10/12/2012 - #Syria - Damascus - Al Qaboun - Regime Sniper Waits at Barrier
World View: In a special dispatch, our reporter files from amid the ‘vicious and unrelenting fighting’ that is tearing the country apart
Source: Agence France-Presse
Country: Lebanon, Syrian Arab Republic (the)
12/07/2012 17:45 GMT
TRIPOLI, Lebanon, Dec 7, 2012 (AFP) - Snipers in the north Lebanese city of Tripoli on Friday fired across a street-turned-frontline that divides two districts wracked by deadly sectarian clashes, an AFP correspondent said.
On Tuesday, intermittent clashes erupted in between the city’s Bab al-Tebbaneh and Jabal Mohsen districts, pitting Sunnis against Alawites belonging to the same religious community as Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
A total of 13 people — including a 13-year-old and an 11-year-old — were shot dead by snipers across Syria Street dividing the neighbourhoods.
The majority of Tripoli’s residents are Sunni Muslim and support the anti-Assad revolt in neighbouring Syria. A minority of Alawites support the regime, and fear potential sectarian violence should Assad fall.
Tensions in Tripoli, Lebanon’s second city, remained high on Friday as snipers held their positions, occasionally opening fire.
The death toll reached 11 by Thursday evening, while two other civilians were killed overnight, a security official[…]
November 01, 2012 08:43 AM (Last updated: November 01, 2012 11:08 AM)By Jennie MatthewIn this Tuesday, Oct. 30, 2012 photo, a rebel fighter belonging to the Liwa Al-Fatah takes cover as he aims at an enemy position from a school building during skirmishes with the Syrian army in the nearby Bustan Al-Pasha front line in Aleppo, Syria.(AP Photo/Narciso Contreras)
ALEPPO, Syria: Taxi driver Abu Mohammed cheated death when the sniper opened fire. The bullet whistled past his right temple and shot his female customer on the back seat of his yellow cab.
Like scores of drivers in Aleppo, he risks his life every day to ferry passengers across the frontlines of Syria’s vicious civil war, battling to stay alive and feed their families.
“I was coming back across Ramousa bridge when the sniper shot at me. The bullet whizzed straight past my face,” he says, miming with his hand the trajectory of the bullet racing millimetres (inches) from his brain.
“It wounded my sister-in-law in the arm. After that, the sniper fired another three or four bullets. I didn’t stop for another three or four kilometres, then when I did, I made a tourniquet for her arm,” he says.
That was two weeks ago. Now his wife worries every time he leaves the small flat, praying to God that he will return safe and sound at the end of his shift.
A fellow taxi driver, the son of a friend, has already been killed. Bullet holes and shattered windscreens are not uncommon to see on Aleppo taxis.
“I am afraid and I take a lot more care now,” says Abu Mohammed, who at 52 is a grandfather six times over and still has a 14-year-old son living at home.
But it’s not just snipers he has to worry about. Fuel prices have doubled since the conflict began and he’s convinced that marketeers dilute it with water. He says he takes home half the money he used to.
Then there is the problem of navigating checkpoints, where rebels and regime agents alike flag down vehicles on the lookout for spies.
Passengers can be arrested.
For those who live in rebel-held areas, dealing with the Free Syrian Army (FSA) or the plethora of other armed groups is straightforward. It’s the questions and the checks they endure at the hands of the government that worry them.
“In the FSA areas, they say ‘as-salaam aleikoum and can I see your ID’. He looks at it and then says you can go,” says another taxi driver, Abu Mahmoud, also 52.
“But in the areas under regime control, they ask ‘where are you going, where have you come from’ and search the boot and everything in the car… Then they search and check the passengers. Some of them have been arrested.”
He fears the snipers, shelling, air strikes and the planes that circle overhead, panicking about where they will drop their deadly payloads.
But he is also frightened for his two sons, currently doing their national service for President Bashar al-Assad’s army, which has refused to de-enlist the eldest.
“I’m scared for my sons. I live in a liberated area and they’re in Damascus. I’m afraid because the army doesn’t let them come on leave. One son has now been kept on a year and three months after his service finished,” he said.
Abu Mahmoud works from 7:00 am to 4:00 or 5:00 pm — basically until dusk which falls earlier now as winter sets in. He doesn’t think it’s safe to work at night.
“This is a good job for me. I’ve got six children and I earn 5-600 Syrian pounds ($6-7) a day. It’s not enough, life is very expensive but it’s better than sitting around doing nothing,” he said.
Families are divided across enemy lines. Many have abandoned homes held by the rebels for the relative safety behind government lines, where the opposition lacks the arsenal to cause major damage.
They take taxis to visit abandoned homes in shattered apartment blocks, check their possessions haven’t been stolen and retrieve winter clothes. Mattresses are then strapped to the taxi roof and bags crammed into the boot.
As many as four women, heavily veiled, can be crammed into the back seat with assorted children; another child perched on the knee of a father in front.
Taxis may be ubiquitous, but for the poorest passengers minivans, that drop passengers off in turn, are the only option.
“Before you could go downtown for 10 Syrian pounds, but not anymore,” said Umm Ahmed who brought her one-year-old grandson to hospital with a giant, swollen insect bite bulging out of his neck.
“As it is, my daughter (the child’s mother) was too scared to come out. She’s not brave enough to see this,” says the 40-year-old, nodding at the child’s neck. “And she’s scared of the shelling,” she added.
(Reuters) - Opposition activists in Syria said forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad had renewed their heavy bombardment of major cities on Saturday, further undermining a truce meant to mark the Muslim Eid al-Adha religious holiday.
The bombardment came on the second day of the truce called by international peace envoy Lakhdar Brahimi, who had hoped to use it to build broader momentum to end the 19-month-old conflict which has killed an estimated 32,000 people.
“The army began firing mortars at 7 a.m. I have counted 15 explosions in one hour and we already have two civilians killed,” said Mohammed Doumany, an activist from the Damascus suburb of Douma, where pockets of rebels are based. “I can’t see any difference from before the truce and now,” he said.
Heavy machine gunfire and the sound of mortar bombs could be heard for the second consecutive day along the Turkey-Syria border near the Syrian town of Haram, a Reuters witness said.
Activists in the eastern city of Deir al-Zor and in Aleppo, where rebels control roughly half of Syria’s most populous city, said that mortar bombs were being fired into residential areas.
Residents in Damascus aired footage of fighter jets which they said were bombing the suburbs of Erbin and Harasta.
The Syrian army said it had responded to attacks by insurgents on its positions on Friday, in line with its earlier announcement that it would cease military activity during the holiday while reserving the right to react to rebel actions.
A statement from the General Command of the Armed Forces detailed several ceasefire violations in which it said “terrorists” had fired on checkpoints and bombed a military police patrol in Aleppo.
More than 150 people were killed on Friday, said the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a British-based opposition organisation with a network of sources within Syria.
Most were shot by sniper fire or in clashes, the Observatory said, highlighting a temporary drop-off in the civil war’s intensity in which Assad’s forces have been conducting daily airstrikes and heavy artillery raids in most cities.
Forty-three soldiers were killed in ambushes and during clashes, it said, while state TV reported a powerful car bomb which had killed five people in Damascus.
Violence had initially appeared to wane in some areas on Friday but truce breaches by both sides swiftly marred Syrians’ hopes of celebrating Eid al-Adha, the climax of the Haj pilgrimage to Mecca, in peace.
Brahimi’s ceasefire appeal had won widespread international support, including from Russia, China and Iran, President Assad’s main foreign allies.
But there are few signs that either side in the conflict has respected the truce. A Reuters cameraman in the Turkish border village of Besaslan in southern Hatay province said he could hear the sound of a helicopter circling on the Syrian side of the border.
Turkish ambulances were ferrying wounded people from an unofficial border crossing for treatment in Turkey.
The war in Syria pits mainly Sunni Muslim rebels against Assad, who is from the minority Alawite sect which is distantly related to Shi’ite Islam. Brahimi has warned that the conflict could suck in Sunni and Shi’ite powers across the Middle East.
Brahimi’s predecessor, former U.N. chief Kofi Annan, declared a ceasefire in Syria on April 12, but it soon fell flat, along with the rest of his six-point peace plan.
Divided international powers have been unable to stop the violence with the West condemning Assad but blaming Russia, Iran and China for supporting Damascus.
Russia’s deputy foreign minister Gennady Gatilov tweeted on Saturday that “Westerners” in the United Nations Security Council had prevented the body from condemning a bomb attack in Damascus on Friday, which the Syrian government blames on rebels it labels as “terrorists.”
“(The Syria opposition’s) course for continuation of violence is self-evident,” Gatilov said.
(Reporting by Oliver Holmes, Mert Ozkan in Besaslan, Gleb Bryanski in Moscow and Khaled Yacoub Oweis in Amman; Editing by Andrew Osborn)
ALEPPO, Syria — Like many Syrians living on the frontline of the war, Abu Hamid is not slaughtering a sheep this year and not celebrating Eid al-Adha. The only thing he’s worried about is staying alive.
“There will be no party. There will be no celebration this year, because all the people are refugees, and I’m scared of dying,” he says, standing tall in his jalabiya at a sheep market on the edge of Syria’s second city.
Shelling and air strikes in his neighbourhood, he says, forced him to shut up the family home in Aleppo and move his five children, wife and extended family into his shop on the outskirts of the city where they are camping out.
Business is slow at the scraggy, stony land given over to sheep merchants desperately trying to make a quick sell in the last few days before Eid.
“I came here to the market just to pass the time and see what’s going on, but I can’t buy a sheep because I don’t have the money,” said Abu Hamid.
It is the tradition for the four-day Muslim festival to buy and slaughter an animal to feed the family, guests and donate as charity to the poor.
Sheep of all sizes, both large and scrawny, were roped to the ground, but few customers were looking and even fewer were buying.
“This year won’t be like before. This year, there’ll be no Eid in Syria,” says Mohammed Aasi, 20, who has a clothes shop in Aleppo.
“I came to buy a sheep but can’t find what I need and the prices are so expensive. We’re talking about around 15,000 Syrian pounds ($220). Last year it was 11-12,000,” he said, his blond hair and beard closely cropped.
“People don’t have enough money even to buy new clothes and there won’t be anything special because everyone is so sad,” he added.
Hopes are slim in Aleppo of a truce during Eid, which begins on Friday, as announced by peace envoy Lakhdar Brahimi from Cairo.
The administrator of one field hospital who asked that its name not be published, said only six people had been brought in with injuries on Wednesday, wondering if it was a sign of a possible ceasefire.
“There may be a truce, I’m not sure, but there isn’t a lot of fighting today,” he said.
In the cluttered lobby, two medics bent over a man as blood poured out of shrapnel wounds in his head and dripped onto the floor, turned into bloodied footprints by shoes of the doctors stitching his injuries.
Islamist group the Al-Nusra Front, which has claimed the majority suicide bombings in the Syrian conflict, has rejected any question of a truce.
President Bashar al-Assad’s regime says it will take a “final decision” on Thursday and the Free Syrian Army, the main rebel group, says it will only observe a truce if government forces stop shooting first.
But for Umm Ahmed, 36, shopping with her sisters and youngest daughter for shoes for winter, there is little hope of a happy festival.
“It’ll be a very sad Eid given all the strikes and the shelling and the bombing,” she said, dressed all in black and heavily veiled.
“We’re just surviving. I’ve borrowed money from my brother just for food. The schools are closed in Aleppo and the kids are at home all day. I don’t even let them go to the shops for sweets because I’m so frightened,” she said.
The shoe shop was small and dank. Hamood Mohammed Ali, a friend of the owner, says the electricity has been off for two days, and only pale light filtered through the front window from the street outside.
“There’s no work, no money. Everything is so expensive and we can’t even leave the neighbourhood because of snipers. Two days ago, for example, a guy aged around 30 tried to and he was shot dead by one of the snipers on the very high buildings,” said Ali.
SNN | #Syria | Homs | City Center A
Ghost Town |
Homs city center is rendered a ghost town by regime militias and Shabeeha who have barricaded themselves inside the Police HQ. The silence engulfing the area is deafening amid scenes of the Police HQ being barricaded by concrete barrels so that the regime snipers within can act out their crimes without fear of imminent reprisal. This footage was taken on October 23, 2012
By Dominic Evans and Angus MacSwan
(Reuters) - At least seven people were killed and dozens wounded in gunbattles in the Lebanese capital Beirut and coastal Tripoli on Monday in further unrest linked to the conflict in neighbouring Syria, security and hospital sources said.
The clashes have heightened fears that Syria’s civil war with its sectarian dimensions is now spreading into Lebanon, pitting local allies and opponents of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad against each other.
The Lebanese army promised decisive action to quell the violence, which was touched off by the assassination of a senior intelligence officer last week.
That killing has plunged Lebanon into a political crisis and the army command urged party leaders to be cautious in their public statements so as not to inflame passions further.
It issued the warning after troops and gunmen exchanged fire in Beirut’s southern suburbs overnight and on Monday morning while protesters blocked roads with burning tyres.
Many politicians have accused Syria of being behind the killing of Brigadier General Wissam al-Hassan, an intelligence chief opposed to the Syrian leadership, who was blown up by a car bomb in central Beirut on Friday.
Opposition leaders want Prime Minister Najib Mikati to resign, saying he is too close to Assad and his Lebanese militant ally Hezbollah, which is part of Mikati’s government.
YOUNG VICTIM OF SNIPER
The worst of the clashes since late Sunday took place in the northern city of Tripoli, the scene of previous fighting between Sunni Muslims backing the Syrian insurgents and Alawites sympathetic to Assad.
Six people were killed and about 50 wounded in fighting between the Sunni neighbourhood of Tabbaneh and the Alawite Jebel Mohsen, security and hospital sources said. The two sides exchanged rocket and gunfire, residents said.
Among the victims were a 9-year-old girl shot by a sniper.
Fighting in Beirut occurred on the edge of Tariq al-Jadida, a Sunni Muslim district that abuts Shi’ite Muslim suburbs in the south of the capital.
Residents had earlier reported heavy overnight gunfire around Tariq al-Jadida between gunmen armed with rifles and rocket-propelled grenades.
Soldiers killed one gunman in Tariq al-Jadida, the army said, a Palestinian from a refugee camp who had shot at them.
The violence escalated on Sunday after thousands of people turned out in Beirut’s Martyrs’ Square for the funeral of Hassan, who was buried with full state honours in an emotionally charged ceremony.
As the funeral ended, hundreds of opposition supporters broke away and tried to storm the nearby government offices, prompting security forces to fire tear gas and shots in the air to repulse them.
The army command said in its statement that Lebanon was going through a critical time.
“We will take decisive measures, especially in areas with rising religious and sectarian tensions, to prevent Lebanon being transformed again into a place for regional settling of scores, and to prevent the assassination of the martyr Wissam al-Hassan being used to assassinate a whole country,” it said.
Troops in full combat gear and armoured personnel carriers stood guard at traffic intersections and government offices, with barbed wire and concrete blocks protecting buildings.
Beirut was noticeably quiet as people stayed at home because they feared being caught in more violence. In the downtown, many shops, offices, restaurants were shut or empty and the area was free of its normal traffic chaos.
Lebanon is still haunted by its 1975-1990 civil war, which made Beirut a byword for carnage and wrecked large parts of the city.
Since then it has undergone an ambitious reconstruction programme and enjoyed periods of economic prosperity due to its role as a trading, financial and tourist centre. All that is now threatened.
The crisis underscores local and international concern that the 19-month-old, Sunni-led uprising against Assad, an Alawite, is dragging in Syria’s neighbours, which include Turkey and Jordan as well as Lebanon.
The slain Hassan was a senior intelligence official who had helped uncover a bomb plot that led to the arrest and indictment in August of a pro-Assad former Lebanese minister.
A Sunni Muslim, he also led an investigation that implicated Syria and the Shi’ite Hezbollah in the 2005 assassination of Rafik al-Hariri, a former prime minister of Lebanon.
Mikati offered to resign at the weekend to make way for a government of national unity, but President Michel Suleiman persuaded him to stay in office to allow time for talks on a way out of the political crisis.
Mikati, a Sunni Moslem, had personal ties to the Assad family before he became prime minister in January last year, two months before the anti-Assad uprising erupted. His cabinet includes Assad’s Shi’ite ally Hezbollah as well as Christian and other Shi’ite politicians close to Damascus.
If he was to stand down before an alternative was worked out, it would mean the collapse of the political compromise that has kept the peace in Lebanon and leave a perilous power vacuum.
Ambassadors from the United States, China, Russia, Britain and France met Suleiman on Monday and appealed to Lebanese leaders to resolve the situation peacefully.
One Western diplomat, asked if he thought the Mikati government would survive, told Reuters: “I think it looks more likely today than yesterday that he will come through in the short term. It will take time to form a consensus on an alternative and in the meantime the security situation needs time to recover.”
(Additional reporting by Mariam Karouny; Editing by Mark Heinrich)
#Syrian Rebels Bogged Down in
In the divided Syrian city of Aleppo, rebels of the Free Syria Army are preparing a mission into the battle zone.
They hold a short planning session and then head out through a firefight along their street.
Inside the battle-scarred Old City, the frontline is constantly shifting. The rebels make advances, but often must retreat under government aerial bombardments against which they have no strong defense.
There are snipers on this street. The rebels rig a mirror to see around the corner. One throws a homemade grenade at the snipers drawing a quick response.
The fighters are retrieving the bodies of a family that was killed when a mortar hit their kitchen gas canister. Three children and their aunt died. The mother was wounded. The father died of a heart attack when he saw them.
Abu Ahmed (not his real name) says the bodies have lain here for nearly two weeks. The rebels could not reach them because of the fighting.
“Just come and see, in the name of God, this is a humanitarian crisis,” said Ahmed. “The people are dying in front of us, and we can’t do anything. Every day there is one, or two or ten cases like this.”
It is an emotional moment, but still dangerous. To avoid the snipers they pass through apartment after apartment, using makeshift tunnels.
With citizens being wounded by the day across Aleppo, there appears little sign of ending the battles that have erupted over the last four months. Residents can only hope for an interlude as international efforts for a cease-fire continue.
Syria: fighting rages in Aleppo’s
In Aleppo, Syria’s commercial hub, troops and Free Syrian Army rebels have been locked in fierce fighting since mid-July. In the rebel-controlled neighbourhood of Bustan al-Qasr, battles rage and civilians are caught under sniper fire.Duration: