In Syria, brutality and violence is an everyday ordeal. With a two-year-long raging civil war that has pivoted President al-Assad’s forces against rebel insurgency, the Middle Eastern country has suffered shocking human tolls with at least 70,000 killed with numbers climbing by the hundreds every day. Yet, the real devastation in Syria is difficult to report as media access to Syria is limited.
Uncertainty brews as pressure mounts for international forces to react to the new evidence that proves chemical weapons have been used against civilians by Assad’s regime. Now that al-Assad has crossed President Obama’s “red line,” the United States is looking at possible military intervention in the grave humanitarian crisis.
Meanwhile, within Syria itself — car bombs and mortar attacks rocked central Damascus on two consecutive days this week.
Here’s today’s latest news from Syria:
1. The U.S. is Considering Arming Rebel Forces
In today’s Pentagon news conference secretary Chuck Hagel has stated that, “The Obama administration is rethinking its opposition to arming Syrian rebels but has not yet made a final decision.”
BREAKING: Hagel: Administration is rethinking opposition to arming Syrian rebels.
— The Associated Press (@AP) May 2, 2013
This is a clear change from previous statements during which the Obama administration had mentioned that it opposed directly arming Syrian opposition fighters, in part out of fear that the weapons could fall into the hands of Islamic extremists.
Obama is likely to make a final decision on the supply of arms to the opposition “within weeks,” The Washington Post Reports.
United States Intelligence points to the use of deadly chemical weapons in Syria. What happens next?Click here to read more
Just last month the leader of an Islamic extremist rebel group in Syria pledged allegiance to Al-Qaeda, reports A.P.
The United States has already provided non-lethal assistance to elements within Syria working to unseat President Bashar Assad. Obama has stated in a press conference today that, the government is “evaluating the situation on the ground,” before making any changes to what it is currently doing in Syria.
Meanwhile, the Syrian National Coalition, a western-recognized Syrian umbrella opposition group, has called on the UN security council to enter Syria to search for chemical weapons. “We have confirmed reports from a number of countries in the world that the Syrian regime used chemical weapons on a limited scale, but it is seriously preparing for repeat use on a large scale, and the world must act before a major disaster occurs, not afterwards,” the opposition said in a statement.
2. At Least 50 People Have Been Killed in Fighting In Syria Today
According to a local co-ordination committee activist group, a total of 50 people have lost their lives in confrontations today in Syria. Rockets fell in a central Damascus neighborhood where 22 people are reported to have died. A bomb is believed to have exploded “near police headquarters” – wounding several people, including children.
These numbers cannot be verified as media coverage in Syria is limited.
— Al Arabiya English (@AlArabiya_Eng) May 2, 2013
Meanwhile, Syria’s state television reported that President al-Assad made a rare public appearance while visiting a Damascus power station. This comes just a day after a powerful bomb hit the capital, killing 14. Nearly 70,000 people have been killed in Syria since unrest began in the country two years ago, according to the latest estimate from the United Nations. CNN has published the following statistics:
70,000: The estimated death toll as of mid-February, according to the United Nations Human Rights Center 22,530,746: Syria’s estimated population in July 2012, according to the CIA World Factbook 0.311: Approximate percentage of the Syrian population killed so far (For comparison’s sake, 0.311% of the population would be 976,066 people for the United States, 196,077 people for the United Kingdom and 4,177,476 people for China, the world’s most populous country.) 3,043: Average number of deaths per month
3. Iran Says Chemical Weapons Are Being Used By Rebels, Not Assad
Much like President Obama, Iran’s foreign minister Ali-Akbar Salehi has also described the use of chemical weapons in Syria as a ‘red line’. But unlike the United States, France and Israel, Iran has implied that it is the rebels who have used chemical warfare.
As reported by the Guardian, “Tehran has consistently called for dialogue as to the way to resolve the conflict in Syria while also giving logistical support – including military advisers – to Assad.”
4. Hezbollah confirms it is helping Assad Fight Uprising
Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallall has stated that the Islamic militant group regarded as a terrorist organization by much of the western world, will “not allow Syria to fall into the hands of Americans, Israel or Sunni extremists.” He also stated, “we will tell you [Syrian rebels] that you will not be able to take Damascus and you are not able to topple the Syrian regime.” This statement, which was given after two rebel-instigated bomb attacks in the Syrian capital, referred to the armed opposition as being to weak to bring down al-Assad. Heavy.com contact Jean Pierre Duthion, resident of Damascus tweeted this photo of an effected building following the bombs.
Hezbollah is the most powerful political and military organization in Lebanon and is founded by Iranian financial support.
5. Poll Reveals Most Americans Do Not Want U.S Involvement in Syria
As Washington continues to debate over possible action in Syria, a Reuter’s poll reveals that most Americans do not want to intervene in Syria’s civil war. Only 10 percent of people surveyed by an online poll stated that the United States should intervene in Syria’s humanitarian crisis while 61 percent opposed involvement.
Having said that, figures favoring intervention rises to 27 percent if “Damascus government uses chemical weapons.” Forty-four percent would remain opposed.