Interactive: Tracking Syria’s defections

This visualisation tracks senior military officials, members of parliament and diplomats who quit Assad’s regime.

NUMBER OF HIGH LEVEL DEFECTIONS

Senior Military & Security Officials: 65
Cabinet: 3
Parliament: 4
Diplomats: 13
Total: 85
Information is often difficult to verify due to the rapidly changing situation on the ground and limited access to journalists and international bodies.
Defections rise
When the Syrian uprising against President Bashar al-Assad’s regime began in March 2011, many analysts believed the regime would remain intact, given the strict loyalty test officials and diplomats have to endure before receiving important positions in the army or government.

As the uprising progressed, military generals and soldiers began to defect from the Syrian army to form the rebel Free Syrian Army. A large number of soldiers fled to neighbouring Turkey while others remained in Syria to battle government forces.

These defecting officials represent a small minority of government representatives – most have remained loyal to the state.

 

Methodology
With the help of an organisation named Movements.org, this tool tracks the defections of senior military officials (generals and colonels), members of parliament and diplomatic officials. Owing to media restrictions placed on Al Jazeera by the Syrian government, we cannot verify all reports of defections that we receive. Whenever possible, we have only added names of people who announced their defection with a video.

Other data comes from media reports, human rights organisations, and activist networks. Due to the nature of the Syrian state, this list is not comprehensive, given the lack of an accessible official database from the Syrian Army or foreign ministry.

 

Definitions
Parliament

Syria’s Parliament has 250 members elected for four year terms in 15 multi-seat constituencies. In May 2012, elections resulted in a new parliament that for the first time in four decades is based on a multi-party system. The ruling Ba’ath Party still won around 60 per cent of the seats. Jihad al- Lahham, representative of Damascus, is the speaker of the parliament.

Cabinet

The Cabinet of Syria, made up of 33 ministers, is the chief executive body as stipulated in the Constitution. In April 2012, a new cabinet led by Prime Minister Riad Hijab was announced, a year after the previous cabinet resigned in light of anti-government protests. In July 2012, Assad selected a new defence minister, Fahd Jassem Freij, after the death Daoud Rajha in a bomb attack.

Diplomats

As violence escalated and reports emerged of massacres committed by Assad’s regime, many countries expelled Syrian diplomats. In February 2012, several Arab nations expelled Syrian ambassadors in light of a massacre reported in Homs City. In May 2012, many Western countries expelled Syrian diplomats following a massacre in the town of Houla in Homs province, which the UN called a “brutal tragedy”.

Family

The al-Assad family has ruled Syria since Hafez al-Assad became president in 1971. His son Bashar took power after Hafez’s death in 2000. Family connections are an important part of Syrian politics and several family members hold important military and security positions. The Assads are originally from a village in Latakia and belong to the minority Alawite sect, an offshoot of Shia Islam.

Senior military and security officials

Several military officials are also senior members of Syria’s intelligence apparatus. Many have been actively involved in supressing protests. As the uprising progressed, a growing number of soldiers began to defect from the Army and formed the rebel Free Syrian Army. In July 2012, in a huge blow to Assad, a bomb ripped through a high-level security meeting in Damascus, killing three top officials. Al Jazeera is only including defections from generals and colonels in this visualisation.

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(Source / 11.04.2013)

Lawyer: Guards assault prisoner who lowered Israeli flag

RAMALLAH (Ma’an) — Israeli guards fractured the hand of a Palestinian in Rimon jail who protested the death of a detainee by lowering the Israeli flag, the prisoner’s lawyer said Thursday.

After the death of Maysara Abu Hamdiyeh, a Palestinian with cancer who died in Israeli custody, Abdul-Rahman Karajah “protested in his own way climbing a roof with barbed wires before he lowered the Israeli flag,” said his lawyer Muhannad Karajah.

Israeli guards from the Nahshon unit immediately assaulted Abdul-Rahman Karajah and fractured his hand, the lawyer said.

In a letter passed to his lawyer, the prisoner said he was interrogated for over 12 hours and that others were being interrogated “for 20 hours and more.”

Detainees are being held in a small, “disgusting” cell and given food which “looks like anything other than food,” he wrote.

The prisoner said Israeli interrogators accused him of contacting the Lebanese Hezbollah movement.

(Source / 11.04.2013)

Hamas: Last chance for collaborators to surrender

GAZA CITY (Ma’an) — Collaborators in the Gaza Strip have until midnight to turn themselves in or face arrest, a Hamas official said Thursday.

“Month one of the crackdown on collaborators with Israel ends today, but the campaign will continue for another month,” said Ibrahim Salah, a Hamas government spokesman, in a message broadcast on local radio.

On March 12, the Hamas interior ministry announced a one-month amnesty for collaborators to surrender, claiming it had a list of informers who would be detained if they did not give themselves up.

“During the first month, several informers have turned themselves in and reunited with their people through mediators,” said Salah, adding that one collaborator had handed himself in Wednesday.

The ministry will not interrogate any informer who turns himself in “if their repentance is honest,” Salah said, urging collaborators to give themselves up before the deadline.

Also Thursday, Human Rights Watch criticized the Hamas government’s apparent failure to investigate the November murders of seven prisoners accused of collaboration with Israel.

The prisoners were publicly killed during Israel’s week-long assault on the Gaza Strip.

“Hamas’s inability or unwillingness to investigate the brazen murders of seven men makes a mockery of its claims that it’s upholding the rule of law in Gaza,” said Sarah Leah Whitson, HRW’s Middle East director.

Human Rights Watch said that despite the circumstances of their deaths, the military courts that convicted the men decided primarily on the basis of coerced confessions, ignoring credible evidence that interrogators tortured at least six of them.

“Even before the killings, the abuses the men suffered made the criminal justice system a travesty, regardless of their guilt or innocence,” Whitson said in a statement.

She accused the government in Gaza of failing to take even basic steps toward identifying the killers.

“Months after seven Palestinians were murdered in broad daylight, seemingly with the collusion of security officials, the Hamas authorities in Gaza appear not to have lifted a finger to investigate, let alone to hold those responsible to account,” Whitson said.

“Hamas should be taking concrete steps to reform the criminal justice system and break the cycle of impunity that, as these men’s cases show, lets torturers and killers roam free.”

The Hamas government announced in November it was investigating how the men died.

Palestinian human rights activists along with senior Hamas officials also condemned the killings as illegal, saying the men should have been brought to justice under the law.

(Source / 11.04.2013)

Fayyad poised to submit resignation

RAMALLAH (AFP) — Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Salam Fayyad is to present his resignation to President Mahmoud Abbas on Thursday, a senior Palestinian official said.

Abbas and Fayyad are known to have been at odds over a raft of issues but their relationship took a nose dive last month when Fayyad accepted his finance minister’s resignation only for it to be rejected by Abbas.

“There will be a meeting between Abbas and Fayyad after the president returns (from Qatar) to settle Fayyad’s resignation,” Azzam al-Ahmad, a senior member of the ruling Fatah movement, told Voice of Palestine radio.

Earlier, a Palestinian official told AFP on condition of anonymity that Fayyad had prepared a resignation letter on March 23, but had delayed handing it over because Abbas had been out of the country.

Abbas was due to return later on Thursday from Doha where he has been attending Arab League meetings.

Another official, who also requested anonymity, said it was not certain Fayyad’s resignation would be accepted.

Longstanding tensions between Fayyad and Abbas peaked on March 2 when Nabil Qassis announced he was standing down as finance minister.

Abbas, who was abroad at the time, rejected the resignation but Fayyad agreed to it.

The crisis over the finance minister “was the reason for Fayyad’s resignation,” al-Ahmad said.

“Fayyad will have to decide today whether to keep Qassis in his post, or to resign as head of the government,” he added.

Last week, the Fatah Revolutionary Council for the first time openly criticized Fayyad’s government over its economic policy.

“The policies of the current Palestinian government are improvised and confused in many issues of finance and the economy,” it said.

The criticism came as several high-ranking officials suggested Abbas might be about to dismiss Fayyad.

Fayyad held the finance portfolio as well as the premiership before Qassis’ appointment in May 2012.

Abbas’ Palestinian Authority is in serious financial crisis, partly as a result of non-disbursement of promised foreign funding, although the US Congress quietly unblocked $500 million in aid in March.

(Source / 11.04.2013)

Bishop thanks Muslims for protecting Christians in Egypt’s Al-Khosous

Bishop Moussa of the Coptic Orthodox Church says local Muslims who protected Christians during sectarian riots showed the true meaning of religion and love
Bishop Moussa

Bishop Moussa, head of the Youth Bishopric
A senior Coptic bishop has praised Muslims in Al-Khosous who attempted to protect Christians during a recent bout of sectarian violence that left five people dead.

“The loving Muslims who protected Christians and the church during the deadly clashes in Al-Khosous highlighted the mistakes of the fanatics and showed the true meaning of religion and love,” Bishop Moussa, who is in charge of youth affairs at the Coptic Orthodox Church, said in a statement on Wednesday.

“Our only consolation is that the victims gave their lives as a testimony to God and their pure souls ascended to heaven…,” he added.

Egypt’s Coptic Orthodox Pope Tawadros II, along with other bishops, will on Thursday accept condolences from public figures at the papal headquarters in Abbasiya.

Deadly clashes erupted in Al-Khosous in Qalioubiya on Saturday after a group of Christian teenagers allegedly daubed what some Muslims deemed offensive symbols on the walls of an Al-Azhar institute in the town, state news agency MENA reported.

Four Christians and one Muslim died in the violence that followed.

On Sunday, a funeral for the Christian victims of the violence was held at St Mark’s Coptic Orthodox Cathedral in Cairo. As mourners were leaving the cathedral they were attacked by unknown assailants. Two people died and at least 90 were injured in the ensuing violence.

Police fired teargas and birdshot directly into the cathedral compound, sparking uproar among the Christian community.

(Source / 11.04.2013)

Disabled Palestinian shot, wounded in Israeli attack

A file photo shows Israeli forces in the occupied West Bank.

A file photo shows Israeli forces in the occupied West Bank.
A physically disabled Palestinian man has been wounded after he was shot by Israeli troops in the southern West Bank city of al-Khalil (Hebron).

Motazz Obeidu, 32, was seriously wounded on Thursday when Israeli forces attacked his shop, a prisoners’ rights group and local residents confirmed.

The Israeli army confirmed the arrest and the shooting, and claimed that the Palestinian had acted “violently.” An army spokeswoman accused Obeidu of “throwing an axe, a gas canister and a wheelbarrow at soldiers, injuring two of them.”

But Ramallah-based Prisoners Club said the victim was “physically disabled,” and held Israel responsible for the man’s life.

The incident comes after the deaths of Palestinian inmates in Israeli jails, which has sparked an outrage among Palestinians and triggered street rallies and sit-in protests in solidarity with the prisoners.

The latest victim, whose name has not been released, died under mysterious circumstances in Israel’s Nafha Prison in Be’er Sheva, Palestinian sources said.

On April 2, cancer-stricken Maisarah Abu Hamdiah lost his life in an Israeli jail after he was denied medical care by prison authorities.

Arafat Jaradat, 30, who was arrested on February 18 on suspicion of hurling stones at Israeli troopers, died days later in Israel’s Magiddo prison. The Israeli regime claims that Jaradat died of cardiac arrest, a claim Palestinians deny.

According to Palestinian sources, over 4,500 Palestinian prisoners are held in Israeli prisons, many of them without charge or trial, and are subject to human rights violations such as the use of torture during interrogations.

(Source / 11.04.2013)

FSA says Hezbollah has thousands of fighters in Syria

More than 2,000 members of Hezbollah are fighting alongside regime forces in Damascus, the Syrian Free Army said.

Hezbollah has deployed thousands of fighters in Damascus and in the Syrian border with Lebanon, a Syrian Free Army spokesman told Al Arabiya on Wednesday.

Col. Abdul-Hamid Zakaria, spokesman for the FSA’s Joint Chiefs of Staff, said more than 2,000 members of Hezbollah are fighting alongside regime forces in Damascus and an estimated 3,500 others were deployed along the Syrian border with Lebanon.

On Tuesday, Al Arabiya television reported, quoting sources close to the Lebanese armed movement, that 12 members of Hezbollah have been killed in an ambush near Damascus.

More than 20 other Hezbollah members, part of an alleged military brigade deployed in Syria to defend President Bashar al-Assad, were also wounded in the attack, the sources said.

The wounded were transferred to a hospital in the south of Beirut, the sources said, adding that Hezbollah is tightlipped about the issue.

FSA Col. Zakaria said large defections within the army of Assad made him increasingly reliant on foreign militias.

“Assad’s army has started to shiver as a consequence of the successive defections, especially the recent defections of several officers and soldiers from the Syrian Republican Guard,” he said.

“After the termination of local shabiha mercenaries, Assad’s gangs are now relying on foreign bloodthirsty mercenaries from Iran, Iraq and Hezbollah’s mini-state in Lebanon,” the FSA spokesman said.

SANA Revolution news agency reported that FSA fighters engaged in clashes Tuesday with Hezbollah’s Abbas brigade based in Damascus.

Col. Malik al-Kurdi, the FSA’s deputy leader, said that there is a large number of Hezbollah fighters involved in the battles taking place near the Sayeda Zeinab and Qusayr districts of Damascus.

(Source / 11.04.2013)

Egyptian parliament approves revised election law

Egypt’s Shura Council will send the election law to the Supreme Constitutional Court to check its legality.

Egypt’s Islamist-dominated Shura Council (the upper house of parliament) approved Thursday a revised election law on Thursday setting the rules for lower house parliamentary polls due to be held later this year.

The Islamist-led upper house will now send it to the Supreme Constitutional Court to check its legality.

President Mohamed Mursi had originally called elections for April but postponed them when the court annulled the decree setting the dates. Mursi has said the elections could now begin in October.

(Source / 11.04.2013)

Rights group slams Hamas failure to investigate Gaza deaths

Gunmen ride motorcycles as they drag the body of an accused spy through Gaza City on Nov. 20, 2012.

BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) — Human Rights Watch on Thursday criticized the Hamas government in Gaza’s apparent failure to investigate the murders of seven prisoners accused of collaboration with Israel.

The prisoners were publicly killed during two days in November, during Israel’s week-long assault on the enclave.

An image of one of the victims being dragged behind a motorcycle through Gaza City quickly became a symbol of the conflict, which killed at least 170 Palestinians.

“Hamas’s inability or unwillingness to investigate the brazen murders of seven men makes a mockery of its claims that it’s upholding the rule of law in Gaza,” said Sarah Leah Whitson, HRW’s Middle East director.

Human Rights Watch said that despite the circumstances of their deaths, the military courts that convicted the men decided primarily on the basis of coerced confessions, ignoring credible evidence that interrogators tortured at least six of them.

“Even before the killings, the abuses the men suffered made the criminal justice system a travesty, regardless of their guilt or innocence,” Whitson said in a statement.

She accused the government in Gaza of failing to take even basic steps toward identifying the killers.

“Months after seven Palestinians were murdered in broad daylight, seemingly with the collusion of security officials, the Hamas authorities in Gaza appear not to have lifted a finger to investigate, let alone to hold those responsible to account,” Whitson said.

“Hamas should be taking concrete steps to reform the criminal justice system and break the cycle of impunity that, as these men’s cases show, lets torturers and killers roam free.”

The Hamas government announced in November it was investigating how the men died.

Palestinian human rights activists along with senior Hamas officials also condemned the killings as illegal, saying the men should have been brought to justice under the law.

(Source / 11.04.2013)