Monday, March 11, 2013

Caliphate & Consequence!

Al-Nusra establishes a Sharia Council, and Assad declares Jihad. The 21st Century is officially on leave in Syria.

Sunday March 10, 2013

Today’s Death Toll: 125 martyrs including 15 women, 13 children, and two martyrs under torture. 46 martyrs reported in Damascus and suburbs (including 14 martyrs in Mleiha), 38 in Aleppo, 12 in Hama, 9 in Idlib, 12 in Deraa and 8 in Homs (LCCs).

Points of Random Shelling: 277 points. Aerial bombardments: 19. Scud bombing: 4. Shelling using Surface-to-Surface missiles: 4. Shelling using cluster bombs: in Mayadeen and Rumaileh. Thermobaric bombs recorded in al-Bab city in Aleppo. Artillery shelling counted in 112 points. Rocket shelling counted in 70 points. Mortar shelling counted in 60 points (LCCs).

Clashes: 125. Successful operations included the liberation of Baba Amr neighborhood and laying siege to the political security headquarters in Insha’aat neighborhood in Homs City. In Raqqa, FSA rebels shot down a MiG near al-Mansoura. In the town of Khan Sheikh in Damascus suburbs, FSA rebels managed to take control of Brigade 137 seizing 11 Antiaircraft guns and a large number of weapons and ammunition. In Hama, FSA liberated the Mgheir village (LCCs).

News
Islamists Try to Firm Grip on Syria Regions Nearly a week after Islamist groups announced the capture of most of the city of Raqqa and the northeastern province bearing the same name, fierce clashes to gain control of the few outposts the government holds there continued Sunday, said opposition activists. Regime forces are battling insurgents on multiple fronts, including near Damascus, the capital.
US and Europe in 'major airlift of arms to Syrian rebels through Zagreb' The United States has coordinated a massive airlift of arms to Syrian rebels from Croatia with the help of Britain and other European states, despite the continuing European Union arms embargo, it was claimed yesterday.
Syrian rebels pierce Assad's siege lines in Homs: opposition Syrian rebels broke through government lines to ease a siege of their positions in the strategic central city of Homs on Sunday despite coming under fierce aerial bombardment, opposition campaigners said… Homs, 140 km (88 miles) north of Damascus in central Syria, lies on a vital road juncture linking army bases on the Mediterranean coast, home to a large proportion of Assad's Alawites, and government forces in the capital Damascus.
Rebels in Syria Release U.N. Peacekeepers to Jordan, Easing Crisis in Border Zone The peacekeepers, from the Philippines, arrived “well and unharmed,” United Nations officials said on Saturday.
Thousands have been killed and millions made homeless in Syria's civil war, but it has also caused irreparable damage to some of the world's most precious historical sites. The treasures now being destroyed matter to everyone on the planet, argues historian Dan Snow.
UN refugee chief: Syria refugees could triple “If this escalation goes on, we will have – and nothing happens to solve the problem – we might have in the end of the year a much larger number of refugees, two or three times the present level,” Guterres told reporters in the Turkish capital, Ankara.
Twenty bodies turn up in Aleppo's "river of martyrs" It was the largest number of bodies lifted in a single day from what became known as "the river of martyrs", after 65 bodies turned up in late January. An average of several bodies a day have been appearing in the river since, several activists in the northern city, which is near Turkey, told Reuters.
Syria's opposition postpones meeting to form government The Syrian National Coalition meeting to elect a provisional prime minister, which was due to be held on March 12 after being postponed once already, has been rescheduled for March 20, but it was uncertain it would be held even then, the sources said.
Americans are training Syria rebels in Jordan: Spiegel Spiegel said it was not clear whether the Americans worked for private firms or were from the army but said some wore uniforms. The training focused on use of anti-tank weaponry. Some 200 men have already received such training over the past three months and there are plans in the future to provide training for a total 1,200 members of the "Free Syrian Army" in two camps in the south and the east of the country.
'Hezbollah, Syria try to expand conflict into Lebanon' “President Bashar Assad’s regime and Hezbollah now realize that it is impossible for them to regain control over Syria, therefore they are looking to cancel Lebanon’s parliamentary elections and cause security instability in Tripoli, Sidon and other regions,” sources told Now Lebanon. By canceling the elections, the Hezbollah-controlled government would be able to stay in power until the Syrian conflict dies down, said Lebanese MP Ammar Houri, who was speaking on the Voice of Lebanon radio station on Sunday.
Israel official warns of ‘Somalization’ of Syria The spokesman for Israel’s Foreign Ministry has voiced his concerns about the potential for radical Sunni elements to take power in a post-Assad Syria.  Yigal Palmor said all could see how different extremist groups are playing their own games in the chaos currently taking over Syria. “There is a great concern that uncontrolled elements at the service of extremist ideas will manage to take over smaller or bigger separate territories inside the Syrian borders,” he told the Hürriyet Daily News in an interview in Jerusalem. “The ‘Somalization’ of Syria is a great concern. We hope that this war ends as quickly as possible, with a central power emerging that will rule all Syria,” he said.

Special Reports
Because women are rarely involved in the armed side of the revolution, they are much less likely to get stopped, searched, or hassled at government checkpoints. This has proved crucial in distributing humanitarian aid throughout Syria. Syrian women have participated in aid relief deliveries both to FSA-controlled areas and -- covertly and at great risk to themselves -- to areas still under government control. To evade arrest, women inside Syria communicate largely through Skype and Facebook to provide neighborhood-level reports on security conditions and aid needs. Syrian women outside the country, largely based in Turkey, raise support and funnel it over the border.

My new paper, prepared for a briefing in Washington, D.C. that took place on January 15, 2013, is now out and is titled “Syria 2013: Rise of the Warlords.” It should be read in conjunction with my previous briefing “The Shredded Tapestry,” and my recent essay “The Creation of an Unbridgeable Divide.

Shenanigans

The delay in choosing a provisional government by the opposition is not simply about failure to agree on its general makeup. There is an actual ideological war going behind closed doors between the Muslim Brotherhood and its allies who, as usual, are trying to impose their candidates and manipulate the process and Coalition leader Moaz Alkhatib who is trying to streamline the process making more transparent and inclusive, especially of women, secular currents, in-country figures and minorities.

Moreover, Alkhatib is trying to push for establishment of a system of accountability that can keep the government in check to prevent cronyism, corruption and mismanagement, or stop them in time. The Brotherhood has been trying to railroad the process by inserting its nominees at the last minute and trying to manipulate the media through carefully orchestrated leaks of names of possible nominees and internal correspondences trying to showcase Alkhatib as stalling and painting him as a stooge for the Americans.

Indeed, a provisional government is needed but not just any government. Moreover, if this provisional government is not able to operate freely and safely in liberated areas, it will simply fail to serve the purpose for which it was established: to unify these territories under one leadership and prevent the fragmentation of the country. The conditions that can allow for a provisional government to operate on Syrian soil are not there yet, Mr. Alkhatib realizes this, and he realize that the current push for establishing a provisional government is meant simply to undermine the Coalition authority and bring us back to the days when the Muslim Brotherhood dominated the political process.

This is not about keeping Syria together. It’s more about who will be the top warlord in liberated areas. In this connection, Jabhat Al-Nusra has a slightly different answer (see below).

The Qaradah Conundrum

Local activists in Latakia report that new clashes took place between pro- and anti-Assad Alawite clans in the town of Qardaha, the Assads hometown. Around 14 people from both sides are said to have been killed. Reports could not be independently verified, but the incident is said to have taken place on Sunday morning.

Social media is also abuzz with reports of the assassination of Hilal Assad, a cousin of Bashar and one of the chief figures behind pro-Assad Alawite militias in the province of Latakia. Once again, this could not be independently verified. 

The Assadist Jihad

The High Religious Council of Syria, an official religious body controlled by the Assad regime, declared Jihad against the rebels and called on all able bodied young men to join the Syrian army. The call is not likely to be heeded except by the brainwashed few, but the significance of the call is it indicates a further weakening of the regime, and seems to be part of its strategy to prepare for Guerilla warfare in Damascus.

Another element of this shift might be the recently circulated ordinance calling on all state ministers to relocate to Doummar Projects, a suburb located near the top of Qasayoun Mountain just outside of Damascus city. The decision was made for “security reasons,” and seems to come as a prelude to unleashing hell on the city itself from the surrounding mountains.  

Video Highlights

Deir Ezzor

The north bank of the Euphrates River in Syria is now effectively liberated.

In the town of Mayadeen, Deir Ezzor, Jabhat Al-Nusra held a military parade celebrating the establishment of a Sharia Council to rule the Eastern Province. The troops we see here are called the policemen or the enforcers of the rules of the Sharia Council http://youtu.be/gjE1OHlqkDc , http://youtu.be/yNhV-qwqrFY

Local activists say that the local population that remains in the city, around 30,000 (half the population was forced to flee over the preceding year on account of pounding by pro-Assad militias) is not happy with this development, nor are other rebels groups in the city. Al-Nusra members have been trying to impose Sharia rule on the city. At night, local inhabitants took to the streets demanding Al-Nusra’s departure chanting “Syria is free, Al-Nusra should leave.” http://youtu.be/McTlm99Igy8 People are also afraid that Al-Nusra presence could leave to aerial or Scud bombardment of their town. The people were not wrong, soon after Al-Nusra’s parade the rural areas around the city were targeted by a Scud http://youtu.be/LiTFJfiC338 An aerial bombardment soon followed http://youtu.be/hufRvlYGn4s , http://youtu.be/mqXneSb1wAo

Seeing that the Council’s jurisdiction is meant to encompass the entire Eastern region and not only Mayadeen, the town, in a sense, has become the provisional capital of the Islamic Caliphate of Syria. But the issue is not settled yet, as tensions between Al-Nusra and its affiliates and more moderates groups in city continue to grow, the two sides might end up clashing.

Meanwhile, battles elsewhere in the province continue, as rebels assert their control and destroy more of pro-Assad troops and militias. Here they chase away troops from the 113th  Brigade http://youtu.be/bDZQ2L8YZ60 , http://youtu.be/r5vNDpGShNA Rebels from Liwa Al-Ikhlas, an affiliate of Jabhat Al-Nusra, fire at a helicopter gunship that landed to evacuate the last of the pro-Assad militias on the scene http://youtu.be/tZAIzkMjD2A , http://youtu.be/FV9EZ21mzU4 The spoils http://youtu.be/L91sVFSDvMQ , http://youtu.be/-N_t_hcDe04 The Euphrates Storm Brigade also took part in the operation http://youtu.be/GhvMBk3hw7Y A long video surveying the scene of the battle  http://youtu.be/naWLJtg2yv4 One of the confiscated armored vehicles http://youtu.be/LDjNeVPmlz4

Elsewhere, members of Jabhat Al-Nusra hold an auction for the tanks and BMPs they confiscated http://youtu.be/pF3-Hq2-v1U

Homs

Rebels declare that the famous refinery of Homs has been shelled by the regime. This is Syria’s main refinery, and one of only 2 refineries in the country http://youtu.be/3m0WSS4ckfI Some of the installation were set ablaze http://youtu.be/yH5fn4rIMHY

The pounding also destroys the paint factor http://youtu.be/hZq6s8d1NRQ

Ghanto, Homs Province: the village is attacked using incendiary cluster bombs http://youtu.be/p8dzKS0l1aA

These bodies belong to pro-Assad militias who tried to invade rebel strongholds in Homs City http://youtu.be/KYAZ1jWFkh8 the strongholds have been under siege for close to 18 months now, but rebels, as few as they are, remain entrenched. Assad needs to control Homs City and province in order to secure access to the Alawite-majority coastal enclave. Rebel strongholds come under renewed shelling after the failure of the attack http://youtu.be/WPkvsHveOyw , http://youtu.be/zyEY4J7RzS8 Scenes of devastation http://youtu.be/LPbK6CE5-xo The neighborhood of Baba Amr gets pounded by MiGs soon after its liberation http://youtu.be/bX2NLzzobKU , http://youtu.be/44x37csXdag , http://youtu.be/5hcNrOR5vvc

Jabhat Al-Nusra documents some of their recent operations in Homs (Dar Al-Kabirah) and Hama provinces where with pro-Assad militias and occasionally with Hezbollah fighters have intensified over the last few weeks http://youtu.be/6BVLAEMNaPg

Rebels from the Farouq Brigade (members of the Syrian Islamic Front) attack a loyalist convoy on a road in Sahel Al-Ghab, Hama Province http://youtu.be/B6ehJov7h0k

Aleppo

In Aleppo Province, Col. Abdul-Jabbar Al-Oqaidi, helps in pounding the Minnigh Airport http://youtu.be/R92aXDZqlGg

A new massacre takes place in Aleppo along the Quwaiq River in Boustan Al-Qasr Neighborhood in Aleppo City: local activists find over 20 bodies strewn along the banks http://youtu.be/4fpYQXDAxPw , http://youtu.be/EKFmMPy-b-k Removing the bodies http://youtu.be/bcpLQJHjIqw

Daraa

Rebels from Shuhada Al-Yarmouk Brigade, Daraa, release the UN observers http://youtu.be/ZTTy4yt_bZE Reception by Jordanian authorities http://youtu.be/ueVrpaAnXjU UN Observers cross over to the Jordanian side http://youtu.be/nHli334QV_0 

Elsewhere in Daraa, in the town of Abdeen, rebels take control of the positions of the heavy artillery operated by regime loyalists http://youtu.be/hso3Eh0f_NM Spoils of war http://youtu.be/DPtr--13XwY Survey of the scene http://youtu.be/ZebDvRENcLQ , http://youtu.be/nbfh75RBX3Y

In Daraa City, rebels destroy a tank http://youtu.be/qClWKeTurfM

Elsewhere in the province, the battles continue to rage http://youtu.be/UTB-iqD-Jx8

Damascus

Rebels in Damascus City target the March 8 Complex in Abbasid Square now used by pro-Assad snipers http://youtu.be/FVBa8xfdzMQ , http://youtu.be/ilyrtTUybds Packing up http://youtu.be/Btum98fPLow Pro-Assad militias reapond by pounding Jobar Neighborhood http://youtu.be/ro1sAFoxwlk

Rebels destroy a tank in Mleihah, Eastern Ghoutah http://youtu.be/1qlogJVy_88 On the outskirts of town, people find 14 bodies belonging to people who seem to have been field executed: 2 men, 4 children and 8 women http://youtu.be/SBhTTiDQuBA , http://youtu.be/5DWu0FOVFHs The burial http://youtu.be/tvB6J76UBeE At first, locals had found pieces of clothes buried in the field, which made them dig up the fields and find the bodies http://youtu.be/0GiBJZ4NQB0 , http://youtu.be/3q_76b-NwHg , http://youtu.be/w_ztCQ14K2c

Other towns in Eastern Ghoutah also come under intense aerial bombardment: Jisreen http://youtu.be/uuq6Gw5XpEw Kafar Batna http://youtu.be/G0hKOcjW4to Saqba http://youtu.be/VDnRBtxdMHI

Raqqah

An aerial raid leaves many dead in Al-Rumaila Neighborhood in Raqqah City http://youtu.be/4KFGVBhkung

Elsewhere

In a sign of increasing extremism in the ranks, rebels somewhere in Syria (they don’t identify their location) destroy a Shia shrine http://youtu.be/0PFowslfXm4 Some activists questioned the authenticity of the video, but it is clear by now that some rebel groups are operating as extremist criminal gangs.

Rebels force their captives to curse Bashar Al-Assad, just as pro-Assad militias use to force their rebel captives to praise him http://youtu.be/5FjuEbCrbQc

Rebels bring down a plan with heat-seeking missile http://youtu.be/LeSWoGOldeY

Member of Jabhat Al-Nusra arrest a loyalist soldier pretending to be dead http://youtu.be/-bCugKEZDOU

Haass, Idlib: pulling bodies from under the rubble in the aftermath of a Scud attack http://youtu.be/xYEd_AWFFJI , http://youtu.be/LJ2N1nWLOZ8 The general scene http://youtu.be/nkoC9N8WSGc , http://youtu.be/e0E4H-RsXE8