Syria: Idlib falls as opposition splits – live updatesBy
• Syrian army takes control of all of Idlib after rebels flee
• Three members of opposition Syrian National Council resign
• Kofi Annan to announce Syrian response to peace plan
8.59am: Video from Binnish a town three miles to the north-east of Idlib, suggest it was still under control of the Free Syrian Army yesterday.
The clip shows rebel troops guarding a makeshift checkpoint.
8.23am: (all times GMT) Welcome to Middle East Live. On the eve of the first anniversary of the Syrian uprising the opposition has suffered a series of setbacks: another split in the Syrian National Council; the fall of the former rebel stronghold of Idlib; and the continuing failure of diplomatic efforts to end the violence.
Here’s a roundup of the latest developments in Syria in more detail:
• Three prominent opposition members resigned from the Syrian National Council over its failure to fully back an armed uprising. Haitham al-Maleh, a former judge, was joined by opposition leader Kamal al-Labwani and human rights lawyer Catherine al-Talli in announcing their resignation. Speaking to Reuters Maleh said: “I have resigned from the SNC because there is a lot of chaos in the group and not a lot of clarity over what they can accomplish right now. We have not gotten very far in working to arm the rebels.”
• The Syrian army has seized full control of the northern city of Idlib after a four-day assault and a rebel retreat, al-Arabiya reports. Noureddin al-Abdo, an activist in the city, said: “Since last night there has been no more fighting. The Free Syrian Army has withdrawn and regime forces have stormed the entire city and are carrying out house-to-house searches.”
• Kofi Annan, the UN-Arab League envoy to Syria, is due to give a press conference setting out how the Syrian government has responded to his proposals for ending the violence. Diplomats have described Syria’s response as “disappointing”, according to the New York Times.
• Political prisoners in Syria are being subjected to 31 separate types of torture, including ‘crucifixion’ beatings, electric shocks, and male rape with broken bottles, according a new report by Amnesty International. It said the report, which is based on the testimonies of dozens of people who fled to Jordan, is yet more evidence of crimes against humanity in Syria.
• David Cameron has spoken of his frustration at the international community’s inability to stop the violence in Syria, the BBC reports. Speaking to reporters on his trip to the US, the prime minister said: “We’re all frustrated by Syria. What’s happening in Homs is completely appalling … I’m endlessly kicking the tyres and asking what else can be done.”
• Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad has called parliamentary elections in May while his armed forces continue to crackdown on opposition strongholds. The elections – set to take place on 7 May – were announced under a new constitution passed last month. The Syrian National Council said the vote would be rigged and signalled that it would boycott the poll.
• Pro-Assad supporters have been attempting to discredit the Sunday Times photographer Paul Conroy based on photograph of him with the Libyan rebel commander Abdel Hakim Belhaj, the New York Times Lede blog reports. The picture has been used to suggest that Conroy is an intelligence agent or even supporter of al-Qaida.
Conroy explained to The Lede that the photograph was taken as a souvenir in Muammar Gaddafi’s living room in August, minutes after the Bab al-Aziziya compound in Tripoli was seized by rebel forces under the command of Belhaj and his Libyan-Irish deputy, Mahdi al-Harati.
The evangelical press is reporting that Syrian Christians fear Assad’s fall and is quoting them as warning against foreign intervention. Catholic periodicals convey similar concerns, and illustrate them with, for example, reports that Syrian rebels are using Christians as human shields. And Jihad Watch, the right-wing website run by Robert Spencer, a Catholic, bemoans what will happen to Syrian Christians as “Assad’s enemies divide the spoils of the fallen regime.” (Spencer has in the past been sceptical of interventions, but he reaches conservative Christians who have been less sceptical.) The alliance between neocons and conservative Christians that has worked in the past is going to be harder to put together this time.
Maybe it’s in recognition of this challenge that neocons have been downplaying the role of Muslim extremists.
from Matthew Weaver