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THE SYRIAN CRISIS
We issue our regular monthly report on Syrian war dead from the NCF's chief Syria analyst, Shree Wood. We record just under 2,800 as having been killed on the last month we have data form the month of October of whom just 564 were pro government combatants and over 700 were rebels. Shree's report follows below and includes comments on the Israeli air strike and the Kurds. Full background data in detail as compiled by the NCF analysing all available source data on a day to day basis can be found on this link.
The line graph below is a timeline which helps to depict the rise and decline in the death figures over the last 13 months from October 2012 to October 2013.
In comparison, 1 year ago, the figures for October 2012 were nearly triple of October 2013. In October 2012, a cease-fire was agreed between the FSA and the army. The truce was proposed by UN envoy Lakhdar Brahimi who had hoped that the truce would have started the peace process. The truce was agreed to coincide with Eid. However, the Eid al-Adha cease fire ended after 4 days.
The city of Homs was also on the brink of falling to the Syrian army. According to the Guardian, "the army already controlled 75% of the city and was advancing swiftly." The fighting and failure of the ceasefire naturally resulted in a high casualty rate with people fleeing their homes and slowly making their way to the border.
The figures for the last 3 months show signs of stabilisation although heavy fighting between rebels and the army continue. The recent air strikes by Israel have also contributed to the civilian casualty rates.
On the 30th of October, the Israeli air force launched an attack on a shipment suspected of holding Russian weapons in the port city of Latakia. The air strike was confirmed by the US government with the Israeli government refusing to publicly discuss the attack. There was no response from the Syrian government. According to security experts, the Israelis believed that Russian-made S-125 missiles were bein gshipped to Syria. Interestingly NCF military sources in Syria suggest that this was not a strike on a military shipment but that the area was targeted was near the airport and consistent with an attempt to kill President Assad by missile strike. They suggest that weapons from Russian do not come in by this route.
Israel has already targeted alleged missile shipments inside Syria in January and May earlier this year. In January, they conducted an air strike in Syria allegedly destroying a shipment of advanced anti-craft SA-17 missiles bound for Hezbollah and in May, they allegedly destroyed Fateh-110 missiles at Damascus airport. However, there are considerable questions as to the real nature of these strikes.
In other parts of the country, the Syrian government bombed several villages and towns in an effort to reclaim regions of Latakia province.
President Bashar is fighting to prevent rebels seizing Alawite strongholds they are currently targeting. Fighting continued at a high pace across many parts of the country. Troops are advancing, capturing several neighbourhoods and heavy casualties are being taken on both sides.
Government forces have been pushing back to re-capture lost towns as well as key military sites from rebels for the last few months. Several areas of Aleppo city which have fallen into rebel hands were also bombarded by army military.
In the last month, rebels captured Khan al-Aassal, a town South-west of Aleppo city. The fighting saw 12 civilians killed with the Syrian government accusing rebels of executing 123 people in Khan al-Aassal. According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, about 20 people were killed during an air strike on the village of Salma where there has been heavy fighting.
A suicide bomber detonated a car bomb in an attempt to capture the pro-government checkpoint between the rebel-held town of Mleha and pro-government suburb Jaramana, which is populated by Christians and Muslim Druze. At least 16 soldiers were killed. Heavy fighting was said to have ensued.
The Guardian also reported that stories were emerging of "Alawite massacre taking place in Assad's Alawite heartland." There were reports of Islamist rebels taking control of 5 Alawite villages in the al-Akrad mountains and "executing hundreds" with the aim of sending "the government a message that even the Alawite heartland was no longer safe." Many have come forward to declare that these reports were false and they remained unconfirmed.
The Kurds have been sidelined in this war and have their own agenda. Their role on the two and half year long Syrian civil war has been complex. However, away from the chaos of war, in the Kurdish dominated North-eastern provinces of Syria, services and schools are open and functioning.
The main Syrian Kurdish Party, the Democratic Union Party also known as PYD along with the PKK and other Kurdish political factions have provided volunteers to police these areas.
They also seized control of a border crossing with Iraq from Islamist rebels. According to Yasser Farhan, a member of the opposition of Syrian National Coalition, "The Kurds are now in control of the Yarubiya border post. They now have a clear route to market the region's oil, which should belong to all Syrians. Thousands of Arabs have fled."
The North-eastern province of Hasakah which borders Iraq and Turkey, has a population of over one million, 70% Kurdish and 30% Arab. The fighting there deepens along sectarian and ethnic fault lines in Syria and threatens to draw neighbouring powers into the country's civil war. An Iraqi security official denied involvement in the capture of Yarubiya. "The last thing we need is to get dragged into military combat in Syria. We will not engage in any way," he said.
For now, the Kurds seem to be breathing a collective sigh of relief, thankful to be free of the months-long reign of terror visited on them by Jabhat al-Nusra and the Islamic State of Iraq and al Shams (ISIS).
The NCF is committed to facilitating an end to the conflict in Syria. At the NCF we believe that the road to peace is to be found in a negotiated settlement between all parties involved in the conflict. Since our incepetion twenty three years ago we have worked to promote peace in many regions and have always maintained that the best way to do so is through frank and candid discussion.
The NCF believes that the surest way to a lasting peace is through negotiation and rapprochement, even in the most desperate of situations. The outlook in the Middle East was bleak when the NCF was conceived; there had been the long Iraq-Iran war, the decimation of Lebanon and the seemingly endless tragedy of Palestine. In Syria the situation is undoubtedly dire, as is shown by the casualty figues compiled by the NCF.
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