June 16, 2013 - Assad forces step up assault
Syria: Assad forces massing for major assault on Aleppo
Istanbul, June 7, 2013 by Richard Spencer and Ruth Sherlock
News outlets close to the Syrian regime and the Lebanese Shia militia Hizbollah, which has come to its support, said that “Operation Northern Storm” to retake Aleppo, the biggest city in the country, and the surrounding countryside had begun. Other sources told the AFP news agency that the battle would start in “the coming days or hours”.
There was no evidence of a major attack last night, but there was renewed fighting near a government-held base on the north-western outskirts. Hizbollah reinforcements were said to have arrived in the area, while a video leaked to an opposition website showed a regime general recruiting men from two Shia towns to join in a fresh attack.
The regime is in high spirits after the Syrian army and Hizbollah retook Qusayr, close to the Lebanese border. They continued their advance over the weekend, sweeping through the last opposition-held villages north of the town.
They harried the retreating rebels and the thousands of civilians who had fled with them.
Syrian army soldiers drive a tank in the town of Qusayr Photo: AFP
Video posted online showed streams of people, mostly rebels and male civilians, marching dejectedly and in some cases staggering on crutches through the fields and orchards distinctive to the area, the sound of shelling in the background. In some, wounded men lay dying under trees.
Hadi Abdullah, one of the main opposition spokesmen in Qusayr, told The Daily Telegraph he was trapped in an enclave with 2,000 men, women and children. He said 110 people, including 40 women and children, had been killed when the refugee column was attacked by government forces on Saturday.
“We were a group of around 7,000 people,” he said. “The first group of 1,000 got through (the encirclement) successfully. Then it was followed by another group but that came under direct fire from the regular army and Hizbollah forces.
“The dead and injured fell where they were. We could not even retrieve the bodies of women. The army tanks pulled some civilians and assassinated them. I called out for one of my relatives who was caught by the army. Someone from the other side answered saying, ‘Come take him in pieces’.”
State media at first claimed government forces had killed Abdulqader al-Saleh, also known as Hajji Marea, head of the biggest rebel brigade in Aleppo, and second-in-command of the military wing of the western-backed Syrian National Coalition.
Hajji Marea had led a group of reinforcements sent to help Qusayr’s defence. The claim was later retracted, but rebels confirmed he had been injured.
The regime’s recent fightback has cast doubt on the chances for a peace conference, backed by Britain, France and the United States, originally due to take place later this month in Geneva. Its date had already slipped back to next month, and William Hague, the Foreign Secretary, said regime advances reduced its chance of success.
“It makes it less likely that the regime will make enough concessions in such negotiations, and it makes it harder to get the opposition to come to the negotiations,” he said.
He said he accepted demands by Tory MPs last week that a House of Commons vote be taken on any decision to arm the rebels.
“People have understandable concerns about the idea of sending arms to anybody in Syria and we’d all be very reluctant to do that,” he said.
“On the other hand, at the moment, people are being killed in huge numbers while the world denies them the right to defend themselves.”
The opposition says it cannot attend the conference under current circumstances.
“How can you imagine someone talks about a peace or political solution under this kind of war, this sectarian war?” George Sabra, the Coalition’s acting head, said in Istanbul.
Separately a Lebanese man demonstrating against Hizbollah’s participation in Syria was shot dead in Beirut, the first such incident in the Lebanese city.
NGO: 28 Syrian rebels killed in assault on village - #Syria
Syrian regime troops repulsed a rebel assault on a village loyal to President Bashar al-Assad in central Homs province, killing at least 28 of the attackers, a watchdog said on Sunday.
“The number of rebels killed yesterday [Saturday] in an ambush and clashes with regime forces on the outskirts of Kafr Nan rose to 28,” the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said in a statement.
Observatory director Rami Abdel Rahman told AFP the rebels, who control Rastan and much of Houla, the towns on either side of the village of Kafr Nan, launched an assault on Saturday.
Regime troops pushed back the attack on the village, mostly inhabited by members of the Alawite community — the offshoot branch of Shiite Islam to which Assad belongs.
Rebels also attacked a nearby regime checkpoint outside the town of Talbisseh, in the north of Homs province.
“At least six regime forces were killed but the rebels were not able to seize control of the checkpoint,” the Observatory said.
Abdel Rahman said rebel fighters appeared to be “opening these battlefronts in northern Homs to relieve pressure of the town of Qusayr,” where the regime launched an assault two weeks ago.
The battle for the rebel stronghold, near the border with Lebanon in southern Homs, continued on Sunday, with the Observatory reporting a continued flow of reinforcements to the regime lines.
Aid groups have expressed concern about thousands of civilians believed to be trapped in the city, with no way to escape.
Around 1,500 wounded people are also thought to be trapped inside the embattled town, a strategic prize because of its proximity to the Lebanese border and the route between Damascus and the coast.
AFP - 06/02/2013
05/28/2013 - #Syria - FSA (prepare) attack on Deir Ezzor military airport
Al-Qusayr battle rages as #Syria regime presses assault
Intense clashes rocked the central Syrian town of Al-Qusayr on Saturday, a watchdog reported, as regime forces backed by fighters from Lebanon’s Hezbollah pressed an assault they launched almost nearly a week ago.
Rami Abdul Rahman, head of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights watchdog, told AFP that “the fighting and shelling, which took place on Saturday on the main roads inside and outside of Al-Qusayr, are the most intense since the beginning of the offensive.”
“The town of Al-Qusayr, and the rebel areas north of the town like Hamdiyeh, the former military airport at Dabaa and Arjuneh have been subjected to heavy bombardment by regime forces who are using surface-to-surface missiles,” he added.
Al-Qusayr is a key prize for the rebels, a conduit through which weapons and fighters can be channeled from Lebanon.
It is also important for Bashar al-Assad’s forces because of its strategic location between Damascus and the Mediterranean coast, the Alawite heartland of the embattled president’s regime.
The Syrian army, backed by fighters from the Shiite Hezbollah, began their assault on Al-Qusayr last Sunday.
Rahman said “the intensification of the fighting can be explained by Hezbollah’s desire to score points before the speech their leader Hassan Nasrallah is due to deliver this evening,” marking the 13th anniversary of Israel’s withdrawal from Lebanon.
Anti-regime demonstrators across Syria on Friday denounced the Hezbollah chief, waving placards reading “Nasrallah, impostor of the resistance,” and “Homs is not Jerusalem,” a reference to the group’s slogan about liberating Jerusalem.
AFP - 05/25/2013
05/23/2013 - #Syria - Damascus - New alleged chemical attack on Douma
Syrian army storms rebel stronghold Al-Qusayr - #Syria
Syrian troops backed by Lebanon’s Hezbollah on Sunday entered Al-Qusayr, a strategic rebel stronghold linking Damascus to the coast, a day after President Bashar al-Assad insisted he would not quit.
The advance came as Assad’s opponents warned his regime’s “barbaric and destructive” assault on Al-Qusayr could torpedo US-Russian attempts to organize a conference on ending two years of bloodshed in the country.
The Arab League called an emergency meeting for Thursday, ahead of the conference, as the opposition Syrian National Council (SNC) demanded it meet and “stop the massacre in Al-Qusayr.”
Forces loyal to Assad launched Sunday’s offensive by heavily bombarding Al-Qusayr with artillery and warplanes early in the morning.
Hours later, a military source told AFP that government forces entered the center of the town, with troops raising the Syrian flag over the recaptured municipality building.
“The Syrian army controls Al-Qusayr’s main square in the center of the city, and the surrounding buildings, including the municipality building,” said the source.
State television said: “Our valiant troops have restored security and stability to the Al-Qusayr municipality building and surrounding buildings and are continuing to hunt down terrorists in the town.”
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said regime troops began carrying out air strikes backed by artillery fire against the town early on Sunday, before the group operation started.
“The assault on Al-Qusayr has started. There is fierce fighting between rebels and the army around the entrances to the town,” Observator director Rami Abdel Rahman told AFP.
Troops were entering from the south, and fighters from the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah, a key ally of the Syrian regime, were “playing a central role,” he added.
“If the army manages to take control of Al-Qusayr, the whole province of Homs will fall,” he said.
The group said the army carried out additional air strikes on Sunday afternoon, and that at least 40 people were killed throughout the day, including 21 rebel fighters.
The regime has made recapturing Al-Qusayr and the surrounding district of Homs province a key objective, and fierce fighting has raged in the vicinity for months.
In recent weeks, government troops backed by Hezbollah and members of the National Defense Forces, a pro-regime militia, have taken a string of villages and reportedly surrounded Al-Qusayr on three sides.
The fighting has spilled over into Lebanon, and on Sunday the country’s National News Agency said eight rockets fired from Syria landed in Lebanese territory, without causing any damage or injuries.
Responding to news of the assault on the city, the SNC, a key component of the main opposition National Coalition, denounced the “barbaric and destructive bombing” of Al-Qusayr.
It accused the regime of working with Hezbollah to “invade the town and wipe it and its residents off the map,” and called for “an urgent meeting of the Arab League to stop the massacre in Al-Qusayr.”
“We say to the countries that are working for a political solution in Syria that allowing this invasion to go ahead in silence… will render any conference and any peace effort meaningless.”
The Syrian military was also advancing on other fronts, taking control of the rebel-held village of Halfaya in Hama province, the Observatory said.
State television reported the army “killed numerous terrorists from Al-Nusra Front in Halfaya” and destroyed weaponry.
In Damascus, a military source said troops were advancing in Barzeh district on the northern outskirts of the city.
The Observatory estimates at least 94,000 people have been killed since the anti-Assad uprising began in March 2011.
AFP - 05/19/2013
03/23/2013 - #Syria - Daraya - Shabiha gathering targetted by FSA
02/18/2013 - #Syria - Aleppo - Rebels monitor Al Neirab military airport in preparation for assault
Kurds demand support against jihadist attack - #Syria
The Ras al-Ain branch of the Kurdish National Council in Syria called on the Syrian opposition on Saturday to intervene over an ongoing jihadist assault on the northern city located on the Turkish border.
“Since Wednesday morning, some armed groups have launched an offensive against innocent and unarmed civilians in Ras al-Ain using various types of heavy weapons and sowing fear and panic among children and women,” a statement said.
“We condemn these cowardly attacks and call on the National Coalition, the Syrian National Council and the Free [Syrian] Army to pressure these militants to stop this criminal war, which is detrimental to the principles and objectives of the Syrian revolution,” it said.
The council said hardline rebels were indiscriminately shelling Ras al-Ain with tanks and called on Turkish authorities to “stop interfering and supporting armed groups to implement their own agenda.”
“We ask our fellow Syrians inside and outside the country to stand beside their brethren in Ras al-Ain,” it concluded.
On Saturday, one rebel was reported dead and three wounded in fierce clashes between Kurdish fighters and the jihadist Al-Nusra Front and several other Islamist factions in Ras al-Ain, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.
On Friday, armed groups loyal to Al-Nusra Front crossed into Ras al-Ain from the Turkish border with three tanks, a Kurdish activist from the city told AFP via Internet.
While Turkey supports the revolt against Assad, it is also home to a sizeable Kurdish minority that has suffered much persecution and suppression.
Activists say they fear Turkey may be using jihadists in Syria to fight its own battle against the Kurds.
Syrian Army attacking rebel zones on the outskirts of Damascus - #Syria
Syria’s army sent shells smashing into rebel zones on the outskirts of Damascus Sunday while a Palestinian camp south of the capital was rocked by fresh fighting, a watchdog said.
“Regime troops shelled Daraya, Beit Sahm, Mleha and Moadamiyat al-Sham,” said the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, referring to rebel-held towns dotted around the edges of Damascus.
The Britain-based monitoring group, which relies on a network of activists, doctors and lawyers inside Syria, also reported fierce clashes between insurgents and the army in Daraya, southwest of Damascus, and in the Barzeh district of northern Damascus.
It said fighting erupted during the night in Yarmouk, a Palestinian camp in southern Damascus, that has been the scene of violent clashes in past months, and which was bombed by regime warplanes in December in an assault that send tens of thousands of residents fleeing.
07/12/2012 - #Syria - Damascus - FSA attacks vehicle-army base in Ghouta ash Sharqiyah
01/12/2012 - #Syria - Damascus - FSA preparing for assault on airport
#Syria Nov 21/12 Video showing the Idlib Martyrs brigade trying to storm the castle in Haram