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PHOTO: New Syrian National Coalition President Ahmad Asi Al-Jarba

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Trying to regain stability and influence, inside and outside Syria, the opposition Syrian National Coalition elected Ahmad Asi al-Jarba as President in a meeting in Istanbul on Saturday.

The Coalition has been beset by divisions and questions about its effectiveness since cleric Moaz al-Khatib resigned as President in March.

Al-Jarba, backed by Saudi Arabia, won the run-off over Qatari-supported businessman Mustafa al-Sabbagh by a 55-52 vote.

The new President has been leading activist in Hasakah Province in eastern Syria. He was detained at the outset of the uprising against the Assad regime in March 2011.

Vice-Presidents were also announced on Saturday. A new Cabinet and the approval of current Prime Minister Ghassan Hitto is expected today.

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Iran’s Mehr News Finds Silver Lining For Syria In Egypt Crisis: Assad More Popular, Better Manager Than Morsi

[Cross-posted from Iran Today]

Amid turmoil in Egypt, Iran’s Mehr News finds a silver lining — Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi’s ouster shows that the situation for Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad is not just better but quantifiably so. Mehr explains:

If we consider the Syrian crisis as 2 years old- while it is more than 2 years since it began- the total crisis has taken 17,520 hours during which 3 of the Syrian top officials resigned; therefore Bashar Assad has lost a loyalist every 5,840 hours. This is while Morsi lost 8 over 48 hours, meaning he has practically lost one senior official every 6 hours! Thus loyalty to Assad in his cabinet is approximately 973 times more than Moris’s

Mehr goes on to draw this conclusion:

[T]his figure also reveals that Assad has better management capabilities over his loyalists than Morsi does

Video: Insurgents In Raqqa Distribute Food Aid To Needy For Ramadan

Claimed footage of a food aid store in Raqqa, where insurgents from the Hudhayfah ibn al-Yamaan Brigades are distributing food aid packages to needy families in the city for Ramadan.

On Friday, the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the World Food Program (WFP), appealed to the international community for more funds to feed four million Syrians, after a report found that millions were unable to produce or buy sufficient food since the outbreak of the fighting in 2011.

Video: Joy In Jobar, Damascus As Man Dug Out Alive After Strike

Footage from Jobar in Damascus on Sunday shows locals shouting in joy after realizing that a man buried underneath rubble is alive.

Video: In Aleppo’s Bustan Al Qasr, “The Secular Town”, Activists Print Revolutionary Flag

Footage posted Saturday by activists in Bustan al-Qasr, Aleppo shows insurgents in the neighborhood printing revolutionary flags.

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Although other neighborhoods in Aleppo are becoming dominated by Islamist groups, according to Syria Untold Bustan al-Qasr is known for resisting the trend to Islamic radicalization from groups such as Jabhat Al Nusra to such an extent that Jabhat al-Nusra calls the neighborhood “the Secular Town.”

From Syria Untold:

Abu Mariam, who has been detained by Jabhat al-Nusra fighters three times, explains: “We decided to work together until we overthrow the regime, but there are essential differences between us and we will not allow them to steal our revolution.”

He adds:

“We want the world to know that we are still struggling for the same values that took us to the streets in 2011. We will continue, despite poverty, destruction and the unbearable pressure we are under. Despite unemployment and the lack of medical and humanitarian resources, despite the communication cuts and the lack of water, despite the fact that no one is helping us. Therefore our message to both the regime and the rest of the world is “We will continue, and to hell with everyone”.

In January 2013, Bustan al-Qasr hit international headlines not for its secularism or its demonstrations, but because of a shocking image of the bodies of men found washed up in the Queiq river. The Guardian undertook an in-depth investigation into the incident, culminating in this report, published in March:

Video: Houses Burn In Qaboun, Damascus After Artillery Strikes

Footage of large fires in civilian apartment blocks in the Damascus suburb of Al Qaboun, following artillery strikes.

Video: Shelling of Damascus Suburb of Zamalka

Damascus: Airstrikes On Jobar

A video posted on Sunday shows regime airstrikes on the Jobar neighborhood in northern Damascus.

The footage comes a day after the regime announced it had made gains in the Al Qaboun neighborhood immediately north of Jobar.

State news outlet SANA reported that the Syrian Army had “restored security and stability to al-Qaboun industrial area in Damascus after eliminating all members of the armed terrorist groups and destroying their hideouts.”

A regime source told SANA that the Syrian Army’s control extended to an area 1.5 km south of Al Qaboun to “the traffic node on the southern bypass” and that the aim was to cut of insurgent supplies to neighborhoods immediately to the south including Jobar.

Map showing the location of Al Qaboun and Jobar, and the road dividing the two neighborhoods:

Footage posted on Saturday showed heavy indiscriminate shelling in Al Qaboun:

Death of a Citizen Journalist

The New York Times profiles an “Activist Who Documented Syrian War’s Toll [and] Became Its Victim“:

Even as the Syrian war took bigger and bigger bites out of his life, Fidaa al-Baali never stopped trying to document the conflict — not when his brother, a rebel fighter, died in battle; not when security officials, trying to pressure him, arrested his father; not even when the rebel battalion he was embedded with unleashed a mortar attack that killed his fiancée.

On Friday, Mr. Baali, a citizen journalist and an antigovernment activist known to many Syrians by the nom de guerre Mohammed Moaz, died of shrapnel wounds sustained weeks earlier as government forces shelled his neighborhood, Qaboun, on the outskirts of the Syrian capital, Damascus. Mr. Baali had remained in the working-class jumble of concrete houses during months of heavy bombardment, rushing with his video camera to the scene of attacks.

When antigovernment demonstrations broke out in March 2011 and citizen journalists began documenting them on video, Mr. Baali, who was in his early 20s, was among the first who dared to show his face.

Video: Latest from Homs

Continuing Regime Bombardment of Insurgent-Held Areas:

Defiant Insurgents in the Khalidiya section:

US Responds to Naming of New Coalition President

The US State Department put out this statement on the election of Ahmad Asi al-Jarba as President of the opposition Syrian National Coalition:

We hope to make progress together with President Jarba to prevent the total collapse of Syria into chaos and rebuild its social fabric.

We look to President Jarba and the new leaders to reach out to all Syrian communities and bring greater unity of purpose and further organization to the Syrian Coalition as the legitimate representatives of the Syrian people.

Regime Extends “Arabs v. Political Islam” Line

Reinforcing an interesting move in political rhetoric, President Assad used a meeting with an Algerian delegation on Saturday to juxtapose Syria’s leadership of “Arab national identity” against a misguided “political Islam”.

Earlier this week, Assad told a pro-regime newspaper that the removal of President Morsi in Egypt had illustrated the failure of those “who use religion for political interests or for the interests of one group”.

Syrian State media framed Saturday’s discussion as both Assad and the Algerians “express[ing] confidence in Syria’s victory over the forces of extremism and terrorism and their supporters, stressing that these forces, which are using religion for political objectives, will not deflect the Arab peoples from their just causes”.


The Local Coordination Committees claim that 32 people were killed on Saturday, including 16 in Damascus and its suburbs.

The Violations Documentation Center reports that 65,595 people have been slain since the start of the conflict in March 2011, an increase of 43 since Saturday. Of these, 50,164 were civilians, a rise of 16 from yesterday.