September 26, the Deadliest Day

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September 26, 2012, is now generally hailed as the deadliest single day of the 18-month Syrian conflict. Opposition reports stated a country-wide death toll of 343, as widely reported, but with only a small fraction of the dead clearly explained. At least 40 were said killed in the Damascus suburb Al –Dhiyabia and at least five people died in the same-day rebel car-bombing of military headquarters in central Damascus. It seems much of the less explained majority were pooled from a large number of small scattered massacres and 'field executions,' plus a slightly high number of reported casualties of shelling and bombing, snipers, and fire fights.

The following will attempt to sort out this cluster of events.

As Reported, the Deadliest Day

From the first reports, it appeared the day's death toll was an unusually high level, at least 300 and swiftly a decisive 343 reported that same day. By the following day, it was set at the reported 343, from a count by the opposition Local Coordination Committees (LCC), who seem to have exceptionally good front-line intelligence. [1] CNN spoke to a LCC activist:

"The regime is escalating the violence at every possible opportunity and it is proof that it is determined to crush the revolution by any means necessary," said Rafif Jouejati, a spokeswoman for the Local Coordination Committees of Syria. "The staggering numbers are horrific but the world also needs to know that there is increasing sexual torture and more children being tortured."
Jouejati accused the Syrian regime of being willing to commit genocide. "There is (a) systematic increase in the violence and the world powers -- so far -- have shown that they are not willing to do much beyond the same condemnations we have been hearing for the last 19 months." [2]

Reuters: "Some activists said women and children were also among the dead, but there was no footage of them available." A report in Business Insider called it "the bloodiest day for civilians since the start of the conflict," but noted "videos which show the dead, and all appear to be male—a possibility that they were rebels. [3]

The previous daily record, according the SOHR, was July 19 (the time of their last major offensive into the capitol), with 302 dead in a day. [4] The LCC told CNN the previous record was August 25, "when 330 people were killed, according to the opposition group." [2] This clearly refers primarily to the Daraya massacre, still seemingly the single-deadliest massacre of any one place, if not all done in a day. This one seems stiff competition, but then, so once did Tremseh. "Among the dead in Wednesday about two hundred civilian deaths," although they "sometimes can not distinguish between civilians and combatants who are subjected to mass killings at the hands of government forces." [4]

The Local Coordinating Committees also compiled, besides reports, Youtube videos uploaded by opposition activists who, in city after city, were repeatedly near enough to these massacres to, as usual, have it all before the world's eyes within hours or minutes. An enormous list of these were posted by Uruknet. Not all can be guaranteed not recycled - the image at top there is (from Daraya one month earlier). [5]

Non-Rebel Assessments

The Syrian Center for Documentation (not opposition-affiliated) in its daily report only acknowledged 126 victims for the day, only a few from the alleged massacre in Al-Dhiyabia. [6]

SANA reports, passed on by Xinhua, explain some of the violence by describing a decisive military victory agains the FSA in the Jobar suburb south of Damascus, until then a haven for rebel fighters:

Clashes renewed on Thursday evening at the Jobar suburb in southern part of Syria's capital Damascus, witnesses said, as the state-run SANA news agency said the Syrian troops "purged" the restive suburb from armed insurgency. The sounds of gunfire and shelling reverberated through the surrounding districts of Jobar, in what appeared to be a decisive battle there, witnesses said. Meanwhile, SANA said government troops targeted an armed group in the restive neighborhood, killing and injuring most of its members. It later said that Jobar has been cleansed totally of armed "terrorist" groups. [...] The oppositional Local Coordination Committees also reported the fighting and said "intense clashes between government troops and the rebel Free Syrian Army are taking place in Jobar." It said government troops used tanks' shells in its offensive. [7]

Timing

This bloodiest day yet, as reported, coincided exactly with the landmark rollover, according to the SOHR, to a tally of 30,000 dead in the Syrian uprising (see Global Post, Sept. 26). Further, as a record-breaking event, it entered the arena with the Houla massacre and the Daraya massacre, sharing timing traits with those. As Reuters noted following the events of Wednesday the 26th:

Foreign ministers and senior diplomats from the "Friends of Syria" - a group that includes the United States, France, Saudi Arabia and Turkey - are due to meet in New York on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly on Friday.

Rebel Bombing of Military HQ, Damascus

The day's violence was, as usual, a cooperative effort. The acknowledged rebel portion of that scored the greatest apparent victory for either side also produced only a tiny portion of the deaths. In their most spectacular offensive in the capitol since the July 18 operation Damascus Volcano, they detonated two car bombs at the central military headquarters. Between two car bombs and a sniper attack, as few as five people were killed by this operation. Rebel casualties remain unclear, but apparently low as well.

  • Reuters, via the Independent, Aug. 26:
The rebels said the assault on President Bashar al-Assad's power base in the center of the capital killed dozens of people. The army said four guards were killed and 14 wounded in what it said were suicide attacks. No senior officers were hurt in the blasts, which shook the whole city just before the start of the working day, it said.
Activist Samir al-Shami said the main explosions were caused by a suicide car bomb and second car loaded with explosives on the perimeter of the complex. "Then the fighters went inside and clashed with security inside, while some of the men started to torch the building," he said. [8]

The LA Times reported "witnesses said gun battles resounded in the area near Umayyad Square for five hours after two bomb explosions early Wednesday, as security forces tried to flush out rebel fighters. Residents were ordered by loudspeaker to stay inside and shut their doors." Official sources said only four guards were killed and 14 people injured - "State media said that no military commanders had been killed or injured, and that "the terrorists as usual failed to achieve their goals.""[9]

The SOHR heard that the number of injured was the number dead: "The Observatory quoted medical sources said at least 14 people were killed in two blasts that targeted a staff building Wednesday, which were followed by clashes." [4]

The fifth death was Syrian journalist Maya Nasser, working for Iranian Press TV, reporting on the bombings. In addition, Press TV station chief Hussein Mortada was wounded.

Damascus resident and journalist Anhar Kochneva was also at the scene, but stayed far enough away to not come under sniper fire. The killed Maya Nasser and his team can be seen running towards the scene at 2:01 min into her following raw footage report of the events.

Alleged Government Massacres of Sept. 26

The vast majority of the deaths on this day were attributed, by the LCC and SOHR anyway, to Syrian military activities of various kinds. In different cities, Syrian civilians and freedom fighters fell prey to lost fights, aerial bombardment, distance shelling, closer mortar shelling, random sniper activity, field executions and mini-massacres, including one reportedly on par with The Houla massacre. The LCC in particular cites shelling and clashes that are almost universally described as "fierce."

The following list draws on those incidents that are called deliberate up-close executions and/or massacres or especially heinous acts. In the huge number of entries ignored here, possibilities should still be remembered. Rebel forces are capable of causing "shelling" of home and the resultant injury and death (mortars, RPGs, possibly even proper artillery by now). And further, those reported killed in shelling or bombing, and especially those said to be killed by government snipers, could in fact have been killed some other way. And of course, martyred civilians are often hardcore militants who simply lost one fight too many.

Only the overwhelmingly largest alleged massacre, in Al-Dhiyabia, is widely mentioned up front in reports citing the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR). The others are, however, spelled out in the SOHR's dispatch of September 27. [4] The first source for each will be that report, deciphered as best as possible using Google Translate and some reasonable adjustments.

The opposition Local Coordination Committees (LCC) also had an assessment, which the SOHR seems to have copied, but that seems broader, grimmer, and better informed. The tallies clearly includeall dead, shelling, mass-execution, etc. Their city-by-city summaries, where appropriate will follow SOHR's.

The LCC was able to document 343 martyrs in Syria by the end of Wednesday. 162 martyrs were reported in Damascus and its Suburbs (including 107 martyrs in the massacre in Thiabieh, 19 in Barzeh, 8 in Hajar Aswad, 6 in Douma, and 4 in Assali), 48 in Deir Ezzor; most of them were field-executed in Jora, 37 in Hama; most of them in Masha Al-Arba'een, 34 in Homs (including 18 martyrs in the massacre in Bayada),29 in Aleppo; 27 in Daraa (including 15 in Ibta'a) and 6 in Idlib. [5]

Al–Dhiyabia

Generall given as Al-Dhiayabia, this Damascus suburb is also transliterated Alveabih (Google Translate, used for SOHR report, corrected), al-Ziabia (documents.sy) [6] and Thiabieh (LCC, CNN) [2]. It's a small town just southeast of Damascus, here on Google Maps, given as Az-Zyabeyeh.

The SOHR reported "forty bodies," collectively, "in several regions of the town Al-Dhiyabia in Damascus, including those of women and children." [4] This is the only such incident specified by name, up-front, in the bulk of reports citing the SOHR. Most cited the 40, adding some others from "Damascus suburbs" (see below) to get 55 (or perhaps it's 55 in addition to the 40 - this needs clarification). But the Local Coordination Committees (LCC) from the outset reported a total of 107 killed there. CNN reported"The highest death count on Wednesday occurred in Damascus and its suburbs, where LCC cited 162 deaths, including 107 in a reported massacre in Thiabieh." [2] "162 martyrs were reported in Damascus and its Suburbs (including 107 martyrs in the massacre in Thiabieh..." [5] In more detail:

Damascus suburbs: Thaiabieh:Reports of 50 martyrs found, most of which were women and children who were field executed, including 9 from Al-Rifaie whose throats were slit with knives, 4 bodies from in front of the Al-Ashra Mosque, 3 bodies from Al-Mashrou Al-Jadid, 5 bodies from in the Awal Souk Al-Sabet, 4 of whom from Al Ras Al-Falastiniyeh and Sihrahom. The number of martyrs is greater, but due to the shelling, activists are unable to recover the bodies. Regime forces continue their military compaign and arrest raid in the city, burning a large number of houses after robbing. Continuous shelling and bombing by warplanes over the city and the power continues to cut off in the city.
Damascus Suburbs: Thaiabieh: Two bodies were found one of them belongs to Ahmed Jakjok and the other was unidentified
Damascus Suburbs: Thaiabieh: The regime forces stormed the town for the second time with dozens of tanks and large numbers of soldiers amid residents fears of other massacres. [5]

The Syrian Center for Documentation only acknowledged a smaller number of dead here, apparently executed:

"Eighteen bodies were found in al-Ziabia village of Damascus countryside, where anti-government activists accuse Syrian security forces for killing them." [6]

Videos (placed by LCC):

a man allegedly killed while (for?) praying
The most famous one showing a reported 18 (male) martyrs, some of them apparently too old to be rebel fighters (two postings):

One of the victims (inset), clad all in white traditional clothes (Shalwar kameez?) has a bloodied face and chest, and was supposedly killed while (for?) praying by the "dictator butcher" whose repression "God is greater than."

Deir Ezzor

SOHR: "23 people were killed, including combatants and children and women "after a shooting break into the regular forces accompanied the Jura district" in the city of Deir ez-Zor (east)." [4] LCC: Deir Ezzor: After security forces raided the area, they summarily executed dozens of Syrians in-field in Jora district. The following have been identified thus far: Abed Hamid, Tabor Hamid, Ahmed Hassan Mohammed, Hinish Dagheem,60, Nasser Risidat,43, Hassen Hawry, 50, Adi Sabti, Iyad Wadour, Ahmed Yousef Abas, Mohammed Abed Allah Ismaeel, Amer Ali Farhan Hazaa, Joma’a Hafel, and a child, Hussam Issa Ahmadi, 15 years old. -- "Deir Ezzor: Bokamal: Sedra Abdul Salam Matloub. 6, and Sara Abdul Salam Matloub, 5, were martyrs by warplanes gunships in Boleil area, while they were traveling from Bokamal to Damascus." [5] Videos:

Homs

SOHR: "13 men were killed after shooting them from the regular forces in the neighborhood of Al-Bayada in Homs (center)." [4] LCC: Homs: Bayada: Security forces and shabiha committed a massacre that resulted 18 martyrs, who were field-executed after some residents tried to enter the neighborhood after they were displaced from it 4 months ago. Mahmoud Alawy, Faisal Shaalan, Sameer Al-Rashed, brothers Anwar Al-Farran and Abdullah Al-Farram, brothers Waeel Al-Homaid, Bassam Al-Homaid, and Abdul Kareem Al-Homaid, a father and his son, Nawaf Al-Ahmad, Khaled Nawaf Al-Ahmad, Fawaz Al-Tahhan and his sons Ahmad Al-Tahan and Jehad Al-Tahan were identified among the martyrs, while the names of the rest of the martyrs remain unkown [sic]. [5]

Hama

SOHR: "In the city of Hama (center), the Observatory said five citizens were executed on the ground shot by uniformed in the republication forty neighborhood." [4] LCC: "Hama: Regime forces executed 3 detainees the Air Force Intelligence Branch after they arrested them, and they are: Mohammad Hosain Al-Doush, Basam Mostafa Easa, and Abdul Rahmad Al-Sarhan Al-Moree. Hama: Sahl Al-Ghab: Two unidentified bodies were found at the bridge between Tweena and Shareea villages."

Listed video: Hama,Abdulrahim al Ghawi was tortured to death by Assad's [5]

Rastan

Not mentioned in text report. LCC video: A Massacre against women took place in Rastan

Daraa

SOHR: "In Deraa (south), said observatory found the bodies of nine men in town Abotta in rural spent firing bullets directly by regular troops in the town. She spoke to the Local Coordination Committees said in a statement about a new massacre at the hands of regime forces, noting that these forces "still surround the area, and the number of martyrs is likely to grow." [4] LCC: "Daraa: Ibtaa: Khalil Ibrahim Abokanoun, Abdeljalee Ibrahim Abokanoun, Zakari Ahmad Abokanoun, Mohammad Khaled Al-Damad, Mohammad Saleh Al-Moazana Al-Hariri, Abdelnasser Mahmoud Al-Jumuah Al-Hariri, Ahmad Fadel Al-Nseirat Louai Al-Ta'ani were martyred, of them 5 bodies were dumped in the town." -- "Daraa: Ibtaa: A new massacre was committed by regime forces towards 15 people, where they field-executed them and threw their bodies in the north of the town. Regime forces are still besieging the area and the number of martyrs is estimated to rise." -- "Daraa: Ibta'a: Six [further?] bodies were found in the northern neighborhoods of the town" Deir Ezzor: Two people were martyred by regime forces by a sniper next to Al-Kookh restaurant on Al-Nade Al-Dhabat street ; one of them was identified as Bashar and the other is still unidentified. Daraa: Kafr Shams: Regime forces carry out raids and arrest campaigns in the town during which they set fire to houses after destroying them. Daraa: Kafr Shams: Heavy gunfire from medium and heavy machineguns in the western neighborhood was reported.

LCC videos:

Banyas

LCC: "Banyas: Beida: Regime forces supported by numbers of Shabiha stormed several houses in the village amid raids, theft of homes and arbitrary arrests involving several people, including women." "Banyas: The regime forces launch raids and homes cracking in Wata Beida for the third day, knowing that they are the most violent raids launched by the regime on the houses of the martyrs , detainees, wanted and displaced." [5]

Idilb

LCC: Idlib: Ariha: Ahmad Albo was martyred by regime sniper's bullet at the Specialized Hospital while he was on his motorbyke. "Idlib: Ariha: Regime forces waged a random raid and arrest campaign in the streets of the town amid intense gunfire." Idlib: Search and arrest campaigns in the area between Al-Ghafqi school and Al-Saha Al-Tahtaniyeh. The road of Al-Saha are cut off and Al-Karaj Al-Boulaman at the Al-Muharib roundabout with heavy security presence in the region of Karajat Sarmeen and the area of Al-Salibiyeh. [5]

Damascus Suburbs besides Al-Dhiyabia

Some of these listings might be duplicated/confused. The collective death toll between all of them, per the LCC, is only about 55. One un-placed video from the Damascus suburbs listed by the LCC claims to show Residents Forced to Bury Casualties in Mass Graves \ Sep 26, 2012 (!!!)

Bazreh

feminine hands of a covered Bazreh victim
SOHR: "17 people were killed in the Turkmen lane in the Barzeh district in the north of the capital, including eight women and three children after shooting them from gunmen." [4]

LCC: "...19 in Barzeh..." [5] Damascus: Barzeh: 15 martyrs' names were documented in a massacre committed by shabbiha in the neigbhorhood and most of the victims were chidlren and women. The martyrs' names are: Hind Al-Sawadi, Yaseen Al-Sawadi, Badi' Al-Sawadi, Rafi' Al-Sawadi and his sons: Mota', Ihssan, and Yaman Al-Sawadi, Sumaya Sha'ban, Khawther Kihilan, and Rola from Deir Ezzor, and her son (a Palestinian) and the family of Abo Iyman Ma'roof and they are Ma'roof and his wife Nahla Bardi and his daughter Lana Ma'roof.

Videos:

Possibly women and children, blood on the floor of a nicely furnished home (there are lace doilies), but they are already wrapped in blankets or curtains. The hands with black sleeves visible at the start seem feminine. There seem to be three different wrappings, but the filming is bad and never pans out enough to see the scene.

Douma

Not listed in text report. LCC videos:

Hajer Aswad

LCC: "Damascus: Hajar Aswad: 8 bodies of martyrs, who were field-executed by regime forces were found."[5]

Listed video: Damascus, Finding of four burned corpses in Al-Hajar Al-Aswad neighborhood

Assali

LCC: "Damascus: Assali: Four bodies belongs to martyrs were executed by the regime were found near Mostakabal swimming pool." [5]

Zamalka

Not listed in text report. LCC video: Douma | Martyr Amer Ammar | September 26, 2012

Moadamiyet Al-Sham

Not listed in text report. At least two LCC-listed videos suggest at least some people were tortured and killed in a horrific way in this area, with at least four victims, one a young boy. The videos of their corpses were, however posted late on the 25th. Whether these few should be included in the tally in neither an answered nor big question. But there is enough related details and issues to warrant its own page. Therefore, see the main article Moadamiyeh Al-Sham.

Hajar al-Aswad

SOHR: "Six civilians were killed in the neighborhood of the Black Stone (auto-translated) in the south of Damascus - [source?] did not specify the circumstances of their deaths." [4] "The black stone" - الحجر الاسود per Google translate pronunciation is Hajar al-Aswad.

Aleppo

Strangely nothing at all for massacres, even of men, was reported, by the SOHR, in the in the decisive battlefront of Aleppo. As it was, Rebel forces did little in Syria's second city that day, except suffer some reported shelling, document fallen martyrs, and help locals injured or killed by the shelling or by a sudden rash of government sniper shootings (as shown in Uruknet's listing of LCC videos, under heading Aleppo, and in the text entries beneath). [5] Collectively, the rebels acknowledge only forward action in Damascus. Maybe they were just pinned down, maybe they were preparing for something, maybe a combination. But it wasn't until the following day that Aleppo's rebel units felt well-prepared, they said, for a "decisive" battle they had just commenced there. Guardian, Sept. 27

The interesting question here is why, in the supposed Army/Shabiha offensive in so many scattered cities, otherwise timed to all come on the same day, did they decide to take the day off in Aleppo? And why was it the same day rebels would be preparing for their new offensive and, coincidentally, too busy and/or pinned down to organize any "field execution by regime forces?" All they pulled off, if anything, was some mortar attacks ("shelling") and shooting in the streets ("snipers").

Game Over?

Following the rebel bombings and alleged government massacres of the 26th, the Syrian government apparently sent text messages to nearly all Syrian cell phones. Sometime on the 27th, apparently morning, it seems at least two messages came through. As Business Insider reports: "First the rebels got texts saying, "Game Over," and then longer texts urging rebels to surrender" [3] The Associated Press filed a report explaining:

Syrians with subscriptions to the country’s two cellphone service providers said they began receiving the text messages signed by the Syrian Arab Army urging the rebels to surrender their weapons and warning that a countdown to evict any foreign fighters in the country has begun. Those with prepaid phones did not receive a message, according to residents in the capital of Damascus.
The texts appeared to be a kind of psychological warfare against the rebels by the regime of President Bashar Assad. [...] Government officials were not available for comment. [10]

The message was called "a bizarre bit of insult to injury in the digital world," Business Insider noted, coming as it did "in conjunction with what has been the bloodiest day for civilians since the start of the conflict ... the Assad regime followed the slaughter up with a text campaign." [3]

Partly because of the timing, the messages - especially the initial, bold, terse, "Game over," seems to have come across less than convincingly, to rebels and the outsiders they inform. As Business Insider noted; "In terms of psyops, the texts are a far tactical cry from the leaflets the government dropped a month ago. Leaflets have been the standard since as far back as World War 2, and are still dropped in Afghanistan today. The game is far from over though, as the rebels scored a huge hit by bombing government headquarters." [3] As the AP noted, "the messages are highly unlikely to have any effect on fighters intent on toppling Assad." In fact, considering how "Rebel fighters in Damascus staged a brazen attack Wednesday, setting off twin explosions that engulfed the Syrian army headquarters in flames," it may have had the opposite effect:

...rebel supporters shrugged off the regime’s warning as a sign of desperation. Ali, a 28-year-old member of the rebels’ Free Syrian Army, said he found the message comical. “I will never hand over my weapon because the game is not over yet,” he said, giving only his first name for fear of reprisals. “It won’t be over until Assad’s death.” [10]

References

  1. Activists: 343 dead highest for one dayUPI Aug. 27
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 Syrian civil war marks grim recordFrom Saad Abedine, CNN, Sept. 26, 2012
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 The Syrian Government Sent A 'Game Over' Text To Its Citizens Following The Slaughter of 300 PeopleBy Geoffrey Ingersoll, Business Insider, Sept. 27, 2012, 11:18 AM
  4. 4.00 4.01 4.02 4.03 4.04 4.05 4.06 4.07 4.08 4.09 4.10 أكثر من 300 سوريا سقطوا الاربعاء في اعلى حصيلة يوميةSyrian Observatory for Human Rights, Sept. 27, 2012
  5. 5.00 5.01 5.02 5.03 5.04 5.05 5.06 5.07 5.08 5.09 5.10 5.11 5.12 Syria News - September 26 , 2012 (Warning: Graphic Videos)Local Coordination Committees of Syria + Videos, Uruknet, Sept. 26 2012
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 Report for Sept. 26Documents.sy, Sept. 26
  7. http://news.xinhuanet.com/english/world/2012-09/28/c_123772197.htmDAMASCUS, Sept. 26 (Xinhua)
  8. Syrian rebels bomb army HQ in DamascusBy Samia Nakhoul and Oliver Holmes, Reuters, August 26, 2012
  9. Syria rebels attack military headquarters in DamascusBy Patrick J. McDonnell, Los Angeles Times, September 27, 2012
  10. 10.0 10.1 Syrian military's text to rebels: 'Game over'By Karin Laub, Associated Press, Sept. 27, 2012,2:34 pm