TIMELINE – 20th JANUARY 2012 14.25 GMT:
Perhaps signalling a sign of its desperation, the Assad regime’s Foreign Minister, Walid Muallem, said yesterday that the “nationalistic Opposition” could join a Cabinet, if they agreed to “lay down their arms” and rejected foreign intervention.
Appearing completely delusional, he also said that any discussion of President Bashar al-Assad’s future was “unacceptable”, knowing full well that the Opposition will hold no talks with Government until Assad has stood down. The main Opposition group, the Syrian National Coalition, also welcome foreign intervention and there is therefore no chance of Muallem’s offer becoming a reality.
Seemingly acknowledging though that Assad is presiding over a “sinking ship”, Muallem said, “The US continues to have the president’s departure as a condition of regime change, ignoring the fact that the captain of a capsized ship does not jump into the first boat”.
That he should make such suggestions at this time is interesting, as clearly the Syrian Army are unable to push back the Opposition fighters and the Free Syrian Army and their independent allies continue to chip away at territory around Aleppo, in the rural areas and in the suburbs of Damascus.
The Army has been trying to retake the capital suburb of Daraya for 2 months but has not succeeded, despite bombarding it continuously.
Daraya was the subject of rocket and jet attacks again yesterday and today, Sunday, and dozens are reported killed or injured. 80 explosions were heard in Daraya on Saturday morning alone and Government tanks continue to shell the area indiscriminately as can be seen in this video footage, HERE:
The strain is also being felt in central Damascus where many people from the suburbs have now moved and been taken in by relatives or friends. Some houses are reported to be accommodating as many as 30 to 50 people and bread queues are starting to stretch into waits that last hours.
Inside the “Damascus Bubble”, citizens still drink hot chocolate inside cafes and civil servants still get on public transport to go to work, but the petrol queues now snake around the block and talk is of “high energy biscuits”, food normally reserved for countries in famine.
The BBC’s Lyse Doucet reports from Damascus, HERE:
In more rural areas, local residents have now taken to illegally cutting down trees in order to provide fuel for cooking and to keep warm. Al Jazeera has a video report, HERE:
Lyse Doucet has also now filed a video report and an updated article on the massacre at Hasawiya. What has emerged is that this was the work of the Alawite militia, the Shabiha, and latest reports suggest that as many as 150 died in the village.
Off camera women talk of how they were stripped naked and 44 were raped. Up to 100 men may have been kidnapped and the BBC saw of evidence of executed bodies that had been burnt in an attempt to destroy the evidence. The BBC has an article and video report (moderately gruesome), HERE:
This latest outrage prompted Navi Pillay, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, to plead with the UN Security Council to refer Syria to the International Criminal Court (ICC) for investigation, but Russia and China remain intransigent, continuing to block any move that criticises President Assad. Syria has never signed up to be an ICC member and the Security Council is the only body that can order such an investigation.
Pillay’s plea followed hard on a letter sponsored by Switzerland and now signed by 58 countries to the Security Council making a similar request.
Muallem, Syria’s Foreign Minister, accused some of the signatories of using “deceit and double standards”, requesting a human rights investigation on one hand and supplying weapons and ammunition to the Opposition on the other.
In Aleppo this morning, Sunday, it is reported from the FSA that Opposition forces have taken Base 599, one of the military emplacements defending Aleppo International Airport and there are heavy clashes around the Muhallab military barracks in the Sabeel district.
At the Menegh helicopter base, Opposition forces are able to freely survey the airfield and are within shooting distance of the aircraft remaining, HERE:
Russia, in another sign of the increasing isolation of Syria’s largest city, has suspended the operation of its consulate in Aleppo.
In the extreme north-east in Ras Al Ayn, the Kurdish National Council has called on the Syrian Opposition to stop Jihadists shelling Kurdish militia positions with tanks and heavy machine guns. Several hundred Jihadists crossed from Turkey earlier in the week and there is some suspicion that the Turkish authorities, in support of their own campaign against Kurdish militants both inside and outside Turkey, are encouraging the conflict between the two sides.
In Hasaka province, clashes between the Syrian Army and Kurdish Defence Units are being reported around the village of Karzero, just east of Al-Rmeilan city, Syria’s oil capital. The Syrian Army reportedly retreated under fire and 24 soldiers are said to have defected.
Lastly, on the “unconfirmed report” front there is one that the head of the police in Latakia has defected and another that a defected MIG pilot has attacked Assad military sites in the mainly Alawite neighbourhood of the mixed sect town of Moadamiyat al-Sham near Damascus.
At first Opposition activists thought the plane was attacking Opposition targets, but after several rocket strikes and the activation of Syrian Government air-defence systems, they concluded that the pilot had turned against the Assad regime. What happened to him or the plane is not know.
FOR MORE SYRIA NEWS CLICK HERE:
29/1/11 Peter Clifford –
South Sudan Part 3 l Emmanuel Jal l Juba Prison (Conclusion)
Further to my previous posts (Part 1 and Part 2), although the results of the referendum on South Sudan‘s independence will not be formally announced until 14th February, election officials have indicated that with 83% of the votes from the 4 million registered electors, both in Sudan and overseas, counted, 99% have voted to secede from North Sudan, with only 1.4% against.
The UN Security Council has praised the officials in southern Sudan for the way the referendum was organised and run and the President of Sudan, Omar al Bashir, has indicated that his government will accept the decision. So far an estimated 178,000 South Sudanese have already returned from northern Sudan and many more are expected back from overseas once a formal state and government has been established.
The name of the new state is expected to be The Republic of South Sudan, but that is yet to be confirmed. The fledgling country will not have an easy rite of passage to maturity.
Apart from absorbing all the new returnees, there are many issues still to be sorted out with the North over land use and oil fields, new infrastructure is desperately needed, including tarmac roads, schools and hospitals and issues of corruption and the misuse of aid funding from abroad need to be addressed urgently.
Corruption is one issue highlighted by the South Sudanese singer Emmanuel Jal who now lives in the UK. More than 2 million people lost their lives in civil wars in Sudan, including Emmanuel’s Mother, and after her death he was drafted into the rebel army, the SPLA, as a boy soldier aged just seven.
After some terrible experiences he ran away with some other boys, many of whom died along the way, until he was eventually smuggled into Kenya by a British Aid worker, Emma McCune, who adopted him but was tragically killed in a car crash just a few months later. He started singing to ease the pain and “the rest is history”, as they say.
However, Emmanuel has not forgotten his roots and works extremely hard to help other children caught up in war, supporting families in refugee camps and building schools for the street kids in the slums of Nairobi through his foundation and passion Gua Africa .
Having seen the street kids of Nairobi eating out of rubbish bins there myself, I know how bad it can get when you are hungry and penniless and have a cardboard box for a home and no chance of an education.
Read his inspiring story on Wikepedia or for the full story in Emmanuel Jal’s Autobiography ( UK Store Link: “War Child: A Boy Soldier’s Story”, USA Store Link: “War Child: A Boy Soldier’s Story” or see the side panels. Also available, audio book, audio CD and a documentary by the same name)
As for his music, I am not normally a fan of Rap or Hip Hop at all but Emmanuel’s African style moves me – Listen to this great clip below.
“We Want Peace” Step Up For Peace!
(Featuring Alicia Keys, George Clooney, Peter Gabriel on strings and the People of South Sudan)
(Click on the arrows on the righthand side for Full Screen)
If you buy – anything – (and on everything you buy) – through my Amazon links on this site (UK or USA) during the whole of February 2011 I will give 10% of any commission I receive to help Emmanuel’s charity Gua Africa. (Gua – (pronounced “gwaah”) – means Peace)
(Your Amazon buying prices are exactly the same as usual and your personal data remains confidential to Amazon).
** JUBA PRISON STORY PART 3 (Conclusion!) **
Where I left off last time my girlfriend and I had just been summoned to the Prison Governor’s office and then whisked off to Juba airport under armed guard…..TO READ MORE…>>> NEXT PAGE
Peter Clifford: www.petercliffordonline.com
TO HAVE YOUR SAY SCROLL DOWN & CLICK ON ” COMMENT” IN THE GREY PANEL
If you value what I have written please click on the “Like” button and Tweet my short link – http://bit.ly/petercliff – onto your friends.