By Peter Clifford © (http://www.petercliffordonline.com/syria-news-3)
As the third year of the conflict in Syria comes to an end and the fourth year begins, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights now puts the number of people killed in this dreadful war at 146,065, a third of them civilians, including 7796 children and 5166 women over the age of 18.
Meanwhile the fighting goes on and the Assad regime plans for an “election” to bolster the position of President Bashar Al-Assad.
Banksy Art Superimposed on Nelson’s Column, London for Syria
The UN/Arab League mediator, Lakhdar Brahimi, has warned that if the elections go ahead it is likely to torpedo any prospect of “Geneva 3″ talks, with all Opposition parties, who are only interested in discussing a transitional government to take the place of Assad, walking away. Geneva 2 did not even manage to agree an agenda.
Things became even more complicated last night as Walid Moulem, aged 73 and Syria’s Foreign Minister and Assad’s chief negotiator at Geneva, was rushed to the American University of Beirut-Medical Centre in Lebanon with severe heart problems. Latest reports say he is shortly to undergo a heart by-pass operation.
(EDITOR: Twitter comment from @AboudDandachi: “If all those Big Macs Waleed Muallem ate in Geneva end up doing him in, then maybe the conference wasn’t such a waste of time after all“)
Syria’s tame parliament also approved a new election law yesterday, Thursday, allowing, for the first time, multiple candidates to stand in the presidential poll.
However, the clauses in the new law stipulate that all candidates must lived at least “10 consecutive years in Syria, must be older than 40, must be Syrian and of Syrian parents, must not have been convicted for a crime and must not be married to a non-Syrian.”
Effectively this would rule out almost all the well-know Opposition figures, most of whom are now based outside the country.
In a poll conducted by the UK relief charity Oxfam of 1,015 Syrian refugees located in 3 different areas of Jordan, 65% of them expressed fears that they would never be able to return to their homes in Syria. Although an overwhelming majority of them wanted to return home, 78% had no idea when that might be. You can read more,HERE:
Young Syrian Woman Waits to Cross Border into Turkey
Increasingly, reports are emerging of the exploitation of young Syrian women refugees, both in the workplace and sexually, in some cases even abused by aid workers. Because of their desperation to work and earn money for their family, some factory owners take advantage of them.
In other cases girls as young as 14 are “sold off” in what is frequently a short term “marriage” and then discarded, amounting to little more than prostitution. You can read more in this heart-rending article, HERE:
OPPOSITION STILL HOLDING OUT IN QALAMOUN AFTER 30 DAY REGIME ONSLAUGHT, AND ASSAD SUPPORTERS ANGRY AT TRUTHFUL NUNS:
On the ground, Opposition fighters are still holding out in Yarbroud after 30 days, following a major regime military campaign to oust them from the whole of the Qalamoun region between Damascus and Lebanon.
Syrian troops captured an important hill near Yabroud on Wednesday but suffered heavy losses trying take an Opposition barrier at nearby Halboon.
Most of the 30,000 inhabitants of Yabroud have already fled but the regime is still raining down volcano missiles and other rockets on the town causing massive destruction.
To the south of Yabroud 4 Opposition fighters were killed in clashes in the Wadi Barada region and on the outskirts of Yabroud itself 3 Syrian Army officers were reported killed in similar battles.
On the Rima frontline due north of Yabroud Opposition fighters are reported to have destroyed a Government tank and a Shilka mobile anti-aircraft gun unit.
Elsewhere in Damascus province, President Assad made a rare appearance on the outskirts of Adra north-east of the capital on Wednesday to inspect “conditions for the displaced in Damascus province … and listening to their needs”, according to the state media, SANA. However, reports from Adra this morning, Friday, suggest that it has just fallen completely under Opposition control.
And in an attempt to bamboozle its supporters, the Assad regime claimed that it had only exchanged “25 female prisoners” for the Maloula nuns, not the 153 confirmed by the Opposition and Lebanon’s General Security chief Ibrahim Abbas, who mediated the exchange.
There has been an outpouring of rage by Assad supporters towards the Greek Orthodox nuns after they said that they had been well looked after by the Al-Nusra Front (ANF) Jihadists and denied reports that they had been ordered not to wear their crosses.
TURKISH TROOPS GUARDING TOMB WELL INSIDE SYRIA ORDERED TO SHOOT BACK IF ATTACKED BY ISIS:
In the northern part of Hama province fighting has continued all week in and around Morek, though latest reports suggest that Opposition fighters have made significant headway and are involved in a “clear up operation” to remove the remnants of Assad’s forces, as seen HERE:
Clashes still reported in Tal Bazam between Morek and Souran.
Opposition Shells Land on Deraa Central Prison
In southern Deraa province clashes have broken out between the 2 sides in Sanamein city in northern part of the province, HERE:and heavy fighting is reported around the army barracks in the north-western parts of Al-Harra city.
In Aleppo a tank-on-tank battle took place in the north-east industrial area at Sheikh Najar,HERE: while 6 Syrian Army troops were killed and a munitions truck seized on the southern side of the city near Aziza.
Fighting between the moderate Opposition and the extreme Jihadists of the Islamic Front in Iraq and Levant (ISIL or ISIS) continues, with ISIL raining mortar bombs down on the town of Dabiq to the north-east of Aleppo.
On the Euphrates, which divides Aleppo and Raqqah provinces, ISIL has once again gained control of the Qarah Qawzaq Bridge after a week of battles with moderate Opposition fighters and at Shuyukh near the town of Jarabulus 22 people are reported executed by this extremist group.
Some later reports even say that up to 75 people have been killed in the Jarabulus area for failing to sweat allegiance to ISIL, but this has not been confirmed.
This thoughtful article by Richard Spencer of the Telegraph suggests that the Syrian conflict is now unstoppable and in the hands of psychopaths, HERE:
In Hasakah province, where ISIL are in conflict with the Kurdish militia, the YPG, 10 people, including 4 women and a 19 year old girl, were killed when a Jihadist suicide bomber exploded a device in the Hadaya Hotel in downtown Qamishli on Tuesday.
Also in Qamishli, where the regime still has a presence, fighting broke out between Assad’s National Defence Force (NDF) and the YPG on the western side of the city, after one of the Kurdish fighters was shot on Wednesday.
From Homs comes this moving video of life under siege (with English sub-titles), HERE:
And in an interesting move, Turkey has ordered its soldiers to shoot if attacked by ISIL at the site of the revered Turkish Tomb of Suleyman Shah, which by a quirk of agreement with France after the First World War, remains Turkish territory despite the fact it is well inside Syria and 25 kilometres (15 miles) from the border.
If after 3 years you have lost track of what is happening in Syria, this BBC summarised history may help, HERE:and the BBC also has a video summary of the current situation, HERE:
And lastly, this BBC map shows the latest general positions of warring parties, here:
BBC Map of Latest Positions in the Syrian Conflict March 2014