05/16/2013 - #Syria - Aleppo - The battle for Aleppo’s central prison
Syrian rebels clashed with forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad near Damascus airport on Tuesday, battling for the capital’s outskirts after 20 months of conflict which the United Nations said has driven half a million people from the country.
Fighting near the airport, 20 km (12 miles) south-east of Damascus city center, is part of a broader confrontation between the army and rebels who hold a near continuous arc of territory from the east to the southwest of Assad’s power base.
The growing military power of the rebels is matched by the increasing foreign support for Syria’s political opposition coalition, which expects to win broad recognition at an international meeting in Morocco on Wednesday.
The center of Damascus, shielded for months from the violence which has killed 40,000 people since March 2011, echoed to the sound of shelling from Monday evening, residents said.
“There were very heavy clashes since yesterday in the town of Haran, on the eastern side of the airport, and there has been intermittent fighting in the Aqraba area by the airport,” said rebel spokesman Mussab Abu Qitada.
“The rebels are trying to maintain an encirclement of the airport. They are also still surrounding the Aqraba air base, on the international airport road,” he said by Skype from Damascus.
The shelling inside the capital appeared to be directed from the Qasioun mountain range, overlooking northern Damascus, towards the rebellious southern suburbs.
The mainly Sunni Muslim rebels have made military gains against the forces still loyal to Assad, many of them from Syria’s Alawite religious minority. The rebels have seized military bases across the country in the last month and are starting to encircle the capital, where power cuts and food shortages are hurting residents bracing for winter.
“We are barely surviving,” said a woman in the Midan district who would only identify herself as Umm Ahmed. She said she queued in vain from 6 a.m. until midday at bakeries which ran out of bread before she could buy any at the normal price, leaving her looking for supplies at much inflated rates.
“If I want to buy it on the street, the black market price is 150 lira (about $2) - three times the cost,” she said. “We are living without electricity and water, and the food is very expensive.”
Central Damascus has been suffering up to 12 hours of power cuts a day, residents say. Movement around the city, peppered with security checkpoints, is increasingly difficult and soldiers, security forces and local vigilantes are everywhere.
SEEKING WORLD SUPPORT
The conflict started with street protests inspired by uprisings across the Arab world. Demonstrations were met with gunfire by Assad’s forces and spiraled into the most protracted and destructive battle of the Arab uprisings.
Assad’s political and armed opponents, dogged by splits and rivalries throughout their battle to end his family’s 42-year rule, have established a more unified political opposition and military command, hoping to win international recognition and stronger support on the battlefield.
“All indications on the ground signal the end of the regime of Bashar al-Assad,” leading opposition figure Riad Seif said on the eve of a meeting in the Moroccan city of Marrakech of a broad grouping of governments opposed to Assad.
“We expect this meeting to fully recognize the coalition as the sole representative of the Syrian people,” he told Reuters.
France, Britain, Turkey and the Gulf states have already granted the formal recognition. The European Union, in a meeting on Monday, moved a step closer towards recognition and the United States has suggested it could also endorse the coalition.
“We are telling the international community that we don’t want their military intervention but we want them to supply us with a developed anti-aircraft defense systems,” Seif added.
“The Syrian people can finish off the battle within weeks if we get this support.”
His comments were echoed by Turkey’s Foreign Minister Ahmed Davutoglu, who said the days of Assad rule over Syria were numbered. “The regime is gradually losing control over all parts of the country. No regime can dominate the will of its people,” Davutoglu told Asharq al-Awsat newspaper.
But little in the way of direct military or financial support is expected to be channeled to the coalition at the Morocco meeting, partly because it lacks the ability to act as a provisional government and because Western powers are still wary of backing Islamist fighters in the rebel ranks.
A diplomat attending the meeting also said there had been much “jockeying for position within the coalition without addressing the main political issues” including making arrangements to work with Syria’s Alawite, Kurdish and Christian minorities and creating a framework for transitional justice.
Last week, as fighting raged on the outskirts of Damascus, several Western countries warned Assad not to deploy chemical weapons, many citing secret intelligence that U.S. officials have said his government might be preparing to use poison gas.
But U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said on Tuesday United States intelligence agencies have detected no new moves by the Syrian government in recent days that would indicate it was preparing to use chemical weapons against rebel forces.
“The intelligence has really kind of leveled off. We haven’t seen anything new indicating any aggressive steps to move forward in that way,” Panetta said.
Washington also announced it had designated the radical Islamist rebel groups Jabhat al-Nusra, which has claimed responsibility for dozens of car bombs and also fights alongside other rebel Syrian brigades, as a terrorist organization.
Designating it a terrorist group means Americans are prohibited from giving Jabhat al-Nusra any support.
The British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which monitors violence through a network of sources inside Syria, said 80 people had been killed by nightfall on Tuesday.
In the northern province of Idlib, rebels said they had taken the Christian village of al-Jdeideh, killing what they described as Alawite shabbiha militia but sparing Christians.
“With help from God Almighty, a group of battalions and people from al-Jdeideh have liberated the village of al-Jdeideh. The Alawite shabbiha were eliminated,” said a fighter identified as Abu al-Abed in video footage. “But the church was not touched,” he added. “Not a single Christian person was hurt.
“That is a message we want the world to hear.”
The fighting has driven hundreds of thousands of Syrians into neighbouring countries and the United Nations refugee agency UNHCR said on Tuesday more than half a million were either registered or awaiting registration in the region.
Lebanon is now host to 154,387 registered Syrian refugees, Jordan has 142,664, Turkey 136,319, Iraq 65,449 and North Africa 11,740, UNHCR said in a statement issued in Geneva. In addition, there are more than 1.5 million Syrians who fled violence in their homes and are displaced in safer areas within the country.
Large numbers of Syrians have also crossed into neighbouring countries but have not yet come forward to register for refugee status and assistance, it said. These include about 100,000 in Jordan, 70,000 each in both Turkey and Egypt and tens of thousands in Lebanon, it said, citing government estimates.
Brave citizen journalists stream live footage of early morning battles in Allirmon, sounds of gunfire; shelling and the ever present air-strikes. The infamous Air Force Intelligence building, housing thousands of detainees in subterraneous cells is nearby in the Zahara district.
Syria rebels ‘capture oilfield’ in Deir Ezzor
Syrian rebels have captured a key oilfield in eastern Deir Ezzor province, activists say, after a siege lasting several days.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights group said al-Ward fell after fierce fighting, although the reports have not been independently confirmed.
The Observatory said it was the first time the rebels had taken control of an oilfield.
The news came as various opposition groups met for crucial talks in Qatar.
The head of the UK-based Observatory, Rami Abdel Rahman, said: “Rebels in the Jaafar Tayyar Brigade took control of al-Ward oilfield, east of the town of Mayadin, after a siege that lasted several days.”
The Observatory also cited witnesses, residents and activists as saying rebels had shot down a warplane that had been carrying out attacks on Mayadin.
The Observatory is one of the most prominent organisations documenting and reporting incidents and casualties in the Syrian conflict. The group says its reports are impartial, though its information cannot be independently verified.
Mr Rahman said some 40 troops guarding the oilfield had been killed, wounded or captured.
One activist in the area, Omar Abu Leila, told Associated Press news agency the field was still working until shortly before it was captured.
Al-Ward is said to be one of the most important oilfields in Deir Ezzor, which holds most of Syria’s energy reserves.
Oil was the main source of hard currency for the government of President Bashar al-Assad until the European Union - which had bought 95% of Syria’s output - imposed sanctions last year.
Oil exports fell to 7,500 tonnes in the first quarter of 2012 from 13,500 tonnes in the fourth quarter of 2011.
Elsewhere in Syria on Sunday, state television said a bomb had exploded near the Dama Rose hotel in Damascus, wounding several people.
The pro-government Ikhbariyeh TV said the explosion was also near the government Labour Union building.
Union leader Mohammad Azouz told Associated Press at least 12 union members were hurt, two critically.
Other clashes were also reported in Damascus, Aleppo, Idlib, Taftanaz and Daraa.
State TV said a leading member of the ruling Baath party in north-east Raqqa province had been killed by gunmen.
Government in exile
Meanwhile, Syrian opposition groups gathered in the Qatari capital, Doha, for a key meeting on how to form a more united front against President Assad.
The SNC is looking to broaden its ranks and agree on a common platform at the conference, the BBC’s Jim Muir reports from Doha.
The SNC will be holding four days of intensive internal meetings aimed at overhauling its structures completely, our correspondent says, bringing in new, young elements closer to events on the ground, and producing a new leadership.
After that it is scheduled to hold talks on Thursday with the Syrian National Initiative, a group of influential and respected opposition figures who are proposing the creation of a unified leadership body that would later produce a government in exile, possibly as early as next month.
Respected dissident Riad Seif is apparently being suggested by the US as the head of the new government in exile.
However, Mr Seif told Agence France-Presse he had no plans to be leader.
“I shall not be a candidate to lead a government in exile… I am 66 and have health problems,” he said.
The US is hoping the new leadership will help bring a successful conclusion to an uprising that has killed more than 36,000 people since protests against President Assad erupted in March 2011.
Representatives at Doha will include various other religious and secular groupings, plus Kurdish figures and dissident members of Mr Assad’s Alawite sect.
The Syrian opposition is well aware that it is widely regarded as fragmented and ineffective, and that this is becoming more and more an issue as events on the ground gather pace.
The coming days will see the most concerted effort so far to pull the bulk of the opposition together and to create effective and credible structures that the outside world can work with in trying to bring about a transition in Syria.
The outcome of the meeting is by no means certain. Divisions run deep, both among the opposition, and among the outside powers, who are watching this process closely.
Scenes from the battle :
Cameraman nearly hit by warplane
Devastation from aerial bombardment :
Damage to the Mosque :
10/11/12 By Herve Bar
MAARET AL-NUMAN, Syria — Blown-up buildings, deserted streets and corpses of regime soldiers bear testimony to a fierce 48-hour battle before the town of Maaret al-Numan fell to Syrian rebels.
The capture of Maaret al-Numan on Wednesday was a major breathrough for the rebels fighting President Bashar al-Assad’s forces, especially after they cut off the highway linking Damascus with the northern city of Aleppo.
Rebels say the fight to capture Maaret al-Numan began on Monday afternoon when the local military council attacked eight army checkpoints in the eastern part of this strategic town, which in normal times has a population of around 125,000.
Within 48 hours the rebels captured the checkpoints located at crossroads of the town, including a former prison and cultural centre, said Firaz Abdel Hadi, a rebel media official.
Sixteen rebels were killed by a landmine when they entered the cultural centre after it had been abandoned by members of the regime’s military intelligence when it came under attack.
In the basement lay the bodies of around 65 prisoners who the rebels say were executed by their captors minutes before fleeing.
Most of the victims are suspected to have been supporters of the anti-regime uprising or soldiers suspected of trying to defect, said a survivor who was miraculously saved after two bodies fell on him.
The walls of the building are riddled with bullets and stained with blood — witness to the massacre as soldiers fled. Thirty soldiers managed to escape wearing civilian clothes as the rebels advanced.
“Two RPGs were enough to send 50 soldiers fleeing,” boasted Abdel Hadi, laughing.
By Wednesday all loyalist positions in the town finally fell to rebels as Assad’s troops took refuge in two military camps on the outskirts of Maaret al-Numan, at Wadi Daif and Hamdiyeh.
For the regime, the imperative was not to control the whole town, since its western sector had already been in rebel hands for the past two months, but to defend the highway from Aleppo to Damascus.
Syria’s army uses the highway to send reinforcements to the commercial capital in northern Syria.
On Thursday, rebels had control of nearly five kilometres (three miles) of the four-lane highway.
Fighting continued further east around Wadi Daif and Hamdiyeh which rebels had surrounded, blocking columns of regime tanks sent as reinforcements from Damascus to Idlib and Aleppo provinces.
Syrian troops tried during the night to retake Maaret al-Numan but failed, rebel commander Akram Sale told AFP, adding that four rebels were killed overnight.
On Tuesday, a bomb dropped by a MiG fell just metres away from the famous museum Alma Arra, damaging part of its mosaic collections and pottery, some dating back to 3,000 BC.
The museum which was previously occupied by regime troops is renowned for its mosaic collections, said to be the largest in the Middle East.
The rebels said that almost 300 people were killed in the three days of fighting in Maaret al-Numan, including 55 civilians, 46 rebel fighters and 190 Syrian army soldiers.
#Syria, ENGLISH SUBTITLES: Idlib || A battle between a Free Syrian Army battalion and a regime’s battalion ANA ChannelEng
Syrian rebels launch deadly attacks on military in campaign increasingly targeting its air power, as Russia says it is ‘naive’ to expect Assad not to fight back.
Middle East Online
DAMASCUS - Syrian rebels launched deadly attacks on the military Saturday in a campaign increasingly targeting its air power, as President Bashar al-Assad’s traditional ally Russia said it was “naive” to expect him not to fight back.
Rebel fighters captured the main air defence building in Albu Kamal on the Iraqi border, the Syrian Observatory for Human Right said, adding that “preliminary reports” suggested they had seized ground-to-air missiles that could boost their ability to down government aircraft.
The assault late Friday came hot on the heels of a rebel attack on the Abu Zohur air base in Idlib province in the northwest, where the Free Syrian Army said it downed a MiG warplane shortly after takeoff earlier this week.
With the insurgency intensifying, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said calls by Western and Arab governments for Assad to unilaterally pull back his troops amounted to a demand for “capitulation” that they had no right to make.
In their assault in Albu Kamal, rebel fighters also captured 16 air defence personnel and attacked the nearby Hamdan air base, the Syrian Observatory said.
The seizure of the air defence headquarters was a “major coup” for the rebels, the Britain-based watchdog’s director Rami Abdel Rahman said, adding that it sparked retaliatory shelling in the town of some 60,000 people that killed at least five civilians.
They were among a total of 125 people killed in violence nationwide on Friday — 74 civilians, 29 soldiers and 22 rebels, according to the Observatory’s figures.
The rebels claim to have destroyed a dozen aircraft on the ground in their attacks on air bases in recent days as they seek to counter the government’s use of MiG warplanes and helicopter gunships against them.
In Idlib province, a major battleground on the Turkish border, rebels attacked an army roadblock in the Harem district early Saturday, killing or wounding nine soldiers, the Observatory said.
In the central province of Hama, rebels killed at least four soldiers in a similar attack, it added.
In talks with Syrian Prime Minister Wael al-Halaqi in Tehran on Friday, UN chief Ban Ki-moon said that Assad’s regime must stop using its heavy weapons.
But the Russia’s top diplomat said on Saturday that such calls were “completely unrealistic”.
“When our partners say that the government must stop first and withdraw all its soldiers and weapons from cities — and only then call on the opposition to do the same — well, this is a completely unworkable scheme,” said Lavrov.
“Either people are naive or it is some sort of provocation,” he added.
Lavrov stressed that Moscow, a Cold War era ally of Damascus, was not trying to support Assad or his government but basing its policies on the daily situation on the ground.
“No matter your view of the Syrian regime, it is completely unrealistic in the current situation — when there is fighting in the cities — to say that the only way out is the unilateral capitulation of one of the opposing sides,” he said.
“We are not holding on to any regime or any individuals in the Syrian situation. We are simply basing our position on what is realistic.”
Both Damascus and Aleppo — Syria’s two largest cities — have seen persistent fighting between troops and rebels in a conflict that has now claimed more than 26,000 lives since March last year, according to the Observatory’s figures.
The International Committee of the Red Cross has warned that the situation across large swathes of Syria is “edging towards irreversible deterioration”.
Turkey has been pressing for the establishment of safe havens inside Syria to stem the mounting exodus of refugees, and reacted with frustration when its calls fell on deaf ears at the UN Security Council on Thursday.
But on Friday Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan acknowledged that any such move would require UN backing and would be far too risky without the prior establishment of a no-fly zone.
“We cannot take such a step without any resolution at the UN Security Council,” Erdogan said.
“You cannot create a buffer zone without a no-fly zone in place,” he added.
Turkey is home to more than 80,000 refugees and thousands more have been stranded on other side of the border waiting to be accommodated in camps yet to be built by the Turks.
To the anger of Damascus, Turkey also plays host to large numbers of defecting Syrian soldiers who formed the kernel of the Free Syrian Army, although it has repeatedly denied providing the rebels with weapons.
“Most of the terrorists in Syria come from Turkey,” Syrian Deputy Foreign Minister Faisal Muqdad charged on Friday.
Wed, 22 Aug 2012 12:24 GMT
BAGHDAD, Aug 22 (Reuters) - Syrian government forces fought rebels on Wednesday for control of a military base and an airfield near the eastern town of Albu Kamal on the Iraqi border, a local Iraqi official and a Syrian rebel commander said.
“There is fierce fighting between the Free Syrian Army and Syrian border guards to control the base, where tanks and artillery were used to bombard (Albu Kamal),” Farhan Ftiakhan, mayor of the nearby Iraqi town of Qaim, told Reuters.
“Most Albu Kamal areas are in the hands of the Free Syrian Army, but the Syrian regular army is deployed and controlling the areas just outside Albu Kamal,” he said by telephone.
Insurgents fighting to topple Syrian President Bashar al-Assad have made gains in Albu Kamal in the past week.
A rebel commander said they now controlled the town, which sits on a supply route from Iraq, where many Sunni tribes sympathise with their Syrian kin fighting Assad’s forces.
The commander, known as Abu Khalid, told Reuters by satellite telephone that the Syrian army now only held the military base and the area around it.
Opposition sources said on Tuesday Syrian state forces had abandoned two security compounds in Albu Kamal that had been run by the Airforce Intelligence and Political Security agencies.
Albu Kamal lies 120 km (75 miles) southeast of the city of Deir al-Zor, capital of a Sunni province with strong family and clan connections to Iraq’s Sunni heartland in Anbar province.
Longstanding alliances between Syria’s Alawite-dominated ruling elite and Sunni tribes in Deir al-Zor began collapsing after Assad cracked down in the oil-producing region as part of efforts to crush a 17-month-old revolt.
18/08/2012 #Syria: Battle for Aleppo rages on
Aleppo, Syria’s largest city, is under attack again - as fighting intensifies between rebels and government forces. The battle for Aleppo has been raging for weeks. And as the number of dead and injured grows, hospitals are desperately trying to cope. Al Jazeera’s James Bays reports.
#Syria, Idlib X battle tank battalions destroying al-Assad on Wednesday approved on 15.08.2012, where the Battalions and brigades, the military free (Idlib Martyrs Brigade - the banner of monotheism - Battalion whom Allaah loves) the destruction of a convoy of tanks was
Heading to the barrier of Bab Al-Hawa border crossing