Photo by AHMAD GHARABLI/AFP/GettyImages
UPDATE: Gunmen in a Damascus suburb captured a bus filled with 48 Iranian pilgrims during a daytime attack, according to Iranian state television. If confirmed, the kidnapping would mark the single largest abduction of Iranians in Syria, notes the Associated Press. The kidnapping, which took place as the government’s forces appeared to push rebels out of the last opposition bastion in Damascus, seems to demonstrate the rebels still hold areas around the capital. Iran has been one of Syria’s strongest allies since the civil war began, and the Sunni-dominated opposition has long targeted Iranians.
Meanwhile, Syrian troops continue to shell rebel positions in Aleppo, the country’s largest cty, reports Reuters. Rebel leaders fully expect Syrian troops to step up the offensive in Aleppo now that they have largely managed to drive rebels out of the capital. As fighting continues to engulf Aleppo, the food situation “has grown especially desperate,” notes the New York Times, reporting how rebel commanders don’t just have to worry about military operations, but also how they’re going to feed their ranks of fighters and supporters.
Yet as rebel fighters try to impose some rule of law to the areas they control, there are increasing complaints that many government opponents have become little more than vigilantes, reports Reuters. It seems clear Syrian rebels torture and beat prisoners, for example, many of whom appear to be held on dubious grounds. McClatchy points out that the growing accusations that the rebels are carrying out executions and torture is “muddying the Western narrative of a heroic resistance force struggling against a vicious regime.”
So far at least, these questions have not managed to dent widespread international support for the rebels. At the U.N. General Assembly, 133 of the 193-member nations voted in favor of a non-binding resolution condemning President Bashar al-Assad’s violence, as well as the Security Council’s unwillingness to intervene, reports Bloomberg. Although the symbolic measure doesn’t explicitly call on Assad to step down, it does say his regime has lost legitimacy.
Friday, Aug. 3: The U.N.'s General Assembly will chastise the organization's Security Council on Friday over their stalemate on the Syrian crisis.
As the BBC notes, the vote is expected to put pressure on the Council to act on Syria. Russia and China, both allies of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to some extent, have largely blocked measures by the Security Council aimed at a stronger response to the crisis.
The vote comes one day after the announcement that U.N. special envoy to Syria Kofi Annan is quitting his post, and seems to indicate internal acknowledgement that the organization has failed to act meaningfully to end a 17-month-and-counting conflict that is now being called a civil war.
Meanwhile, Syrian rebel groups have been making it clear that, internal condemnation or no, the opposition forces in the country and in exile see little use in the U.N.'s continued involvement in the conflict, according to CBS.
According to Businessweek, fighting has intensified in the county since Annan's announcement on Thursday, with fighting in Hama, Aleppo, Daraa, and just outside of Damascus. Syria's government officially responded to Annan's resignation by expressing "regret," throwing in an accusation that some countries prevented his peace plan from working by “supporting and harboring the armed terrorist groups leading to the continuation of violence in the country," they report.