FULL REPORT / Syria Live Coverage: Opposition Boycotts International Talks Over Aleppo Deaths

February 23, 2013 | Scott Lucas in EA Live, EA Middle East and Turkey

See also Iran Analysis: A Revolutionary Guard Commander is Killed in Syria — What It Means for Tehran and the Middle East

Syria 1st-Hand: Burning Army Boots to Stay Warm in Aleppo – Friday’s Syria Live Coverage: At Least 53 Killed by Bombs in Damascus

1820 GMT: Regime Attacks. Shelling in the Jobar section of Damascus:

1630 GMT: Casualties. The Local Coordination Committees report 95 people killed, including 32 children and eight women.

Of the deaths, 59 were in Aleppo Province and 17 in Damascus and its suburbs.

The relatively high number of children and women slain and the proportion in Aleppo Province probably reflect escalating regime rocket and missile attacks which have hit civilian housing.

1608 GMT: Negotiations. Britain has urged the opposition National Coalition to reconsider its withdrawal from international meetings, insisting “now is not the time to give up” on talks. The National Coalition said on Friday that it would not attend a Friends of Syria meeting in Rome next Thursday or further scheduled talks in Russia and the US, condemning world powers for failing violence such as the killing of civilians in Aleppo by rocket and missile strikes.

A Foreign Office spokeswoman said it was “essential” to keep dialogue going between international powers and the coalition:  The UK is preparing a further offer of support to the National Coalition in Rome, and we are urging them to reconsider their decision.

    It is important to have coalition participation, and we strongly urge members to help win the arguments for achieving more support for the opposition.

    The coalition is making progress; it is not easy, but now is not the time to give up. We share a common frustration about the situation in Syria and the horrors being perpetrated by the Assad regime. “We strongly believe that the international community and the National Coalition need to work closely together to address the situation. That makes it essential that we continue to have a constructive dialogue.

    1558 GMT: Clashes and Destruction. Regime armoured vehicles moving in the Damascus suburb of Darayya: The destruction in the Al-Bab area of Aleppo, hit by regime rockets and missiles in recent days:

    Fighting on the perimeter of the police school in Khan Al-Asal in Aleppo Province:  1322 GMT: Hezbollah, Iran, and the Regime. Minister of Information Omran al-Zoubi has denied the presence of Iranian or Lebanese Hezbollah troops in the country: “There is not even a single troop from the Lebanese Hezbollah or Iran inside Syria.”

    Reports this week have pointed to an escalation of clashes between Hezbollah fighters and the insurgency inside Syria near the Lebanese border, while questions have continued over whether Iran’s Revolutionary Guards — who have said they have an advisory and logistical role in Syria — are involved in military operations.

    1156 GMT: Death of a Teenager from Libya, via Ireland. A 16-year-old from Navan in Ireland, who joined the insurgency last year without his parents’ knowledge, has been killed.  The circumstances surrounding the death of 16-year-old Shamseddin Gaidan last week remain unclear. His father Ibrahim was informed in a phone call from Syria.  “We don’t know where or how he was killed and we don’t know where his body might be,” Mr Gaidan said. “It is very difficult to get any information. This confusion makes our grief much worse.”

    Shamseddin Gaidan moved from Libya in 2001 to Navan, where his father runs a halal grocery. The teenager spent his summer holidays in Libya last year and was supposed to fly back to Ireland via Istanbul in mid-August. His family raised the alarm when he did not arrive in Dublin. They later learned he had crossed the Turkish border into Syria.

    The last Mr Gaidan heard from Shamseddin was a brief phone call some time later during which he pleaded with his son to return home. “He refused saying how could he leave when the Syrian regime was killing its own people, including children.” Shamseddin had joined up with a cousin from Libya who had travelled to Syria some time before.

    The cousin is also believed to have been killed last week.

    1129 GMT: Insurgents. Martin Chulov of The Guardian tells the story of ten brothers fighting for the insurgency:

        When I returned to see the brothers last week, they had retreated to their base in the southern suburbs [of Aleppo] and the wounded were on the mend. “We achieved something,” Anwar says proudly. “They [the regime] lost 50-70 men, but more importantly they lost control of the area. Every day is an advance now. Aleppo is falling.” Several streets away, over mostly abandoned grey concrete apartment blocks, the ancient citadel of Aleppo, one of the oldest and largest medieval forts in the world, stands resolutely amid the haze, just as it has for 5,000 years.

        The brothers’ wins in neighbourhood battles are acclaimed as short steps in a long war. But amid the clamour of the battle for Syria’s destiny – the exalting highs, desperate lows and interminable misery – something remains unspoken among Aleppo’s fighting brothers: their biggest achievement so far has been staying alive.

        “We want that to continue, of course we do,” Sheikh Nayimi says. “But this is a long, tough war and my family will pay a price if that’s what is needed.”

    1053 GMT: Weapons. Claimed footage of insurgents with an SA-24 MANPADS, one of the most advanced portable air-defence systems available:

    1049 GMT: Regime Attacks. Houses on fire in the Damascus suburb of Darayya, amid a regime siege and bombardment which has lasted more than three months:

    0649 GMT: Waiting for Bread. Claimed footage of a queue for bread in Jedaidat Artouz in Damascus Province:

    0640 GMT: Casualties. The Local Coordination Committees claim 213 people were killed on Friday, including 26 children and 21 women.

    Ninety of the deaths were in Aleppo Province, 54 in Damascus and its suburbs, 21 in Daraa Province, and 17 in Homs Province.

    0540 GMT: Opposition Boycotts Talks. The opposition National Coalition has pulled out of upcoming international talks, protesting the killing of civilians in Aleppo by rocket and missile strikes.    The Coalition said it will not go to a meeting of the Friends of Syria, the international group formed last year to consider political and economic measures to resolve the crisis, and scheduled talks in Russia and the US:

        Hundreds of civilians have been killed by Scud missile strikes. Aleppo, the city and the civilisation, is being destroyed systematically.  The Russian leadership especially bears moral and political responsibility for supplying the regime with weapons. In protest of this shameful international stand, the coalition has decided to suspend its participation in the Rome conference for the Friends of Syria and decline the invitations to visit Russia and the United States.

    Activists said at least 12 people were killed and dozens more wounded after rockets or missiles hit two eastern districts of Aleppo on Friday.  The death toll is expected to rise as people are rescued from the rubble of several collapsed houses. Meanwhile, the Coaliation said in a meeting in Cairo that it is pushing forward with efforts to name a transitional government which will control insurgent-held areas.  A spokesman said that the Prime Minister will be named on 2 March during a meeting in Istanbul.