Claimed footage, from “Daraa City” activists, of insurgents evacuating women and children from Qusayr
The BBC’s Lyse Doucet tweeted this image of the Qusayr clock tower today.
— lyse doucet (@bbclysedoucet) June 5, 2013
A Kurdish activist group claims that Kurds in Efrin near Aleppo in northern Syria are suffering because of an ongoing siege by the Free Syrian Army.
Activists on Wednesday tweeted images purportedly of breadlines in the town.
Huge bread crisis in Efrin near Aleppo with huge lines on the only remaining bakery in the town. twitter.com/omarsyria/stat…
— Omar (@omarsyria) June 5, 2013
There were sustained reports last month of clashes between the FSA and local Kurdish militia.
The opposition Syrian National Coalition has issued a statement on the loss of Qusayr despite “heroic battles…fought by the Free Syrian Army to defend civilians”.
The Coalition warned, “Grisly massacres will occur with reprisals against innocent civilians if the international community stands idle and watches,” while “hold[ing] the Assad regime to its commitment to allow humanitarian access to provide urgent relief to the citizens of Qusayr”.
The Coalition is also promoting the finding of France that the Syrian regime has used sarin nerve agent to call for an emergency meeting of the United Nations Security Council:
[We ask] for practical action on the ground, as condemnatory statements are not enough to change a tragic situation and to save lives. The circumstances in Syria demand international action to cripple the regime’s capability of murdering civilians and to provide the Free Syrian Army with quality weapons to enable them to protect civilians and put an end to the Assad regime.
A march today in Raqqa, held by insurgents with Islamists prominent among them, in solidarity with the residents of Qusayr and condemning the opposition Syrian National Coalition for the loss of the town:
Reuters, citing an “opposition group” from Qusayr, said more than 500 insurgents died in the three weeks of the regime assault, with a further 1,000 wounded, leaving just 400 outgunned men struggling to hold onto the town.
Survivors decided to escape in the night through a corridor that regime attackers said they had deliberately left open to encourage flight.
Hezbollah’s Deputy Secretary General Sheikh Naim Qassem said, “The Al-Qusayr accomplishment is a severe blow to the project of the American-Israeli-Takfiri [infidel] trio and a glowing point for the project of the resistance in Syria.
Qassem continued, “Today, it has been proven that betting on the fall of the resisting Syrian [regime] is an illusion….Building political stances on the accomplishments of the American-Israeli project is unsuccessful.”
Wednesday’s meeting between US, Russian, and United Nations officials has made little progress towards the staging of a proposed international “peace” conference. Moscow has cast blame on the insurgency, which has demanded that President Assad step aside during a transitional government:
The most difficult question is the circle of participants in the conference. The whole issue is that the Syrian opposition, unlike the government, has not made a fundamental decision about its participation in this conference.
A spokesman for the Red Cross has said it has not been granted access to the residents of Qusayr, the besieged town which fell to regime forces today:
We’ve seen the reports that some parts of the town have been deserted but we’re not in a position to verify that. Nor can we give any concrete info on numbers killed, wounded, or remaining in Qusair. We’re still in dialogue with the Syrian authorities on reaching Qusair, particularly with a view to getting in medical supplies.
Alaa al-Basha, a member of the Free Syrian Army’s Supreme Military Council, has said that insurgents withdrew from Qusayr “due to a lack of ammunitions and weapons”.
Al-Basha also said that the withdrawal sought to protect civilians:
“We have called on all humanitarian councils and on the Red Crescent to open a safe road to transfer the injured.”
The insurgent Liwa Rijal Allah posts video claiming to be of its tanks firing into Qusair today:
Hadi al-Abdallah, a spokesman for the insurgents in Qusayr, takes viewers on a tour of a makeshift hospital in the town with some of the hundreds injured during the regime’s three-week siege.
The video was uploaded today, but it is unclear when it was filmed.
Responding to recent reports on human rights violations from the United Nations, the opposition Syrian National Coalition has met member states of the Human Rights Council in Geneva.
The Coalition reiterated its wish for the UN Commission of Inquiry, which issued its findings on Tuesday, to be able to enter “liberated areas of Syria”. It expressed an “unshaken commitment to ending impunity and holding any violators of human rights and International Humanitarian Law accountable”.
The UN Commission report (see separate EA entry) found violations on both sides, but said that most — in some cases amounting to “war crimes” — were the responsibility of regime forces.
The Coalition called for reference of the Syrian case to the International Criminal Court.
Nineteen human rights organisations have issued a statement of concern about Syrian lawyer Khalil Matouq, who has defended hundreds of political prisoners, journalists, and prisoners of conscience.
Matouq was seized on 2 October 2012. Just before his detention, he was one of the defence lawyers for imprisoned staff of the Syrian Centre for Media and Freedom of Expression.
The signatories claim that Matouq has been denied access to his family and lawyers and that Syrian authorities refuse to disclose his whereabouts. They express concern that his health is deteriorating.
A statement by the Syrian Revolution General Commission, on the Facebook page of “Al-Qusair Revolution”, summarises the insurgent withdrawal from Qusayr this morning.
The statement says opposition fighters withstood a 30-day blockade by the forces of the “devil Assad”, with hundreds of martyrs and thousands of wunded.
In the face of the horrific bombardment and lack of basic necessities for civilians, with “blatant interference from Hezbolah and Iran”, the regime “refused to allow humanitarian corridors to evacuate civilians”. Insurgents “fought until the last moment alongside women and children against thousands of Lebanese mercenaries”.
The statement concludes, “We lost this round but the war continues.”
Al-Mayadeen TV and Hezbollah’s Al-Manar TV are providing live images of Qusayr, claiming its “liberation” by the regime. The footage includes Syrian forces carrying flags and houses which supposedly have been booby-trapped with explosives by insurgents.
Syrian news agency SANA Arabic is citing an “official source”:
Our brave forces have restored security to the entire city of al-Qusair, after killing a large number of terrorists and destroying their hideouts, including weapons and ammunition, in tunnels and barricades.
The Syrian army also dismantled improvised explosives planted in the homes of residents and in roads to impede army progress.
A Hezbollah fighter told Reuters, “We did a sudden surprise attack in the early hours and entered the town. They escaped.”
However, a freelance journalist reports that fighting is continuing in parts of the city:
The fighting in #Qusair now is in fields around the city&in tunnels under the northern quarter
— Alaa Ebrahim (@Alaa_Ebrahim_tv) June 5, 2013
The Guardian profiles one of the Iraqi Shia, student Ammar Sadiq, going to Syria to support regime forces:
“It was like a thunderbolt hit me,” said Sadiq. “My friend was telling me that wahhabis from Saudi and Afghanis were trying to destroy the [Shia] shrine of Sayyida Zeinab. I did not wait even to tell my parents. All I was thinking of is to go to Syria and protect the shrine, though I have not used a weapon in my life.”
Reporters Mona Mahmood and Martin Chulov claim the force Abu Fadl al-Abbas, which Sadiq was trying to join, “over the past 14 months has emerged as one of the most powerful in Syria”. They say it has up to 10,000 members, many of them from outside the country, have joined in the last year.
The British and French Governments have shown an UN investigations medical samples, smuggled out of Syria, which they claim have tested positive for the nerve agent sarin.
The British Foreign Office asserted that body fluids collected from victims of one or more attacks, tested in the Ministry of Defence’s Porton Down facility, contained a chemical fingerprint of sarin.
Earlier, French Foreign Minister said he had passed similar evidence to the head of the UN inquiry into chemical weapon use in Syria.
Last month Le Monde, in a special investigation based on a two-month stay by its journalists alongside insurgents in Jobar in Damascus, brought back samples of urine for testing. Other samples included blood taken after a regime aerial attack in Saraqeb, south of Homs, on 29 April.
The US Government was more cautious last night, with a White House spokesman saying tha Washington had not yet reached a conclusion over the claims.
General Salem Idriss, head of the Free Syrian Army, has repeated that his forces will fight Hezbollah inside Lebanon, if the Lebanese organisation continues to attack Qusayr and other insurgent-held territory in Syria.
Idriss, who initially made the comment last week, told the BBC, “Hezbollah fighters are invading Syrian territory. And when they continue to do that and the Lebanese authorities don’t take any action to stop them coming to Syria, I think we are allowed to fight Hezbollah fighters inside [Lebanese] territory.”
The Local Coordination Committees claims that 95 people were killed on Tuesday, including 23 in Damascus and its suburbs, 18 in Daraa Province, and 16 in Aleppo Province.
The Violations Documentation Center reports that 62,712 people have been killed in the Syrian conflict since March 2011, an increase of 74 from Tuesday. Of the deaths, 48,498 were civilians, a rise of 39 from yesterday.
State TV is claiming this morning that regime forces have captured Qusayr, near the Lebanese border and 18 miles from Syria’s third-largest city of Homs, after a siege of almost three weeks.
“Our heroic armed forces have returned security and stability to all of the town of Qusayr,” a statement declared.
State news agency SANA posts this morning, “Units of the armed forces ambushed an armed terrorist group fled from al-Qseir into Homs-Damascus Highway….The armed forces killed, in an ambush, in Shamsin area a number of terrorists, injured others, and seized an RPG launcher.”
A “source” claimed other successful attacks on the “terrorists”.
The regime has asserted on previous occasions during the assault that it has taken up to 80% of Qusayr.