Syrian Weekly Brief: 11 - 17 February 2013

Top Stories
Rebels make more strategic gains: Rebel fighters seized their first military airport in the north and captured usable fighter jets as they moved forward to Syria’s second airport of Aleppo. They also took control of largest hydropower dam in the and made further gains in Damascus and across the country in addition to shooting down four more warplanes.
Regime intensifies its use of Scud missiles: Regime forces fired dozens of surface-to-surface missiles on the opposition-held areas in the north as well as in the suburb of Damascus.
Hezbollah fights for Assad: Heavy fighting broke out in Syria on the border with Lebanon between Syrian rebel fighters and armed militiamen from the Shiite militant group Hezbollah while trying to occupy Syrian villages. Rebels claimed responsibility for killing of General Hassan Shateri, a senior figure in the Revolutionary Guards near the Lebanese border.
Uprising Developments
Death toll spikes: Syria’s toll probably approaching 70,000, the U.N. human rights chief said Tuesday. Meanwhile, US Secretary of State John Kerry said on Thursday the death toll in Syria may have reached 90,000, citing figures given to him by his Saudi counterpart Prince Saud al-Faisal.
Mass military defections continue: More than 700 soldiers, including 50 officers, defected from the Assad army in the suburb of Damascus on Sunday. Meanwhile, a group of defected military pilots formed the First Air Force Division of the Free Syrian Army.
Humanitarian crisis in Syria exacerbates: The Red Cross said the humanitarian situation in Syria is now "catastrophic." According to the UN, the total number of registered refugees and individuals awaiting registration is 830,675.
Sectarian kidnapping rises: Pro-regime militiamen kidnapped more than 300 people in north-western Syria in retaliation for the abduction of 42 Shiite Muslims this week.

Syria raises prices of medicines: The Syrian government raised the price of medicines and decide to facilitate import procedures in order to ease the shortages of pharmaceutical products.
Car sales in Damascus decline: The market for new cars in Damascus dropped dramatically last year according to the city’s transport directorate. The car sales declined 86% over lower income and higher import costs.
Trade with Turkey falls: Official trade between Turkey and Syria fell in 2012 to around a quarter of its level only a year earlier according to statistics from the Turkish government.
International Reactions
Russia continues to support the Assad regime:
A Russian official said on Wednesday that Russian deliveries of weapons to Syria would continue. Syrian rebels should abandon demands for President Bashar Assad to resign before they begin peace talks, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Friday. In Finland, the Customs Investigation Service said it had intercepted a shipment of spare parts for tanks en route to Syria from Russia.

Political efforts to end conflict continue: Lakhdar Brahimi urged Syria's government and opposition to meet on U.N. premises to discuss a political solution to the two-year rebellion against Bashar al-Assad. Secretary of State John Kerry said on Wednesday that he planned to use his first foreign trip to advance new ideas about how to persuade Bashar al-Assad to yield power and agree to a political transition.
Qatar takes unprecedented step on Syria: Qatar is to hand over the Syrian embassy in its capital, Doha, to Syria's main opposition group.
Syrian Press Focus
No need to fear for Syria’s economy: The Syrian media covered statement made by Syria’s Prime Minister, Wael al-Halqi, on Sunday saying that "Syrian economy is balanced and diverse and there is no need to fear for it."
Turkey breaches international law: The Syrian media covered an official letter sent by Syria’s Foreign Ministry to the UNSC accusing the Turkish government of interfering in the Syrian domestic affairs in breach of the international laws

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