Syria, August 17: Assessing the Regime’s Deadly Airstrikes

Joanna Paraszczuk, " />
By , August 17, 2013 07:12 Updated

Syria, August 17: Assessing the Regime’s Deadly Airstrikes

LATEST: “Kurdish Front” Says 117 Villages Under Attack by Insurgents

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Examining accounts from witnesses and activists, as well as videos, EA’s Joanna Paraszczuk — writing an analysis to be posted this weekend — has noticed a deadly pattern: soon after losing territory or suffering a setback, the Syrian military will pound the area with shells and missiles, with civilians often paying the price.

That pattern is not new. EA’s James Miller had noted it earlier this year, assessing — like Paraszczuk — that the regime, unlikely to operate effectively with ground forces in many places, is more and more reliant on the punishment of air power.

However, Paraszczuk’s study goes farther into detail, from Lattakia in western Syria to sections of Deir Ez Zor — which the regime may be on the verge of losing completely — in the east.

An attack on Bustan al-Qasr in Aleppo on Friday:

And it is not just a question of being unable to regain lost territory. The Syrian military appears to be facing problems in completing even expected objectives — including re-claiming all of Homs. Weeks after the fall of insurgent-held Khalidiya supposedly sounded the death-knell for opposition forces in Homs, the regime has been unable to mobilize ground operations to take over areas — some of which came out defiantly in protest on Friday.

All of this puts the “Assad is winning” narrative, prevalent after the regime’s victory in Qusayr in June, into perspective. It raises the question we posed on Thursday: given that it is the insurgents who made significant advances in recent weeks, is this a “lasting and conclusive shift in the balance of the conflict with the regime” in favor of the opposition?

Perhaps more importantly, will the Syrian military’s retribution bombing intensify, causing more deaths, injuries, and displacement among civilians — who, according to State propaganda, are thanking the regime for protecting them?


Latest Updates, From Top to Bottom

Syrian Coalition Claims Journalist Killed In Daraya

The Syrian Coalition on Saturday said that Shahir Al Muaddamani, the head of the Media Office of Daraya’s Local Council, was targeted and killed by Assad’s forces on Friday.

The Coalition said that Muaddamani, 27, “took part in peaceful demonstrations against the rule of the tyrant Assad. He played an important role in unifying media work in the city of Daraya. Al Muaddamani was an administrator of Daraya’s Coordination Committee, and later joined the Local Council of the city. He was recently elected head of the Media Office of Daraya’s Local Council.”

Video: English-subtitled Footage of Islamist Insurgent Abu Jandal Al Masry After Capture of Menagh Airbase

While we have posted this video before of Islamist fighter Abu Jandal Al Masry (“Abu Jandal The Egyptian”) of the Islamic State and Iraq and As-Sham in Menagh Airbase after its capture, this version has English subtitles. Abu Jandal is also mentioned in our report on the capture of the airbase, here.

Videos: Insurgents From Liwa Ahrar Souriya Attack Kwaires Airbase In Aleppo

Insurgents from the FSA’s Liwa Ahrar Souriya are attacking the regime-held Kwaires airbase in Aleppo Province, near the Turkish border, with home-made weapons.

Screen Shot 2013-08-17 at 3.41.47 PM

Much media attention has focussed on the involvement of Islamist groups in operations like this in Aleppo, a trend that has placed undue emphasis on the role of these groups while simultaneously minimizing and sidelining the role of the Free Syrian Army in ongoing fighting against key positions.

Liwa Ahrar Souriya were also involved in the fight for Menagh Airbase in Aleppo.

State Media Claim Insurgents Killed 11 People In Homs Countryside

Syrian State media on Saturday reports of an alleged mass killing — which it dubs a “massacre” — of 11 people by insurgents near the Ain al-Ajouz crossroads on al-Hwash-al-Nassira road in Homs countryside. SANA did not say whether those killed were regime troops or militia.

The British-based operation the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights has claimed — without any reliable evidence — that “rebel gunmen had attacked the checkpoint, killing five militia fighters and six civilians, including two women” and that some of those involved were Christians. Though the Observatory felt able to give the gender, religion and military make-up of those reported killed, it did not give any information whatsoever about which insurgent faction it claimed was involved.

Video: Revolutionary Council In Salah Al Din, Aleppo, Distributes Toys To Children

The Revolutionary Council in the insurgent-held Aleppo neighborhood of Salah Al Din has handed out free toys to children as part of a campaign to win local hearts and minds.

During Ramadan, the Council erected a tent in the neighborhood, in which local revolutionary, relief associations and media activists gathered todiscuss all issues and activities in insurgent-held areas in Aleppo.

These initiatives are not unusual, though most mainstream media has focussed on events held by Islamist factions, and ignored similar events by more moderate insurgents and by activists.

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English-subtitled Video Of August 14 Attack On Brick Factory

“Kurdish Front” Says 117 Villages Under Attack by Insurgents

Wladmir van Wilgenburg reports….

The general commander of Jabhat al-Akrad (Kurdish Front) has said 117 Kurdish villages in a triangle in Aleppo Province are under attack by “Al-Qaeda-linked groups”, i.e. the Islamists faction Jabhat al-Nusra and the Islamic State of Iraq and as-Sham, and several brigades of the Free Syrian Army (FSA).

Jabhat al-Akrad said it is having to withdraw from the area

Kurdish news agency ANHA and the Kurdish political group PYD says El Nêrîbiyê, Qel Suruç, Qebasîn, Kefer Sexîr, Sed El-Şehba, and Til Medîq are among the targeted villages, with Kurdish residents — some previously displaced — fleeing.

Videos: Insurgents In Kfar Saghir, Aleppo Province, Say They Will Protect Locals From PKK

More footage from Aleppo province shows another dimension of the conflict between the insurgency and the Kurdish PKK, some of whom have been accused of siding with the Assad regime.

Wladimir van Wilgenburg explains some of the background to the conflict in an August 6 story for Al Monitor:

The Free Syrian Army (FSA) says it is only against the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) and its affiliates, such as the People’s Defense Units (YPG) and Jabhat al-Akrad. They accuse the PKK of reneging on earlier agreements and of helping President Bashar al-Assad.

This set of videos shows insurgents inspecting homes in Kfar Saghir that have allegedly been bombed by the PKK. The insurgents tell locals that they will protect civilians.

According to Van Wilgenburg, Kafr Saghir is inhabited by Kurds, and it is possible that Kurds from Tel Aran and Tel Hassel fled there, but it is not clear if the village is 100% Kurdish or if other ethnic groups live there.

Here the insurgents are shown distributing aid to the villagers and asking them to inform them if there are any abuses in the village:

Regime: “Martyrdom Is Unparalleled Human Virtue” (As Long As You Die For The Assad Regime)

Information Minister Omran al-Zoubi expressed what British war poet Wilfrid Owen dubbed “the old lie” -”Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori” – on Saturday, saying that “martyrdom” was an “unparalleled higher human value”.

Zoubi’s warm words will offer little comfort to the families of those civilians who died in the regime airstrikes on Aleppo, Deir Ez Zor and other towns last week however, as he indicated that “martyrdom” is only related to those who die for the regime.

Zoubi spoke at a ceremony honoring the families of martyrs in the town of Kelmakho in Lattakia Province, where he said that martyrs “excelled in loving Syria and defending it”, and “the martyrs who fought valiantly to ensure the homeland’s victory are a blessing upon the land.”

SANA reported that “the people of the town voiced pride in their sons’ sacrifices for the sake of preserving the homeland and its sovereignty, saying that martyrdom is an honor that lights the way towards the future”.

Regime Says US “Detached From Reality” Over Damascus Participation In Geneva Conference

State media on Saturday played up the regime line that Damascus is pushing for participation in an international “peace” conference, but it is the U.S. that is stalling.

SANA cites “an official source at the Foreign and Expatriates Ministry” as saying that Washington is “continuing hiding its real stances, which reject a peaceful solution reached through a dialog among the Syrians at the Geneva II conference”.

The source said the U.S. line that the Syrian government did not want to take part in the conference was “detached from reality”. This position though was “not weird as it comes from an administration that adopted an approach devoid of credibility.”

SANA has the source explain: “Besides arming the Jabhat al-Nusra terrorists in Syria, the USA is distorting the facts regarding the Syrian leadership’s approval on participating in Geneva II conference without preconditions from any side.”

Casualties

The Local Coordination Committees claim 104 people were killed on Saturday, including 47 in Aleppo Province, 24 in Damascus and its suburbs, and 14 in Daraa Province.

The Violations Documentation Center puts the number of dead at 69,732 since the start of the conflict, a rise of 105 since Friday. Of these, 52,672 are civilians, an increase of 84 from yesterday.

Joanna Paraszczuk, " />
By , August 17, 2013 07:12 Updated
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13 Comments

  1. Saliatus August 18, 02:07

    17 dead as al-Qaeda loyalists attack Syrian Kurds in Turkish border town of Ras al-Ain
    http://www.pukmedia.com/EN/EN_Direje.aspx?Jimare=10962 8/17/2013
    The Syrian jihadist group al-Nusra Front attacked a mainly Kurdish town in northeastern Syria sparking fighting in which 17 people were killed, two of them ambulance crew, a watchdog said on Aug. 17.

    The assault on the strategic border town of Ras al-Ain, from which the jihadists were expelled by Kurdish militia affiliated to the Syrian Democratic Union Party (PYD) last month, sparked an exodus of civilians into neighbouring Turkey, an activist said.

    Read full article….

    Reply to this comment
    • Scott Lucas Author August 18, 06:24

      Saliatus,

      We are looking for confirmation of this claim — as you might know, we do not consider the SOHR to be reliable as a sole source.

      S.

      Reply to this comment
  2. Saliatus August 18, 01:37

    kurdish blogger‏ @kurdishblogger
    https://twitter.com/kurdishblogger/status/323333849062981632 4/14/2013
    Former head of Mossad station in Iran and Kurdistan denies that Mossad had played any role in Ocalan capture in 1999 al-monitor.com/pulse/original…

    http://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2013/04/mossad-chief-israel-turkey-kurds-territory.html

    Reply to this comment
  3. Saliatus August 18, 01:33

    Mutlu Civiroglu ‏@mutludc
    https://twitter.com/mutludc/status/347956409910038528 6/20/2013
    Syriac archbshop of Hassakeh exprssd his gratitude for the YPG in a phone call wth Vatican since thy stopped the advnce of Islamst radicals

    http://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2013/04/syrias-christian-minority-lives-in-fear-of-kidnapping-and-street-battles/275084/

    Reply to this comment
  4. Bill Anderson August 17, 15:32

    Damascus, (SANA)-Electricity Minister Imad Khamis said on Saturday that terrorists today attacked the gas and fuel pipelines which feed the electric power stations in the northern region.

    “The terrorist attack caused the generating stations to come out of service and the braking off of electricity in parts of Daraa, Sweida, Qunaitera and Damascus,” the Minister said, adding that the Ministry was able to provide part of the demands of this region from substitute resource.

    He affirmed that the electric power will be gradually restored within 24 hour as the workshops of the Ministry of Petroleum began maintenance.

    This has been happening a lot lately……good tactic by the Freedom fighters it allows them to attack under cover of darkness.

    Reply to this comment
    • RedTornadoes August 17, 19:12

      Does this guy expect serious sympathy from the world? He reminds me of Nasrallah expecting the same after the recent car bombing in Lebanon–a mere drop in the bucket compared to the regime crimes which Hezbollah has aided and abetted and–in the case of shelling civilian neighborhoods–directly participated.

      Put aside all those attacks on civilians via aircraft, artillery, snipers and direct atrocities, and simplty consider just the regime’s attacks on breadlines, crops, water supplies, schools, hospitals, houses and medical profession. This is no tie. It’s not even close.. Finally, let’s not forget the total blockage of food, water and medicine directed at many Sunni neighborhoods in contrast to rebels allow food through in Aleppo…

      Reply to this comment
  5. RedTornadoes August 17, 12:28

    I have to post two links today.

    My Syria roundup for Friday only just appeared more than 12 hours after I posted it so I’m providing the link again for those who missed it. The lead article ties with the lead story here but from a different angle. Underneath it are some updates folks might have missed.

    http://iranian.com/posts/view/post/19216

    Rebels seem to have added a new twist to their strategy of launching simultaneous offenses in too many places for the regime to handle, It’s a great way to keep the regime guessing. See my Saturday roundup lead for more on that:

    http://iranian.com/posts/view/post/19253

    .

    Reply to this comment
  6. Max August 17, 11:59

    SOHR reports on the fight between ISIS and YPG in al-Hasaka province, and around Aleppo:

    “al-Hasaka province: ISIS fighters attacked the al-Asadiya village earlier this morning on the Ras al-A’in-al-Derbasiya road which is inhabited by Yazidi (a religion) Kurdish civilians. Clashes broke out between the ISIS and the inhabitants of the village which led to the death of 1 civilian and the injury of others, several civilians from the al-Asadiya village fled to nearby villages. 2 Kurdish paramedics from the Kurdish red crescent were killed and another paramedic was injured by an IED attack earlier this morning on a red crescent ambulance earlier this morning, the IED was put in a bag and placed on the side of the Ras al-A’in- al-Derbasiya road at the al-Sheik petrol station in between the al-Asadiya and Bab al-Faraj villages, the ambulance was targeted on their way back from Ras al-A’in to al-Qameshli city after transporting several injuries by ISIS, al-Nusra and rebel bombardment on the Ras al-A’in city.

    Activists from the area reported that ISIS fighters began shooting at the ambulance with heavy machine guns after the explosion, one of the Arabic families in the area succoured the wounded person and transported him to a nearby YPG centre. The YPG afterwards combed the al-Asadiya village and reached the Mazra village and Tal Harmel area on the road of the Abou Rasin suburb and clashed with the ISIS, al-Nusra front and rebel fighters, reports of human losses from the side of the latter. Yesterday clashes between both sides on the Tal Half road and Reef Ras al-A’in led to the death of 4 YPG fighters, 1 of which is a woman, and at least 11 fighters from the ISIS, al-Nusra front and some rebel factions.”

    Reply to this comment
  7. Max August 17, 11:32

    The NYT on the kidnapping of Kurdish civilians by ISIS forces in order to broker a release Abu Musab, a leader of the ISIS, end of July.

    http://www.nytimes.com/2013/07/22/world/middleeast/conflict-in-syria.html?_r=0

    Reply to this comment
  8. Max August 17, 11:28

    German conservative daily DIE WELT, August 1st, in German.

    The conflict between the PYD and Sunni Arab rebel forces escalated after the murder of Supreme Kurdish Council Member Isa Huso on July 30th. However, rebel groups try to control the Kurdish region for some time, mainly for their oil fields in North-Eastern Syria, says the article.

    http://www.welt.de/politik/ausland/article118577260/Jetzt-machen-die-Kurden-in-Syrien-mobil.html

    Reply to this comment
  9. Max August 17, 11:14

    Salih Aslim, head of the PYD, says in an interview, that the PYD ‘are waiting for an invitation for talks with Washington.” However, he remains skeptical, since the close ties between the FSA, Turkey and the pro-rbel USA.

    “In my opinion, those who did not want us to have any contact with Turkey are the same people who are trying to create animosity between the US and the PYD. . Rather than hearing from others, it is best to directly talk to someone, because you will understand each other better and you will get the most accurate information. So, yes we are expecting an invitation from Washington to talk to them and tell them what we stand for and what we want.”

    http://rudaw.net/english/interview/16082013

    Reply to this comment
  10. Catmari August 17, 08:19

    Syrian refugees pour into Iraq at new crossing, U.N. says
    Reuters
    Thousands of Syrian refugees flowed into the Kurdistan region of northern Iraq on Thursday, crossing a new pontoon bridge over the Tigris River. According to the United Nations, between 5,000 and 7,000 refugees followed an initial group of about 750 people, adding to the over 150,000 Syrian refugees already registered in Iraq
    http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/08/16/us-syria-crisis-refugees-idUSBRE97F0CH20130816

    Reply to this comment
  11. Catmari August 17, 08:13

    New Saudi-supplied missiles boost rebels in south Syria
    Suleiman Al-Khalidi, Reuters

    Anti-tank guided missiles recently supplied by Saudi Arabia are boosting rebel positions in southern Syria. According to some experts, the recent arms deliveries may signal the beginning of a major supply line, headed by Saudi Arabia, into southern Syria.
    http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/08/15/us-syria-crisis-arms-idUSBRE97E0QH20130815

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