Syria Daily, April 1: The Battle for Tower 45 in Latakia Province

Scott Lucas
By Scott Lucas April 1, 2014 07:18 Updated

Syria Daily, April 1: The Battle for Tower 45 in Latakia Province

Story Highlights

  • Tower 45 is key position overlooking positions in northern Latakia Province
  • Insurgents took tower at start of offensive last week
  • Fierce regime ground attack on Monday

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UPDATE 1815 GMT: The head of the opposition Syrian National Coalition, Ahmed Jarba, and provisional Defense Minister visit insurgents in territory gained in the Latakia offensive:


The regime and insurgents put out conflicting accounts on Monday on the state of the battle for Tower 45, the hilltop overlooking villages in northern Latakia Province.

Insurgents seized Tower 45 last week, inflicting heavy losses on Assad forces, near the start of their 11-day offensive.

Since then, the regime has sent convoys of reinforcements and shelled the area in an attempt to re-take the key point. On Monday, they launched a fierce ground attack on the tower.

State news agency SANA claimed, “Army units and national defense forces established full control over site 45 in Latakia’s northern countryside, and they continue to pursue the remnants of armed terrorist groups around, inflicting heavy losses upon them.”

However, a well-placed EA source in Syria said that insurgents still hold the tower.

An insurgent at Tower 45 in a video posted today:

Insurgents occupying Tower 45 last week:

Meanwhile, insurgents moving on nearby Mount al-Nisr and an abandoned regime outpost:


Local Media: 12 Men From Azerbaijan Killed While Fighting for Islamic State of Iraq

Azeribaijan media report that 12 men from the country have been killed in fighting in Syria in the past week.

The men were fighting for the Islamic State of Iraq and as-Sham.

It is not clear whether the men were killed in clashes with regime forces or with Syrian insurgents.

A sizable Azeri contingent was in the jihadist faction Jaish al-Muhajireen wal Ansar, led by the Chechen Umar Shishani, last year. The men probably moved to ISIS when Umar was declared an emir of the Iraqi-led organization.

Аt the time, JMA was led by Umar Shishani and had a sizable Azeri jamaat. This post on FiSyria is an address by Abu Yahya al-Azeri. It is likely that the jamaat moved over to ISIS with Umar Shishani.

Video: Did Insurgents Down Regime Helicopter in Idlib Province?

The insurgent faction Al-Sham Legion have posted footage of the attempted downing of a regime helicopter with an SA-7 MANPADS (man-portable air defense system).

On Monday, insurgent sources claimed they had downed a helicopter, or caused it to crash with a near-miss, as it took off from Abu ad Duhur military airbase in Idlib Province.

The sources said four regime officers, 30 troops, and the crew had been killed.

State Media: Residents Return to Yabroud After “Eradication of Terrorists”

State news agency SANA proclaims that residents of Yabroud, the largest city in the Qalamoun region between Damascus and the Lebanese border, have returned after the regime’s victory over insurgents two weeks ago.

YABROUD SANA

SANA asserts that the residents were “forced by armed terrorist groups to leave their homes”.

The opposition held Yabroud, 60 kilometers north of Damascus, since the end of 2011 until regime troops re-entered after a four-month offensive with sustained bombardment of the city. Many of the 60,000 population fled during the assault.

Opposition Claims Insurgents Protected All Civilians in Kassab in Latakia Offensive

The Defense Ministry of the opposition’s interim government has said all units of the Free Syrian Army participating in the Latakia offensive “are committed to the protection of civilians and their properties regardless of sect and ethnicity”.

The Ministry followed the Islamic Front and the Islamist faction Jabhat al-Nusra in denials of regime claims that insurgents abused the residents of Kassab as they toook the village near the Turkish border last week.

Most of Kassab’s population is Armenian Christian, and State media claimed that occupying fighters desecrated churches and intimidated the population, forcing many to flee.

The opposition counters that all churches and residents were protected. They say that civilians left the village to avoid fighting and regime shelling. The Ministry said that Free Syrian Army battalions are helping civilians relocate, by providing safe corridors and protection en route.

The Ministry concluded, “All rumors of the Free Syrian Army harming our brethren from the Armenian community are pure slander fabricated by the regime and its allies.”

The Mayor of Kassab has said that all residents of the village are safe and sound.

The only confirmed image of insurgent “atrocity” is a photograph of a church with its cross removed. Commanders subsequently rebuked the fighter who committed the offense.

KESSAB CHURCH CROSS REMOVED

An opposition website has posted a long entry refuting other claims of insurgent abuses.

Scott Lucas
By Scott Lucas April 1, 2014 07:18 Updated
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8 Comments

  1. Michael B. April 2, 04:22

    One question for anyone who cares to answer, one comment, and one suggested topic for EAWorldview:

    Question: Can someone tell me what Tower 45 actually is? The post above describes it as ” the hilltop overlooking villages in northern Latakia Province.” But the tower itself is a man-made structure on the hilltop, not the hilltop itself. So what is it? A radar tower? A broadcasting facility?

    Comment: I recommend the USA Today article that Red Tornado linked to above. Very interesting piece with some numbers on the combatants, sourced to US intelligence, including an estimate of 5,000 Hezbollah fighters operating in Syria and an estimate of 7,000 foreign fighters operating on the side of the rebels.

    Suggestion: In attempting to discern whether one side or the other might be gaining an edge, and breaking out of the dynamic stalemate, it becomes important to look more closely at what is going on in the other theaters of operation. If we assume that the Homs region is trending for the regime and Latakia is trending for the rebels, then we really need to see more information about Aleppo, Damascus, Daraa, Deir Ezzor, and Hama.
    I have seen reports indicating rebel successes in Aleppo and other reports indicating that the regime now controls 80% of Aleppo. I have seen reports that the rebels are holding their own in Damascus and other reports – including one from the UK’s Channel 4 – which suggest that the regime is making progress sweeping them out. If feasible, I would urge EAWorldview to shed some light on these other fronts, and analyze them in the broader strategic context.

    Reply to this comment
  2. gunniy April 1, 22:01

    “”Information made available to a libanon newspaper revealed that a high-ranking Iranian lieutenant colonel, identified as Mahmoud A., arrived recently in Lebanon to provide counsel as Hezbollah radically reforms its security apparatus.””

    “”Sources said that Hezbollah arrested one of its field commanders in Syria and confirmed that Hezbollah’s security apparatus was able to detect a cell within the party working for Israeli agents.””

    “”Meanwhile, a number of Iranian military officials reached Yabroud to study how the geography of the area can be exploited in the future.””

    http://www.dailystar.com.lb/News/Lebanon-News/2014/Apr-01/251886-hezbollah-reorganizes-ranks-in-light-of-leaks.ashx#ixzz2xfbqBB9i

    That the israelis are always well informed is nothing new. In addition, the articel explains how the Iranian quods force in Syria is working. At the top of the military leadership – on the top decision-making level.

    Reply to this comment
  3. RedTornadoes April 1, 19:54

    Analysis: LOCAL FIGHTERS BALK ON BOTH SIDES SO WHY IS THE PROBLEM POTENTIALLY MORE SERIOUS FOR THE REGIME?

    The problem was very small on the regie side until recently. Three developments are speeding things up.

    #1: As rebel control of the countryside increases, and as pro-regime areas see themselves as cut off and endangered, the regime’s anti-rebel propaganda becomes liability as much as asset. It convinced many Alawites and other minorities to rally around it on the premise that rebels were terrorists. Consequetly the stronger rebels become locally, the more loyalists feel an obligation to protect their families against these “otherwise certain” massacres.

    #2: Most fighters joined the NDF on the understanding was that they would be fighting locally, mainly on defense to protect families and communities. Just as the latter become endangered, the regime is demanding militia head off to carry out offensive tasks in distant places.

    #3: A highly centralized regime loses its power to compel as it is cut off from much of Syria.
    The rebels situation is almost the reverse of the above. They control the countryside. The regime is on the defensive locally. There is less risk in leaving. The biggest threat comes from its air forces and the only way to eliminate that threat is to go to the source. Good news on so many fronts also inspires. Finally many rebels and their families have seen or suffered real (not imaginary) regime atrocities first hand. That motivates too.

    An increase in the “balking” problem on the regime side is more serious because the regime can least afford it. Also, one major source of lost regime manpower (defections) is virtually non-existent on the rebel side for many reasons including the fact rebels don’t conscript. Because tens of thousands of untrusted regime conscripts are based in the south, losses by defection are likely to increase in event of any rebel offensive there. The great majority of Sunnis have been alienated beyond recall by the regime’s genocidal sectarian crimes.

    Up to now, most Alawites and other minorities who dodged the draft or deserted left the country. As things are going, I think their numbers will increase. The proportion deserting to the rebels will remain smaller but be grater than in the past, as people become aware rebels are not quit the ogres the regime claimed and as news of rebel fighting and regime collaboration with ISIS spreads.

    Reply to this comment
  4. RedTornadoes April 1, 18:04

    Aleppo Front: MORE REPORTS OF ALAWITES MILITIAS BALKING & SOME EXECUTIONS

    Many sources have been reporting disagreements—even clashes–between the NDF (National Defense Force Militia) and the SAA (Syrian Arab Army) lately. They also say the regime is raiding places where civilians (including other minorities) gather to compel them to fight in Lattakia.

    Tazimorocco now reports that “many” NDF fighters, who see their job as local, have refused to go to Lattakia and that “some{ have been executed (“pour encourager les autres” as the French would say. What makes this report credible is that we’ve already seen past instances of the regime executing soldiers for refusing to obey orders (mainly Sunni troops who balked at orders to shoot unarmed protestors back in 2011). Now Alawites appear to be getting the same treatment, which could have the same souring effect as it did on their predecessors.

    In the past I’ve cited the great German film, Downfall. Whether you are pro or anti-Assad this is a “must see”–an intensely dramatic and highly accurate portrayal of what Berlin was like as the Russian army closed in on Berlin in World War II. It has a uncanny resemblance to events in Syria now. Several scenes in the film of the regime executing civilians who balked at serving in an obvious meat grinder. Regie enforcers went around with ladders and ropes, haning elderly men were hung from lampposts with signs accusing the dead of being “traitors’ and “Bolsheviks.”

    The regime’s increasing military setbacks (can it win a single battle without Hezbollah whose resources are limited?) are not the only sign things are going downhill fast.

    Lattakia Front: REGIME USES NEW STRATEGY TO CONVINCE LOCALS EVERYTHING IS GOING JUST FINE

    Regime troopers are driving around the city with a pickup loaded with dead rebels in an effort to convince locals it isn’t losing (See photo). Just as Germans tuned into BBC rather than Goebbels broadcasts to find out how the war was going after Stalingrad, locals turn to the internet where they discover that rebels still control Tower 45, that regime claims of crimes against Armenians were faked. They’ve also seen the videos of streets littered with regime dead. Computers and satellite TV have make it harder for authoritarian regimes to control all access to outside info.

    https://twitter.com/TahrirSy/status/451022973882073089/photo/1

    Heavy clashes continue on the road to Lattakia as rebels continue to hold up regime reinforcements. Today they destroyed a T-72 tank and an ammunition truck. The Free Syrian Army has also sent a convoy south (video below)

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lUzUV_d8kBA

    Arab Chronicle reports one of his most reliable sources is joining the rebels in Latakia and hopes to pass things along if the man survives.

    IDLIB/HAMA FRONT: MANPADS DOWNING A COPTER NEAR CUT-OFF REGIME BASE

    As the video clearly shows, it’s clear that a copter was downed yesterday at the airbase well north of Hama. Looking at the video, it’s hard to judge the copter’s size which makes it difficult to confirm that 34 regime troops were killed. Copters, used for barrel bombing of civilians and essential to resupply of bases cut off by land would be especially vulnerable to manpads. Flying higher would obviously diminish the accuracy of supply drops and barrel bombs, possibly causing “friendly fire” casualties.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZnPPKTnY2Ms

    HOMS FRONT: REGIME IS MAKING ADVANCES NEAR WAER TO THE WEST

    It’s been a year since Iran’s massive intervention save Assad’s butt (temporarily) yet Homs remains the only area where the regime has made any noticeable progress. Once again its Hezbollah, not the SAA, assisted by regime militia leading the advance. Is the regime trying to open the road west for a withdrawal to the coast? It’s too early to say but if things continue as they’ve been going on various fronts, Assad may not have a choice.

    Reply to this comment
  5. RedTornadoes April 1, 17:22

    Update #2: Articles of Possible Interest

    USA TODAY: Defections and casualties have destroyed most of Assad’s army, making him almost dependent on militias and foreign fighters for survival.

    http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/world/2014/04/01/assad-regime-local-militias-foreign-fighters/7116509/

    LEBANON’S NOW: Hezbollah’s Party of God Is inviting a regional conflict neither it nor Iran can control.

    Heavy Hezbollah casualities continue to arrive in Syria but the real price for Hezbollah is being paid in Lebanon, where Hezbollah’s support for the Assad regime has led to increased suicide car bombings, Sunni-Shiite tension, and armed clashes and political spillover.

    The author warns that all this could fan the flames into a wider regional conflict that Hezbollah and Iran cannot put out and cannot afford. What is more, retaliating against Western targets is not the easy distraction it used to be and will only make things worse, not better, for the Iranian alliance.

    THE NATIONAL (UAE) has two articles that may interest readers here:

    #1: In Syria, the Brotherhood’s influence is on the decline

    http://www.thenational.ae/thenationalconversation/comment/in-syria-the-brotherhoods-influence-is-on-the-decline#page2#ixzz2xeT6sAoP

    #2: Obama lacks decisiveness in his policy for this region

    In other words, Obama is Hamlet as the whole world understands by now and no one is more pleased than Putin, Assad Khamenei who exploit this Gift of the Gods to the fullest.

    http://www.thenational.ae/thenationalconversation/comment/obama-lacks-decisiveness-in-his-policy-for-this-region#ixzz2xeTyhvYC

    Reply to this comment
  6. RedTornadoes April 1, 15:17

    Update #1

    14 ALAWITE, CHRISTIAN & SUNNI OFFICERS REPORTEDLY HAVE DEFECTED FROM COASTAL BRIGADE

    Defectorss allegedly were members of Assad’s 7th Brigade in Banias have reportedly defected, according to Desert Fire. Will we see more? Loyalty to the regime and belief in its lies could be breaking down and a video of this could help. If confirmed the news wll further discredit Assad propagandists whose bullying of Christian nuns from Manoula for “refusing to lie” about their humane treatment by Jabhat Al-Nusrah ended in house arrest.

    Photos: MEET ARMENIANS & OTHER CHRISTIANS PERSECUTED BY ASSAD REGIME

    Had Assad agreed to full democracy in 2011 he could have easily insisted on a provision for separation of church and state as a pre- condition. Why didn’t he?

    The twitter site of Hadil Kouky who has names and photos of minority members victimized by the regime. We learn their names, why they were arrested and how they were treated. In this context consider the FACT that Assad released many of ISIS top leaders in 2011 while continuing to arrest and kill pro-democracy activists by contrast. Low level types wouldn’t dare make such decisions. Thus, we must then ask why did the regime do this at such a time. It is not famous for clemency, especially for such defendants under such circumnstances.

    Only one explanation makes sense as a perfect fit to the regime’s demonstrated Machiavellianism—that the regime hoped these extremists would commit atrocities on minorities, including Alawites. The regime would then cite it as proof that the rebels as “all terrorists.” Even Assad supporters can’t deny that is the rebels who are fighting ISIS, not the regime. Maybe the choice isn’t “Assad or Al Queda” after all.

    GRAPHIC PHOTO: Rebels have killed Assad’s Top Commander in Qalamoun

    Republican Guard Brigadier General Mufid Mahala, commander of the Western front in Qalamoun, is dead. See his photo. Source: Tintin. So many top generals have been knocked off lately in Qalamoun, Lattakia and Aleppo, it can’t be hidden from the troops. Nor can their own growing losses. This regime is going down.

    https://twitter.com/TahrirSy/status/450647774652940288/photo/1

    LATTAKIA

    A New Day begins with Rebels Firmly in Control of Tower 45 (video)

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n0bcIgDmUsc&feature=youtu.be

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