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Syria, July 20: Stalemate in Homs

Syria, July 20: Stalemate in Homs
July 20
18:45 2013

LATEST: Video — Civilians Run From Shelling of Saraqeb in Idlib Province

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It is now six weeks since the fall of Qusayr, near the Lebanese border, and predictions that Syrian forces would re-claim control of all of Homs, 18 miles to the north.

Despite heavy shelling of insurgent areas and the re-claiming of a few buildings on the fringes of those neighborhoods, the regime appears to be no closer to that goal.

This morning State news agency SANA limits itself to the claim:

The army tightened its grip on four building blocks in Bab Houd neighborhood, with an official source telling a SANA reporter that many terrorists who had been stationed at these buildings were killed.

Scores of explosive devices, which had been planted by the terrorists, were dismantled.

Video posted by activists showed the destruction in Bab Houd after regime airstrikes:

The activists also claimed on Facebook that “resistance fighters continue to fire Grad rockets on the…strongholds in the pro-regime areas” near Homs.

An EA correspondent, with sources in Homs, assesses:

When you hear about the Free Syrian Army shelling regime districts in Homs with “Grads”, that’s not exactly the truth.

These “Grads” appear to be pretty precise rockets, neither home-made nor actual (inaccurate) Grads. They target positions of shabiha [pro-regime militia], avoiding civilian losses.

The FSA’s possession of such an armory might partly explain why not even Hezbollah was able to storm the besieged districts of Homs.

An interesting argument, which raises a further question if it is true: who is supplying the rockets to the insurgency?

The correspondent continues:

Regime attacks on besieged Homs and even regime-held districts are brutal, but it seems they do not follow a sensible military tactic.

Instead, this appears to be sheer terror, applied on mostly civilian areas like Al-Waer, etc. out of frustration that they have not gotten a foothood inside insurgent territory.


Latest Updates, From Top to Bottom

Video — Civilians Run From Shelling of Saraqeb in Idlib Province

Reports claim that regime forces have been shelling Saraqeb in Idlib Province for a third straight day. It is unclear whether the shelling is part of a regime attack or retaliation by the Syrian military for the killing of its soldiers near the area earlier this week.

Claimed footage of civilians running from the shelling:

Video — Insurgents Battle Regime Forces in Al Laramoun in Aleppo

Kurdish Militia Continue Fight With Insurgents

Fighting between the Kurdish militia YPG and insurgents, including the Islamist faction Jabhat al-Nusra continues across northern Syria, after the Kurds captured Ras al-Ain near the Turkish border.

In the east, the militia — linked to the Kurdish political movement PYD — is battling insurgents in Hasakah Province. The YPG on Saturday released photographs of four fighters who were killed in fighting with Jabhat al-Nusra in the village of Siwêdîkê, close to Derik and Ramalan.

Video: Insurgents Attack Regime Positions in Aleppo Province

Reports have circulated throughout the day of insurgent attacks on regime positions in Khan al-Assal in Aleppo Province, where a Syrian warplane was downed earlier on Saturday.

The town is also the site of a disputed chemical weapons attack on 19 March.

An insurgent tank firing on the town:

Video: Residents of Aleppo’s Ba’edin Neighborhood Call For Local Council To Step Down

Footage posted by activists on Saturday shows dissatisfied civilians in Aleppo’s Ba’edin neighborhood calling for the local council to stand down.

As the local residents chant, a car with an Islamist flag drives by (see 0:55 of the video, screenshot below):

Screen Shot 2013-07-20 at 4.28.08 PM

Screenshot of Wikimapia map showing location of the Ba’edin neighborhood:

Map Of Ba'edin Neighborhood Aleppo

Head of Opposition Coalition Meets Saudis, Calls for Arms

Ahmad Asi al-Jarba, the head of the opposition Syrian National Coalition, met Saudi Crown Prince Salman bin Abdul Aziz on Thursday. He declared:

My first and foremost priority is securing arms for the Free Syrian Army fighters as soon as possible.

We are facing gangs that are launching an war of extinction against the Syrian people and arms are the only means of facing them and ending their massacres.

Saudi Arabia has led the provision of heavy weapons to the insurgency, but a co-ordinated foreign effort has been limited by the reticence of the US.

Al-Jarba will continue his push for aid next week with a tour of Western capitals, including a meeting with French President Francois Hollande.

Video: In Aleppo, Insurgents Give Financial Aid To Families Of Killed Fighters

Footage from Aleppo’s Ashrafiyeh district claims to show the Revolutionary Council of the Badr Martyrs Brigade giving small cash sums to the families of brigade members killed in the fighting, to help them as they face difficult living conditions:

Other footage posted by activists on Saturday shows the Badr Martyrs Brigade fighting regime forces. This video shows claimed footage of a Badr Martyrs Brigade sniper targeting Assad’s forces:

This video shows a group of Badr Martyrs Brigade fighters who are attacking regime forces with mortars:

Video: Insurgents Down Regime Aircraft in Aleppo Province

Claimed footage of insurgents downing a Syrian military aircraft with a MANPADS (man-portable air-defense system) over Khan al-Asal in Aleppo Province — the pilot ejects and parachutes to ground:

Video: Destruction of Hassan Mosque, Qaboun, Damascus

The Damascus working-class neighborhood of Qaboun — under heavy regime bombardment over the past weeks — was one of the first areas of the capital to begin demonstrating against President Bashar al-Assad. Activists from the Qaboun Media Office posted this footage on Saturday showing extensive destruction to the neighborhood mosque, including to its minaret.

Heavy Shelling In Bab Houd, Homs

Activists report more heavy shelling in Bab Houd, Homs, overnight. This video, though taken at night, gives some indication of events, as explosions can be seen and heard.

Casualties

The Local Coordination Committees claim that 72 people were killed on Friday, including 19 in Damascus and its suburbs, 18 in Daraa Province, 13 in Aleppo Province, and 11 in Homs Province.

The Violations Documentation Center reports that 66,661 people have been slain since the start of the conflict in March 2011, an increase of 69 since Friday. Of these, 50,812 were civilians, a rise of 37 from yesterday.

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About Author

Joanna Paraszczuk

Joanna Paraszczuk

Joanna Paraszczuk is EA WorldView's Managing Editor. An Israeli journalist, she covered Iran and the Arab World for The Jerusalem Post. Previously, she lived and worked in Russia and Ukraine. Joanna speaks fluent Hebrew and Russian and reads Persian and Arabic.

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5 Comments

  1. Catmari
    Catmari July 20, 17:26

    Kuwait’s Hidden Hand in Syria
    Daniel R. DePetris, National Interest

    Private donors in Kuwait are proving to be a lifeline for Syria’s rebels.

    It is often assumed that Saudi Arabia and Qatar have been the most adamant about arming Syria’s fractious rebel movement. But there is growing evidence that clerics and opposition politicians in Kuwait have also been stepping up their own efforts in an attempt to collect as much cash for Bashar al-Assad’s opponents as possible. Millions of dollars in Kuwaiti dinars have reportedly been flown from Kuwait to Turkey and Jordan, where the cash is then distributed to the various branches of the Syrian resistance movement.

    More: http://nationalinterest.org/commentary/kuwaits-hidden-hand-syria-8729

    Reply to this comment
    • Joanna Paraszczuk
      Joanna Paraszczuk Author July 20, 18:29

      I think that this is rather an optimistic extrapolation: “Private donors in Kuwait are proving to be a lifeline for Syria’s rebels.”

      Tracing the story back, the information comes from a MEMRI note to Foreign Policy in June, which contains two translated statements from two clerics plus Google-translated tweets from this account:

      https://twitter.com/q8campaign

      There are people in Kuwait who openly support the insurgency and see it as a sectarian conflict. There are some who claim to have raised private funds to support Syrian insurgents. Beyond this story, there have been claims in Syria that Kuwaitis are fighting in Syria. All of that is in itself interesting information and worth reporting as Reuters have done (EA reported on the claims of Kuwaitis fighting a month or so ago). However, there is no evidence that these individuals have purchased the weaponry they claim to have, nor that they have succeeded in shipping weaponry to insurgents in Syria. So to make the claim that Kuwait has a “hidden hand” in Syria based solely on that information without any evidence from the ground is, I think, a leap too far.

      Reply to this comment
      • Catmari
        Catmari July 21, 09:34

        And if the author had left that statement out and used a different title, like ‘Private Donors in Kuwait Raise Funds for Syrian Insurgents, would this piece have passed your smell test for an Op-Ed?

        Reply to this comment
        • Joanna Paraszczuk
          Joanna Paraszczuk Author July 21, 09:46

          Yes — I think that would be a more accurate title — and no less interesting because it’s true, so it’s information that is worth reporting and taking into account.

          The issue of Kuwaitis supporting the insurgency is really interesting and an important development, we’re just not seeing evidence that it is translating to advanced weaponry on the ground.

          We’re seeing this phenomenon — where writers take good, factual research and then use that to make a very big and unsupported leap to support a particular line they want to see — e.g. another ongoing example taking good, interesting research on the presence of Shia fighters in Syria or at least social media supporting that concept, which is information worth reporting, but using it instead to make the leap that Iran is providing financial backing a large number of Shia fighters in Syria.

          Reply to this comment
          • Catmari
            Catmari July 21, 11:11

            “we’re just not seeing evidence that it is translating to advanced weaponry on the ground.”

            Nor does the author make that claim: “Dr. Waleed al-Tabtabai, a former Kuwaiti member of parliament and a man integrally involved in the fundraising, wants to go a step further.” I read the FP link as an illustration of these ambitions to supply rebels with arms, not DePetris’ attempt to prove this is actually happening.

            I’d also think the ‘Hidden Hand’ turn of phrase is unfortunate – but primarily because DePetris is writing about things which are happening out in the open. :-)

            I agree with you that concluding that Kuwait’s private donors are a “lifeline for Syria’s rebels” is going way too far, but otherwise I’d say the Op-Ed successfully justifies the reasonable assumptions made and questions asked in the second half.

            Reply to this comment

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