In the 17 months of the conflict, Amnesty International estimates that 20,000 people have died. The siege of Aleppo has been going on since July 21 and has involved heavy artillery, tanks, helicopter gunships, and even fixed wing fighter jets. Aleppo is a city of 3 million, and an estimated 200,000 people have fled the city. Recently there have been reports of rebels seizing tanks, but the Free Syrian Army (FSA) is still heavily outmatched by the armament of the regular Syrian military.
Reports from Amnesty International have regularly reported government forces firing upon unarmed protesters since the conflict began. There is strong evidence and reports that detainees have been tortured. Even medics who attempted to treat protesters have been targeted, such as three young medics whose charred bodies were found on June 24, bearing torture marks and bullet wounds.
On June 15, 2011, President Bashar al-Assad reopened the notorious Tadmor prison to house those arrested in the uprising. The prison was closed in 2001, after over two decades of calls from international humanitarian groups. The prison has been the site of many instances of torture and crimes against humanity, and has housed political prisoners and prisoners of conscience. In 1980, it was the site of a grave massacre. After an attempted assassination of Bashar’s father, then President Hafez al-Assad, 60 Syrian soldiers stormed the prison and killed between 500 and 800 inmates. It was meant to send a message to dissidents.
In July, reports have come in about FSA soldiers executing detained government forces and militia members, according to the BBC. Other reports indicated that Al-Qaida has begun aiding the FSA, offering training and assistance to people fighting Assad, according to the Guardian.
Thus far, the international community has done little to intervene in the conflict. Several U.N. resolutions that would have imposed sanctions on Syria have been blocked by Russia and China. An U.N. imposed ceasefire was largely ignored after going into effect April 12. On July 31, the Syrian Support Group received license from the U.S. to fund the FSA. They will not be able to ship arms, but will be able to contribute financial aid to be used in whatever way, including purchasing arms and paying soldiers’ salaries. Unless an organization obtains a special license like this, they are only allowed to send humanitarian aid.
It was recently reported by Reuters that earlier this year President Barack Obama signed a secret order authorizing U.S. support for the FSA. The order broadly permits the CIA and other U.S. agencies to provide the rebels support in ousting Assad. The order stops short of giving the FSA arms.
Syria’s Tadmor Prison Massacre: http://middleeastvoices.voanews.com/2012/06/syrias-tadmor-prison-massacre-reliving-horrors-of-32-years-past-81070/
The New York Times Rebels in Syria’s Largest City Claim To Seize Important Police Stations: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/08/01/world/middleeast/rebels-in-syrias-aleppo-claim-to-seize-important-police-stations.html
The Guardian Al-Qaida Turns Tide for Rebels in Battle for Eastern Syria: http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2012/jul/30/al-qaida-rebels-battle-syria
The Wall Street Journal Group Gets U.S. License to Fund Syria Rebels: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10000872396390444405804577561482242140956.html?mod=world_newsreel
The Wall Street Journal U.S. Sees Shift in Terrorist Threats: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10000872396390444226904577561400005506964.html?mod=WSJ_hps_MIDDLENexttoWhatsNewsForth
Amnesty International Syria Report All Out Repression: http://www.amnesty.org/en/library/asset/MDE24/061/2012/en/fcf50331-388d-4960-ac9b-0ecf5fbf73c5/mde240612012en.pdf
Reuters Obama Authorizes Secret Support for Syrian Rebels: http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/08/02/us-usa-syria-obama-order-idUSBRE8701OK20120802