Al Qaeda-Al CIAda Runs Syrian “Rebellion”


US Treasury: Al Qaeda Runs Syrian “Rebellion”

US fails to sell militants in Syria as “freedom fighters,” tells truth for pretext to liquidate monsters of their own creation

Tony Cartalucci
July 28, 2012

The Wall Street Journal (WSJ) in its article, “Al Qaeda’s War for Syria,” cited officials from the US Treasury Department stating, “Al Qaeda in Syria (often operating as the “Al Nusra Front for the People of the Levant”) is using traffickers—some ideologically aligned, some motivated by money—to secure routes through Turkey and Iraq for foreign fighters, most of whom are from the Middle East and North Africa. A growing number of donors from the Persian Gulf and Levant appear to be sending financial support.”

Photo: The “Free Syrian Army,” whose composition consists of not only Syrian sectarian extremists, but Libyan terrorists from the US State Department listedLibyan Islamic Fighting Groupled by Abdul Hakim Belhaj, is the manifestation of years of US, Saudi, and Israeli aid since at least 2007.

This undercuts the West’s year and a half-long narrative that Syria’s violence was the result of a so-called “uprising” by the people of Syria. While the WJS attempts to downplay this admission by claiming, “al Qaeda makes up a small part of the resistance movement,” it concedes that, “its strength appears to be rising.” In reality, it was Al Qaeda militants from the very beginning, and the only aspect of the conflict “rising” is public awareness of this fact.

Since 2007, US Aided and Abetted Al Qaeda Affiliates Against Syria

As early as 2007, veteran journalist Seymour Hersh wrote in his New Yorker article “The Redirection,” that:

“To undermine Iran, which is predominantly Shiite, the Bush Administration has decided, in effect, to reconfigure its priorities in the Middle East. In Lebanon, the Administration has coöperated with Saudi Arabia’s government, which is Sunni, in clandestine operations that are intended to weaken Hezbollah, the Shiite organization that is backed by Iran. The U.S. has also taken part in clandestine operations aimed at Iran and its ally Syria. A by-product of these activities has been the bolstering of Sunni extremist groups that espouse a militant vision of Islam and are hostile to America and sympathetic to Al Qaeda.” –The Redirection, Seymour Hersh (2007)

Hersh’s report would also include:

“the Saudi government, with Washington’s approval, would provide funds and logistical aid to weaken the government of President Bashir Assad, of Syria. The Israelis believe that putting such pressure on the Assad government will make it more conciliatory and open to negotiations.” –The Redirection, Seymour Hersh (2007)

The 2007 article also warned about the inevitable consequences of arming radical sectarian extremists, with CIA operators in Lebanon warning of mass murder, sectarian violence, and specifically the targeting of Christian minorities across the Levant (the region along the Mediterranean Sea including Jordan, Israel, Lebanon, and Syria):

“Robert Baer, a former longtime C.I.A. agent in Lebanon, has been a severe critic of Hezbollah and has warned of its links to Iranian-sponsored terrorism. But now, he told me, “we’ve got Sunni Arabs preparing for cataclysmic conflict, and we will need somebody to protect the Christians in Lebanon. It used to be the French and the United States who would do it, and now it’s going to be Nasrallah and the Shiites” –The Redirection, Seymour Hersh (2007)

Now, demonstratively, we see exactly this feared onslaught manifesting itself in Syria, in particular against Christians as indicated in LA Times’ “Church fears ‘ethnic cleansing’ of Christians in Homs, Syria,” and more recently in USA Today’s distorted, but still telling, “Christians in Syria live in uneasy alliance with Assad, Alawites.” Even the massacre in Houla, seems to echo of this 2007 warning, bearing all the hallmarks of sectarian extremists like Al Qaeda.

Not only did the United States government, with Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and Israel’s aid, knowingly assemble a sectarian extremist front affiliated with Al Qaeda, not from within Syria, but from beyond its borders, it knew well in advance the destructive consequences such a foreign policy would yield.

The US government has since willfully lied to the both the American people and the world regarding the true nature of the violence unfolding in Syria, and with the help of the corporate-media, is attempting to spin the forewarned consequences of their long-planned conspiracy as merely an unfortunate by-product of a spontaneous conflict.

A Foreign Invasion, not a Rebellion

The WSJ’s article begins with the sentence, “the United States and its allies should consider opening a second front in the Syrian war. In addition to helping end Bashar Assad’s rule, there is a growing need to conduct a covert campaign against al Qaeda and other extremist groups gaining a presence in the country.”

In essence, we are being told that the militant extremists the US assembled against Syria have failed to overthrow the government, so the US should intervene on the pretext of liquidating the very terrorists they conspired to send, funded and armed, and have been supporting since the very beginning.

The very logistical “routes” through Turkey the WSJ claims Al Qaeda is using to flood into Syria with militants and weapons, are admittedly organized by the US through its CIA intelligence apparatus. The New York Times article, “C.I.A. Said to Aid in Steering Arms to Syrian Opposition,” states clearly that:

A small number of C.I.A. officers are operating secretly in southern Turkey, helping allies decide which Syrian opposition fighters across the border will receive arms to fight the Syrian government, according to American officials and Arab intelligence officers.

The NYT continues:

The weapons, including automatic rifles, rocket-propelled grenades, ammunition and some antitank weapons, are being funneled mostly across the Turkish border by way of a shadowy network of intermediaries including Syria’s Muslim Brotherhood and paid for by Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Qatar, the officials said.

Likewise, in the Washington Post’s article, “Syrian rebels get influx of arms with gulf neighbors’ money, U.S. coordination,” it is reported:

Syrian rebels battling the regime of President Bashar al-Assad have begun receiving significantly more and better weapons in recent weeks, an effort paid for by Persian Gulf nations and coordinated in part by the United States, according to opposition activists and U.S. and foreign officials.

We are now expected to forget these admissions, or believe that Al Qaeda is slipping past CIA officers “operating secretly in southern Turkey,” and that only by coincidence they are armed with the very weapons and resources the US, Saudis, and Qataris have pledged to supply the so-called “Free Syrian Army” with. Turkey, it should be remembered, is a NATO member – that Al Qaeda is swarming within and along its borders belies 10 years of “War on Terror” mythology.

The “Free Syrian Army” does include sectarian extremists from within Syria, mostly drawn from the banned, sectarian Muslim Brotherhood movement which has sought to destroy secular society across the Arab World for decades. But the vast majority of the fighters flowing into Aleppo in the north, and who had recently attempted to overrun Damascus in the south, are foreign fighters, armed by foreign sponsors, invading and conducting armed attacks on populated Syrian cities.

Image: “A lot of them were bald and many had beards. Many wore white sports shoes and army pants,” said an alleged “defected officer” of the perpetrators of the “Houla Massacre.” An apt description of the NATO-armed sectarian terrorists that ravaged Libya before traveling to Syria (here, here, and here) to continue their campaign of extremist-driven genocide. (click image to enlarge)

Reports months ago indicated that Libyan militants had been making their way to Syria by the hundreds, flush with cash and weapons recently received from NATO during their own operation to overrun and destroy Libya. As many as 600 Libyan terrorists were reported to have reached Syria by late 2011.

Now as Western media houses embed their representatives within terrorist bands crossing the Turkish-Syrian border, and as these terrorists find their way into Aleppo and amongst a population capable of revealing their identity to the world, slowly the admissions are trickling out that indeed entire “platoons” of North African fighters are involved in the misleadingly titled, “rebellion.”

CNN, whose Ivan Watson accompanied these terrorists over the Turkish-Syrian border and into Aleppo, revealed that indeed foreign fighters were amongst the militants. It was admitted that:

Meanwhile, residents of the village where the Syrian Falcons were headquartered said there were fighters of several North African nationalities also serving with the brigade’s ranks.

A volunteer Libyan fighter has also told CNN he intends to travel from Turkey to Syria within days to add a “platoon” of Libyan fighters to armed movement.

CNN also added:

On Wednesday, CNN’s crew met a Libyan fighter who had crossed into Syria from Turkey with four other Libyans. The fighter wore full camouflage and was carrying a Kalashnikov rifle. He said more Libyan fighters were on the way.

The foreign fighters, some of them are clearly drawn because they see this as … a jihad. So this is a magnet for jihadists who see this as a fight for Sunni Muslims.

CNN’s reports provide bookends to earlier admissions that large numbers of Libyan terrorists flush with NATO cash and weapons had headed to Syria, with notorious terrorist commanders making the arrangements.

West Used Al Qaeda in Afghanistan and Libya, Is Using Al Qaeda Now in Syria

By all accounts, including admissionsby former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates and former National Security Adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski, Osama Bin Laden’s organization that would become Al Qaeda was created by the West during the Soviet-Afghan war in in the late 70′s and throughout the 80′s. The US and Saudi funding of these militants did not begin after the Soviet invasion, but actually several years before the invasion. US intervention in Afghanistan by training and arming Afghanistan’s Mujaheddin, along with Osama Bin Laden’s Arab fighters, is one of the leading factors that led to the murderous and protracted decade-long war, according to the Nation in an article titled, “Blowback, the Prequel.”

Photo: Former US National Security Adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski meeting with Osama Bin Laden, then leading the CIA’s Arab legionaries in Afghanistan. Bin Laden’s Al Qaeda would later spin off into regional terrorist organizations, covertly armed, trained, and protected by the CIA to this day, including LIFG in Libya, MEK in Iraq and Iran, and Baluchi terrorists in Pakistan.


Since then, Al Qaeda has conveniently provided both a well-armed, capable proxy force, as well as a sufficiently terrifying boogeyman, giving Wall Street and London access to nations it could otherwise never justify intervening in.

The very militant leader of the “Tripoli Brigade” who secured Libya’s capital just in time for US dignitaries to visit, was Abdul Hakim Belhaj, commander of the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG), listed on the US State Department’s roster of “Foreign Terrorist Organizations” (#28). In fact, several reports out of West Point’s Combating Terrorism Center (CTC) illustrated how not only LIFG was actively leading NATO-backed regime change in Libya, but was involved in fighting Western troops and locals in both Afghanistan and Iraq – disrupting legitimate resistance, and providing a continuous pretext to maintain Western occupation.

That Belhaj almost immediately after overthrowing Libya’s government, began organizing operations to bring in fighters, weapons, and cash to Syria, indicates that, just as Al Qaeda was used from its very inception by the US and Saudis to fight Soviets in Afghanistan, it is still a valuable tool in executing Western foreign policy.

Essentially, the so-called “War on Terror” is a fraud, the belligerents on both sides fueled by the West as a means of establishing military, economic, and political hegemony in otherwise unapproachable targeted nations. When Al Qaeda cannot sufficiently overrun a targeted nation as a proxy “foreign legion” of Western interests (Libya), its presence, facilitated by the West in the first place, is then cited as a “casus belli” for military intervention (Afghanistan).

Now, it appears that the West’s Arab “foreign legion,” Al Qaeda, is about to suffer an unprecedented defeat – not at the hands of Western anti-terrorism forces, but at the hands of Syrian troops in the city of Aleppo. In a desperate effort to prevent this, the West is employing a series of desperate strategies ranging from portraying the trapped foreign-fighters committing atrocities inside Aleppo as “pending a certain massacre,” to using the very presence of these foreign-fighters as evidence “Al Qaeada” is operating in Syria and must be “stopped” by Western intervention.

It is essential to understand that, as empires have always done, the monolithic corporate-financier interests of the West seek regional hegemony as a step toward global domination, and will say and do anything in order to achieve it. As resistance increases, the West’s lies become more difficult to sell, the consistency of their propaganda overtly crumbling. The West, in nearly a single breath, has now claimed FSA fighters are both “Al Qaeda” that need to be eliminated, while also impeding a “massacre” by Syrian forces if something isn’t done to save them.

When US President Obama referred to the “depths of depravity” regarding Syrian security operations in Aleppo, he and his script writers do so with the belief that Americans, and the world, are ignorant and disinterested in the truth, and will gladly allow Western foreign policy to once again prey on their emotions and good intentions to sell yet another destructive, self-serving military intervention.

Originally appeared at Land Destroyer.


Russian general denies reports he was killed by rebels in Syria

Vladimir Petrovich Kuzheyev meets reporters in Moscow after video statement from rebel group shows copy of his Syrian-army issued ID.

By Avi Issacharoff and Reuters | Aug.08, 2012 | 9:57 AM | 1

Syrian rebels  in a street of the city center of Selehattin

Syrian rebels walk in a street of the city center of Selehattin, near Aleppo, during clashes between Syrian troops and Syrian rebels on July 23, 2012. Photo by AFP

By Natasha Mozgovaya and DPA

Aug.08,2012 | 9:57 AM | 3

A Russian general met reporters at the Defense Ministry in Moscow on Wednesday to deny reports that he had been killed by rebel forces in Syria and was shown on television looking well.

“I want to confirm that I am alive and well. I am in good health and I’m living in Moscow,” Vladimir Petrovich Kuzheyev, a reserve general, was quoted as saying by Itar-Tass news agency.

Russian television briefly showed footage of Kuzheyev, in a blue shirt and no tie, at the Defence Ministry.

Syrian rebel group said it had killed a Russian general working as an adviser to Syria’s defence ministry in an operation in the western Ghouta region on the outskirts of the capital Damascus.

The video, sent to Reuters, showed what the rebels said was a copy of the general’s ID, as issued by the Syrian military, and named him as Vladimir Petrovich Kochyev.

The difference between that spelling and the name of the general who appeared in Moscow may be due to the way the Cyrillic letters were transcribed.

Kuzheyev did not make clear whether he had been in Syria. But Interfax news agency quoted a security source as saying he had been there advising the Syrian Defence Ministry before being transferred to the reserves in 2010. It said he now lived in Moscow.

Russian news agencies quoted the Russian Defence Ministry as saying the report of his death was a “bald-faced lie.”

Russia is one of the few countries that has backed Assad diplomatically ever since the popular uprising against his rule began 17 months ago. It is believed to have several hundred military personnel in Syria.

The Free Syrian Army’s claim was published in a report on Al Arabiya on Wednesday, claims that Kuzheyev was serving as a security adviser to the Syrian defense minister, who was also killed in Damascus roughly a month ago. Kojai’s personal translator was also killed.

The Syrian rebels also stated that they obtained documents and maps belonging to the Syrian Army, which show opposition positions throughout the country. The rebels said Kuzheyev was killed outside of Damascus, when according to reports, his bodyguards attempted to open fire on a Free Syrian Army roadblock. The rebels told “Al-Arabiya” that the Russian adviser’s presence in Syria is further evidence of Russian involvement in the Syrian crisis.

In a video statement sent to Reuters, the group, calling itself the “Hawks Special Operations Battalion, a division of the Military Leadership of Damascus City and Province”, showed what the rebels said was a copy of the general’s ID, as issued by the Syrian military.

Many thousands of Russian professionals reside in Syria, some of which work on civil projects that Russia built for Assad, others serve as advisers to the Syrian military with operating sensitive intelligence equipment. Last month, the head of the Arabic-language television network “Russia Today,” broadcast in Moscow, claimed that “there are no longer any Russian military personnel in Syria.”

The net work is an official outlet of the Russian government (a parallel network is broadcast in English). Apparently, that claim is incorrect, though it demonstrates the need to begin recalling Russian proessionals from Syria, because of the danger, and also because of the need to reduce ties with Assad.

Pressure is mounting on Russia from Arab nations to stop supporting the regime in Damascus. Over the weekend, Russian news agencies reported that Russia sent three large naval vessels to Tartarus, a port in northern Syria, each carrying 120 soldiers. The objective of the mission was not stated, though Russia had previously stated its intention to send forces to Syria to retrieve equipment and evacuate Russian nationals. Over the last few months, numerous ships have set sail for Tartarus, among them aircraft carries and battleships.

On Tuesday, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said that plans can be drawn up for the day after the Assad regime collapses, following the defection of Syrian Prime Minister Riad Hijab to Jordan earlier this week.

Clinton said it was vital that government institutions remain intact in Syria, and that a civil war should be avoided. Anyone who wants to exploit the Syrian people’s difficult situation by sending in mercenaries or terrorists should be warned that this is not acceptable, she said.

Also on Tuesday, Assad appeared on television for the first time in two weeks, in footage showing him meeting with Saeed Jalili, the head of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council, in Damascus.

Faces of the Free Syrian Army

By Ivan Watson and Raja Razek, CNN

July 27, 2012 — Updated 1731 GMT (0131 HKT)

Source: CNN


  • Rashid is stained with son’s blood after he died fighting with Free Syria Army
  • Son — Housam Abdul Rashid — was a 22-year-old defector from the army
  • He was fourth man from his small hilltop village to be killed fighting for the rebels

Editor’s note: CNN’s Ivan Watson and crew are some of the few international reporters in Syria, whose government has been restricting access on foreign journalists and refusing many of them entry. Check out more from CNN inside Syria.

Rebel-controlled northern Syria (CNN) — Mohamed Rashid walked out of the gate of his house with a giant blood stain on his white T-shirt.

“This is the blood of a martyr! Of a hero! Of a lion!” he bellowed. “This is his blood. It is pure!”

Mad with grief, Rashid kissed his bloody T-shirt before being led away by worried relatives.

Just hours before, Rashid learned his son Abdul was killed in battle in the Syrian city of Aleppo.

Housam Abdul Rashid was a 22-year-old defector from the army. He was also the fourth man from his small hilltop village to be killed fighting for the rebels.

The younger Rashid is one of the casualties of the five-day-old rebel offensive on Aleppo, the country’s commercial capital. Another rebel, who asked only to be named “Khorshid” because his wife and children were still living in Aleppo, described how his comrade was killed by a helicopter gunship, while climbing onto a rooftop.

Syria: As al-Assad’s grip loosens, what could come next?

“Housam’s specialty was a sniper,” Khorshid said. “He went to the roof, and a helicopter gunship killed him. Another fighter from Aleppo with him was also killed. I was just 4 meters away when it happened.”

Khorshid said the rebels mounted their offensive on Aleppo last Friday, two days after a bomb killed four of Syria’s top security officials.

Rebel commanders and fighters claimed they made gains, particularly in the neighborhood of Salahuddin. But they were also clearly suffering casualties.

What began 17 months ago as a peaceful protest movement has evolved into a full-fledged armed insurgency.

Rebels bracing for showdown in Aleppo

Countless rebel battalions with names like “Shield of Idlib Battalion” and “Freedom Brigade” have emerged, as well as military rebel councils in large towns and cities.

The rebel militias are composed in large part of defector soldiers. But there are also many civilians, including students, shopkeepers, real-estate agents, and even members of President Bashar al-Assad‘s ruling Ba’ath party.

Ahmed Habib spent a decade working as a bureaucrat with the Aleppo branch of the Ba’ath party. But eight months after joining the rebels, he was now dressed in improvised military fatigues, carrying a Belgian-made Fabrique Nationale assault rifle slung over his shoulder.

“We wished to have a new democracy when Bashar al-Assad became president,” he said, when asked about his years of Ba’ath party service.

“We wished to have freedom for the people, but that never happened. We just got new cars and computers. It’s … nothing,” he cursed in English.

A Syrian town’s ‘Street of Death’

“We tell Bashar al-Assad, very soon we will be in Damascus, in the president’s palace, we promise that,” Habib said. “He has to hear that and he has to leave, otherwise we will kill him.”

Photos: Showdown in Syria

Photos: Showdown in Syria

Habib was now bivouacked in a village school in Syria’s Idlib province which had been converted into a barracks for rebels from the Syrian Falcons Brigade.

The group’s leader, Mustafa Abdullah, claimed to lead 600 men. Though he insisted all of his fighters were Syrians, at least one armed man introduced himself to CNN as a citizen of Turkey. Fighters were heard telling the Turk not to speak to journalists in Turkish.

Meanwhile, residents of the village where the Syrian Falcons were headquartered said there were fighters of several North African nationalities also serving with the brigade’s ranks.

A volunteer Libyan fighter has also told CNN he intends to travel from Turkey to Syria within days to add a “platoon” of Libyan fighters to armed movement.

Though there are some foreign volunteers, it is clear the bulk of the fighters are Syrians. Every day, it appears there are new volunteers.

One of the newest recruits is Soukrot Amin, a 23-year-old native of Aleppo, who was determined to start his own rebel group.

Amin smuggled himself across the Turkish border to Syria on Sunday, carrying a bag full of walkie-talkies, sniper scopes and novelty spy cameras disguised as watches and car keys — all tools for his rebel cell.

He said he bought the devices with savings earned after spending five months working as a car mechanic in the United Arab Emirates.

“I go to war for my family, for my country,” Amin said. “Because (Assad) has killed everyone. He killed my cousin. He destroyed my village. He destroyed my home.”

Photos: Massacre in Syria

The young volunteer said he had a list of around 40 recruits for his group. He said he had only 15 weapons for his group. But Amin added that upon arrival in Aleppo, he planned to apply to a group in Turkey calling itself the High Revolutionary Council for weapons to arm his fighters.

“We will win,” Amin said.

The veteran fighter named Khorshid had no illusions that the fight for Aleppo would be easy.

He choked back tears after burying his slain friend Housam Abdul Rashid on Tuesday.

But then he swore to return to the battle in Aleppo, within a matter of hours.

“Tonight,” Khorshid said. “We must fight Bashar al-Assad, because if not, he will kill us.”


Outside Sympathy for Syrian Rebels, aka Al-Qaeda is Faltering
August 11, 2012

Alex talks with “Syrian Girl,” who continues to report on the real situation in Syria, the latest target of the global elite as they move to take down adversaries and create order out of chaos.

U.S. slaps new sanctions on Syria, extends those against Hezbollah

By the CNN Wire Staff

August 11, 2012 — Updated 0157 GMT (0957 HKT)

(CNN) — The United States announced new sanctions Friday against Syria and its supporters, focusing on Hezbollah’s support for the regime and a Syrian oil company for violating U.S. sanctions on Iran.

The U.S. State Department sanctioned the refiner Sytrol for selling $36 million of gasoline to Iran in April.

Earlier Friday, the U.S. Treasury Department announced an extension of sanctions against Hezbollah, a Lebanon-based Shiite militant group, for its support of the Syrian government.

Hezbollah, which the United States has designated a terrorist organization supported by Iran, has provided training, advice and extensive logistical support to President Bashar al-Assad’s military campaign against an uprising that began in March 2011, the department said.

Can Syria cause Mideast to destabilize?

Watch reporter dodge danger in Syria

British aid for Syrian rebels

Photos capture intense Syria images

The agency accused the group of training Syrian government personnel inside Syria, and facilitating the training of Syrian forces by the Quds Force, an elite unit of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps.

“Hezbollah’s extensive support to the Syrian government’s violent suppression of the Syrian people exposes the true nature of this terrorist organization and its destabilizing presence in the region,” Under Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence David S. Cohen said in a statement.

Al-Assad’s inner circle: Mostly family, like ‘mafia’

Friday’s announcements came as fighting for control of Aleppo continued.

Also Friday, Great Britain announced $7.8 million more aid for the Syrian rebels.

The money is intended not for weapons, but for medical and communication supplies, British Foreign Secretary William Hague said.

“The people of Syria cannot wait indefinitely,” he said.

Hague’s announcement came as shelling and clashes continued throughout Syria.

Syrian security forces killed at least 180 people, including 75 in Aleppo, said the Local Coordination Committees (LCC) of Syria, a network of opposition activists.

On Thursday, the opposition group said at least 134 people were killed.

Syrian rebels arrested a number of pro-regime journalists while they were covering military operations in al-Tal, a suburb of Damascus, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

Syrian state TV reported that a crew from Al-Ikhbariya TV, which is pro-regime, had lost communication with their office and that “armed groups and countries that are supporting them” are to be held responsible.

Residents reported intense shelling Friday in a village in Hama, as well as in two neighborhoods in Homs, the LCC reported.

An activist from the Al Midan neighborhood of Damascus told CNN that tanks were in the streets and smoke was billowing in the capital. Troops, he said, were raiding homes and arresting people.

“The situation is terrible,” said the activist, who was not identified because of security reasons.

Witnesses also reported shelling in Aleppo, Syria’s largest city, the LCC said.

Syrian armed forces were inflicting “heavy losses” on rebels in the neighborhoods of Al-Ithaa and Saif Al-Dawla, Syrian state TV said Friday.

The Syrian government and rebel groups have been battling for days to control Aleppo, a key front in a conflict that morphed into a civil war after government forces began cracking down on peaceful protesters in March 2011.

The International Committee of the Red Cross said Friday that its first convoy in two weeks had entered the city a day ealier and was delivering humanitarian aid.

“Our priority has been getting them food, clean water, mattresses, things people take for granted,” said Rabab Al-Rifaï, head of communication for ICRC Damascus.

“Though the ICRC and the Syrian Arab Red Crescent are doing everything possible to assist civilians affected by the violence, it is up to the parties to the conflict to take every feasible measure to spare the civilian population the effects of the fighting,” said Marianne Gasser, the head of the ICRC delegation in Syria.

The Syrian Arab Red Crescent had suspended most of its activities due to the danger, she said. “Still, dozens of volunteers have continued to work under extremely difficult conditions to meet the growing needs of the civilian population.”

Strapped for supplies and personnel, health-care facilities were finding it difficult to treat the wounded, said the ICRC, which has 50 staff members in Syria.

An activist who provides relief aid to Aleppo’s internally displaced residents told CNN on Friday that fewer demonstrations were taking place in the city, but that security forces were using live ammunition against those protesters who ventured out.

In recent weeks, thousands of residents of its outskirts and other cities, including Homs, had converged on its central district, many of them bunking with relatives or renting low-budget apartments located in the city’s poorer areas, said the activist, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

But the recent outbreak of fighting in Aleppo itself has led many of those who had sought safety there to flee again, the activist said.

“Most of those people would come and ask us, ‘Where should we go now? Is there a safe place left in Syria so we can go to?'” he said.

Many residents who had fled the devastated city of Homs opted to return there; others chose to stick it out in Aleppo, seeking shelter in schools located in safer areas, the activist said. “Today, there around 50-60 schools open for the displaced; the average number of people in these schools is around 250.”

He described the conditions in the schools as “terrible.”

Most Aleppo residents favor neither side in the battle, but most of the displaced residents hate the regime, he said. “Even informants and members of security forces who had to flee their areas with their families despise the regime now,” he added.

But others blame Free Syrian Army fighters, saying government forces and troops would not have shelled their homes had it not been for the FSA’s presence in their neighborhoods, he said.

Roughly 17,000 people have been killed since the fighting began, the United Nations said last month. The opposition has put the toll at more than 20,000.

Two days in Aleppo: Guns, graveyards and stairwell beds

Civilians in Aleppo were increasingly at risk from aerial attacks, artillery shelling and gunfire, Human Rights Watch said Friday.

“As Syria deploys helicopters, fighter jets, tanks, and heavy artillery in populated areas of Aleppo, it should do everything feasible to protect civilians from harm,” said Anna Neistat, acting emergencies director at Human Rights Watch.

“At the same time, the Free Syrian Army forces in and around the city should do what they can to minimize the risk to civilians in the fighting.”

The bloodshed has prompted increasing numbers of Syrians to flee into Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan and Iraq, the United Nations refugee agency said Friday.

Almost 150,000 Syrians are now living as refugees, the agency said.

What does Iran get for supporting al-Assad?

In Turkey alone, the refugee population has exceeded 50,000, with more than 6,000 new arrivals — many from the Aleppo area — this week.

Syria’s harshest critics, including the United States, were absent from a meeting called this week by Iran to discuss the crisis. More than two dozen countries — including Syria’s allies China and Russia — did attend.

Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi called the meeting a success, Iran’s state-run news agency IRNA reported Friday.

“Attendance of more than 30 countries at the conference shows its success, and we hope that more countries whose policies correspond and are in line with Iran’s diplomacies attend similar conferences in the future,” the foreign minister said, according to IRNA.

A spokesman for the opposition Syrian National Council said the problem had nothing to do with finding places to hold conferences. “The main problem is to stop the regime from mass-murdering innocent civilians and shelling every city in Syria,” said George Sabra.

CNN exclusive: Inside Syria



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