Syria: 'heading for civil war' - live updates
. Russia submits new draft resolution on Syria to the UN
. Syria's divisions appear to be deepening, Ian Black reports
. UN to train Arab League observers
> Matthew Weaver and
> Haroon Siddique
Tuesday 17 January 2012 15.31 GMT
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Members of the Free Syrian Army in Idlib
Members of the Free Syrian Army demonstrate against Bashar al-Assad near
Idlib. Photograph: Handout/Reuters
l-assad#block-13> 3.31pm: Prominent <http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/syria
Syria experts have given their backing to human rights campaigner Rami
l-assad#block-2> a dispute over control of the Syrian Observatory for Human
Chris Doyle, director of the <http://www.caabu.org/
> Council for
Advancement of Arab Understanding, said:
I have seen nothing from his organisation that brings into question the
credibility and professionalism of what he does.
He said there was no evidence that Abdulrahman had an association with
Rifaat al-Assad, the uncle of
> Bashar al-Assad, as a
rival member of the Observatory claimed.
Sheila Mosley, co-chair of <http://supportkurds.org/
> Support Kurds in
Rami Abdulrahman's credibility and integrity are in tact. He is reporting on
human rights issues whether in the opposition or people in the Syrian army.
He has reported deaths among the army, which is not a popular move among a
lot of activists.
If you look at the things that have been thrown up against Rami, one by one
they are not true. They are just coming up with other stories to bash his
credibility because they want to shut him up.
Mousab Azzawi, who claims to speak for the genuine Observatory, said
Abdulrahman does not provide names of people he claims have been killed in
Syria. Azzawi who has set up a rival website (
syriahr.org as opposoed to Abdulrahman's <http://syriahr.com/
sryriahr.com) claimed to be the official Observatory, said: "Our updates
about the revolution are clear and transparent."
He claimed Abdulrahman inflated the death toll of an alleged sectarian
incident in Homs last year, when he claimed 39 people were killed. "That
number was not correct. The actual number was six."
Azzawi admitted that it was incorrect to claim that Abdulrahman could not
communicate in English. He could also provide no evidence for his claim that
Abdulrahman had links to Rifaat al-Assad.
61256134> On the Facebook page of Abdulrahman's organisation "a
clarification" has been published, which implies that the Syrian regime is
behind the attacks on his credibility. It reads:
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights stresses that since the start of the
Syrian Revolution the Syrian regime and some of its loyalists, who live in
Britain, are trying the discredit the Observatory and distort its image by
launching websites using the name of the organisation, speaking to the
foreign media on behalf of the Observatory, and making statements which are
not related to the reports and the data issued by the Syrian Observatory for
Human Rights regarding human rights violations inside Syria.
In another post on the Facebook page it says at least eight people were
killed when a device was exploded inside a mini-bus on the Idlib-Aleppo
> It posted this video
showing the wreckage of the bus and what appears to be blood.
No further details of the alleged attack have been given.
l-assad#block-12> 3.13pm: Activists claim at least 16 people have been
killed in Syria today, the majority in Homs.
The Syrian Revolution General Commission has named 16 people it says have
been killed by the security forces today, nine of them in Homs. It says the
tally includes a woman and three military defectors.
The Local Co-ordination Committes put the death toll at 17, with 11 killed
in Homs. It also says three military defectors and a woman have been killed.
> This video
shows a tank firing, purportedly in Homs today.
Another video from Homs purports to show people queueing for bread. The Homs
MP, Imad Imad Ghalioun, who has defected to
> Egypt (
l-assad#block-11#block-11> see 2.44pm), says food supplies are scarce in the
l-assad#block-11> 2.44pm: One of the recent defectors from Syria has likened
the Arab League mission in the country as a "sightseeing trip".
=imi_c1> The Homs MP, Imad Ghalioun, who is now in Egypt, told CNN:
We expected the Arab monitors to stop the regime's killing machine, but what
happened is that they came to what seemed like a sightseeing trip.
Some went to visit the governor; others spent most of their time in
five-star hotels. We wanted them to meet the activists on the ground, visit
the prisoners and the injured and the families of the martyrs. They did not
do that, maybe some wanted to do that but could not do it.
It is important to note that Ghalioun is the cousin of Burhan Ghalioun, the
leader of the opposition Syrian National Congress. He also claimed
> Iran is supporting Syria "with all
its might" but added that the Tehran regime is "using it [Syria] as a
bargaining chip for negotiations with the west".
l-assad#block-10> 1.39pm: Protesters in the eastern Syrian city of
rias-restive-east?pageCount=0> Deir Ezzor are being protected by 500
military defectors, an activist told Phil Sands of the National.
Sobhey Jassim, a political activist from one of the province's major tribes,
I won't take up a weapon but there are people who will. There are 500
soldiers in Deir Ezzor who have defected and civilians are joining them.
They are protecting themselves and the demonstrators.
Sands says the city, which is crucial for Syria's gas and oil output, is
divided over the uprising.
One senior tribal figure estimated there was an almost even split, with 50
to 60% of Deir Ezzor's population against the president and 40 to 50% with
him. Within any of its major tribes - the Aaqidat, Baqara and Bosariya - and
the various sub tribes, there are splits between those opposed to Mr Al
Assad's rule and those who vow to back him.
beginning/> Index on Censorship has investigated the state of the media in
Egypt, one year after the beginning of the revolution and it says the
picture is far from rosy. Sharia Amin writes:
The military authorities controlling the country in the transitional period
have yet to loosen their tight grip on the media and purge Egyptian state
media of corrupt employees.
The media scene is more vibrant and diverse than it was under Mubarak's
authoritarian regime, but even after the launch of new private TV channels
and publications, and the debut appearances of opposition figures on the
small screen, some media analysts claim the reforms are not deep enough to
effect tangible change ...
From the outset, the interim military government issued directives for any
media coverage of the military to be sent to the Armed Forces Morale Affairs
Department for review before broadcast or publication. Broadcasters and
editors working for Egyptian state-owned and independent media continue to
complain about heavy censorship of their work, and in recent months several
have resigned in protest.
The report coincides with an article in al-Masry al-Youm, which says that
the de facto interim ruler, <http://www.almasryalyoum.com/en/node/604766
Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi "has ordered the formation of a committee of
high-ranking army generals tasked with ensuring the Egyptian armed forces
are given positive media coverage". Al-Masry al-Youm says its sources did
not elaborate on how the new body would differ from the Morale Affairs
l-assad#block-8> 12.45pm: Here's a summary of the main developments so far
The leader of the Free Syrian Army has called on the Arab League to refer
Syria to the UN security council. Speaking to Reuters, Colonel Riad al-Asaad
said: "We call on them to turn the issue over to the UN security council and
we ask that the international community intervene because they are more
capable of protecting Syrians at this stage than our Arab brothers."
l-assad#block-4> Fighting between defected soldiers and the regular Syrian
army appears to be getting closer to Damascus. The state news agency blamed
terrorists for the killing of six soldiers including a brigadier general six
miles south-west of the capital. Activists claim the Free Syrian Army is
holding off a government assault in Zabadani north west of Damascus.
?> UN officials are
trying reword a new draft resolution on Syria put forward by Russia which
has consistently blocked UN attempts to condemn the Assad regime. One
diplomat dismised the resolution as "playing for time". The new draft is
heading for "diplomatic limbo" according to the Russian press agency RIA
l-assad#block-2> A dispute has broken out over control of the British based
Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, one of the main sources of information
on the crackdown in Syria. Two rival websites have been set up claiming to
represent the true voice of the Observatory.
. The lawyer for Hosni Mubarak has described the ousted dictator as "a clean
man who could say no wrong", as he opened the case for the defence. The
prosecution is calling for the death penalty for Mubarak, who is charged
with complicity in the killing of hundreds of protesters during an 18-day
uprising that toppled his 29-year, authoritarian regime last February. Farid
el-Deeb told the court Mubarak "has been mauled by malicious talk. He has
been targeted from all directions and his reputation has been hit by tongues
and pens." The trial has been adjourned until Wednesday.
> Bahrain is to introduce
a law banning children from taking part in political gatherings, rallies and
demonstrations, Trade Arabia reports. Human Rights and Social Development
Minister Dr Fatima Al Balooshi said the bill would protect the rights of
children but activists say a number of children been harmed by security
forces cracking down on opposition on behalf of the government.
0120117> Yemen's opposition has accused the party of outgoing president, Ali
Abdullah Saleh, of wanting to tear up the Gulf-brokered initiative for the
transfer of power after the foreign minister said the presidential election
could be delayed because of security concerns. Ghalib al-Odainy, a spokesman
for the opposition coalition, the Joint Meeting Parties (JMP), said the aim
of the foreign minister's statement was to put the country in chaos and then
avoid the Gulf initiative and the presidential elections".
l-assad#block-7> 12.33pm: The Yemeni opposition have accused Ali Abdullah
Saleh's General People's Congress (GPC) party of intending to rip up the
Gulf initiative for the transfer of power,
neral%20People%27s%20Congress%20%28GPC%29%20party> after the foreign
minister said the presidential election, set for February, may be delayed by
In an interview shown on al-Arabiya TV, Abubakr al-Qirbi, said:
Unfortunately, there are a couple of events relating to security, and if
they are not solved ... it will be difficult to run the elections on 21
Islamist fighters seized the town of Radda, about 170km (105 miles)
south-east of the capital Sana'a, on Sunday. Saleh has long portrayed
himself as a bulwark against al-Qaida, which has won him backing in the past
from the US and Saudi Arabia.
The opposition coalition, which shares power with the GPC in an interim
government charged with leading Yemen to a vote and ending fighting between
Saleh's forces and those of a rebel general and tribal magnates, rejected
any delay. Ghalib al-Odainy, a spokesman for the Joint Meeting Parties
The statement makes clear the practices of President Saleh's regime, which
aim to create chaos ...These statements make it clear that the handover of
Radda was with the complete approval of Saleh's regime. The goal is to put
the country in chaos and then avoid the Gulf initiative and the presidential
l-assad#block-6> 11.49am: On Sunday,
geID=238&nid=11605&NewsCatID=352> Bahrain's king announced constitutional
amendments giving parliament more powers of scrutiny over the government led
by the king but in his speech he made no mention of the continued clashes
between riot police and protesters. Meanwhile, activists continue to report
a number of arrests and violent incidents, including deaths.
Over the weekend, the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights (BCHR) claims three
people died in 24 hours over the weekend, one of them a self-immolation by a
woman whose son had been beaten by the security forces.
On Friday, the ministry of Interior announced it had found the body of
24-year-old Yousif Ahmed Muwali (pictured left) in Amwaj. It said he drowned
> his family told BCHR he was
tortured, and say there are cigarette burns on his arms and bruises on
different parts of the body.
> Badriya Ali, 59, from Sanabis
reportedly died of burns on Saturday. She had seen her son severely beaten
in her house by security forces and also witnessed a number of attacks on
her village, according to the BCHR. Her family said she was terrified and
set herself on fire on the roof of her home.
Salman Moshin, from Barbar, also reportedly died on Saturday. The BCHR said
she suffocated after a teargas canister was shot into her home.
> Trade Arabia
reports that Bahrain is to ban children from taking part in political
gatherings, rallies and demonstrations.
The human rights and development minister said the step is necessary to
"protect their [children's] rights but, according to activists, children
have repeatedly been harmed by security forces crushing opposition to the
government. Some of the recent claimed examples, highlighted by the BCHR
> Esraa Saeed Salman, nine, who received emergency
treatment after inhaling teargas.
Sayed Alawi Sayed Samad, 15, arrested on Friday in AlGhuraifa.
> Noura, 2, sprayed in the face with a chemical
by police after they raided her family's home looking for protesters.
l-assad#block-5> 11.15am: The Arab League's monitoring mission to Syria is
due to end on Thursday.
116> Reuters provides a useful guide to what the Arab League could do next.
Here's a summary of the main options it outlines:
. The idea of extending the mission is opposed by some members after at
least three monitors quit in protest at its inability to stop the crackdown.
. A source told Reuters that the league could consider beefing up the
mission to include 3,000 monitors accompanied by their own security.
. The league could impose sanctions as it threatened in November, when Assad
refused to sign the Arab peace deal. But sanctions take time to work and
many people question their effectiveness.
. Qatar has proposed sending in Arab troops, but League sources say it could
be difficult to rally support for such a move, which would face resistance
from Arab rulers allied to Damascus or worried about unrest at home.
l-assad#block-4> 10.37am: Fighting between military defectors soldiers and
the regular Syrian army appears to be getting closer to Damascus.
The state news agency claimed an
> "armed terrorist group"
killed six soldiers in a rocket-propelled grenades assault in Sahnaya, six
miles south west of the capital.
Meanwhile heavy fighting has continued in
Zabadani a town north west of the capital, according to activists.
An update edited by Ausama Monajed, a member of the opposition Syrian
National Council member, said:
Defections continue as 20 additional soldiers mutinied in the Western
Mountain area and clashed with Assad loyalists before their death ... The
Fourth regiment is still unable to break into the defences of Zabadani and
Madaya as more than 60 soldiers were killed after 250 officers and soldiers
A lot of weapons and munitions have also been seized by the defected troops,
allowing them to hold their ranks and positions for a longer period of time.
The report could not be independently verified.
Video has emerged claiming to <http://youtu.be/RncvkPw8Np8
> show armed men
touring the area in a car. Blogger
> Maysaloon has this
commentary on the footage:
The video appears to show armed men who claim to be defending the
inhabitants from the Syrian Army that is still loyal to Assad. There seem to
be checkpoints around the town and the guards appear relaxed and confident.
They also appear to be organised, communicating via radio and maintaining
guard shifts. One of the guards appears to have a list of names that they
are looking out for to capture. Not sure what they want with the names on
that list as the context isn't very clear.
If the fighting is now intense in the Zabadani, which is a short drive from
Damascus, then the level of defections and the scale of the revolt against
Assad is now more serious.
The centre of Damascus remains calm on the face of it, Ian Black reported
from the city.
Damascus is surrounded by the army's 4th division, commanded by the
president's brother Maher. Government buildings are protected by anti-blast
barriers. Roads near the presidential palace and defence ministry are
closed. At the state security HQ, in Kafr Sousseh, machinegun-toting guards
look out from sandbagged emplacements.
l-assad#block-3> 10.25am: The Arab World's most high-profile trial is back
underway today, as Hosni Mubarak returns to the now-famous police academy
building in New Cairo to watch his lawyers begin his defence, writes Jack
Shenker in Cairo.
The prosecution, which is calling for the death penalty against Mubarak and
former Egyptian interior minister Habib al-Adly for their part in the
gunning down of anti-regime protesters in January last year, rested their
case just over a week ago. Now Judge Ahmed Refaat has allocated one month
for the defendants - who, as well as Mubarak and al-Adly, also include
Mubarak's two sons, a former business associate and six senior police
officers - to respond.
Mubarak's verdict is likely to hinge on the question of how much awareness
the toppled dictator had of the fact that his security forces were using
live ammunition against demonstrators. I've spoken to some of the
prosecution lawyers leading the case, and they are confident that through
autopsy reports, video evidence and eyewitness accounts they have
established beyond any doubt that the police used live rounds in the early
stages of the uprising.
They also feel that the, through the testimony of al-Adly's successors - who
told the court that such an order could only come from the head of state -
and al-Adly's claim that he briefed Mubarak on the security situation as it
unfolded, they have established that Mubarak knew about the protester deaths
but did nothing to prevent them and is therefore legally culpable for
murder. Whether or not that murder was premeditated, which is the criteria
required for the death penalty, is more hazy: there is some circumstantial
evidence that Mubarak gave the order himself, but many key audio and video
recordings that could potentially prove this have been destroyed by regime
Some legal experts are predicting that Mubarak will be handed down a
sentence of between 10 and 25 years, though the reality is that no one
really knows what the outcome will be. Egyptian criminal cases rest on the
final opinion of the judge - there is no jury - and Ahmed Refaat has proved
to hard to read.
Many of the prosecution statements have appealed to sentiment and politics
rather than legal arguments, raising fears among some that, whatever the
final decision, this case will have been decided on political calculations
rather than rule of law; an ironic nod to the judicial system that developed
under Mubarak himself. But for the families of the almost 900 Egyptians who
lost their lives in the struggle to bring down Mubarak, many of whom are
outside the courthouse today, the only just verdict will be a guilty one.
l-assad#block-2> 10.13am: Divisions in the Syrian opposition are being
played out in an extraordinary row over control of the British-based Syrian
Observatory for Human Rights.
The Observatory's spokesman Rami Abdulrahman (pictured) has been repeatedly
quoted by the international media in updates on the latest on the crackdown
1208> Reuters interviewed him in his two bedroom house in Coventry, where it
said he combined monitoring Syria with running a clothes shop down the road.
Now a rival faction claiming to represent the board of the Observatory
claims Abdulraham tried to usurp the organisation. It accuses him of
changing passwords on the Observatory's website and declaring himself
7> open letter, claiming to represent the real Observatory which cites
Azzawi as a trustee, is dismissive of Abdulrahman. It says he is unable
communicate in English (which is not true) and that "had a very modest level
of education in Syria".
Abdulrahm denies the claim which he says are being made by London based
hospital consultant Mousab Azzawi.
He said: "Mousab Azzawi is trying to use our name, he has nothing to do with
He issued this statement:
Since the start of the Syrian Revolution the Syrian regime and some of its
loyalists, who live in Britain, are trying the discredit the Observatory and
distort its image by launching websites using the name of the organisation,
speaking to the foreign media on behalf of the Observatory, and making
statements which are not related to the reports and the data issued by the
Syrian Observatory for Human Rights regarding human rights violations inside
Moreover, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights stresses that its Director
and Founder Mr Rami Abdurrahman is the only official spokesperson of the
Syrian Observatory for Human Rights and there are no other members of the
organisation outside Syria apart from Mr Abdurrahman himself and the English
spokesperson for the Observatory Miss Hivin Kako.
As a result of the row there are now two websites claiming to represent the
Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
They are a <http://syriahr.com/
> Coventry-based one run by Abdulrahman,
described as "the only official site of the Syrian Syrian Observatory for
And a <http://syriahr.org/
> London-based one described as "The Official
Site of the London Based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights
l-assad#block-1> 8.37am: (all times GMT) Welcome to Middle East Live. UN
officials are poring over a new Russian draft resolution on Syria as
divisions in the country appear to be deepening.
Here's a round up of the latest developments:
> Russia has submitted a new draft resolution on Syria to the UN security
council opposing any firm action against the Assad regime. One diplomat
dismissed the resolution as
012/January/international_January596.xml§ion=international> "playing for
time", according to AFP
No one thinks the revolution will have a happy end any time soon, Ian Black
reports from Damascus.
Syria's divisions appear to be deepening.
"For the last 10 months, millions of people have occupied the middle
ground," says Badr, a lecturer. "But Assad is leaving us with no choice."
Another joke makes the point well: citizens are being told they must no
longer wear grey clothes - only black or white are allowed.
No one can accurately predict how long the uprising will continue. On the
opposition side, optimism of the will is tempered by a realisation that in
the short term the balance of forces is not in their favour and is unlikely
to change quickly - barring a Libyan-style foreign military intervention,
which few want or expect.
Louay Hussein, an independent, Alawite writer and intellectual, said only a
political solution could bring down the regime. "The crisis is in deadlock,"
he argued. "All the signs are that we are heading for open-ended civil war.
Assad still has quite a lot of support. It's not just a question of
The economist Abdel-Karim takes the long view. "I have no doubt the regime
will be toppled. The problem is that the longer it takes, the more powerful
the Islamists will become. Those who advocate violence will gain ground.
It's a question of time and cost: time is getting shorter but the price is
Ian also reports on the widespread belief that the regime was behind the
reported suicide attacks either of Christmas, and the killing of the French
journalist Gilles Jacquier.
What is extraordinary about all these incidents is the assumption of so many
Syrians that the regime would act with such murderous duplicity.
> The United Nations
is to begin training Arab League observers monitoring the uprising in Syria,
the BBC reports. The training, which will begin after Arab League foreign
ministers meet this weekend to discuss mission, will be carried out by the
UN High Commissioner for Human Rights.
ffers-series-of-embarrassing-defections.html> The Assad regime has suffered
a series of high-level defections, the Telegraph reports. Following the
flight to Turkey of a brigadier-general, Mustafa Ahmed al-Sheikh, a second
military leader was filmed announcing his defection to opposition supporters
inside the country. And Homs member of Parliament, Imad Ghalioun, announced
from Cairo he was also leaving in protest.
> Homs activist Khalid Abu Salah is a emerging as a potential new leader of
Syria, claims blogger Maysaloon.
gue-divided-on-military-intervention-live-updates#block-2> Salah has
appeared in series of videos showing evidence of the crackdown to Arab
In this <http://youtu.be/Nv48dFynDdM
> clip, Maysaloon translates a speech
Salah gave at his brother's funeral:
The most important thing that we have seen in this revolution is that we
have all become brothers and family ... If we all continue to love each
other, then no security, no army, no shabiha, no Iran and not even Russia
can stand against us.
-by-islamist/2012/01/16/gIQASabE3P_story.html?> Liberals and Islamists in
Egypt have a announced a temporary power-sharing deal to install a Muslim
Brotherhood leader as speaker of the country's newly elected parliament. The
Washington Post reports:
The agreement among six political parties all but guarantees that the Muslim
Brotherhood'sFreedom and Justice Party will lead Egypt's new parliament.
Under the power-sharing agreement, the ultraconservative Salafist Nour party
and the liberal al-Wafd party would also claim top positions, with their
representatives serving as deputy speakers, the parties announced during a
news conference Monday at the Freedom and Justice Party's headquarters.
> A new book by a female
former member of the Muslim Brotherhood details how the organisation
discriminates against women, al-Masry al-Youm reports.
Throughout her work, Abdel Moneim decries the sisters' internalization of
oppression as women are socialized in a way that compels them to accept male
dominance within the organization - and the household.
Early in the book, Abdel Moneim condemns what could be interpreted as the
Brotherhood's exploitation of the permissibility of polygamy in Islam.
ntists.html?> Almost 100 academics, writers and activists have a signed a
letter condemning the targeted assassination of nuclear scientists in Iran.
Regardless of where we stand on Iran's nuclear program, we find these
assassinations outrageous because they target technical or scientific
elements of a society without due consideration for human rights, due
process of international and national laws, and lives of innocent
individuals caught in the crossfire.
These types of killings have to stop, not only because they harm a nation's
scientific community and its civilians, but also because they build a deep
psychological scar on the nation's public mind prompting it to ask for
revenge in kind.
-people-killed-since-14-februar.html> The names of 56 people killed in the
crackdown against pro-democracy protesters in Bahrain have been published,
Enduring America reports. The list does not appear to include five policemen
who have died in the violence, it says.
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Received on Tue Jan 17 2012 - 11:02:25 EST