Syria Daily, Mar 1: Islamic State of Iraq Preparing for Final Showdown with Insurgents?

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LATEST: Video — Aftermath of Airstrike on Kafr Takharim in Idlib Province

SATURDAY FEATURE

Op-Ed: “All That is Left of Yarmouk Is the Enduring Horror”

The Islamic State of Iraq withdrew from some long-held areas in northern Syria on Friday, apparently to concentrate on defending key positions such as the city of Raqqa.

The withdrawal came just before the expiry of a five-day ultimatum set by the Islamist faction Jabhat al-Nusra, days after ISIS killed the senior insurgent and “Al Qa’eda mediator” Abu Khaled al-Suri and almost two months after battles began between ISIS and insurgent factions.

Video from Azaz, five miles from the Turkish border in northwest Syria, confirmed ISIS’s departure as residents celebrated.

Unconfirmed reports also said ISIS had left Deir Jamal, aKafin and Mayyar.

The Iraqi-led group, prominent in northern Syria since last year, may be concentrating forces on Raqqa, the largest city captured by anti-Assad forces during the conflict. The claims also said they were reinforcing Jarablus, east of Azaaz on the Turkish border, and Al Bab in Aleppo Province.


Video: Aftermath of Airstrike on Kafr Takharim in Idlib Province

Graphic footage of victims has also been posted.

The Story of the Otaiba Mass Killing: Almost 175 Civilians and Insurgents Dead or Wounded

An interview with a survivor of the mass killing earlier this week in Otaiba, outside Damascus, may resolve whether “175 insurgents” were slain — the claim of the Syrian military — or whether the dead are civilians.

The man says the attacked group consisted of 175 people, almost all of whom were killed or injured. The civilians, accompanied by 40 fighters, were attempting to leave besieged villages in the Eastern Ghouta area and had left from Douma.

After two hours on foot, the convoy was hit by a series of 12 explosions, followed by fire from heavy weaopns.

The survivors fled in the dark in a six-hour retreat.

Video: Insurgents Fighting in Daraa City in Southern Syria

A 13-minute montage of insurgents battling regime forces in Daraa, near the Jordanian border — the city was the birthplace of the Syrian uprising in March 2011 and would be central to insurgent control of southern Syria:

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7 COMMENTS

  1. In case you missed it:
    Solidarity day for al-Jazeera journalists held in Egypt
    BBC
    People in cities across the world staged protests in support of journalists from the al-Jazeera network who are being detained in Egypt.

    Al-Jazeera called for a “global day of action” to demand the immediate release of the journalists, who include former BBC correspondent Peter Greste.
    http://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-26371658

  2. REBEL GAINS NORTH OF ALEPPO

    Rebels are now back in control of whole “Quweiq Plain” after ISIS retreat to the east –Markito0171. That should ease both weapons and humanitarian supplies and free up forces for a counterattack against regime forces trying to take Sheikh Najjar.

    Also vulnerable: The regime strongholds in the suburbs of Nubl and Zaraa, both south of Azaz and Mennegh airport. Rebels and regime forces are already fighting in Kafr Hamra south of those two towns.

    HOW THE WAR LOOKS NOW IN FIVE LOCATIONS

    The perceived stalemate now appears to be breaking. The rebel’s strategy may have been termite-like, undramatic and slow but it succeeded: Whittle down finite enemy forces, grab the countryside, bottle up the regime in large isolated urban areas, remove all nearby bases and checkpoints and only then go for the jugular. The regime is now losing or likely to lose virtually everywhere on the map.

    #1: Battle of Qalamoun: Regime has lost.

    #2: Battle of Aleppo: Only the rebels can win…when they choose to get around to it.

    It’s not so much that the regime has been holding the rebels off. It’s more a matter of rebels limiting their efforts here as in certain other peripheral locations.

    #3: Regime’s Offensive south of Damascus: The only battle in which the regime theoretically has a chance but it could be tough even if Assad throws providing it throws everything into this one. Victory for the rebels would be crushing. Not so for the regime.

    Rebels are fighting on defense for a good cause and with high motivation. They’ve had time to prepare and the regime hasn’t. They should have better weapons and they appear more coordinated. The regime is being forced to rush an emergency offensive and has already suffered a preliminary defeat. It hasn’t the time to stand off and bombard (its preferred approach) given dangers elsewhere. The regime may not enjoy its usual high ground advantage. Should it make any serious progress, rebels will likely put pressure on its rear either from the east or from the north.

    #4 Idlib: Regime is doomed (barring massive Iranian reinforcements)

    #5: Rebel bases near Maarat Al Numann: Doomed.

    IF YOU WERE IN ASSAD’S SHOES, WHAT WOULD YOU DO SOUTH OF DAMASCUS?

    #1: Send every available man, tank, aircraft and artillery piece?

    #2. Hold some back and risk defeat in which case Damascus is doomed?

    Even a regime victory, which I don’t expect, would involve major losses in men and equipment. The regime is not likely to have enough left to begin a new siege of Qalamoun unless it empties Damascus of troops.

    DID LEBANON’S “NOW” SET OFF A STORM?

    If you missed my later posts yesterday “NOW” had three interesting stories. The biggie announced what I’ve been saying for the last three days: that the regime has effectively lost the Battle of Qalamoun beyond recall and that Hezbollah is getting killed in Syria. The important thing is that it’s a Lebanese paper that is first to grasp this reality. News of the story has been on every tongue on both sides. Now that the cats out of the bag, pressure on Nasrallah (LBJ 2nd) to get out of Syria will mount.

    DRAMATIC VIDEO

    Islamic Front fighters blow snipers off a rooftop. You can actually see the snipers fly through the air.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=poLkSl29FNI&feature=youtube_gdata_player

    QALAMOUN: Rebels claim to have shot down a Mig near Al Qastal

    http://wikimapia.org/#lang=en&lat=33.921711&lon=36.700172&z=13&m=b

  3. NEW ALEPPO MAP SHOWS REGIME INTENT IN ALEPPO. CAN IR WORK?

    The intent is to surround a large portion of the city and lay siege.

    https://twitter.com/ertyanna/status/439700010301546496/photo/1

    It’s a good plan. I like it. Except it requires an abundance of two things the regime lacks: manpower and time (given growing dangers elsewhere). The regime has much less forces available in Aleppo than for sieges in Homs and Damascus yet it is proposing to hold one!

    Consider that despite the close proximity of “elite” Republican Guard forces and a plethora of mountaintop artillery, the regime has failed to take Daraya for 20 months or so now. Ditto, Jobar. Then estimate the chances of success against a obstacle this big, consisting of multi-neighborhoods not one.

    Other obstacles to consider: the size of the siege perimeter (much bigger than a besieged neighborhood), rebel potential to concentrate at any point on the circle–from inside and outside–and break through, growing rebel threats to the regime supply line in several areas: Aziza (near Al Safira), Khanassar further south (see news item further below) and the east of Hama. There’s also the likelihood that Turkey and even Obama would intervene should the regime make too much progress, thereby bringing into the north, advanced weapons of the sort arriving in the south.

    Finally—and I know I’m getting to sound like a broken record on this—the more effort the regime puts into Aleppo the worse off its situation becomes elsewhere. The regime needs to prevent its fall to the rebels which would enable too many rebel forces to move southward.

    The regime should be careful what it wishes for. I’d say any attempt to take and hold it is a big mistake and unnecessary diversion. If the regime were to succeed in encirclement and started a siege, a great deal off manpower would be tied up in holding that mammoth perimeter with little left for offense– especially outside the circle. As I’ve already pointed out, rebels would contentrate substantial force at any point on the circle and—unlike the regime—from outside as well as inside.

    ALEPPO AREA:

    #1: Aleppo convoy of 6 tanks & several APCs leave Military Academy heading to the Sheik Lufti area just to the east of the airport.
    http://wikimapia.org/#lang=de&lat=36.168299&lon=37.170353&z=14&m=b

    Perhaps the goal is to take the airport which would be essential to the above plan which requires massive resupply plus probably arming Shia civilians as regime militia. Another possibility is that this force to to replace others that sould be sent south to protect supply lines. If the regime should manage to open the airport, it could help with supplies (ammo could be short) but I doubt any reinforcement wold be available given the situation elsewhere.

    #2: Attrition Near Khanasser: rebels report have killed 50 Assad soldiers and destroyed two tanks in a successful ambush.

    #3: “News false that Al-Ra’i under rebel control- ISIS set up concrete barriers at city-entrances.”
    Source: Markito0171.

  4. DAMASCUS AREA

    #1: Attrition in Jobar: The Islamic Front blows up a building full of shabbiha war criminals.
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Fx08J7Ai6q8&feature=youtube_gdata_player

    QUALAMOUN:

    Paradoxy reports that Nbek military hospital (north of Yabrud) is brim-packed with wounded SAA, Hezbollah and Fallaq Badir militias. Ambulances are rolling non-stop.

    CHARLES LISTER ON THE REBEL’S SOUTHERN OFFENSIVE

    Lister estimates the rebel forces in the Daraa/Quneitra area at 64,000. At present the only open route for the rebels to Damascus is from the north. Victory would change that. Potential rebel targets include Damascus airport and many security buildings in the souther suburbs. Since the rebels tend to get stronger by the day, the regime’s hope is to nip things in the bud.

    Lister also looks at Hezbollah’s involvement which has been limited. Most Hezbollah forces are in East Ghouta and the Qalamoun areas. Lister doesn’t expect Hezbollah to send many forces to this battle because of the high losses it has been suffering in Yabrud. That means the bulk of the fighting—and most regime casualties—will come from already depleted Alawites, including the elite Republican Guard.

    Source: https://now.mmedia.me/lb/en/reportsfeatures/537340-is-the-southern-offensive-finally-happening

    There have been only three responses to Now’s article on how Hezbollah losing in Lebanon and all three are in denial, like this one: “… lies lies shame on you to report lies to hell with you and them.” Regime propaganda insists regime forces continue to advance in Oalamoun with no mention of their colossal failure so far, as Paradoxy reports.

    TINY TIM THREATENS PUTIN

    “Obama to Russia: There will be costs for Ukraine.”
    Just when the USA needed an FDR, a Trueman or a Reagan we get some guy with a ukulele.

    Recall the Great Rose Garden Betrayal which now haunts him. Almost every post underneath cites Obama’s Mr. Weakie Act in Syria. People mock him as Chamberlain got mocked. Since 2011 Obama has been sending Putin the same message: “Ignore any threats from the Peanut Gallery!”

    The world can’t be sarcastic enough. The 47th gets it right: “Obama just wants to end his term without making decisions.

    NEW OVERVIEW MAP OF SYRIA FROM A LOYALIST

    Pieter Van Ostaeyen supplied it and notes that rebels seem to hold more territory than the regime.

    https://twitter.com/KeepingtheLeith/status/438020966103257088/photo/1

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