Sunday, August 26, 2012

The other face of Syria's "gentle" opposition

In this post I want to collect fragments about behavior of the opposition. I don't pretend that the government is behaving better. Neither do I deny that there are decent rebels - just as there are decent government soldiers. But as long as some people keep describing the opposition as saints there is a need for a reality check.

- 4 October 2013: Syrian rebels accused of village massacre: an detailed discussion of the murderous attack of the rebels on some Alawite villages in Latakia province on 4 August.
See also Syria: massacre reports emerge from Assad's Alawite heartland

- 12 July 2013: Syrian Rebel Infighting Undermines Anti-Assad Effort: Sheik Jassem spoke from Turkey, where he fled shortly after being held in a cellar for 25 days by the Islamic State. The group arrested him and eight others from an opposition media center in Raqqa and confiscated $50,000 worth of equipment, he said. One of the others, Jamil Sello, said he had several broken ribs from beatings and had been accused of “trying to establish a secular state, collaborating with the U.S. intelligence and Qatar.” A deputy president of a Syrian tribal union, Sheik Jassem said the Islamists had looted Raqqa of cash and even machinery from its Euphrates River dams.

- 10 July 2013: Syria's Army Claims It Controls Rebel Area Of Homs, Opposition Fighters Deny: Egyptian airport officials said the new measures followed reports that a large number of Syrians in Egypt were backing the Muslim Brotherhood and took part in violence after the ousting of Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi. The airport officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to journalists. In response, the Syrian National Coalition said it regretted any crimes committed by Syrian nationals in Egypt and said Syrians "must not be punished for individual criminal acts."

- 1 July 2013: Islamist Rebels In Syria Ban 'Immodest Dress' And Makeup For Women In Aleppo: The Islamic law council of Aleppo's Fardous neighbourhood issued a fatwa, or religious edict, banning all Muslim women from wearing "immodest" dress and announcing plans to apply such rules to all female inhabitants.

- 16-6-2013: Syrian activists say Al Qaead linked militants blow up shiite mosque in Hatla: This is about the attack on Hatla in the Deir el-Zour region. On Sunday in Syria, Sunni extremists blew up a Shiite mosque in a village in the eastern part of the country that was stormed by rebels last week [] The demolition was carried out by Al Qaeda's affiliate in Syria and shows the determination of extremists to drive Shiites out of the village of Hatla in the Deir el-Zour region near Iraq. Last Tuesday rebels battled pro-regime militiamen there, killing more than 60 Shiite fighters and civilians according to activists.
In amateur videos of the latest incident, fighters walked into the mosque in Hatla and trampled on books, some with covers showing pictures of Shiite clerics. It then showed an explosion that brought down the building, but its dome remained intact.
Rami Abdurrahman, founder of the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, said that the mosque was demolished Friday, three days after the battle. Other videos that emerged earlier have showed rebels cursing Shiites and suggested fighters had burned Shiite homes. "It's clear that they want to root out Hatla's Shiite inhabitants," he told The Associated Press.
The town was home to several thousand people, about 30 percent of them Shiites. It was considered a pro-regime community in the Euphrates River valley, where rebels -- including the Al Qaeda-linked group Jabhat el-Nusra -- have taken over much of the territory.

- They may be fighting for Syria, not Assad. They may also be winning: Robert Fisk reports from inside Syria: That rebel forces threaten the families of government soldiers is a long-established fact. But one private told me bleakly of how his elder brother was ordered to persuade him to desert the army. “When I refused, they broke my brother’s legs,” he said. When I asked if others had shared this experience, an 18-year old private was brought to me.[] He was an intelligent young man but his story was told simply and untutored. His was no set propaganda speech. “I come from Idlib Province and they came to my father and said they needed me there,” he said. “But my father refused and said, ‘If you want my son, go and bring him here – and if you do, you will not find me here to greet him.’ Then my father sent most of his family to Lebanon. My father and mother are still there and they are still being threatened.” I tell the officers later that I do not believe every Syrian defector left because of threats to his family, that some soldiers must have profoundly disagreed with the regime. They agree but insist that the army remains strong.

- Anti-Hezbollah protester killed in Lebanon rally against militants’ role in Syria civil war: The Observatory also documented a rare case of a public killing of a 15-year-old youth by Islamist rebel fighters in the city of Aleppo. The center said the gunmen detained Mohammed Kattaa late Saturday, accusing him of being an “infidel” for mentioning Islam’s Prophet Muhammad in vain. The witnesses told the center the gunmen overheard the teenager arguing with a colleague, telling him that he would not lend him money even if “Muhammad comes back to earth,” a common phrase used to describe an impossible task. The men then brought Kattan back to the coffee shop where he works, with his shirt over his face and his back covered in marks from whips, the witnesses told the Observatory. The militants threatened the same punishment for anyone who commits blasphemy, the witnesses said. Then they shot the boy in front of his parents and a crowd before fleeing the scene.
More about this incident in this article: Teenager, 14, Executed By Islamist Rebels in Syria. Other articles mention that the rebel spoke classic Arabic and may have been a foreigner who didn't know the Syrian expression.

- Islamic law comes to rebel-held Syria: This article discusses the Hayaa al-Sharia, which loosely translates as the Sharia Authority and is known simply as the Hayaa. It is a Al-Nusra related organization established in a former eye hospital that somewhat functions as a kind of city hall annex court-of-justice for the rebel-held part of Aleppo. It is not the only organization with such a claim: the competing United Judicial Council has the same goals: The evidence was incontrovertible, captured on video and posted on YouTube for all the world to see. During a demonstration against the Syrian regime, Wael Ibrahim, a veteran activist, had tossed aside a banner inscribed with the Muslim declaration of faith. And that, decreed the officers of the newly established Sharia Authority set up to administer rebel-held Aleppo, constitutes a crime under Islamic law, punishable in this instance by 10 strokes of a metal pipe.

- Syrian Rebels Massacre Christian Village: Armed rebels attacked a village in Syria's Western province of Homs and slaughtered all its Christian residents on Monday. The armed rebels affiliated to the Free Syrian Army (FSA) raided the Christian-populated al-Duvair village in Reef (outskirts of) Homs near the border with Lebanon today and massacred all its civilian residents, including women and children. The Syrian army, however, intervened and killed tens of terrorists during heavy clashes which are still going on in al-Duvair village.

- Five Reasons the US Should Stay Out Of Syria: Recently, Sunni sectarianists, terrorists and rebels in Syria desecrated the grave of Hujr Ibn Adi (RA), by destroying it and exhuming his remains. Hujr was a close companion of the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) and a staunch supporter of the first Shiite Imam Ali ibn Abi Talib (PBUH), who led the army of Muslims to victory in several crucial battles. For their loyalty toward Imam Ali (PBUH), Hujr and his sons ultimately were murdered on the orders of the Umayyad Caliph Muawiyah, a "companion" loved by Salafist Sunnis and hated by Shiites, in the year 660 CE. In March 2013, foreign-backed militants blew up the tomb of Ammar ibn Yasir, who was one of the companions of the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH). The rebels have attacked and destroyed several holy sites, including Shiite mosques, since the beginning of unrest in Syria.
In this context it is interesting to read this article (The Shiite crescent eclipsed) about Iranian shrine building in Syria and elsewhere. This article initially denies that the Raqqa shrine was damaged but later provides an update that the tomb has been destroyed while the surrounding shrine building is still intact. This article (Special Report: Deepening ethnic rifts reshape Syria's towns) too describes the tombs as destroyed.
See also Syrian war widens Sunni-Shia schism as foreign jihadis join fight for shrines: Syrian rebels say they respect all holy sites but damage to Sayyida Zeinab shrine has spurred 10,000 Shias to volunteer
More on Raqqa Shrines in Damascus Diary: Time To Fear The Islamists. Or Not?: My friend, the journalist who visited Ruqa, said locals there prevented al Nusra from destroying another holy shrine. “Even al Nusra supporters felt indignant. ‘How dare anyone want to destroy the shrine of our forefathers?’ they would say.” Unfortunately, in times of war, those with guns make the loudest noise, even when they are an alien minority. That so many people fail to see beyond such extremism is perhaps the Syrian Revolution’s greatest tragedy.

- Video shows Islamist rebels executing 11 Syrian soldiers: A video published on Thursday showed fighters of the al Qaeda-linked Nusra Front in Syria executing 11 men they accused of taking part in massacres by President Bashar al-Assad's forces. The film is believed to be from eastern Deir al-Zor province and dates from some time in 2012, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, an opposition monitoring group.

- Is This the Most Disgusting Atrocity Filmed in the Syrian Civil War?: Even by the standards of Syria's ever-worsening stream of atrocity and massacre videos, the latest footage from the country cannot fail to shock for its sheer savagery. The video, posted on May 12 but filmed on March 26 near the Syrian town of Qusayr, on the border with Lebanon, opens by calmly filming a rebel commander [Khalid al-Hamad alias Abu Sakkar] cutting open the chest of what we assume is a deceased pro-Bashar al-Assad fighter, removing his heart and liver with surgical precision and sang-froid.

Journalists who have met him report that he was one of the founders of the Farouk brigade, one of Syria's largest and most storied mainstream rebel militias, founded in the city of Homs in 2011. Abu Sakkar and his fellow fighters hail from the Baba Amr district of Homs,[..] Last October, Abu Sakkar broke off from the mainstream Farouk brigade, and formed his own, more militant "independent" Omar al-Farouk brigade. Since then, he has placed himself at the forefront of an increasingly sectarian battle for control of the town of Qusayr, subjected to a massive Syrian government offensive reportedly backed by Hezbollah.

On May 2, rebels in southern Damascus [..] dug up the grave of one of the most revered Shiite figures, a companion of the Prophet Mohammed and early follower of his cousin and son-in-law, Imam Ali, known as Hujr ibn Adi. Those who claimed to have carried out the desecration said they did it in the name of Islam and that they wanted to stop Shiites from worshiping Adi's bones, a practice considered heterodox among hardline Sunnis.

Time Magazine had an interview with Abu Sakkar in which he explained his motive (a video on the victim's phone) and that he also has filmed himself sawing a body in parts.

- Homs Opposition: Al Farouq Battalion is Killing Us:
- : This article from may 2012 discuses leaked emails from SNC Ghalioun’s inbox: Baba Amr, of course, was the Homs neighborhood that came under severe government shelling in February, lasting for several weeks and drawing global censure for the alleged massacre of civilians. While the dominant narrative in the international media assumed an unprovoked army attack on a civilian population, there remains little evidence to back this scenario, particularly after information emerged that the neighborhood was an armed opposition stronghold, most of the population had vacated the neighborhood in advance, and reports of activists exaggerating violence trickled out.

- Aleppo activist Edward Dark: ‘People here don't like the regime, but they hate the rebels even more’: What changed? I, and many other residents of Aleppo saw firsthand how the armed rebels were acting on the ground, and the various crimes and looting they were committing with impunity. Another reason is that there are foreign jihadi fighters with extremist ideologies here. This wasn't what we revolted for, to replace one group of criminals with another.[..] In my experience, the majority of rebels show recklessness toward civilian lives, as of course, so does the regime, but that shouldn't be an excuse at all. Some rebel groups are no more than organized crime syndicates, opportunistically engaging in kidnapping, extortion and large-scale looting of factories and warehouses. The fact that the ‘good guys’ in the rebels haven't been able to stop them casts a very dark shadow on all the rebels here.

- Rebel court fills void amid Syrian civil war: this article reports about rebel courts of law. The good news is that they sometimes even condemn rebels for war crimes like torturing Shabiha. The bad news is that those shabiha are tortured while in rebel prison and that there is competition between the court of the different rebel groups. Al-Nusra even raided an FSA court.

- Insight: Aleppo misery eats at Syrian rebel support (8 January 2013): "They don't have a revolutionary mindset," he said, putting support for Assad at 70 percent among an urban population that includes many ethnic Kurds, Christians and members of Assad's Alawite minority. But he also acknowledged that looting and other abuses had cost the incoming rebels much initial goodwill.

- Inside the war for Syria's mountains: This article is about the mountain region above Latakia. About Al Nusra: But they will kill any Alawite fighter they capture."
Resentment of the minority Alawite sect, to which Bashar al-Assad belongs and from which he draws his power, is close to universal among rebels in the area. However, while non-jihadists dislike the Alawites because of their links to the regime, al-Nusra's distaste centres on their beliefs. "They see them as Shia, as heretics," said a rebel fighter who called himself Abu Hamza, standing near a roadside butcher. "I am from here, and I have never got to know them. They have always kept to themselves. They are very insular."

- Jihadists and Secular Activists Clash in Syria: More news from Saraqib, the place that previously was in the news for a milk factory destroyed by rebels. Now it is about the attacks of Al Nusra people on two liberal organizations and the protests against those attacks. “Being female and uncovered is a problem that I didn’t experience before,” she wrote, adding that she was in Saraqib six months ago. “The city is undergoing a huge transformation these days,” she said, with Al Nusra gaining control over the city and the local rebel brigades. [..] “The president of the security committee in Saraqib is not even Syrian,” Iyas complained. “He’s Jordanian.”

- Syrian Rebels Find Hearts and Minds Elusive: The opposition’s efforts at reassurance and outreach have been mixed, analysts say. On Dec. 17, the Syrian vice president, Farouk al-Shara, seemed to hint at compromise, suggesting to Lebanon’s Al Akhbar newspaper that some in the government, the Baath Party and the army believe “there is no alternative to a political solution, and that there can be no return to the past.” The coalition’s only public response was a statement saying that Mr. Sharaa’s comments showed “the regime is facing its final days with difficulty and seeks not to die alone.”

- The Syrian Stalemate: Even noncommitted Christians have become a target of this blind sectarian warfare that engulfed Syria. Recently, Al-Ansar brigade in Hama warned two Christian towns, Mharda and Sqilbiya, that they will be attacked if they don't evict regime forces.

- Insight: Aleppo misery eats at Syrian rebel support: Many rebel commanders have a low opinion of their fellows. Abu Marwan, a uniformed young air force pilot leading a long siege of a government air base, described another rebel leader as running his brigade as a personal fiefdom, ignoring any semblance of military hierarchy by promoting his favorites. "It was like the regime all over again, wanting only their own family or sect to rule," he told Reuters as a walkie-talkie cackled nearby. "After the regime falls, we still have a long battle just to clean up the revolutionaries.

After a National Coalition was formed abroad in November with Arab and Western backing, an Islamist-dominated military command was set up last month to oversee operations against Assad's forces inside Syria. Accounts differ on how effective the new structure is but rebel leaders say there is a clearer chain of command than before, and rebel groups are more aware of who is in charge of which sectors within Aleppo and the surrounding countryside.

- Syrian rebels sidetracked by scramble for spoils of war: It wasn't the government that killed the Syrian rebel commander Abu Jameel. It was the fight for his loot. The motive for his murder lay in a great warehouse in Aleppo which his unit had captured a week before. The building had been full of rolled steel, which was seized by the fighters as spoils of war. But squabbling developed over who would take the greater share of the loot and a feud developed between commanders. Threats and counter-threats ensued over the following days. Abu Jameel survived one assassination attempt when his car was fired on. A few days later his enemies attacked again, and this time they were successful. His bullet-riddled body was found, handcuffed, in an alley in the town of al-Bab.[..]When the rebels entered the city and started looting the factories, a source of money dried up.. The article mentions many other examples. Many other reports have mentioned the criminal element in the uprising, noting since their advances more opportunists are joining.

- 'The people of Aleppo needed someone to drag them into the revolution': Abu Ali Sulaibi was one of the first people to take up arms in Aleppo. Now he controls two shattered blocks on the frontline where he lives with his wife, four children and Squirrel the cat. A report about one of the many "kings" in the rebel-held part of Aleppo.

- UN HRC december update: One interviewee, an FSA fighter in Latakia, detailed how, upon capturing Government forces, the Sunni captives were imprisoned while Alawites were immediately executed. On 30 October, a bomb exploded near an important Shia shrine outside of Damascus, killing and injuring several people. [..] Homs city had been home to approximately 80,000 Christians, most of whom have now fled reportedly to Damascus, with some then making their way to Beirut. It is estimated that only a few hundred remain.

- Syria’s jihadists ‘feed beheaded Christian to dogs’: HE HAD just got married and his wife was about to give birth but this did not save Andrei Arbashe, a young Christian, from a horrific fate at the hands of rebels fighting President Bashar al-Assad’s regime earlier this month. “They beheaded him, cut him into pieces and fed him to the dogs,” said Agn├Ęs-Mariam de la Croix, mother superior of the Monastery of St James the Mutilated between Damascus and Homs. [..] The people who chopped up Arbashe did not seem to need much of a motive: his brother had apparently been overheard complaining about the rebels behaving like bandits.

- Aleppo: How Syria Is Being Destroyed: Outside the city, the rebels launched an all-out assault on the industries that kept Aleppo alive, burning and looting pharmaceutical plants, textile mills, and other factories. This hurts the industrialists, many of whom are waiting out the war in Lebanon, but more so their employees. While the urban unemployed had good reason to support a revolution that might improve their chances in life, the thousands who had jobs at the beginning of the revolution and lost them when the Free Army burned their workplaces are understandably resentful. There are stories of workers taking up arms to protect their factories and risking their lives to save their employers from kidnappers.

- The “Day After” Scenario in Syria: In actuality, the dominant forces in Syria are the military frameworks that have waged the campaign against the regime since March 2011. The overwhelming majority, if not all, espouse an Islamist, jihadist, Salafist outlook.

- Accounts of a Siege in Syria Differ on Rebel YouTube Channels and British Television tells the story of what happened in Aqrab: Alawites killed by rebels. It notes that in the village there were still both Alawites and Sunni living. However, it also refers to an Al Jazeera report of hundreds of Alawites chased from a village near Idlib.

- Militants in Syria recruit children, footage shows: New footage has emerged showing foreign-backed militants in Syria recruiting children and reportedly sending them to the frontlines to fight the government forces, Press TV reports. According to the video, the terrorist Free Syrian Army is forcing children as young as 12 to join their ranks to carry out attacks. The footage also shows children being forced to dig their own graves before joining militants.

- Kiev demands freedom for kidnapped journalist: Ukraine has called on the Syrian authorities to take decisive steps to free Ankhar Kochneva, a Ukrainian journalist kidnapped in Syria on October 10.[..] Syrian militants are threatening to execute journalist Ankhar Kochneva. They are demanding 50 million U.S. dollars for her life. The ultimatum that was signed by the field commanders of the paramilitary wing of the opposition Free Syrian Army expires on December 13th. Militants say that Ankhar Kochneva is a “Ukrainian spy”. Kochneva, a Ukrainian citizen, lived in Russia for the past 10 years. In January this year she went to Syria to work there as a journalist and translator. Ankhar Kochneva is the author of many interesting and exciting reports for Russian media outlets. The Voice of Russia “contacted” her when it was necessary to comment on the situation in the hot spots in Syria, including Homs. Whenever a call from Moscow came, Ankhar Kochneva was always at a combat post.
Her reports were always different from the picture presented by the Al Jazeera TV Channel and other media that supported the fight of the irreconcilable opposition against the Syrian authorities. Most likely, it was exactly her objective opinion about the developments in Syria that pushed all those who are standing up for militants to kidnap Ankhar which occurred on October 7th .

- Syria crisis: a beseiged Damascus remains loyal to Assad: "At another checkpoint rebels came onto a bus full of people and demanded the Christians give them their crosses. Then they told us that Christianity is not a religion."

- Syrians losing confidence in rebel forces: This Al Jazeera report from Aleppo shows protesters against the FSA because of the corruption and crime among the FSA ranks. At the beginning protesters are asking for the Nusra Front to rule instead. Later someone says that he didn't like Assad but that what happens now is worse.

- Why Does "The West" Support Beheaders?: this article links to a video where rebel fighters in Syria let a child behead a prisoner. It also links to claims that Saudi Arabia has released murderers and other prisoners to fight in Syria.

- An Orthodox Archbishop: conflict and refugees on the Turkish-Syrian border, between fear and uncertainty: In Ras al-Ain, the victims were not only Christians, but Christians were the only ones who were immediately expelled from their homes, carrying babies in their arms, put to flight the streets strewn with corpses. Such intervention is that of an army of invaders and not an army of liberators, as the Army of the opposition call themselves. "
The notes continues: "Kurds, Arabs and Christians, more than 70.000 people fled, mostly to Hassake. Within hours, the city became a ghost town. The Alawites had the worst destiny: killed because Alawites. One of the victims was a school teacher, who loved the city so much and for many years taught children of all families. Some militants found, captured and killed him in front of his wife and children, who were kidnapped.

- The Confessions of a Sniper: A Rebel Gunman in Aleppo and His Conscience: He may look calm, but he’s deeply troubled. After some nine months of fighting with several Free Syrian Army units, first on the outskirts of Aleppo and then in the city itself after the rebel push into it in late July, he has grown disillusioned with the fight and angry with its conduct. “I did this when it was clean,” he says. “Now it’s dirty. Many aren’t fighting just to get rid of Bashar, they’re fighting to gain a reputation, to build up their name. I want it to go back to the way it was, when we were fighting for God and the people, not for some commander’s reputation.”

- Syrian rebels execute unarmed government soldiers; dozens killed in fighting: Syrian rebels executed at least a half-dozen unarmed government soldiers Thursday after attacks on checkpoints near the town of Saraqeb in northwest Syria. [..] The execution [..] was documented on a video.[..] The video [..] shows rebel fighters kicking and insulting the government soldiers, who are spread out on the ground. Some of them appear to be wounded. One of the soldiers pleads, “I did not hit anyone, by Allah. I did not kill anyone.” The man filming the video tells the soldier to shut up and directs his comrades, “Organize them for me.” The fighters pull the soldiers to the center of the room and open fire on the group, kicking up clouds of dust. The shooting continues for 20 seconds. A second video posted online Thursday, which appears to have been filmed shortly after the execution, shows at least three other bodies spread out around the checkpoint. The man filming approaches two of the bodies and says, “The shabiha of Assad, the dogs.”

- Tepid response to US move: The opposition Free Syrian Army kidnapped and killed on November 2, Mohammed Rafeh, a young and well- known popular actor, who had openly supported Mr. Assad. Opposition fighters have opened a Facebook page where they have listed names of actors, doctors, engineers and pilots as people who, they say are now on death row..

- The Qardaha Rebellion: Rebels in the al-Akrad and Turkmen mountains to the north of Lattakia, wedged between the city of Lattakia and the Turkish borders, have been gaining the upper hand against pro-Assad militias, for all the fires and the shelling taking part. Recently they have taken whole Alawite villages and shrines, long after their inhabitants were evacuated and are now within shouting distance from Assad’s hometown. Ethnic cleansing in progress...

- Rebels’ Missteps Weaken Support Among Syrians: One fighter shot into the air when customers at a bakery did not let him cut into a long line for bread, Ahmed recalled. Another, he said, was enraged when a man washing his car accidentally splashed him. “He shot at him,” Ahmed said. “But thank God he wasn’t a good shot, so the guy wasn’t hurt.”

[..] The activist from Saraqib said he saw rebels force government soldiers from a milk factory, then destroy it, even though residents needed the milk and had good relations with the owner.

[..]last week’s video. It shows men writhing on the ground, staring up and screaming in terror. Rebels stand over them, shouting a cacophony of orders and insults. They move like a gang, not a military unit, jostling and crowding, kicking prisoners, forcing them into a pile. Suddenly, automatic weapons fire drowns out the noise. Puffs of dust rise from the pile, now still.

- In Syria, small-town rebels are stuck in big-city Aleppo: These rebels who entered Aleppo from semirural, tradition-bound suburbs and agricultural areas found no spontaneous outpouring of support, no waves of sleeper cells yearning to join the revolution. Many shopkeepers in the historic Old City seem to avoid eye contact with the scruffy legions strutting along the cobblestoned streets of this former Silk Road terminus. A reporter escorted by rebels on a recent visit couldn't escape the sensation of accompanying an occupying force. The widely divergent backgrounds of fighters and Aleppo residents underscore a continuing tension that probably contributed to the stalling of the rebel advance.

- Syrian rebels execute unarmed government soldiers; dozens killed in fighting: Syrian rebels executed at least a half-dozen unarmed government soldiers Thursday after attacks on checkpoints near the town of Saraqeb in northwest Syria. At least 28 soldiers and five opposition fighters were killed in the rebel operation, which targeted checkpoints on roads connecting Saraqeb to Aleppo and Ariha, according to the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. The execution of the soldiers [..] was documented in a graphic video posted online Thursday,

- Fighting erupts between Syrian rebels and Kurds: An exchange of the hundreds of hostages seized by both sides in the Aleppo clashes soured after one of the Kurds was returned dead, bearing marks of torture inflicted by the rebels..

- Fighting erupts between Western-backed “rebels” and Syrian Kurds tells how Islamist fighters tried to infiltrate a quater of Aleppo under Kurdish control. When locals held a peaceful protest against this intrusion the Islamists shot at them and killed several of the protesters.

- In Syria, Cease-Fire for Holiday Falls Apart: In another development, a rebel brigade in the Aleppo district of Azaz said it detained Fidaa Itani, a Lebanese reporter from the LBC channel, because his work was incompatible with the revolution. The announcement said he would be held under house arrest pending an investigation.. He wasn't held long.

- CBS reports from a 60 Minutes interview of Clarissa Ward: In her "60 Minutes" report Sunday on the fighting in Syria, Ward confronted Ahmed al-Abaid, the Islamist commander of several hundred rebel forces in Azaz, north of Aleppo. His men had captured four Syrian government soldiers and executed them. Abaid had bragged about how well he treated his prisoners. But then Ward showed him a video depicting the Syrian soldiers' execution. "No. I was not aware," he said. Still, he defended the decision to execute the soldiers, calling it an eye for an eye. When Ward pointed out that it was his men who were responsible, all he could say was, "I really don't know. What can I say?"

- Syrian jihadists fighting Assad regime fracture over taking of sex slaves tells about some foreign fighters who think it acceptable to use wives and daughters of Assad supporters as sex slaves. Note that PJ Media is somewhat less reliable.

- Cajoling, Drugging and More as Rebels Try to Draw Defectors tells how the army defection have nearly stopped and how that has made the rebels more brutal towards the army and has led to unconventional ways to achieve defections.

- Robert Fisk: Another week in the violent, murderous and divided world of Syria: Then there's the two Christian guys outside town. One runs a DVD store, the other a pharmacy. Murdered. Next day, their funeral cortege is car-bombed. Twelve dead, at least 40 wounded. Turns out they had brothers in the Syrian army, apparently conscripts. Hardly a sin. But the opposition says the two men were "connected to the military".
Three Damascus Armenians have just been murdered, apparently shot. Thirty-nine-year-old Bedros Matosian died along with his younger brother Kevork and the son of one of them – the bishop isn't sure which – called Levon, who was only 22. Armed men. No identity. But the Matosians had Alawite and Sunni neighbours who were also massacred, because, so the local story goes, they refused to join the Free Syria Army.

- Battle for Aleppo Intensifies, as World Leaders Pledge New Support for Rebels: Rebels also said they had seized the mufti of Dara’a, the southern city where the uprising began, and forced him to leave Syria for Jordan because he had refused to join them.

- Robert Fisk: The bloody truth about Syria's uncivil war tells the story from the point of view of the Syrian army, including the uprising that was armed from day one. One fragment: In Duma, a mosque leader told worshippers: "Among us, there is an Awaini," – a traitor. The man was beaten to death. His name is recorded as Abu Ahmed Akera.

- This PBS video (at around 9:45) tells about a man who was arrested and tortured by the rebels. His crime: he had praised the govenment at a checkpoint - mistakingly thinking it was manned by the government. He was then arrested on suspicion of spying.

- Syria's Rebels Really Hate the Jews: Quoting from an article in Haaretz for which you need to register this article tells that: This evangelical effort [Saudi funded teaching] is now being replicated on an even more ambitious scale in Syria. The result is that a once-pluralistic society has descended into sectarian chaos. In the province of Homs alone, rebel fighters have driven some 80,000 Christians out of their homes. The opposition fighters have even carried out beheadings, a phenomenon unknown to Syrians. Young Shi'ite and Christian women, who mix freely with men in Damascus, told me they had to cover their faces and assume fake Sunni identities when traveling through rebel-held areas.

The man currently being groomed by Saudi Arabia as a possible replacement for Assad is Manaf Tlass, a high-ranking official in the Syrian army and a once-close friend of Assad's, who fled Syria in July with the help of French intelligence. Tlass has now adopted the vocabulary of the "moderate," but his family history should be of concern to Israelis. Tlass' father, Mustafa, a former Sunni defense minister who wielded tremendous clout under Hafez Assad, is something of a scholar. I came across one of his best-sellers, "The Matzah of Zion," in Damascus this summer. Complete with a lurid cover depicting ravenous Jews draining the blood of a Christian priest into a large bowl, the book attempts to revive the blood libel.

- Syria: the Gap salesman turned rebel executioner: In some, killings happen after brief trials at courts set up by rebel committees across territory they control, with imams and lawyers as judges. Charges attracting the death sentence include murder of civilians and rape.
But in others, “justice” is immediate, and sometimes the only accusation is of being a sniper – a class of soldier that is regarded with special venom, even if the victims have been combatants.

- Over 12 thousand Christian faithful "starving" in the village of Rableh: humanitarian law is invoked: Over 12 thousand faithful Greek-Catholics are trapped in the village of Rableh, west of Qusayr, in the area of Homs. Food is scarce, the faithful are living on "bread and water", medicine is lacking to treat the sick and wounded. [..] For more than ten days the village of Rableh is subject to a strict blockade by armed opposition groups, which surround it on all sides. One of the leaders of a local parish, B.K., who requested anonymity for security reasons, told Fides that a few days ago three young men of the village were killed by snipers

- Syrian rebels fight on for Aleppo despite local wariness: "Yes, it's true," said Sheikh Tawfik Abu Sleiman, a rebel commander sitting on the ground floor of his fourth new headquarters – the other three were bombed. "Around 70% of Aleppo city is with the regime. It has always been that way. The countryside is with us and the city is with them.

- War crime? Syrian rebels execute POWs shows a video of the rebels executing 21 officers working in a police post that they have overrun.

- The Making of a Syrian Rebel: The Saga of Abboud Barri: It was the same day that Abboud Barri’s unit took 21 prisoners on the last day of the confrontation in Kfranbel. “Five officers and 21 soldiers. We kept three alive,” he says, “to interrogate them.” Abu Mohammad, an older man with salt-and-pepper hair a shade lighter than his dark gray galabiya tries to blunt Barri’s remark about the killing of loyalist soldiers. “We have a lot of people who lost brothers, who lost families, so the soldiers were killed,” he says. “If you are a mother, you lost your son and you find the person who killed him, what would you do to him?

- Syrian Christians in 2-week blockade by rebel fighters, residents desperate: An estimated 12,000 people have spent two weeks blockaded in the Christian town of Rableh, Syria, near Homs in the south. Experiencing a shortage of food and medical supplies, residents could not leave as rebel snipers were shooting at them. [..] For about two weeks Syrian rebels maintained blockade of the mostly-Christian town, refusing entry to food and medical supplies, according to the Aid to the Church in Need Catholic charity, which tried to deliver supplies to the city

- Militant group claims killing of 13 in Syria: Al-Nusra Front, a militant group which has claimed several recent bombings, said the dead men were Syrian security officials. The group said it had captured and interrogated a group of men in the eastern city of Deir al-Zor on May 29 and "justly" punished them with death, after they confessed to crimes.

- “I am entrusting this story to you.” tells the story of some Shiites driven out by rebels: Ebutamir, a seventy-two-year-old from Homs, is a shoemaker and he is Shi’a. Here is his story: ” They abducted my two sons. They took them while raiding my house. After they were abducted, their severely brutalized bodies were found. The partisans of freedom did this. One of my sons had two children, the other had three children. They were not interested in politics. They were shoemakers like me. They call this peaceful demonstration. The only crime of my sons was not wanting to join them. This is not about being supporter of Assad. If you participate with them, you are a member of the partisan of freedom. If you do not, you are an enemy.

- Christians flee from radical rebels in Syria:
Reserved and halting, the women described what happened to their husbands, brothers and nephews back in their hometown of Qusayr in Syria. They were killed by Syrian rebel fighters, the women said -- murdered because they were Christians, people who in the eyes of radical Islamist freedom fighters have no place in the new Syria.
"There were always Christians in Qusayr -- there were around 10,000 before the war," says Leila, the matriarch of the Khouri clan. Currently, 11 members of the clan are sharing two rooms. They include the grandmother, grandfather, three daughters, one husband and five children. "Despite the fact that many of our husbands had jobs in the civil service, we still got along well with the rebels during the first months of the insurgency." The rebels left the Christians alone. The Christians, meanwhile, were keen to preserve their neutrality in the escalating power struggle. But the situation began deteriorating last summer, Leila says, murmuring a bit more before going silent.

"We're too frightened to talk," her daughter Rim explained, before mustering the courage to continue. "Last summer Salafists came to Qusayr, foreigners. They stirred the local rebels against us," she says. Soon, an outright campaign against the Christians in Qusayr took shape. "They sermonized on Fridays in the mosques that it was a sacred duty to drive us away," she says. "We were constantly accused of working for the regime. And Christians had to pay bribes to the jihadists repeatedly in order to avoid getting killed."

See also Vatican: Christians expelled from war-torn Syrian town

- Robert Fisk: 'No power can bring down the Syrian regime':
Internet and mobile lines were cut by rebels near Homs, so a land circuit to Damascus offers the only phone communication with the capital. In Iraq and Afghanistan, insurgents would pay to keep the mobile system operating as they needed the phones. But here, it seems they have enough "command and control" systems – courtesy of Washington and London if we are to believe our masters – to ignore Syria's domestic lines.

In Aleppo, the snipers are at apartment windows. Three times yesterday, they opened fire on soldiers and then vanished.

A General tells me of a friend, a Lieutenant in the full-time Syrian army in the Damascus suburb of Douma: "He was married three months ago and was walking to his home in Douma when some men in a van greeted him and offered him a lift." Lieutenant Assem Abbas, 23, accepted the gesture in good faith. "We found him later," the General says, "cut into two pieces and thrown into a sewage tank."

- Robert Fisk: Aleppo's poor get caught in the crossfire of Syria's civil war about an FSA sniper killing shooting civilians: As we were leaving, our nephew Hassan got out of the car to buy some bread. That's when the sniper shot him, one of the 'Free Army' – we saw him. He had a scarf around his face – he was shooting from a roof top."

- Syrian rebels accused of massacre after seven die in attack on TV station (28 June 2012): The Syrian regime accused opponents of staging a massacre yesterday after insurgents attacked a pro-government television station near Damascus and killed seven employees.