Syria’s ‘day of child-killing’
Arabic media review

Syria’s ‘day of child-killing’

As fighting rages, Assad's top brass and others flee to traditional Alawite enclave; Mali rebels encroach on capital

Elhanan Miller is the former Arab affairs reporter for The Times of Israel

Men help a wounded civilian after a mortar attack in the Saif al-Dawlah neighborhood of Aleppo, Syria, Sunday, Jan. 13, 2013 (photo credit: Andoni Lubki/AP)
Men help a wounded civilian after a mortar attack in the Saif al-Dawlah neighborhood of Aleppo, Syria, Sunday, Jan. 13, 2013 (photo credit: Andoni Lubki/AP)

Violence in Syria is joined by the advance of fighting forces toward Mali’s capital, to top the front pages of Arab newspapers on Tuesday.

“Children are the victims of airstrikes; the regime is accused of using cluster bombs,” reads the headline of the London-based daily Al-Hayat, featuring a photo of destroyed homes in the Damascus suburb of Maadamiyeh following an aerial bombing on Monday.

The paper reports that opposition activists are calling Monday “the day of child-killing,” following reports of the death of at least 21 children across Syria.

The Qatar-based news channel Al-Jazeera dedicates a TV segment to a Human Rights Watch report claiming that the Assad regime is using new types of illegal cluster bombs in its war against the opposition in Idlib and the Hama region. According to the human rights watchdog, the weapons were manufactured in Russia and Egypt.

“Nothing has changed in the regime’s terrorist response to the revolution, despite the fact that almost everything has changed in the 22 months since it began,” writes Syrian columnist Bakr Sidqi in an op-ed in Al-Hayat Tuesday. “That’s true, of course, if we disregard the escalation in killing and destruction which now includes the [regime’s] use of Scud missiles and chemical warfare in its open war against Syria.”

Meanwhile, the London-based daily Al-Quds Al-Arabi reports that Syrian actors are divided in their public support for the Assad regime. A number of pro-opposition actors have set up a Facebook page in which they are calling on the Egyptian film industry to not give acting rolls to pro-Assad actors. Leading among these actors is Doreid Lahham, a well-known Syrian comic actor who has expressed his support for the regime in the past.

Tareq Homayed, the editor of the Saudi-owned A-Sharq Al-Awsat, comments on the war of words between international envoy to Syria Lakhdar Brahimi and the pro-Assad media in Syria. According to Homayed, the attacks express mounting fear by the Assad regime of international isolation and an attempt to send calming messages domestically.

“Assad’s attack on Brahimi indicates that we stand before imminent American-Russian negotiations on Syria and its future. This has clearly unnerved the Syrian media,” writes Homayed.

Meanwhile, Al-Quds Al-Arabi reports that Alawites living in Syria’s main cities and in the capital Damascus have begun moving to traditionally Alawite regions on Syria’s Mediterranean coast, such as Latakia and Tartus. The daily reports that Assad’s top-brass have moved their families to the two coastal cities.

Opposition activists tell the daily they believe that Assad himself will eventually flee to that area once his regime collapses, just as Saddam Hussein fled to the city of Tikrit  following the US invasion in 2003, and just as Libya’s Gaddafi fled to Sirt.

Fighting in Mali may reach capital

Fighting in Mali occupies much of the Arab news on Tuesday, as Islamist rebels near the capital Bamako.

A-Sharq Al-Awsat, reporting on the deployment of French forces to Mali, highlights comments by French Foreign Minister Lauren Fabius whereby his country’s involvement will be short-lived and only take “weeks.”

“Despite the fact the Paris stands alone in the eye of the storm in Mali, it stresses the fact that it is working with its partners. However, most of them have merely announced their sending of humanitarian, medical and intelligence support, without playing a combat role,” reports the daily.

Meanwhile, Al-Hayat reports that the Tuareg rebels in northern Mali — former allies of the Islamist rebels who are now approaching the capital — have declared their support for the French intervention. The Tuareg captured a section of northern Mali last April.

According to a poll cited by Al-Hayat, 63 percent of Mali’s citizens approve of the French intervention. But those approval ratings may drop if the army hangs around for too long, French politicians warn.

Al-Arabiya, a news channel broadcasting from Dubai, reports that Algeria has closed its 1,300-kilometer-long (807 miles) border with Mali.

A minister from Mali recently visited Algeria, a move observers believe carried a request by Mali to shut the borders so that the Islamist fighters will not be able to retreat north into Algeria, and will be forced to surrender, Al-Arabiya reports.

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