03/23/2013 - #Syria - Daraya - Shabiha gathering targetted by FSA
Daraya 16/01/2013 Regime tanks try to break into the city
01/13/2013 - #Syria - Damascus, Daraya - Residential buildings burning because of regime’s tanks shelling
The outskirts of the Syrian capital were rocked by clashes early on Saturday a day after rebels seized a key regime airbase in the north, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.
The Britain-based watchdog said two children and a man were killed when Mleha just southeast of Damascus was bombarded, and that two rebels battling forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad were also killed there.
The Observatory relies on a network of activists and medics on the ground in Syria when compiling its reports and death tolls. It said violence nationwide on Friday claimed the lives of 86 people, among them 30 civilians.
Regime artillery also opened up on Beit Sahem south of Damascus, as well as Jdaidet Artuz and Daraya to the southeast, the rights group said on Saturday.
It reported that regime air raids on Rastan in the central province of Homs caused casualties, without giving an immediate toll of the dead and wounded.
One rebel was also killed in clashes there, it added.
In the east of the country, a man was killed when artillery pounded Deir Ezzor, the Observatory said.
Among Friday’s casualties were nine rebels, eight soldiers and two regime militiamen killed when insurgents overran the key Taftanaz air base in one of their most important military gains to date.
Capturing Taftanaz, from which regime forces launched deadly helicopter gunship sorties, eases the pressure on rebels who already control vast swathes of Syria’s north and east.
“This is the largest airbase to be seized since the revolt began” nearly 22 months ago, the Observatory’s Rami Abdel Rahman told AFP on Friday.
Government forces managed to evacuate most of the 60 helicopters deployed there, leaving behind 20 that are no longer serviceable, the Observatory said.
The United Nations says that more than 60,000 people have died in the Syria conflict which began in mid-March 2011 with peaceful protests that quickly erupted into deadly violence in the wake of a harsh regime crackdown.
January 12, 2013
(Reuters) - Syrian rebels backed by radical Islamists captured a northern regimental command center of President Bashar al-Assad’s army, activists said on Sunday, as Russia dismissed speculation that it is preparing for its ally’s possible exit from power.
Assad’s forces hammered rebel units on the outskirts of Damascus as they tried to drive back opposition fighters rebels seeking to advance toward the embattled leader’s seat of power.
Rebels have made a series of advances in recent weeks, partly due to help from radicals such as Jabhat al-Nusra, a group linked to Al Qaeda in Iraq which has been excluded from a newly-formed rebel military command.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said Jabhat al-Nusra, which has called for the creation of an Islamic state in Syria, had participated in capturing the command center of the army’s 111th regiment in the north of the country. It said around five soldiers were captured, while the commanding officer and some 140 of his men fled to another army site nearby.
Russia, Syria’s main arms supplier, dismissed suggestions from observers that its support for Assad might be softening.
“We are not holding any talks on the fate of Assad,” Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said after meeting U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and special U.N. envoy to Syria Lakhdar Brahimi. “All attempts to present the situation differently are rather shady,” Itar-Tass news agency quoted him as saying.
Washington and its NATO allies, who have thrown their weight behind the opposition, are pressing for Assad’s departure to end the conflict in Syria, which has taken more than 40,000 lives.
Russia and China have blocked U.N. resolutions against Assad, saying they oppose foreign intervention in the conflict.
However, Western officials have recently cited intelligence reports that Assad may turn to chemical weapons. “We have seen enough evidence to know that they need a warning and they have received a warning and I hope they heed that,” British Foreign Secretary William Hague said on Saturday.
Syria has repeatedly denied the charges and accused the West of creating pretexts for foreign intervention.
RADICALS ON THE RISE
Rebels have seized several military bases in recent weeks, although some activists on the ground say there is no sign they are on the verge of toppling Assad.
The rebels’ capture of the regimental command center in the Sheikh Suleiman region of Aleppo province, however, shows growing cooperation and even allegiance to radical Islamists who have proven to be some of the most effective fighters.
It is unclear how much Jabhat al-Nusra’s exclusion from the newly-formed rebel military command in Syria, an effort backed by Western, Turkish and Arab security officials, will affect efforts to unify rebel ranks and increase financial support.
Led by Brigadier Selim Idris, the new command structure itself is also Islamist-dominated, though it has the backing of many Western states which have expressed reluctance to support the rebels due to the presence of radicals.
Radical groups such as Jabhat al-Nusra are small compared with other factions but their influence has grown in recent months, partly due to their successful operations. Some residents and rebels also believe the hardliners are more disciplined than some rebels who have been accused of looting and kidnapping.
ROAD TO DAMASCUS?
Damascus has become a focal point of battles over the past week, as rebels effectively shut the international airport by clashing with Assad’s forces there. Foreign flights have been suspended and residents say the airport road is closed.
Rebels who have dubbed their campaign “Operation Opening the Road to Damascus”, uploaded video on Sunday that showed heavy gunbattles and explosions rocking several rural towns around the capital. The video also showed rebels firing a fully functioning tank which they had captured from the army.
But there is no clear winner yet in a battle where neither side seems to have advanced. The Syrian army has claimed many successes around the capital, airing footage on state television of soldiers raiding parts of the rebel stronghold of Deraya.
“Our noble forces in Deraya have destroyed some of the terrorist dens used by al Qaeda terrorists to store weapons and other criminal tools,” said a report on Syria TV, which usually refers to rebels as terrorists. “Many terrorists were killed.”
Syrian soldiers also freed an Iranian diplomat captured on the outskirts of Damascus on Saturday, according to Iran’s state-run Arabic news channel Al-Alam. Majeed Adeli, the cultural attaché at the Iranian embassy in Damascus, had been kidnapped by rebels in the Sayyida Zeinab suburb.
Rebels have been targeting Iranians in Syria, many of whom it accuses of belonging to Iranian security forces. Iran has been Assad’s main bankroller and backer in the region. Rebels are also holding 48 Iranians which Tehran says were pilgrims.
Fierce battle between Bashar Al-Assad regime and opposition fighters near Damascus where at least 32 people killed
Syrian troops battled rebels near Damascus on Saturday and launched air strikes on opposition strongholds in the south of the capital and on its northeastern outskirts, a watchdog said.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights gave an initial toll of 49 people killed nationwide, including 16 civilians and 16 rebels killed in Damascus province alone.
To the northeast of the capital, seven civilians including a child were killed in heavy army shelling on the town of Misraba.
Nearby, warplanes bombarded the town of Douma and areas between Harasta and Irbin, said the watchdog, adding that 10 rebels were killed in fierce clashes with troops in the area.
The Observatory also reported three rebels and two civilians killed in shelling on southern areas of the capital, including in Daraya, where troops had launched a major military operation to try and seize control of the town.
For several days, the army has pounded rebel strongholds on the capital’s outskirts, where the fighters have set up their rear bases, raising fears of a looming ground assault.
Abu Kinan, an activist in Daraya, said that clashes had broken out between the rebel Free Syrian Army and government troops to the east and west of Daraya.
“The army is getting reinforcements and has arrested more than 80 displaced people who were living in the surrounding areas, just because they are from Daraya,” he told AFP via Skype.
He said that the army had not yet succeeded in entering the town, the scene in August of the single deadliest massacre of the 21-month conflict.
State television reported that the army had “destroyed a number of vehicles and motorcycles used by terrorists” in Harasta and Daraya.
The Observatory said that the army mounted attacks on rebel positions near the borders with Turkey and Israel.
Air strikes struck the northern town of Tal Abyad near Turkey, the Britain-based watchdog said, while shells fell on the villages of Bir Ajam and Al-Buraykah in the Syrian side of the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights.
In the northwestern province of Idlib, four men were killed in air strikes on the village of Kfar Lateh, and warplanes also bombed Maaret al-Numan and the nearby village of Has, killing two men and leaving 15 others wounded.
In Aleppo province in the north, warplanes pounded the towns of Aazaz and Jarablus, and targeted rebel positions around the Meng military airport which is ringed by several battalions.
More than 42,000 people have been killed since the uprising erupted in March last year, according to the Observatory, which relies on a network of activists, lawyers and medics on the ground.