LATEST: State Media allege regime forces find insurgent chemical weapons factory in Damascus

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Following Thursday’s killing of a Free Syrian commander, Kamal Hamimi, by the Islamic State of Iraq and Levant faction, the growing narrative in the media has been of serious “in-fighting” within the insurgency.

Saturday’s coverage was led by lurid descriptions of “Western-backed opposition fighters and a faction of al-Qaeda-linked rebels turn[ing] their guns on each other” in Aleppo.

The problem is that there is no way of knowing if the story is true.

The claims, circulated most prominently by the Associated Press, are based solely on the “Syrian Observatory for Human Rights”, the widely-quoted British-based outlet. So far, there has been no information from the ground to back up the Observatory’s declaration that the Islamic State of Iraq and the Free Syrian Army fought over a checkpoint in Aleppo’s Bustan al-Qasr district.

Indeed, AP’s story betrays a serious mis-understanding of the situation: “Earlier this week, al-Qaeda-linked militants seized the checkpoint and closed it for several days, cutting the flow of food supplies to the government-held quarters of the city.”

In fact, the siege on Aleppo, cutting off supplies and food, was imposed by the command of the insurgency — including the Free Syrian Army — hoping to squeeze regime forces before an offensive inside the city. There are conflicting reports over whether the siege was lifted, including the re-opening of the crossing in Bustan al-Qasr, after mass protests by residents.

However, Saturday’s rumors — even if false — do point to on-going tensions within the insurgency in Aleppo and beyond. The Islamic State of Iraq and Levant has made a big push this spring to take a leading place in the insurgency, has tried to establish offices in Aleppo. While it is unclear how much success the ISIL has had in building a base in neighborhoods, the movement has occupied ground in northwestern Syria, claiming the town of al-Dana near the Turkish border and displaying support among residents in nearby areas like Azaz.

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Video:Claimed Footage Of Burning In Al Bara, Idlib After Regime Drops TNT-Filled Barrels

Claimed footage posted on Sunday from Al Bara in Idlib Province, where activists claim that regime helicopter gunships dropped TNT-filled barrels on the village:

Photo: Destruction In Jobar, Damascus

Photograph posted on Sunday of destruction in Jobar, Damascus. Syrian State media reported on Sunday that regime forces had made gains in the strategic Damascus neighborhood.

Video: Children In Homs Talk About Their Situation (Subtitles In French)

Claimed footage of children in Homs, posted by activists on Saturday. The children talk about their situation and life in Homs under heavy regime bombardment. In Arabic with subtitles in French.

State Media Allege Regime Forces Find Insurgent Chemical Weapons Factory In Jobar

Syrian State news agency SANA reported on Sunday that regime forces had found an insurgent chemical weapons factory in Jobar, Damascus.

The allegations come a week after Moscow claimed to have “compelling evidence” that insurgents had used home-made chemical weapons in an attack in Khan al-Assal, Aleppo Province.

The SANA report includes photographs — which appear to be staged —of the alleged “factory” showing Saudi-made chemicals from the Sachlo plant producing chlorine and alkalis — a subtle allegation by the regime that Saudi Arabia is aiding the insurgents in the production of chemical agents. The photographs show containers, one marked “toxic substances” in Arabic, a fire extinguisher and what appears to be a canister of gas for heating substances, alongside a bench with several shells.

SANA writes:

An official source told SANA that an army unit seized amounts of toxic chemical materials, in addition to seizing chlorine substances in containers, some of them foreign-made, while others Saudi-made.

The source added that the seized weapons included weapons and scores of mortar shells which were prepared to be filled with chemical materials.

Paris: Two Kidnapped French Journalists Are Alive

French Minister of Defense Jean-Yves Le Drian has said journalists Didier Francois and Edouard Elias, kidnapped shortly after arriving in Syria in June, are alive and Paris is working for their release.

Francois, 53, a veteran reporter with Europe 1 radio, and photographer Elias were taken hostage after being stopped at a checkpoint on the road to Aleppo.

It is unclear who is holding them.

“Every effort is being made to ensure that the conditions for their release can be met very quickly,” Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian told journalists.

Pictures: Insurgents in Aleppo

Marking the first anniversary of the entry of insurgents into Aleppo, Damascus Bureau posts a series of photos of insurgents in the Salaheddine district:



Activists In Qaboun Call On Insurgents To Help, As Coalition Warns Civilians “Trapped In Mosque”

Activists from the northern Damascus neighborhood of Qaboun issued an urgent call on Saturday, urging insurgent battalions in the Damascus countryside to come to the aid of civilians and insurgents in the neighborhood and in the adjacent district of Barzeh.

Via the Free Qabon Facebook page, the activists said that the neighborhood was being subjected to a fierce campaign by Assad’s forces.

The activists said that 700 families in Qaboun feared a mass killing by Assad’s forces should they overrun the neighborhood.

Meanwhile the Syrian National Coalition on Saturday morning said that Assad’s forces had detained 200 civilians in a mosque in Qaboun, and warned of the possibility of a mass killing.

The Coalition said in a statement that:

[T]housands of civilians in the area are also under threat of being massacred by Assad’s forces, as armored vehicles and Assad’s elite forces have recently arrived in the area.

It is essential to remember Assad’s brutal offensive against Qaboun, while Barza and Qaboun have been under siege for almost seven months. Recently, Assad’s forces have been heavily shelling both areas with artillery stationed at Mount Qasioun, and are now preparing to mount a land offensive.

Syrian State news agency SANA reported Saturday that the regime had uncovered “tunnels” in Qaboun:

The entrance of one of the tunnels was found in a building in the industrial area in al-Qaboun, going for 300-400 meters at a depth of 4-6 kilometers. This Tunnel is 1.5 meters wide, equipped with electricity, and contained explosive devices. It was used by terrorists to transport weapons and equipment to the area.

This footage, posted by activists on Saturday, shows part of Qabon following intensive regime bombardment.

Video: Destruction of Qaboun Section of Damascus

Footage of the destruction from sustained regime shelling of Qaboun, a strategically-important area of Damascus:

Activists and the opposition Syrian National Coalition have expressed fears that the Syrian military will overrun the area, with residents taking shelter in a local mosque.


The Local Coordination Committees claim 44 people were killed on Saturday, including 24 in Damascus and its suburbs.

The Violations Documentation Center reports that 66,088 people have been slain since the start of the conflict in March 2011, an increase of 79 since Saturday. Of these, 50,408 were civilians, a rise of 41 from yesterday.