Syria Daily, May 8: Beyond The Evacuation of Homs

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LATEST: Video — Regime Promotes Its Attack On Mleha, East of Damascus

THURSDAY FEATURES

Western media will be dominated today by the evacuation of Homs, as the last insurgents began leaving Syria’s third-largest city after more than two years of resistance.

The first three buses in the Old City, the heart of the insurgent position, took 120 fighters and civilians. Other insurgents left on motorbikes, some chanting defiantly as they left.

See Videos: The Insurgents Leave Homs
Video Satire: The “Official Statement” on Insurgents in Homs — & How They Were Betrayed

Later phases of the evacuation, taking the fighters to villages north of Homs, are linked to the lifting of the opposition restrictions on supplies to Nubl and Zahraa — two regime-held pockets north of Aleppo.

The Islamic Front repeated assurances today that aid will be delivered, saying six trucks had gone into each of the two villages.

In addition, the two sides will exchange prisoners, including some Iranians held by the insurgents.

The Islamic Front handing over prisoners:

The agreement for evacuation was reached after the Syrian military tried for weeks to clear out insurgents from 13 districts with sustained bombardment — including barrel bombs — and ground offensives. It has prompted snap declarations in the media, as in the BBC’s lead report on its top radio program, that “Assad is winning” the 38-month conflict.

Such declarations often ignored the rationale of the insurgency for the evacuation, as well as other developments in Syria.

Most of Homs had been “lost” to the regime in early 2012, following a deadly bombardment that levelled areas such as Baba Amr. Another offensive in summer 2013 decimated sections such as Khalidiya. For many in the opposition, The holdout of the remaining insurgents continued to tie up regime men and resources while the frontline battles were elsewhere.

There has been some support for that argument as the insurgent advanced in the southwest and pressed regime forces in and near Aleppo, as well as continuing to hold much of northern and eastern Syria. Opposition fighters are also continuing to resist regime efforts to advance near Damascus, inflicting significant losses on Syrian forces trying to retake the Battalion 559 base in eastern Qalamoun on Wednesday.


Video: Regime Promotes Its Attack On Mleha, East of Damascus

A National Defense Forces film promoting the operations of militia near Mleha, east of Damascus:

The Syrian military has been trying for weeks to take the town, seen as the gateway to the East Ghouta areas occupied by insurgents. Regime forces were briefly in the center of Mleha on Monday, but were then pushed back and took heavy losses in an ambush.

See Insurgents Push Regime Forces Out of Mleha, Near Damascus

Evacuated Sections of Homs “Comprehensively Destroyed” and “Uninhabitable”

The United Nations’ Resident Co-ordinator reacts this morning to the sight of the evacuated sections of Homs:

40 Civilians, Abducted for 9 Months in Latakia, Freed Under Homs Evacuation Deal

A significant consequence of the Homs evacuation deal is the release of 40 civilians who were kidnapped by insurgents during an offensive last August in Latakia Province in Syria.

The fate of 55 other civilians reportedly held is unknown.

Eleven children and four women were brought from the east of the province and released at the checkpoint in Kefraya village on the outskirts of Latakia.

Al-Akhbar quotes the former captives as saying they were treated well, but notes stories of those who were killed by insurgents during the offensive.

Human Rights Watch subsequently denounced insurgent factions, notably the Islamic State of Iraq and as-Sham, for the killing of civilians, abuses, and abductions.

Insurgents Blow Up Hotel Near Aleppo Citadel

Insurgents have blown up a major hotel and and several buildings near the Aleppo Citadel, claiming they were used by the Syrian military.

Fighters detonated a bomb placed in a tunnel beneath the Carlton Citadel Hotel. Opposition activists said Syrian troops had been killed — EA sources put the number at more than 50.

See Insurgents Blow Up Hotel Near Aleppo Citadel, Claim 50+ Syrian Forces

Jabhat al-Nusra Posts Video “Confession” of Detained Free Syrian Army Commander

The Islamist faction Jabhat al-Nusra has posted a video “confession” from Colonel Ahmed Nemmeh, the Free Syrian Army commander whom it detained in Daraa Province in southern Syria earlier this week.

Nemmeh, former head of the FSA’s Daraa Council, is to stand trial in an insurgent court on charges of treason.

In the video, Nemmeh said last May’s defeat in the battle for the strategic town of Khirbet Ghazaleh was deliberately arranged by the insurgency’s international supporters.

Insurgents were repelled from Khirbet Ghazaleh, on the Damascus-Daraa motorway, after 60 days of heavy fighting. They appeared to have secured a victory, then Nehmeh took charge of the battle and vital weapons shipments failed to arrive as some insurgent units pulled out. The remaining fighters were then defeated.

According Nehmeh’s confession, “the donor countries” contacted him and he enacted their orders to pull units out of Khirbet Ghazaleh. He said the reason was the fear of Jabhat al-Nusra’s increased influence in southern Syria.

Nemmeh, who defected from the Syrian Army in 2012, had been increasingly marginalized in operations although he maintained his title as head of the Daraa Military Council and still commanded fighters. He was not involved with the Military Operations Command (MOC) operations room in Jordan, with staff from Arab and Western intelligence agencies supporting Free Syrian Army operations. He was also largely bypassed in weapon flows which he had previously supervised.

Housing Issues Keep Residents Away from Damascus Suburb After “Reconciliation”

Syria Deeply offers a sobering perspective on life after “reconciliation” in the Damascus suburb of Barzeh.

In January, photos celebrated a ceasefire agreement between the Syrian military and insurgents, with the regime soon proclaiming an intense campaign to repair infrastructure and homes.

However, three Syria Deeply correspondents write:

(Residents) found entire streets leveled. According to estimates by United Nations officials who visited Barzeh, it was one of the hardest hit in the Damascus area; the level of destruction to homes and commercial spaces here hit 75 to 85 percent in peripheral areas, and 100 percent along the front lines.

Abd al-Rahman al-Shami, a member of a local civilian council that has tasked itself with surveying the damage, says that four months after the signing of the cease-fire, nearly 300 families have returned – just one-third of Barzeh’s original 35,000 residents. He says the majority have not returned primarily because they cannot afford the cost of repairing their homes.

In short supply, construction supply prices in the suburbs have skyrocketed by about 400 percent over the past two years. The price of a 50 kilogram bag of cement in Barzeh now runs to 1,000 Syrian pounds, or $8. One cubic meter of sand has reached 4,000 pounds and the average price of window glass is approximately 1,300 pounds. The majority of the returnees are unemployed, and can’t afford to buy much outside food and other basic supplies.

The cost of restoration varies depending on the level of damage. While the cost of restoration for a partially damaged house might run 75,000 pounds, or $500, for broken windows, doors and ceiling repairs, it can reach as much as 400,000, or $2,600, to rebuild a home that has been demolished.

Photo: Islamic State of Iraq Fighter Pushes Children on Swing in Raqqa

An Islamic State of Iraq and as-Sham fighter takes a break in Raqqa, the largest city outside regime control:

ISIS CHILDREN SWING

Syrian Ambassador to UN: Some Security Council Members Giving Chemical Weapons to Insurgents

The Syrian ambassador to the United Nations, Bashar al-Jaafari, has said that some United Nations Security Council members are providing “terrorist groups” in Syria with chemical weapons.

Al-Jaafari did not identify the states. The three Council members who have provided aid to the opposition are the US, Britain, and France. Jordan, which hosts officials of those countries in a center supporting the insurgency, is also on the Council.

Al-Jaafari’s speech continued the regime campaign to shift blame for chemical weapons attacks to insurgents: “Syria has witnessed the use of chemical substances by the regionally-backed armed terrorist groups against civilians and military personnel several times”.

He called on the Council to “play its role to prevent the terrorist groups active in Syria from possessing weapons of mass destruction and to hold the countries which are supporting terrorism in Syria accountable as to actively contribute to the efforts exerted to maintain international peace and security”.

Assad Promotes Local Ceasefires Near Damascus

President Assad has promoted the regime strategy of local ceasefires near Damascus, meeting officials who have pursued the efforts.

Assad said the initiatives showed the regime’s belief that the crisis cannot be resolved by foreign sides; rather it can only result from the efforts of Syrians alone, because Syrians are the most capable of finding solutions to their problems”.

The military goal of the “reconciliation” efforts is to end insurgent control of areas near the capital. The approach, following many months of sieges, has succeeded in areas such as Barzeh and Moadmamiya; however, insurgents continue to hold suburbs and towns such as Jobar, Douma, and Mleha, which the regime has been attacking for weeks.

Islamic State of Iraq Executes Citizen Journalist

Shaam News Network reports that the Islamic State of Iraq and as-Sham has executed Muttaz Billah Ibrahim, its 21-year-old journalist in Aleppo Province.

Ibrahim had been detained for two months and tortured. ISIS never gave any reason for his detention, according to SNN.

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16 COMMENTS

  1. HOMS: “For many in the opposition, The holdout of the remaining insurgents continued to tie up regime men and resources while the frontline battles were elsewhere.”

    Where will these rebels be employed after a brief rest?: Wadi Deif? Salimiyeh? Idlb? Aleppo?

    ALEPPO: After three offensives failures since June, the most recent flop left the regime weaker than ever. I suspect that’s especially true in the east this time. When will rebels counterattack?

    In Sheikh Najjar one rebel, using a US-made Tow, is credited with having knocked off five Alawite Regime tanks and their crew.

    DAMASCUS: 10 Alawite Regime soldiers defected to IF forces in Eastern Ghouta.

    DARRA: The Islamic Front says liberated three hills (tells) used as artillery positions outside Inkhel near Nawa. Captured were Al-Mutawwak Al-Kabeer , Al-Mutawwak Al-Saghir, and Fada along with artillery and a T-72 tank.

    Rebels are now using seized field artillery to batter Brigade 15 army base just northeast of the city.

    http://wikimapia.org/#lang=de&lat=33.004777&lon=36.135578&z=12&m=b&gz=0;361136054;329764120;0;0;439452;568639

    ABOVE HAMA: The IF says it targeted a truck full of Bad Guys and ammo near Morek, killing them all.

  2. I wish red tornadoes would stop saying alawite regime, although i take his point about the sectarianism. the regime has repressed the alawi religion more than any other. it has made alawis hostages to its survival. it has compromised the future of alawis in syria. even if many alawis can’t see it, the regime is a disaster for alawis. it has sold syrian sovereignty to russia and iran – you may as well call it the russian or iranian regime. oppositional alawis like samar yazbek and abdulaziz al-khayyar represent the community better than this murderous gang whose religion is assadism, not alawism.

    • the alwawite should have denonced the regime now they let theselves be fully associated with them , the SAA stands now more for Syrian Alawite army because its mostly made up pf alawites

      • No. The Syrian army is mostly made up of Sunnis. However, Alawites may make up the majority of the officer corps.

        • That is true but misleading. Those Sunnis are not voluntary members with any enthusiasm for this genocidal regime. Virtually every Sunni other than a priviledged in-crowd equivalent to kapos has had have families, friends neighbors, classmates, neighbors victimized by the regime or houses or neighborhoods it bomnbed. The Alawites are the real glue without whom the regime could not survive. THey are the regime enthusiasts and its entusiastic torturers, murderers, rapists–dependable for any atrocity.

          The regime can’t depend on these Sunnis conscriptswhjoi Iranian proxies and knew it. Given the chance they’d defect like crazy. Hence the regime which claims to be Syria and little support among Syrians had to bring in minorities to do MOST of the fighting. This is why most Sunni conscripts are “stored” in out-of-the-way locations that were regarded as safe up to now but have become less so as rebels begin to reach the desert, the south and Sweida province.

          On many of these bases the remaining soldiers are shabbiha whose job is partly to keep an eye on Sunnis. In fact, many of these conscripts/captives were deliberately used as human shields on such bases when it appeared Obama intended to use cruise missiles.. This is why I’ve argued the rebels should consider moving into places like the desert and Sweid Province. In the latter they could pick up tens of thousands of fighters.

          • Pure speculation presented as concrete facts.The obama rants border on racism in my opinion.Not sure how you are able to push your sunni extremist views on this site,basically pushing for the extermination of alawites and shia openely….Shameful stuff all round.

    • Rebuttal: WHY ALAWITES HAVE GREAT RESPONSIBILITY FOR ASSAD’S CRIMES & RUSSIANS HAVE FAR LESS FOR PUTIN’S CRIMES

      Reason #1: The problem is Alawis overwhelming support it and did so for two reasons: 1) sheer greed to retain priviledged positions, and 2) fear rebels were all Islamists–a fear Assad delibertately provoked by deliberately releasing many extreme Islamists almost the moment he began shooting, arresting and torturing pro-democracy demonstrators. Assad even encouraged his ISIS proxies to carry out a few (a very few but just enough) attacks on Alawis The latter had access to the internet unllike people in the past. They had to known the truth.

      Reason #2: Assad didn’t carry out barrel bombings, throat-slitting massacrees adn the murder of even horses, donkeys and sheep by hismself He couldn’t. It was mainly an Alawite job.

      Reason #3: Basically it is a fact that the “Syrian Army” no longer exists. It has become what the Yugoslav army became under Milosevic. It is in fact nothing more than an Alawite mlitia, backed by Iran, its proxies and Putin versus the majoritiy of Syrians which is why the latter has the real manpower and the regime can’t find much except what Iran supplies.

      As to Russia, I refer to it as the Putin regime NOT the Russian regime because–unlike Syria–a large portion Russians seem to oppose Putin’s aggression. That’s hardly the case among Alawi. Nothing is 100 percent but among Alawis it comes close and the few who object to Assad’s crimes mainly seem to be furious he isn’t brutal enough. Thus, to blame the Russians for Putins would be unfair, but to call the criminal Assad regime and army the Alawite Regime and Alawaite Army is totally fair.

      Alawites want it both ways. They cry for blood, as in the militia saying Homs evacuess should be exectuted, and then cry “unfair” when peoplle point it out. I will not distort the facts because they may not be compatible with political correctness.

      • you have misunderstood. i am not calling for political correctness but for accuracy. i do not for a moment deny massive Alawi support for the regime (though by no means universal – many Alawis have quietly smuggled food and medicine to besieged sunni areas, and high-profile alawis like abdulaziz al-khayyer, rasha omran, samar yazbek and and fadwa suleiman have been openly pro-revolution; there are several alawi officers under arrest, many young alawi activists disappeared in the gulag, there are also a few alawis in the free army) nor Assad’s use of Alawi shabeeha to commit sectarian massacres (although sunni shabeeha have done their fair share of raping and murdering too), his release of islamists from jail, iran’s intervention, and everything else that was deliberately done to manipulate sectarian fears and hatreds. Indeed I’ve written about these topics repeatedly. I’m talking about how the assads systematically made the alawis dependent on them alone and killed or exiled any alternative leadership in the community over four decades. as will be seen in the end, assadism was an enormous crime against alawis. most jews support israel, but israel is a zionist state, not a jewish state (whatever they say). most sunni arab iraqis supported saddam hussein, but his genocidal regime was Saddamist and fascist, not sunni. same with the syrian regime. a shame to see you repeating the tropes of the regime itself, just the way it wants you to talk. please don’t be politically correct. please be accurate, and strip the regime of its sectarian clothing. all it cares about is itself. by the way, i’m not saying this in a spirit of confrontation. I enjoy your reports here very much.

  3. AMERICA’S EXTREMIST ENEMIES WILL FEAST FOR YEARS ON NUGGETS OBAMA GAVE THEM

    An FSA’s commander confession that he deliberately undermined the rebels in a key battle will add to suspicions of America and Obama among all Sunnis. What a bonanza for extremism.

    It demonstrates once again the degree to which Obama has knowingly backed a regime he knew to be guilty of genocide. Whose bright idea in the White House was this

    It gives further credence to the idea that Obama deliberately STILL seeks to prolong the war by just giving rebels enough weapons to keep them afloat.
    Then there is the Rose Garden Betrayal, the cunning chemical weapons deal, the insistence on a pre-rigged, worthless conference in Geneva.

    Tens of thousands of Syrians died, including women and children and so much of the country was destroyed because Obama got suckered even more than Alawites by the Assad/Iran/Putin scheme to taint the rebels by delibeately rleasing many exrtreme Isllamists from his prison and part of the move to crush democracy.

    If only Obama had been half as willing to supply the rebels as America’s obvious enemies were willing to supply Assad! No boots on the ground required!
    But he was too busy licking shoe on the premise he could charm Putin, Khamenei and country.

    That premise is every bit as ludicrous as the assumption Chamberlain and Deladier could charm HItler and turn him into a nice guy at Munich. This is what Obama–in his amazing foreign policy naivete–thought he was going to demonstrate to the American people.

  4. STRATEGIC VICTORIES BRING GOOD GUYS CLOSER TO DAMASCUS

    Rebels have taken Al Hamidiyah & Qahtaniyah, seized Quneitra crossing & the Alroadi barrier—Markito0171. These gains are well north of Nawa.

    http://wikimapia.org/#lang=de&lat=33.134245&lon=35.857573&z=14&m=b

    CHILLING PHOTO: ISIS Shows Off child Recruits in Raqaa

    ISIS threatrens all Syrians yet it is Assad’s creation–a Frankenstein monster.

    http://syriadirect.org/main/37-videos/1357-isis-shows-off-child-recruits

    Report: BECAUSE OF AN OBAMA’S BACKSTABBING MOVE WAS EXPOSED, REBELS MAY CLASH

    http://www.syriadeeply.org/articles/2014/05/5342/al-qaeda-kidnapping-syrian-commander-open-front/

    The way Obama betrayed the rebels in Khirbet Ghazaleh fits in with his other tricks:

    –His “tease act” followed by the Rose Garden Betrayal and a chemical weapons deal full of holes.

    –White House trial balloons proposing to support Assad as “the best way for fighting terrorism” (ignoring Assad’s role in aiding extreme Islamists).

    –Obama’s continued refusal to supply manpads after regime links to exteme Islamists has been exposed.

    –Using worthless, pre-rigged peace confereces as an stall tactic to keep a stalemate going and to put off a rebel victory that wouldn’t take much help or any “boots on the ground.” The fact that no one has proposed the latter but Obama keeps pretending otherwise adds to his reputatio for mendacity.

    –Persistence in the dlliberate lie that “It’s just a civil war” even though Obama knows Russia, Iran and proxies have been aiding Assad like crazy.

    Obama’s reputation for trust is now equal to that of ISIS. Allies as well as Syrians and all Sunnis regard the man warily.

    WHY THE REGIME WAS GLAD TO DEAL IN HOMS

    As Tazi Morocco observes: “Old Homs was a fortress where regime forces couldn’t enter without lossing dozens of NDF thugs.” As EA notes. remaining insurgents continued to tie up regime men and resources while the frontline battles were elsewhere.”

    More Proof: REBELS OUTSMART THE REGIME WHEN IT COMES TO TARGETING THE ENEMY

    Rebels go after enemy forces and dont waste time killing civilians. See today'[s blast at the Carlton Hotel in Aleppo.

    A retaliation-centered Assad targets civilians almost exclusively, hoping they’ll cry uncle eventually. It just swells enemy forces and digs his hole deeper.

    Hating this regime is as easy as hating the reimes of IHitler, Stalin, Milosevic, Pol Pot, Putin and Khamenei–birds of a feather.

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

  5. Why Syria is America’s concern: Problems will lap up on U.S. shores if they drag on

    Source: NY Daily News

    http://www.nydailynews.com/opinion/syria-america-concern-article-1.1782077

    SCIENCE RESEACH CENTER IN WESTERN ALEPPO

    Regime building new dirt roads into rear of Scientific Research as all other entrances under rebel fire. Souce: Not a Spy. Easy Prediction: The new roads will come under fire as well.

    TAZI MOROCCO HAS CHANGED REGIME KIA ESTIMATE FROM TO 100 IN ALEPPO HOTEL BLAST

    His earlier estimate was fifty. Tazi writes, “By blowing up strong regime positions in Old Aleppo, Syrian Rebels are probably paving the way for a significant ground offensive.” When you consider the Damascus advance and regime losses further south, regime KIAx today probably surpassed 200.

    Johnny Six reports battles on the main road abpve Hama near Morek. If rebels further north near
    Maarat al Numan get escape soon, they’ll likely be bagged along with a nearby copter port.

    https://www.youtube.com/watchv=OhGVz8PipOQ&feature=youtube_gdata_player

    REBELS ARE ADVANCING TODAY IN DAMASCUS

    Rebels in Mleiha are advancing towards Regiment 81, near Damascus Airport Highway—Tazi morocco. The regime had its turn in Mleiha, taking high losses in repeated offensive. Now it appears the rebels are on a counteroffensive. I expect the same in Aleppo soon since regime has been halted.

    http://wikimapia.org/#lang=en&lat=33.467070&lon=36.373072&z=15&m=b

    AN INTERESTING BUT GRAPHIC VIDEO FROM BATTLE OF THE TELS NEAR INKEL

    You can see another hill (tel) in the distance and how flat the land is in between. The video shows lots of dead Bad Guys early on. Later you’ll see captured artillery pieces and captured shells. If the regime wants these back, rebels have places to duck air power so it’ll take manpower to do the job and Assad simply does not have it. With so many Alawi dead, most “regime” troops are foreigh wile rebels are heavily Syrian by comparison.

    https://www.youtube.com/watchv=D1WGY41MHY4&feature=youtube_gdata_player

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