Syrian boy, 11, pretended to be dead to survive massacre

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    May 30, 2012 11:47 PM GMT
    Bad things are more likely to happen when there exists a leadership void in the world.

    http://www.foxnews.com/world/2012/05/30/11-year-old-played-dead-to-survive-syria-massacre/

    BEIRUT – When the gunmen began to slaughter his family, 11-year-old Ali el-Sayed says he fell to the floor of his home, soaking his clothes with his brother's blood to fool the killers into thinking he was already dead.

    The Syrian boy tried to stop himself from trembling, even as the gunmen, with long beards and shaved heads, killed his parents and all four of his siblings, one by one.

    The youngest to die was Ali's brother, 6-year-old Nader. His small body bore two bullet holes — one in his head, another in his back.

    "I put my brother's blood all over me and acted like I was dead," Ali told The Associated Press over Skype on Wednesday, his raspy voice steady and matter-of-fact, five days after the killing spree that left him both an orphan and an only child.

    Ali is one of the few survivors of a weekend massacre in Houla, a collection of poor farming villages and olive groves in Syria's central Homs province. More than 100 people were killed, many of them women and children who were shot or stabbed in their houses.

    The killings brought immediate, worldwide condemnation of President Bashar Assad, who has unleashed a violent crackdown on an uprising that began in March 2011. Activists say as many as 13,000 people have been killed since the revolt began.

    U.N. investigators and witnesses blame at least some of the Houla killings on shadowy gunmen known as shabiha who operate on behalf of Assad's government.

    Recruited from the ranks of Assad's Alawite religious community, the militiamen enable the government to distance itself from direct responsibility for the execution-style killings, torture and revenge attacks that have become hallmarks of the shabiha.

    In many ways, the shabiha are more terrifying than the army and security forces, whose tactics include shelling residential neighborhoods and firing on protesters. The swaggering gunmen are deployed specifically to brutalize and intimidate Assad's opponents.

    Activists who helped collect the dead in the aftermath of the Houla massacre described dismembered bodies in the streets, and row upon row of corpses shrouded in blankets.

    "When we arrived on the scene we started seeing the scale of the massacre," said Ahmad al-Qassem, a 35-year-old activist. "I saw a kid with his brains spilling out, another child who was no more than 1 year old who was stabbed in the head. The smell of death was overpowering."

    The regime denies any responsibility for the Houla killings, blaming them on terrorists. And even if the shabiha are responsible for the killings, there is no clear evidence that the regime directly ordered the massacre in a country spiraling toward civil war.

    As witness accounts begin to leak out, it remains to be seen what, exactly, prompted the massacre. Although the Syrian uprising has been among the deadliest of the Arab Spring, the killings in Houla stand out for their sheer brutality and ruthlessness.

    According to the U.N., which is investigating the attack, most of the victims were shot at close range, as were Ali's parents and siblings. The attackers appeared to be targeting the most vulnerable people, such as children and the elderly, to terrorize the population.

    This type of massacre — even more than the shelling and mortar attacks that have become daily occurrences in the uprising — is a sign of a new level of violence. By most accounts, the gunmen descended on Houla from an arc of nearby villages, making the deaths all the more horrifying because the victims could have known their attackers.

    According to activists in the area, the massacre came after the army pounded the villages with artillery and clashed with local rebels following anti-regime protests. Several demonstrators were killed, and the rebels were forced to withdraw. The pro-regime gunmen later stormed in, doing the bulk of the killing.

    Syrian activist Maysara Hilaoui said he was at home when the massacre in Houla began. He said there were two waves of violence, one starting at 5 p.m. Friday and a second at 4 a.m. Saturday.

    "The shabiha took advantage of the withdrawal of rebel fighters," he said. "They started entering homes and killing the young as well as the old."

    Ali, the 11-year-old, said his mother began weeping the moment about 11 gunmen entered the family home in the middle of the night. The men led Ali's father and oldest brother outside.

    "My mother started screaming 'Why did you take them? Why did you take them?'" Ali said.

    Soon afterward, he said, the gunmen killed Ali's entire family.

    As Ali huddled with his youngest siblings, a man in civilian clothes took Ali's mother to the bedroom and shot her five times in the head and neck.

    "Then he left the bedroom. He used his flashlight to see in front of him," Ali said. "When he saw my sister Rasha, he shot her in the head while she was in the hallway."

    Ali had been hiding near his brothers Nader, 6, and Aden, 8. The gunmen shot both of them, killing them instantly. He then fired at Ali but missed.

    "I was terrified," Ali said, speaking from Houla, where relatives have taken him in. "My whole body was trembling."

    Ali is among the few survivors of the massacre, although it was impossible to independently corroborate his story. The AP contacted him through anti-regime activists in Houla who arranged for an interview with the child over Skype.

    The violence had haunting sectarian overtones, according to witness accounts. The victims lived in the Houla area's Sunni Muslim villages, but the shabiha forces came from a nearby area populated by Alawites, an offshoot of Shiite Islam.

    Most shabiha belong to the Alawite sect — like the Assad family and the ruling elite. This ensures the loyalty of the gunmen to the regime, because they fear they would be persecuted if the Sunni majority gains the upper hand.

    Sunnis make up most of Syria's 22 million people, as well as the backbone of the opposition. The opposition insists the movement is entirely secular.

    It was not possible to reach residents of the Alawite villages on Wednesday. Communications with much of the area have been cut off, and many residents have fled.

    Al-Qassem, the activist who helped gather corpses in Houla, said the uprising has unleashed deep tensions between Sunnis and Alawites.

    "Of course the regime worked hard to create an atmosphere of fear among Alawites," said al-Qassem, who is from the Houla area, although not one of the villages that came under attack over the weekend. "There is a deep-seated hatred. The regime has given Alawites the illusion that the end of the regime will spell the end of their villages and lives."

    He said the army has been pouring weapons into the Alawite areas.

    "Every house in each of those Alawite villages has automatic rifles. The army has armed these villages, each home according to the number of people who live there," he said, "whereas in Houla, which has a population of 120,000, you can only find 500 0r 600 armed people. There is an imbalance."

    Days after the attack, many victims remain missing.

    Ali can describe the attack on his family. But al-Qassem said the full story of the massacre may never emerge.

    "There are no eyewitnesses of the massacre," he said. "The eyewitnesses are all dead."

    ___

    Associated Press writer Zeina Karam contributed to this report.
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    May 30, 2012 11:52 PM GMT
    socalfitness saidBad things are more likely to happen when there exists a leadership void in the world.

    Even RUMSFIELD just today said there are NO good options in Syria. He did NOT even hint there was a 'leadership void' (which is a GOP "OPINION" buzz phrase this week)icon_rolleyes.gif

    Yeah John, you are really, really getting as pathetic as SB.
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    May 31, 2012 1:32 AM GMT
    socalfitness saidBad things are more likely to happen when there exists a leadership void in the world.

    A couple of guys sent me emails asking if I would elaborate on this comment. So here goes. For others, if tl;dr skip directly to Item #9.

    1. Russia has economic and political incentives to maintain the status quo with the current regimes in Iran and Syria.

    2. When Obama took office, there had been already negotiated a missile defense shield with our Eastern European allies. The shield was to protect Europe from an emerging Iranian missile threat.

    3. Russia was extremely strongly opposed to the missile shield for two reasons. a) They had a concern that the shield was a camel's nose under the carpet and that the shield could be expanded to compromise the Russian strategic and tactical nuclear capabilities, and b) There was a prestige issue having a western military presence in former Warsaw Pact countries.

    4. Obama in 2009 unilaterally withdrew from planning the shield without coordinating with our Eastern European allies, embarrassing them. But the biggest gaffe was not getting any concessions from the Russians in return. Many observers felt he could have gotten concessions on Russian support to deal with Iran and Syria, especially supplying Iran with military systems, support to containing the Iranian nuclear project, and support to counter Iranian and Syrian terrorism activities. It was a big opportunity lost, and he demonstrated major weakness resulting from a naive world view. Anyone with experience dealing with the Soviets and now Russians would tell you that you deal with them from a position of strength. But the ignorant, arrogant Obama knew better.

    5. Obama continued to demonstrate weakness when he refused to offer even moral support to the demonstrators in Iran, fearful of upsetting the Mullahs.

    6. The recent open mic Obama gaffe, telling Vladimir how flexible he will be, further reinforces the impression to the Russians that Obama is weak and ineffectual .

    7. The Libyan activity was no demonstration of strength from Obama. He delayed the US involvement, getting dragged in kicking and screaming. The French and Italians spearheaded the effort, which was reasonable as they had most to gain or lose, but the US delay led to additional civilian casualties in the view of many.

    8. The current actions by the Assad regime in Syria are certainly emboldened and, in fact, enabled by Russia. If they had exerted influence, there is an excellent chance these massacres would not have occurred.

    9. All speculation, but given the above, there is a fair chance that had McCain been President, 11 year old Ali's family would still be alive today. Thanks USA for electing a president with a weak, naive world view and a disastrous foreign policy.
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    May 31, 2012 2:15 AM GMT
    socalfitness said
    socalfitness saidBad things are more likely to happen when there exists a leadership void in the world.

    A couple of guys sent me emails asking if I would elaborate on this comment. So here goes. For others, if tl;dr skip directly to Item #9.

    1. Russia has economic and political incentives to maintain the status quo with the current regimes in Iran and Syria.

    2. When Obama took office, there had been already negotiated a missile defense shield with our Eastern European allies. The shield was to protect Europe from an emerging Iranian missile threat.

    3. Russia was extremely strongly opposed to the missile shield for two reasons. a) They had a concern that the shield was a camel's nose under the carpet and that the shield could be expanded to compromise the Russian strategic and tactical nuclear capabilities, and b) There was a prestige issue having a western military presence in former Warsaw Pact countries.

    4. Obama in 2009 unilaterally withdrew from planning the shield without coordinating with our Eastern European allies, embarrassing them. But the biggest gaffe was not getting any concessions from the Russians in return. Many observers felt he could have gotten concessions on Russian support to deal with Iran and Syria, especially supplying Iran with military systems, support to containing the Iranian nuclear project, and support to counter Iranian and Syrian terrorism activities. It was a big opportunity lost, and he demonstrated major weakness resulting from a naive world view. Anyone with experience dealing with the Soviets and now Russians would tell you that you deal with them from a position of strength. But the ignorant, arrogant Obama knew better.

    5. Obama continued to demonstrate weakness when he refused to offer even moral support to the demonstrators in Iran, fearful of upsetting the Mullahs.

    6. The recent open mic Obama gaffe, telling Vladimir how flexible he will be, further reinforces the impression to the Russians that Obama is weak and ineffectual .

    7. The Libyan activity was no demonstration of strength from Obama. He delayed the US involvement, getting dragged in kicking and screaming. The French and Italians spearheaded the effort, which was reasonable as they had most to gain or lose, but the US delay led to additional civilian casualties in the view of many.

    8. The current actions by the Assad regime in Syria are certainly emboldened and, in fact, enabled by Russia. If they had exerted influence, there is an excellent chance these massacres would not have occurred.

    9. All speculation, but given the above, there is a fair chance that had McCain been President, 11 year old Ali's family would still be alive today. Thanks USA for electing a president with a weak, naive world view and a disastrous foreign policy.
    All "opinion" on your part.. fortunately or unfortunately, depending on your point of view, you have no access to intelligence at high levels.


    But now, the White House has begun signaling a new approach to Syrian relations — for starters, it invited Syria to last week's Annapolis peace conference to revive Israeli-Palestinian peacemaking. And Washington's overtures to Damascus, which the U.S. has repeatedly slammed for sponsoring terrorism and meddling in Lebanon and Iraq, have left pro-Western Lebanese leaders worried about being "sold out" as part of a broader U.S.-Syrian deal to stabilize the region.

    "The message the Americans are sending to the region is that what succeeds is terror, bombings and a total disregard for democracy," a senior member of the anti-Syrian March 14 coalition in Lebanon tells TIME. "No one is going to remove the feeling from March 14 that we have been dumped by the Americans."
    ..."With America's realignment and engagement with Syria, obviously [the U.S.] cannot exert pressure on Syria anymore. We understood the message and acted appropriately," says Ghattas Khoury, a member of March 14.

    Once again, instability may come at the hands of Washington. Since 2005, the U.S. has lent the pro-Western government support, as Lebanon teetered on the edge of chaos, wracked by a war between Hizballah and Israel, battles with al-Qaeda-style militants, further assassinations of anti-Syrian politicians, economic stagnation and political gridlock. But now the Administration seems to be having a change of heart on Syria — recognizing that, like it or not, Damascus remains integral to almost every challenge in the Middle East.


    The red print above.. can you guess what administration this is discussing?
  • CuriousJockAZ

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    May 31, 2012 2:50 AM GMT
    The whole thing is one big gigantic mess. So sad, and the world sits by and does nothing -- though there really are no good options so maybe that actually is the only reasonable solution, tragic as it is. I wish we could get Russia and China on our side, and everyone just team up and go there and topple the government in a matter of hours. I'm hoping Obama has something up his sleeve -- and it's likely planned for late summer pre-election. If that sounds cynical, it's because it was. icon_lol.gif
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    May 31, 2012 2:59 AM GMT
    CuriousJockAZ saidThe whole thing is one big gigantic mess. So sad, and the world sits by and does nothing -- though there really are no good options so maybe that actually is the only reasonable solution, tragic as it is. I wish we could get Russia and China on our side, and everyone just team up and go there and topple the government in a matter of hours. I'm hoping Obama has something up his sleeve -- and it's likely planned for late summer pre-election. If that sounds cynical, it's because it was. icon_lol.gif
    I agree with alot of your post, but the question is and you actually highlighted a HUGE part of what ever happens there..

    What government will replace it and 'who' will install it?icon_wink.gif
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    May 31, 2012 3:18 AM GMT
    CuriousJockAZ saidThe whole thing is one big gigantic mess. So sad, and the world sits by and does nothing -- though there really are no good options so maybe that actually is the only reasonable solution, tragic as it is. I wish we could get Russia and China on our side, and everyone just team up and go there and topple the government in a matter of hours. I'm hoping Obama has something up his sleeve -- and it's likely planned for late summer pre-election. If that sounds cynical, it's because it was. icon_lol.gif

    It is a difficult situation now, no question. You can bet Obama has nothing up his sleeve. He has spent so much time kow-towing to the Russians, that he has garnered no respect among the other powers. Maybe if the UN decides to do something, he might follow, but if you think he has the balls to lead, sorry. The community organizer who votes "Present" does not have that in his DNA.
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    May 31, 2012 3:54 AM GMT
    socalfitness said
    CuriousJockAZ saidThe whole thing is one big gigantic mess. So sad, and the world sits by and does nothing -- though there really are no good options so maybe that actually is the only reasonable solution, tragic as it is. I wish we could get Russia and China on our side, and everyone just team up and go there and topple the government in a matter of hours. I'm hoping Obama has something up his sleeve -- and it's likely planned for late summer pre-election. If that sounds cynical, it's because it was. icon_lol.gif

    It is a difficult situation now, no question. You can bet Obama has nothing up his sleeve. He has spent so much time kow-towing to the Russians, that he has garnered no respect among the other powers. Maybe if the UN decides to do something, he might follow, but if you think he has the balls to lead, sorry. The community organizer who votes "Present" does not have that in his DNA.
    Ok SouthBeach.. whatever you spout.icon_rolleyes.gificon_rolleyes.gif
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    May 31, 2012 1:54 PM GMT
    The killings are continuing.
  • CuriousJockAZ

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    May 31, 2012 2:03 PM GMT
    socalfitness saidYou can bet Obama has nothing up his sleeve. He has spent so much time kow-towing to the Russians, that he has garnered no respect among the other powers. Maybe if the UN decides to do something, he might follow, but if you think he has the balls to lead, sorry. The community organizer who votes "Present" does not have that in his DNA.


    I'm not so sure about that. I actually think one of Obama's strengths has been his foreign policy decisions -- while I haven't agreed with ALL of them. I'm not so sure he's showing a lack of leadership so much as simply a measured response --- refusing to get us in over our heads in situations in which we can't afford to bare the burden of responsibility. Yes, the killings are continuing, but I don't think it's fair to blame that on Obama or any other country other than Syria and it's ruthless President.
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    May 31, 2012 2:14 PM GMT
    CuriousJockAZ said
    socalfitness saidYou can bet Obama has nothing up his sleeve. He has spent so much time kow-towing to the Russians, that he has garnered no respect among the other powers. Maybe if the UN decides to do something, he might follow, but if you think he has the balls to lead, sorry. The community organizer who votes "Present" does not have that in his DNA.

    I'm not so sure about that. I actually think one of Obama's strengths has been his foreign policy decisions -- while I haven't agreed with ALL of them. I'm not so sure he's showing a lack of leadership so much as simply a measured response --- refusing to get us in over our heads in situations in which we can't afford to bare the burden of responsibility. Yes, the killings are continuing, but I don't think it's fair to blame that on Obama or any other country other than Syria and it's ruthless President.

    I'm not suggesting anyone can do magic at this point because the situation is dire. But it is not reasonable to ignore the series of activities, actions, and lack of actions that have emboldened and, in fact, enabled Assad. To recall some discussion regarding Libya, it was not a major feat of the Obama "leadership". It was exercising the NATO command structure. I realize most people don't pay too much attention to foreign policy, but many people consider Obama's total performance to be disastrous. The points I listed above are highly relevant. The term "measured response" would be appropriate had he demonstrated some leadership in other venues. As it stands, it is doing nothing and hoping things will turn out through the actions of others.
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    May 31, 2012 10:23 PM GMT
    CuriousJockAZ said
    socalfitness saidYou can bet Obama has nothing up his sleeve. He has spent so much time kow-towing to the Russians, that he has garnered no respect among the other powers. Maybe if the UN decides to do something, he might follow, but if you think he has the balls to lead, sorry. The community organizer who votes "Present" does not have that in his DNA.


    I'm not so sure about that. I actually think one of Obama's strengths has been his foreign policy decisions -- while I haven't agreed with ALL of them. I'm not so sure he's showing a lack of leadership so much as simply a measured response --- refusing to get us in over our heads in situations in which we can't afford to bare the burden of responsibility. Yes, the killings are continuing, but I don't think it's fair to blame that on Obama or any other country other than Syria and it's ruthless President.
    Be careful Todd, John is frothing lately and might bite you as well!icon_wink.gif
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    Jun 01, 2012 5:45 AM GMT
    See also:

    Iran confirms sending troops to Syria; death toll at 13,000;
    Western Nations, Protesting Killings, Expel Syrian Envoys

    http://www.realjock.com/gayforums/2402115

    So there, you see?
    At least no one cay say the West is doing nothing.... icon_rolleyes.gif