July 19, 2012: In the last 24 hours the security forces have killed over 300 civilians and rebels. This was believed to be in retaliation for yesterday's bombing of a meeting of senior security officials. President Assad has not been seen or heard from since the fighting began in the capital. Rebels are firing machine-guns and mortars at military bases in the city and attacking security forces in new areas of the capital.
Five days of fighting in the capital intensified as gunfire was heard near the presidential palace. More combat units, including tanks and other armored vehicles, have been seen moving towards areas of the capital where most government buildings are. The rebels and their weapons are getting into the city, to join the growing number of residents who are joining the revolution. Thousands of civilians are fleeing the capital, many of them apparently government supporters.
Turkey reports that yesterday there were 246 Syrian refugees, including several officers (a general, five colonels, four majors, two captains, and one lieutenant) along with dozens of lower ranking soldiers. Many of the military defectors brought their families.
Desertion in the security forces is increasing, despite orders to shoot suspected deserters on sight. Commanders have also been ordered to immediately kill any soldiers who refuse to fire on civilians. Apparently many commanders are refusing to carry out that order.
July 18, 2012: In the capital a bomb went off at a meeting of senior defense officials. The defense minister was killed, along with the head of the government crises team. Also killed was a general who was also dictator Hafez Assad's brother-in-law. No word on how many people were wounded, although the Interior Minister (who controls all police) is out of action, apparently because of that bomb. It is believed that a bodyguard joined the rebels and planted a bomb the day before.
July 17, 2012: The SNC (Syrian National Council) threatened to call on the Gulf Arab states (who have been quietly supplying weapons and cash) for more direct aid, if the UN does not take some meaningful action. The UN has been blocked from doing much by China and Russia, who both have veto power in the UN and are opposed to helping the overthrow of dictators.
July 16, 2012: Iraq ordered its citizens in Syria to return home because the rebellion has become too violent and Iraqi citizens are now at greater risk. Many Iraqi Sunnis have joined the Syrian rebels or Islamic terror outfits operating in Syria. There are 87,000 Iraqi refugees in Syria who are registered with the UN there. In the last year nearly 60,000 Iraqi refugees have returned to Iraq from Syria. But the Iraqi government fears that the beleaguered Syrian security forces might attack refugee camps containing Iraqis and kill large numbers of them.
In the capital security forces failed to quickly put down the outbreak of rebel attacks.
July 15, 2012: Rebels began attacking in several areas of the capital.
July 14, 2012: The Red Cross declared that the 17 months of violence in Syria was now officially a civil war. This means that international humanitarian law now applies throughout Syria. That doesn't mean a whole lot, until the fighting is over and the losers can be charged with breaking more laws.
July 13, 2012: The U.S. revealed that it had evidence that Syria was moving some of its chemical weapons. Syria is believed to have the largest stockpile of chemical weapons in the world. All the other major powers agreed to no longer use chemical weapons and destroy their stockpiles. Syria sees its chemical weapons as a decisive element if it went to war with Israel again. Israel does not agree but Syria maintains thousands of nerve and mustard gas shells, bombs, and missile warheads anyway. The U.S. believes Syria is moving the chemical weapons to prevent them from being captured by rebels, who are taking control of more and more of the country.
July 12, 2012: Rebels claim that the army massacred several hundred people in the village of Tremseh (in central Syria, near Homs). The government later claimed that only 39 people were killed, all but two of them armed rebels. UN observers agreed that there were many armed rebels among the dead but a lot more civilians as well. But the rebels got their message out first and it had an impact. The next day, the leader of Turkey warned Syrian leaders that they would have to "pay for Tremseh."
July 11, 2012:
Nawaf Fares, the Syrian ambassador to Iraq, fled to Turkey and announced he was joining the Syrian rebels. This was somewhat surprising, as Fares had long served the Assads as a well-paid government official. But he was a Sunni from eastern Syria and now proclaims the Assads doomed. He also criticized the Iraqi leader (premier Nuri al Maliki) for supporting the Assads (at the behest of Iran) even though it was the Assads that provided sanctuary for al Qaeda for over a decade, and particularly during the major campaign against the new Shia government in Iraq from 2004-8. The Shia Assads have been backed by Shia Iran since the 1980s, and the Sunni Fares is seeking to escape responsibility for misdeeds committed during years of service to the Assads.