Syria Update, September 8, 2012

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Syria Update, September 8, 2012 (Institute of Middle Eastern, Islamic and Strategic Studies. By Sherifa Zuhur)

The current death toll is 148.

Aleppo province: City of Aleppo: A main water pipeline exploded and flooded the streets in al-Midan and Bustan al-Basha. State sources said it was an act of sabotage, while other sources stated that a missile had hit the pipeline. This leaves parts of the city without water. These areas are being shelled by the SAA and clashes were also ongoing today. Opposition from Bustan al-Basha (which they control) broke into the al-Midan area at the Saint Vartan convent which they used as a base to try to move further into al-Midan, however they were met with a very fierce response by the Syrian air force’s security. The SAF shelled the al-Sha`ar, Sad al-Lawz and al-Hulwaniyya areas.

The bodies of 17 persons who had been summarily executed were discovered in Jadat al-Khandaq.

Syrian military forces shelled Ma`arat al-Arteek and continued shelling the area near the Hanano military barracks. A 20 hour battle there ended with the Syrian regime forces retaking Hanano. 1 opposition fighter was killed today; 4 opposition fighters and 18 government troops were killed yesterday. The opposition fought especially hard as it needed weapons. Hanano is a weapons depot, also the opposition had hoped to cut the supply lines to Aleppo and lessen the regime’s shelling on the city which have caused so many civilian casualties.

The opposition reported it freed 300 prisoners on Sept. 7, 2012 some held for more than a year at Hanano. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-UsaitEFYZc&feature=share

Damascus province: The Syrian military carried out a ground offensive into the Yarmouk Palestinian camp. The SAA invaded the al-Basil hospital in Yarmouk camp seeking wounded opposition fighters. At least 1 person was killed in Yarmouk camp, 10 were killed yesterday.

Clashes in Tadamon took place. Helicopters were using machine guns and one helicopter was reportedly hit. Tadamon was shelled heavily by the regime’s military at dawn. Also, 2 bodies of civilians were found in Tadamon. The SAA has been shelling the neighborhood of al-Hajar al-Aswad.

Clashes between FSA and the Assad regime forces took place in the southern Damascus neighborhood of Kazaz, where many Syrian security agencies are located.

Yesterday, 45 unidentified bodies including women and children were found in the Zamalka and Qatana suburbs. Locals said they were killed by shabiha and regular Syrian military.

The Syrian military raided the towns of A’qraba, Babeela and Beit Sahm, carrying out arrests and artillery fire. 4 unidentified bodies were found. They had been shot.

Dara`a province: A mu`ezzin of a mosque in Qusoor (Dara`a) was kidnapped at dawn and his body was found on the Dara`a-Tafas road. The SAA raided neighborhoods of Tafas, seeking anyone associated with the opposition and also trying to recapture equipment they lost on Friday (9/6) night.

Clashes took place at down in the town of al-Hara and 12 regime troops were killed.

Violent clashes took place in the al-Hara town Saturday at dawn, between regime forces and rebel fighters killing 12 regime troops. The SAA has been shelling al-Lujat area and the al-Dahiya area of the city of Dara`a. Regime forces killed a truck driver on the Nasib road.

Homs province: Clashes occurred in the Jurat al-Shayah neighborhood of Homs, killing one opposition fighter.

Idlib province: One opposition fighter died from wounds sustained in the clashes in Ma`arat al-Na`man. Warplanes shelled Ma`arat al-Na`man again today.

The Syrian military shelled the towns of Taftanaz and Saraqeb, and the villages of Sarjeh, Kafar Zeita and Ma`arbleit in Jabal al-Zawiya and also the village of Kureen.

The Druze of the Jabal al-A`la, residents of 14 villages in Idlib declared that they support the Syrian revolution against Bashar al-Assad.

Borders: Last night, the Syrian military fired mortar rounds which hit al-Qaim in Iraq just across from Albu Kamal, killing a 4-year old girl and wounding 4 others.

Lebanon: Syrian refugees build “homes” out of boxes, fabric, any material in the Biqa`a


Friday night the Lebanese army arrested Hassan al-Meqdad and other wanted persons in connection with the August 15th kidnappings of 20 Syrians and a Turkish citizen by the Meqdad clan in Lebanon. The LA also confiscated weapons and ammunition in these raids in the Rweiss district of Beirut. http://af.reuters.com/article/worldNews/idAFBRE88704Y20120908

International: At a two-day meeting in Cyprus, the European Union’s ministers agreed to increase sanctions on Syria according to Cyprus’ Foreign Minister Erato Kozakou-Marcoullis. They also agreed to work with Russia on the Syrian issue to try to gain support from that country and more punitive measures against the Assad clan will take place. Humanitarian needs were the topic of the first day of the meetings.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov says he plans to push the U.N. Security Council to endorse the Syria peace accord that was discussed in Geneva and which has divided the world’s powers up to now on Syria.

German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle and Jordanian Foreign Minister Nasser Judah held talks on Syria in Amman today and visited the Zaatari refugee camp. Westerwelle urged the international community to aid Jordan in meeting the needs of Syrian refuges and pledged an additional 2 million Euros bringing Germany’s contribution to EUR 24 million

Turkey has charged a ship’s captain and his first mate with manslaughter after a boat carrying Syrian, Iraqi and Palestinian refugees capsized, killing 61, including 28 children. http://www.aljazeera.com/news/middleeast/2012/09/20129862746768903.html

Twelve detainees in Egypt who were held after a demonstration at the Syrian embassy in Cairo have been released. A struggle ensued with Egyptian security forces when the latter would not let the demonstrators enter the property and the demonstrators tried to raise the Free Syrian flag. http://www.egyptindependent.com/news/detainees-syrian-embassy-clashes-released

Refugees: Syrian refugees, businessmen and expatriate workers living in Sudan have varying views of the Syrian conflict. http://www.france24.com/en/20120908-troubled-sudan-refuge-syrians

Introducing a Few of Syria’s Creative Figures:

Muhammad al-Maghut, poet, noted for his free verse (1934 -2006) born in Salamiyya to an Isma’ili family.

Nizar al-Qabbani, 1923-1998, born in Damascus. His sister, ten years his senior, committed suicide rather than marry a man she did not love and the theme of women’s oppression entered his work as a poet, whose work sharply criticized Arab society and politics of his time. He was also a diplomat and a publisher.

Zakariyya Tamir, born in 1931 in Damascus, famed for short stories, for adults and children. He supports the Syrian revolution and hopes that Syria will be liberated from “tyranny and horror.” http://freesyriantranslators.net/2012/07/22/a-dialogue-with-zakaria-tamer-2/

Ali Farzat, born in 1951 in Hama, a cartoonist. He was attacked by thugs who broke his hands. He is on Facebook and his cartoons of “Highlander” comment on Syria.

Farid al-Atrash, 1910 – 1974 was born in Suwayda to a Druze family associated with the independence struggle against the French. He became a composer, master oudist, singer and film star in Egypt, starring in 31 movies and recording more than 500 songs.

Asmahan. (Amal al-Atrash) 1912 (or 1915) – 1944 was born at sea as her family traveled from Turkey to Beirut. Sister of Farid al-Atrash, she became a renowned singer of Arabic compositions and an actress in Egypt and challenged conservative attitudes about women with her artistic life-style. Her musical talent was considered to rival that of Umm Kulthum and she sang the compositions of al-Qasabji, Riyadh al-Sunbati, her brother, Farid al-Atrash and others.

Assala Nasri, born in 1969 in Damascus as the daughter of a Syrian composer, Mostafa Nasri. She has produced 23 albums and many singles including “Ah, law ha-l kursi bye7ki” and has a dramatic and powerful singing style. She supports the Syrian revolution.

Sabah Fakhri, born in 1933 in Aleppo is perhaps the greatest traditional-style singer of the Eastern Arab world, of muwashahhat and qudud Halabiyya. He did not follow the typical musical path of pursuing a singing career in Egypt.

Mayada al-Hinnawi, born in 1957 in Aleppo. A great singer whose popularity peaked in the 1980s. She sang the compositions of Baligh Hamdi, Riyadg Sunbati, Mohammad Sultan, Hilmy Baker and others.

Yasin al-Hajj Saleh, born in 1961, an author jailed when he was in his 20’s in 1980 until 1996. He began writing in prison in 1988. He published With Salvation O’Youth: 16 Years in Syrian Prison (al-Saqi, 2012). http://www.aljadid.com/content/yassin-al-haj-saleh’s-taming-syrian-prison’s-beast

Nihad Sirees, novelist, author of The Silence and the Roar. http://www.jadaliyya.com/pages/index/7006/writing-revolution-and-change-in-syria_an-interview

Some of the Syrian visual artists whose works include protest: http://www.npr.org/2012/05/14/152496317/even-under-threat-syrian-artists-paint-in-protest

Basic Facts about Syria:

A brief chronology of events of the last century in Syria – http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-middle-east-14703995

Population: 22,530,746 Ethnicities: Arab 90.3%, Kurds, Armenians, and other 9.7% Religious Groups: Sunni Muslim (74%, other Muslim (includes Alawite, Isma`iliyya, Druze) 16%, Christian 10%, Jewish (very small numbers).

Human Rights Situation in Syria: http://www.hrw.org/world-report-2012/world-report-2012-syria

GDP Growth Rate: -2% (2011) GDP: $64.7 billion GDP Growth Rate: -2% (2011)

Unemployment: 8.3% Youth Unemployment (ages 15-24): 19.1% (female unemployment in that age category is 49.1%

Internet Users: 4.469 million (2009)Exchange Rate: 46.456 Syrian pounds per US dollar

Military Expenditures: 5.9% of GDP (2005)

Population Growth Rate: -0797.% (since the conflict)

Population Age Structure: 0-14 years: 35.2%; 15-64 years: 61%; 65 years and over: 3.8%

Literacy: male 86% female 73.6%

Urban Population: 56% of total (2010)

Syrian Arab Army (prior to the conflict) 220,000 regular and 280,000 reserves. Of the 200,000 career soldiers, 140,000 are Alawi.

Syria’s Golan Heights is occupied by Israel and 1,000 members of a U.N. Disengagement Observer Force patrol a buffer zone.

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