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?
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!
out today on the outcome of the Assad regimes apparently successful attempt to regain full control of Damascus:
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 mapand 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:
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."