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June 2012

The Syrian civilians who became rebel fighters

Rebels in Idlib (Photo by Darren Conway) Recruits of the Free Syrian Army have had to learn quickly

As the conflict in Syria escalates, rebel forces are growing in strength and launching increasingly deadly attacks on government targets. But how do men go from “ordinary” life to combat, from grilling kebabs to building bombs in the back yard? From Idlib, the BBC’s Ian Pannell reports.

Omar has not been lucky. A large man with a shaggy beard and tight curly black hair, he emigrated to Libya to set up a kebab restaurant. It did well so he set up another one.

Then last year the Libyan revolution erupted and one restaurant was destroyed by Nato bombing, the other by Colonel Gaddafi’s forces.

So he packed up his bags and brought his family back to his native Syria. The country was already in the throes of protests calling for change.

But as the government began to physically suppress its opponents so those calls became increasingly vociferous, by stages morphing into armed insurrection.

Like many men in his neighbourhood, he had not held a weapon since his two years national service.

But as the violence began to spiral, mechanics, shopkeepers and chefs like Omar took up arms, forming the rebel Free Syrian Army. He became a marked man and as government forces advanced he was forced to run away again, abandoning yet another business.

Olive groves

Over a lunch of salad, pitta bread, yoghurt and hummus, Omar draws a crowd in the kitchen as he effortlessly skins a tomato in one piece, expertly folding it into a decorative rose, his hands a blur as he chops cucumbers and fragrant mint leaves.

Omar, a rebel, planting an IED in Idlib, Syria (Picture by Darren Conway) Fighters like Omar see the home-made bombs as legitimate weapons

We talk about the differences between the two countries.

“In Libya you could talk about anything but not politics,” he says. “In Syria you could talk about anything but not the Assad family.”

It underlines the extent to which this has become a very personal struggle, not just against the Baath Party and Syrian government but also against President Bashar al-Assad and the family that has kept a tight grip on the country’s power and resources for more than four decades.

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We build bombs because they give us strength”

Omar Rebel fighter

It has also become a violent struggle. Today Omar lives in a farmhouse, hidden amongst the vast olive groves in the north of the country. He doesn’t make kebabs anymore, he plants IEDs, improvised explosive devices. In other words, home-made bombs.

“Offence is the best defence,” he says, explaining a tactic that many find repugnant. The very letters I-E-D are redolent of the Taliban in Afghanistan or al-Qaeda in Iraq. For some Syrians, and certainly the Assad government, these men are simply terrorists.

But with little support from the outside world and just a small quantity of arms and ammunition now crossing the Turkish border, the fighters see the home-made bombs as legitimate weapons.

Fighting between rebels and government forces appears to be intensifying in Idlib, as Ian Pannell explains in this recent report

“We are weak,” he says. “We build bombs because they give us strength.” And he insists they only attack the army, not civilians.

We spent nearly two weeks with Omar and the self-styled Idlib Martyrs Brigade; men who regard themselves as freedom fighters, a latter-day band of merry men with Bassel Abu Abdu, their commander, as some sort of Robin Hood figure.


Curiously, in this corner of Syria, this very English folk tale of a group of outlaws taking on a wicked overlord and defending ordinary people has gripped the popular imagination.

And they certainly have some magnetism as they move through the countryside, drawing crowds of admiring children, grateful residents offering tea and bread.

Rebel commander Bassel Abu Abdu in Idlib (Photo by Darren Conway) Bassel Abu Abdu, the group’s commander, used to sell spare car parts

Bassel leads hundreds of fighters. Like Omar, he has only limited military experience.

He used to sell spare car parts. But they have fought endless battles over the last year and have grown stronger and smarter all the time. Bassel also confesses that he draws inspiration from war movies.

I ask him which film in particular. He says he cannot remember the title and apologises because it is the story of a battle against the English.

He describes a strong leader hundreds of years ago, who took on a much stronger army, fighting for independence for his people. The film, of course, is Braveheart, the story of William Wallace, a 13th Century Scottish hero who fought for the independence of Scotland.

But the terrifying reality on the ground is not the stuff of romantic tales or historical drama.

It has become a seething mire of violence and bloodshed. Artillery shells destroying homes and lives, tank rounds blasting into villages, gunfire and bomb explosions.

Whatever the rights and wrongs or reasons, both sides are now locked into a fight to the death. Both sides believe they have right on their side, that the ends justify the means, and they are willing to do almost anything to win.

How to listen to From Our Own Correspondent:

BBC Radio 4: A 30-minute programme on Saturdays, 11:30 BST.


Dis-Cover the Territories \ Sagi


There are five more testimonies on the site 


Israel set to impose further limits on privacy

Monday, 21 May, 2012 | 12:20

The Israeli Ministry of Justice (MoJ) is proposing a new law that would allow a small number of official organizations to access public telephone calls, emails, and the contents of personal computers. This law would open the way for the Israel Antiquities Authority and the National Parks Authority to use what is known as “Confidential Eavesdropping,” a system used by Israeli police and military intelligence  to track emails and access the content of personal computers. For Palestinians, this law is another example of the violation of the democratic principles that Israel claims to uphold. This law is racially biased targeting Palestinians while helping settlers’ organizations take over Palestinian lands, using “democracy”  as a catchword to justify the law.  In the opinion of Palestinians, there is no need to create such a law because police and military intelligence are loyal to settlers’ organizations, and the same settlers control the Antiquities and National Parks Authorities. Settlers’ organizations are the sole source of information for these authorities. A local Palestinian said that Israel is the country that most often violates the public’s right to privacy especially for Palestinians. For example, cameras have previously been planted inside Palestinians’ houses so the settlers can monitor their movements.

Avitar Cohen working for INPA ,worked for  Elad previously

Officer of INPA is in the Islamic Cemetery

INPA Officer protected by Israeli forces in a Palestinian private land


Malek Jandali Liberty or Death مالك جندلي الموت ولا المذلة

Dedicated to the courageous Syrian noble in their historic peaceful revolution against the brutal regime of dictator Bashar Al-Assad and their noble cause for freedom and human rights.

Who is the Syrian ?

The great Syrian writer Zakaria Tamer posted the text below on his FaceBook site last week — I (umm nuwâs at Walls )translated it into English:

Who are you?

Who is the Syrian?
The Syrian is an unknown citizen, he did not become famous for having chosen death, prison, endurance to the point of martyrdom and self-abasement that lead to freedom. The Syrian is a citizen living outside Syria and a citizen living within its borders readying himself to leave as soon as he is able, and that which unites Syrians in and outside Syria is a loathing of dictators and their regimes from A to Z.

The little one is eaten and the big one is eaten

The great thief devoured many little thieves , and the people exchanged satisfied glances, and they whispered in hushed voices: Justice always comes late, and the big thief will be swallowed up by an even bigger thief, and the biggest thief will be swallowed up by the blood of the martyrs.

The blind men

Sheikh Mahmoud told his young pupils to go to the window and to look at the sky from there, so the pupils rushed to the window, and Sheikh Mahmoud asked them:
“What do you see in the sky?”
The pupils said “An airplane flying.”
Sheikh Mahmoud said “You see very well! What else do you see?”
The pupils said “We see some clouds, and a sun.”
Then Sheikh Mahmoud said, questioning them insistently: “What else do you see besides the sun, the clouds, and the airplane?”
So the pupils stared at the sky, and then they said, sure of themselves, “Nothing, besides the sun and the clouds, because the airplane has disappeared.”
Then Sheikh Mahmoud said to them, in an angry voice: “You are worthless! It is as if I were teaching blind men who notice nothing!”
And when the little pupils left the school, they walked along the street feeling as if they were blind beggars knocking on all the doors for alms, but no door opened for them, and they looked up at the sky, but they saw nothing but the clouds and the sun.

What is left

Each writer is what he writes, and that’s all, neither more nor less, and any other noise he makes has no more value than grains of sand piled onto other grains of sand. Today there are writers who fill the public forums of Syria sighing and moaning about their support for the revolutions, but all that they wrote before the revolution was no more than whispers and suggestions in locked bedrooms where women are preparing to undress, for they wrote nothing and demanded nothing.

Don’t be timid!

The writer: I’m going to write about the growing number of beggars, and I will give the reasons for that with an in-depth analysis.
The pen: Why don’t you write about those men whose timidity keeps them from joining forces with the beggars?

The Tadmor prison massacre anniversary

The Tadmor “Palmyra ” Prison Massacre (Syria) occurred on 27 June 1980, the day after a failed attempt to assassinate Syrian president Hafez al-Assad. Tadmor Prison was one of the main prisons in Syria that was holding political opponents of Assad’s regime. In retaliation to this assassination attempt, members of the units of the Defense Companies, under the personal direction of Rifaat al-Assad, brother of the president, entered into Tadmor Prison and massacred about a thousand prisoners in the cells and the dormitories

Syrian soldiers targeting fleeing civilians: rights group

Wednesday, 27 June 2012

Jordan is hosting more than 120,000 Syrians, of whom 20,000 are registered with the United Nations. (AP)

Jordan is hosting more than 120,000 Syrians, of whom 20,000 are registered with the United Nations. (AP)


Human Rights Watch on Wednesday urged Syrian authorities to end the “indiscriminate” shootings of civilians fleeing to Jordan and other neighboring countries.

“Syrian soldiers on the border with Jordan appear to be shooting indiscriminately at anyone — including civilian women and children – trying to flee from Syria,” the U.S.-based HRW said in a statement.

“Syrian authorities should immediately order its armed forces on the border to end all indiscriminate attacks and take all feasible measures to avoid injuries to civilians crossing into neighboring countries, and to respect their right to leave the country.”

Jordan is hosting more than 120,000 Syrians, of whom 20,000 are registered with the United Nations.

There are another 38,000 refugees in Turkey, 22,000 in Lebanon and 3,129 in Iraq, according to the UN refugee agency and officials in those countries.

“Syria says it is fighting armed terrorists, yet its border forces appear to shoot at everyone crossing the border without distinction, attacking civilian men, women, children and the wounded the same way they attack fighters,” said Gerry Simpson, senior refugee researcher and advocate for HRW.

“Syria is forcing its own desperate civilians to crawl out of their country under a hail of bullets,” he said.

“By indiscriminately attacking civilians fleeing across its borders, Syria violates fundamental human rights, including the right to life, the right to leave one’s country, and the right to seek asylum in another country.”

HRW said it spoke to dozens of Syrian refugees in Jordan and Iraq who came under fire while fleeing.

“All of the refugees described incidents in which the Syrian army opened fire without warning, and fired on everyone who was crossing the border, (rebel) FSA fighters and civilian men, women and children alike,” the statement said.

An army defector told HRW that border guards had orders “to shoot at anyone trying to leave or enter the country without passing through an official border post, and that some of the soldiers refused to carry out the order,” it added.

HRW said some families managed to bribe guards at the crossing with Jordan to let them leave Syria, paying around $470 per family.

The Egyptian presidential election @ DM

Sharif Abdel Kouddous: Historic Egypt Election Outweighed by Continued Dominance of Military Rule

A letter from Father Paolo to the Syrians

click on cc for the translation


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