LATEST: Fighting Resumes in Azaz: Free Syrian Army Member Killed
SUMMARY: Even as the Assad regime met the first demand towards destruction of its chemical weapons — submitting a list of stocks to an international body — Russia maintained the political pressure on the US and France over the “framework” for the process.
Wanting to ensure that there is no provision for enforcement if Damascus does not comply with inspections and disposal by mid-2014, Moscow accused the West on Sunday of “blackmail” over the arrangements.
Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov (pictured above, with President Assad) said, “They see in the US-Russian deal not a chance to save the planet from significant quantities of chemical weapons in Syria, but as a chance to do what Russia and China will not allow, namely to push through a resolution involving (the threat of) force against the regime and shielding the opposition.”
Lavrov also tried to limit the size of the force accompanying United Nations chemical weapons inspectors: “I do not think that there is a need for a major contingent. I think military observers will be sufficient.”
The Foreign Minister said Russia was ready to send troops and military police as part of the force, along with Arab States and Turkey.
Fighting Resumes in Azaz: Free Syrian Army Member Killed
Fighting has resumed in Azaz, near the Turkish border, after the break-down of a cease-fire earlier on Monday.
The Islamic State of Iraq refused the terms, under which the faction Liwa al-Tawhid would mediate peace in the town and hostages and confiscated property would be exchanged.
Journalist Jenan Moussa reports:
Vid ISIS fighters in Azaz taking over "police station." Activists say FSA man who drops gun in vid was later executed http://t.co/GrFOgWHrWK
— Jenan Moussa (@jenanmoussa) September 23, 2013
Video: Attack on Pro-Assad Militia Near Military Airport in Deir Ez Zor
WARNING: Graphic images of bodies
Syrian Conflict “Will Cost Lebanon $7.5 Billion by End of 2014”
A World Bank report says Syria’s conflict will cost Lebanon $7.5 billion in cumulative economic losses by the end of next year.
The report, prepared for an aid meeting at the United Nations. estimates that the war and wave of refugees into Lebanon will cut real GDP growth by 2.85% percent a year between 2012 to 2014, double unemployment to above 20%, and widen the deficit by $2.6 billion.
The World Bank estimated Lebanon’s economic losses, in terms of lower GDP, at more than $1.1 billion in 2012, nearly $2.5 billion this year and up to $3.9 billion next year, giving a cumulative loss of $7.5 billion.
The United Nations says 748,000 refugees have registered or are awaiting registration in Lebanon. The World Bank estimated a total of 914,000, excluding the many tens of thousands of Syrians in Lebanon before the crisis.
It predicted that number would rise to 1.3 million by January and to 1.6 million, or 37% of the country’s pre-crisis population, by the end of 2014.
Dispute Escalates Between Insurgents in “Liberated” Ariha in Idlib Province
Amid the tension with Islamic State of Iraq, another dispute has broken out between factions in Ariha, a recently “liberated” town in Idlib Province on the highway to Aleppo.
AFter the liberation, several groups such as Ahrar al-Sham, Suqoor al-Sham, and Jabhat al-Nusra detained people of suspicion of theft and other crimes.
Several of those held belong to another group, Ahrar al-Zawiyah — described by an EA source as a As for Ahrar Alzawiyah as “a smuggling and burglarizing type of brigade” — which retaliated by seizing fighters from Suqoor al-Sham and Ahrar al-Sham.
Those brigades and others are giving Ahrar al-Zawiyah 24 hours to release the men or face “necessary actions”.
War Between Islamic State of Iraq and Other Insurgents? Not Yet
An EA correspondent with extensive Syrian contacts assesses the latest reports of fighting across northern Syria between the Islamic State of Iraq and other insurgent factions:
Still not ready to see a concentrated and coordinated Jabhat al-Nusra/Free Syrian Army attack on ISIS. These are still local events, where ISIS fighters bullied someone.
What is new is that these sort of conflicts are no longer kept under the carpet. That’s more or less all that has changed in the Free Syrian Army’s behavior.
Whole thing overhyped. Whilst Turkey assists “extremists” against [Kurdish insurgency] PKK in Syria, they are preparing a strike against ISIS? Not today.
There are rumors that Saudi Arabia is doing a lot to build a counter-force to ISIS, but very much in the dark. It is even bypassing the Syrian National Coalition and Supreme Military Council.
Over the long haul we’ll see a crackdown on ISIS — which will probably not target most of Jabhat al-Nusra — but in my opinion, this is still in its early stages.
Islamic State of Iraq: “We Fought Free Syrian Army in Azaz Cuz It Conspired with John McCain Against Us”
A purported letter from the Islamic State of Iraq, explaining its fight against the Free Syrian Army’s Northern Storm Brigade in the town of Azaz, has been posted.
The letter claims the Brigade helped “secure the departure of the Assad army and its tanks” from the Menagh Airbase in Aleppo Province on August 5 — a curious twist, given that Northern Storm helped take over the base.
The letter says Northern Storm “called for rule other than what God has prescribed, through democracy, on their official websites”.
Referring to the specific incident for the battle in Azaz, in which several Northern Storm fighters were fighters were killed, ISIS claims the FSA brigade “fought fiercely against Muslims to defend the German spy on Wednesday whose camera had images of the ISIS headquarters, their houses, and their women”.
Reports last week indicated ISIS had tried to seize a German doctor or journalist linked to the aid group Medecins Sans Frontieres.
Perhaps the letter/s most unusual claim is that Northern Storm, working with US intelligence, “received Senator John McCain…and they agreed with him to fight the Islamists”.
Video: Baby Dying Of Malnutrition In Moadamiyyah, As Regime Siege Continues
WARNING: GRAPHIC IMAGES OF MALNOURISHED BABY
Footage from Monday shows a baby girl in Moadamiyyat Ash Sham in West Ghouta in danger of death from extreme malnutrition, a result of the continued regime siege against the town that has left civilians without basic necessities.
Moadamiyyat Ash Sham, the site of one of the August 21 chemical attacks, has been under daily bombardment from the regime. Those civilians who remain are unable to flee.
Reports: Fighting Across Northern Syria Between Islamic State of Iraq and Other Insurgent Factions
A series of claims are circulating about fighting between the Islamic State of Iraq and as-Sham and other insurgent factions.
Tension continues in Azaz, occupied by ISIS last week after a deadly clash with the Free Syrian Army’s Northern Storm Brigade. The Iraqi faction has reportedly pulled out of a deal, negptiated by the influential Liwa al-Tawhid faction, for a cease-fire.
Clashes have also been reported in northwestern Syria:
ISIS withdrew from Hazano, in Idlib countryside, after battles with Hilf al Fudoul. Six residents died there http://t.co/txHKMyyjsr
— Hassan Hassan حسن (@hhassan140) September 23, 2013
And a senior ISIS figure in a town occupied by the Iraqi group has reportedly been slain with a dozen of his troops. They were attacked near a the Bab al-Hawa border crossing with Turkey:
Abu Obaida Al Libi, ISIS leader in Dana near Ban Al Hawa, was killed along with more than 12 of his fighters http://t.co/txHKMyyjsr
— Hassan Hassan حسن (@hhassan140) September 23, 2013
Opposition Coalition Appeals for Help for Areas Hit by Chemical Weapons
The opposition SYrian National Coalition has appealed for help for the people of East Ghouta and West Ghouta — the Damascus suburbs hit in chemical weapons attacks on August 21 and under protracted bombardment as part of a regime offensive — claiming, “Assad’s forces are starving people to death in [these] areas”.
The Coalition says 2the people suffer from lack of water, electricity, and medical supplies” and “Governments around the world…have only expressed concern and condemnation and provided the bare minimum” in aid:
The Syrian Coalition holds the international community fully responsible for the continued silence on genocide and crimes against humanity taking place in Syria. The Coalition further calls on the international community, in particular permanent members of the UN Security Council, to intervene immediately to stop the carnage of the Syrian people and to break the siege on southern Damascus and Eastern and Western Ghouta.
Syria’s 1st Kurdish-Language Radio Station
Syria Untold profiles Arta FM, Syria’s first Kurdish-language radio station.
Arta FM broadcasts from Amuda, a largely-Kurdish town in northern Syria on the Turkish border. It presents itself as the “radio of the citizens, for the citizens,” and a “community radio station… with a socially committed line and without any political, religious, ideological or party-related agendas…[aiming to] create a secular and democratic civil society in Kurdish areas within a united and democratic Syria”.
Regime: “We Have Earmarked $250 Million for Reconstruction”
“The government has increased its 2014 budget for emergency aid and reconstruction to 50 billion Syrian pounds ($250 million),” Prime Minister Wael al-Halqi has said in remarks published by the pro-regime al-Watan newspaper.
In 2013, the government budget for aid and reconstruction was 30 billion pounds, the Rrime Minister said.
He declared, “Food, energy and drug security are a priority.”
Assad: “Some Countries Might Ask Terrorists to Attack Chemical Weapons Inspectors”
PresidentAssad has told Chinese State television, “There might be countries that might ask the terrorists to attack [chemical weapons] inspectors to prevent them from doing their job, and blame the Syrian government.”
Last month a sniper fired at UN inspectors as they set out to investigate a site of the August 21 chemical weapons attacks. Syrian officials subsequently curbed the inspections, limiting the times and sites investigated, on grounds of “security”.
The Local Coordination Committees claim 78 people were killed on Sunday, including 23 in Damascus and its suburbs, 18 in Aleppo Province, 14 in Deir Ez Zor Province, and 13 in Daraa Province.
The Violations Documentation Center puts the number of dead at 73,853 since the conflict began in March 2011, an increase of 88 from Sunday. Of the dead, 55,357 are civilians, a rise of 52 from yesterday.