SKIRMISHES BETWEEN THE FSA AND ISLAMIC GROUPS CONTINUE AS THEY FIGHT FOR CONTROL OF STRATEGIC AREAS

By Peter Clifford   ©    (http://www.petercliffordonline.com/syria-news-2)

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The struggle between moderate Opposition fighters and Islamist groups took another twist in the early hours of Saturday when an “armed group” attacked the Free Syrian Army (FSA) weapons store at their headquarters at Ras al-Hosn in Idlib province near the Turkish border.

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The Price of War, Zatari – Jordan’s Fourth Largest City

Some sources blamed the hardline “Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant” group for the dawn attack, but this has not been confirmed.

Other reports say that bullets and shells were fired at the compound containing the arms warehouses and the skirmish left 10 FSA fighters injured.

The Islamic group, an offshoot of the Al-Nusra Front, which is sometimes known as “The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria” and under the acronym ISIS, is made up of mainly foreign fighters.

Last Thursday, an ISIS commander was accused of shooting dead a member of the FSA’s Supreme Military Council after a dispute at a checkpoint in Latakia (scroll down – see report below), while other members of the FSA were injured as they fled the scene. Al Jazeera has interviewed one of the injured FSA , HERE:

After a meeting of the its Supreme Military Council, the FSA gave out a 24 hour ultimatum calling for the arrest of the ISIS commander accused of the killing, Ebu Ayman Al-Baghdadi, or “further action would be taken”.

One Opposition activist, commenting on the activities of ISIS, said,  “They didn’t come to Syria to help the revolution. They stay in the liberated areas and try to take power”.

Mohammed Faizou, a fighter with the Ansar al-Din Battalion in coastal Latakia province, said that while the Jihadist group Jabhat al-Nusra “fights the regime and does not interfere with others,” the largely foreign Islamic State fighters “interfere with everything” and are preoccupied with imposing Islamic law.

IN ALEPPO THE FSA ALLOWS RAMADAN SUPPLIES INTO ASSAD HELD WESTERN SUBURBS AND THE CENTRAL PRISON:

In Aleppo, local people massed on Friday at the Opposition controlled Bustan Al-Qasser crossing which is the only gateway between Western Government controlled areas of the city and the Eastern Opposition held sector, to protest at restrictions on moving food, especially during Ramadan.

Clashes were reported at the crossing on Saturday between the FSA and Islamists who had imposed a ban on moving certain foodstuffs, but the FSA’s Tawheed Brigade took charge and the flow of supplies has since increased dramatically.  Al Jazeera has a video report, HERE:

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Syrian Child Photographed in Refugee Camp

An agreement has also been brokered by Opposition fighters controlling the main Damascus – Aleppo highway at Khan Al -Assal on the western approaches to Aleppo to allow dozens of supply trucks to take essential goods to Government controlled areas in the west of the city.

Agreement was also reached with the Opposition to allow the Red Cross to take 5,000 food ration parcels into Aleppo Central Prison which has been under siege for 3 months.

4,000 are believed to be still imprisoned there and at least 120 prisoners have been reported as dying due to lack of medicine and accidents from shelling as the  Opposition try to take the penitentiary and free its inmates.

The FSA/Islamist situation may become complicated further by reports that the “Pakistan Taliban” has set up a base in Syria and are sending fighters to oppose Assad. The Tehreek-e-Taliban operate mainly from Pakistan’s volatile ethnic Pashtun areas along the Afghan border and claim to have sent “hundreds” of fighters already. You can read more, HERE:

Elsewhere in Aleppo, Government forces shelled the Opposition/Kurdish held area of Sheikh Maqsoud, while Opposition fighters kept up their siege on the Alawite villages of Nubl and Zahra, shelling Syrian Army positions who in turn shelled the nearby Opposition held town of Bayanoun.

Over the weekend in Aleppo province, Opposition fighters, though lacking somewhat in fire power, attacked a large Government convoy near Al – Safirah, HERE:  and destroyed a tank, HERE:

IN BELEAGUERED HOMS UNCONFIRMED REPORT SAYS CLERICS ARE ALLOWING THE EATING OF CAT MEAT TO PREVENT STARVATION:

In Homs things have apparently got so bad that religious scholars have, according to unconfirmed reports, issued an edict permitting the eating of cat meat in a desperate attempt to ensure that people in the  besieged areas will not starve to death, the regime having cut off supplies of food, medicine and other essential supplies for the last 13 months.

Over that period the Syrian Army has systematically also destroyed grain silos, fields of crops, olive groves and orchards both around the city and across the province in order to try and eliminate food sources available to supporters of the Opposition.

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The Hell of Homs – Reuters

Today, Monday, the Assad regime is reported to be targeting the Al-Farouk Mosque and the Red Crescent center in the Ghouta neighbourhood.

Fighters at the Khalid Bin Walid mosque, where the remains of the Prophet’s companion, Kahlid Walid are entombed, have vowed to defend the shrine with their lives, appearing in video (Arabic only) wearing suicide explosive vests, HERE:

This important Sunni shrine is a special target of the Shia Hezbollah troops fighting alongside Assad’s forces, who would see the complete destruction of the mosque as a significant blow against the Sunni community.

Shelling on the Bab Sbaa district of Homs was particularly bad on Sauturday, as can be seen, HERE:  and an eye-witness has described Army attempts to storm Bab Houd and Wadi Al-Sayeh, with skirmishes on the outskirts of Jouret Shiyah and Khaldiya, HERE:

The Syrian Army claims to have taken control of “60%” of Khalidiya and some neighbourhoods in the Old City, Jouret Shiyah, and Al-Qarabeid. However, despite no running water or electricity the Opposition fighters and an estimated 800 families remaining still hold out.

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Krac Des Chevaliers Crusader Castle Under Attack

The regime is also reported to have attacked the ancient crusader castle of Krac des Chevaliers in the Homs countryside.

Along with the nearby Qalat Salah el-Din fortress, it is considered one of the best preserved castles of its period in the world, and both are World Heritage sites.

On Friday a MIG jet bombed one of the internal towers causing serious damage.  The 12th century fortress once sheltered the famous English King Richard the Lionheart in his battles with the Islamic leader Saladin over the city of Jerusalem, and is the site is still important because of its high elevation and strategic position.  The Telegraph has a video of the jet strike, HERE:

ASSAD REGIME UNDERTAKING FEROCIOUS ATTACK ON DAMASCUS SUBURBS IN ATTEMPT TO DRIVE FSA AWAY FROM THE CAPITAL:

The Assad regime is also undertaking a ferocious attack on the Sunni suburbs of Damascus, spearpointing their attack on Jobar, Arbeen, Qaboun, Barzeh and Eastern Ghouta as well as Yarmouk and Douma.  Hundreds of families are believed trapped in some areas, unable to escape the bombardment.

On Sunday, at least 13 people were killed in shell attacks on the Qaboun district,  including 7 Opposition fighters and 4 women. Attempts by families to leave Qaboun were hampered by Government snipers positioned on the outskirts.

Between 100 and 200 people were arrested over the weekend as they attempted to leave a mosque after evening prayers and held in an underground prison nearby.  The BBC has a video report, HERE:

The Opposition Syrian National Council (SNC) appealed overnight for their release, however, latest reports suggest most of them have since escaped when Government troops left the site to rejoin the fighting.  The destruction of Qaboun can be seen, HERE:  although Opposition fighters are continuing the hunt in the district for Assad troops and Hezbollah, HERE:

For a really crazy situation watch this video from Russian TV of regime tanks and BMP armoured vehicles indiscriminately firing from the main road into Barzeh neighbourhood while ordinary traffic continues to come down the road between the military vehicles, HERE:

At Deir Atiyeh, north of Damascus, a car bomb explosion last night at a police station is reported to have killed 13 people, including a child and at least 10 policemen.

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Child Killed by Assad Surface to Surface Missile, Idlib

And in Idlib province, where the Government holds the regional capital but the Opposition hold most of the countryside, the Syrian Army opened up another offensive by shelling a string of villages within its range.

A total of 29 people were recorded killed on Sunday, 13 of them in the village of Maghara, six in the village of Al-Bara, four in Basamis, three in Kfar Nabl in an air strike and three in Iblin.

It was clear that the co-ordinated offensive had been timed for Iftar, the evening meal at which all Moslems eat together to break the daily fast throughout Ramadan.

Rumours still abound about the destruction of warehouses near Latakia on July 7th, which supposedly contained Assad’s stockpile of newly delivered Russian anti-ship missiles.  The FSA (scroll down – see below) said it was beyond their firepower and Israel, following normal policy, is keeping mum.

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Israeli Dolphin Class Submarine

Confusion rests around where the incoming attacking missile or shells came from.

A report in the Russian media yesterday suggested that Israel had attacked the Latakia facility with jets that had used nearby Turkish air bases to avoid detection, but Turkey has quickly dismissed that scenario.

A more likely one, some intelligence sources suggest, is that the attack came from the sea using the Dolphin class submarines which Israel purchased from Germany in 2012.

The vessels would have appeared off the coast, fired and gone again before the Syrian Army even knew what was happening.  You can read more, HERE:

Lastly, a moving account of the last hours of Jordanian Army Officer who was in charge of helping Syrian refugees crossing the border. Regretably, this humane and considerate officer was killed in a car accident when a tyre blew out on the vehicle in which he was travelling back from the border. You can read more, HERE:

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Drawing by Child Syrian Refugee in Turkey

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