While most of the world sits on its hands with regards to Syria, Russian and Iran supply weapons and fighters to support Assad's mass murder. With their help, everyday the Assad regime lobs thousands of shells and bombs into civilian areas because they are guilty of the "crime" of opposing his dictatorship. This is the story of just one of those shells.
Syria, Turkey (and Beyond) Live Coverage: Erdogan's Red Line
Thursday, October 4, 2012 at 5:29 | James Miller
1603 GMT: Syria. The videos from Damascus are worth 1000 words. The CFDPC, a network of activists who report on Damascus, share this video of shells landing near the al-Kabeer mosque in Douma today:
MiGs and smoke over Kafer Batna, Damascus:
Clouds of smoke, and what sounds like distant gunfire, cover Qadam, in southwestern Damascus, as homes reportedly burn:
In Artouz, a suburb southwest of Damascus, more than 30 mortar shells have reportedly fallen as battles erupt between the Free Syrian Army and the Assad military.
1552 GMT: Syria. The Local Coordination Committees report that94 people have been killed so far today by Assad forces:
41 martyrs were reported in Damascus and its Suburbs, 30 in Aleppo, 10 in Homs, 6 in Deir Ezzor, 3 in Hama,3 in Lattakia and 1 in Daraa.
The Local Coordination Committees (LCC) is an activist network operating both inside and outside of Syria. They claim to use stringent verification processes to ensure that a member of the LCC can vouch for any information posted either on their Facebook page or their website. The LCC also populates a database of those killed in the Syrian conflict, which can be seen at the website for the Center for Documentation of Violations in Syria.
The LCC's casualty figures are a mix of insurgents and civilians, and never include regime casualties. Syrian State Media has stopped reporting regime casualty figures.
Aleppo and Damascus, both areas that have been heavily shelled and bombed by regime forces today, account for 71 of the LCC's 94 reported deaths.
1540 GMT: Turkey/Syria. Another Turkish news agency reports that many of the targets of the Turkish artillery bombardments were in Idlib province:
Turkey opened counter-fire, hitting Syrian artillery at the Idlib District. 50 artillery shots were made at 16 military targets on Syrian territory. Artillery was heard in Akchalak at 6.45 am. Air bases in Diyarbakir, Malatya and Batman were in a state of alert. Turkish ships were preparing at the territorial waters of Syria in the Mediterranean Sea.
1527 GMT: Turkey/Syria. The question burning on lots of people's minds is how significant the Turkish artillery strikes against the Assad military were yesterday. First, Michael Weiss reports that Erdogan has been planning this move for a long time, which may be the ultimate sign of how concerned Turkey has become about their security situation:
This means that for several weeks, Erdogan has been looking for an opportunity to seek permission from parliament to expand his actions against Syria. But we've also been tracking the news of the specific targets that the Turkish military may have hit. First, it's unusual that this little information is known, suggesting that the Syrian military is trying to hide how much damage it took, perhaps on diplomatic grounds or perhaps to hide its losses.
Debka, a source with lots of credibility issues to be sure, reports that their sources tell them that Turkey has already struck Assad targets within 10 kilometers of the Syrian border, an attempt to "carve out a buffer strip":
Thursday morning, Oct. 4 at 0300 GMT, Ankara ordered the Turkish army to keep up its cross-border shelling of Syria after the first bombardment Wednesday night in response to the deaths of five Turkish civilians and eight injured by Syrian mortar shells which exploded in their village.
DEBKAfile's military sources report the artillery squads were told to aim primarily at Syrian military targets inside this strip, including bases, outposts and Syrian forces on the move.
Several Syrian bases and outposts have been hit so far and a large number of Syrian soldiers killed or wounded. Neither Ankara nor Damascus is offering information on casualties. They have imposed a heavy blackout on events so as to keep them under control and avoid the risk of a full-blown war.
Is this possible? Again, Debka is an untrustworthy source, but Hurriyet reports that the Turkish military hit many targets inside Syria with T-155 long-range howitzers, hundreds of which are in operation in the Turkish military. In other words, this claim by Debka is well within the capabilities of the Turkish military:
T-155 Fırtına has a maximum firing range of 40 km, depending on the type of ammunition. It can reach a top speed of 66 km/h and has an operational range of 480 km.
Furthermore, many sources report that targets in Idlib, as well as targets near Tal Abyad, were hit by Turkish artillery strikes. While there is still no conclusive evidence as to which targets, or where, were hit by Turkey last night, these patterns suggest, as we reported earlier, that Turkey is sending a very loud message to the Syrian government.
1501 GMT: Syria.Al Jazeera Arabic and several sources within the Free Syrian Army report that the FSA has shot down a MiG fighter jet near the Kuwayris airport near Aleppo (which we believe is here on a map, near the town of Kuwayris Sharqi). Ordinarily, we would wait for confirmation of some sort to even post a rumor like this, except that we have separate information that Free Syrian Army units had made attacks on the airport earlier today. This video appears to show those attacks:
The FSA has destroyed fighter jets with heavy machineguns in the past. It's possible that the FSA surrounded the airport and took down a MiG.
Still, for now, consider the news unconfirmed.
1445 GMT: Syria. A curious update from The Guardian. They have posted a reported version of the current UN Security Council Draft Resolution on Syria:
The members of the security council condemned in the strongest terms the shelling by the Syrian armed forces of the Turkish town of Akcakale which resulted in the deaths of five civilians, all of whom were women and children, as well as a number of injuries.
The members of the security council expressed their sincere condolences to the government and people of Turkey, and to the families of the victims. This represents a demonstration of the spilling over of the crisis in Syria into neighbouring states to an alarming degree. Such violations of international law constitute a serious threat to international peace and security.
The members of the council demanded that such violations stop immediately. The members of the security council call on the Syria government to fully respect the sovereignty and territorial integrity of its neighbours.
But Guardian also notes that Russia may have objected to the language "strongest possible terms" after the deadline for expressing objections has already passed. If true, this would mean that Russia may have purposefully blown its opportunity to object so that the language would pass.
For now, however, we'll cautiously wait for official news from the UN.
1416 GMT: Bahrain. Prominent activist and political prisoner Nabeel Rajab appears to have been released from prison to attend his mother's funeral:
1409 GMT: Turkey/Syria. AFP provides video of the funerals for some of the victims of yesterday's Syrian mortar attack in Akcakale, Turkey. Anger is rising here, and across the country, as Turks increasingly want to see their government stand up to Bashar al Assad:
1352 GMT: Syria. Nearly every day between 100 and 200 died in Syria, but the situation for the living continues to grow worse. In the last several days, bulldozers have destroyed dozens, or maybe hundreds, of buildings in and around Damascus. The strategy is to create buffer zones between neighborhoods where the opposition has a strong presence and areas that are more sensitive to the government. However, the strategy is also to displace Assad's opposition in the capital in areas where the Free Syrian Army does not have a presence.
It's not just homes being bulldozed. Yesterday, activists reported that cactus farms in Dumayr, northwest of Damascus, were being bulldozed. According to the LCC, those efforts continue today.
The cactus provide an affordable source of food, a cool, refreshing, and rehydrating delight for Damascenes. First of all, these crops are a major source of income for Dumayr and other rural areas around Damascus, areas that overwhelmingly oppose Bashar al Assad's rule. Secondly, they provide an affordable source of nutrition and clean water. With destroyed water infrastructure, rising food prices, and historic drought, this is a body blow for both the cactus farmers and those who eat their produce.
1340 GMT: Syria. We've just seen the first video that actually shows part of yesterday's bombing attacks in Aleppo. The first explosion happens after the 30 second mark.
The primary target for the attacks was an officers club, a regime stronghold in the center of the city, and according to initial reports many of those killed were security personnel.
1331 GMT: Libya. There is outrage today over the cabinet proposed by Prime Minister Mustafa Abu Shagur that largely omits liberals.
The nominated defence minister is Abdul Aalam Al Obaidi, an army general serving in the operations room of the eastern city of Benghazi, where the population has taken a strong stance against militias comprising former rebels.
The position had been held by Osama Jweili, a former rebel commander. Omar Al Aswad was proposed as interior minister, while the post of foreign minister remained blank on the list.
Several members of outgoing Prime Minister Abdul Rahman Al Kieb’s cabinet are part of the line-up, including a deputy prime minister and the education minister.
However, The Guardian notes that the voting on the cabinet has been disrupted by several hundred protesters who have stormed the headquarters of congress:
"After we heard the list, everyone in Zawiyah was angry. Some even began protesting in Zawiyah's main square last night," said Nuri Shambi, who traveled the 50km (30 miles) from Zawiyah to the capital Tripoli to voice his anger.
"Abushagur said he would form a coalition government, that he would look at experience. Zawiyah proposed candidates for oil minister, but he's brought in someone who is not well known."
Abushagur's line-up includes many unknown names, including that of proposed oil minister, Mabrouk Issa Abu Harroura.
1318 GMT: Turkey/Syria. Dozens of contacts, journalists, and activists that we have encountered so far today all report that Turkish military forces are surging on the border with Syria:
1308 GMT: Syria/Turkey. The Syrian government may be rattled by the events of the last 24 hours. Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has said that the events were a "tragic accident" that "won't happen again." What's also interesting is that Syria has been surprisingly quiet about the Turkish artillery strikes in response to this crisis. Syria may realize that they have a politically untenable position, and they cannot afford a military confrontation with Turkey or NATO.
What's also interesting is that Russia's response has been in the same vein.
"We ask both sides for restraint, unequivocal observance of each others' territorial sovereignty and integrity, and resistance to any terrorist actions," spokesperson Alexander Lukashevich told reporters in Moscow.
"We consider it important that such a balanced approach based on real facts is exercised by the UN Security Council, as well as the leading international and regional players."
Russia realizes that its strongest position is not in outright defense of the Syrian government, or condemnation of Turkey's actions, but rather in trying to play the peace maker. This may work, effectively defusing some of the anger against Assad and Putin instead of fanning the flames.
It's also a sign that Russia understands that if the crisis continues to escalate, it may no longer be able to stand between President Assad and foreign intervention.
1253 GMT: Syria. Inside the country, the war for Syria still rages. The Local Coordination Committees report hat 72 people have already been killed by the Assad regime so far today:
31 martyrs were reported in Damascus and its Suburbs; including 16 in Kesweh and 9 in Zakia, 26 in Aleppo, 6 in Homs, 4 in Deir Ezzor, 3 in Hama, and 2 in Lattakia.
See our note on the casualty figures put forth by the LCC.
Once again the numbers are alarmingly high, especially in Damascus where an intensified regime crackdown has been met with renewed insurgent activity over the last several days. Aleppo's numbers are also high, though they are less surprising as the city and its suburbs have now become the primary focus of both the FSA and the regime.
1216 GMT: Turkey/Syria. Turkishparliament has granted permission for troops to cross over into Syria and for air and artillery strikes to be conducted if needed:
The decision followed an emergency session in response to a government request for the military action, after two women and three children were killed in a border town by Syrian shelling.
The vote was passed 320-129.
Our assessment - this is not war, but it means that if at any time the Turkish government feels threatened, they won't need anyone's permission to attack inside Syrian territory.
However, beyond the obvious, there is another consequence. This now means that the Turkish government could begin to carry out covert missions, or even training missions, inside Syria if President Erdogan and Foreign Minister Davutoglu believe it is now in Turkey's best interests to increase support for Syria's insurgency. Though it remains to be seen whether this is an option that will be used, the wide margin of the vote gives Erdogan a clear mandate that he can now do whatever he thinks is necessary to increase Turkey's security. Remember that Erdogan has already identified the surge in refugees as a security threat, and Erdogan has already reached the "red line" number of 100,000 refugees. Does this mean he will take advantage of this mandate and try to care for refugees on the Syrian side of the border? And, if so, will this spark further escalation of tensions, or even fighting, between Ankara and Turkey?
James Miller takes over today's live coverage. Thanks to Scott Lucas for getting us started this morning.
1002 GMT: Syria. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, citing a medical source and witnesses, claims insurgents have killed 21 members of the elite Republican Guards in an ambush on an army minibus in the Qudsaya suburb, northwest of Damascus.
The area had been shelled by regime forces before insurgents moved into the area, according to the Observatory. Damascus residents had reported loud explosions and said that a large military convoy was heading to the area.
"Shelling started again this morning. I had a friend who managed to escape last night through back roads. He said regime forces were storming the area and had killed five people," an activist said over Skype. "Those who are still there are trying to get out, but they are afraid of snipers."
0945 GMT: Syria/Turkey. Turkish officials have confirmed that shelling of Syrian regime positions continued overnight:
As the Turkish Parliament considers a bill to authorise military operations across the border, an aide to Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Ankara has no intention of declaring war. The overnight shelling, after Syria killed five civilians in a mortar attack, is a "warning".
0500 GMT: Syria/Turkey. Yesterday's live coverage started with an important story, a series of suicide bombings in Aleppo that may have killed more than 40 regime soldiers in Syria's largest city, Aleppo. Evidence quickly suggested that this was an attack pulled off either by very cunning insurgents or by Assad's own soldiers who had turned on the regime.
That headline was gradually erased by escalating violence across Syria, particularly in Damascus where to the north, south, east and west, fires burned, shells landed, and battles between regime forces and insurgents broke out. By the end of the day at least 200 people were killed, according to the Local Coordination Committees:
67 martyrs were reported in Damascus and its Suburbs, among them 16 field-executed in Douma and 19 martyrs in Qudsaya; 43 in Aleppo; 29 in Idlib including an entire family who were martyred due to the shelling on Sahen town;27 in Hama most of them are children and women;16 in Daraa ; 8 in Homs; 7 in Deir Ezzor; and 3 in Raqqa.
Fires burned into the night. This video was reportedly taken in Jisreen, a suburb of Damascus:
Then, more headlines. Throughout the day, and really over the last several days, evidence began to mount that Hezbollah has significantly increased its involvement in Syria and is engaged in heavy ground battles in and around Homs, a development that seems to be having a significant impact on the gains of the Free Syrian Army in the area.
Eclipsed by these events were other reports that the Free Syrian Army had won some battles in Idlib province, killing at least Assad 15 soldiers, according to activists. There was evidence of additional FSA victories, though small in scale, in both Aleppo and near Damascus.
But all of these events may be all but forgotten today, as the world focuses on a new headline. See our separate analysis after Turkey responded with artillery fire to the killing of five of its civilians by Syrian forces, "Has President Assad Started a Military Conflict with Ankara?".