Monday, January 30, 2012

The Road to Damascus!

Long ago someone saw God, today freedom fighters are seeing the Devil. Indeed, there has always been a rather epic quality to encounters taking place on the Road to Damascus.

Sunday 29, 2012

Today’s death toll: 80, including 9 defectors affiliated with the Free Syrian Army. The Breakdown: 25 in Shaizar in Hama Province killed in loyalist pounding, 6 in Damascus City, 12 in different communities in Rural Damascus, 8 in Homs City, 4 in Hama City, 4 in Idlib Province,

26 loyalist troops were killed in clashes with rebels in Rural Damascus and Idlib province. 5 more were killed in clashes near Zabadani, and an addition 6 when a roadside bobm hit their bus along the road to Damascus International Airport.

The pounding of Rankous and Eastern Ghoutah in Rural Damascus continues, with more than 50 tanks taking part in the operations.

While Damascus International Airport remains open, traffic has declined to a trickle. 



The situation in Damascus has become increasingly tense today as evidenced by the proliferating rumors concerning the escape of Assad from the country or the foiled attempt by his wife, mother and cousin to do the same. Sifting through these rumors is not easy, but several reports of explosions and heavy gunfire exchange in Central Damascus can be confirmed.

Some reports claim that a major attack on the General Headquarters of Air Force Security near Damascus’ own Tahrir Square in Central Damascus did take place. Others speak of an attack on the local police station of Naher Eisheh in Old Damascus. There have also been reports of clashes between loyalists and rebels in Rabweh Region to the northwest of Damascus. Security forces did open fire on protesters in Jobar neighborhood in the eastern parts of Damascus. The neighborhood is practically an in-city extension of Eastern Ghoutah Region.

Still Assad loyalist troops have managed reestablished their presence in various communities in Eastern Ghoutah and Qalamoun, but this is far from reestablishing control. Rebels simply don’t have enough arms and ammunition for direct head-on combat at this stage. Mounting Guerrilla Warfare, on the other hand, is a different matter. Indeed, and for the foreseeable future, attacks on loyalist troops and security headquarters, checkpoints and convoys will become part of daily life in Damascus and its suburbs in tandem with loyalist crackdown, killings and detentions. 

But the Assads, buoyed over by the support of their Russian and Iranian backers, will keep fighting on holding fast to the illusion of victory, while analysts will keep recommending a course of action that has never been tenable when dealing with the likes of Assads. The protesters and rebels will soldier on on their own and victory will be theirs down the road, but the price will be very heavy, as it has always been in our part of the world. 

Peter Harling of International Crisis Group makes a cogent analysis here, his best, and perhaps only of the situation so far. He gives the protest leaders on the ground their just due, rightfully rails against the disunited opposition abroad and corrects misperceptions of the situation on ground, refuting regime propaganda in this regard. The problem in the article, however, lies with the recommendation Harling ended up making:

“A Security Council resolution is the one available lever that could be brought to bear on a Syrian leadership that feels sheltered by the prevailing divisions on the international scene, and would rather take the country down the road to civil war than negotiate in order to obtain what still can be achieved (not least guarantees for the Alawite community, a phased hand-over of power, and the assurance of institutional continuity) at the cost of giving up on the hope that hunkering down and making reforms that only satisfy its supporters somehow will enable it to stay in power.”

Basically, Harling believes that a UN resolution would reflect a united stand by the international community which would compel the Assads into entering a serious dialogue over a phased transition. This is, of course, a pipedream. The very fact that Russia is doing its very best to ensure that only the most watered down resolution is passed, one that does not single out the Assads for blame or call for their departure, comes as a clear indication that such a resolution would not represent a solution.

In reality, a UN resolution is no longer necessary, and might even be counter-productive if it was phrased in such a way as to equate Assads’ mindless crackdown with the legitimate rebellion it succeeded in instigating. What is needed at this stage is the ability and willingness to provide the necessary material and logistical support to the rebels and to provide protest leaders with the training and advice necessary to lead the transitional period themselves, something that can be done in any number of ways despite the ongoing mayhem.

Yes, this is quite the treacherous path, especially considering the growing sectarian divides in the country and the willingness of the Assads to push it to the brinks and beyond. But thanks to prolonged dithering of the international community, it is the only one path left at this stage. So, optimal or not, treacherous or not, here we come. 

An officer from the FSA shows off a sample of the bullets that the regime itself is peddling on the black market: extra explosive materials will make rifles and guns using these bullets blow up in the hands of the shooters


The City

Baba Amr: T-72 tanks pounding the neighborhood Pounding by a passing BMP The pounding continues and intensifies More houses are demolished , A martyr Wounded , , , , , A doctor from the local field hospital tells us that some of the wounded he is currently treating are victims of attacks with nail bombs used against people standing in line to buy bread A child that was just pulled from under the rubble Treating to revive a patient Martyrs At dawn of January 30, the neighborhood comes under renewed assault

Wadi Al-Arab: a child falls victim to a sniper attack More sniper victims , , , Snipers in action Local Activist Abdebassit Sarout eulogizes two martyrs Both were victims of torture , Another martyr And another And another

Jub Al-Jandali: victim of sniper attack Another

Karm Al-Zeitun: The neighborhood is pounded in the morning Victim of sniper attack This young man died of kidney failure, locals were unable to take him to the hospital die to the siege of their neighborhood An injured girl A little girl tells the cameraman that they had to leave because their home was bombed, she says that they will be going to her aunt’s house taking only their clothes

Deir Baalbah: a funeral for this martyr Three wounded children

Al-Rifai: The neighborhood is pounded sample of the shells used More demolished homes Snipers take up positions and go to work

Bab Tadmor: a funeral for this local At night, the neighborhood comes under attack

Malaab: protesters burn the Russian flag

Daytime Rallies Qoussour (all-women)

The Province

Rastan: Local members of the FSA declare the western parts of the city liberated, and promise to liberate the rest People rally under the protection of the FSA

Houleh: Protesters come under heavy gunfire from loyalists an injured little girl

Qseir: impact of shelling

Tadmor: loyalist troops stand on the outskirts of the historic city and begin shooting


The City

Jobar: protesters taking part in this funeral come under fire leaving several more dead and wounded , The blood of the dead and wounded covers the streets A nighttime funeral

Al-Hajar Al-Aswad: nighttime protesters come under fire 

Daraya: nighttime rally comes under fire

Eastern Ghoutah

The pounding of Eastern Ghoutah continues

Arbeen: the town gets pounded again , , Samples of the shells used Assessing the damage  A plume of black smoke rises in the air after a home was hit , A home catches fire Treating the wounded A martyr At night, locals hold a funeral

Ain Terma: tanks and loyalist troops pour into the restive suburb ,

Kafar Batna: a 7-year old girl is killed Treating the wounded

Zamalka: black smoke and the independence flag hovers over the skies of the suburb

Damascus South

Moadamiyeh: local high school girls stage an after school rally ,

Daytime Rallies Moadamiyeh

Nighttime Rallies Artouz

West (Zabadani and Wadi Barada)

 Zabadani: funerals for a local killed in skirmishes at the outskirts of the town ,

North (The Qalamoun Region )

Dmeir comes under heavy pounding at night

Rheibeh: A tank patrol streets Yabroud: loyalist pour into town

Nighttime Rallies Eltal


The City

Bab Qibli: aftermath of pounding ,

The minaret of the Sirjawi Mosque all but completely destroyed

The Province

Shaizar: the town is pounded , Locals say 25 people were killed

Kafar Zeiteh: burning the Russian flag

Treimseh: funeral

Khattab: locals in this predominantly Sunni community say that they are being pounded from position inside the nearby community of Arzeh, an Alawite community 

Nighttime Rallies Misyaf


Loyalists opened dams and flooded the agricultural lands as a form of collective punishment

Ma’arrat Al-Nouman: a martyr A funeral

Khan Shaikhoon: a martyr A martyred child Treating the wounded of yesterday’s pounding , A funeral ,

More defections

Kafrenbel: a rally with participation from local members of the FSA

Daytime Rallies Mar Ayan


Deraa City

At night, the sounds of  battle between loyalists and rebels can be heard in the distance And a little closer things heat up

Hauran Province

Jassem: even student rallies get shot at. Locals say that one student was killed when this students rally came under fire Elsewhere in town, a funeral for a victim of torture

Harrah: a funeral for this martyr

Mseifrah: the town is pounded at dawn , so is Khirbet Ghazaleh


The City

Aleppo University: Medical students couldn’t school today courtesy of Assad loyalists Elsewhere on campus, a rally , Soon, they come under fire (near end of clip)

Nighttime Rallies Rawdah Salaheddine Taqwa Mosque

Aleppo Province

Dar Azzah: a convoy of tanks and armored vehicles enter the town ,

Deir Ezzor

Deir Ezzor City: The city comes under heavy gunfire at night just as Orient TV was life streaming a rally a martyr

Daytime Rallies Deir Ezzor City (Takaya St.)

Nighttime Rallies Albou-Kamal Deir Ezzor City (Takaya St.) (Jbeileh)

Nighttime Rallies Amoudeh


Alouaineh: protesters come under fire (3:20) Elsewhere in town, high school girls conduct their rally