By Peter Clifford © (http://www.petercliffordonline.com/syria-news-2/)
As the UN chemical disarmament team arrived in Damascus this week, completing their first full day of preparations yesterday, Wednesday, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR), based in London, issued new estimates for the numbers killed in Syria.
UN Inspectors Lead Anti-Smoking Campaign?
SOHR believes that at least 115,206 people have been killed in the last 30 months of the Syrian conflict. Of these 47,206 were pro-Assad fighters, including 28,804 regular troops, 18,228 militiamen (Shabiha) and 174 from Hezbollah.
23,707 Opposition fighters are estimated to have died in the conflict, made up of 17,071 civilians who took up arms, 2,176 army defectors and 4,460 were either foreign or unidentified fighters killed in battle.
(EDITOR: Interesting that the pro-Assad attrition rate is more than twice that of the Opposition. One also wonders why the army defectors death rate is so low. Are they better trained and more skilled at avoiding getting killed – or are many still sitting in Turkey and Jordan drinking tea?)
More horrifically, 41,533 civilians are thought to have lost their lives in the war, including 6,087 children and 4,079 women. SOHR also said it was unable to attribute a further 2,760 unidentified victims to any particular group.
More worrying is that these figures do not include any deaths attributed to the tens of thousands thought to be held by the Assad regime and reported as “missing”.
On Monday, the Violations and Documentation Center (VDC) issued a report which says that it has documented the detention of 43,000 Syrians over the last 31 months, 3,337 of whom have been killed in custody. A further 1,700 Syrians are missing completely.
VDC believes that 1,000 of those missing may have been buried in mass graves near 2 cemeteries to the south-east of Damascus in Najha and Bahdaliya. Eyewitness reports and satellite imagery has recorded the movement of refrigerated vans, digging activity and the expansion of the burial sites.
Many of the victims are thought to have been tortured to death or have died from malnutrition or disease at Branch 215 of Assad’s Military Intelligence. You can read more of the gruesome detail,HERE:
Amnesty International expressed concern yesterday, over the disappearance of Khalil Maatuq, a prominent Syrian human rights lawyer and his colleague, Mohamed Thatha, who were arrested on their way to work 12 months ago and have not been seen since.
Maatuq, who has defended hundreds of political prisoners over the years, suffers from an advanced lung disease and has breathing difficulties. Human Rights Watch has more on those that have disappeared into the Assad regime’s “Black Hole”, HERE:
Grandmother in Ancient Ruins at Kafer Rouma Comforts Newborn
Matters in Syria are not helped by the destruction of its medical services at a time when they are needed most. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), 37 percent of Syria’s hospitals have been destroyed and a further 20 percent severely damaged.
VDC estimates that 469 health workers are currently imprisoned and around 15,000 doctors are estimated to have been forced to flee abroad. Of the 5,000 physicians in Aleppo before the conflict started, there are now just 36 who remain.
At the UN yesterday, Wednesday, the Security Council issued its 2nd unanimously agreed statement in a week, though this one is non-binding. The statement called on the Syrian Government to improve humanitarian access to civilians trapped in war zones and to allow cross-border humanitarian operations. The Syrian government is yet to reply.
Although 10,000 Syrian refugees will be offered the right to resettle next year in the United States, Europe and Australia, many feel they have no voice and are being ignored. Al Jazeera has a video report, HERE:
OPPOSITION CONSOLIDATES ITS ADVANCE IN SOUTHERN DERAA PROVINCE TAKING VILLAGES AND DESTROYING ARMOUR:
On the ground in Syria in southern Deraa province, the Opposition continues to consolidate its strong advance.
After the Government sent a convoy to try and retake the army base at the old border crossing on the Jordanian border (scroll down, see below), Opposition fighters destroyed 2 of its tanks, sending Assad troops running for cover, HERE:
A Freedom Fighter Resting in the Trenches
In the same province, Opposition fighters have also completely liberated the Bakar area and seized a BRDM-2 armoured personnel carrier near Al-Jubayliyah, HERE:
Currently there is heavy fighting in Nawa where the Opposition have captured the Military Police security headquarters and destroyed 3 tanks and a BMP armoured vehicle, plus reportedly killing 20 troops.
Also in the south, heavy fighting is reported in Quneitra province at Khan Arnabe and Jaba, not far from the Israeli border.
In Homs province, the regime is alleged to have fired 100 shells yesterday morning into the village of Al-Samalal in the Houla area, while in Aleppo province, Opposition fighters have continued to fire mortars into the Quwaires military air base, targeting within 5 metres of jet fighters still on the ground, HERE:
Additionally, another major battle is currently in progress for control of the Hama to Aleppo highway around the town of Khanasser in Aleppo province.
A 100 vehicle Government convoy was attacked with rockets, HERE: but this did not prevent Assad forces retaking the heart of Khanasser near the Cultural Centre. The Opposition continue to control the munition factories and the hills surrounding the town, which they took last week, and have sent reinforcements.
AMID RENEWED FIGHTING BETWEEN JIHADISTS & MODERATE OPPOSITION GROUPS, 6 POWERFUL BRIGADES ISSUE WARNING:
At Azaz in Aleppo province, just 5 kilometres from the Turkish border, renewed fighting is taking place between the Jihadists of the Islamic State of Iraq and Levant (ISIL) and other brigades from the Opposition.
Having issued the moderate Northern Storm Brigade with an “ultimatum” to “lay down their arms and repent”, ISIL has retaken Azaz and is advancing on the nearby Al-Salameh border crossing, which the Turkish authorities have kept closed since hostilities started between the two sides.
This morning, Thursday, 6 moderate and powerful Opposition groups, all part of the recently formed “Army of Islam”, which has broken away from the Free Syrian Army (scroll down, see below), issued a call to ISIL to “withdraw their troops and vehicles to their main headquarters immediately” and to bring matters to an “Islamic court, which will remain in session in Aleppo for 48 hours” to sort out any differences.
Meanwhile in Homs province, the Opposition Military Council in Rastan has issued its own statement calling on ISIS to withdraw from the north of the region.
Downed Assad Surveillance Aircraft, East Ghouta
In Damascus province yesterday afternoon, Wednesday, in East Ghouta, local people were overjoyed when Opposition fighters managed to down a surveillance aircraft, HERE:
And in the intense fighting around the suburb of Barzeh, where Government forces are trying to break in, the significant destruction of around 40 Assad troops (scroll down and see report of 1st October) was apparently accomplished by this daring and very dangerous use of a mortar shell as a grenade, (at 1.24) HERE:
The UN and other agencies are reporting increasing cases of malnutrition across Syria and one of the worst areas is the Damascus suburb of Moadamiyet al-Sham. Over 280 days, regime forces have shelled, gassed and besieged Moadamiyet, killing an estimated 700 people.
The Syrian National Coalition (SNC) issued a call on Tuesday for international help for all besieged areas in Syria, saying that in Maodamiyet at least four children and three women have starved to death. As yet another winter approaches, matters can only get worse.
Lastly, a picture of female Opposition fighters on their way to a training session in Aleppo – or as one wit on Twitter put it, the “FSA’s new handbag brigade” (EDITOR: More than a match for Asmaor Bashar Al-Assad any day, I’m sure):
Female Opposition Fighters in Aleppo