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Intense Clashes in Damascus Suburbs of Barzeh, Hamorieh, Qaboun, and Eastern Countryside

August 4, 2013

Syrian civilians, victims of the civil war, August 4, 2013

Clashes rage around Damascus

DAMASCUS, August 3, 2013 (Xinhua) --

Clashes between the government troops and the opposition rebels raged in restive suburbs of the Syrian capital Damascus and elsewhere across the country Saturday.

Intense clashes erupted Saturday in the Damascus' suburbs of Barzeh, Hamorieh, Qaboun and other restive areas in the eastern countryside of the capital, according to activists' reports.

The clashes in Barzeh district were ignited when government troops tried to storm the district backed with heavy shelling, the oppositional Local Coordination Committees (LCC) said.

The LCC also reported heavy shelling on the eastern suburbs of Jobar and Hamorieh, where the government troops shelling allegedly killed eight people.

Meanwhile, the activists' Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said several battalions of the armed rebels, including the al- Qaida-linked Nusra Front, have attacked and taken over three weapon depots of the Syrian army at the town of Qaldoun near Damascus.

The rebels have recently stepped up their assaults in the suburbs of Damascus in the hope of creating inroads to the heavily fortified capital. On Friday, the state-media said government army succeeded to dislodge the rebels from al-Matahen area, which is close to the road to the international airport of Damascus.

Earlier in the day, the pro-government Sama TV said it cited a very well-informed source as denying media reports that a total of 30 Syrian soldiers were killed Saturday at the hands of the rebels in Damascus' countryside.

In the central province of Homs, the state-run SANA news agency said the Syrian army eliminated rebel groups.

According to SANA, unites of the Syrian army killed and wounded a number of members of the armed opposition groups in several districts in Homs and foiled an attempt to detonate a booby- trapped car in al-Hisn town.

The army pursued the rebels and inflicted heavy losses upon them in Bab-Hud, al-Waer, Joret al-Shayah and al-Qarabis neighborhoods, the report said.

In New York, the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) warned of the deteriorating situation of women and children in Homs, saying in a statement that "the situation of women and children in the Syrian city of Homs is rapidly deteriorating, with some 400, 000 civilians now displaced in the district of Al Waer, living in partially constructed buildings, schools and other public buildings."

The UNICEF called on all parties of the conflict to immediately grant safe access to the afflicted families and to spare the women and children the suffering of war.

Homs province is witnessing intense fighting between the rebels and government troops that seem determent to route the rebels out of the strategic province due to its important location in central Syria and its closeness to the Lebanese borders.


While the violence is the main title of the current phase in Syria's 28-month-old crisis, Prime Minister Wael al-Halqi renewed accusation of the West and the United States of not being serious about finding a political solution to the Syrian crisis due to their support to the armed rebels.

Speaking in an interview with the Iranian al-Alam TV, al-Halqi said "The West and America and some Arab countries are not serious about finding a political solution in Syria, and they are still supporting the rebels with arms and ammunition."

In the meantime, the prime minister stressed his country's willingness to participate in any conference that would be conducive to finding a solution to the crisis, particularly the long-awaited Geneva peace conference.

"As a government, we support every peaceful solution that could lead to a democratic and political future for Syria," he stressed.

On May 7, Moscow and Washington said they had agreed to hold an international conference in Geneva designed to facilitate a solution to the Syrian crisis through a political dialogue. The delayed conference is a follow-up to last year's international meeting in Geneva that drafted a peace roadmap for Syria but was never implemented.

The United Nations said recently that more than 100,000 people had been killed in Syria's 28-month crisis, with about 1.7 million forced to seek refuge in neighboring countries.


Syrian conflict: Only reversals on the battlefield will bring opposition to negotiating table

The Independent, Thursday 01 August 2013

The Syrian opposition has backtracked on the possibility of talks, saying its fortunes on the battlefield would need to reverse to come to the negotiating table. Ahmad al-Jarba, the head of the Syrian National Council, told the Qatar News Agency that talks were impossible in the current military climate. He also scoffed at the idea of engagement with president Bashar al-Assad or “his clique”, saying their absence should be a given for “any coming political negotiation.”

The comments stand in stark contrast to earlier statements, which merely asked for a clear timeframe and reassurances such as a release of prisoners. Just a few days ago al-Jarba said he would be willing to enter talks with representatives of Assad without pre-conditions.

These remarks were badly received by other opposition members, who insisted Assad cannot be part of the discussion. They also want Iranian and Lebanese Hezbollah fighters to leave the country and justice for war crimes committed by the regime, which al-Jarba alluded to in his latest remarks.

But most of all, the opposition need a more favourable military situation. “Circumstances impose on us not to go unless the situation on the ground is in favour of the revolution,” said al-Jarba.  

President Assad has been gaining ground in recent weeks and today declared that his victory was certain. Buoyed by a recent win in Homs, he praised his soldier's bravery in the face of “the fiercest barbaric war in modern history.” Hours later, activists released a video showing a huge bomb exploding in an Alawite - the sect of the president - district of Homs.

“If we were not sure that we were going to win in Syria, we would not have the ability to resist and the ability to continue fighting for more than two years against the enemy,” a transcript of the remarks released by Syrian state media said. The occasion, the 68th anniversary of the Syrian military, also prompted the president's first visit outside the capital since March 2012. State media said the President was visiting Daraya a village south-west of Damascus that was recently recaptured from rebel hands at great cost. Pictures on the presidency's social media accounts saw him interacting with soldiers in fatigues with war ravaged buildings in the background.

The 28 month conflict has killed over 100,000 people and forced almost 2 million people to flee the country.

Recently, kidnapping has also been on the rise. Two hundred Kurdish civilians have been abducted by Islamic fighters in the countryside near Aleppo, according to the UK based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. The kidnapping occurred after members of the Islamist brigades Jabhat al-Nusra and Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS) had taken over the town of Tal Eran and laid siege to nearby Tal Hassil. Circumstances of the kidnapping remain murky and the perpetrators have, so far, failed to release demands.

The Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD) put the figure at 350 and also reported a massacre of 50 Kurds at the hands of the Islamists. The party has been fighting against the, mostly foreign, Islamic fighters for two weeks. Other Kurdish sources claimed that ISIS had captured up to 400 fighters from the PKK, the armed wing of the PYD.

Deprived of many basic rights by the Syrian government, the Kurds have tried to keep both the Syrian Army and the rebels out of their areas. 

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