Another week has passed in Syria—has Bashar Assad finally cowed to the power of the UN and agreed to go along with their peace plan? Of course he hasn't. In fact, since the UN monitors arrived in Syria, a reported 850 Syrian civilians have lost their lives. Perhaps that stat isn't all that surprising though, given there are only 15 UN monitors scattered across the whole country.
Last week, we discussed the regime's tactic of attacking areas the monitors have not yet visited and only putting their guns down when the inspectors made an appearance. This week, The Independent reported that the regime is hiding tanks and artillery pieces in government compounds and warehouses the moment monitors arrive. If that wasn't sneaky enough, UN spokesman Ahmad Fawzi revealed to UN TV this week (yes, they have UN TV) that those civvies who do seek out the help of the monitors are "harassed, arrested, or even killed" by Assad's forces as soon as the peacekeepers turn a blind eye. Backed up in an LA Times article, it seems that not only are the monitors failing to stop the violence, in some cases they may even be exacerbating it.
The monitoring mission is in danger of full collapse, and to remedy this some within Team UN are keen to increase the numbers. The intention is to raise the number of monitors to 100, but this could take up to a month, which, considering almost 1,000 people were killed in just a couple of weeks, seems a lot like fiddling while Syria burns.
Others in the international community have grown tired of the peace plan. Alain Jupe, the French foreign minister and a vocal critic of the Syrian regime, said he would push for a Chapter 7 resolution, which basically means he'd support military action if "international peace and security" aren't restored by May. Finally, it seems the outrage at the continued breaches in the peace plan has taken the form of a direct threat—a threat that should've been made a long time ago.
In the midst of all this political foreplay, it's alleged that a massacre took place in Hama when the Syrian army shelled the Masha at-Tayyar district. A hundred people have been killed since the shelling began, and in one instance up to 30 people died when a shell hit a house full of women and children. The devastating aftermath, which can be seen in the video above, captures the brutality of the shelling campaign. FYI, Hama is one of the cities with a UN monitor presence. Wonder if they were monitoring that?
The regime hasn't stopped at shelling opposition areas, though. In this video you can see what's reported to be a rebel or anti-regime activist being buried alive by Syrian army soldiers (just to clarify, if you were in any doubt already, it's a pretty gruelling watch). The video has understandably shocked both the media and the opposition, which some activists say is the point. They claim the video was leaked by regime soldiers in an attempt to indimidate the opposition, whilst others have called it a fake. Fake or not, it had its desired effect.
The Free Syrian Army launched a series of attacks across the country in retaliation to the shelling in Hama and Homs. On Tuesday, they struck in the heart of the capital, Damascus, killing three regime officers in targeted killings. Then, on Saturday, it was reported by the BBC that the FSA had launched a sea-borne attack against a military unit on the coast using inflatable dinghies, and that both sides suffered losses.
The break in the "ceasefire" has also increased defections within the Syrian army. The above video reportedly shows a defection of police and members of the infamous 4th brigade (which is led by Assad's brother, Maher) armed with rarely seen anti-air missiles. Which should help with those helicopters bombing Idlib.
A possible problem for the FSA in terms of garnering international support was posed when Abdel Ghani Jawhar, (Lebanon's most wanted Sunni terrorist) blew himself up whilst planting a bomb in Qsair. Jawhar was one of the leaders of Fatah al-Islam and had brought 30 of its warriors to fight the Syrian regime and train the FSA in bomb making, under the banner of the Mujahideen.
In the past, Fatah al-Islam has been responsible for attacks on the UN mission in Lebanon and Lebanese security forces, and is linked to over 200 murders. On top of this, the group is thought to have links to al-Qaeda, which will prove a massive problem for the FSA as, for months, they've dodged accusations that some of their forces are made up of Islamic fundamentalists. This incident will make the international community very wary of supplying the FSA with weapons as they want to avoid the possibility of fanatics grabbing power when Assad falls. Unfortunately, in view of this lack of foreign intervention, the FSA are getting desperate and probably feel they can't afford to be picky when experienced fighters offer their support.
In other news:
Another torture video was leaked showing regime soldiers casually whipping a man's feet with whips and electrical cables.
US Senator and vice-presidential candidate Marco Rubio has joined other Republican politicians in calling for a more "muscular approach" to the situation in Syria and the implementation of "safe zones" to protect civilians.
President Obama announced his signing of an executive order to target companies that help regimes like those in Iran and Syria to use technology to oppress their people.
The crackdown in Syria is having an adverse effect on border trade with Turkey.
Check back next week to see whether the UN mission fails completely. Syrian Slaughter Update: It's like honey for the soul.
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Previously: Syrian Slaughter Update - Week Eleven