Syria Daily, Feb 19: Insurgents Re-Capture Village Near Industrial Area East of Aleppo

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LATEST:Supreme Military Council Challenges Syrian National Coalition, blocks General Idriss’s Dismissal

WEDNESDAY FEATURES

Insurgents reclaimed control of Sheikh Najjar village, near an important industrial area, east of Aleppo on Tuesday.

The Syrian military had said that it occupied Sheikh Najjar over the weekend, but opposition statements and pictures claimed fighters from the Islamic Front and Jabhat al-Nusra had pushed out regime forces after heavy clashes.

Weeks ago, Syrian troops tried to enter the industrial area but were repelled.

Both sides are trying to open up areas to their forces while cutting off the other inside Aleppo, which has been in military stalemate since insurgents entered Syria’s largest city in July 2012.


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Supreme Military Council Challenges Syrian National Coalition, blocks General Idriss’s Dismissal

Senior officers of the Joint Military Command have challenged the opposition politicians of the Syrian National Coalition and the Supreme Military Council, rejecting its dismissal of General Salim Idriss as military commander:

Flanked by commanders, General Salim Idriss said in a video statement, “We…have been asked to start working on a total restructuring of the SMC.”

Idriss blamed the Syrian National Coalition’s Defence Minister Asaad Mustafa for the decision to replace him with Abdel Ilah al-Bashir, the commander of the Quneitra Front in southern Syria.

A declaration signed by 16 commanders backed the General:

(The) decrees were improvised and taken without consultation: they are therefore unlawful and illegitimate. Therefore, we wish to reaffirm that we do not in anyway recognise any statements issued by them.

Secondly, General Salim Idris has been tasked to carry out a comprehensive restructuring initiative of the Supreme Military Council, including the moderate military and revolutionary forces on the ground in order to invest in all available human resources accordingly.

Thirdly, we call upon all military and revolutionary forces on the ground to join the Supreme Military Council to unite and fight together to oust the criminal regime. God is our witness.

Video: Insurgent Blast Kills More Than 30 Assad Forces in Aleppo

Insurgents have posted footage of two explosions — the second within a week — killing dozens of Syrian troops and pro-Assad militia.

The blasts are part of “Operation Aleppo Earthquake”, in which insurgents tunnel under their targets and plant explosives.

The Al-Alam Building, near the Aleppo Citadel and the Carlton Hotel, a command center struck by an underground bomb last week:

Footage of an attack on the Aleppo Citadel:

Insurgents preparing tunnel for a blast:

Video: Attack on Aleppo Hotel/Regime Command Center That “Killed Scores of Assad Forces”

Insurgents have posted a video account of the bombing of the Carlton Hotel in Aleppo (see map) last week:

State media claimed that a “terrorist” attack had been foiled, but well-placed sources in Syria say “scores of Assadis were killed”:

The hotel was full of SAA (Syrian Arab Army) and shabiha. It was a major CCC (command, control, and communications) base, the main link to and securing the supply line to the Citadel, which is peppered with regime sniper posts.

Russian FM Lavrov Calls for Support of Moscow’s Aid Proposal

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Wednesday that a United Nations resolution on humanitarian aid could be agreed in days if Security Council members do not “politicize” the issue.

Moscow has criticized a Western-Arab draft resolution demanding the Assad regime allow access to besieged areas throughout the country. Russia proposed its own text and a parallel resolution that condeming acts of “terrorism”.

“If nobody in the Security Council seeks to politicise this issue, to promote one-sided approaches, I am convinced we will be able to reach an agreement in the coming days,” Lavrov told a meeting of Gulf States in Kuwait.

The Western-Arab draft has been merged with the Russian text, but the Council is still trying to find common ground on points such as a threat of targeted sanctions against Damascus and cross-border access for aid.

Lavrov said on Monday that Russia would veto any resolution endorsing the entry of aid convoys into Syria without the consent of the Assad regime.

Video: State TV Footage from Ceasefire in Damascus Suburb of Babbila

State TV’s coverage of the ceasefire between the Syrian military and the Free Syrian Army in Babbila, southeast of Damascus:

The video shows groups of men celebrating and an official proclaiming, “The reconciliation is because there are young men who care about their country and homeland, so they pulled together and started knocking on doors. Thank God, the doors were opened by the concerned parties.”

Report: Activist Zakarya Leaves Country After Weeks in Detention

Reports claim Qusai Zakarya, a prominent activist from Moadamiya southwest of Damascus, has left Syria after weeks in detention.

Zakarya highlighted the effect on civilians of a month-long siege by the Syrian military, going on hunger strike for 33 days at the end of 2013. He ended the strike as Syrian forces and a local council announced a ceasefire, which provided some aid to the town.

The activist was taken to Damascus last month by security forces, raising fears about his safety.

See Qusai Zakarya: “If Assad Had Smallest Shred of Dignity, We Would Not Have Started Revolution”
Activist Zakarya Ends Hunger Strike in Besieged Moadamiya

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10 COMMENTS

  1. SAA never captured Sheik Najjar Industrial Area, but the rather small Sheikh Najjar Village to the south of it. As with regards to whether the rebels have retaken it or not I would wait for pictures/video. SAA/NDF have footage from the area while the rebels have not, yet.

    After the whole Aleppo Prison debacle, Ahrar, Nusra and Co lost a lot of credibility with regards to their reporting. The reality was that they barely entered the prison perimeter and withdrew after severe casualties as reported by two Nusra fighters present. The same two fighters was despondent by all the false media reports that misrepresented the events and put them in danger.

  2. Aleppo: THREE-DAY BATTLE OF SHEIKH NAJJAR WAS A SERIOUS DISASTER FOR THE REGIME

    (Keep in mind as you read this that the casualties reported do not include those at the Carlton Hotel where the regime’s casualties were apparently much, much higher than the six original reported and—as important as the numbers—included many command and control types. The latter would suggest some high Hezbollah and possibly Iranian losses given the involvement of both at the command level).

    Day 3 ended with the regime losing its remaining portion along with 60 Iraqi militia captured according to Markito0171. The remarkable thing is that these casualties occurred in the fight for a small village and not the whole industrial area.

    Now let’s do the math since the regime dare not admit the figures. It’s a reasonable bet that what induced such a mass surrender on Day 3 were large numbers of killed and wounded. Throw in losses when the regime took Sheikh Najjar on Day One because that temporary victory didn’t come cost free. Losses on Day Two had to be almost as bad as Day 3 because Thursday was when the regime actually lost most of their gains. Day 3 finished off the offensive.

    Between all three I’ll bet the regime suffered close to 500 killed ( wounded or captured in a city where it can’t easily replace losses. A few more offensives like this and the Carlton Hotel disaster and the regime could lose a large portion of its forces in southeast Aleppo. Taking such villages will get harder each time and holding them against rebel counterattacks even more difficult.

    Meanwhile though Genome45 continues to insist that Aleppo airport is usable for supplies (SANA says so) actual combat videos from the area tend to say otherwise. The one below shows Islamic Front fighters in Naqqarin (close to the airport) using new, advanced and impressive mortars. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z31axzgzK_E&feature=youtu.be. Not much news about ISIS in Aleppo yesterday other than it has reportedly been burning supply trucks coming from Turkey.

    ISIS DEFECTOR TO CNN: “OUR LEADERS OFTEN COLLABORATED WITH THE REGIME & LIED TO US”

    Suicide bombers were sent to attack rebels but told the targets were regime fighters. “There were a lot of regime locations we could have taken out.” Leaders ordered membeIs to let such targets alone.

    http://edition.cnn.com/video/data/2.0/video/world/2014/02/18/pkg-damon-syria-isis-defector.cnn.html

  3. ARTICLE: Rebels Plan Spring Offensive in Damascus

    http://news.yahoo.com/syria-rebels-planning-damascus-spring-offensive-181346336.html

    MY TAKE: Any such offensive will surely be two pronged (east from Ghouta, north from Daraa) and bookended by against Idlib to the north. Attacking forces are likely to be larger and better armed in the past. Hopefuly they have manpads to destroy any copters and some Migs. Defenders will not only be thinner on the ground but will have fewer elite troops or Hezbollah available to help. Panic is a definite possibility.

    REBEL ASSIGNMENTS FOR WINTER

    Look for lesser offensives designed to reduce pressure on rebels elsewhere, to nibble away at the edges, to wear down manpower and to tighten control of the countryside and “islandizing” holdout (who could be hard to supply if manpads can eliminate copters). In the survey by area, I’m playing it conservative in these predictins but they still spell trouble for the regime:

    #1: SOUTH: Rebels will likely have taken all or most of Quneitra and Daraa Provinces and may have cut off Sweida Province. They could pick up lots of supplies and manpower in the south where bases are thinly defended by less apt militia or unreliable Sunnis units. The south is potential “defection rich.”

    #2: ALEPPO: The prison will have fallen. Kweres will have at least been totally neutralizd if it hasn’t fallen. A few other areas of the city will have become rebel-held. Regime forces in the southwest will substantial smaller as daily losses eat away. Rebels should have established total control of the border with Turkey and diven ISIS out of Aleppo. Rebel advances east of Hama will likely have cut Aleppo off from all resupply and reinforcement in that direction.

    #3: QALAMOUN TO IDLIB: Hopefully rebels will continue to hold Qalamoun and inflict substantial casualties on Hezbollah, adding to complaints back home. Idib’s fall will free up massive force for dual offensives toward the coast and southward toward Hama.

  4. (Note: These do not include recent developments this morning. I’ll have at least one further update in the next few hours)

    ALEPPO/ QALAMOUN IN TOTALITY

    Combining this week’s losses in Qalamoun (atest below) to those at the Carlton Hotel and Sheik Najjar village in Aleppo, this week has been horrific for the regime, despoite its huge advantages in allies, ground weapons and airpower.

    In Aleppo casualties weren’t only higher in absolute terms but considering that most came from a much smaller base (regime forces in se Aleppo), they were an incredible proportion. If every week until early June featured similiar casaulties, there would be virtually nothing left by June 1st. When this offensive convoy arrived in December, I predicted few would ever return south if needed there.

    REGIME DIVERTS MORE DAMASCUS RESOURCES

    Markito0171 reports that Assad is redeploying some Damascus forces to deal with the crisis in the Quneitra area, meaning defenses in Damascus hae been trimmed once again. As in Aleppo, these forces won’t be returning and will be lost.

    IDLIB TO HAMAS: Labrousse on a critical town

    Mapmaker Cedric Labrousse (Arab Chronicle) sees Khun Shaykun as the critical location in this battle area. If rebels take it they should be able to accelerate Idlb’s fall and eventually control the entire area from the Turkish border to just north of Hama. I’d add this would automatically doom the regime’s coastal area. The rebel hoards unleashed south of Idlib could move against Hama while the rebels in Idlib could move against Latakia.

    QALAMOUN: Another day of high regime casualties.

    #1: Johnny Six says rebels wiped out a bus full of regime militia but is he referring to the attack a few days ago or a new one? JS is rarely specific as to time, dates and specifics of location though not from any apparent attempt to mislead.

    #2: Four FSA fighter dies along with 27 regime militia and Hezbollah in clashes in Qalamoun today. Source: Johnny Six.

  5. Its hardly the first time, that they completely overexaggerated their own successes. Its your own fault, when you take unproven battlefield reports at face value.

    But I am also a bit surprised, how EA can confuse the Sheik Najjar village with much larger industrial zone, that was named after it. Such blatant errors are rather uncommon here.

  6. WHY THE REGIME’S LOSSES THIS WEEK ARE WORSE THAN THEY APPEAR & TO WHAT DEGREE IS SYRIA BECOMING VIETNAM?

    It is a mistake to consider the regime’s losses in Aleppo and Qalamoun in terms of total forces available on paper. These losses come from a shrinking core with no viable replacements: Assad’s most loyal, motivated and reliable units. Naturally these are the ones dispatched in critical situations (Qalamoun and Aleppo) so these are the ones who die.

    Too many analysts overlook that. Similarly they overlook the long-run impact of rebel strategic gains and unsustainable regime erosion by assuming things can continue to run as “normal.”
    If this were a conventional war decided by many Big Battles, they might be right. But an insurgency relies on the death of a thousand cuts or the War of the Flea (whatever you wish to call it) with the Big Battle saved for last when the enemy’s position has become visibly hopeless. In that sense, the rebels seem to be preceeding on schedule and are already recovering from the unexpected, one-shot injection of outside help Assad got in June when he was at cliiff’s edge.

    I’ve been accused of being overoptimistic but I think I’m being conservative considering rebel progress. That’s called bandwagon logic. I’ll cite two examples where the overwhelming majority of analysts and their conventional wisdom proved wrong before. At least 99% of Sovietologists scoffed at Marshall Goldman’s in-depth analysis in the early eighties arguing the USSR could no longer be sustained. In January of 1968 virtually “everyone: believed the Vietnae war was almost over and the enemy would soon be defeated. The underlying assumptions were similar to those we hear in Syria. Compared to the enemy, the unpopular regime enjoyed an even large edge in manpower, allies, ground and air weapons. A month later came TET and a groundship in opinion among analysts, the public and the media.

    Tet is coming to Syria regardless of the regime’s assets and allies. However, any historical analogy must consider variables, pro and con. Here are a few: 1. Syria’s rebels—unlike those in Viet Nam—did well in spite of having depended mainly on captured weapons until recently (a situation that may be changing); 2. Rebels in Vietnam were less fragmented than rebels in Syria (who are now starting to unify; 3. rebels in Syria greatly outnumber the regime and its imported Shia allies, and 4. compared to Diem’s Catholic base of support (40% if I recall) the Assad regime’s Alawite base is much smaller (10 to 11%).

    If and when things turn sour and casualties mount—whether in Nam or in Syria—foreign allies lose initial motivation to fight. Popular support erodes back home. What should be apparent to the most perceptive observers is this regime hasn’t won a thing since a month or so after the great intervention and can’t hold what it does take. It resembles a house that appears intact but has been riddled by termites. It resembles a cans of beans stacked one on top of another and wating to be bumped.

    Tet is coming to Syria, with or without western weapons though the latter would accelerate it. The real killer, however, is the contrast in motivation by fighters on each side.

    The Vietnamese fought from 1954 to 1975 to get rid of a similar regime. Targeted for sectarian genocide, Syria’s Sunni majority knows it has no choice but to fight as long as it takes rather than accept the even more horrific alternative: a life sentence under their unpunished torturers and murderers with a gloating Khamenei looking on
    As in Vietnam, Syrian Sunnis will get assistance from outside Sunni powers no matter what Obama does. For external Sunnis, a regime victory is unthinkable because their survival is at stake. In Syria Sunnis are fighting on home ground with far more to lose than Assad’s imported invaders.

    Every new regime atrocity (see this week’s barrel bombing that blew the legs and arms off elementary school children in Daraa Province) confirms that point, cementing resistance instead of discouraging it. Any transition to a government that includes Assad or anyone else with major blood on their hands grows even more unthinkable Unlike Lebanese Hezbollah and Iraqi militias,
    Syrians have no place to go. Their backs are to the wall. It is a question of survival.

    One other variable stands out in this Viet Name analogy: how badly Obama missed the boat. One major excuse for not helping the rebels is fear that Russia and Iran would step things up. They’ve done it anyway! Another is that intervention would aid radicalism and spread sectarian conflict. Non-intervention has accomplished everything it was supposed to prevent.

    Suppose Obama had chosen to do what the Chinese and Russia did—at very low cost–to the USA and its allies in Vietnam via endless military assistance and a few Spegnatz advisors. Would things be better today for everyone except Putin and Khamenei? Would that be desirable or not?

  7. THE SOUTHERN FRONT AS STRATEGY LESSON

    As a mapmaker, Arab Chronicle has good strategic insight. He clearly understands a rebel strategy that others confuse with ineffectiveness. It is indeed important take major cities and strongly defended strategic villages BUT foolish to attempt it unless you first eliminating bases and checkpoints from which the regime can either counterattack or cut you off in the rear and sandwich you between regime forces.

    The same principle applies everywhere as in Aleppo, north of Hama, etc. where it is again mistaken for “stalemate.” The strategy also explains why rebels would take most of Quineitra before considering any major offensive on Damascus (minor ones being ok). Quneitra secures the western flank of any advance on Damasus. Wiping up in southern Daraa Province secures the southern flank. Both take time which is what creates the misleading impression of “stalemate.”

    I’m never sure if regime supporters who ridicule such mini-victories are strategically clueless, or trying to conceal reality from worried folks back home or hoping to sucker rebels into foolish and premature engagments. Be patient all! The strategy does make sense, even if not glitzy enough for the media.

    NOTE ON FURTHER UPDATING:

    I haven’t even done more than five minutes of checking out Twitter today and have to leave until late afternoon (too late to upgrade under today’s roundup) I’ll post anything I get either late tonight or early next morning Arizona time. I try to include stuff not covered here, preferring to complement rather than duplicate EA’s fine work.

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