LATEST: Regime Invites UN Chemical Weapons Investigator to Damascus
PHOTO: Syrian National Coalition President Ahmad Asi al-Jarba
We open this morning, in a separate entry, with some notable remarks from the new head of the Syrian National Coalition, Ahmad Asi al-Jarba:
I will not rest until I procure the advanced weapons needed to hit back at [President] Assad and his allies….
We are working on getting advanced and medium-range weapons to the Free Syrian army and the liberated areas….
Al-Jarba’s remarks appear to support our analysis that, while a US-led multi-national effort from Jordan has failed to deliver significant arms to the insurgency, weapons have crossed the Turkish border to reach opposition fighters in northern Syria — primarily because of Saudi efforts. The new President concludes:
I think the situation is better than before. I think these [Saudi] weapons will arrive to Syria soon.
Al-Jarba, seen as the favoured candidate of Saudi Arabia, won the Presidency on Sunday in a narrow victory over Mustafa al-Sabbagh.
The Assad regime has invited chief United Nations chemical weapons investigator Ake Sellstrom to Damascus for discussions.
Syria’s Ambassador to the UN, Bashar Ja’afari, said UN disarmament chief Angela Kane has also been invited.
To date, the regime has only expressed willingness to let Sellstrom’s team visit Aleppo, where Damascus and the insurgency have accused each other of using chemical weapons.
Ja’afari made a fresh allegation against the insurgents: “The Syrian authorities have discovered yesterday, in the city of Baniyas, 281 barrels filled with dangerous, hazardous chemical materials…[which are] capable of destroying a whole city, if not the whole country.”
Ja’afari said an investigation of the chemicals — which included monoethylene glycol and polyethylene glycol — was in progress.
Ghassan Hitto, the Prime Minister of the opposition Syrian National Coalition, has resigned, saying he was unable to form an interim government.
Hitto’s resignation comes only a day after the Coalition selected Ahmad Asi al-Jarba as President, filling a four-month vacancy. The Coalition was then supposed to confirm Hitto’s position and help select a Cabinet.
Footage posted on Monday from Aleppo’s Bustan al-Qaser district shows a young boy singing a song by amateur poet Ibrahim Qashoush, the “nightingale of the Revolution”.
Qashoush, a native of Hama, Aleppo, composed anti-Assad songs that were sung by thousands, including the protest anthem “Yalla Erhal Ya Bashar” (“Come On Bashar, Leave”).
Qashoush was found dead on July 4, 2011. He had been gruesomely killed — his throat had been cut and his vocal chords ripped out, a clear message, opposition protesters said, from the regime.
Footage of people in Hama singing Qashoush’s anthem Yalla Erhal Ya Bashar:
Footage posted on Monday show the Badr Martyrs Brigade fighting regime forces in northern Aleppo’s Ashrafiyeh neighborhood.
In this video, insurgents throw handmade bombs at Assad’s forces:
Here, a brigade commander says that the insurgents are fighting “Shabiha, Hezb Al Shaytan [Hezbollah] and Iran”:
The ruling Baath Party announced on Monday that its top leadership has been replaced, including Vice President Farouk al-Sharaa.
The party’s website said its central committee “held a lengthy meeting… on Monday morning,” at which “a new national leadership was chosen”.
The names of 16 members of the new leadership did not include any current top men, with the exception of Assad, who remain Secretary General.
Among those newly elected to the leadership are Parliament’s leader Jihad al-Laham and Prime Minister Wael al-Halqi.
Monday’s meeting of the party’s central committee was its first since 2005.
Activist Abu Bilal al-Homsi has told AFP via Skype that “regime forces have been able to enter parts of [insurgent-held] Khalidiya after heavy shelling and scorched-earth tactics”.
The Syrian military has been bombarding Khalidiya and nearby areas for weeks in an establish to establish total control over Homs.
Al-Homsi said the army controlled about 30% of the district, which is north of central Homs. The pro-regime Al-Watan newspaper, citing military sources, said troops now controlled “most” of the area.
A regime official from Homs Province said Syrian troops had occupied Khalidiya but were still “cleaning” out pockets of insurgents. However, Khalidiya-based activist Abu Yasin insisted regime forces had not advanced beyond a series of buildings they seized earlier in the week. He said the units were trying to enter Bab Houd and Khalidiya by pummelling buildings with mortar fire to flush out opposition fighters.
Another Homs-based activist said the Syrian forces were shelling heavily around the 12th-century Khaled Ibn al-Walid Mosque, famed for its nine domes and two minarets: “It’s quiet in the morning, and then they go crazy.”
Claimed footage of a rally, including many women and children, in insurgent-held Raqqa against the Islamic State of Iraq faction:
Syria marked out its border with Lebanon on Sunday, using bulldozers to create earth embankments in the region of Joura, amid local discontent particularly in Arsal, northeastern Lebanon.
Prime Minister, Dr. Wael al-Halqi, said Sunday that the Syrian economy had become the “main target” in a “global war” against the country, after “[Syria’s] enemies failed in breaking the steadfastness of the Syrian army and insolating Syria internationally.”
Al-Halqi accused the US, West and Arab states of targeting Syria’s national currency and economy via “unfair” sanctions. However, Syria was resisting the sanctions though “refuting rumors and relaying the facts amid the current war”.
The Prime Minister also refuted a recent UN report that Syrians face increasing food insecurity, instead claiming that “Syria has achieved food security since the early 1970s through a strategic stockpile of wheat sufficient for 5 years to come and ”all the past years of dryness notwithstanding, we still have a stockpile sufficient for two years”
“The government has thwarted a scheme that aimed to stir up a bread and electricity crisis in Damascus province through targeting the electricity sector and mills,” State news agency SANA quoted al-Halqi as saying.
The Local Coordination Committees claim 64 people were killed on Sunday, including 36 in Damascus and its suburbs.
The Violations Documentation Center reports that 65,647 people have been slain since the start of the conflict in March 2011, an increase of 52 since Sunday. Of these, 50,182 were civilians, a rise of 18 from yesterday.