Syrian Weekly Brief: 25 FEB – 3 MAR 2013

Top Stories
Violence continues to escalate: This week marked some of the highest numbers of casualties among regime forces and rebel fighters as well as the detainees killed under torture. There have also been reports of mass murder committed by regime forces against unarmed civilians in Aleppo as Scud missiles continued to hit the north of the country one of which landed in an Iraqi village.
Rebels continue to make significant gains: Rebel fighters scored some of their biggest advances yet by capturing the police academy in Aleppo and the central prison of Raqa, as they continued to strike at the heart of the Damascus and inflict heavy losses on the regime’s air force while taking over another border post with Iraq.
Tensions ramp up on Lebanon and Iraq borders: Fierce clashes erupted between rebel fighters and Lebanese Hezbollah on Lebanon-Syria border and Iraqi armed forces on Syria-Iraq border amid reports that both Hezbollah and Iraq stepping up their support to the declined military force of the regime of Bashar al-Assad.
Uprising Developments
Aleppo elects a council: Delegates from across Aleppo took part in the first free vote outside of the control of Assad's regime to elect a provincial council in Turkey.
Dire rise in refugees from Syria: Within a week, there could be more than 1 million Syrian refugees in Jordan, Lebanon, Turkey, Egypt and Iraq as yet more people flee the country’s on-going war, according to United Nations estimates. Some US$1.5bn in aid pledged to Syria has largely failed to materialise, the UN said on Thursday.
Syrian currency declines further: The US dollar set new heights against the Syrian pound according to the foreign exchange bulletin issued by the Central Bank of Syria.
Unemployment rate increases: Unemployment Rate in Syria increased to 34.9% by the end of year 2012 from %14.9 in December 2011.
Violence inflicts heavy losses on the country: The Syrian government estimated the total cost of the uprising gripping the country since March 2011 at US$11 billion, or some SYP 1 trillion, by the fall of last year.
International Reactions
West pledges more support to the Syrian rebels: Western powers pledged aid for Syrian rebels on Thursday but stopped short of offering them weapons. Kerry said the US would provide direct support to rebel forces in the form of medical and food supplies. Britain cannot rule out providing arms to the Syrian opposition in the future, Foreign Secretary William Hague said.
Russia’s stance on Syria remains unchanged: Russia said on Friday that decisions made at a Friends of Syria meeting in Rome directly encourage extremists to seek the seizure of power by force. Lavrov also said that the Syrian opposition has been increasingly becoming more extremist.
Syrian Press Focus
Al-Moallem wants dialogue but Assad doesn’t: The Syrian media covered statement made by Syria’s Foreign Minister Waleed al- Moallem announcing in Russia that he is ready for dialogue even with the armed opposition, while in a conflicting statement; Bashar al-Assad said during an interview with the Sunday Times “We are not going to deal with terrorists who are determined to carry weapons”.
Syrian media approves attacks by rebel fighters: The Syrian media acknowledged attacks made by what it called “terrorists” on regime positions at the heart of the capital.

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