BREAKING: Bashar al-Assad is alive as deaths in Syria reach 25,000

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Syrian President Bashar al-Assad made his first public appearance in more than a month yesterday according to SANA, the official Syrian state news agency when he performed Eid al-Fitr prayers at Al-Hamad Mosque in Mohajirin.

DAMASCUS, (SANA)_ President Bashar al-Assad performed Eid al-Fitr Prayers Sunday morning at Al-Hamad Mosque in Mohajirin Quarter, Damascus.

Top party and State officials, a number of MP's, the Mufti, and a number of Islamic Religion Scholars and citizens performed the Prayers along with H.E. President al-Assad.

President al-Assad was received upon his arrival to the Mosque by Minister of Endowment( Religious Affairs), the Mufti, Assistant Regional Secretary of the Ba'ath Arab Socialist Party, Chairman of the People's Assembly (Parliament), and by the prime Minister.

So while I can no longer hope that Assad is already dead, I can now hope that he soon will be!

I was wrong. That makes this BREAKING NEWS!

Syria Tracker has said that 24,456 documented killings took place in Syria between 18 March 2011 and 9 August 2012, and with the Assad regime slaughtering Syrians at a rate of 100-200 a day, the told most certainly is over 25,000 people slaughtered by now.

EAWorldView has these recent reports on Syria:

Syria (and Beyond) Live Coverage: A Surge in Protest, A Constant Shelling
Sunday, August 19, 2012 at 4:38 | James Miller

0846 GMT. Syria. Charles Levinson of The Wall Street Journal profiles one of the many makeshift governments arising in insurgent-held areas:

One morning this week, Sheik Tawfeeq Shehab Eddin replaced his AK-47 with a Bic pen and took up his post behind a metal desk.

Mr. Shehab Eddin is one of the four rural commanders of the Tawheed Division, an Islamist-dominated umbrella force that is leading Syrian rebels' fight around the country's largest city, Aleppo, against forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad. Their division has driven pro-Assad forces from much of the Aleppan countryside and some of Aleppo. On Friday, division fighters fought regime tanks near the city's airport.

The regime's pullout from much of the countryside last month has left the Tawheed Division as the area's army, government and police. That is why on Wednesday, Mr. Shehab Eddin and his aides spent some 14 hours hashing out questions about their next deployment to the front line in Aleppo, scrambling to defuse a flare-up with a neighboring Kurdish village and mediating petty disputes between villagers.

0756 GMT. Syria. President Assad has been shown on State TV at prayers in Damascus on Sunday, his first appearance in public after a bombing last month that killed four of his top officials.

Assad was shown praying at the Rihab al-Hamad Mosque to mark the start of Eid al-Fitr, the three-day holiday at the end of the holy month of Ramadan.

Assad last appeared in public was on 4 July when he gave a speech in Parliament.

0350 GMT: Syria. The prominent chatter on the Internet on Saturday was over the unconfirmed reports of the defection of Vice President Farouk al-Shara, but the confirmed story was the airstrikes and shelling of cities and towns across the country.

Fighting continued in sections of Aleppo, but the biggest share of the 172 deaths reported by the Local Coordination Committees was in Damascus and its suburbs, with 70 victims.

Syria (and Beyond) Live Coverage: "This is What Aleppo Has Become"
Saturday, August 18, 2012 at 10:11 | Scott Lucas

Saleh ed Dine in Aleppo in Syria on Friday

1915 GMT: Syria. Claimed footage of a demonstration today in central Damascus:

1715 GMT: Bahrain. The funeral procession for Hussam Alhamad, killed overnight by police amid clashes in Muharraq:

1705 GMT: Syria. The Local Coordination Committees report that 160 people have been slain by security forces so far today, including 62 in Damascus and its suburbs, 29 in Deir Ez Zor Province, and 27 in Daraa Province.

Forty of the Damascus deaths were bodies found in the Tal area.

1605 GMT: Yemen. An insurgent suicide bombing in Aden has killed
at least 14 soldiers
and injured seven.

The attackers rammed an explosives-laden car into the intelligence headquarters and triggered a fire in the building, after they fought with guards and fired rockets into the gate.

1405 GMT: Syria. Activists have reported airstrikes and shelling by regime forces in and near Aleppo and in other areas.

The activists said fighting continued in Aleppo's neighbouroods of al-Fardos, al-Sukkari, Bustan al-Zahra, Kallasa, Salah Ed Dine, and the centre near Saad al-Allah al-Jabri's Square, while there was bombing of the town of Azaz, where at least 45 people died in an airstrike earlier this week.

In Damascus, there was fighting in the southern district of Tadamun. Shelling was reported in the eastern province of Deir Ez Zor, in Homs, and in the southern city of Herak.

Brahimi replaces Kofi Annan, who failed to get agreement for his six-point plan, presented in April, for a cease-fire and political transition.

1022 GMT: Syria. Claims have again circulated that Vice President Farouk al-Shara has defected and have again been denied by Syrian authorities.

Today's report started with an Al Arabiya article based on a source in the Syrian National Council.

Earlier this week, al-Shara was said to have left the regime, but the defector was his cousin, a high-ranking military officer.

The Free Syrian Army is now correcting the report to say that the defection attempt may have failed.

0645 GMT: Syria. The Local Coordination Committees reports that 168 people were killed by security forces on Friday, including 45 in Aleppo Province, 40 in Damascus and its suburbs, 36 in Daraa Province, and 30 in Homs Province.

0515 GMT: Syria. We start this morning with a reflection, picking up James Miller's comment and a video of Aleppo (posted at the top of the entry), almost a month after clashes began between insurgents and regime forces:

This is Saleh ed Dine, an upper-middle class commercial district in Aleppo. This is the kind of neighbourhood you'd find near a major university in London, or Boston, filled with over-priced apartments, upper-class residents, students, coffee shops --- the kind of place that ranges from peaceful to bustling depending on the time of day.

In this video it is neither peaceful or bustling. The neighbourhood is more like hauntingly deserted, with the distant echo of war faintly heard in the background. It is the silence that is stunning. Periodic gunfire can be heard, then a helicopter which is later seen overhead.

Suddenly, however, a massive explosion, as a bomb or a shell lands too close to the camera.

After the excitement, the haunting stillness returns. This is what Aleppo has become.

Syria (and Beyond) Live Coverage: Almost 25,000 Dead as the United Nations Departs
Friday, August 17, 2012 at 9:42 | James Miller

1902 GMT: Syria. The must-watch video of the day. Sometimes, videos coming from Syria have an almost meditative element to them, as if so much can be learned from a single video. This is one of those instances.

This is Saleh el Dine, an upper-middle class commercial district in Aleppo. This is the kind of neighborhood you'd find near a major university in London, or Boston, filled with over-priced apartments, upper-class residents, students, coffee shops... the kind of place that ranges from peaceful to bustling depending on the time of day.

In this video it is neither peaceful or bustling. The neighborhood is more like hauntingly deserted, with the distant echo of war faintly heard in the background. The silence is stunning. Periodic gunfire can be heard, then a helicopter which is later seen overhead.

Suddenly, however, a massive explosion, as a bomb or a shell lands too close to the camera.

But after the excitement, the haunting stillness returns. This is what Aleppo has become.

1838 GMT: Syria. We have hundreds of videos of protests, but we'll share a few more of the larger ones. In the first the cameraman says this is Darayya, and he says today's date. Darayya is southwest of Damascus (map), has been fought over for weeks, and is one of the areas that some analysts believe the Free Syrian Army will eventually try to take in order to strike from there at the capital:

This is Kobani (Ayn al Arab in Arabic), a town in northern Aleppo province (map) which has a majority minority populace, with most people in the town being Kurdish. The Kurds have ceased control of the town, and it has been independent for several weeks. Both Kurdish and Syrian opposition flags can easily be seen in this scene:

This video is rather remarkable, as it was reportedly taken in the Al Furqan district of Aleppo (map), north of the embattled Saleh el Dine area and west of the University. The location is audible on the video, the date is not, but it was posted by the Sham News Network, a proven and reliable source:

1808 GMT: Syria. The death toll, according to the LCC, has reached 157. What's striking about the number is that there is little pattern - though obviously there are pockets of extreme violence, the numbers of deaths are fairly evenly spread across many provinces:

40 martyrs were reported in Damascus and its Suburbs including 16 young men who were slaughtered in Douma; 36 martyrs were reported in Aleppo; including and entire family, 30 in Daraa; including 8 bodies who were burned in Nawa; 30 in Homs; including 10 in Deir Baalba and an entire family from Qosair, 12 in Idlib, 5 in Deir Ezzor and 4 in Hama; including a mother and her child.

This kind of violence is a good example of a day that falls through the media cracks - what's the headline if there's killing everywhere?

1746 GMT: Bahrain. An EA correspondent in Bahrain shares this video, showing the Quds day protests in Sitra village that took place today.

1634 GMT: Syria. The death toll continues to climb. According to the activist LCC, 133 people have been killed by regime forces thus far:

36 martyrs were reported in Aleppo; including and entire family,34 in Damascus and its Suburbs including 16 young men who were slaughtered in Douma, 29 in Daraa; including 8 bodies who were burned in Nawa; 20 in Homs; including 10 in Deir Baalba, 6 in Idlib, 5 in Deir Ezzor, 3 in Hama; including a mother and her child.

One of the hardest hit areas so far today in the Shaar district of Aleppo which has been heavily bombed by Assad air forces today. The Guardian has posted a more detailed report.

1530 GMT: Syria. Every Friday has protests, and a theme. Today's theme, translated by Hama Echo, is "Victory will be achieved with the unity of our free army." This signifies several significant points. First, it is a recognition that the Free Syrian Army need to unify internally to better coordinate attacks and to avoid some of the controversies that have rocked it in recent weeks. Secondly, it is a recognition that the Free Syrian Army and the civilian leaders of the uprising need to better coordinate and unify. Third, it is a recognition that the peaceful protesters, even if they are committed to peaceful resistance, need to support the insurgent fighters.

Protests in recent months have been far more subdued. For a while, the protests did not seem to shrink because of the violence, but that violence has escalated to extremes in many locations, putting a noticeable dent in the size of the crowds.

That's what makes the protests that we have seen so remarkable. Even near the violence, there have been some fairly significant protests in many areas. Below is just a small sample of the videos we've seen:

The LCC shares a video of a crowd at a mosque in Zahara, southern Damascus (map):

Another from the LCC, this from the embattled city of Ma'arrat al Nouman (map):

Douma, a key suburb of Damascus (map)

Saqba, another key suburbs of Damascus (map), where once protests were very large, but now they are confined to smaller allies and sidestreets, an attempt to shelter the crowd from gunfire and exploding shells. We saw similar transformations in Homs:

This is a small segment of the protests, but there have been demonstrations in Daraa and Idlib, Homs and Deir Ez Zor, Aleppo, Damascus, and Hama provinces.

1448 GMT: Syria. According to the LCC, 76 people have been killed by regime forces so far today:

18 martyrs were reported in Homs, 20 in Daraa, 14 in Damascus and its Suburbs, 14 in Aleppo, 6 in Idlib, 3 in Deir.

The tally put forth by the activist network, the Local Coordinating Committees of Syria, is a mix of insurgents and civilians, and does not include regime members or Assad military forces. Those numbers are also no longer included in reports from Syrian state media.

James Miller takes over today's live coverage. Thanks to Scott Lucas for getting us through to the afternoon.

1314 GMT: Syria. Resident Al-Deen al-Yousif has given Mona Mahmood of The Guardian an account of the third consecutive day of shelling of Jerjanaz (see footage at 0936 GMT) and attacks on other parts of Idlib Province.

Al-Yousif claimed 10 children were among the dead in Taftanaz and Sermien:

We have a huge number of FSA men here who are organised in many brigades like "Suqur Belad Al-Sham", "Martyrs of Zawiyia Mountain", and many other brigades, but they are equipped with light weapons only. These weapons can't stand in the face of tanks, artillery and warplanes....

The humanitarian situation here is very dire, thanks God it is a countryside where you can have some vegetables to feed yourself and your family, as the Syrian army is not allowing a piece of wheat to get into Idlib. You can forget about fuel, as one litre of gas has soared to $3 and it is not available anyway.

1301 GMT: Syria. The demonstration in Kafranbel in Idlib Province today:

And in Binnish:

1252 GMT: Syria. More than 2200 Syrians, including a general, crossed into Turkey on Thursday after a Syrian air strike on the town of Azaz, a Turkish diplomat said today.

The diplomat said there are more than 62,000 refugees in Turkey.

The strike on Azaz on Wednesday killed at least 45 people. Many of the wounded have been treated in Turkey.

1126 GMT: Syria. The AP, via The Guardian, reports that a battle has been fought over the Aleppo airport. This is the second time that State media has reported such a battle, though this appears to be much wider in scale than the first:

Syria's official Sana news agency said "armed terrorist groups" the regime's phrase for rebels had been pushed out from areas on both sides of the airport, which is located about 15km (9 miles) southeast of Aleppo's historical centre.

The report did not make it clear whether the fighting was closer to the international airport or the adjacent military airfield, a hub for air strike missions on rebel sites in the north.

This airport is the primary weapon inflicting damage on the civilian populace of Aleppo, and has been instrumental in the regime's fight against insurgents in the city. One of the identified goals of the Free Syrian Army was to take the air base, though that will be a hard goal to accomplish. Still, the fact that the FSA was able to strike at the airport is significant in and of itself. It will be important to see if the regime reacts by trying to attack the neighborhoods around the airport.

1045 GMT: Bahrain. Protests have been taking place across the country on Quds (Palestine) Day --- halfway through this footage from Nuwaidrat, security forces arrive in speeding vehicles to scatter demonstrators:

0936 GMT: Syria. Journalist Jenan Moussa has been sending Twitter messages this morning of regime shelling in Idlib Province, "Planes are hitting again. Pray for us." Claimed footage of an attack on the town of Jerjanaz:

0933 GMT: Syria. Photograph of the day --- a man sits amidst the damage in Azaz, the town hit on Wednesday by a regime warplane, killing at least 45 people and wounding many others:

0929 GMT: Egypt. Writing for Ahram Online, Bassem Sabry sets out a comprehensive guide to "The Challenges Egypt and the Morsi Administration Must Face", from the economy to food security to freedoms for women and religious minorities.

0922 GMT: Yemen. Trials will be held for 62 members of the Republican Guard for alleged roles in Tuesday's assault on the Ministry of Defense in the capital Sanaa, which killed five and wounded 16.

General Ali al-Obaidi of the High Security Committee said, "Political motives of certain factions in Yemen are behind the attack."

The forces were reportedly supporters of former President Ali Abdullah Saleh and his son, who was head of the Republican Guard. However,the Guard has denied its soldiers were involved, saying the attack was conducted by troops not under its command.

0833 GMT: Syria. Air France has said that the crew of its plane re-routed via Damascus on Wednesday asked passengers to find cash for payment after Syrian authorities refused a credit card to refuel the aircraft.

The plane was scheduled to arrive in Beirut late Wednesday but was diverted due to unrest in the Lebanese capital. Air France stopped its flights to Damascus in March.

The airline was eventually able to pay the bill without taking money from passengers. It took off two hours after landing for an overnight stop in Cyprus.

0742 GMT: Bahrain. The Information Affairs Authority has posted four videos claiming show the guilt of leading activist Nabeel Rajab, sentenced on Thursday to three years in prison for participation in illegal marches:

0735 GMT: Syria. Al Jazeera English reports on the injured, treated in hospitals in Turkey near the border, from this week's aerial attack on Azaz:

0705 GMT: Iraq. In the most violent day in three weeks, more than 70 people were killed in a wave of attacks by insurgents on Thursday.

Sources reported that as many as 27 people were slain outside a cafe in the Zafraniya district of Baghdad. At least 16 people reportedly died outside an ice-cream shop in the Sadr City neighbourhood of the capital.

0505 GMT: Syria. In its latest report on deaths from violence, Syria Tracker claims 24,456 people were slain between 18 March 2011, the start of the uprising against the Assad regime, and 9 August 2012.

Meanwhile, even as the United Nations discussed a replacement for departed envoy Kofi Annan --- with Algerian diplomat Lakhdar Brahimi reportedly accepting the mediator's role ---- the end of its mission neared, as the organisation announced that it was halting its monitoring and withdrawing staff in the next few days.

Edmond Mulet of the UN Peacekeeping Department told reporters that the mission would "come to an end" at midnight on Sunday.

This spring, the UN authorised sending up to 300 unarmed military observers to Syria to monitor a supposed ceasefire that Annan negotiated. However, the monitors have been largely confined to hotels for several weeks amid hostilities. There are now 101 observers and 72 civilian staff in the country.

Vitaly Churkin, the Russian Ambassador at the UN, chided, "We believe that those members of the council who insisted that the UNSMIS can't continue did not really show a commitment to ending hostilities."

Here are my related diaries on Syria:
The Left and the Arab Spring
Iran increasing its intervention in Syria
Syria: Images from the Battle of Aleppo
Fears grow of WMD attack in Syria
UPDATED: FSA says it killed Russian General in Syria
BREAKING: Syria releases new images of Bashar al- Assad | Are they fakes?
NOT BREAKING NEWS: Just another massacre in Syria
UPDATED: Syrian prime minister defects
Syria: FSA says Iranian pilgrims really Republican Guard
Syria: Aleppo under Siege!
BREAKING: UN votes to condemn Assad Regime as Reuters posts false story on Syria
BREAKING: Kofi Annan resigns as envoy to Syria
Syria: Bashar al-Assad not heard from on Armed Forces Day!
BREAKING: Senior Syrian diplomat to Armenia defects
BREAKING: Big Explosion hits #Damascus #Syria
UPDATED: Syria's Charge D'Affaires Quits London Post
BREAKING: Ground assault on Aleppo begins!
BREAKING: Protests across Syria in spite of Assad regime violence
ALEPPO: Step outside the Matrix and witness the Horror
UPDATED: US fears massacre in #Aleppo, #Syria
BREAKING: Reports of clashes between Jordan Army & Assad's Syrian army
BRAKING: Obama stops Putin from re-arming Assad in Syria
Syria: Foreign meddling increases as crisis builds
BREAKING: Aleppo, Syria bombed with fighter jets
BREAKING: Syria issues a correction, it has no WMD to use
BREAKING: Arab League asks Assad to step down!
Bashar al-Assad: New images released as slaughter continues in Syria
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BREAKING: I know where Syria's President Bashar al-Assad is!
BREAKING: Massive Fire near #Assad's Presidential Palace in #Damascus, #Syria
BREAKING: Is Syria's Bashar al-Assad dead or dying?
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The battle for Damascus is coming
BREAKING: General Strike in Damascus
BREAKING: Intense fighting reported in Damascus now!
BREAKING: Syrian defector spills beans as important new defection reported.
Does Syria's Assad have something on Kofi Annan?
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Syria: Is Assad regime on the verge of collapse?
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BREAKING: Defection of major Assad insider reported in Syria
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BREAKING: HRW releases torture report on Syria
BREAKING: Syrian General defects with 293 to Turkey
BREAKING: Items not in the MSM on Syria
My response to Phyllis Bennis: Where is the non-violent opposition in Syria?
BREAKING: Syrian Air Force attacks Douma, 10m from Damascus, thousands flee
BREAKING: As Syria Burns, UN Blows More Smoke
BREAKING: Kofi Annan to propose Syrian unity gov't sans Assad!
BREAKING: Douma, Syria under massive attack, another massacre feared
BREAKING: Another mass defection from Syrian army
BREAKING: #NATO says No War in #Syria shoot down of #Turkey jet
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BREAKING: Turkey calls for NATO consult on downing of jet by Syria
BREAKING: Senior Syrian Officers Defect
UPDATED: Russia reported to be preparing to evacuate from Syria
BREAKING: Syria fighter pilot defects
BREAKING: Britain stops Russian ship carrying attack helicopters for Syria
BREAKING: Russian troops headed to Syria
Qaddafi forces Strike Back in Libya
BREAKING: UN suspends mission in Syria
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BREAKING: Russia denies supplying Syria with NEW attack helicopters
Syrian people rise up against the massacre
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Fake Houla Massacre Photo: Was the BBC set up?
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