Scott Lucas in EA Live, EA Middle East and Turkey
0756 GMT: Cluster Bombs. Human Rights Watch, frp, field investigations and review of more than 450 videos, claims regime forces have used at least 156 cluster bombs in at least 115 locations in the past six months. – The organisatoin said it has investigated specific two cluster bomb attacks in the past two weeks — one in Deir Jamal near Aleppo, and one in Talbiseh near Homs – that killed 11 civilians and wounded 27 others.
0750 GMT: Aid. United Nations officials have warned of a lack of funding for an appeal for $1.5 billion to cover aid to Syrians in the first six months of this year.
The officials said they have received barely one-fifth of the money. “That math just doesn’t work,” said Radhouane Nouicer, the UN’s regional humanitarian coordinator. “It translates into less food, fewer blankets, fewer medicines, less clean water.”
0735 GMT: US Drone Strikes on “Extremist” Insurgents?
The Los Angeles Times, fed by American officials, posts a provocative claim:
The CIA has stepped up secret contingency planning to protect the United States and its allies as the turmoil expands in Syria, including collecting intelligence on Islamic extremists for the first time for possible lethal drone strikes, according to current and former U.S. officials….
The Counterterrorism Center, which runs the CIA’s covert drone killing program in Pakistan and Yemen, recently shifted several targeting officers to improve intelligence collection on militants in Syria who could pose a terrorist threat, the officials said.
The targeting officers have formed a unit with colleagues who were tracking Al Qaeda operatives and fighters in Iraq. U.S. officials believe that some of these operatives have moved to Syria and joined Islamic militias battling to overthrow President Bashar Assad.
The CIA effort, which involves assembling detailed dossiers on key militants, gives the White House both lethal and nonlethal options if it concludes that Syria’s 2-year-old civil war — which has caused 70,000 deaths, according to United Nations estimates — is creating a haven for terrorists. The intelligence files also could be used to help opposition figures with moderate views prevail over extremists.
0515 GMT: Casualties. The Local Coordination Committees claim 144 people killed on Friday, including 59 martyrs in Damascus and its suburbs, and 28 in Daraa Province.
The Violations Documentation Center records 52,610 deaths since the start of the conflict in March 2011, an increase of 149 from Friday. Of the dead, 42.357 were civilians, an increase of 106 from yesterday.
0505 GMT: Protests. No doubt much of the news today will be about diplomatic manoeuvres and military clashes, but Friday offered a reminder of the initial days of the uprising against the Assad regime, with large — and peaceful — demonstrations on the second anniversiary of the call for the initial protests.
Inevitably, there were mass rallies in the “liberated” areas of the country, but big crowds also turned up in areas not far from the military front line, as in the cities of Aleppo and Homs. The Local Coordination Committees reported 245 demonstrations, including 63 in Deir Ez Zor Province, 49 in Aleppo Province, 35 in Hama Province, and 33 in Damascus and its suburbs.