05/19/2013 - #Syria - Al Qusayr - Video compilation of shelling and clashed in Qusayr, Homs
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
The Turkey-based Syrian National Coalition on Thursday said regime forces have attacked the village of Khirbet Suda in Homs province and murdered at least 18 people.
“Victims were either killed by execution at gunpoint, or slaughtered with knives,” a statement said.
There were concerns that President Bashar al-Assad’s forces “will re-enter the village in the coming hours, as Khirbet Suda remains under a crippling blockade,” the statement added.
It said reports from the area were scarce because of a “massive blackout.”
“We are especially concerned about isolated villages, surrounded by villages loyal to Assad,” the statement said.
The Coalition urged international rights groups to act to prevent what it called further massacres.
AFP - 05/17/2013
Syria’s army has dropped leaflets over Al-Qusayr in central Homs province, warning civilians to leave ahead of an attack that will be launched if rebels holding the town do not surrender, a military source said on Friday.
“Leaflets were dropped over Al-Qusayr asking civilians to leave the city, with a map of a safe route by which to evacuate, because the attack against the city is coming soon if the rebels do not surrender,” the source told AFP on condition of anonymity.
Troops backed by fighters from the Lebanese Shiite militant group Hezbollah have advanced throughout the area around Al-Qusayr, which fell to the rebels more than a year ago.
Activists said Al-Qusayr is surrounded by government forces on three sides, and that approximately 25,000 residents are believed to still be in the city.
The area has been a strategic boon to the rebels, who used it as a base from which to block the main road from Damascus to the coast, impeding military movement and supply chains.
It is also important because of its proximity to Lebanon.
The regime has made recapturing it a key objective. President Bashar al-Assad reportedly said last month that fighting in the area was the “main battle” his troops were waging.
Activists say regime forces there are backed by fighters from Hezbollah, as well as members of the National Defense Force, a pro-regime militia.
Meanwhile, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights watchdog said at least 72 people were killed throughout the country in violence on Thursday, including 33 rebels, 21 civilians and 18 soldiers.
AFP - 05/10/2013
Syria’s main rebel Free Syrian Army on Wednesday rejected calls for Jihad by radical Sunni sheikhs from neighboring Lebanon.
“Our official position as the Supreme Military Command of the Free Syrian Army… is that we thank them but we reject any calls for Jihad in Syria,” FSA political and media coordinator Louay Almokdad told AFP.
“We reject any presence of foreign fighters, regardless of where they are from. We have said that what we are missing in Syria is weapons, not men,” he added.
Thousands of foreign fighters have joined Syrian rebels pitted against the regime of President Bashar al-Assad.
Two Lebanese Salafist sheikhs have called on their followers to join rebels fighting in Syria and to support Sunni residents of the embattled central province of Homs.
Their calls come after Syria’s opposition and a monitoring group accused Lebanese Shiite movement Hezbollah of fighting in Homs alongside troops loyal to Assad’s regime.
In a speech on Monday, controversial Lebanese Salafist leader Sheikh Ahmad al-Assir announced the establishment of “free resistance battalions” in Sidon, the southern city where he is based.
“There is a religious duty on every Muslim who is able to do so… to enter into Syria in order to defend its people, its mosques and religious shrines, especially in Qusayr and Homs,” he told supporters.
Known for his hostility to Hezbollah, Assir said his call comes after Shiite group chief Hassan “Nasrallah and his shabiha [pro-Assad militia] have taken the decision to enter into these areas in order to massacre the oppressed people there”.
04/24/2013 - AFP
Syrian troops bombarded besieged districts of Homs on Thursday, as clashes raged for the fifth day a row in the “capital of the revolution” where 73 people have been killed since Sunday, a watchdog said.
The assault came as President Bashar al-Assad and Grand Mufti Ahmad Hassoun, the highest Sunni religious authority in the country, were shown on Syria TV attending prayers at a Damascus mosque to mark the Prophet Mohammed’s birthday.
Six rebels were killed by regime shelling and overnight firefights in the Jobar district of Homs, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said, adding that 31 soldiers, 16 rebels and 26 civilians had died in violence there since Sunday.
The Syrian Revolution General Authority, a network of opposition activists on the ground, said regime troops used heavy artillery and clashed with the rebel Free Syrian Army (FSA) in an attempt to storm the west side of the city.
A focal point at the outbreak of the revolt in March 2011, Homs remains a key point of contention in the war between Assad’s regime and the rebels, who now hold large swathes of territory in the east and north.
For the past six months, loyalist troops have laid siege to several districts of Homs, including the Old City, leaving hundreds of families in dire humanitarian conditions, activists say.
“The Syrian regime has escalated its attack on Homs city and its environs in order to disperse the people on sectarian lines and achieve what it believes will be a final victory over Homs,” said the Syrian National Council (SNC), a major opposition bloc in exile.
“The regime uses the most heinous criminal methods against human beings… shelling with heavy weaponry, blocking off areas to prevent the bare necessities — food, medicine — from entering, sending in sectarian militia to wreak havoc and kill, and finishing with massacres of entire neighborhoods and villages.”
The SNC called for a nationwide rescue campaign, for the “FSA all over Syria to aid their comrades in Homs with equipment and men” and for aid agencies to give priority to the trapped and displaced people of Homs.
Elsewhere on Thursday, air raids targeted the town of Daraya near Damascus, the rebel-held town of Yabrud far to the northeast and Aqraba near the airport road to the southeast, as fighting raged around opposition bastions across the eastern outer belt of the capital, the Observatory said.
Warplanes raided Albu Kamal on the Iraqi border in the east, areas of Idlib in the northwest, Daraa in the south and Hama in the center as rebels clashed with troops near the Nayrab and Kweyris military airports in the northern province of Aleppo.
Fighting continued unabated in the northeast city of Ras al-Ain on the Turkish border, where 58 people have died over the past week amid clashes between hardline rebels and Kurdish fighters.