#Syria, Rastan demonstration want a weapon, we do not want statements!
Opposition fighters in Syria are outnumbered and outgunned by govenment forces.
So they’ve started to craft their own weapons to take on the military.
Al Jazeera’s Omar al-Saleh reports exclusively on how Syrians are turning ordinary items into ammunition.
Syrian troops backed by helicopter gunships clashed with rebels near a barracks in Aleppo on Friday as battles broke out around a military airport elsewhere in the northern province, monitors said.
In Damascus, state news agency SANA said the army unearthed the bodies of 25 people shot execution-style in the Qadam district and blamed “armed terrorist groups,” the regime’s term for rebels.
In other developments, a masked gunman on a motorbike killed prominent Kurdish activist Mahmoud Wali on Thursday in northeastern Syria, fellow activists said.
And a tolerated opposition group said two members — Abdel Aziz Khayer and Iyas Ayash — had gone missing along with the man who had collected them from Damascus airport after a trip to China to discuss an end to the violence.
The National Coordination Committee for Democratic Change groups Arab nationalists, Kurds and socialists.
In Aleppo’s Arkoub district, fighting erupted overnight near the Hanano army barracks, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.
Several districts of the northern metropolis, including Sakhur in the northeast and Bustan al-Qasr in the centre, came under attack, the Britain-based monitoring group said.
Elsewhere in the province, fighting broke out between troops and rebels near the Meng military airport, it said.
Military airfields have been a key rebel target because the regime is increasingly using air power to launch devastating strikes.
Northwest of the capital, the Observatory reported a massive explosion believed to have been a car bomb. Heavy gunfire was heard afterwards but there were no immediate reports of casualties.
In the central province of Homs, a civilian was killed in dawn shelling of Rastan, while the eastern city of Deir Ezzor and the town of Daal in the southern province of Daraa were also bombarded.
In Damascus, SANA said, soldiers acting on a tip-off from local residents found a mass grave containing 25 bodies with their hands tied and eyes masked. They had been kidnapped and killed by rebels, it said.
But as the violence rages unabated, a top NATO general said in Brussels that the alliance does not believe that military intervention would bring any improvement in Syria’s security situation.
Germany’s Manfred Lange, Chief of Staff of Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe, said the “political process has to be pushed forward, sanctions need to take effect. At the moment, this situation cannot be solved by the military in a responsible way.”
— ‘Beloved of the Prophet being massacred’ —
Protesters took to the streets in towns across the country after the main weekly Muslim prayers, as on every Friday since the revolt broke out in March 2011, activists said.
This week’s protest slogan was “the beloved of the Prophet in Syria are being massacred,” reflecting demonstrations in several Muslim states over a US-produced film mocking Islam and the Prophet Mohammed.
Demonstrations were held in Damascus and its province, as well as in Daraa, Hama, Aleppo and Hasaka.
Security forces fired on gatherings in the Qusur and Al-Arbain districts of Hama, and a number of people were arrested, while some demonstrators were wounded in the Aleppo provincial town of Atareb.
At least 88 people, mostly civilians, were killed in violence on Friday, the Observatory said, a day after as many as 225 died, including at least 30 in a petrol station blast in Raqa in the north, blamed on a regime air raid.
The Observatory said seven bodies had been found in Hajar al-Aswad district of Damascus that the regime recaptured from rebels earlier this week. The victims had been killed with knives or by gunfire, it said.
According to the Observatory, at least 29,000 people have been killed in the 18-month revolt against President Bashar al-Assad.
Meanwhile, Syria’s information minister denied that Assad had granted an exclusive interview to Egyptian newspaper Al-Ahram al-Arabi, which reported he hit out at Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Qatar, accusing them of arming Syrian rebels.
Omran al-Zohbi said Assad had had an informal conversation with nine Egyptian journalists and that his comments had been taken out of context.
The head of the exiled opposition Syrian National Council, Abdel Basset Sayda, warned on Friday during a visit to Rome that the conflict was nearing “a point of extreme gravity” for Syria and its neighbours.
The conflict could lead to “a catastrophic situation, with more extremism and damages also in neighbouring countries,” he told reporters after meeting Italian Foreign Minister Giulio Terzi.
On the humanitarian front, Syria’s ally Russia flew in almost 80 tonnes of food aid, SANA reported.
But Iraq denied permission for a North Korean aircraft to cross its airspace on its way to Syria over suspicions it was carrying arms and advisers, an official in Baghdad said.
US Vice President Joe Biden pressed Iraq’s Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki in a telephone call on Friday to bar the passage of weapons shipments to Syria through Iraqi airspace, the White House said.
“The vice president and the prime minister addressed issues of regional security, including the need to prevent any state from taking advantage of Iraq’s territory or air space to send weapons to Syria,” it said.
#Syria, The Arrival of Russian aid plane to Damascus International Airport with 38 tons of foodstuffs. Foodstuffs or weapons Russia?
UNITED NATIONS // Iran has been using civilian aircraft to fly military personnel and large quantities of weapons across Iraqi airspace to Syria to aid President Bashar Al Assad in his attempt to crush an 18-month uprising against his government, according to a western intelligence report seen by Reuters.
Earlier this month, US officials said they were questioning Iraq about Iranian flights in Iraqi airspace suspected of ferrying arms to Assad, a staunch Iranian ally. On Wednesday, US senator John Kerry threatened to review US aid to Baghdad if it does not halt such overflights.
Iraq says it does not allow the passage of any weapons through its airspace. But the intelligence report says Iranian weapons have been flowing into Syria via Iraq in large quantities. Such transfers, the report says, are organised by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.
“This is part of a revised Iranian modus operandi that US officials have only recently addressed publicly, following previous statements to the contrary,” said the report, a copy of which was provided by a UN diplomatic source.
“It also flies in the face of declarations by Iraqi officials,” it said. “Planes are flying from Iran to Syria via Iraq on an almost daily basis, carrying IRGC (Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps) personnel and tens of tons of weapons to arm the Syrian security forces and militias fighting against the rebels.”
It added that Iran was also “continuing to assist the regime in Damascus by sending trucks overland via Iraq” to Syria.
Although the specific charges about Iraq allowing Iran to transfer arms to Damascus are not new, the intelligence report alleges that the extent of such shipments is far greater than has been publicly acknowledged, and much more systematic, thanks to an agreement between senior Iraqi and Iranian officials.
Ali Al Moussawi, Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri Al Maliki’s media adviser, dismissed the intelligence report.
“Iraq rejects baseless allegations that it allows Iran to use its airspace to ship arms to Syria,” he said. “The prime minister has always called for a peaceful solution to the Syrian conflict and … the need for a ban on any state interfering in Syria whether by sending arms or helping others to do so.”
The issue of Iranian arms shipments to Syria came up repeatedly at a Senate hearing in Washington yesterday on the nomination of Robert Beecroft as the next US ambassador to Baghdad. Beecroft is currently deputy chief of mission there.
John Kerry, the Democratic chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, asked Beecroft what the embassy was doing to persuade the Iraqis to prevent Iran from using their airspace for flights carrying weapons to Syria. Beecroft said that he and other US officials made clear to Iraq the flights must stop.
Kerry said he was alarmed that US efforts thus far had not persuaded Baghdad to halt the overflights, and suggested that the United States could in future make some of the hundreds of millions of dollars in assistance it gives to Iraq contingent on their cooperation on Syria.
“Maybe we should make some of our assistance or some of our support contingent on some kind of appropriate response,” he said. “It just seems completely inappropriate that we’re trying to help build democracy, support them, put American lives on the line, money into the country, and they’re working against our interest so overtly.”
The intelligence report, which western diplomats said was credible and consistent with their information, said Iran had cut a deal with Iraq to use its airspace.
One envoy said it was possible that Tehran and Baghdad did not in fact have any formal agreement, but only an informal understanding not to raise questions about possible arms transfers to Syria.
In comments published by Iranian media on Sunday, IRGC commander-in-chief Mohammad Ali Jafari said members of the force were providing non-military assistance in Syria and Lebanon. He added that Tehran might get involved militarily in Syria if its closest ally came under attack. A day later, however, Iran’s Foreign Ministry denied those remarks.
Two Boeing 747 aircraft specifically mentioned in the intelligence report as being involved in Syria arms transfers - an Iran Air plane with the tail number EP-ICD and Mahan Air’s EP-MNE - were among 117 aircraft hit with sanctions yesterday by the US Treasury Department.
The treasury department also blacklisted aircraft operated by Iran’s Yas Air for supplying Syria with weapons. A UN panel of experts that monitors compliance with UN sanctions against Iran has repeatedly named Yas Air, along with Iran Air, as a supplier of arms to Syria.
The treasury department statement on the new blacklistings said the move would “make it easier for interested parties to keep track of this blocked property, and more difficult for Iran to use deceptive practices to try to evade sanctions”.
The statement did not mention Iraq.
Earlier this year, the UN panel of experts recommended that Yas Air be put on the UN blacklist for helping Iran skirt a UN arms embargo. So far the Security Council has not taken any action on that recommendation.
The UN panel’s reports have described Iranian arms shipments to Syria via Turkey, not Iraq.
The intelligence report said such transfers across Turkish airspace had ceased.
“Since Ankara adopted a firm position against Syria, and declared that it would intercept all weapons shipments sent to the Assad regime through Turkish territory or airspace, Tehran has all but completely stopped using this channel,” it said.
Tehran is forbidden from selling weapons under a UN arms embargo, which is part of broader sanctions against Iran over its nuclear program.
Earlier this month, UN secretary-general Ban Ki-moon said Syria’s conflict had taken a brutal turn with other countries arming both sides, spreading misery and risking “unintended consequences as the fighting intensifies and spreads”.
MINSK, Sept. 20 (Xinhua) — Belarus on Thursday denied American accusations of trying to sell weapons to Syria and violating a UN Security Council resolution after the United States imposed sanctions on a Belarusian state-owned company.
U.S. accusations targeting the Belarus-owned arms company Belvneshpromservice are groundless, Foreign Ministry spokesman Andrei Savinykh told local media.
“It is nothing more than an attempt to put pressure on Belarus for our country’s open and uncompromising position in favor of a peaceful solution to the internal Syrian conflict,” Savinykh said.
He also added that Belarus has always unfailingly fulfilled resolutions of the UN Security Council.
“Unilateral U.S. sanctions run counter to the spirit of constructive cooperation between nations on the basis of international law and mutual respect,” the spokesman said.
The U.S. Treasury Department earlier accused Belvneshpromservice of preparing to deliver aerial bomb fuses to Syria through the Syrian military enterprise Army Supply Bureau.
The Syrian army, under the supervision of Iranian advisers, has reportedly tested a missile system designed to fire poison gas shells at a suspected chemical weapons site near Aleppo.
Five or six shells capable of delivering chemical weapons were fired by tanks and aircraft during an exercise conducted last month, the German weekly Der Spiegel reported on Monday.
A number of officers believed to be members of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards corps were flown by helicopter to the Safira research centre, regarded as Syria’s largest chemical weapons testing facility, for the exercise, the publication quoted “various witnesses” as saying.
North Korean and Iranian scientists frequently work at the facility, which is used to produce chemical agents such a sarin, tabun and mustard gas, according to claims by Western intelligence agencies cited by Der Spiegel.
The shells fired in the exercise were blanks and did not contain nerve agents but any sign of chemical weapons activity will cause concern in the West.
Western officials have said that any attempt by President Bashar al-Assad to use chemical weapons against rebel forces could trigger international military intervention.
The Assad regime has promised never to use its chemical weapons stockpiles against its own people, but has given warning that it could activate them to fight off a foreign invasion.
Western officials believe it is unlikely that Mr Assad would authorise the use of chemical weapons, but are more concerned that they could fall into the hands of Islamic militants in the event of a complete breakdown of authority in the country.
Syria is thought to have the world’s third largest stockpiles of chemical weapons, with western spy agencies estimating that several hundred tonnes of nerve agent and precursor components are stored in at least 20 sites across the country.
Aside from fears that many sites are inadequately defended, there is also concern that not all depots have been located.
Thanks to suspected assistance from North Korea and Russia, many of Syria’s chemical weapon facilities were constructed in such a way as to make them virtually invisible to Western spy satellites.
#Syria, Idlib city Dana helicopters flying over the city and rainfall with heavy machine gun fire
#Syria, Rastan’s Al-Farouq Brigades Show Off Their Latest Loot - Tanks
This rather interesting video from Rastan, Homs has been posted on You tube and shows the Al-Farouq Brigades showing off the weapons and equipment they’ve captured from the Syrian Army
The video starts with around 50 men armed with what appears to be the usual variety of FSA small arms watching a T-62 tank being driven past, followed by the increasingly ubiquitous truck mounted DShK heavy machine gun, the current popular choice for firing at helicopters. What’s quite interesting is many of the men are wearing the same dark green shirts, with some sort of logo, probably their brigade logo
Major General Mood, the Norwegian soldier who was in charge of UN monitors in Syria between April and July this year, has said it is “the weapons who are speaking” in Syria.
He told the World at One that “anyone feeding the violence with money or weapons should consider very carefully whether this brings us closer or further away from less violence and more dialogue.”
“The international community may actually prolong the suffering of Syrian people,” he added.
PLEASE CLICK HERE TO HEAR AUDIO OF GENERAL MOOD’S INTERVIEW!
By Con Coughlin, Defence Editor
Western intelligence officials say that Iran’s president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, has personally sanctioned the dispatch of the experienced officers to ensure that the Assad regime, Iran’s most important regional ally, survives the threat to its survival.
In addition, Iran has shipped hundreds of tons of military equipment, including guns, rockets, and shells, to Syria through the regular air corridor that has been established between Damascus and Tehran.
Intelligence officials believe the increased Iranian support has been responsible for the growing effectiveness of the Assad regime’s tactics in forcing anti-government rebel groups on the defensive.
In the past few weeks, pro-Assad forces have seized the offensive by launching a series of well-coordinated attacks against rebel strongholds in Damascus and Aleppo.
The Iranian operation to support Mr Assad is being masterminded by Qassem Suleimani, the head of the Guards’ Quds force which is responsible for overseeing Iran’s overseas operations. The decision to increase Iran’s support for Syria was taken after the Syrian defence minister and Assad’s brother-in-law were killed in a suicide bomb attack at Syria’s national security headquarters in July, together with a number of other senior defence officials.
The Revolutionary Guards officers were flown to Damascus in chartered Iranian aircraft which were given permission to fly through Iraqi air space. Iranian military equipment is said to have been shipped to Syria by the same route.
Iranian opposition groups also claim that some of the 48 Iranians taken hostage by Syrian rebels last month were part of the 150-strong detachment of Revolutionary Guards sent to support the Assad regime.
A spokesman for the National Council of Resistance in Iran (NCRI) claimed that the Iranians being held by Syrian opposition groups included several brigadier-generals and a number of colonels who had many years of experience serving in the Revolutionary Guards.
“Iran has taken a strategic decision to deepen its involvement in the Syrian crisis,” a senior Western security official said. “The Iranians are desperate for their most important regional ally to survive the current crisis. And Iran’s involvement is starting to pay dividends.”
On Thursday, Syrian army bombardment was reported to have killed at least 20 people in an area of southern Damascus which houses a large Palestinian community. Assad loyalists have accused Palestinian refugees living in the capital of siding with the rebels, and have retaliated by launching repeated attacks against the Yarmouk refugee camp.
Iran’s support for pro-regime forces in Syria, particularly the supply of arms and ammunition, is making a vital contribution to the regime’s fightback against rebel forces, who only a few weeks ago were threatening to overrun the Syrian capital. Tehran’s position has been prompted by fears that any change of government in Damascus could jeopardise Iranian support for Hizbollah, the militant Shia Muslim militia it backs in Lebanon.
Under the Assad regime Damascus has allowed Iran to ship regular supplies of arms and equipment to southern Lebanon to enable Hizbollah to sustain its aggressive stance against Israel. The ayatollahs fear that any change of regime in Syria might cut the supply line. Intelligence officials believe that many of the Iranian commanders sent to Syria have previous experience of working in Lebanon with Hizbollah.
After months of protests and violent crackdowns, a look back at the violence that has overtaken the country.
PARIS — France has started providing direct aid and money to five rebel-held Syrian cities as it intensifies efforts to weaken President Bashar Assad, in the first such move by a Western power, a diplomatic source said Wednesday.
The French aid comes as U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon criticized the Security Council on Wednesday for failing to take action to protect Syrians facing violence that has led to thousands of deaths.
Amid mounting calls for the international community to do more to prevent bloodshed, France — Syria’s former colonial ruler — has pushed to create “liberated zones” in Syria.
France has increased its contacts with armed opposition groups and started giving aid last Friday to local citizens’ councils in five cities outside the government’s control, the diplomatic source told The Associated Press. French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius promised last week that such aid was in the pipeline.
French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius speaks during a U.N. Security Council meeting on the situation in Syria on August 30.
The aid is notably helping restore water supplies, bakeries and schools affected by Syria’s civil war, with the aim of helping rebel-held areas run themselves, the diplomatic official said. He spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the French actions amid Syria’s violence.
France’s allies are interested in providing similar aid, the official said. He would not name the cities or explain how the aid is being provided, citing security reasons. He said the cities house a total of 700,000 residents and have been outside control of President Bashar Assad’s regime for between one and five months.
“In zones where the regime has lost control, such as Tal Rifaat (25 miles north of Aleppo), which has been free five months, local revolutionary councils have been set up to help the population and put in place an administration for these towns so as to avoid chaos like in Iraq when the regime pulls back,” a diplomatic source told Reuters.
People resisting the army of President Bashar al-Assad in northern Syria cope with loss and prepare for fighting.
French officials have acknowledged providing communications and other non-lethal equipment to Syrian rebel forces, but say they won’t provide weapons without international agreement. France played a leading role in the international campaign against Libya’s dictator Moammar Gadhafi last year.
France last week promised an extra 5 million euros ($6.25 million) to help Syrians.
Civilians in rebel-held parts of Syria have suffered frequent deadly airstrikes from Assad’s forces and questions have been raised on how Paris proposes to protect civilians and deter them from fleeing to neighboring countries.
The source admitted some areas still faced sporadic bombardments from Syrian forces, but there was little prospect of them falling back into government hands. He said people in these areas had asked for anti-aircraft weapons.
The diplomatic push for Syria continues as the death toll in the country rises, forcing more than 230,000 Syrians to escape in the past 17 months. Meanwhile, China and the US remain divided over how to end the conflict. NBC’s Ayman Moyheldin reports.
No-fly zones patrolled by foreign aircraft could protect rebel-held areas, but there is little chance of securing a U.N. Security Council mandate for such action, given opposition from veto-wielding members Russia and China.
Paris has increased its dialogue with opposition fighters over the past few weeks, although at this stage no French military advisers are helping them, the source said, adding that France was working to develop links between Syria’s political opposition, defectors and rebel fighters.
Machine guns operated by motorcycle brakes? Get a glimpse at the rebels fighting against Assad’s forces in Syria’s mountainous Jabal al-Zawiya area.
At the U.N. General Assembly, Ban demanded urgent action to protect Syrians now fleeing the country in record numbers. “We have seen the immense human cost of failing to protect,” he said.
In January, the death toll from the Syrian conflict — which began in March 2011 as a peaceful protest against President Bashar Assad’s regime — was approaching 6,000. Activists now put the death toll at between 23,000 and 26,000.
At a U.N. summit in 2005, world leaders agreed that governments have a collective responsibility to protect people from genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes and ethnic cleansing. The concept arose from the World War II Holocaust, the killing fields of Cambodia in the late 1970s and the genocides in Rwanda in 1994 and Srebrenica in 1995.
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad makes a rare public appearance by giving an interview to a pro-government news channel in Syria. NBC’s Ayman Mohyeldin reports.
The Security Council’s paralysis on Syria has its roots partly in how the responsibility to protect has been used.
Last year, the Security Council authorized measures to protect civilians from attacks by Gadhafi’s forces in Libya. Russia and China then complained that NATO went beyond the council’s mandate.
As fighting continues in Syria, observers blame government airstrikes for mounting casualties which activists now say top 20,000. ITV’s John Ray reports.
Since the Syrian conflict erupted, Russia and China have strongly allied themselves with the Syrian government and have vetoed three Western-backed Security Council resolutions demanding that his forces end the violence and threatening sanctions if they didn’t.
Ban told the General Assembly that “inaction cannot be an option for our community of nations.”
The number of people fleeing the fighting in Syria continues to rise with more than 200,000 leaving for neighboring countries because of continuing violence. Government forces continue to shell Aleppo and other suburbs of Damascus. Jonathan Miller Channel 4 Europe reports.
Germany’s U.N. Ambassador Peter Wittig, the current Security Council president, told a news conference Wednesday that the Security Council has not been united on crucial questions to deal with the Syrian crisis.
“But that doesn’t mean that we simply cease to discuss this crisis,” he said.