I woke up to news reports that quoted Assad's speech and I thought I would be writing a very different diary today. I knew that Bashar al-Assad was scheduled to address the troops today. It was Armed Forces Day in Syria and traditionally Assad gives a morale building speech to the troops on state TV. This would seem to be more important than ever today. Not just me, all the Assad watchers have been waiting for this day. Yesterday the twitter hash tag #assad was alive with anticipation.
What I don't understand is why there aren't more voices in the major media expressing doubts about Assad's continued well being? For example, Reuters attributes the secrecy over Assad's whereabout to
that he swore in his new Defense Minister in the Presidential Palace in Damascus the day after the explosion, if the pictures and video (without audio) released by SANA are to be believed.
I'll give you one, the same one I gave the day after the explosion: Bashar al-Assad is either dead or seriously injured.
I think that the current extremely aggressive and bloody offensive by what remained of the Assad regime after that 18 July explosion, is a desperate attempt to consolidated some kind of hold onto power before that cat gets out of the bag. Further, I suspect that the MSM and the major intelligence services are now complicit in this cover-up because it also buys them time to work out some kind of "transition" that is acceptable to them. More than anything they fear the disorderly collapse of the Syrian state, and for that reason they are keeping silent on the fate of Bashar al-Assad, even if the silence leads to continue bloodshed in Syria.
If that turns out to be the case, there will be a heavy blood debt to pay in a number of capitals far from Damascus.
Syria Live Coverage: Aleppo --- This Does Not Look Like Regime "Victory"
Wednesday, August 1, 2012 at 11:42 Scott Lucas
1730 GMT: Syria. Back from a break to find the Syrian National Council has criticised Tuesday's executions by insurgents of members of the Barri clan in Aleppo.
Khalid Saleh, a member of the group's executive committee, said, "The persons executed were well known to be responsible for many deaths on Aleppo. Nonetheless, we firmly believe everyone deserves a just trial even in the case of field trials."
1340 GMT: Syria. Mona Mahmood, who spoke earlier with a the head of the Free Syrian Army's Military Council (see 1255 GMT), has now obtained parallel claims from Basheer al-Haji, the spokesman of the Tawheed ("Unification") Brigade in Aleppo.
Al-Haji said the Brigade, made up of 3500 fighters, was formed by the Free Syrian Army to fight in the city. He claimed insurgent advances:
We are in control of nine neighbourhoods which are at the eastern part of the city and three others at the western part of the city.
By controlling these neighbourhoods at the eastern side of the city, we are in full control of the civilian airport.
We extended our control of the western side of the city to al-Rawsa neighbourhood where the artillery college is. This is the base used by the regime to fire against the city.
On Tuesday's execution of members of the pro-regime Barri clan, reportedly carried out by the Brigade, al-Haji said:
We were in a truce with the Berri clan, which are shabiha clan. We asked them to stay at home and not to support any part of the fight but they did not comply to the truce.
We were attacking one of the police stations in the city and Berri clan began shooting against us from behind. They killed 15 members of the FSA. We were in big clashes with them and were able to kill 20 of them and arrest another 50.
Then we held a field trial for them. We have judges and lawyers who are in the opposition. They found that seven of the Berri clan were involved in killing and they decided to execute them. Others are kept for trial after the collapse of the regime.
We are keeping a lot of prisoners for trial after the collapse of the regime as long as their hands are clean of the Syrian people's blood, otherwise we kill them immediately.
1315 GMT: Turkey. The Turkish military has carried out a drill with about 25 tanks in the southeast of the country near the Syrian border.
The manoeuvres occur after Turkey has sent three convoys of tanks, weapons, and ground-to-air missile batteries to the border.
1312 GMT: Syria. Claimed footage of a house set ablaze by shelling of the Khamidiya section of Homs:
1255 GMT: Syria. Mustafa al-Sheikh, the head of the Free Syrian Army's Supreme Military Council, has spoken to The Guardian from "the Syrian-Turkish border". He claimed insurgents hold 70% of Aleppo, where the humanitarian situation is "a disaster": "There is no wheat at all, we live on lentils and groats stored by people at their homes, we get water from wells, power comes and goes."
Al-Sheikh not only defended Tuesday's execution of members of the pro-Assad Barri clan but predicted further incidents:
The Barri clan...have a long history of being pro-regime shabiha and they have been involved in a lot of killing in Aleppo.
The regime used to provide them with light weapons and knives and gather them in schools to go and launch their attacks against civilians. Just before they left one of the schools they were caught by the FSA and killed.
In this war in which we left alone to fight such a vicious regime, everything is possible and legitimate and as long as the international community keeps looking at Syria in such carelessness, you will see more of that and even worse.
Al-Sheikh also said the Free Syrian Army could accept the presence of foreign fighters in Syria:
Al-Qaida are now in different places in Syria, they work separately, they are even in Aleppo. We do not work with them. They have Syrian and Arab fighters and they have their own targets and weapons.
They are different hardline groups. We do not deal with them but we do not mind their work anywhere in Syria.
1245 GMT: Syria. Activist "The_47th" has an ominous assessment of the aftermath of Tuesday's execution of members of the pro-Assad Barri clan in Aleppo:
1125 GMT: Libya. A bomb has shaken the Department of Military Intelligence in Benghazi early Wednesday, damaging the building.
There were no injuries. The identity of the attackers is unknown.
A bomb was defused outside the iconic Tibesti hotel on Sunday, while a hand grenade hit the appeals court and a rocket punctured the outside wall of the main prison last Friday.
1025 GMT: Syria. The United Nations mission in Syria says its observers have witnessed regime fighter jets opening fire on insurgents in Aleppo.
Spokeswoman Sausan Ghosheh also said the UN had confirmation that the insurgents now have heavy weapons of their own, including tanks.
0959 GMT: Syria. CNN's Ivan Watson and Raja Razek report from a school converted into an insurgent-run prison in Aleppo Province. They say there were signs that captured shabiha militia were beaten, while regular regime military were treated better.
0954 GMT: Syria. Al Jazeera English's Jane Ferguson reports on the Free Syrian Army's announcement that it will re-use regime land mines against President Assad's forces:
0948 GMT: Syria. In a written statement for Armed Forces Day, President Assad has commented on the insurgency, "The fate of our people and our nation, past, present and future, depends on this battle," as he praised the "heroic" armed forces as "heroic" as the defender of "just causes".
0913 GMT: Syria. Amnesty International has posted a report, based on the observations of one of its staff in Aleppo in May, which harshly criticises the regime:
Scores of demonstrators and bystanders, most of them young men and boys but including several children and older men, have been shot dead and hundreds injured in the city by security forces and the notorious shabiha, the armed militias working alongside government forces. Some of the victims were bystanders who were not taking part in the demonstrations.
Families of demonstrators and bystanders shot dead by security forces have been pressured to sign statements saying that their loved ones were killed by “armed terrorist gangs”.
Wounded people risk arrest and torture if they go to hospital. Doctors, nurses and first-aiders who provide life-saving medical treatment to injured demonstrators in makeshift secret “field hospitals” have themselves been arrested, tortured and even killed by government security forces.
Activists organizing protests and those suspected of participating in demonstrations, making or distributing anti-government leaflets or opposition flags, or otherwise supporting protesters are often arrested and detained arbitrarily without access to their families or lawyers. Detainees are routinely tortured, in some cases to death. Some have been subjected to enforced disappearance; their families have been unable to obtain any information about their fate and whereabouts since their arrest.
0908 GMT: Syria. US NBC News has reported that insurgents have acquired a small supply of surface-to-air missiles for the first time.
A Western official did not dispute the claim.
NBC said the Free Syrian Army had obtained nearly two dozen missiles, also known as man-portable air-defense systems (MANPADs) delivered via Turkey.
0816 GMT: Syria. An opposition website has posted this explanation of Tuesday's execution of captured members of the Barri clan (see 0642 GMT):
When the uprising began, the Barris started to show off their “patriotism”. The regime provided them with a list of prisoners the Barris had asked for to help them in attacking protesters. Their leaders financed Aleppo’s Shabiha [pro-regime militia]....
Al Barris would go to mosques to attack protesters using knifes etc. The majority of Aleppo’s martyers were killed by Al Barris.
When the FSA [Free Syrian Army] arrived in Bab Al Nairab and besieged it, the two sides agreed a truce on Monday. Al Barris had proposed it. One of the Al Barris’ conditions was to keep the picture of Bashar al Assad posted on their premises. The rebels agreed, although they had the upper hand to avoid clashes.
Today, the Barris killed one of the rebels in Al Marjah district. The FSA then entered the Barri's stronghold. They captured the clan’s leaders. They killed some of those who resisted, families and children were allowed to leave the neighbourhood.
0642 GMT: Syria. The Brown Moses blog summarises Tuesday's capture and execution of members of the Barri clan, accused by activists of drug and gun dealing and of the killing of Free Syrian Army members. In this video in Arabic, a Free Syrian Army commander puts forward the circumstances of the execution of the Barri men:
0635 GMT: Syria. The Local Coordination Committees report 87 people were killed on Tuesday by security forces, with 22 of the deaths in Aleppo Province.
0530 GMT: Syria. In its only brief reference to Aleppo this morning, State news agency SANA declares, "Armed forces continued chasing the fleeing terrorist groups in the area of Ard al-Sabbagh in Salah Eddin neighborhood in Aleppo, killing and injuring a large number of terrorists, some of them holding Arab and African nationalities."
The website does not attempt the line, as it did days ago, that regime forces had cleared the insurgents out of Syria's largest city. That's understandable --- information and video from other sources indicated that, far from pushing the insurgents out of neighbourhoods like Salaheddin and Sakhour, President Assad's forces were facing continued resistance and that the Free Syrian Army was able to bring in reinforcements.
Indeed, there were two dramatic episodes that pointed to the ascendancy of the insurgents in parts of the city. The Free Syrian Army attacked three police stations, occupying them for part of the day and reportedly causing dozens of casualties. Then last night footage emerged of the capture of the Barri clan, well-known supporters of the Assad regime and --- according to their critics --- renowned for their violent, criminal activity. Further video testified that the head of the family, Zaino Barri, and other members were executed.