The FSA have taken Base 46 outside Atareb, which had been under siege for 2 months. Taking the base gives the FSA access to heavy weapons and badly needed ammunition. It also prevents it from being used as a base to shell Aleppo. The videos below show the final attacks, fighters celebrating, and checking over the weaponry they have captured.
Update via Shada tv: According to an activist interviewed on Shada, 70 regime soldiers were captured, and there were 10 defections. The regime sent reinforcements, up to 300 soldiers and a large number of vehicles from Kafar Naha which were engaged by the FSA.
Further update: Still some reports of fighting continuing, not clear whether inside or on outskirts of the base.
3 Nov 2012 Syria : Video and reports of events of Red Cross / SARC visit to Homs
Video below of the visit ot the beseiged part of Homs for the first time in over 6 months. The video seems to contradict the report that ICRC gave :-
The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) sends this update:
On Saturday 3rd November an ICRC team together with the Syrian Arab Red Crescent entered the old city of Homs to deliver assistance. It was the first time in months that the ICRC had been able to enter the neighbourhoods of Khalidiya and Hamidiya in Homs.
Hundreds of civilians have been unable to leave the two neighbourhoods because of continuous fighting and have been without an adequate supply of food, medical items and other necessities. The living conditions of those civilians are extremely precarious.
The ICRC and SARC were able to deliver enough medical items to treat up to a 100 wounded people and a supply of medicines for those suffering chronic diseases. Enough food and hygiene material for over 1,200 people was delivered, along with baby milk and diapers.
“The Wounded Kid with the eye patch is afraid to go with the Red Cross Workers as he knows they will turn him over to the Assad The people are yelling at the Red Cross and Red Crescent spies that they are Worthless as they have no supplies and cannot do surgery and should leave. ” is a quote from the Youtube decription
(AP) BEIRUT - Syrian troops shelled restive areas and sent tanks and snipers into battle against rebels in the capital’s suburbs on Friday, broadening a government offensive that appeared aimed at crushing pockets of opposition less than a week before an internationally sponsored cease-fire is to take hold, activists said.
With fighting escalating, the stream of Syrians fleeing to neighboring Turkey has picked up considerably, as about one-third of the total of 24,000 refugees arrived in the past two weeks, Turkish officials said. Some 2,500 crossed the border on Thursday alone, said Ankara’s Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, adding that the daily flow has doubled since Syria promised last week to abide by a truce.
Davutoglu told U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Friday his country would seek U.N. assistance if the influx continues. Turkey has in the past floated the idea of creating a small buffer zone inside Syria if refugee flows become overwhelming, setting the stage for possible further escalation. “These developments are seriously worrying us,” Davutoglu said of the intensifying violence.
The apparent trigger for the latest rush of refugees was an offensive by President Bashar Assad’s forces this week near the town of Idlib, close to Turkey. Activists reported scores dead in the village of Taftanaz, and said another village nearby, Killi, was being shelled Friday.
“They devastated Taftanaz, all houses demolished, everything destroyed,” Hikmet Saban, a Syrian refugee who reached Turkey, told Turkey’s state-run Anadolu agency. “Helicopters and tanks are bombarding continuously. Taftanaz has been burnt to the ground for three days.” Activists posted video they said showed a helicopter gunship firing a missile at Taftanaz and a local mosque hit by shelling.
Dozens of refugees, including a young man on crutches and a defector from the Syrian army in military camouflage, were huddled behind razor wire on the Syria-Turkey border Friday, waiting to cross into Turkey, according to footage shown on Turkey’s state TV. Turkish soldiers registered their names before letting them in.
In Syria’s central city of Homs, thick black smoke billowed from a residential area as the sounds of heavy gunfire and explosions could be heard. “Intense shelling by Assad’s gangs,” a man could be heard saying while filming what appeared to be a house on fire. “May God help us.”
Regime forces also struck the town of Rastan, just north of Homs, with heavy machine-guns and mortars, said the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. Ground troops later tried to push their way into the city, clashing with opposition fighters, the group said.
The government has been laying siege to Rastan since rebels took control of it in late January. Rebels are in control of Rastan town — but not the strategic Rastan bridge, which is the main link to the country’s north. Over the past year, the rebels have tried repeatedly to overrun the bridge and break the siege.
Government forces also broadened an offensive in the Damascus suburbs of Douma, Saqba, Arbeen and Dumair, exchanging fire with rebels, activists said. The Observatory said four members of the military were killed.
Tanks fired at buildings and snipers set up positions atop a 12-story medical building in the sprawling Douma district, about 8 miles outside Damascus, said activist Mohammed Saeed. He said two people were killed by random tank fire.
(Reuters) - Bashar al-Assad always said Syria would be different.
When the Arab uprisings first erupted more than a year ago, the Syrian president confidently said his government was in tune with its people, ready to reform on its own terms, and immune from the turmoil starting to sweep the region.
Within weeks he was proved wrong, when a few dozen protesters took to the streets of Damascus on March 15 to call for greater freedoms, setting off one of the most protracted and bloodiest of all the Arab revolts.
But while those uprisings toppled four Arab leaders in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya and Yemen, the 46-year-old Assad has withstood the year-long turmoil, deploying tanks, elite troops and artillery to crush rebellion across the country.
Bombarding the city of Homs into submission last month and taking control of much of another rebel hotbed in Idlib, Assad has challenged the assumptions of many who just a few weeks ago were talking of his imminent departure.
As the anniversary of the uprising approached there were even comparisons with the nearly four-year war in Bosnia between Serb, Muslim and Croat forces that tore apart the Balkan nation.
The severity of Assad’s crackdown, in which the United Nations says 8,000 people have been killed, triggered Western condemnation and sanctions. Arab countries have called on Assad to step aside, while the economy has ground to a halt and the Syrian pound has halved in value.
In January, rebel fighters briefly seized control of the eastern suburbs of Damascus, barely five km from the centre of the president’s power, while rebels controlled much of Homs, Syria’s third biggest city and a major industrial centre.
But Assad’s forces swept back into the suburbs, dismantled rebel checkpoints and regained control of Homs after a month-long rocket and artillery assault.
And one year on from the first protest - which soon spread south to Deraa where people rallied in support of dozens of children tortured for writing anti-Assad graffiti - Assad is still at the helm, challenging the “Arab Spring” narrative of people power and defying predictions that his days are numbered.
“Victory is very close if we remain steadfast,” he said in a speech two months ago, dismissing what he said were frequent rumors spread by his opponents that he was leaving the country or might relinquish power.
“Shame on you. I am not a person who surrenders his responsibilities,” said the president, who took over on the death of his father nearly 12 years ago, extending Assad family rule which stretches back more than four decades.
For months now Assad’s opponents have said it is a question of when, not if, the president will be forced from office.
But world powers are deeply divided over how to respond to the crackdown in Syria, and the chorus of international condemnation of the army assault on Baba Amr in Homs failed to mask the lack of practical response to the killings.
One Western diplomat described the closure of several embassies in Damascus over recent weeks as “a manifestation of impotence” by countries that were running out of options to deal with Syrian authorities.
Contradicting the public line from his own capital - one of several which has called on Assad to quit - he said any solution to the crisis in Syria would have to involve the president somehow, even if it meant a transition period leading to him “leaving eventually”.
“The opposition cannot win militarily because of the authorities’ military strength and the willingness to use it intensely and without discrimination,” he said.
“Bashar is delegitimized and cannot stay in the long run. But he can hold on for a long time.”
Assad’s sense of purpose in confronting the uprising contrasts with persistent divisions among his opponents.
The main opposition Syrian National Council has won only qualified international support and shows little sign that it has any influence inside Syria with anti-Assad protesters or the armed insurgents who have launched attacks on security forces.
It suffered a further setback on Tuesday when prominent dissident and former judge Haitham al-Maleh resigned from the SNC, complaining of a lack of transparency, and said many resignations would follow.
The insurgents are also fractured. Fighting under the banner of the Free Syrian Army, they are in fact led by local commanders who operate largely independently of their nominal leadership based across the northern border in Turkey.
After the month-long army assault on Homs, rebels there were forced to retreat, allowing the military to press its crackdown further north in the province of Idlib, neighboring Turkey.
“The recent army operations have reinforced the regime’s confidence in its capabilities,” said a Lebanese official with close ties to Syria.
“They coincide with a change in the international stance (on Syria) which first emerged with the doubts over whether the opposition could form a single front which could be an alternative to the regime.”
CAN ASSAD SURVIVE?
Despite appeals from people caught up in the military siege and bombardment of Homs in February, Western powers have ruled out military intervention in Syria along the lines of the NATO operations which helped to topple Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi.
In the absence of foreign intervention, opponents who say Assad’s days are numbered point to three possible triggers for his downfall: a complete economic meltdown triggered by the turmoil and sanctions on Syrian oil sales; a coup, or wave of top-level defections from the army or business elite; or loss of state control in Aleppo or Damascus.
The president has suffered setbacks on all three fronts in recent months, but no fatal blow to his authority.
“It is possible that Assad could prevent all three of those things from happening, as he has done so far,” said Chris Phillips, a Middle East specialist at the University of London.
“In which case this time next year I wouldn’t be surprised to see Assad still in power - a much weaker Syrian regime that is fighting a low level civil war, but still theoretically in charge in Damascus.”
For the time being, Assad has been bolstered internationally by Russian and Chinese vetoes of United Nations resolutions which would have condemned his repression of the protests. He also has regional support from Iran and the Shi’ite Hezbollah militant group.
Domestically Assad draws support from many of his Alawite community. Other minorities including Christian and Druze have been wary of joining the mainly Sunni Muslim protest movement.
Assad may take comfort from successful campaigns by Arab leaders to crush rebellious populations - Saddam Hussein lost control of 15 of Iraq’s 18 provinces after the 1991 Gulf War but fought back to survive another 12 years, while Assad’s own father put down an Islamist uprising in the 1980s.
But the Shi’ite rebellion against Saddam was shortlived and Hafez al-Assad was confronting a limited insurgency by Islamist militants. Bashar in contrast faces opposition across the country which has grown, not subsided, in the last year.
If the Free Syrian Army rebels win military support - as proposed by Saudi Arabia and Qatar - they will be even tougher to defeat completely.
“My sense is that his regime will crumble in one way or another,” said Volker Perthes, director of the German Institute for International and Security Affairs. “The regime is already at the end, it’s just that the end can take a very long time.”
Perthes said that if Syria slipped further into civil war Assad might choose to cede control of less critical territory and deploy his most loyal forces around vital centers — Damascus, the eastern oilfields, the Alawite mountains near the Mediterranean and the two main ports of Tartus and Latakia.
Phillips, at the University of London, expected a “very, very slow erosion of both the state and the military” and a gradual slide to wider conflict.
But he said events in Syria over the last year had defied most early predictions, making forecasts for the coming months hazardous.
“A year ago people thought this would go one of several ways. Either Assad would collapse very quickly, or he would be forced to open up the system, or he would crush (the protests) successfully. None of that has happened.
“People didn’t really think there was a possibility for a slow burning civil war. But that’s what we’ve got.”
It is shocking, though almost commonplace now, to see friends and relations like this, their agony beamed around the world before you have even been informed, still less taken in the news of their deaths. Instancy is more important than contemplation.
But what is more shocking is that for every Westerner caught in the firestorm, there are thousands of similar images, reflecting similar realities, of those who have no names and only simulacra of stories, and those often forgotten behind the potency of the visible. The man being whipped into unconsciousness in an Idlib police station, or beaten by a braying mob of soldiers bearing down in escalating waves in a Hama street – did anyone ever discover who they were, what they had done, or whether they survived?
Marie Colvin, in her last posting on the Facebook group with which she shared the traumas that she was witnessing, described the death of a baby, whose name will probably never now surface in any newspaper. “Shrapnel, doctors could do nothing,” she wrote. “His little tummy just heaved and heaved until he stopped.”
This is how it has been for three weeks now in the suburb of Baba Amr, a daily repeater gun of death. Siege is as old as war itself, of course; there is nothing new in that. Tyrants have bombarded even their own cities, notably President Bashar al-Assad’s father Hafez in Hama 30 years ago.
Marie colvin in the Chechen Mountains, Chechnya, 1999 Photo: REX
But this is no Stalingrad, or even Misurata, the other Arab city smashed like a Lego toy by a leader who said he loved his people.
There, artillery fire was a precursor to ground assault, where attacking troops also fought and died, bravely whatever the worth of their cause. Here, a defenceless population is being destroyed, house by house, alley by alley, without even the relief of conquest. The regime is killing because it can, and because it is the only argument it seems to know.
The effects were spelt out with clarity when The Daily Telegraph, a few days beforehand, attempted the same trip as Marie Colvin and Remi Ochlik. Returning journalists described days spent sheltering in basements, crammed in with residents, never emerging to face the blasts and falling masonry outside: there were snipers to catch you if you did, even if the rockets missed.
To get in or out required scuttling down hills and back streets from nearby villages during lulls. The main route until the beginning of last week was discovered by the authorities, briefly stopping new arrivals – luckily for us, it would seem.
For the injured, there was a makeshift clinic in an ordinary house, powered by a generator, but with limited equipment. A similar clinic in nearby Qusayr, where we ended up, saw deaths that could have been prevented elsewhere, doctors shaking their heads silently at the impossibility of it all.
Most forbidding of all is the awareness that “they” know where you are. The authorities can lock on to satellite signals – the mark of the modern journalist – and home in accordingly.
Those with the ability to bear witness are an obvious target, when the tedium of killing housewives becomes too much. Homs became the epicentre of the uprising only after violent repression elsewhere had become regular. But it is now sucking in destruction, a bloodied whirlpool.
Rosemarie Colvin, mother of journalist Marie Photo:AP
Marie Colvin had reported from war zones for decades, but in one of her last calls out, she said she had never seen anything to compare.
“Sickening, cannot understand how the world can stand by and I should be hardened by now,” she wrote.
But then what is happening here is, perhaps, new.
As the Arab Spring unfolds, the regime is screaming a hideous death-cry not just for its own rule, but for an ideology of dictatorship.
Here is a species on the verge of extinction, lashing out as it sinks into prehistory.
Nadia* is a beautiful young lady from a prominent family in Homs. Every day for months, she would stare at her closet in agony; she had nothing to wear. Her behavior was typical of millions of girls her age around the world, but unlike those millions of girls, she wasn’t on her way to meet friends, go to a party, or spend the day shopping. She was going to a protest. She said her wardrobe decision was difficult because she had to choose an outfit that was fitting enough for a protest, modest enough for detainment, and honorable enough to die in.
When I spoke to her a couple months ago, I asked her, “Aren’t you afraid?” She said, “Afraid of what? Death? No, we no longer fear death. We have tasted freedom. We know what it is like not to be afraid. For the first time in my life, I am surrounded by men with guns in military uniforms, and I am not afraid. For the first time in my life, I feel protected.” The men she speaks of are the defected soldiers who joined the Free Syrian Army. They would form a protective circle around the crowds of chanting civilians. That human shield allowed the dense, daily protests of Homs to continue for months. Protests that no longer exist in a city under siege.
A few weeks after we spoke, fear returned to Homs and to Nadia’s life. One day, they heard security forces were searching the neighborhood, looking for protesters and defectors in hiding, while spreading their usual dose of intimidation. Two girls who were alone in the house beneath Nadia’s rushed upstairs—they were terrified of being alone when the security forces came. Soon a group of men knocked on Nadia’s door and marched inside. While they spoke, the men eyed the group of girls. Nadia later said, “They looked at me in a way that shamed me in front of my father.” They asked for everyone’s ID cards. The neighbors’ girls did not have their cards with them. The men said, “We will go down with you to get them.” They trembled with fear but acted as if they were not afraid at all. Nadia’s father asked the men to sit down for coffee, he told them firmly he would accompany them to get the girls’ IDs. The men were taken aback by this small act of kindness but they also knew the father was not going to leave the girls or his family alone with them without a fight. They drank their coffee and left without asking for the girls’ IDs. The girls were physically untouched but still shaken. Nadia’s mother fainted, as they listened to the thumping of boots slowly fade down the staircase.
Nadia’s family lives in a well-established neighborhood called Insha’at. Rows of ordered buildings stand proudly along clean, wide promenades. It’s a neighborhood where not only does everyone know everyone else, but they are most likely related. The neighborhood itself is described as an extended family of the most prominent names of Homs: Atassi, Jandali, Rifai, and others. They were highly educated, well-off, and proud to be from Homs. Some of the Insha’at families had already fled from the violence in the past months. They locked their doors and went to Beirut, Dubai, America, anywhere—to wait out the revolution. But many had remained. They stayed not because they did not have anywhere else to go; they stayed because they chose to. They were determined to be part of the revolution that has personally affected almost every family in Homs. They were determined to live through the hardship. Nadia’s family was one of those families who said they would never leave Homs or the revolution behind.
For the past two weeks, they have lived in terror. They wake up to the shelling that pounds neighboring Baba Amr all day and fall asleep to the sound of sniper gunfire and emergency wails from the mosques. Last week a shell hit their home, breaking the windows, they covered the empty frames with sheets of plastic. Last week they survived sixty consecutive hours without electricity, living off of whatever hadn’t yet rotted in the freezer and the diminishing non-perishables in the cupboards. When the shelling intensified, they huddled in the basement with the rest of the neighbors. Nadia and her parents sat as close to each other as possible. When they would dare to go up to their home—to get something they needed or check if the telephone lines were working. They walked up the stairs together, the three of them sharing each step. Nadia said they were worried a rocket would hit their home and one of them would survive just because they were a step ahead or behind. They were planning to die together.
On Saturday, they heard shouts over loudspeakers. The army ordered the people of Insha’at: leave or die. They were given two hours to evacuate their homes, warning them to leave the doors open and not take anything with them. Insha’at’s tall buildings that look over Baba Amr were perfect for sniper nests. The comfortable apartments were also perfect for the army to loot and upgrade their living arrangements.
Nadia’s family walked out of the house she and her siblings were born in, a house filled with decades of a family’s memories and material treasures. A house that was their life. They descended the staircase for the last time together, weeping with each step. Not knowing if they would ever return. They joined the others on the street. She described the scene,
“I wish I never opened the door and saw my streets. Destroyed cars and broken trees; bodies under the rubble of buildings. We left them our home, and our lives, so they can occupy them and use them to hit Baba Amr. There are trucks parked in the streets already being filled with furniture from our homes. People run in the street with their barefooted children because their building was just hit. I saw an old woman holding a finger, kissing it. That is all she has left of her son, who was buried under the rubble of their building where they could not get him out.”
Syrian-American woman told me the story of her family who lives on the border of Insha’at and Baba Amr. She had begged them for weeks to leave Homs, but her uncle told her, “There is no way we are leaving the people behind just because we can escape.”
But their building was bombed on Friday, and they had to leave. Their car had been crushed by tanks like all the other cars in the neighborhood. Her elderly uncle carried his ninety-year-old mother on his back down the street, because they feared she would stumble and fall. A fall that would be deadly in a city void of any medical care. She said her young relative was kicked out of her house six weeks ago. The army walked into her apartment to check the windows and the view—to decide whether they wanted it or not. “She was petrified, she had young kids, so she just grabbed her stuff and took off.” They never went back to their home. She calls her family displaced. “I do not know how many people are living in random people’s houses.”
Nadia’s family walked to the checkpoint at the end of the street, ducking each time they heard the sniper bullets fired above their heads. At the checkpoint they were searched, item by item. Nadia had a small bag with only her pajamas. Buses stood by, ready to take the people to safe houses across Homs, to be taken in by whoever would (or could) welcome them.
Not everyone made it the checkpoint. One family of three, a man, his wife, and his sister, was gunned down in front of their building after being promised safe passage. Maybe they took too long to leave or maybe they were just an example to the rest or maybe they were merely a shooting exercise for the snipers.
Nadia’s family headed towards a relative’s empty home. In normal circumstances, this journey would be a five-minute walk. That day it took them much longer, as they passed through checkpoint after checkpoint, being searched over and over, to make sure they had not taken any valuables from their home. They were officially homeless. They walked down streets they no longer recognized. Because this is the Insha’at today.
Although Insha’at borders Baba Amr, before the revolution that border was an invisible but hard line that separated two worlds: the privileged and the underprivileged. Insha’at depended on Baba Amr for services, and Baba Amr depended on Insha’at for jobs. Since the revolution began, that line slowly dissolved as the people of Homs united together in protests. The people of Insha’at sent food and supplies to Baba Amr. They called to check on the safety of their housekeepers and chauffeurs as often as they called their own family members across the city. Members of prominent families like Atassi and Jundi were imprisoned and murdered along with the sons and daughters from humbler backgrounds. Today, Insha’at is targeted along with Baba Amr, al-Khalediyyeh and al-Tawzii al-Ijbari. Unlike the still-silent elite of Damascus and Aleppo who, for the most part, have abandoned the cries of the protesting masses, in Homs, everyone stood together. And now they suffer together.
Activist Rami Abu Maryam in Baba Amr told me (via Skype) that the situation in Baba Amr today is dire. “There are no medical supplies except gauze and cotton, and now almost only cotton is left. The wounded who are in need of operations are in bad shape. For instance, we have amputation cases which we can’t do right now. Every day someone dies because they are injured or they need medicine.” He said food supplies are also running dangerously low, “We’ve lived on burghul now for five days. There is no bread. There is no flour. There is no milk for babies.” Another activist adds, “No one can leave Insha’at or Baba Amr,” because as he says, “between every sniper and sniper, there’s a sniper.”
Before I ended the Skype call with the activists, I told them what they were doing was heroic and epic. I told them that the entire world was watching Baba Amr. And I told them that I wished I were with them. Abu Maryam said, “If you were with us, you would have ran away!” We all laughed. When they found out I was from Aleppo, I told them I wished I were from Homs. He said, “We will give you an honorary Homsi citizenship.”
I was delighted by their offer. But the truth is, none of us needs an honorary Homsi citizenship. We already consider ourselves to be part of the city. We know its neighborhoods and its people like we never did before. If there is anything this revolution taught us, it’s that Syrians are no longer separated by bonds of loyalty to their cities and segregated neighborhoods. Just as Baba Amr bleeds into Insha’at, Homs bleeds into the rest of Syria.
Anti-aircraft tanks, plastered with posters of Bashar al-Assad, entered Douma, a suburb of Damascus, on Saturday randomly shooting at anything in range. The man films the scene and says in a voice shaking with both fear and resolve, “For you Homs. Shoot us instead.” In Baba Amr, citizen journalist, Khaled abu Salah stood in a shelter with a group of children who apologized for not being able to protest the last eight days while they were under siege. So they had an indoor protest and began with a chant for Aleppo. In Aleppo,brave university students chant for Baba Amr and Homs. Across Syria, cities greet one other with their chants. Every city chants for Homs and Homs echoes their support. This is what the revolution has done. It gave us back our country.
Exodus, nuzooh, has become the latest word Assad has added to our Syrian vocabulary. Refugee was also a word we did not know until recently, and now we have thousands. Murder, torture, rape, looting, oppression, fear—all these words belong to Syria now. Not because of outside forces, not because of “armed gangs,” not because of a conspiracy, but because of the brutality of the relentless Syrian regime.
In the last eleven months, other words that were not part of our vocabulary have emerged as well, like determination, courage, and sacrifice. And resilience. An activist asked me, “How else do you explain how an army can attack Baba Amr with tanks and planes for over ten days and Baba Amr is still standing?”
Yesterday, Baba Amr was in flames after a fuel pipeline explosion that covered Homs with a cloud of thick, black smoke. A new constitution of “reform” and “rights” is being drafted in Damascus as the shells fall over Hama, Idleb, and Zabadani.
Who will have the last word? I do not know. But I do know there is a girl who sleeps in a bedroom that is not her own, while strangers occupy her home. I know that she knows her family is still one of the fortunate ones.
Now, she literally has nothing to wear. She has nothing but her unwavering belief in the resilience of Homs.
*Nadia’s name has been changed for her protection.