Syria Daily: Ceasefire? Pro-Assad Offensive Continues Against Wadi Barada


PHOTO: Destruction in Wadi Barada from pro-Assad attacks, late December 2016


UPDATE 1500 GMT: Pro-opposition activists say the pro-Assad assault on Wadi Barada and the area near the al-Fija springs is ongoing:

ORIGINAL ENTRY: Defying Tuesday’s ceasefire annoucement by Russia, Iran, and Turkey, the Assad regime is continuing its month-long offensive to overrun the Wadi Barada area, northwest of Damascus.

Hezbollah and regime forces continued regular mortar fire on Wednesday, forcing thousands of civilians to seek underground shelter, according to a statement from local opposition sources.

The sources said the attacks “are targeting anyone and everyone, regardless of age.” Samer Rihan, director of the Ein al-Fijeh Medical Center, told Syria Direct:

There are 50-60 people huddled together in a single basement. If you want to know what the ugly side of war looks like, this is it, and we’re living it.

The pro-Assad offensive began on December 22, continuing despite a December 30 national ceasefire declared by Russia — the Assad regime’s essential ally, alongside Iran — and Turkey. President Assad said attacks would continue until Wadi Barada, with 10 villages and between 50,000 and 100,000 people, was cleared of “terrorists”.

Two local ceasefire agreements have broken down, one when the mutually-agreed negotiator, retired Syrian Army General Ahmad Gharban, was shot and killed in disputed circumstances.

Wadi Barada is strategic because of the al-Fija springs, which provide more than 60% of Damascus’s water. Regime airstrikes damaged the pumping station in late December, cutting off supplies to more than 5 million people in and near the capital.

Hezbollah and the regime have captured three of the 10 villages. However, despite controlling the high ground surrounding Wadi Barada, the forces have been unable to move into Ein al-Fijeh near the springs.

Desperate Attempts to Provide Medical Care

Amid the near-constant bombardment, the one limited medical center has been struggled to provide essential care for the wounded.

“We have to resort to amputations so frequently because given our medical training, that’s often all that we can do to keep someone from dying,” Rihan, the medical center’s director, said. “We’re not trained for this…and we’ve lost friends because there’s nothing we can do other than stanch the bleeding and give them more blood.”

The four-bed mobile medical center has moved three times since December 22. Two medical staff have been killed and six injured by bombardment.

“There are so many cases that require emergency medical treatment,” Rihan added. “But the regime hasn’t let a single one of these cases out of Wadi Barada during this campaign despite our protests, and it’s clear they don’t care about us.”

Local civil society organizations said Tuesday that at least 200 people have been killed and 400 injured. About 60% of the casualties are women and children. More than 20 people have died because they could not get medicine for chronic conditions.

An estimated 45,000 people have lost their homes and Civil Defense is no longer operating amid a siege which has blocked food, medicine, and basic supplies.

“People here are tired. They’re sick, they have nothing to eat and they want a political solution that brings about a ceasefire and the end of the blockade,” Muath al-Qalamouni, a pro-opposition journalist inside Wadi Barada, told Syria Direct. “This war has consumed the civilians…and they feel powerless.”

Assad Meets Senior Iranian Official

President Assad has met a senior Iranian official in Damascus, two days after the declaration of the Russian-Turkish-Iranian ceasefire.

Hossein Amir Abdollahian, the special assistant to Speaker of Parliament Ali Larijani, and Assad said they support the cessation of hostilities agreement.

However, neither referred to the ongoing Hezbollah-regime offensive, supported by Iran, on the Wadi Barada area northwest of Damascus.

Abdollahian’s trip, including a discussion with Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moallem, is the latest Iranian mission to Syria amid Russian and Turkish maneuvers for a ceasefire and political talks. Assad met top MP Alaeddin Boroujerdi on January 4 and the Secretary of the Supreme National Security Council, Ali Shamkhani, on January 8.


Facing Jabhat Fatah al-Sham Attacks, Rebel Groups Join Ahrar al-Sham

Facing attacks by the jihadists of Jabhat Fatah al-Sham, rebel groups are joining the rebellion’s largest faction, Ahrar al-Sham.

Groups announcing their accession include battalions of Jaish al-Mujahideen, whose positions were seized by Jabhat Fatah al-Sham earlier this week, and faction Kataeb Thuwar al-Sham.

Latest reports say Suqour al-Sham, the Idlib branch of Jaish al-Islam, the Fastaqim Union, and Jabha Shamia have also joined Ahrar al-Sham, which has said any attack on the groups is a declaration of war to which it will respond.

Ahrar al-Sham leader Abu Ammar al-Omar said in an audio message on Wednesday, “If the fighting continues and if one party continues to do an injustice to another, then we will not allow this to pass, regardless of the cost, even if we become victims of this.”

Jabhat Fatah al-Sham, formerly known as Jabhat al-Nusra and linked to Al Qa’eda, moved on rebel headquarters and ammunition warehouses on Tuesday. By Wednesday afternoon, they had taken over positions on the front west of Aleppo city and several villages in Idlib Province, as well as moving into the Central Prison in Idlib city.

See Syria Analysis: A War Between Jihadists and Rebels?

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  1. Any pics or vids yet going around showing the intense battles going on?Some say over 100 killed.Any vids of ambulances ferrying wounded to Turkey? There would have to be a couple hundred thousand civis with smartphones to capture something.But nothing.Incredible!

  2. There is much more less fighting than what is reported on many tweets. Propaganda is a tool used even on the rebel side. But i am sorry for those just waiting to see a full out war between rebels, aint happening just yet, suck it in. Reality on the ground is that JFS threats are simply pushing smaller groups to fall in Ahrar side for protection. Ahrar is the only group whom may contrast JFS military might and these mergers are helpfull. As of now there is no all out war, there are not 100s of deads (soz again for who just wait for this) there are local confrontations in different HQ’s and checkpoints. JFS will have to be very carefull in its next moves, a full confrontation would be deadily for both parties and a big gift to the mayor of damascus. For sure all talks of a mega merge between all idlib factions (JFS included) that was going on untill the last weeks are dead and buried. A ceasefire and a new turn of deals might be the right direction in the short term. If instead JFS decides to go all out this will go down as another suicidal decision inside the revo camp, yet another huge mistake and no unity equals no chance of success.

    @omran_muhammad<This bloke,who (claims) to be some type of something for Ahrar,says civis and prisoners were shot during battle for prison (no footage provided).But he just happened to come across the only bloke in Idlib with a smartphone.Apparently Nusra shot a guy.

          • @caligola
            “Well not that they have a better choice. Either fall under Ahrar’s protection or risk to vanish.”
            Undoubtedly. But put it this way: If they weren’t such hopeless losers, they wouldn’t find themselves in this situation in the first place. FSA being what they are is a major reason why SJs have appeal and prominence.
            Moreover, the fact that it takes JFS cleaning house for 2 days to send a whole bunch of them seeking mergers just goes to show how dedicated they are to the greater war effort as opposed to their own arses. A major crisis like Aleppo has them smelling their own farts as they wait for Erdoğan to ship them arms and ATGMs in exchange for cheap cannon fodder, but Jawlānī sends the cleaning crew and suddenly they find purpose in unity.
            These people deserve jihadists stomping their heads against the curb. As demonstrated this week, it’s an excellent disciplinary method. Damn shame they didn’t employ it on this scale before.
            @Amir in Tel Aviv
            “All of the rest, who have no clear ideology or vision are spineless and useless.”
            Something we can all agree on.

  4. #International: 1) This sounds ominous “Kurdistan and Iraq are setting up checkpoints in border areas between them.” – fuadhud
    Get any worse? Well.
    2) “Shiite group bombs Peshmerga positions in Shingal ” – RudawEnglish
    So Daeesh gets booted out of eastern Mosul and the first thing that happens is not the setting up of a local council but rather the outbreak of a conflict between Iraqi militias and Barzani’s men? I wonder how the Turks will respond.
    #Aleppo: “Khanaser town fell, 10 min ago.” – fuadhud
    So the regime planned on launching an offensive from Khannasir to boot out rebels from southern Aleppo and brought their heavy weaponry with them however they/regime stupidly forget to fortify their rear (ie Khanassir area) which Daeesh immediately captured in a surprise offensive.
    But wait news gets worse.
    2) “Any gains here aren’t holdable for IS, but if they do take #Khanaser it will be full of ghaneema. Loyalists forces have been gathering here.” – Jacm212
    Which means all that extra weaponry the regime recieved from Russia is now in the hands of Daeesh. Why don’t the Russians just place a homing beacon on the weaponry they donate? It’ll save them time in having to track and destroy it.
    #Observation: “It is the responsiblity of Ahrar Al Sham to pressure other groups into full merger from which nobody can defect in the future” – bdrhmnhrk
    A full/proper merger (ie breaking up of units and merging/mixing them with other Ahrar units) rather then a nominal one. As I’ve mentioned before many times no faction/group that is smaller then 10,000 should not be allowed to exist and those remaining battalion sized groups should now be forced to join a larger group or forced to hand over their weapons. No more small factions, it’s one very large faction or nothing (ie no revolution). Same with the FSA groups, become one large faction or go to Europe, this nonsense of multiple small groups has to end,
    And one the mergers have occurred have about instituting proper training at every level (e.g. regular marksmanship training every month, brigade size manoeuvres every 6 months that includes all branches [infantry/artillery/tanks/ATGM], better target training for artillery and tank units, teaching ‘interlocking fire’ to their machine-gun units, creating a full time counter-espionage unit to weed out informants etc) as well as turning the territories rebel control into a full-time war-economy.

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