 50 people and destroying more than 30 homes, the activists said. Videos reportedly recorded afterward showed residents pulling out dozens of bodies from the rubble of flattened buildings. There was no immediate response from Syrian officials to the charge, which could not be independently verified because of restrictions the government places on outside media.
U.S. considers no-fly-zone over Syria The U.S. administration is studying in depth all options that could lead to a peaceful settlement in Syria, Nuland added. On Wednesday, the former head of a U.N. monitoring mission, who tried in vain to secure a ceasefire in Syria’s civil war, said it was now time to consider imposing a no-fly zone over the country. The comments from Norwegian General Robert Mood came after NATO Chief Anders Fogh Rasmussen ruled out Western military intervention and called for a political solution to the two-year-old crisis which has claimed an estimated 70,000 lives. “I have come to the conclusion there has to be a leveling on the playing field,” Mood, who headed the U.N. mission in Syria until last July, told Britain’s BBC TV. “To level the playing field now in the military terms would be to consider no-fly zones, to consider whether the Patriots in Turkey could have a role also in taking on some responsibility for the northern part of Syria.”
An Unlikely Jihadist, Denouncing Assad in Mandarin He spoke in Mandarin. He called himself Yusef, but a subtitle in English said his Chinese name was Bo Wang. On the surface, he appeared to be an extremely rare — perhaps the only — example of an ethnic Han citizen of China joining a jihadist group in the Arab world. The bizarre video first got the attention of some Chinese last week, when it was posted on YouTube and then on Youku, a popular video-sharing site in China. It was quickly deleted from there, possibly by censors aware that the material was too delicate for the sensibilities of Chinese officials. In the video, the man told the Chinese government to drop its support of Mr. Assad or “all Islamic countries of the world will unite to impose economic sanctions against the Chinese people.”
Syria’s Red Crescent caught in the middle of bloody civil war Caught between warring factions as violence continues to rip apart Syria, the agency — Syria’s equivalent of the Red Cross — has had to contend with looting, threats of violence, arbitrary arrests and the killing of 17 staff members. The organization has also found its reputation under fire from Syrian-Canadian groups and others who have accused it of being little more than a puppet for Syrian President Bashar Assad’s regime.
Has Bashar Al Assad been killed? Two videos that are circulating on social media over the past hours are once again alleging that Bashar Al Assad has either died or fled the country. “The Brigade of Martyrs of Douma conveys to you the news the Syrian people have waited for for a long time, namely the assassination of the despot Bashar Al Assad, which was carried out in coordination with one of the honorable officers from inside the Palace,” the chief of the Brigade said in a video posted on YouTube. “I challenge Bashar to make a media appearance within the next 12 hours if he is still alive”, he added.
Syria’s cultural heritage under attack during bloody civil war Aleppo – one of the most beautiful cities in the Middle East and a crossroads of Christian, Jewish and Arab cultures – is among the hardest hit by the fighting between regime forces and rebels. In the nation’s capital of Damascus, once described by Mark Twain as the city that “has seen all that has ever occurred on earth,” historic buildings and landmarks are at increasing risk of damage.
Syria: Rebuilding education One brave teacher, Nour Al-Haq, is fighting her own war, determined to teach come what may. She explained: “We wanted to reorganise this school for the kids of Salaheddine who are coming back to their own neighbourhoods. “Families are coming back to their own houses. That is why we wanted to open this school here. “The four biggest schools in Salaheddine have been bombarded. We will have to rely on schools like this one for many years. “We are recovering books, and chairs from the damaged schools. We went to those schools even though we were targeted by a sniper who shot at us.”
Revolution or civil war? The battle of narratives in Syria The battle of narratives in Syria can be encapsulated as that between two tales from two cities: Paris and Geneva, where two parallel conferences were held in the last week of January 2013. These two meetings broadly represent two opposing narratives with little common ground and with each having its international backers both in policy circles and in the media. The Geneva meeting was organized with Scandinavian support and brought together several of the so called internal opposition groups and parties, most prominent of which were the National Coordination Body for Democratic Change and the Building the Syrian State Current. The conference also formed the Democratic Civil Alliance, a coalition of like-minded groups calling for a peaceful solution through dialogue. The Paris conference was organized with French support and included the two main opposition groupings outside Syria: the Syrian National Council and the National Coalition headed by Moaz al-Khatib. The main difference between the two meetings is that Geneva called for stopping the violence and for dialogue with the regime whereas Paris called for arming the opposition and rejected any idea of dialogue with the regime. But there are also other significant differences in the narratives.
The complications of dispersing aid in Syria According to Medecins Sans Frontiers, by the end of January 2013 over 60 countries had expressed a commitment to providing $1.5 billion in aid to the Syrian population. However such substantial figures, in reality, amount to much less. The urge to donate and distribute humanitarian aid is complicated by the complex international laws and bureaucratic labyrinths, and ultimately dictated by the host government’s willingness to grant international access to a country. Those few international organizations (less than 10) given permission to enter Syria face extreme difficulties in moving between government and rebel controlled areas. These realities and the Assad regime’s continued shelling of hospitals and bakeries merely add to the growing humanitarian crisis. Accordingly, international aid organizations are often forced to rely on third parties within Syria to disperse aid.
Syria: freedom is economics too Before any elections, the first stone will have already been laid – with reconstruction. On which policies will Syria be rebuilt? Which checks and balances will be organized around an international aid campaign driven by vested interests? Who will plan it? What can work, and what doesn’t, in Syria?
My new paper, prepared for a briefing in Washington, D.C. that took place on January 15, 2013, is now out and is titled “Syria 2013: Rise of the Warlords.” It should be read in conjunction with my previous briefing “The Shredded Tapestry,” and my recent essay “The Creation of an Unbridgeable Divide.”
* Rebels from the Douma Martyrs Brigades, one of the main rebels groups fighting in Eastern Ghoutah in Damascus Suburbs, “confirm” through its leader Abu Ali Khibyeh the assassination of Bashar Al-Assad by one of his Iranian bodyguards and call on his officials and officers to surrender promising a fair trial to all. “The one you were fighting for has been killed, save yourselves by refraining from further bloodshed,” he told them. Abu Ali also says that the news was confirmed by an officer in Bashar’s entourage who works for the rebels http://youtu.be/7oipjyvqAz4. Abu Ali reiterates his statements in this Skype interview with a rebel network http://youtu.be/g0se3fVcDKQ. But while some rebels are so sure that Assad has been killed as to risk making such a categorical announcement, others claim that he was only injured, and that he was now replaced by a security commission led by the person who was in charge of Assad’s secret service: Salim Al-Ali (Abu Ibrahim), the son of an Alawite father and a Sunni Lebanese mother, a man whose own son was kidnapped by rebels a few months ago and was released following a deal.
The town of Hreitan, Aleppo Province: the aftermath of a Scud attack http://youtu.be/rJ5qbCdNJZI panic after the attack http://youtu.be/XAq_HzB4Z5w
Assad’s tanks keep pounding Jobar neighborhood in eastern parts of the Damascus City http://youtu.be/lJr7tB-tr8o , http://youtu.be/AICVFcSxe-c
Scenes from the clashes that ended with the liberation of the town of Da’el, Daraa Province http://youtu.be/tOTuPB2cz5U , http://youtu.be/wfMR9QdOuc0 , http://youtu.be/Lxv_q9mX6ww
In Damascus, rockets launchers from the Mazzeh Military Airport in action http://youtu.be/tAdVS23rbwU