LATEST: Picture — Syrian Troops Moving Through Devastated Khalidiya in Homs
VIDEO: 26-minute clip of fighting in Khalidiya in Homs this morning
We begin Monday with an analysis of the weekend news — or, rather, partial news and much rumor — about the regime’s advance in Homs with the claimed capture of the Khalid Ibn Walid Mosque.
The 12th-century mosque in insurgent-held Khalidiya has become a symbol of the destruction of the war and the Syrian military’s efforts to regain control. Devastated by shelling in the regime’s eight-week offensive in Homs, it was finally occupied by regime forces on Saturday. However, that occupation was far from assured, as fighting continued in and near the mosque complex on Sunday.
This morning State news agency SANA is being very cautious — in contrast to its weekend proclamations of a breakthrough — in its reporting. It says only that “army units have achieved new progress in al-Khalidiyeh neighborhood and destroyed a number of terrorists’ dens, in addition to killing and injuring scores of them”.
Heavy fighting in Khalidiya this morning:
Moreover, in a sign of the task ahead for the regime in taking all of Homs, SANA reports a car bomb in the al-Waer section of Homs, in which two people were killed and several injured.
That short article may be a cover-up for a larger reality of the extent of regime shelling of al-Waer, not mentioned by SANA but highlighted by activists:
— samer (@samersniper) July 28, 2013
Activists have also accused regime forces of planting the car bomb SANA reported, saying that the device was dismantled by the FSA, who captured the car’s driver:
— samer (@samersniper) July 28, 2013
Unbelievable AFP photo from an embed w/army in Khalidiyah, in the Syrian city of Homs. Or what's left of it. pic.twitter.com/UNn5aysOFN
— Gregg Carlstrom (@glcarlstrom) July 29, 2013
Following our report on Saturday about a mass killing by insurgents from Ansar al-Khilafah [‘Supporters of the Caliphate’] in Khan al-Assal, another series of videos posted on Monday claim to show the Amjad al-Islam Brigade with captive regime soldiers in the village in Aleppo Province. Other videos show extremely graphic images, purportedly of regime soldiers killed by Amjad al-Islam insurgents in the battle for Khan al-Assal.
This video shows footage of a regime soldier held captive in what appears to be the ruins of a room. His hands are tied behind his back with rope or string:
In this clip, a group of armed insurgents from Amjad al-Islam are seen escorting a regime soldier named as Colonel Ramadan Khalil:
Another clip [warning — graphic images of abuse] shows insurgents from the brigade surrounding a captured regime soldier, who lies face-down on the ground with his hands tied behind his back. An insurgent hits the captive twice on the head, causing his head to hit the stone floor:
A video posted on Monday shows claimed footage of civilians leaving the northern border town of Ras Al Ain, fearing that Islamist group Jabhat al Nusra would shell the town. Ras Al Ain has seen heavy clashes between Islamist groups and Kurdish fighters over the past weeks. The battle for control of the town continues.
Reuters report on Monday that the head of Turkey’s main Kurdish party, the Peace and Democracy Party (BDP), has welcomed contacts between the Ankara government and Syria’s Kurds.
Selahattin Demirtas said that a visit by Saleh Muslim — the head of Syria’s Democratic Union Party (PYD) — to Istanbul last week was a “concrete sign that Turkey is moving towards changing a policy that sees Kurds as a menace”.
Demirtas said that connections between the PYD and BDP could increase pressure on Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. “It won’t just affect Turkish-Kurdish relations but also the course of events in Syria by creating pressure on the regime…Kurds can be effective in Syria, and we need to increase support for them. Western countries, including the United States, should establish proper ties with Syria’s Kurds,” Reuters quoted Saleh Muslim as saying.
Turkish intelligence officers met Saleh Muslim in the Turkish capital in the wake of his declaration that Kurdish groups would establish an independent council to run Kurdish areas of Syria. Ankara fears that Kurdish autonomy on its border with Syria could spark battles with Kurdish separatists in Turkey.
Although many of the insurgent and activist-created video footage of the war in Syria focus on the fighting, and though most of the reporting on the war use the videos to assess the military situation, there are also a large number of videos that offer glimpses into the day-to-day struggles of civilians, including children.
This video, taken in Kafr Sijnah, a village in Idlib Province (map below) tells part of the story of the food crisis that ordinary Syrians face. The children in the video — some appear as young as five years old — are searching the countryside for capers that they can gather and eat.
Earlier this month, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the World Food Program (WFP) warned that four million Syrians — a fifth of the population — are unable to produce or buy sufficient food. The situation is also set to get worse: farmers are short of the seed and fertilizers they need to plant the crops that would feed the population next year. As a result of the fighting, Syria’s domestic wheat production over the upcoming year is set to fall considerably short of average harvests, meaning that the country would need to import 1.5 million tons of wheat for the 2013/14.
Map showing location of Kafr Sijnah:
The Local Coordination Committees claim 104 people killed on Sunday, including 29 in Aleppo Province, 24 in Damascus and its suburbs, and 20 in Homs Province.
The Violations Documentation Center puts the number of dead at 67,760 since the start of the conflict, a rise of 147 since Sunday. Of these, 51,477 are civilians, an increase of 96 from yesterday.