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ASSAD’S QALAMOUN CAMPAIGN NOT GOING ACCORDING TO PLAN AS HIS TROOPS LOSE CONTROL OF PREVIOUSLY HELD TOWNS:
TIMELINE – 4th DECEMBER 2013 13.11 GMT:
In a frenzy of uncertainty, and perhaps lacking sufficient manpower, Assad’s troops in the Qalamoun region are frantically retaking towns and then losing them again as they “firefight” somewhere else.
Last week they retook Deir Attiyeh, then withdrew to reinforce Maalalou, allowing Opposition fighters back in and have since returned to take Deir Attiyeh again. In the meantime, as of this morning, Wednesday, the Opposition are once again in complete control of the centre of Maalalou.
Concerned was expressed by the Vatican yesterday over the presumed “abduction” of 12 nuns and 3 other women described as “maids” from the Greek Orthodox convent of Mar Takla in Maalalou. However, latest reports suggest they were safely evacuated to the Opposition held town of Yabroud and are in the care of the Free Syrian Army (FSA).
Orphans, who normally live at the convent in the care of the nuns, appear to have been evacuated earlier.
Opposition fighters, mainly Jihadists, took over Maalalou again by hurling down the steep slopes of the town, tyre bombs packed with explosives. Latest reports today suggest the Opposition have killed yet more Government troops including a colonel.
Regime forces are currently said to be shelling Maalalou, formerly a tourist attraction and a famous Christian religious centre, from Brigade 14 In Qutayfah. This video report (Arabic only), filmed before the Opposition retook the town, shows some buildings on fire, HERE:
Assad’s forces, who earlier seemed to be making progress in attacking the town of Nabek, north-east of Maalalou, as of today, seem to have been pushed out of the western part of the town and back to the hospital and the main highway.
Clearly the main highway, which runs from Damascus to Homs, is more easily targeted, Opposition fighters destroying a petrol station used as an assembly point by the Syrian Army yesterday between Nabek and Yabroud and also some heavy weaponry nearby.
The heavy weaponry destroyed near Nabek included two T-72 tanks, a Chilka tank, a BMP armoured vehicle and 3 buses used for moving troops.
This video footage shows the Opposition Al Fath Falcons Brigade on a number of operations across the Qalamoun, HERE:
In central Damascus a suicide bomber blew himself up at the entrance of the 205th Monetary Unit in the Al-Jusr Al-Abiad area, killing 3 civilians and 2 military guards, as well as wounding 14 others.
This video, released by CNN, shows, unusually, the frontline in the suburb of Tadamon from the perspective of the Assad military, snipers shooting at anything that moves, (after ad) HERE:
SYRIAN ARMY BLOWS UP RESIDENTIAL BUILDINGS NEAR ALEPPO IN DESPERATE ATTEMPT TO PROTECT DEFENCE FACTORIES FROM OPPOSITION ADVANCE:
In Aleppo province, a similar scenario as the one in the Qalamoun is being acted out around Safira, where Assad’s troops are blowing up residential buildings in the western part of the town and bombing advancing Opposition forces with heavy artillery, in a desperate attempt to try and protect the defence factories nearby.
Opposition fighters entered the eastern part of Safira last night, Tuesday, and heavy clashes are reported around the Al-Hal market area this morning.
East of Aleppo city, Opposition fighters have cut the supply route between Base 80 and the Transport Directorate in Al-Naqqarin, destroying 1 Government tank in the process and capturing another plus 1 armoured BMP vehicle.
In the northern part of Aleppo city, varying reports say between 20 and 45 of Assad’s troops have been killed in fighting around the regime’s former headquarters at the Al-Kindi hospital. To the south-east of the city heavy clashes are also reported around Al-Nayrab village, which is very near the military part of the International Airport.
This video shows Opposition fighters using a remotely controlled anti-aircraft gun, somewhere in Aleppo province, HERE:
In the desert east of Homs, heavy fighting is reported in the Ash Shumariya mountains, while near Atman, Opposition fighters with a ZSU-23-4 anti-aircraft vehicle, “wait for MiGs”, HERE:
On the eastern outskirts of Hama city, the Opposition are reported to have captured the regime’s “Syriatel” checkpoint and to the north-west of the regional capital they have taken over checkpoints at both Jedideh & Shayzar. This video shows captured tanks and other operations in the area, HERE:
In Quneitra province near the Israeli border, where clashes are ongoing, Opposition activists claim that as many as 150 of Assad’s troops have been killed in the last few days.
A military reinforcement convoy consisting of 20 troop carriers and to 4 tanks has been seen on its way to the area. This video (Arabic only) shows Opposition action in the province, HERE:
JIHADISTS NOW TARGETING OTHER MINORITY GROUPS ACROSS NORTHERN SYRIA AND DRIVING AWAY COMMITTED OPPOSITION ACTIVISTS:
While the Opposition is both clearly holding its own and making repeated gains, the behaviour of Jihadists in imposing their extreme views remains a cause for concern.
Syria’s Turkman minority, spread across northern Syria near the Turkish border and numbering around 200,000, are now coming under pressure from the Jihadist group, the Islamic State of Iraq and Levant (ISIL) who roll into their villages and try to impose their authority and extreme Islamic teaching.
The Turkman, who are mainly Sunni, have been fighting the Assad regime alongside the FSA and sometimes the Jihadists, but now feel threatened by both ISIL and the Kurds who are also turning covetous eyes to the Turkman villages, particularly those in the north-west which give access to the Mediterranean. You can read more, HERE:
The Jihadists are also afraid of criticism, targeting anyone who publishes anything they don’t like and fearing, that as in Iraq, bad publicity will turn the population against them.
In another article, Mousab Alhamadee, a Syrian activist who has guided western reporters in Syria, describes how after several months of threats by ISIL and related groups he felt, for the sake of himself and his family, that he had no choice but to get out of Syria altogether.
Many other good activists have made the same decision, as fighting Jihadists as well as the Assad regime seems pointless and soul destroying. You can read more, HERE:
Meanwhile, in Lebanon, the assassination of Hassan Al-Lakis, a senior Hezbollah leader believed to be in charge of weapons procurement, was reported last night. He was killed in a car park near his house in a suburb of Beirut. A Sunni militant group in Lebanon, Liwa Ahrar al-Sunna Baalbek, has claimed responsibility.
The strain on Lebanese society, where there are now as many Syrian children of primary school age as Lebanese, is beginning to show.
In the Bekaa Valley the Lebanese residents of the village of Qsar Naba set fire to the tents of 400 Syrian refugees, leaving them nowhere to go and the UN is reporting that by the end of 2013, 10,000 newborn Syrian babies will have been registered with them in Lebanon, further swelling the population.
This video from Al Jazeera shows Syria refugees in Kurdish Iraq preparing for winter, here:
Lastly, at the UN, Valerie Amos, the humanitarian chief, has demanded that the Security Council force the Assad regime to allow access to starving people in besieged areas, saying, “The brutality of this conflict is unacceptable. Even war has rules. In this conflict, the rules are not being respected. Holding civilians hostage to the conflict is not acceptable”.
While her UN colleague in Geneva, Navi Pillay, the human rights chief, has laid the bulk of the human rights abuses in Syria at the door of President Assad and his entourage, saying that a UN commission of inquiry into human rights violations in Syria “has produced massive evidence … [of] very serious crimes, war crimes, crimes against humanity … the evidence indicates responsibility at the highest level of government, including the head of state.”
Navi Pillay added that the names of those involved in these crimes (some of whom are also Opposition fighters) will “remain sealed until I am requested to furnish them to credible investigation”.
The Commissioner continues to insist that the case against those in Syria be handed over to the International Court in the Hague (EDITOR: And quite right too – that’s where Assad should end up – if he survives this revolution.)
OPPOSITION CONTINUE TO MAKE ADVANCES IN SOUTHERN DERAA PROVINCE, CAPTURING ANOTHER ASSAD BASE:
TIMELINE – 2nd DECEMBER 2013 13.35 GMT:
The Syrian Opposition continue to make advances in Deraa province to the south of the country, taking another base in the countryside and slowly encircling Deraa city itself.
Approaching Deraa city from the east, Opposition fighters have taken the Syrian Army base at Busser Al Harir, described as a “reinforcement brigade”, capturing stocks of ammunition, HERE: and a useful field gun, HERE:
Coming in from the south-west, Opposition fighters appear to have taken over a shoe factory, the “technical inspectors institute” and a hotel. Jump to 0.40 on this video, (caution, some dead bodies), HERE: Plus further video footage, HERE: and HERE:
Ongoing heavy clashes are also reported from the northern suburb of Atman. The Opposition made a very accurate strike on this T-72 tank, HERE:
This map shows the current position around Deraa, with the Opposition front in green, Assad territory in red, yellow areas are disputed. For a larger version of the map, click HERE: and click on the map to enlarge:
In eastern Homs province continued fighting is reported in the desert with a MIG fighter being shot down over the weekend in the Masoudia area, while on Saturday another war plane was brought down in the Hama countryside, HERE:
In the north of Hama province, Opposition fighters have liberated Atschan village and in the east of the province they are targeting a regime base with a captured tank, HERE:
MORE THAN 50 DEAD OVER 2 DAYS AS ASSAD REGIME MISSES TARGET AND KILLS CIVILIANS INSTEAD:
In a 2 day barrel-bomb attack by the Syrian Air Force on the Aleppo province town of Al-Bab, east of the regional capital, more than 50 people are reported killed.
On Saturday, the regime targeted the headquarters of the Opposition Tawhid Brigade in Al-Bab but missed, hitting the Nafasin market instead killing 26 people including 7 women and 4 children. Another attempt on Sunday killed a further 24, HERE:
Al-Bab is a main HQ for Opposition fighters in the Aleppo area and a base for attacks on Aleppo International Airport and the bases surrounding it.
Yesterday, Sunday, Opposition fighters took over some buildings at Jabal ash Shaykh Yusuf just north of the airport and also stopped a regime breakout from the besieged Quwaires airbase, killing 20 soldiers in the process.
25 Syrian Army soldiers were also reported killed in fierce clashes on the outskirts of the Aleppo city districts of Al-Ashrafiyyeh and Al-Khalidiyyeh on Sunday, plus the capture by Opposition fighters of ammunition and weapons. Ongoing sporadic clashes are also reported in the Old City this morning, Monday.
In Damascus on Friday, an Opposition mortar attack killed 4 people near the Ummayad Mosque in the central area of the capital and wounded 26, while another hit a French school in the capital’s upscale Mezzeh district on Sunday while more than 200 students were attending lessons, though no casualties were reported.
Outside Damascus to the north-east, Opposition fighters have kept up their attacks on regime positions at the Cherubim Monastery, HERE: and Jihadists are reported to have once again entered the Christian enclave and Aramaic speaking town of Ma’aloula.
Over the weekend the Syrian Air Force went on 10 air raids over the Qalamoun area, hitting Al-Nabek, Khan al-Shaikh, Drosha, Beit Sahm and the Rima area. A suicide bomber killed 5 members of Assad’s security forces outside a police station in Nabek where the Government claimed to control 60% of the town.
Unconfirmed reports say that Opposition fighters retook Deir Attiyeh after a heavy battle with regime forces backed by Hezbollah, but there is as yet no confirmation of that.
In Lebanon, further fighting broke out over the weekend between the Alawite and Sunni communities in the northern town of Tripoli resulting in 12 people killed, including a Lebanese soldier, and 50 injured. The aptly named “Syria Street” divides the two communities.
LATEST TOTAL DEATHS IN SYRIA PUT AT NEARLY 126,000, 35% CIVILIANS, MORE THAN 40% PRO-ASSAD FIGHTERS:
Latest figures, today, Monday, from the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, after November’s slaughter put the total killed in Syria since March 2011 at 125,835, among them 44,381 civilians (35%), including 6,627 children and 4,454 women.
27,746 Opposition fighters (22%) are reported killed, including 6,261 non-Syrians who have joined the Opposition side.
Worst casualty figures though are reserved for the Assad regime side with 50,927 deaths documented (40%), including 31,174 soldiers and 19,256 members of the pro-Assad militias, including 232 from Hezbollah and 265 from other Shia fighting groups.
On the Golan Heights a shell from the Syrian side is reported to have crossed the border to land near a Druze village but without causing casualties and this morning Israel is said to have returned fire, “scoring a direct hit”, after one of their troops was fired at by a Syrian soldier near the Quneitra border crossing.
In Germany, civilians, mainly with a background as chemists, have been undergoing training as chemical weapons disposal officers, as the BBC reports on video, HERE: and are due to start work in Syria on Monday.
Lastly, the largely unspoken tragedy of women abused, raped and deliberately used in warfare to undermine the other side. In the Kurdish part of northern Syria in Qamishli, some strong women have set up a women’s refuge to protect those who have been raped and abused and to prevent them from being killed as part of an “honour ritual”.
Tragically, in many cases the best they can do to keep the women alive is to persuade the raped and the rapist to “marry”. You can read more, HERE:
The citizens of Kafranbel send a “Thanksgiving” message:
ASSAD REGIME RETAKES QALAMOUN TOWN, BUT AT HEAVY PRICE FOR HEZBOLLAH:
TIMELINE – 29th NOVEMBER 2013 12.57 GMT:
In the mountainous Qalamoun region, the Syrian Army retook the town of Deir Attiyeh which they lost to Opposition forces a week ago.
Battles were fierce, with reports of 5 doctors and 4 nurses killed at the hospital, before members of the Islamic State of Iraq and Levant (ISIL) withdrew from the area.
There are also reports that Hezbollah have suffered heavy casualties in the fight by the regime to completely control the Qalamoun area and to secure the highway between Damascus and Lebanon.
Activists say that in Lebanon, at least 19 funerals have been held in the last 10 days for Hezbollah combatants, though this may only be the tip of the iceberg. Unconfirmed reports say that as many as 250 Hezbollah fighters may have been killed this month alone.
The most high profile Hezbollah fighter killed this week is Majd Fouad Hajj Hasan, the nephew of Lebanon’s caretaker Agriculture Minister and Hezbollah MP, Hussein Hajj Hasan. Majd Hasan was buried in Beirut yesterday, Thursday, after he was killed near Deir Attiyeh.
Currently, Friday morning, the Syrian Army is pounding Opposition positions in the Qalamoun town of Nabek, which, if it falls, leaves only Yabroud and a few villages not in Government hands.
Due east of central Damascus on the edge of Eastern Ghouta, Opposition forces have confirmed that they have taken the town of Otaiba and just to the north-east of Otaiba, in the desert, the Jihadist group, the Al-Nusra Front (ANF), claims that it has shot down a jet fighter and a helicopter near the Dumeir airbase.
This Government helicopter crew over Eastern Ghouta were luckier, an Opposition ground to air missile missing it by inches:
Fighting continues around the al-Marej area of Eastern Ghouta with reports that 11 Opposition fighters were killed in battles with Hezbollah, Assad’s National Defence Force (NDF) and the Shia Abu Fadel al-A’bass Battalion from Iraq.
Opposition sources also claim that the Assad regime has carried out another gas attack, this time on the Damascus suburb of Jobar, though no deaths have so far been reported, HERE:
Inside central Damascus city itself, an Opposition mortar attack on the Russian embassy compound is reported to have killed 1 Syrian but no Russian nationals. Also, this footage released on Tuesday, shows the destruction of two T-52 tanks, somewhere in the Damascus suburbs, HERE:
In Hama province yesterday, Opposition fighters took over a checkpoint near Souran and captured many weapons, and in Deraa province they destroyed this tank emplacement near Inkhil, HERE:
Nearby Inkhil at Nawa, Opposition forces are well equipped with this Croatian multiple missile launcher, HERE:
VICIOUS SCUD MISSILE ATTACK ON RAQQAH CAUSES NUMEROUS DEATHS BUT MISSES JIHADIST HQ:
In Raqqah city a Scud missile launched from an Army base near Damascus, struck a central area of the Opposition held city, causing widespread devastation. Reports vary from 6 killed and 30 injured, to 40 killed and 200 injured.
The nearby ISIL headquarters was unscathed, but you can see the aftermath of the massive destruction in the local market area, HERE:
On the political front, the Syrian National Coalition (SNC) has said it will attend “peace talks” in Geneva but is still insisting that the formation of any transitional government does not include Assad and his cronies.
At the same time the Assad regime says it will attend, “without pre-conditions” but that Assad’s position as ruler is not negotiable. Talks are due to start on January 22nd.
Colonel Selim Idriss, commander of the Opposition Supreme Military Council, says he will not attend the talks but continue the fight against the Assad regime instead.
In an interview in with Dubai TV he has also said that all those fighting President Bashar al-Assad’s regime are Muslims but that the draconian punishments imposed by Jihadist groups in Islam’s name are “alien.”
While welcoming moderate Islamic groups as “brothers” in the fight against Assad, Idriss went on to say, “Those who rose in revolt (against Assad) are known, and they are Muslims just as we are all Muslim. As such, all the factions are Muslim and are proud of Islam.”
But “there are those who come from abroad, and we know nothing about them… who want to impose on us customs… labelling people either Muslim or atheist, heretic and worthy of beheading. This is foreign to us, and to the moderation… of the Islam that we want to hold on to”.
USA COMES UP WITH PLAN TO DESTROY CHEMICAL WEAPONS AT SEA, WHILE AS RESULT OF WAR 70,000 SYRIAN FAMILIES ARE NOW WITHOUT FATHERS:
After a number of European countries declined to destroy Syria’s chemical weapons on their own soil, the United States has come up with a plan to destroy the chemicals at sea using its auxiliary vessel MV Cape Ray.
The process planned for on board MV Cape Ray will dilute the potency of the chemicals using sea water and produce an estimated 7.7m litres of effluent which will be packed into 4,000 containers. The difficulty remaining is how to get the chemicals to the MV Cape Ray in the first place.
None of this directly helps the millions of refugees struggling through the winter, 1.1 million of whom, now outside Syria, are children.
The BBC has been following an aid group from the UK who every few months raise enough money to buy ambulances and then drive them all the way to Aleppo packed with urgently needed medical supplies, HERE:
A new 60 page UN report has highlighted the position of Syria’s refugee children, many of whom remain traumatised by things they have seen and experienced. Over 70,000 Syrian refugee families now live without fathers and over 3,700 refugee children are either unaccompanied by or separated from both parents.
This BBC video highlights the problem, HERE:
Tens of thousands of Syria’s children have gone 2 or more years without education and many new ones are being born without birth certificates or registration and may remain stateless as a result.
This report and video from the Telegraph features a volunteer school started in a formerly derelict building by Syrians in Lebanon for children who have lost 1 or more of their parents, HERE:
WHILE HOLDING THEIR GROUND AGAINST ASSAD ALL ACROSS SYRIA, OPPOSITION OPEN NEW FRONT IN QUNEITRA:
TIMELINE – 27th NOVEMBER 2013 13.55 GMT:
While holding steady on all other fronts, confronting Assad’s forces wherever they can, Opposition fighters have opened up a new one in Quneitra not far from the border with Israel
Fast moving battles are centred around the villages of Ajam, Jaba and Sultana with the Opposition reportedly destroying 4 tanks, seizing a BMP armoured vehicle and capturing an Army base, all within the last 48 hours.
In this footage, Opposition fighters capture a bunker and trench system (originally built to defend against the Israelis) and remove substantial stocks of weapons and ammunition, HERE:
Fighters have also attacked a Government convoy that tried to enter Jaba and are currently in an operation against the town of Khan Arnabe, according to activists killing many Assad troops.
Quneitra lies between the south-western Opposition held suburbs of Damascus around West Ghouta and the southern province of Derra, and increased fighting here puts yet more pressure on Assad’s overstretched forces.
Over on the eastern side of Damascus in Eastern Ghouta, where the Opposition have firmly resisted a government assault, this captured footage shows some of Assad’s troops getting a bit desperate, having had no food or water for 4 days, HERE:
Assad’s troops tried to retake the Tameko pharmaceutical factory in eastern Damascus, which the Opposition captured a few weeks ago, but after another fierce battle they were once again repelled, HERE:
In the Qalamoun area between Damascus and Lebanon, Opposition fighters have repelled an attack on the Nabek hospital, destroying 4 tanks plus unconfirmed reports that as many as 70 Government troops were killed.
At Deir Attiyeh, the Syrian Army is reported to only be holding on to an area around the Hafez Assad statue and the northern outskirts of the town. Government sources claimed that “terrorists” in Deir Attiyeh had “committed a masacre killing 5 doctors, 4 nurses and two ambulance drivers”.
As the fighting at Deir Attiyeh got more intense yesterday, students at the nearby Qalamoun University went into panic mode, HERE:
Effectively, the Opposition have forced the Government to close down the Damascus – Homs highway for 7 days now, cutting off supplies of petrol and diesel to the capital.
In the Government held suburb of Somariyeh in west Damascus, a suicide bomber blew himself up yesterday, Tuesday, infront of a bus stop, killing 9 civilians, including 2 children, and 6 soldiers. The area is home to a complex of army housing for members of the elite 4th Division commanded by President Assad’s brother, Maher.
SYRIA’S FOREIGN TRADE AND REVENUES COLLAPSE BY 90% AFTER 31 MONTHS OF STRIFE:
All of this, now approaching 3 years of strife next March, is having a severe toll Syria’s economy. Syrian government figures released this week show that foreign trade has all but collapsed.
Exports (including petroleum) have dropped from $1.9 billion in the first quarter of 2011 to just $94 million in the first 3 months of 2013, a fall of 95%. Imports, for the same period, have plunged by 80%, from $4.1 billion to $818 million.
The Al-Watan newspaper, a pro-Assad daily, blamed “economic sanctions imposed by the West” and the “collapse of production processes”. (EDITOR: Nothing to do with Assad and his stupid actions then!)
In Aleppo clashes are reported this morning, Wednesday, around the University Square there and a cement factory south of the Sheikh Said district.
South-east of Aleppo city, major battles are still taking place in the areas around Safira and the defence factories and Khanasser on the highway between Hama and Aleppo. The latest Opposition gains are around the village of Assan, fighters destroying a tank on Mount Rasm Assan, HERE:
JIHADISTS ISOLATE SUPPORT EVEN FURTHER BY PERSECUTING OPPOSITION ACTIVISTS, FORCING THEM TO FLEE:
In Hasakah province to the north-east, the Kurdish militia, the YPG, is still in regular battles with the Jihadists from the Al-Nusra Front (ANF) and the Islamic State of Iraq and Levant (ISIL), driving them out of the villages of Elwan and al-Msheyrafa.
Opposition activists, formerly resident in the regional capital of Raqqah, are probably wishing that the YPG would drive them out of their city too. Raqqah, now thought to be home to more than a million people, is now almost completely controlled by ISIL.
However, for many it is swopping the persecution and lack of freedom of the Assad regime for something equally oppressive, albeit with a religious slant. ISIL has imposed the hijab on women, closed down cafes where couples meet, stopped people drinking alchohol, smoking or wearing bright clothes and imprisoned and killed Opposition activists and media correspondents.
Malnutrition is now escalating in Syria, so much so that some citizens killed a lion from the zoo to eat, while others slaughtered a donkey (in a video too horrible to show).
A report from the UN claims that they were denied aid access by the Syrian Government to 7,000 people in Mouadamiya, 160,000 in Eastern Ghouta and 4,000 in Old Homs last month as more than 900 individual battles raged.
An estimated 9.3 million people within Syria, nevermind those in refugee camps outside, are now thought to need assistance, half of them children. 575,000 of those are thought to be wounded or in need of life saving care.
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ASSAD ARMY ADVANCES HALTED AS OPPOSITION FIGHTERS COUNTER ATTACK, MAKING GAINS RIGHT ACROSS SYRIA:
TIMELINE – 25th NOVEMBER 2013 14.52 GMT:
Recent advances by Assad’s troops came to a grinding halt over the weekend, as co-ordinated counter attacks by Opposition fighters resulted in gains right across the country. On the eastern outskirts of Damascus Opposition fighters have taken control over the last few days of several villages and checkpoints on the eastern edge of Eastern Ghouta, including Al-Bahariyah and are now attacking Abbadeh, which is not far from the International Airport.
In response, the Government side are reported to have dispatched 20 tanks from the Airport in the direction of Al-Awamid and Abbadeh, though Opposition fighters seem much better equipped to destroy these armoured vehicles, now making 1 or more “kills” virtually every day. Opposition fighters gathering near Abbadeh, can be seen, HERE: The Opposition are hoping to break the siege of Eastern Ghouta, so that supplies of food and medicine can be got to those in need. Hopefully they will also get to Moadamiya, which is more to the south, and now known as the “Town of the Starving”, the regime having cut off all supplies of any kind. Although just 5 kilometres from the centre of Damascus, people in Moadamiya, especially children are dying of hunger. An eyewitness came across a group of children sitting in silence, and asked them “why?” “We have not eaten for two days, not because we forgot to eat but because there is nothing to eat. So we sit in silence, since talking uses up calories that one needs and cannot be replaced”. The eyewitness’s report, via Amnesty, is, HERE: In the heavy fighting around Damascus, as many as 160 fighters on both sides have been killed in just 2 days. Prominent deaths reported are that of the Hezbollah commander Ali Iskander, and on the other side as many as 6 Opposition media activists. Among the 60 fighters killed on the government side were 20 members of the Iraqi Shiite Abu al-Fadl al-Abbas Brigade, as well as regime soldiers. Pro-Assad websites blamed Hezbollah for heavy Government losses after they were have said to have “disobeyed” Syrian Army instructions. The 100 fighters killed on the Opposition side are said mainly to have been Jihadists from the Al-Nusra Front and the Islamic State of Iraq and Levant. Further out from Damascus into the eastern desert, opposition fighters have also been firing Grad missiles at the Dumayr airbase and in another incident are reported to have brought down a MIG fighter between the airbase and Abbadeh on the Eastern Ghouta edge. The Government Vehicle Administration building in Harasta which was completely demolished last week (scroll down – see below) after Opposition fighters tunnelled under it with explosives, is now said to have destroyed as many 150 regime troops.
ASSAD’S HOME-GROWN OIL SUPPLY REDUCES ALMOST TO ZERO AS OPPOSITION FIGHTERS CAPTURE OMAR OIL FIELD AND BLOCK SUPPLIES FROM HOMS REFINERY:
Between Damascus and Lebanon in the Qalamoun area, fierce fighting is also reported along the Damascus – Homs highway around the majority Christian town of Deir Attiyeh, which Opposition fighters seized a few days ago after retreating from Qara.
Blockages on the main highway to Homs, caused by Opposition attacks on convoys, have also triggered a fuel crisis with reports today, Monday, of motorists in the capital queuing for hours at petrol stations. The main source of fuel is the refinery at Homs, with a smaller one in Banias. To make matters worse, for the second time this month, Opposition fighters bombed the Homs refinery again over the weekend with 4 Grad missiles, setting parts of it on fire. Two workers were injured in the attack. Also on Saturday, the Opposition took control of the Omar oilfield, one of the larger ones in eastern Syria in Deir El-Zour province. Activists claim that Opposition fighters captured 10 tanks in the battle, HERE: and HERE: The Syrian Government said in August that total oil production during the first half of the year was down 90% compared to production before the outbreak of the conflict in March 2011 when the country was producing 380,000 barrels a day. The August 2013 statement said that figure was now 39,000 bpd. With the loss of the Omar field, this means that Assad’s home-grown fuel supplies for both his army and supporters are now virtually nil and he now becomes entirely dependent on supplies shipped in from Lebanon and Iran.
OPPOSITION FIGHTERS ONCE AGAIN ACTIVE ON MAIN HIGHWAY TO ALEPPO, WHILE REPORT ESTIMATES 11,000 CHILDREN ALONE KILLED IN SYRIA SINCE 2011:
In Aleppo province, Opposition sources claimed that their fighters, led by Jihadist groups, had captured no less that 13 towns and villages in the last few days between Aleppo city and Khanasser. Taking the villages of Qashutah and Bash Kuy, Opposition fighters are once again on the edge of the Al-Safira defence factory complex. In this footage you can see fighters throwing home-made grenades at the outer defences, HERE:
In the Sheikh Said district of the city, Jihadist fighters are said to have taken control of a timber factory, killing 20 Syrian Army troops in the process, while in the Umayyad Mosque fighters survived a brute force tank led shell attack, preserving their positions and celebrating this morning by singing in the remains of this ancient religious site, HERE: South-east of Aleppo the Opposition took out another tank at Assan, HERE: and east of the city fighters targeted regime positions on top of the hill known as Sheikh Yusuf, HERE: Activists also reported the destruction of 2 more Assad tanks at the tractor factory just to the east of Aleppo International Airport. PIC Market The price of these gains has been heavy however, with more than 40 killed in airstrikes in Aleppo province over the weekend. 14 civilians were killed when a bomb, apparently intended for an Opposition HQ, struck a market in the Dawwar al-Hilwaniya neighbourhood. 7 civilians were killed by the airstrike on the Karm Al-Beik neighbourhood and19 civilians, including 2 children a woman, were killed by the Syrian Air Force bombardment on the city of Al-Bab on Saturday.
In Homs province, the Raees Mosque in Al-Waer was bombed though thankfully the worshippers scattered in time and in the Homs countryside, Opposition fighters captured Ismed village, seizing a tank and weapons. In Hama province a Government helicopter dropped a barrel bomb on Soha and Opposition fighters took over a barrier near the village of Zur Abu Zeid. In the Alawite heartland of Latakia near the Mediterranean Assad’s Air Force tried to wipe out this Opposition held village in the Turkman mountains, HERE: while Opposition fighters ambushed a military convoy Qadmus. While the UN has announced that the “peace talks” for Syria will take place in Geneva on January 22nd, a report by the Oxford Research Group (ORG) in the UK now estimates that more than 11,000 children have been killed in Syria since march 2011. From their analysis ORG has recorded that 764 children were summarily executed and 112 were reported to have been tortured, including some of infant age. ORG also says that older boys in the 13 to 17 year old group were consistently the most frequent victims of sniper fire, execution or torture, with 400 of those recorded killed coming from the southern province of Deraa. 128 children were recorded killed by chemical weapons in Eastern Ghouta on August 21. The BBC has a video report, HERE: While being interviewed (Arabic only) on their experiences about war in Syria, these children were almost hit by a mortar shell, (0.41) here:
Giana Panzieri recently returned from volunteering in Syria and gives this vivid account of families subject to arrest and torture by the Assad regime and the long term psychological damage to the children, HERE: And lastly, the pitiful account of substantial US knowledge about Assad’s regular use of chemical weapons and their failure to do anything about it, as revealed by the Wall Street Journal. Apparently, both US and Israeli Intelligence were monitoring Syrian Government communications, but did not translate the information on August 21st until the chemical attack was underway. By then it was too late. You can read more, HERE:
“If you want to know what is happening in #Syria follow @PeterClifford1 His blog is informative, insightful & honest … @ru4peace2″
AGAINST THE ODDS, OPPOSITION FIGHTERS CAPTURE REGIME TOWN IN QALAMOUN FOR THE FIRST TIME SINCE CONFLICT BEGAN:
TIMELINE – 22nd NOVEMBER 2013 13.56 GMT: UPDATED 20.15 GMT:
Fierce fighting has continued in the Qalamoun mountain region between Damascus and the Lebanese border, with Opposition fighters blocking the main highway despite 16 air strikes on their positions.
This afternoon, Friday, Opposition fighters are reported to have captured the largely Christian town of Deir Attiyeh, with the exception of the the Bassell hospital and a small hill. Normally the town has a population of around 10,000 and has, until now, been under regime control.
Opposition fighters moved to Deir Attiyeh after being driven out of Qara, which they had held for months. This article gives interesting insight into the Islamists who roam and defend the Qalamoun region, HERE:
Elsewhere in the Damascus area, heavy fighting was reported in the suburb of Barzeh as Assad’s forces tried to pound their way in, HERE:
And in a new tactic the desperate Syrian Army fired missiles into the Yarmouk Palestinian Camp from the top of the Qa’a tower, HERE:
OPPOSITION FIGHTERS ON THE VERGE OF CAPTURING ANOTHER ASSAD MILITARY BASE NEAR RAQQAH, BUT AT HEAVY COST:
In the last 48 hours heavy fighting has been reported around the Division 17 Syrian Army base north of Raqqah city in north-east Syria.
Although Raqqah city has been under Opposition control for some time, the Army base to the north of it has stubbornly resisted siege. On Wednesday Opposition forces launched another attack and are now moving forward inside the base, HERE: So far the Opposition fighters have captured the munitions store below the water tower and are currently attacking the officers housing complex, using their own tanks and field guns, HERE: The battle has not been without cost. Assad’s Air Force bombed Opposition positions inside the base yesterday and a total of 24 Opposition fighters are so far reported killed. However, attempts to reinforce the remaining Government troops with supplies failed as the parachutes drifted into the hands of the Opposition. At the time of writing the remaining Government forces are holding out but a conclusion to this battle is expected soon. In Deraa city at the opposite end of the country to the south, fierce battles are continuing in the eastern part of the regional capital where Opposition fighters are advancing in the Tariq al-Sadd district towards the Central Prison. A Government convoy sent to reinforce positions at the prison and coming from an air base to the south-east of the city, was intercepted and 3 BMP armoured vehicles, 2 armed pick-ups and 20 troops destroyed. In Hama province, where Opposition areas have been subjected to constant air attacks, a barrel-bomb dropped by helicopter on KfarZita town did not explode. Local people bravely dismantled it, HERE:
DEATH OF RESPECTED OPPOSITION COMMANDER LEADS AT LAST TO DECLARATION OF UNITY FOR FIGHTING GROUPS AROUND ALEPPO:
In Aleppo, fighting also continues around the Base 80 area just north of the International Airport and activists report that 15 members of Assad’s National Defense Force (NDF) were killed in clashes. Opposition fighters also repulsed a major regime assault on their positions at the Ummayad Mosque, continuing the destruction of much of its ancient infrastructure, HERE: The recent death of the esteemed and well respected leader of the Liwa Al-Tawhid Brigade, Abdul Qader Saleh, may not have been in vain. This morning, Friday, news has emerged from Aleppo of the merging of 6 of the Opposition’s most important and more moderate factions. Dubbed as the “Islamic Front”, Abu Firas, spokesman for Liwa Al-tawhid, said that besides his own brigade, the others were Ahrar al-Sham, the Army of Islam, Suqour al-Sham, Liwa al-Haq and the Ansar al-Sham battalions. All the groups are moderate Islamist. Hopefully, this will bring a turn around in the fortunes of the Opposition, as much of Assad’s recent gains have been put down to opposition disunity.
The Jihadists however continues their selfish destruction, alongside one report that they have cut down a 150 year old tree because locals “were worshipping it instead of Allah”. The ancient oak was next to a popular shrine which the stupid Jihadists are now preventing people from using. And yesterday, Thursday, the extremist Islamic State of Iraq and Levant (ISIL), is reported to have pushed a moderate Opposition Islamic group, Suqur al-Islam, out of a key Idlib province border town on the frontier with Turkey. The town, Atma, was vital in the importation to Syria of Free Syrian Army (FSA) fighters, weapons, ammunition and aid for the displaced. However Mustafa Waddah, the head of Suqur al-Islam, is said to have confiscated 7 truck loads of weapons for himself, sent across the border by General Idriss for wider distribution. Some accuse the FSA and ISIL of colluding in the take over.
GREED LEADS TO THE CREATION OF WARLORD “MONSTERS” ON BOTH SIDES IN SYRIA, WHILE ASSAD WORRIES ABOUT “INVADING ARMY FROM JORDAN”:
This brings to the fore, the other major problem in Syria of Opposition brigade leaders turning into Mafia style warlords, milking the local area to enrich themselves and their followers. This long but interesting report, titled “Rebel Inc.” describes how various Opposition groups are now positioning themselves to control oil-fields and wheat supplies and ripping apart the old state run structures, imposing their own authority, HERE: There are just as many “monsters” forming on the other, pro-Assad side it seems. This report describes how a former civil servant is now a local commander of a Baath Brigade, sporting bling and 2 expensive smartphones and riding in an upmarket SUV.
The author of the article, Edward Dark, concludes “that civil wars were definitely the worst type of war. They spawn monsters and make beasts out of ordinary men”. And asks questions that apply to these “commanders” on both sides: “How will these people ever go back to civilian life when this is all over? How can they help rebuild a shattered nation?” You can read more, HERE: Lastly, indications that the Assad regime is under strain, fearing increased Opposition numbers while desperate for new recruits. According to the Al-Joumhouriya newspaper, President Assad told a group of visiting Lebanese March 8th politicians that “a [rebel] army of 20,000 soldiers is being prepared in Jordan under international and regional supervision.” Apparently, Assad went on to say, “This army might attack Deraa and try to advance in order to make up for the [Opposition’s] losses in Damascus’ outskirts and to re-encircle the capital.” True or not he is perhaps reacting to reports of increased support for the Opposition from Saudi Arabia after the failure of the US to strike against Assad’s military. Additionally, reports from inside Syria say that the High Command of the Defense Ministry and the National Army has opened its doors to volunteers who hold a basic certificate in education or higher, to become “commandos” in the special forces. Contracts are for 2 years and subject to renewal if requested. Hearing the news, the FSA issued a statement warning that any person who join the regime forces be it in the Commandos or special forces or Shabiha (armed militia) would automatically become a direct target for Opposition fighting battalions. A picture from Syria to raise the spirits a little – “Brothers in Grime” ….
AS ASSAD’S TROOPS OCCUPY QARA IN THE QALAMOUN, OPPOSITION FORCES BLOW UP ARMY HQ IN NEARBY NABEK:
TIMELINE – 20th NOVEMBER 2013 14.14 GMT:
In the Qalamoun area of Damascus province, Government forces are reported to have taken the town of Qara yesterday after Opposition fighters withdrew from the area.
The Jihadist group, the Islamic State of Iraq and Levant (ISIL) promised to “return” however, accusing other Opposition fighters from Jaysh al-Islam of “cowardice and treason” for leaving the battle without co-ordinating their retreat with them.
This morning, Wednesday, Opposition fighters compensated for the loss of Qara by targeting a regime checkpoint and an intelligence building near Nabek (50 kilometres north of Damascus) with car bombs.
Reports say that the fighters occupied both positions after the attack on Nabek, which sits on the Damascus – Homs highway. Further detail awaited. A video shows smoke from the destroyed Intelligence building pouring into the sky, HERE:
The Opposition held towns and villages of Falita, Ras Ma’ara, Yabrud, Ra’s al ‘Ayn (not to be confused with the one near Turkey), Al-Sahel and Al-Jarajeer must now all be considered vulnerable to a combined Syrian Army and Hezbollah attack.
This map, courtesy of @RSyriancivilwar, shows the terrain and relative position of fighting forces: For a larger version click, HERE:
The scale of the fighting in Qalamoun has led to a flood of Sunni refugees leaving for the town of Arsal across the Lebanese border. UN agencies have recorded the arrival of 2,200 families, more than 7,000 individuals, in 5 days.
WHILE HEZBOLLAH SUPPORTS ASSAD’S ADVANCE, SUICIDE BOMBERS BLOW UP IRANIAN EMBASSY IN THEIR SHIA PART OF BEIRUT:
In Beirut, Lebanon’s capital, and possibly linked to the fighting in Qalamoun, a twin car bomb explosion outside the Iranian embassy in a district controlled by Hezbollah, killed at least 23 and is reported to have wounded 147.
Among the dead was Iran’s cultural attaché, Ebrahim Ansari. The first bomber was on a scooter, according to Lebanese army sources, and when Iranian guards rushed to help the victims, a second suicide bomber arrived to blow up a 4 X 4 vehicle.
The BBC has a video report, HERE:
Elsewhere in Damascus province, Opposition fighters blew up a munitions truck parked outside the Cherubim Monastery at Sidnaya, causing spectacular explosions, and also a tank, HERE:
Additionally, many of Assad’s troops were reported to have been killed as they tried to invade the Sidi Mekdad suburb in south-east Damascus, while the death toll at the destroyed Army Transport building in Harasta (scroll down – see below) is now said to have reached 68, including 13 officers.
Opposition fighters are also reported to be bombing with rockets the Al-Agraba helicopter base, which is adjacent to the sacred shrine district of Sayyidah Zaynab in the south-east of the capital, and currently said to be the Damascus headquarters of Hezbollah, HERE:
16 mortars are reported to have fallen on central Damascus in the last 2 days, one of them falling near the headquarters of the Syrian Army Command and another damaging part of the Ummayed mosque.
However, as many of the mortars are targeting religious minority areas, rather than military targets, there is a suspicion by activists that some of them are actually fired by Assad’s military to provoke a reaction in favour of his regime and to encourage Shia fighters to come from abroad.
ASSAD MISSILE TARGETS ONE OF FEW REMAINING HOSPITALS IN OPPOSITION HELD AREAS OF HOMS, KILLING 4 NURSES:
In Homs 2 days ago, a Syrian Army surface to surface missile targeted the Al-Waleed Hospital in the Opposition-held Al-Waer district of the city, killing 2 male and 2 female nursed and injuring dozens more.
In Aleppo, Assad’s forces are reported to be attempting to storm the Opposition-held Ummayyad Mosque there this morning using tanks and the district of Al Naquarin, due north of the airport, was bombed yesterday by artillery and jets, leaving a number of buildings burning, HERE:
In Deraa province to the far south, Opposition fighters have targeted vehicles inside the base of Brigade 12 in the Lejat area with anti-tank missiles, and fierce fighting continues for the industrial area on the eastern side of Deraa city, HERE:
On the western side of Deraa city, Opposition fighters, using stealthy approach, managed to blow up a Syrian Army base in the Al-Manshiyah district, here:
In Quneitra province, not far from the Israeli border, Opposition fighters in battles with Assad’s militia are said to have destroyed 2 tanks belonging to the Cobra Battalion stationed at the base of the 61st Brigade near Ghadir Al Bustan.
In Deir El-Zour, Opposition fighters are currently trying to break into the headquarters of Assad’s Army in the industrial area.
The BBC has an interesting article on Chechans fighting on the side of the Opposition in Syria, HERE: and there is another report on the farcical involvement of (unpaid, much to their anger) Russian mercenaries on the side of Assad, HERE:
On the international front, the UN passed a Saudi sponsored motion condemning the Syrian government for human rights abuses, leading to a clash between Saudi Arabia’s UN envoy Abdullah al-Mouallimi and his Syrian counterpart Bashar Jaafari. The motion will go before the full General Assembly later this year.
As European country after country declines to accept and process Syria’s 1,200 tons of chemical weapons, the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) has said that they could be processed at sea, though no detail of exactly how has yet been given.