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SYRIA NEWS


http://www.petercliffordonline.com/syria-news-3

FIGHTING SPREADS AROUND ALEPPO AS OPPOSITION RE-OPEN ANOTHER FRONT NEAR INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT:

TIMELINE – 16th APRIL 2014 12.58 GMT – UPDATED 20.51 GMT:

Keeping Assad’s forces under pressure in western Aleppo, Opposition fighters have continued their simultaneous assault on several fronts, with intense battles reported around Brigade 80 and the Aleppo International Airport today.

On Monday the Opposition captured the strategic Sadkop Army base on the Ramouseh industrial area ring road and the Sadkop Fuel Depot, HERE:

The Opposition have also isolated 3 kilometres (1.9 miles) of the ring road, thereby preventing Assad’s forces from reinforcing or supplying parts of regime-held west Aleppo.

http://www.petercliffordonline.com/syria-news

Yet Another Barrel-Bomb Attack in Aleppo

Fighting continues in the area today with reports of 18 Opposition fighters and 7 regime troops killed in the last 24 hours. Video from the fierce Ramouseh battle can be seen HERE: and HERE:

Opposition fighters also captured a regime stronghold in Ramouseh seizing weapons, ammunition and gas masks, HERE:

In north-west Aleppo, Opposition fighters have kept up their attack on the area around the Air Intelligence HQ, the building believed to be a major command and control centre as well as holding thousands of prisoners.

On Monday, the Opposition closed the the Karaj al-Hafez crossing in Bustan al-Qasr, the main link between the two halves of the city because of a “constant threat from pro-Assad snipers” and the electricity outage reported earlier was blamed on an Assad barrel-bomb hitting a high voltage tower.

Barrel-bombs have also destroyed another Opposition field hospital in eastern Aleppo in what seems deliberate targeting.

Disturbing reports are also emerging from Aleppo Central Prison, north of Aleppo, and still completely surrounded by Opposition fighters. According to the Violations Documentation Centre, at least 800 prisoners have died there in the last year from malnutrition and illness.

Many think this is a conservative figure after reports that a lot more of the estimated 2,400 inmates, including women and children, have been denied food and medical treatment.

In another sign of regime nervousness, the Deputy Director of Assad’s Aleppo Military Academy, Colonel Mohammed Dargham, is reported to have fled the city and yesterday helicopters dropped 18 barrel bombs on various parts of Aleppo.

In this footage, Opposition forces are firing Grad missiles at regime positions in the Sheikh Najjar industrial area in the Aleppo north-eastern outskirts, HERE:

And as Opposition fighters battle their way into the north-western Al-Zahraa area an interesting contrast can be seen between the elegant blocks of flats in unbombed Alawite areas compared with the basic concrete constructions in Sunni areas (now mostly destroyed), HERE: and HERE:

This map, courtesy of @PetoLucem, from April 13th, shows all the areas talked about above (note large Green arrows of Opposition advance). For and enlarged version click, HERE and then click the map again:

http://www.petercliffordonline.com/syria-news

Battle Positions in Aleppo 13.04.14

LARGE SHIPMENT OF US ANTI-TANK WEAPONS AIDS OPPOSITION BUT COMES TOO LATE TO HELP HOMS:

The Opposition advance in Aleppo may have been helped by the arrival of US TOW anti-tank missile launchers (ATGM), 20 of which are reported to have been given to moderate Opposition groups in Aleppo and Idlib.

The TOW ATGM are seen as vastly superior and more accurate than other makes. Activist reports say that the Harakat Hazm Brigade launched five of those rockets to destroy four tanks and win a recent battle in the Idlib suburbs of Babulin and Salheiya. The TOW is seen in action again, HERE:

http://www.petercliffordonline.com/syria-news

US TOW Anti Tank Missile Launcher

In current battles south-east of Idlib city at Qmenas, 17 of Assad’s troops have been killed and 30 others wounded during their attempt to storm the town but at the cost of 21 Opposition deaths as well.

In an attempt to completely regain control of Homs, the Syrian Army has mounted another major attack on the remaining Opposition-held areas of the city where there are thought to be around 1300 people remaining, mostly Opposition fighters.

This morning reports say that the regime have mobilised hundreds of troops at the police headquarters in the heart of the city as a step towards a new ground operation. The Opposition has also released a statement accusing the regime’s forces of violating the agreement reached between them which would allow their fighters to exit from the city.

Yesterday, regime troops entered Wadi Al-Sayeh, which lies between Juret Al-Shiyah and the Old City, their first major advance since the summer of 2013. The advance was preceded by heavy air attacks, particularly on Al-Wa’er, seen HERE:  and HERE:

However, unconfirmed reports say that as many as 40 pro-Assad fighters were killed on a failed attack on the Bab Houd front yesterday.

In the Damascus region, the Syrian Government has dropped more than 14 barrel bombs on Zabadani in the last 2 days, killing at least 4 people, as it continues its campaign to clear the Qalamoun region of all Opposition.

In the same area, due north of the Syrian capital, the regime took control of the village of Assal al-Ward yesterday and Housh Arab today, but at Ma’aloula, 3 crew from Hezbollah’s Al-Manar TV station were killed, probably caught, according to latest reports, in regime “friendly fire”.

In an interesting report, one of Iran’s top military figures is quoted as saying this week that if it hadn’t been for Iran’s intervention, Assad would have been toppled by now, HERE:

INTERESTING “STATE-ALIGNED” PRISONERS CAPTURED IN DEIR EZ-ZOUR, WHILE UN STUNNED BY “CAESAR REPORT” ON ASSAD TORTURE AND KILLING:

In Deir Ez-Zour province Opposition fighters have destroyed the headquarters of Assad’s forces in the Shuhada district on the western edge of city and once again targeted the Deir Ez-Zour military airport with mortars, with regime loss of life.

Fighting in the oil-rich province also continues between the more moderate Opposition and the Islamic State of Iraq and Levant (ISIL or ISIS). 20 fighters from Jabhat Al-Nusra and more moderate Islamic battalions ( including a leader of the Al-Islam brigade ) were killed in clashes with ISIL in the town of Sor, which is now completely under ISIL control.

http://www.petercliffordnline.com/syria-news

3 Kilometres of Aleppo Ring Road Seized by Opposition

 

Interestingly, there is an unconfirmed report from a similar battle at Taiana that 4 “ISIL fighters” captured there have turned out to be members of Assad’s loyalist army, Maher Al-Assad’s 4th Division. At the moment they are still in the hands of the Al-Nusra Front and “are being well-treated”. If true this could have interesting repercussions.

In Hama province a very fierce battle continues for control of the strategic Hama to Aleppo highway town of Morek (sometimes called Mork) with heavy losses on both sides. 5 airstrikes and 20 barrel-bombs have fallen on the town this week in an attempt to dislodge the Opposition.

In Quneitra province, now 70% controlled by the Opposition, Opposition fighters having taken the western part of Tell Ahmar, are shelling Assad’s forces on the eastern Tell, HERE:

Lastly, at the UN yesterday, members of the UN Security Council, including the Russian and Chinese representatives, watched a presentation of the “Caesar Report”, sponsored by Qatar, which documents the deaths of 11,000 people who died in Assad regime jails between 2011 and 2013. The report contains some 55,000 images depicting abuse of victims including starvation and torture.

“Caesar” is the code name for a former Assad Government employee who was charged with photographing all the dead emanating from regime detention centres. He recorded the images and transmitted them to the Opposition.

Two of the experts who examined the photos and authenticated claims made by the defector say the dossier represents credible evidence to be put before the International Criminal Court (ICC). The pictures are from just 3 detention centres – there are believed to be at least 50 in total in Syria.

French ambassador to the UN, Gerard Araud, said that there was complete silence for several minutes after the report was shown and his Government intends to bring forward a motion at the Security Council referring the matter to the ICC. US UN Ambassador Samantha Power said, “Nobody who sees these images will ever be the same.”

EDITOR: My original post on this is HERE: 

And Al Jazeera has a video report (Caution – Graphic Images), HERE:

http://www.petercliffordonline.com/syria-news

Hope and Love in the Midst of Disaster

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OPPOSITION PUSHING FURTHER INTO SOUTH-WEST ALEPPO – SURPRISINGLY UNSCATHED COMPARED WITH BARREL-BOMBED EAST:

TIMELINE – 14th APRIL 2014 12.48 GMT:

Over the weekend the Opposition have continued to push into south-western Aleppo, strengthening their positions by taking streets and apartment blocks in Al-Sherfee.

By Friday, Opposition fighters captured the Technical Services building, now seen HERE: and the Ramouseh Garages seen, HERE:

http://www.petercliffordonline.com/syria-news

Opposition Capture Bakery Checkpoint in SW Aleppo

The Opposition are now well inside the regime district of Zahra, which is relatively unscathed compared with the barrel-bombed eastern half of Aleppo city, HERE:

The fighters have since taken several more buildings in Zahra neighbourhood and are attacking the Al-Sherfee area to be in a better position to lay siege to the Artillery Academy, HERE:

An Opposition tank-howitzer also targeted the Sadkop (military) base in Ramouseh, HERE: which unconfirmed reports say has been captured this morning, Monday.

Another tour of Zahra, with minimal damage, can be seen, HERE: 

On Sunday, a regime reinforcement convoy on the highway at Sheikh Said, just east of Ramouseh, was attacked, but other Syrian Army and National Defence Force troops did get through to the Air Force Intelligence building which is the Opposition’s main target.

The Opposition also hit a tank with an anti-tank guided missile near the Air Force Intelligence building, HERE:  and the Opposition advance further into Ramouseh continues this morning, Monday, HERE:

There has additionally been a major power cut to electricity supplies which may herald an even larger Opposition attack and for the first time civilians from western Aleppo have started to move to the Opposition-held east.

There are reports of a severe bread shortage in regime-held western Aleppo, possibly exacerbated by Opposition control of the bakery checkpoint in Ramouseh where the Syrian Army were found to have been using full flour bags for barricades.

The Opposition also brought down this small drone near the Artillery Academy, HERE:

ASSAD REGIME ONCE AGAIN ACCUSED OF DROPPING POISONOUS GAS ON CIVILIANS IN HAMA PROVINCE:

At Kafr Zita in Hama province on Friday, a series of barrel bombs were dropped indiscriminately by Assad’s helicopters on the town, releasing clouds of smoke and debris with a distinctive yellow tinge, HERE:

http://www.petercliffordonline.com/syria-news

Cylinders Containing Chlorine Gas Dropped on Kafr Zita

Activists said the barrel-bombs contained cylinders with Chinese markings and the designa-

http://www.petercliffordonline.com/syria-news

Chinese Manufacturer’s Mark and Chlorine Designation

tion CL2, or chlorine gas, HERE: Two people were reported to have died and up to 100 were injured.

Unusually, the Assad regime admitted a chlorine attack on Kafr Zita (before anyone else had said which gas was involved) but blamed it on the Al-Nusra Front (ANF). 

EDITOR: As far as we know the ANF do not have any operational helicopters – especially ones which pass across Syria undetected by Assad’s Air Force.

The regime is desperate to regain the area as it commands their supply route from Hama to Aleppo.  Al Jazeera has a video report, HERE:

In Deraa province, Opposition fighters have destroyed a regime tank inside the Brigade 52 base near Al-Harak, HERE:  

They also hit a regime convoy loaded with munitions, with an IED device and killed a dozen of Assad’s troops in the Sheikh Sa‘d area south of Nawa.

Within Deraa city itself heavy fighting was reported again near the Palace of Justice.

FIGHTING IN LATAKIA GOES SUSPICIOUSLY QUIET AS ASSAD REGIME CLEARS ALAWITE VILLAGES – LATAKIA CITY GETS NERVOUS:

In Lattakia province, rather suspiciously, fighting has gone rather quiet apart from this video footage released this morning Monday of Opposition fighters firing mortars at regime positions, HERE:

There are reports of Alawite villages being evacuated in northern Latakia and along the coast, so one wonders what the Assad regime has in mind? Hopefully not more chemical weapons.

http://www.petercliffordonline.com/syria-news

Assad’s Barrel Bombs Dismembering Children for Life

For the first time Latakia city is now full of displaced refugees sleeping in local schools and nervousness among the general population in increasing, HERE:

In Damascus province, Syrian Government forces are said to have recaptured  Sarkha and Ma’aloula in the Qalamoun this morning, Monday, though earlier reports said that Opposition fighters had withdrawn.

Ma’aloula is particularly significant as it is a famous Christian village where they still speak Aramaic, the language of Jesus.

The Al-Nusra Front captured 12 nuns from the village in December and exchanged them for the release of many women prisoners held by Assad.  The nuns said they had been genuinely “well-treated” – much to the annoyance of the Assad regime who were unable to make any PR capital out of the abduction.

Around Damascus city the Syrian Air Force has kept up a relentless rocket and barrel-bomb attack on the Opposition suburbs, particularly those east of the capital. In Douma barrel-bombs hit a crowded market place killing at least 5 children among other victims.

The Opposition town of Mleiha has been bombed for 10 consecutive days as regime troops try to break in, though there are reports they have reached the outskirts.

In this video footage, the Opposition destroy a T-72 tank there, HERE:  and HERE:  And an armoured caterpillar, HERE: 

The Opposition brought their own tank into play, HERE:

Despite all the above, delusional President Assad made a speech at Damascus University on Sunday claiming his army was “winning the war against terror”.

“This is a turning point in the crisis, both militarily in terms of the army’s achievements in the war against terror, and socially in terms of national reconciliation processes and growing awareness of the truth behind the (attacks) targeting the country,” he said.

This confidence is not reflected on the currency markets where the value of the Syrian pound dropped to 176 to the US dollar on Sunday from 156 a few days earlier. Since March 2011, the Syrian pound has lost  more than three-quarters of its value against the US currency.

And lastly a group supporting the Syrian Opposition have made an animation about how the extreme Jihadists of the Islamic State of Iraq and Levant (ISIL or ISIS) are “manufactured”, (Arabic only) here:

http://www.petercliffordonline.com/syria-news

Free Syrians in Idlib Cross a Sea of Blood Red Anemones

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OPPOSITION FIGHTERS MAKING SIGNIFICANT ADVANCES IN SOUTH-WEST ALEPPO, HOMING IN ON AIR FORCE INTELLIGENCE HQ:

TIMELINE – 11th APRIL 2014 13.58 GMT:

Far from “Assad winning” as the mainstream international media seems to like to portray the situation, the Syrian Opposition continues to make significant advances, notably this week in south-west Aleppo.

In the last 2 days, Opposition fighters have captured the Red Crescent building and the Ramouseh garages and are now at the gates of the Artillery Academy. 

http://www.petercliffordonline.com/syria-news

Opposition Fighters Prepare a Home Made Rocket to Fire Against Assad’s Troops

Their target is the massive Air Force Intelligence building in the Zahra district, probably one of the most fortified buildings in Aleppo, which they now have surrounded, seen here with (for the moment) the regime flag flying, HERE:

There are believed to be hundreds of regime prisoners inside. This morning, Friday, reports also say that the Opposition have captured the huge Ramouseh roundabout, thereby cutting off the Aleppo ringroad and blocking the route for any regime reinforcements.

To the south in Idlib province, Opposition fighters have also blocked the Hama to Aleppo highway east of Hish, which feeds directly into this south-west corner of Aleppo city.

In their move towards the Air Force Intelligence HQ, the Opposition fighters have also taken the Technical Institute, HERE:  and a bit further to the south they destroyed a tank at the “School of Wisdom” barrier.

Scenes from the battle in the Ramouseh industrial area can be seen, HERE:  and the shelling of Assad’s forces, HERE:

The regime is rather desperately attacking Opposition positions around the Air Intelligence building but 2 barrel-bombs are reported to have fallen on Syrian Army Positions instead killing more than 20 of their troops in Al-Zahra district at the Finance Roundabout.

So nervous are Assad’s officers of this development that there are unconfirmed reports that some of them are moving their house furniture to homes on the coast in Latakia. There is also a report that “Ghazi al-Tamimi”, a commander of the Shiite Iraq’i Badr pro-Assad militia, was killed in the Aleppo fighting.

On the relief side of things, a IHH-Qatar Charity project opened 200 “container houses” in Aleppo yesterday and starting today, the same organisation is co-ordinating the arrival of 300 truck loads of aid into northern Syria, supported by 30 non-governmental organisations and 15 countries.

In Idlib province, as well as blocking the highway to Aleppo, Opposition fighters blew up a booby trapped building in the Shiite enclave of Al-Fu’ah, north-east of Idlib city, HERE:  and in Hama province, east of Hama city, they took the barrier of Sheikh Hilal.

In the night attack on the desert barrier of Sheikh Hilal, the Opposition fighters killed 11 regime troops, HERE: and seized 2 tanks and useful stocks of ammunition, HERE:

In Latakia fighting continues around Observatory Tower 45 with the regime pounding surrounding hills and Opposition positions with air attacks and mortars, while in Quneitra province a “quiet war” has seen the Opposition capture 70% of the region following their takeover over of the Ahmar Hills on Monday.

More information in this interview from a Quneitra based activist, courtesy of EAWorldview, HERE:

Courtesy of Cedric Labrousse, the latest map of the situation around Aleppo.  For a larger version click, HERE: and then click the map again:

http://www.petercliffordonline.com/syria-news

Map of Situation in Aleppo 10.04.14

NO OPPOSITION CAPITULATION AROUND DAMASCUS, HEAVY FIGHTING ALL OVER PROVINCE:

In the Qalamoun area not far from Damascus, Opposition fighters claimed yesterday they had brought down a regime MIG fighter aircraft near Bakh`ah, south-west of Yabroud and this afternoon, Friday, there is a report of second aircraft brought down in Ghouta.

Additionally, latest reports say that 6 tanks have been destroyed at Bakh’ah and 30 pro-Assad Shabiha killed.

Fierce battles are still continuing today near the farms surrounding the town of Rankous, where the Opposition is saying that the Syrian Army is using a different type of bomb with phosphorous like behaviour and a foul smell, seen HERE:

In a more humourous moment in Qalamoun this Opposition fighter played a dangerous game of “shoot the hat”, encouraging pro-Assad troops to waste their ammunition, HERE:

In the Eastern Ghouta region, just outside the Syrian capital, where the Syrian Army have launched a new campaign, Opposition fighters started attacking the 137th artillery regiment base in the Khan Al-Shaykh suburb this week, HERE:  and HERE:

Latest reports this morning,Friday, say that the Opposition have now killed 15 of Assad’s troops inside the base and captured 7 others.

http://www.petercliffordonline.com/syria-news

Double Car Bomb Explosion in Alawite Area of Homs

At Mleiha, Opposition fighters repelled a massive night attack by Iraqui pro-Assad militia, HERE: and dozens of rockets, mortars and barrel-bombs have been hurled at the town to try and break Opposition resistance.

This video shows up to 15 minutes worth of the battles at Mleiha, HERE:

South-south-west of Damascus, there was heavy fighting around the Khan-Dannoun Palestinian Refugee Camp, which Opposition fighters claim to be in complete control of today.

In the mainly Alawite area of Karam al-Luz in Homs city yesterday 2 car bombs exploded killing 25, including women and children, and injuring 107.

In the deadly blast, the second bomb went off half an hour after the first injuring Red Crescent workers sent to help. The BBC has a video report, HERE:

ISIS ATTACK OTHER OPPOSITION FIGHTERS FOR CONTROL OF BORDER TOWN BUT DRIVEN OFF WITH MASSIVE LOSS OF LIFE:

In Deir Ez-Zour province, members of the Islamic Front of Iraq and Levant (ISIL or ISIS) made a surprise dawn attack on Thursday against other Opposition fighters in an attempt to take control of the border town of Albu Kamal on the Syria/Iraq frontier.

At first ISIL gained the upper hand pushing into the town but have since been driven back at heavy cost as Al Nusra Front and Islamic Front reinforcements poured in.  Estimates today Friday are that 86 people have been killed in the fighting so far.

ISIL, who had been trying to link up with ISIL in Iraq who are even stronger, have withdrawn to the T2 oil site, 60 kilometres (35 miles) south-west of Albu Kamal but not before executing a number of their rivals.

At the border crossing itself the more moderate Opposition fighters retained control throughout but the Iraqi Army on the other side dug themselves in and put up blast walls to avoid involvement or explosive damage.

In the Jafra Oil Field 30 bodies have been found in a mass grave, also thought to have been executed by ISIL.

Elsewhere in the province opposition fighters are reported to have taken control of the main highway near Deir Ez-Zour military airport.

Lastly, the final word, as often on this blog, goes to the good people of Kafranbel in Idlib province, here:

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OPPOSITION ADVANCE IN SOUTHERN ALEPPO, WHILE UN DELIVER 1st RELIEF SUPPLIES TO EASTERN SUBURBS FOR 10 MONTHS:

TIMELINE – 9th APRIL 2014 13.35 GMT:

The I’Tassam campaign launched on Monday by Opposition fighters in south-west Aleppo is targeting 5 military installations on the western and southern approaches to the city.

So far they have taken control of a major regime supply road and large parts of the southern suburb of Aqrab. On Tuesday Opposition fighters shelled the “School of Wisdom” barrier with a tank, HERE:

http://www.petercliffordonline.com/syria-news

Baby Found Under Rubble 4 Days After Assad Barrel-Bombs Hit Aleppo

The Opposition also launched numerous rockets and mortars against the regime-held Halab al-Jadida neighbourhood and also on the Assad Miltiary Academy in Al-Hamdaniya.

“We are just around the corner from the city of Aleppo,” Lieutenant Colonel Abu Bakr of Jaish al-Mujahideen said. “The (southern) suburbs are no more than one kilometre from Aleppo.”

Opposition fighters also took over another building near the Air Security branch in Al-Layrmoun and targeted another regime checkpoint in the village of A’ziza.

Opposition sources report that 36 bodies, including five women and 15 children (including the baby pictured) have been found under the rubble of 3 buildings which were destroyed by Assad’s barrel-bombs 4 days ago.

Additionally Wednesday, Syria’s Red Crescent and the UN refugee agency UNHCR were able to deliver to Opposition-held areas of Aleppo city for the first time in 10 months.

Given access to the Jisr al-Haj crossing between West and East Aleppo, all the goods, including food, blankets and health kits, were moved by hand carts as the crossing was too narrow for trucks to pass through.

75 workers pulling carts “back and forth one and a half kilometre each way…in 270 trips” moved the goods to a warehouse to be distributed in the eastern Opposition areas later.

OPPOSITION MAY HAVE TO ACCEPT LOSS OF TERRITORY IN QALAMOUN REGION AND EXPAND CAMPAIGN INSTEAD IN NORTH AND SOUTH SYRIA:

In the Qalamoun region of Damascus province between the capital and the Lebanese border, things are not so clear cut, with the regime still advancing on Opposition towns and villages.

Yesterday the Syrian Army gained control of Radar Hill overlooking the Opposition-held town of Rankous and this morning, Wednesday, around 100 shells have rained down on the suburbs of the town. In fact, in later reports today, the Syrian Army is claiming they have taken the town and “restored stability”.

4 barrel-bombs were also dropped yesterday on the military observatory hill held by the Opposition south-west of Rankous and north-west of Saidnaya.

http://www.petercliffordonline.com/syria-news

Mosque Badly Damaged At Morek, Hama Province

It may be that Opposition supporters will have to accept that the holding of major towns and villages in the Qalamoun region is no longer possible, given the energy and superior air and artillery power the Assad regime, strongly supported by Hezbollah, has thrown at it.

However, with the very rugged and mountainous nature of the terrain, hit and run attacks are still possible. Opposition fighters are still reported to be having some success around Ras Al-Ein and in this video they attacked a regime force as it was trying to set up a new barrier, HERE:

In central Damascus, Opposition brigades have continued to fire mortars and rockets on regime held areas, many of which have until recently been able to ignore what was going on in other parts of the city. In this video a missile is fired at a building being used by the military near the Abbasiyyin Stadium, HERE:

Good to also report that more food supplies entered the Yarmouk Refugee Camp yesterday and were distributed to residents still trapped there.

Atmospheric piece worth reading in the New Yorker on how the 3 years of war is now piercing the bubble down at the Zeriab Cafe in central Damascus, HERE:

ASSAD BURBLES ABOUT “CONCERN OVER ENDING BLOODSHED”, WHILE UN HR CHIEF LAYS MAJORITY BLAME FOR ABUSES AT HIS DOOR:

Little news to report from Latakia where the Opposition still seem to be holding there own. However, the regime claims they regained hold of Al-Haramiyeh mountain, but they are suddenly very quiet about Observatory Tower 45.

Ominously, there were reports on Tuesday of as many as 1500 fighters arriving at Beirut airport from Armenia, presumably having been pumped up by untrue reports of “massacres” in the Armenian town of Kasab.

Iran is reported to have delivered 30,000 tons of food via ports in Latakia to shore up the crumbling food production and distribution infrastructure in Syria.

Adding to that, the UN is also predicting a very poor wheat harvest in northern Syria following almost drought conditions in the winter.

The UN World Food Programme is currently spending $40 million a week to feed Syrians inside the country and refugees outside. With a failing harvest this year and continuing warfare this problem is only set to get worse with possibly the complete collapse of the agricultural sector.

http://www.petercliffordonline.com/syria-news

Opposition Forces Capture Tel Ahmar in Quneitra Province

In Quneitra province to the south, where the Opposition have been making strong headway recently, fighters captured the regime-held Tel Ahmar hill, taking prisoners, HERE: and seizing a number of anti-tank missile launchers plus other equipment and ammunition, HERE:

In Idlib province there were 2 suicide attacks by the Al-Nusra Front (ANF) on Syrian Army emplacements, this one blowing up part of a military refuelling base near Khan Sheikhoun (at 0.20 seconds), HERE:

In Deraa province, Opposition fighters yesterday attacked a regime barrier near Mahajah in an attempt to cut the main highway to Damascus.

On the political front, President Assad, who no doubt working up to announcing his candidacy for the 2014 presidential elections, said on Monday at the 67th Anniversary of the Syrian Ba’ath Party, that, “The project of political Islam has failed, and there should be no mixing between political and religious work.”

He also said his government was “continuing with the process of reconciliation, because what concerns us is ending the bloodshed and the destruction of infrastructure” (EDITOR: Of which Assad is primarily the source!).

http://www.petercliffordonline.com/syria-news

“Free and Fair Elections Coming to Syria in 2014″

Omran Al-Zohbi, Assad’s Information Minister, announced late on Monday that candidates for this year’s presidential elections can submit their applications in the last 10 days of April. The elections are due to be held before June.

Delusionally, Al-Zohbi went on to add that “The overwhelming majority of Syrians are pressing and calling for President Bashar al-Assad to continue to lead the country as president of the republic,” and that nothing, “whether security, military, political, internal or external” will be allowed to prevent the election being held on time.

Despite legislation allowing other candidates to stand for first time, a ruling that excludes anyone who has not lived in Syria for the last 10 years means that almost all the Opposition leaders will be ineligible as candidates.

Lastly, in clear condemnation of Assad’s fitness to stand again as Syria’s leader, Navi Pillay, the UN’s High Commissioner for Human Rights made it clear yesterday that she thought the Syrian Government was mainly responsible for human rights abuses in Syria.

While acknowledging that neither the Opposition nor the Syrian government was blameless when it comes to rights violations, she said that nevertheless “you cannot compare the two sides.”

“It is the government that is mostly responsible for the violations and all these perpetrators should be identified [for]…referral to the International Criminal Court (ICC)”.

Speaking to reporters in New York, Pillay said, “Criminal justice must be seized. The UN Security Council must be able to unite around the simple idea that terrible crimes have been committed and that they must be punished ….There has to be justice and accountability and the situation in Syria should not be allowed to slip through the cracks.” (EDITOR: HEAR! HEAR! I Agree wholeheartedly)

Assad’s UN Ambassador, Bashar al-Jaafari, dismissed Navi Pillay comments as “biased” and burbled on about “terrorist acts in Kasab” of which no-one has evidence.

http://www.petercliffordonline.com/syria-news

Homs is Asking For Help

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OPPOSITION FIGHTERS SUCCESSFULLY BLOCK HAMA/IDLIB HIGHWAY & KNOCK OUT ASSAD TANKS WITH NEW US WEAPONS:

TIMELINE – 7th APRIL 2014 13.59 GMT:

In Idlib province Assad’s forces are taking a pounding north of Hama as Opposition fighters gained control of the town of Babuleen over the weekend and then moved on to capture the village of Salehia to the south-west.

Opposition fighters seen in Babaleen, HERE: have already captured an ammunition depot east of Hish and are now attacking the barriers around Hish town.

Occupation of this area gives the Opposition complete control over the Hama to Idlib/Aleppo highway, HERE: and prevents the regime from easily resupplying its surrounded bases of Wadi Deif and Hamidiyah near Ma’arrat al-Numan to the north.

http://www.petercliffordonline.com/syria-news

Opposition Mortars Strike Area Around Damascus Opera House

Battles along the highway have allowed the Opposition fighters to destroy at least 4 armoured vehicles using anti-tank guided missiles (ATGM) and capture 3 tanks and a BMP armoured vehicle, HERE:

More interestingly, video from battles in the area is showing Opposition fighters using American BGM-71 TOW ATGMs, HERE: and SA-16 Manpad anti-aircraft missiles, HERE:

At Khan Sheikhoun, south of Hish on the same highway, 15 of Assad’s soldiers are reported to have defected from the Sayyad checkpoint.

Across Syria the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) recorded 295 deaths on Saturday and 303 on Sunday, a horrific total for 2 days.

In the Damascus area Opposition fighters took over a yeast factory at Shebaa in Eastern Ghouta on Friday, not far from the International Airport road, and started another new assault at Bait Jin to the south-west of the capital.

On Sunday, Opposition mortar rounds hit the Opera House in central Damascus, killing 2 and wounding 5 and setting vehicles on fire. On Saturday mortars also hit the Russian Embassy causing some material damage but no injuries.

In the Qalamoun area, Opposition fighters are reported to have exploded a car bomb at a check point at Ras Al-Ein giving them the opportunity for some advance in the area, while regime forces concentrate their troops on attacking the Opposition stronghold of Rankous.

NERVOUS ASSAD REGIME, UNABLE TO REMOVE OPPOSITION FROM NORTH, MOVES TROOPS FROM OTHER LATAKIA POSITIONS:

In Latakia, it is not completely clear who is in control of Observatory Tower 45 at this point, but the last information on Friday showed Opposition fighters once again immediately below the 2 tower masts, HERE: and HERE:

While Government forces continue to shell Kessab and other Opposition positions it does not look like that the Assad regime has made any advance in the province over the weekend.

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More Misery for Refugees After Tents and Houses Burnt in Za’atari Riot, Jordan

Reinforcement convoys coming from the east have been heavily attacked and activist reports say the Syrian Army units are having to leave bases around Tartous, Jibla and Latakia to bolster their strength in the north of the province. In a sign of nervousness, there are also new reports of the construction of new defensive ditches and canals around Latakia city.

According to activist reports, 45 of Assad’s elite force (Suqur AL Sahra) have been killed in fighting near Kessab and Opposition fighters have been firing missiles at the Al-Hamimim airport, where large numbers of Iranian and Iraqi pro-Assad militia are believed to be stationed.

Opposition fighters based in Kessab have additionally been firing Grad missiles on to Government positions at Qastal Ma’af to the south, HERE:

In Deraa city a massive barrel-bomb explosion was recorded yesterday, HERE: , while in nearby Quneitra province the Opposition have started a campaign called “Echo of Anfal” to copy Opposition successes in Latakia and to try and take regime positions on Tell Ahmar, just east of the Golan Heights.

WELL KNOWN PRIEST ASSASSINATED IN HOMS, WHILE OPPOSITION LAUNCH NEW CAMPAIGN IN WEST ALEPPO:

In Aleppo, Opposition fighters also announced a new campaign to take the western approaches to Aleppo city and this morning, Monday, have already claimed that in clashes at Rashedeen, 38 of Assad’s troops have been killed and 5 others detained.

/Syria_Live_Blog http://www.petercliffordonline.com/syria-news

Boy Rescued from Assad Barrel-Bombing in Aleppo

In a vain attempt to try and stem the Opposition advance, at least 20 barrel-bombs have been dropped on Opposition held parts of Aleppo today alone.

In Homs, between 29 and 55 people (reports vary), mainly Opposition fighters including 2 commanders, are reported killed in a massive explosion on Sunday in the Al-Jaj market area of the Old City, the source of which is unclear.

Some say the Oppossition were preparing a car bomb and things went wrong, while other reports suggest a Government missile hit an Opposition weapons and ammunition dump.

Reports are also coming in this morning of the assassination of the Catholic Jesuit priest, 72 year old Father Francis Van Der Lugt, who remained in the Opposition held Old City of Homs, even after the recent evacuation of many civilians. He was killed by masked gunmen of unknown origin.

Father Van Der Lugt, a Dutchman, spoke fluent Arabic and was well known for helping others and making international appeals for help for the sick and starving. Albert Abdul-Massih, who worked along Van Der Lugt, said the slain priest held a doctorate in psychiatry and lived an austere life.

“He was a Christian clergyman but he wasn’t conservative … We leant humanity from him and he used to love Muslims as much as he loves Christians … He was treating people for free ….”

In a riot at the Za’atari refugee camp in Jordan, one Syrian refugee was killed yesterday and a number of refugees and Jordanian police wounded, as well as numerous tents and temporary houses burnt to the ground. Reports vary as to the start of the conflict, one saying a child was run over by a Jordanian police vehicle, another that the police arrested a woman and yet another that the police prevented some men entering the camp with a large number of bags. Al Jazeera had a video report, HERE:

Very optimistically, in Lebanon, Sayyed Hasan Nasrallah, the leader of Hezbollah, has said in a newspaper interview to be published today, that “The danger of the Syrian regime falling has ended, and we have exceeded the risk of partition.”

According to the Hezbollah leader, most of the international community is now looking for a diplomatic solution to the conflict and he also said he was reassured by the ongoing events around Damascus and on Syria’s northern borders. (EDITOR: So let’s hope he is proved dramatically wrong!)

Lastly 2 very tongue in cheek satirical articles connected with Syria. The first suggests that Assad, having lost a number of cousins in battles with Opposition fighters recently, might have to import some more “cousins” from Iran, HERE:

And the second reports on the very secret same-sex marriage, “husband to husband”, which took place in “a quiet up-state New York ceremony between Nasrallah and Putin”, HERE: (EDITOR: They both made me laugh – and boy do we need a little humour sometimes!)

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“Nasrallah and Putin Joined in Secret Ceremony” (Photoshopped)

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HEAVY FIGHTING CONTINUES IN LATAKIA AS CONTROL OF OBSERVATORY 45 GOES BACK AND FORTH:

TIMELINE – 4th APRIL 2014 13.58 GMT:

Heavy fighting continues in north-west Latakia near the Turkish border with control of the Observatory 45 hill emplacement going backwards and forwards from one side to the other.

Observatory 45, the highest hill in the area, seems to be the “must have” position to hold. On Tuesday it was in the hands of the Opposition, on Wednesday it fell to the Assad regime, on Wednesday night it went back to the Opposition and on Thursday fell again to the Syrian Army and the National Defence Force.

Assad Troops Hold Observatory 45 - For The Moment?

Assad Troops Hold Observatory 45 – For The Moment?

The Syrian pro-state media has trumpeted the “retaking of 45″ yesterday with many photographs and much video, which is pretty good for a position which the Assad regime had already claimed it had never lost in the first place.

The hill position was visited by General Ali Abdullah Ayoub on Thursday, Assad’s Army Chief of Staff.

On Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday the Syrian Air Force targeted Opposition positions on and around Observatory 45 and the Jabal al-Nusr, Al-Sawda, Beit Shardaq, Al-Khadra, Qal’at Kawjak areas plus the Al-Akrad mountain range.

Moroccan fighters from the Shab al-Islam battalion were able to regain control over regime-held buildings at a peak in the al-Marsad area but battles led to the death of at least 11 Al-Nusra Front (ANF), Sham al-Islam and Islamic Front fighters and around 20 pro-Assad troops and militia.

The fate of the Sham al-Islam leader, Ibrahim Banshaqroun, known as Abu Ahmad al-Maghribi, and who was once detained in Guantanamo Bay prison by the US, is not clear after reports he was seriously wounded while defending Observatory 45.

Yesterday, Thursday, Opposition fighters claimed to have destroyed 2 regime tanks positioned on hill 45 with anti-tank missiles.

Fierce clashes are again reported around 45 this morning, Friday, with Opposition fighters launching another attack and claiming at midday that they had control (EDITOR: But frankly who knows, this is clearly a fast moving and changeable scenario!). 

Casualties on both sides are reported as high and both sides are sending reinforcements to the area. This Opposition convoy was filmed on its way to Latakia as it passed through Idlib province, HERE:

ASSAD’S MURDEROUS AND INDISCRIMINATE BARREL-BOMB CAMPAIGN PEAKS ACROSS SYRIA:

Right Across Syria from Aleppo, to Deraa,  in Homs and Opposition held suburbs around Damascus, reports are coming in of dozens of indiscriminate regime barrel-bomb strikes and many deaths and casualties.

This is the terrible aftermath on Assad airstrikes on Aleppo’s Al-Shaar district today, (Caution, some dead and seriously wounded), 30 or more being reported killed, HERE:, HERE:  and HERE:

In this video Assad’s barrel-bombers struck the small town of Al-Ghanto, north-west of Homs, HERE:

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Opposition Fighters Help One of their Wounded At Mleha Near Damascus

And devastation also falls on the Opposition suburb of Mleha in Damascus, HERE:  with this little girl destroyed (Caution, disturbing), HERE:

(EDITOR:Videos collated courtesy of http://yallasouriya.wordpress.com/ )

Also in Damascus, the Opposition claimed yesterday that the Government side had used gas once again on the Jobar district and showed a video of man unconscious on a bed being treated by medics with oxygen and injections.

This came a week after Syria’s UN Amabassador, Bashar Ja’afari, had presented letters to the UN Secretary General, Ban Ki-Moon, claiming that his Government had recorded Opposition messages planning a gas attack in the same area.

Unconfirmed reports from Opposition sources say that very large numbers of pro-Assad fighters have been killed or wounded in fighting around Damascus near Abbassiyeen square, Zablatani, Baghdad Street, Jobar and Mlieha.

In the Yarmouk camp in the southern suburbs of the capital, yet another man is reported to have died from malnutrition or medical complications arising from it and yet more mortar shells have fallen on the area. Mortar shells are also reported falling on the Al-Tadamon neighbourhood.

At the same time SANA, the Syrian state media, reported yesterday that 4 mortar rounds fell on the north-west district of Harasta killing 6 children and wounding 5 more. 5 more people were wounded by mortars hitting the up-market Alawite area of Maliki.

Fierce fighting continues around Mleha where a 2 day regime offensive has killed at least 20 Opposition fighters in airstrikes.

However, a truce agreed in the Barzeh district of Damascus appears to be holding, a local activist saying in an interview that in the end they had no choice, HERE:

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Homs, Spring in Baba Amr – Poppies, Graves and Destruction

In Homs fighting has again broken out on the outskirts of the Al Wa’er neighbourhood with at least 6 people, including 2 children and 1 woman killed by airstrikes.

Reports persist in Aleppo province at Safira of in-fighting between Assad’s regular forces and pro-Assad militia who are reluctant to leave the area to defend Government positions in Latakia. A similar report says that the well-known pro-Assad Berri clan based in Aleppo city have also refused the same request.

In Deraa province, the Yarmouk Martyrs Brigade has announced on video that it is about to take its tanks into Deraa city and in Deir Ez-Zour the Islamic Front rained down mortars on Deir Ez-Zour military airport last night, apparently causing some regime losses. A very large explosion in the eastern Deir Ez-Zour countryside is as yet unexplained.

In Hasakah province to the north-east, continuing battles are still being reported between the Kurdish militia, the YPG, and the extreme Jihadist group the Islamic State of Iraq and Levant (ISIL or ISIS), particularly around the Ras al-A’in district and Tal al-Bawgha village.

RUSSIA, ON A WAVE OF WORLD IMPORTANCE AFTER ANNEXING CRIMEA, SUPPLYING ASSAD WITH ADVANCED WEAPONS:

On the chemical weapons front, 54 % of the Syrian Government stockpile has been disposed of and another 72 containers of material are waiting to be shipped to the port of Latakia, though the Assad regime says that “security considerations” are preventing their movement. The disposal of the material in the 72 containers would bring destruction levels to 90% of Syria’s declared stock.

Riding on wave of importance having negotiated this agreement with the US to destroy Syria’s chemical weapons and emboldened by its annexation of Crimea, Russia is now said to be doing everything to ensure that Assad wins convincingly.

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Hezbollah Plus Iran and Russia Holding Assad Up

“If Russia can show it’s capable of carrying out its own foreign policy, regardless of America’s wishes, it will be a major achievement for Putin,” says Alexei Malashenko, a Middle East analyst at the Moscow Carnegie Center.

Russia is not only supplying a “lifeline” of ammunition and spare parts for tanks, armoured vehicles and helicopters but has upgraded MIG 29 fighter jets with ground attack capabilities and has delivered more sophisticated rockets.

American intelligence sources have monitored for the first time in February Assad’s use of longer-range Russian Smerch and Uragan missiles. “The Russian strategy has actually not changed, it’s just that they’re no longer hiding behind a diplomatic façade since Crimea,” said Oubai Shahbandar, an adviser to the Syrian opposition.

Since Putin’s take over of Crimea, his popularity rating in Russia has soared to over 80% according to Russian polls, the highest in 6 years. You can read more on this, HERE:

Finally, in Lebanon, which has a population of less than 5 million to start with, the 1 millioneth Syrian refugee was yesterday registered by the UN refugee agency UNHCR.  There are now more Syrian refugee children of school age in Lebanon than Lebanese children in the same age-group.

The BBC has a video report on this HERE:  and Al Jazeera, HERE:

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ASSAD REGIME CAUGHT OUT ON FALSE PROPAGANDA SURROUNDING OPPOSITION ADVANCE IN LATAKIA:

TIMELINE – 2nd APRIL 2014 13.56 GMT:

The Assad regime claimed on Monday that following a major offensive its troops had recaptured the strategic Observatory 45 in Latakia province south of Kasab, however from video evidence this is clearly not the case.

Reports from Monday’s Government assault on Observatory 45 say that 25 of Assad’s soldiers were killed in the attack, with the loss of 9 Opposition fighters from the Al-Nusra Front and the Islamic Front, the brigades who held their positions.

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Ahmad Jarba, SNC Leader, Visits Kasab in Latakia

While the Opposition are clearly not spending all their time sitting on the top of the Observatory 45 hill waiting to be bombed and shelled, video released yesterday clearly shows that they can come and go as they please, HERE: and HERE:

By contrast regime video claiming they had retaken the Observatory 45 hill, the highest in the area, shows them repeatedly shelling it from afar, HERE:

Additionally, showing how confident they are, Ahmad Jarbar, the President of the Opposition Syrian National Coalition (SNC), accompanied by their provisional government’s defence minister, Assad Mustafa, toured the captured town of Kasab yesterday and visited Opposition commanders on the frontline at Jabal Turkman and Jabal Akrad in Latakia province.

This was a significant pro-Opposition propaganda coup if nothing else, considering that President Assad has not been seen in the province, his own Alawite heartland, for years now.

The Opposition in Latakia have also taken over a former regime post on Mount al-Nisr, as can be seen, HERE: and claim to have made significant inroads towards the Bay of Ra’s al-Basit, well to the south-west of Kasab, HERE: and HERE:

Opposition fighters have deployed a 130mm artillery gun in Latakia, HERE: and more men and heavy weapons, including tanks, are on their way.

Latest reports from the area say that Assad’s warplanes are targeting villages around Mount Al-Akrad amid heavy clashes between Assad’s forces and Opposition fighters on the Mount Chalma axis that runs across the region and once again around Obervatory 45.

There is an earlier video of Opposition fighters making their way up to Observatory 45 and taking it, HERE:

On the propaganda front, the worldwide Armenian community got caught up in a regime supporter campaign on Twitter to #savekassab, Kasab being a majority Christian Armenian town.

All the propaganda was linked to “reports of massacres”, “executions”, “rape and atrocities” and the desecration of Christian churches, none of which is apparently true.

Pictures posted to “prove” all this, were in fact pictures from previous years from all over Syria, some of them earlier posted on this page and some showing victims of Assad’s bombing campaign.

Video of executions was in fact that of the Jihadist group the Islamic State of Iraq and Levant (ISIL or ISIS), who are not involved in the Latakia campaign anymore, carrying out their grim extremism in other parts of Syria, behaviour condemned by all right-minded Opposition supporters.

Another picture of a crucifix being removed from the top of a church and being replaced by the black Al-Qaeda flag (and featured here), actually took place months ago in Raqqah city, controlled by ISIL and several hundred kilometres away.

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Opposition Tank Convoy On its Way to Latakia

One picture widely circulated was of a mutilated girl with a crucifix rammed into her mouth – it is actually a clip from a gore-horror film released in 2005 called “inner Depravity”.

The model Kim Kardashian, who is of Armenian decent, got swept up in the false campaign Tweeting to her 20 million followers on March 30th: “If you don’t know what’s going on in Kessab please google it … As an Armenian, I grew up hearing so many painful stories”, referring to the Armenian genocide of World War 1.

The Islamic Front has specifically issued a very positive statement denying any sectarian violence or abuse, HERE:

To read more on the Assad-side blatant hoax propaganda, go HERE:

OPPOSITION FIGHTERS PREVENTING ASSAD’S REINFORCEMENT CONVOYS REACHING LATAKIA AND ANOTHER HELICOPTER DESTROYED:

Meanwhile, in Idlib province Opposition fighters are continuing an operation to prevent the Assad regime from sending reinforcements and so have prevented any convoys from entering Latakia via the most direct route through the Jabal al-Akrad mountains.

One Government convoy was reported to have retreated back to Aleppo and Opposition fighters can be seen shelling an Assad barrier on the highway, HERE:

At the same time other operations are continuing, Opposition fighters shelling regime positions north-east of Idlib city in the Al-Fu’ah area with a hell-fire cannon, HERE:

There are also reports that the Opposition shot down yet another Government helicopter yesterday near the Abu al-Duhour military airport. Regime helicopters were seen yesterday delivering supplies to besieged army posts and bases across the province, including this delivery to the surrounded Hamidiyah Army Base near Ma’arrat-an-Numan, HERE:

In Damascus, where the international media like to portray Assad as being largely in control, Opposition fighters in Jobar, which is very near central parts of the capital, are still putting up a strong fight, HERE: and managed to wipe out a building while Government snipers were still firing from the top, HERE:

At Zamalka, just east of Jobar, Opposition fighters destroyed a T-72 tank with an explosive device probably hidden in the road, HERE: and fierce fighting also continues in the northern suburb of Adra, HERE:

From Homs, the UK’s Channel 4 has this video report on what is left of the city and where the regime claims there are only 1,000 Opposition fighters left against them, HERE:

And Channel 4 additionally has another very interesting video about a UK Moslem from Essex, near London, who went to Syria on an aid convoy 2 years ago but still remains there driving an ambulance and doing valuable aid work alongside his 21 year old wife, HERE:

ASSAD RUNNING OUT OF ABLE-BODIED MEN? 38% OF 150,000 RECORDED DEAD ARE PRO-GOVERNMENT FIGHTERS:

In Aleppo heavy fighting is still being reported between more moderate Opposition fighters and ISIL north-east of the city, HERE: and there are also claims that another 20 of Assad’s soldiers have been killed in clashes on the outskirts of Safira.

There are also persistent reports of in-fighting between the Syrian Army and members of the National Defence Force over their refusal to leave the eastern Anakarin area and go to Latakia to support Assad’s forces there.

Perhaps this why this Assad propaganda video, glorifying the military and “the God Bashar”, features so many women soldiers, HERE: Are the Alawites starting to run out of able-bodied men?

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Opposing Superpowers Try to Save Syria?

On the international front, there is still much speculation on the outcome of talks between President Obama and King Abdullah in Saudi Arabia last weekend.

Some reports deny any shift in the US attitude to arming the Opposition, while others say the Americans have agreed to allow the Saudis to supply a very limited number of anti-aircraft missile launchers and for the CIA to train at least 600 fighters a month in close combat techniques.

While the results of any agreements remain to be seen, the reality on the ground is that at least 150,000 have been recorded as being killed in Syria according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) – and the real figure may be over 220,000.

Of the 150,000, 51,212 are recorded as civilian deaths, including 7,985 children and 5,266 women, and 38,000 (25%) of the total have been counted as deaths of Opposition fighters, including Jihadists.

58,000 (38%) of the deaths are attributed to the Assad military and pro-Assad forces including Hezbollah (364) and other foreign Shia militia (605).

Lastly, Reuters has 2 good articles, the first on the prophecies believed by religious zealots on both sides to be behind the conflict in Syria and predicting its outcome, HERE: and the second on Syrian refugee children unable to go to school but working in Turkish border towns, HERE:

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OPPOSITION GENERALLY HOLDING GROUND IN LATAKIA AND ATTACKING REGIME CONVOYS OF SYRIAN ARMY REINFORCEMENTS ELSEWHERE:

TIMELINE – 31st MARCH 2014 13.46 GMT:

Latest reports from north-west Latakia province confirm that while the Assad regime is attempting to mount a counter-attack, Opposition fighters continue to hold their ground and even advance in the Kasab region.

The Syrian Observatory of Human Rights estimated Sunday that the Syrian Government had lost 600 of its pro-Assad soldiers and militia killed or wounded in the Latakia region in the 10 day Opposition campaign in the province which started on March 21st.

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Mountainous North-West Syria Bordering Turkey

While Opposition losses have also been high, they seem to have sufficient reinforcements, weapons and ammunition to support and continue their campaign, seemingly having caught the Assad regime by surprise in their Alawite heartland.

The town of Kasab, nearby to the border crossing to Turkey with the same name, and towns and villages nearby in fact have an Armenian Christian majority.

Some Armenian sources have tried to put out “reports of massacres” and the “destruction of Armenian Churches”, but there has been no confirmation of any of this, in fact the Opposition has been going out of its way to produce videos showing that it is guarding these people and institutions with respect.

On the ground regime helicopters are reported to be dropping barrel-bombs on a number of Opposition positions this morning, Monday, and heavy clashes between the 2 sides are said to be taking place today between the village of Qastal Maaf and Observatory 45 (See earlier reports below – scroll down).

Latest reports from regime sources this afternoon, Monday, are claiming they have recaptured Observatory 45 (EDITOR: Though there is not much left of it), but there is no confirmation of this as yet.

At the end of last week, Opposition fighters ambushed a regime convoy near the village of Nab’ain, HERE: and seized this specially designed gun-firing vehicle, HERE:

They have since gone on over the weekend to capture the village of Mesherfeh and are also attacking the coastal village of Al-Badrousiyeh. Once again the Opposition have also been attacking Assad’s ancestral home village in Latakia of Qardaha with Grad missiles: HERE:  as well as Latakia airport.

Opposition fighters this morning, Monday, are claiming that last night’s Grad missile attacks on Latakia’s airport have forced the shutdown of Bassel Al-Assad International (named after Assad’s elder brother who died in a car crash) near Jableh.

In Idlib province, Opposition forces are reported to have stopped or attacked several convoys of regime reinforcements urgently needed in Latakia. This convoy came under Opposition shelling, HERE: and this one with trucks loaded with supplies was stopped, HERE:

In one of the Opposition attacks on these regime convoys it is reported that Assad’s head of Military Security in Idlib province, Brigadier General Ahmad Awad and 3 of his guards were killed.

Also in Idlib province the Opposition are seen shelling a regime barrier near Kafr Shalaya with their “hell cannon”, HERE: and training on a M-46 130mm field gun in the northern part of the province, HERE:

MUTINY AGAINST ASSAD REPORTED IN ALEPPO AND OPPOSITION ADVANCE IN QUNEITRA & DERAA PROVINCES CONFIRMED:

Unconfirmed reports from Aleppo province say that 280 of Assad’s Shabiha (armed militia, probably now part of the National Defence Force [NDF]) have been detained by Government security agencies because they apparently refused to leave Aleppo to go and and fight the Opposition advance in Latakia.

Reports over the weekend say that 2 more of Assad’s senior officers have been killed in Aleppo city, General Ahmed Mansour, has been killed by Syrian Rebels in Lairamoun district and Hossam Haider at Saadallah.

Battles continue in the Sheikh Najjar industrial area to the north-east of Aleppo city with the Opposition striking regime positions with a captured tank, HERE:

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Remains of the Ummayad Mosque in Aleppo

Heavy overnight fighting on Sunday left this regime BMP armoured vehicle completely overturned near the Umayyad Mosque in the central part of Aleppo Old City this morning (the video starts in darkness with heavy gunfire, but the night’s work revealed at the end), HERE:

In Quneitra province, close to the demiliterised zone with Israel, the Opposition finally lifted a week long self-imposed blackout, to claim that they had killed over 500 of Assad’s troops and Hezbollah in the last couple of weeks, captured 5 tanks plus other armoured vehicles and anti-aircraft guns.

Opposition fighters also say they have cleared a number of regime barriers, attacked a Syrian Army barracks and opened the road between Quneitra and Deraa. In retaliation, the Assad regime is heavily bombing a number of captured villages in the province this morning, HERE:

In Deraa itself Opposition forces are reported to have moved further into the Al-Manshiyah western district of the city over the last few days, attacked Government positions near the National Hospital and clashed with the regime in the Dera’a al-Balad and Tariq al-Sad neighbourhoods.

At the same time 150 Syrian Army reinforcements are reported to have reached an Army base just to the north of the city over the weekend.

Fighting continues around Hama city with reports of Opposition fighters destroying a Syrian Army Shilka, killing all the military personnel inside.

SYRIAN ARMY STILL ADVANCING IN QALAMOUN, WHILE RELEASED ISIS PRISONER GOES BACK TO FORMER PRISON:

Fighting also continues between the more moderate Opposition and the Islamic State of Iraq and Levant (ISIL or ISIS), ISIL reportedly killing 39 Al-Nusra Front (ANF) and Islamic Front (IF) fighters in battles when the extreme Jihadists recaptured the town of Markada in Hassakah province. 13 ISIL fighters were reported killed in the same battle.

Fighting between the 2 groups is continuing in the north-eastern part of Aleppo province, the moderates shelling ISIL positions, HERE:

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Former ISIS Prisoner Recounts His Torture

In late February, ISIL fled Azaz in northern Aleppo province which they had held for months and where they had held 300 prisoners throughout a bitterly cold winter, some in cells with no roofs or protection. Mohammed Jazar, who was held by ISIL but eventually released, describes how they tortured him and gives a guided tour of the prison, HERE:

In Damascus, Assad’s military are continuing to rain down barrel-bombs and shells indiscriminately on Opposition held areas including Zbadabi, Zamalka, Jobar, Dumeir and the Eastern Ghouta regions generally. Destruction Zabadani can be seen, HERE:

And in the Qalamoun region between Damascus and Lebanon, Government forces are confirmed to have captured the villages of Flita and Ras al-Maara. Flita, just 7 kilometres from the Lebanese border had been a major crossing point for Opposition fighters and their supplies.

Government forces are now reported to be concentrating on attacking the major Opposition stronghold of Rankous.

On the international front, President Obama has met in Saudi Arabia with King Abdullah, following months of tense relations between the 2 allies after the US failed to follow through on its threat to attack Syria.

Some commentators suggest that the meeting has led to new agreements with the Saudis being allowed to supply the moderate Opposition in Syria with more advanced weapons, including the desperately needed anti-aircraft missiles and launchers, HERE:

Russian sources though are saying that US Secretary of State John Kerry has told the Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov that these weapons are still proscribed, HERE:

Lastly the best news of the last week, Spanish journalist Javier Espinosa and a colleague, photographer Ricardo García Vilanova, who were captured by ISIL 194 days ago were released and flown back to Madrid on Saturday. The BBC has this moving video of Espinosa’s reunion with his son, HERE:

(EDITOR: I look forward to reading more from Espinosa – he has done some excellent reports from Syria in the past).

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Javier Espinosa Greets His Son After Freedom From Imprisonment by ISIS

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More Sad Statistics From Syria

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