Syria Daily: Pro-Assad Assault NW of Damascus “Reduces Villages to Rubble”




Special: Partition is Imminent

UPDATE 2015 GMT: Pro-opposition activists report that regime and Hezbollah forces have finally captured part of Bassima, on the southern edge of the Wadi Barada pocket, after leveling much of the village.

Local activists claimed 130 raids by warplanes and helicopters and hundreds of rockets, including “elephant” munitions, and artillery shells.

About one-third of Bassima is now held by the pro-Assad offensive:

ORIGINAL ENTRY: The pro-Assad offensive northwest of Damascus, now in its fourth week and defying a nominal ceasefire, is “reducing villages to rubble”, according to opposition activists.

Local activists said the village of Bassima has been hardest hit, with more than 65% “reduced to rubble”. Bassima is at the southern area of the Wadi Barada pocket, and the pro-Assad forces have been trying — so far without success — to overrun it to force the capitulation of other villages.

More than 40% of al-Fija has been destroyed, and the villages of Deir Miqrin and Kfeir al-Zeit have been heavily damaged, the local activists claimed.

The assault on the Wadi Barada area, with 10 villages and between 50,000 and 100,000 people, began December 22 with bombing, shelling, and ground operations. The attacks were not halted for the ceasefire, brokered by Russia and Turkey, a week later — President Assad said on Monday that they will continue until all “terrorists” leave.

Wadi Barada is strategically important because of the al-Fija springs, which provide more than 60% of Damascus’s water. Regime airstrikes damaged the pumping facilities soon after the start of the offensive. As a result, more than 5 million people in and near the capital have little or no water.

The provincial governor claimed on Wednesday that the regime and rebels have agreed on a plan to repair damage to the water facilities. A local opposition media office denied any deal has been reached.

Regime outlets and supporters also claimed an agreement last weekend, but this soon evaporated, amid ongoing talks over access by Russian specialists to the pumping station and renewed pro-Assad attacks.

Footage of the attacks, uploaded Wednesday:

Pro-Regime Media: 5 Killed by Suicide Bomber in Damascus

Pro-regime media say a suicide bomber has killed five people in the Kafrsouseh area of Damascus.

No details are available, although one outlet is posting rumors that the bomber was a female.

Footage of the scene:

Turkey’s Erdoğan Infuriated by Statement from US-Backed Kurdish-Led Force

Turkish President Tayyip Erdoğan’s spokesman has denounced the US military for re-tweeting a statement by a Kurdish-led force that denies links to the Turkish insurgency PKK.

The Syrian Democratic Forces — backed by the US with airstrikes, weapons, and special forces to fight the Islamic State — said, “Our force is not part of the Kurdish Workers Party (PKK).” The US Central Command (CENTCOM) quickly circulated the statement:

Erdoğan spokesman Ibrahim Kalin responded:

Is this a joke or has CENTCOM lost its senses?

Do you believe anyone will buy this? The US must stop trying to legitimise a terrorist group.

Reports: US Kills 20 Jabhat Fatah al-Sham Members in Series of Strikes

Sources say US airstrikes have killed at least 20 members of the jihadist Jabhat Fatah al-Sham in a series of four attacks since Wednesday afternoon on Idlib Province

The sources said 14 members were slain near Saraqeb by a drone about 3 p.m. yesterday. Another five, including three Tunisians, perished about 2 a.m. near Sarmin. A member on a motorbike died this afternoon.

The Americans have escalated attacks on JFS, formerly Jabhat al-Nusra, in recent weeks. One airstrike killed two commanders, while a raid on a JFS complex killed 25 members.

Opposition Activists Give Evidence of Russian-Regime “War Crimes” to UN

Opposition activists have given UN investigators evidence of claimed war crimes by Russia and the Assad reigme.

Material on recent pro-Assad operations reoccupying all of Aleppo city, includig alleged killing of civilians and other abuses, was handed to the UN Commission of Inquiry.

Fadel Abdul Ghany, head of the Syrian Network for Human Rights, and Husam Alkatlaby, director of the Violations Documentation Center, met the UN investigators on Wednesday.

Abdul Ghany said activists “found a similarity between the violations committed by the Russians and the regime, and sometimes the Russians exceed the regime in some kinds of violations”.

He said the SNHR “recorded the killing of 1,305 civilians at the hands of Russian forces” between July and December 2016. Roughly one-third of the fatalities were children.

“The Russian air force was trying to target specific points, for example hospitals, schools or whatever. They fly at higher altitude (than the Syrian air force) — this comes through in the testimonies, the interviews,” Alkatlaby said.

Since the Russian air campaign began on Sept 30, 2015, Russian forces have killed “a minimum” of 4,000 Syrians, Abdul Ghany said.

The activists, joined by the “White Helmets” civil defense teams and the Independent Doctors Association, documented 31 cluster munition attacks in Aleppo by Russian forces and three by regime forces, as well as the use of banned incendiary weapons, Abdul Ghany said.

The organization also asked the UN “to explore fully all credible accounts of Iran’s complicity in war crimes in Aleppo”, given the “central role” of Iranian-led militias in enforcing a siege.

US Blacklists 18 Regime Officials Over Chemical Weapons

The US Government blacklisted 18 senior Syrian officials on Thursday, sanctioning them for connections to chemcial weapons programs.

The sanctions were the first by Washington over the Assad regime’s chemical attacks.

A joint inquiry, by the UN and the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, formally concluded this summer that regime forces were responsible for three chlorine attacks.

Threatening a veto, Russia has effectively blocked UN Security Council consideration of an Anglo-French draft resolution that would ban the sale or supply of helicopters to regime and blacklist 11 military commanders and officials.

Ten of the individuals sanctioned by the US on Thursday are listed for designation in the draft resolution.

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  2. #International: So why did Oman join the Saudi grand coalition after decrying Saudi Arabia’s anti-Iranian stance? Well this might have something to do with it “Oman seeks multi-billion bailout from Gulf neighbours ” – MiddleEastEye
    #Observation: I’ll say this about a successful future political strategy for rebels – as the defeats of Darayaa and Madaya have shown victory for rebels (or even the regime for that matter) won’t come just through them causing more KIA/WIA on regime troops rather victory for rebels will come through rebels inflicting (through denyal of service?) starvation/famine upon a greater number of regime areas then regime is doing to pro-rebel civilian areas in Aleppo/Homs/Latakia/Hama/Deraa. Victory will come through not just by ambushing regime troops regularly but also by denying regime ALL means of earning an income (ie capture of oil/gas fields, fertile arable land or capture of water supply, gas/oil/water pipelines etc) so not only regime troops not get paid money by Assad but Assad’s political supporters in Aleppo/Homs/Latakia/Hama/Deraa have nothing to prosper also (right now rebels are losing because Assad is doing exactly this to regime areas by bombing the homes and farms of pro-rebel civilians so they have nothing – rebel can win by making sure that this happens more to regime supporters then rebel-supporting civilian areas) and finally victory will come by rebels not only destroying the regime’s military presence in the areas of Aleppo/Homs/Latakia/Hama/Deraa but also by destroying the political presence (ie regime’s political control through the way state infrastructure and local economy is used to patronage-bribe local political leaders) by not only making regime protection/security of those areas insecure (ie constant hit-and-run attacks with special ops against senior regime officers in the areas and over-running those areas through mobile guerrilla warfare) through constant rebel ‘presence’ (I don’t mean by having buildings/trenches in the area being constantly manned by rebels but rather by having enough ‘concealed/camouflaged’ troops in the area to launch a successful ambush against regime troops on a daily basis) but also by permanently capturing (or destroying even?) enough regime infrastructure (ie oil/gas fields, power plants, gas/oil/water pipelines, water treatment facility, fertile arable land or capture of water supply/spring) that local regime elites/politicians are FORCED (because rebels are the only source of security not regime?) to have individual treaties (which could include not sending troops to help Assad’s army and thereby have fewer regime troops fighting for Assad) with rebels in order to have access to rebel-controlled water/gas/oil/electricity which not only enriches rebels (so they buy more necessary equipment on the black market like jammers and surveillance equipment) but also gives rebels the opportunity to convert those pro-regime civilians to their cause.
    But for all this to work rebels need to adopt at a strategical level a ‘forward defence’ approach (ie take the fight to regime areas dividing and conquering [through ‘defeat in detail’] militarily and divide and rule politically in every province rather then waiting for the regime to take the fight the rebels) but this strategic approach won’t work effectively without adopting at the operational level a mobile warfare (see above) approach.

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