LATEST: US Condemns Reported Killing of Catholic Priest
Fighting continued on Friday in the south, notably near the town of Daraa where the uprising against the Assad regime began 27 1/2 months ago.
However, in contrast to recent news of regime advances — including the re-capture of towns like Qusayr and Tal Kalakh and pressure on insurgents in Daraa — the headline claim was that insurgents had taken a key army checkpoint.
Alleged footage of opposition fighters after capture of the position:
The US Ambassador to Syria, Robert Ford, has written on the Embassy’s Facebook page, “We are appalled by reports that extremist rebels killed Father François Mourad earlier this week when they looted a monastery in Idlib Province. This unprovoked violence against civilians is completely unacceptable, and we condemn it in the strongest possible terms.”
Ford’s statement continued, “We call on all Syrians to protect and respect the rights of all civilians, regardless of ethnicity, gender, or religion. No matter how depraved the Asad regime is, committing atrocities under the guise of fighting is unjustifiable.”
Mourad, a Franciscan, died on Monday in Ghassanieh at the Franciscan monastery of St. Anthony of Padua, where he had sought refuge.
The Pro Terra Sancta website reported that the circumstances of Mourad’s death were unclear: “According to one version a bullet entered the monastery and struck the priest, while other sources maintain that the homicide took place while the monastery was being looted by rebels.”
Mourad, born in Syria, had retired several years ago to live as a hermit.
Russian FM: Reports That Russia Will Close Embassy In Damascus, Tartous Base Are “Rumors, Speculation”
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has dismissed reports that Moscow plans to close its embassy in Damascus and its Naval facility in Tartous as “rumors and speculation”, Russia’s Channel 1 reports (with video).
“These are all rumors, part of speculation and provocation, which are apparently designed to prepare public opinion for the perception of efforts toward regime change. Our embassy operates as normal. Information is supplied regularly, with conclusions, proposals and evaluations of prospects for the development of the situation in Syria and its environs. Similarly, the Russian fleet’s material-technical Naval base in Tartous operates as normal, and there is no discussion about evacuating the base,” Lavrov said.
Footage posted on Saturday afternoon shows the aftermath of today’s heavy shelling on Homs:
This video shows a large fire blazing inside the Khaled Ibn Al-Waleed mosque in the Khaldiyeh neighborhood of Homs.
In this video, a local man shows the extent of the damage in one part of the city:
Activists have posted amateur footage of the aftermath of a large surface-to-surface missile strike in Aleppo’s Qaterji District on Saturday.
The Local Coordination Committees say that ten people were killed in the strike:
حلب: سقوط عشرة شهداء وعدد من الجرحى جراء سقوط صاروخ أرض-أرض على حي القاطرجي Aleppo: 10 martyrs and a number of… http://t.co/ndagoxMYL9
— LCCSY (@LccSy) June 29, 2013
Map showing location of the neighborhood:
Initial images of the bombing:
Footage of a destroyed mosque, the Mohammad Al Baqer Mosque. Worshippers are picking through the wreckage, with one local man expressing anger at the destruction including of holy books:
This video shows the extent of the damage — it appears as if a large section of a building has been destroyed, with huge piles of rubble on the street. It is not clear how many people were hurt it the rocket strike:
Activists say regime forces are shelling insurgent-held parts of Homs, such as Khalidiya, today:
In recent weeks, we have been paying attention to signs of a growing crisis in the Syrian economy.
Don’t believe them — at least according to Deputy Prime Minister Kadri Jamil.
Jamil told the Financial Times that Syria’s allies Iran, China, and Russia would soon help Damascus with a “counter-offensive” against what a foreign plot to collapse the Syrian currency: “It’s not that bad to have behind you the Russians, the Chinese and Iranians. Those three countries are helping us politically, militarily – and also economically.”
Perhaps more significant was Jamil’s implicit admission of the regime’s increasing dependence on Iran, with “an unlimited credit line with Tehran for food and oil-product imports”.
Earlier this month the Islamic Republic confirmed a $3.5 billion credit line — much of it probably in oil shipments — to Damascus, as well as assistance with reconstruction, energy projects, and infrastructure.
Jamil also claimed ships “under the flag of the Russians” were delivering oil products.
The Local Coordination Committees claim that only 37 people were killed on Friday, including 16 in Damascus and its suburbs.
The Violations Documentation Center reports that 64,906 people have been slain since the start of the conflict in March 2011, an increase of 74 since Friday. Of these, 49,754 were civilians, a rise of 52 from yesterday.