Syria, July 20: Stalemate in Homs
LATEST: Video — Civilians Run From Shelling of Saraqeb in Idlib Province
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.
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:
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.
— thomas van Linge (@arabthomness) July 19, 2013
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:
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):
Screenshot of Wikimapia map showing location of the Ba’edin neighborhood:
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.
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:
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:
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.
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.
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.