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Interesting Article: "Monday begins with more explosions, gunfire across Syria" by CNN / Syria published Sunday, March 18th, 2012

Fresh explosions and riveting gunfire punctuated the pre-dawn hours Monday in cities around Syria, opposition activists said, with the ongoing violence coming on the heels of yet another bloody weekend in the embattled nation of Syria. The same group also reported other pockets of violence early Monday around the capital, including "intense shooting" in Dummar and Keswa "from the security checkpoints all over the city." Would you like to know more?

Some of the latest violence appeared to pit Syrian government forces against members of the rebel Free Syrian Army. In Deir Ezzor, Free Syrian Army members purportedly destroyed "the Division of the Countryside," a government ministry, as the opposition fighters battled government forces who were subjecting them to "intense shelling." The activist network also reported Monday morning that regime forces had "launched a looting campaign" of homes in the Aleppo suburb of Atareb, even occupying some homes whose residents had fled the city due to perilous shelling.

Dozens were reportedly killed around the country Sunday, including three killed in addition to at least 25 others wounded in a car bombing in the northern city of Aleppo. The bomb detonated near the political security branch in Aleppo, which is Syria's largest city, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

On the other end, donors have given money to aid the Syria rebels, but the needed arms are getting harder to find, merchants in Lebanon say. For months, arms merchants have been buying black-market weapons in Lebanon for the insurgency against Syrian President Bashar Assad. But the arms supply has slowed to a trickle. When attacks on protesters began, an RPG cost $300; now it's $800 and there aren't any more to be found," said Abu Ismail, who is from the embattled city of Homs and asked to be identified by a family nickname for security reasons. "The Lebanese weapons market has dried up completely."

The weapons shortage has serious implications for the uprising, even as Syrian expatriate money increasingly flows to the rebels and international support appears to be growing for arming the opposition. On Monday, the opposition umbrella group the Syrian National Council announced that it would help arm the Free Syrian Army with the help of foreign governments, which it declined to name.

In the face of a much better-armed Syrian army, the rebels will find it difficult, if not impossible, to sustain their insurgency if a surge of weapons doesn't come soon. Some weapons have also come in from Turkey, Iraq and Jordan, but rebels report that it has been easier to get arms from Lebanon. Even that route — the one also used by fleeing families, journalists and humanitarian aid — is dangerous, and many rebel smugglers have been killed along the way.

Despite talk from countries such as Saudi Arabia and Qatar of arming the rebels, no money has come from other nations, they say. Instead, much of it has come from expatriates. Until recently, many of them were supporting nonviolent aspects of the uprising, but now they have diverted much of the money for weapons, said Amr Al-Azm, an opposition activist who is involved with the Syrian National Council.

The conflict in Syria isn't the only thing depleting the weapons black market. Underscoring international fear that the unrest in regionally strategic Syria will spill over its borders, Lebanese who support Assad and those backing the opposition are also buying up weapons, Abu Ismail said.

When Syria pulled its troops out of Lebanon in 2005, it left behind large caches of light weapons with Hezbollah and other pro-Assad militias-turned-political parties. Now some of those weapons are being stolen by members of these parties and sold to the merchants who are supplying the rebels, the same scenario that is happening between the Syrian army and the rebels.

Other countries are assisting where they can. Iraq for example, said on March 17 that Baghdad had informed Tehran that it would not permit the use of its air space or territory for the transit of any arms cargo to Syria. The statement comes one day after the United States expressed concern that Syria-bound Iranian cargo flights over Iraq might contain arms that could be used by Damascus to crush protests.

Syria’s diplomatic isolation deepened on Friday as four more Persian Gulf states moved to close their Damascus embassies in protest of the violent suppression of a year-old uprising. At the same time, Turkey advised its citizens in Syria to evacuate and announced that it would soon suspend consular services there, a possible prelude to the closure of its embassy as well. In a further sign of alienation between Turkey and Syria, formerly close neighbors, the prime minister of Turkey, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, told reporters in Ankara that his government was considering the possibility of establishing a military buffer zone inside Syrian territory to help handle the flow of Syrian refugees across the border.

About 15,000 Syrians are now living in camps in southern Turkey, and Turkish officials have said they are preparing for the possibility of at least 30,000 more arrivals. The head of the Turkish Red Crescent, Ahmet Lutfi Akar, said that his organization had discussed plans to accommodate up to 500,000 refugees in an “extreme scenario,” Turkish news media reported Friday.

The Saudi press agency reported late Thursday that four members of the Saudi-dominated Gulf Cooperation Council — Kuwait, Oman, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates — had joined Saudi Arabia and Bahrain in announcing the closing of their embassies in Damascus.

The effort to isolate the Syrian government has deepened a division pitting a diplomatic alliance of Western and Arab countries and Turkey against Mr. Assad’s few remaining allies, notably China, Iran and Russia. Several Western countries, including the United States, have closed their embassies in Damascus as their governments press Mr. Assad to step aside as part of a settlement.



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