Warning: The videos hyperlinked to throughout this post show dead bodies and people with horrific injuries.
The FSA know what they want and how they're gonna attempt to get it. Photo via
It's been a week since our last Syrian Slaughter update and things haven't gotten any better. While Western leaders continue to condemn the violence, their words have had little effect, while Syria's allies in China and Russia have publicly backed the regime and called for 'talks' with the opposition. These efforts by Russia and China are largely seen as delaying tactics, deployed in the hope that Assad can finish off the uprising before a full-blown civil war erupts and they can no longer back him – or sell him billions of dollars worth of weapons, ammunition and fuel.
Shortage of fuel under intense sanctions is crippling the regime in such a way that it might not even take a full uprising to collapse Assad's regime. As quoted in a BBC report, Faisal al Qudsi, a private sector investor in Syria, claims that the uprising destroyed tourism and, coupled with the sanctions on exports, that the GDP has been dramatically reduced. In the same report, al Qudsi goes on to say that the military phase against the people could only last another six months before 'millions of people come out onto the streets'.
These are encouraging signs for the uprising, but ultimately nothing has changed. The humanitarian situation is still abhorrent and a token effort by the UK to send £2million worth of medical supplies can only go so far. The Syrian people need an intervention on a larger scale.
Sunday night saw such calls for intervention intensify within the US government, when two Republican senators, John McCain and Lindsey Graham (both on the Armed Service Commitee) declared that, "There are ways of arming rebels without direct US involvement. The Iranians and Russians are providing Bashar Assad with weapons. People who are being massacred have the right to defend themselves."
The desperate situation for the population of Homs continues, and the people there have now faced 18 days of continious shelling, sniping and assassinations. On Monday morning, there were also reports of a large group of regime reinforcements coming from Damascus. Activists fear an imminent ground assault that will "burn everything in Baba Amr". Here's what our activist contacts had to say:
"Homs, is it the pain of labour or the last breath?
"The violent attack on Homs, especially Baba Amr, continues today for the 18th day in a row, and each day, the bombing gets more intense and the destruction increases.
"The humanitarian condition is still miserable in nearly all Homs neighbourhoods, especially in the Jobar area of Baba Amr. There are reports of increased cases of dehydration among children because of the shortage in food supplies.
"There are reports about the use of chemical weapons and petrol bombs.
"Assad forces are using new weapons that had not been used in the first days of the assault, and some of these weapons are causing full burning and incineration of their victims. It is presumed that rockets are loaded with incinerating heads. It's not surprising that these types of materials, i.e., chemicals, are being used by a regime that is trying to carry out genocide against an entire city. In order to preserve those who are loyal to it, the regime had possibly leaked information about using chemical weapons, as a warning and to give them time to leave areas that can be affected.
"Furthermore, Abdelsalam Ahmad Abdelrazzak, a former captain in chemical warfare management, who defected recently from the Assad army, stated that Assad forces are using poisonous and internationally-banned gases under the supervision of Iranian and Russian experts, who were dictating when and where these gases should be used.
"Military reinforcements continue to arrive to the city in what appears to be a tightening of the siege and preparation for an invasion.
"There is nearly no food, medicine or medical supplies, and all communication services are cut, while power outages last for most of the day."
Targeted killings continue in Homs by members of the Shabiha, pro-regime militias and the Mukharabat intelligence operatives, against revolutionaries and anyone suspected of helping wounded protesters. The attacks are brutal and graphic, as this video shows.
Last week, one of Homs' oil pipelines was destroyed by regime forces, but State TV claimed the attack was perpetrated by "armed terrorists". This attack was a bit of an own goal, as the pipeline feeds oil to the capital, Damascus, and Southern Syria. From the looks of it, the regime is getting desperate.
Homs wasn't the only city to come under assault last week. Cities such as Hama, which saw the infamous massacre in 1985, were besieged by tanks and bombarded, resulting in many casualties and horrific injuries.
Next, Zabadani, a city that for a while was under complete control of the Free Syrian Army, was invaded and bombarded by tanks and possibly chemical weapons after a ceasefire was broken by the regime. Its residents fear that their city could soon be 'another Homs':
"This is a SOS distress call from tens of thousands of unarmed civilians who are already under dire humanitarian conditions. We appeal to the whole world to save us from an imminent massacre. It will be another Homs.
"At 10AM on Tuesday, the 14th of February, hundreds of vehicles including 4WDs, loaded with thousands of heavily-armed Shabbeha thugs (skinheads in civilian clothes, with long beards), security personnel, and soldiers of the 4th Division, 3rd Division, 10th Division, Republican Guard, entered the city.
"48 civilians were killed in the brutal attack. But Assad forces still retain 28 bodies. The other 20 were buried at night without any ceremony.
"Assad forces used smoke bombs that resulted in skin rash, discomfort and burning throats to some locals.The colour of smoke emitted by the bombs was yellowish white. Another type of bomb is made out of an orange metal which causes skin rash and itching."
The FSA did not give up the city without a fight, though:
The Idlib province in the north of Syria borders Turkey. Analysts claim that it is 70 to 80 percent controlled by the FSA. However, that control was tested last week when hundreds of tanks and regime troops entered major cities and revolutionaries were rounded up and killed.
Whilst the Chinese envoy was visiting Damascus on Saturday, not far from the city centre, a funeral was taking place in the district of Mazzeh for three protesters shot by regime forces earlier in the week. The families of the boys had reached an agreement with the local security forces that there would be no anti-regime slogans or chanting and it would be a peaceful event. But as the funeral went on and thousands of people from all over Damascus joined in, it soon turned into an anti-regime protest prompting the security forces to open fire, killing another three and wounding dozens more. Mazzeh is less than two miles from the Presidential palace and any trouble happening there is likely to make President Assad sweat.
We've been hearing for weeks now that Assad's forces have been using human shields to protect their tanks from the FSA anti-tank missiles. But this is the first time we've seen any proof:
Furthemore, the onslaught against Homs and other Syrian cities has proved costly for the FSA: With their supply routes either cut off or hampered, their ammunition is getting low. And with the regime forces not choosing to engage the FSA openly, favouring long-range bombardments and snipers instead, the FSA are finding it hard to hit back effectively. This leads them to resort to guerilla tactics, the overruning of checkpoints and mass defections:
As this uprising continues and intervention chances weaken by the minute, the Syrian people and their protectors, the FSA, will be the ones to decide its fate. Hopefully, with defections growing in number and the mix of economic sanctions making this crackdown un-affordable, concessions will be made and Assad will have to step down. Until then, and as long as we keep getting updates, the most depressing blog column in the world will continue.
Here's a great timeline of the uprising the Guardian have put together.
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