Syria regime collapse accelerates
Conflicting reports emerged Saturday about whether Syria's vice president has defected. The Yemeni branch of al-Baath party said that Deputy Secretary General of Syria’s Baath party Abdullah al-Ahmar was detained by the Syrian regime. In his first public appearance since he fled to Jordan last week, Syrian ex-prime minister Riyad Hijab said that the regime is falling apart morally, materially and economically and that its military is decaying and only controls about 30 percent of the country’s territory. If al-Sharaa did defect, it would mark the highest-level departure from President Bashar al-Assad's regime yet and would prompt a stream of resignations by Syrian officials in the upcoming weeks.
Refugees flee in larger numbers: Syrians are fleeing to escape fighting and a diarrhoea outbreak in rural areas near Damascus, United Nations aid agencies said on Friday. United Nations humanitarian chief Valerie Amos said on Thursday as many as 2.5 million people were in need of aid in Syria and urged the international community to act immediately toward putting an end to the humanitarian crisis. The exodus is expected to accelerate further as the conflict between regime forces and rebels intensifies.
The Free Syrian Army gains strength: The rebel FSA showed greater resistance to the regime forces—by far more powerful militarily—by launching successful and organised attacks such as shooting down an MIG-23 fighter jet in the province of Deir Azzour, killing more than 360 army soldiers and destroying dozens of military tanks and armoured vehicles. They also assaulted the Iranian embassy and killed more than 57 soldiers, including 15 high-ranking officers in a blast that targeted the neighbouring army headquarters in Damascus. Rebel fighters also assassinated Chief of State Security in Daraa General Ahmad Sagheer. The rebel fighters are expected to inflict heavy losses on the regime forces following reports that they obtained from regime forces American-made FIM-92 Stinger surface-to-air missiles and captured dozens of anti-aircraft guns, military tanks, armoured vehicle and large quantities of arms and ammunition.
Regime forces continue a ‘scorched-earth’ policy: Regime forces killed more than 1151 civilians this week. More than 70 died in an airstrike in the Aleppo suburb of Ezaz while 40 more were killed in a similar attack in the neighbourhood of Qadi Askar, including women and children. Regime forces also carried out summary executions that claimed the lives of hundreds of civilians in Damascus while several more massacres were committed throughout the country, mainly in the Daraa suburbs of Tafas and Herak. The heavy and random shelling turned the Aleppo Ezaz, the Damascus suburb of al-Tal and the Daraa suburb of Tafas into “disaster areas” as described by the Syrian National Council and more and more towns are expected to follow suite as the regime escalates its crackdown.
Economic sanctions on regime enhanced: Switzerland has broadened sanctions against Syria, banning three additional firms—including the national airline—from doing business in the country. It also imposed travel bans and asset freezes on 25 more Syrians, mainly military officials. As the war of attrition between the FSA and the Syrian regime continues, the economic sanctions will play a vital role in undermining the regime’s sustainability, as support from the west and the Arabian Gulf countries to the FSA increases.
International isolation of regime increases: The Organisation of Islamic Cooperation suspended Syria’s membership early on Thursday at a summit of Muslim leaders in Mecca, citing Bashar al-Assad’s violent suppression of the Syrian revolt. The escalating of international isolation may help to convince Syria’s remaining allies, such as Russian and China, that it is in their best interest to rescind their support for Assad.
The international community keeps looking for a political solution in Syria: The United Nations on Friday confirmed that veteran Algerian diplomat Lakhdar Brahimi will replace former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan as the international envoy Syria in a bid to continue his futile mission in brokering peace between the rebel fighters and the regime. Annan resigned from his mission after the regime refused to follow through on the commitments made in accordance with his peace plan. Most opposition believe that the on-going mediation efforts have provided Assad with more time to continue his crackdown on the revolution.
Syrian Press Focus
Assad’s envoy to China sends a message to the Chinese government: The Syrian media covered a visit made by Assad’s advisor Bouthaina Shaaban. The report said she met Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi to hail her government’s efforts in solving the crisis through national political dialogue.
Homs is declared a ‘safe city’: The Syrian media covered a statement made by the governor of Homs, Dr. Ahmad Mohammed saying that 300,000 people have already returned to their homes in the city, where many neighbourhoods are safe and calm despite the fact that more than 15 towns and neighbourhoods are being shelled by the regime forces on daily basis.