Advancing on Aleppo

The regime is getting closer to surrounding Syria’s northern hub

To the victors, a spoiled city

AFTER more than two years of pitched battles between President Bashar Assad and his foes, rubble-strewn Aleppo is a shadow of its former self. Yet it is undoubtedly the biggest of the spoils still being contested in Syria’s war. At best, the rebels can hope to hang on to the few districts they still control. But if Mr Assad takes them, he will be one step closer to vanquishing the mainstream opposition that rose up against his rule in 2011.

His forces made a move towards that goal on February 17th when, backed by Shia militiamen including Hizbullah from Lebanon, they made surprise attacks on villages north of the city. There appeared to be two aims. First, to take the only road from rebel-held areas of Aleppo to Turkey, thus blocking supplies and encircling the opposition. Second, to break into Nubl and Zehraa, Shia settlements long encircled by rebels.

Gaining and keeping full control over Aleppo, the northern city with a pre-war population of at least 3m, will not be simple. By the evening of February 17th rebels claimed to have taken back two of the villages and to have killed many loyalist soldiers. But state TV said the government had taken six localities and some reports said it had cut off the road. The attack is likely to continue. Al Watan, a pro-government paper, reported on February 16th that the army aims to surround Aleppo completely this week.

If it succeeds, Mr Assad may try the starve-into-submission tactic he has used on neighbourhoods of Damascus such as Yarmouk. Another ruthless tactic is his continued use of barrel bombs. In one of the bloodiest recent episodes in the war, on February 9th and 10th, these crude devices killed at least 18 people in Douma, a rebel-held area of Damascus.

All this dooms a proposal—never a realistic one—made by Staffan de Mistura, the UN envoy to Syria, to halt the fighting in Aleppo. On February 17th he said Damascus had accepted a six-week ceasefire, but few are convinced it will keep its word. Shameless though Mr Assad’s recent deeds and words have been (he called reports of barrel bombs “a childish story”), he has the upper hand. Mr Assad has gained from the West’s focus on Islamic State, who are also among his adversaries, leaving him free to deal with Aleppo and the rest.

(Source / 20.02.2015)

Syrian Coalition Demands UN Resolution to Force Iran’s Militants Out of Syria

Vice-President Hisham Marwa hails the “heroic fight put up by the FSA against the regime’s terror and the Iranian invasion of Syria, especially in Dara’a, Eastern Ghouta and Aleppo.”

“The FSA fighters have repelled successive attacks led by the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps in Dara’a, northern Aleppo and Eastern Ghouta over the past few days and killed and captured hundreds of the invading forces. Motivated by unshakeable faith in the cause they fight for, they have demonstrated tremendous courage and steely determination though they are under-resourced and outgunned,” Marwa added.

“The Assad regime and its allies know only the language of deceit and treachery. Over the past four years they destroyed the infrastructure of most Syrian cities, displaced its people and killed over 300,000 civilians. Moreover, while the Assad regime declares its willingness to temporarily stop the bombardment of Aleppo, it is amassing its troops on the northern outskirts of Aleppo in an attempt to encircle it.”

Moreover, Marwa said that “Iran does not shy away from announcing that its Revolutionary Guard Corps is spearheading most of the attacks on rebel-held areas, which represent a blatant occupation and invasion of Syria, and a flagrant violation of international conventions and norms.”

Marwa calls upon the UN Security Council to issue a binding resolution forcing the Iranian regime to withdraw its military forces from all Syrian territory, stressing that prospects for a political solution in Syria will remain absent as long as Iran continues to occupy parts of Syria.”

(Source: Syrian Coalition / 20.02.2015)

Report: Swedish journalist missing in Syrian-Turkish border area

Syrian refugees at the Karkamis camp near the town of Gaziantep, Turkey, where the journalist was to cross to a part of Syria controlled by ISIS

A Swedish freelance journalist has gone missing in the Syrian-Turkish border area, the Swedish newspaper Expressen reported on Friday, without disclosing its sources.

The journalist was not identified but was described as in his 30s. He had planned to enter an area of Syria controlled by Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) militants via the Turkish town of Gaziantep but had not been heard of for four days, the paper reported.

A Swedish foreign ministry spokesman declined to comment.

(Source / 20.02.2015)

UN to publish Syria war crimes suspect names

UN war crimes investigators are to publish names of suspects involved in Syria’s war. The independent Commission of Inquiry plans to fight against the reinforcement of “impunity” of alleged war criminals.

Syrien Aleppo 11.11.2014

The Independent Commission of Inquiry, which is led by the Brazilian investigator Paulo Pinheiro, is to publish some or all of hundreds of names on secret lists of suspects at the UN Human Rights Council on March 17, diplomatic sources said on Friday.

“We are trying to convince, to mobilize the international community to consider all options on the table for accountability and not to ignore the horrific, the abominable situation of the victims of this war,” Paolo Pinheiro told reporters at UN headquarters in New York.

To stem ‘impunity’

The commission has drawn up four lists of individuals and groups it believes are guilty of war crimes and crimes against humanity.

The report warned that despite the commission’s “long-standing position” not to name suspects, maintaining that policy would “reinforce the impunity” of alleged war criminals.

Without naming Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s allies such as Russia and Iran, nor countries backing rebel armed groups such as the US , Qatar and Saudi Arabia, the investigators made clear that they blamed such countries for the continuing bloodshed.

Up to 40 names

They revealed that four of the lists of names of alleged war criminals had been passed to the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights and a fifth would be handed over in March. The five lists, compiled since the Commission began investigating in 2011, are understood to contain approximately 30 to 40 names each.

Syria has refused to cooperate with the investigators and its UN Ambassador Bashar Ja’afari called their inquiry biased.

More than 210,000 people have been killed in Syria and half of the population (about 10 million) has been forced to flee their homes since the conflict erupted in March 2011.

(Source / 20.02.2015)

Exclusive interview with the President of the Syrian Coalition: “Assad is a partner in terrorism and not a part of the solution”

Khoja

Exclusive Interview with the President of the Syrian Coalition Khaled Khoja on the Ideas put Forward by the UN Envoy to Syria Staffan de Mistura.

What do you think of the plan put forward by the UN envoy to Syria Staffan de Mistura?
President Khoja: We welcome any effort aimed at stopping the bloodshed in Syria, and this has been the position of the Syrian Coalition since it was established. De Mistura informed me about the ideas contained in his initiative during a telephone conversation two days ago. I told him that this requires a careful and detailed study, and that stopping aerial bombardment must include all Syrian cities, and that there must also be an end to killing on the ground.

How do you view Assad’s approval to stop the bombardment of Aleppo for six weeks?
President Khoja: The Assad regime’s long track record in violating truces and agreements held with rebels in many areas across Syria over the past four years has revealed the regime’s goal behind these local truces, which is to gain more time and escalate attacks on the rebel-held areas.
The Assad regime’s compliance with peace initiatives will be judged by actions, not words. Meanwhile, in conjunction with de Mistura’s announcement that Assad agreed to halt the bombing of Aleppo, regime forces continued to mercilessly pound Eastern Ghouta. The district of Douma alone was targeted with over 1,000 air raids, within ten days, while the Al Waer neighborhood is still being ravaged by non-stop shelling and a crippling siege. Moreover, Dara’a province is coming under a full-scale invasion, led by the Iranian Revolutionary Guard and Hezbollah militiamen.

In your opinion, do the ideas put forward by the UN envoy ensure a comprehensive solution to the Syrian crisis?
President Khoja: For a solution to be comprehensive, de Mistura’s proposal must ensure stopping other means of killing and fighting terrorism, including state terrorism practiced by the Assad regime.
The Assad regime is by no means a partner in the war on terror nor will it be. It is the real source of terrorism in Syria, and the threat of terrorism will not disappear from the region unless its sponsor, namely the Assad regime’s security apparatuses, is dealt with and dissolved.
The Assad regime has played a vital role in drawing in extremist organizations, including Hezbollah, which continue to perpetrate crimes against the Syrian people. The Assad regime has also paved the way for terrorist organizations to grow and fester, and provided them with air cover whenever they clashed with the Free Syrian Army. The regime has even avoided targeting headquarters and training camps used by the extremist groups, and instead committed all firepower to hit positions of the Free Syrian Army.

In the event of reaching a deal, will you abide by any possible ceasefire?
The FSA’s General Staff and all FSA factions will fully abide by the terms of the agreement that will be announced in the event of reaching a real solution that achieves the demands of Syrian people and restores security and stability to Syria. The FSA’s General Staff has repeatedly demonstrated its commitment to all international conventions and agreements.

(Source / 19.02.2015)

Syrian Coalition: Political Solution Must be Under Chapter VII

The Syrian Coalition calls on the UN Security Council to pass a resolution under Chapter VII of the UN Charter so becomes a real obligation for the Assad regime and imposes a fair solution which includes immediate steps to ensure the protection of civilians in Syria in accordance with international law.”

Spokesman for the Syrian Coalition Salem al-Meslet said that “we reaffirm our commitment to finding a political solution provided that it is comprehensive and one that meets the demands of the Syrian revolution and ensures stopping the Assad regime’s killing machine.

“The Assad regime continues to violate truces and agreements held with rebels in many areas across Syria, even those sponsored by international bodies, like what happened in Al Waer district in Homs when regime forces opened fire on convoys of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) as they were evacuating civilians,” Meslet said.

Meslet added that “in conjunction with the announcement of the UN envoy to Syria Staffan de Mistura that the Assad regime is willing to stop the bombardment of Aleppo for six weeks, regime forces backed by Iranian and Hezbollah militiamen launched a large-scale offensive in rural Aleppo in parallel with a similar campaign in rebel-held areas in Dara’a province.”

“The large-scale successive regime offensives and the war crime that accompany then prove beyond doubt that the Assad regime cannot be trusted as a partner in any political solution,” Meslet stressed.

(Source: Syrian Coalition / 18.02.2015)

ASSAD FORCES BOGGED DOWN IN NORTHERN DARAA WITH MANY KILLED BUT NORTH OF ALEPPO THEY ATTEMPT TO CUT LAST OPPOSITION SUPPLY ROUTE

By Peter Clifford                 ©               (www.petercliffordonline.com/syria-iraq-news-4/)

http://www.petercliffordonline.com/syria-news-3

SYRIA and IRAQ NEWS

First snow, then snow-melt, rain and mud and finally heavy cloud have bogged down Assad’s assault on Opposition held positions in the northern parts of Daraa and Quneitra provinces.

According to several sources, the Government force, primarily led by Hezbollah and Iranian Quds special forces troops have suffered heavy losses, losing at least 43 men (some reports say 110), including 12 officers, in the first few days of last week’s new campaign to reclaim lost ground in the south of Syria.

SYRIA and IRAQ NEWS

 

Photo ID of Iranian Officer Killed by Opposition in Daraa Province

There was also a report that 13 Syrian Army soldiers, including a lieutenant, had been executed for “treachery” by the Iranians at the 9th Division base near Sanamayn, after being accused of passing military co-ordinates to the Opposition.

The Opposition in turn claimed to have killed several Iranians, including an officer of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard identified as Lieutenant Colonel Abbas Abdullahi, displaying his picture and ID online.

Urban fighting continues in Daraa city, HERE:  andHERE:

Heavy cloud prevented Assad’s forces receiving air support for 5 days, but improvements in the weather on Sunday meant the bombing and barrel-bomb attacks on Opposition positions restarted throughout the province and also in adjacent Quneitra, where fierce fighting is reported at Mas Hara.

If you can stand the “over the top” music (EDITOR: I recommend turning the sound off!), this is a recently published visual record of the Opposition’s considerable success on the “Southern Front” over the last 12 months, here:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zfMyW5D8abk

The Syrian Army at the weekend also repositioned troops normally based in Hama province and sent a large armoured column to Aleppo. Reports this morning, Tuesday, say that these troops have succeeded in closing the ring around Opposition territory in eastern Aleppo and blocked their last supply road north to the Turkish border.

However, later reports on Tuesday morning, in a very fluid situation, say Opposition fighters have already retaken the villages of Rityan, Bashkuy and Hardatnin to the north of the city and hit a bus at Ramouseh carrying Assad’s troops with a mortar shell, killing and wounding many of those on board and capturing others.

Other reports say the Opposition have also started another assault on the Alawite enclaves in the Aleppo countryside of Nubul &and Zahra and there are renewed clashes to the south-east of Aleppo city at Azizia.

Aleppo Situation Map for 16.02.15 courtesy of @archicivilians, here:

SYRIA and IRAQ NEWS

 

Situation Map in Aleppo 16.02.15

HIDEOUS ISLAMIC STATE MURDERS 21 EGYPTIAN CHRISTIANS AND IMPOSES EVEN HARSHER RULES ON WOMEN:

The hideous Islamic State added yet further to its appalling reputation at the weekend by posting a video of the execution on a beach in Libya of 21 immigrant Egyptian workers of the Christian Coptic faith, as a “signed with blood” warning to the “nation of the cross”.

Tens of thousands of poor Egyptians, many of them Copts which make up 10% of Egypts population, seek work in Libya. Unconfirmed reports say that another 45 have since been taken hostage.

SYRIA and IRAQ NEWS

 

Peshmerga Fighters Paraded in Cages by IS

Egypt’s retribution was swift and fast with a series of F16 air attacks early on Monday morning on Islamic State storage warehouses and training facilities near the pro-Islamist town of Derna on Libya’s coast.

This was followed by a second raid later in the day yesterday.

The attacks were co-ordinated with Libya’s Air Force, whose own planes went on to attack other targets in Sirte and Ben Jawad.

The Libyan authorites later claimed that between 40 and 50 Islamic State fighters had been killed in the air raids.

Sources in Derna said that several civilians had also been killed, including women and children, and vowed vengeance.

Egypt already has an Islamic State problem in the Sinai peninsular and Libya is often a starting point for illegal migrants heading for Europe, raising the prospect of IS infiltration into the EU.

Back in Iraq, the Islamic State paraded 17 Kurdish Peshmerga prisoners through the streets in Hawija in cages similar to that used to burn to death the Jordanian pilot.

There were hopes that these Peshmerga fighters would be exchanged for Islamic State fighters held by the Kurds, but latest reports suggest IS is “not interested” in having their fighters back.

SYRIA and IRAQ NEWS

 

The Poster Urges Women to Wear the Hijab

Information from both Iraq and Syria suggests that IS is imposing even harsher rules on women than before, insisting that they can’t go anywhere without a recognised male guardian, known as a “Mahram”, and that they must wear double-layered veils, loose abayas and gloves.

Universities in IS held territory have been closed because the constant escorting of female students is impractical and the rules, including their imposition on small girls, are rigourously enforced by female religious police known as “Hisbah”.

One Mosul resident said, “I went once with my wife to one of the old souqs to do some shopping, and after a short while I lost her among the crowd. The problem was that all the women were wearing veils and it was hard to know who was my wife.

I was utterly scared to make a mistake and go for the wrong woman. It would be a disaster to fall into Hisbah hands. I could not even use my mobile as the network was down.”

Eventually he called out his wife’s name loudly in the souq until she heard him and they were reunited.

You can read more in the Guardian Syria news.

KOBANE UPDATE 55: KURDS NOW CONTROL 2,000 KILOMETRES OF ALEPPO PROVINCE AND PUSHING TOWARDS TEL ABAYD IN THE EAST:

TIMELINE – 16th FEBRUARY 2015 14.40 GMT:

The Kurdish YPG and YPJ, backed by units of the Free Syrian Army (FSA) and the Peshmerga and pushing out from Kobane, now control around 2,000 square kilometres of the northern Aleppo countryside.

Their reach now stretches 30 kilometres to the west of the city, between 34 and 50 kilometres to the south and south-west and around 40 kilometres to the east where the YPG are on the borders of Raqqah province.

SYRIA and IRAQ NEWS

 

Kobane Before and After Islamic State Destruction

By last Friday, YPG fighters had liberated the villages of Toraman and Qelha Kon Eftar south of Kobane and on Saturday they pushed back Islamic State (IS) Jihadists from Qelha Kon Eftar Hill, killing 7 of them, destroying an IS vehicle and capturing AK-47s and ammunition.

Another 9 x IS Jihadists were reported killed in battles to the south-west of Kobane, where the Kurds are pressing the Islamic State for control of the entrance to the Euphrates bridge at Qara Qawazk and are attacking IS positions near the village of Jaadah.

Information from yesterday, Sunday, says that the YPG attacked an IS checkpoint on the M4 highway to the south that connects Aleppo and Hasakah, killing 10 x IS fighters and capturing 1.

To the west of Kobane, higher up the Euphrates, the YPG now hold a number of strategic hills on the outskirts of Al-Shuyukh and have taken the village of Çariqli, Şehid Hogir hill and the ponds near Çariqli village. At least 11 x IS Jihadists were killed in this operation and RPG rockets as well as other ammunition captured.

East of Kobane there is heavy fighting around the villages of Solanê and Dêrfilît and the YPG appear to have some IS fighters cornered around the village of Bexdike, not far from the Turkish border, after capturing a strategic hill nearby. The YPG also seized an IS military vehicle, a heavy machine gun, shells, rocket-launchers and good supplies of ammunition. IS deaths are put at 23.

There are also unconfirmed reports that Coalition jets destroyed an IS convoy of 7 vehicles heading west of Tel Abayd towards Kobane on Sunday. The only report from US Central Command says they struck a “large tactical unit” sometime in the 24 hours prior to 8.00am Monday.

Estimates put IS deaths over the weekend at 35+, including an IS commander originating from Kosovo, with 4 killed on the YPG side. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) now puts the total deaths in the Kobane campaign at 1835 since September 16th 2014, 1271 x IS fighters plus another 49 who detonated themselves in suicide bombing attacks.

SOHR puts Kurdish YPG/YPJ deaths at 502 plus 39 Kurdish civilians and 21 from the FSA backing the YPG.

The Islamic State is clearly worried that its town of Tel Abayd (Gere Sepi in Kurdish), east of Kobane is now under threat and has imposed a curfew from 11.00pm to 6.00am, shooting at anyone who moves outside during those times.

Peshmerga forces have been shelling IS positions in Tel Abayd since last Wednesday and the Turks, anticipating a flood of IS refugees from a town once populated by 80,000 people, have sent in tanks and reinforcements to their side of the border there at Akcakale.

Control of Tel Abayd would enable the Kurds to link up Kobane Canton with Jazira (Kurdish, Cizere) Canton in the east and also give them an “official crossing” at Tel Abayd into Turkey.

The frontier gate at Kobane is not considered to be an “official” one by the Turks and at the moment they only allow small amounts of humanitarian aid through and no building materials to repair the city. The returning Kurds are also faced with deadly booby-traps and bombs in houses and even hidden in kitchen appliances.

3 people were killed on Saturday in the Miktala neighbourhood of south-east Kobane by one such device and, more explosive and de-mining experts are urgently needed.

This is the Kobane Canton Situation map as of yesterday, 15.02.15, courtesy of @ChuckPfarrer, here:

SYRIA and IRAQ NEWS

 

Kobane Canton Situation Map 15.02.15

Aid Not Reaching Millions in Syria

Children walk on the debris of a damaged building at al-Myassar neighborhood of Aleppo, Syria, Feb. 16, 2015.

Children walk on the debris of a damaged building at al-Myassar neighborhood of Aleppo, Syria, Feb. 16, 2015

Delegates attending a U.N.-sponsored meeting on the crisis in Syria are appealing to all warring factions to allow humanitarian agencies to deliver desperately needed aid to millions of people who currently are out of reach.

Representatives from governments and major aid agencies are meeting this week to discuss the nuts and bolts of humanitarian operations in Syria, neighboring countries of refuge and Iraq.

The meeting, called by the Organization for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs or OCHA, is putting a particular focus on the increasingly dire situation faced by Syrian civilians both inside and outside the country.

Climbing death toll

Next month Syria will enter its fifth year of war. The casualty toll is staggering with an estimated 200,000 people killed, 7.6 million internally displaced and more than 3.2 million refugees in Lebanon, Jordan, Turkey, Iraq, and Egypt.

Syria is considered the world’s worst humanitarian crisis with more than half of Syria’s population of 12.2 million in need of assistance.

Kelly Clements, deputy assistant secretary for the U.S. State Department’s Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration, said providing aid in this conflict-ridden country is extremely difficult and dangerous. She noted that the most pressing problem is getting access to hundreds of thousands of needy people in areas that essentially are off limits.

“Nearly a quarter of a million Syrians today are living in areas besieged by violence and a large portion of them require food supplies and urgent medical care,” she said. “The U.N. currently has no access to 600,000 people residing in ISIL-controlled Raqqa and Deir ez-Zor and most large NGOs [non-governmental organizations] have also ceased operations. 2.8 million of the 12.2 million that I mentioned earlier are in ISIL-controlled areas.”

In addition, Clements said the U.N. Relief and Works Agency has been unable to deliver aid for more than two months to some 18,000 Palestinians trapped in the Yarmouk refugee camp in Damascus.

Seeking assistance

The United States is the single largest donor of humanitarian assistance in the Syrian crisis. It has provided more than $3 billion since the start of the conflict and has just announced an additional $125 million in humanitarian aid to the U.N. World Food Program, which feeds nearly 6 million Syrians inside the country and in neighboring countries of refuge every month.

Clements told VOA the number of victims created in so many different ways by the Syrian conflict is eye-popping. She expressed some reservations, though, about the almost obsessive emphasis placed upon numbers.

“It is probably better to talk about people and the people that are behind the numbers because we get a little numb by the numbers in terms of just the enormity of the humanitarian catastrophe on the ground right now,” said Clements.

“And I do not want to dizzy with numbers when it is really lives we are talking about and the situation is getting worse by the day. And even though we are getting a lot of resources in there, we are not even close to meeting humanitarian need. And so the gap is growing very, very quickly and the desperation by many even faster,” said Clements.

Kuwait will be hosting the third donor-pledging conference for Syria next month. At that time, Clements said the United States will announce a substantial increase in the amount of money it plans to give for humanitarian assistance to Syrian war victims. She said Washington is calling on other governments to do the same.

(Source / 17.02.2015)

De Mistura and President Khoja Discuss the “Freeze” Plan

President Khoja and the international envoy to Syria, Staffan de Mistura discussed the latter’s “freeze” plan during a telephone conversation on Monday.

The Syrian Coalition stresses its commitment to political solution in accordance with the UN Security Council resolutions, the Geneva declaration and the six points proposed by the former international envoy Kofi Annan in a draft document recently approved by the General Assembly.

The document sets out a roadmap for a political solution in Syria, emphasizing the need to resume negotiations under the auspices of the United Nations based on the results of the Geneva II Conference and based on the relevant Security Council resolutions. It also stresses that the negotiating process must result in the implementation of the Geneva declaration and the formation of “transitional governing body with full power executive powers. Moreover, the draft document stresses that any political process must engender true and comprehensive change to the current political system and the establishment of a civil, democratic, pluralistic system.

(Source: Syrian Coalition / 17.02.2015)

Battle of the South: Syria is Now the Country of all Resistance Parties

Syrian government forces’ military vehicles are seen in Deir al-Adas in the Daraa province on February 11, 2015 after President Bashar al-Assad’s army, backed by Hezbollah and Iranian officers, pushed rebels out of the area

In the first step in the battle for the liberation of southern Syria from the militants collaborating with Israel and the Jordanian regime, an armored force of the Syrian army accompanied by an infantry unit, alongside senior Hezbollah and Iranian Revolutionary Guards officers, have advanced. On the other side, Syrian and Arab militants are positioned. They report to a war room based in Jordan supervised by US, French, and Saudi details as Israeli occupation forces are providing the necessary intelligence.

Damascus — A while ago, the full order of the battle on Syrian territories became clear. The battle for the national identity there is no longer confined to the Syrian national identity limited to Syria’s borders, but is also a battle for the national identities of Palestine, Lebanon, and even Jordan. In the latter, there is a fierce confrontation between an isolationist faction championing narrow-minded nationalism linked to Israel and the West politically, militarily, and financially, and a pro-resistance faction, which proves day after day that real independence requires defeating the occupation and its Western sponsors and Arab and local clients.

The battle in the Syrian south will clarify the picture for those who still do not want to understand. It will help explain what is even more important, namely the organic linkage between the parties of the resistance axis against the full integration among the elements and parties of the opposing axis.

This makes Syrians, be they citizens, officials, or leaders, act comfortably and speak very transparently about the full involvement of all the parties of the resistance axis in the battle. Syria is today not just the country of all Arabs but the country of all resistance parties. In Syria today, there is clarity, frankness, and firmness in relation to its belonging to the resistance axis, where the criterion is not related to who carries the identity of which country, but to who bears the resistance cause in his mind and heart.

The Damascus defensive line

On the southern front, it has become clear for the resistance axis that the efforts made by the other side throughout a year and a few months, were aimed at achieving qualitative breakthroughs in Deraa and Quneitra. This would then allow the armed groups to operate across the southern Damascus Countryside, and carry out formidable attacks while inching closer to Damascus, a few dozen kilometers away from the region in question.

The militants succeeded, for various political and military reasons, in achieving major advances that continued until the end of last year. The militant groups were now close to fully connecting the countrysides of Daraa and Quneitra with the area just south of the capital.

The militants were able to seize a series of interlinked hills that form a formidable line of attack against Damascus. As a result, the resistance axis was compelled to prepare an action plan, in a matter of weeks, during which the appropriate intelligence was gathered to learn the reality of the field and make military and logistical preparations.

After that, the resistance axis developed its battle plan, led by senior officers in the Syrian army, the resistance in Lebanon, and the Quds Force of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards. Shelling preceded a rapid advance in order to retake control of the main positions that would cut off what the other side sought to link together.

This was achieved in the first round of the offensive last week. Now, the resistance axis can say that a line of defense for Damascus has been secured, bearing in mind that the offensive is set to continue over the coming few days. This will allow — according to available information — more progress to further fortify the defensive line and establish command and control positions along its length before advancing towards more strategic positions — including some that directly overlook Israeli-occupied areas and areas where Jordanian, US, French, British, and Saudi intelligence services are known to be active.

According to the results so far, the larger implications are not limited to the Syrian south alone, but also impact the morale and abilities of the armed groups in the southern Damascus Countryside and regions of Ghouta. There are indications the offensive in the south would increase the odds for success in liberating these regions from the militants, bearing in mind that the latter are trying to regroup in preparation for the new wave of operations expected to be launched by the army and its allies.

The confusion of the Jordanian king

On the other hand, the war room in Jordan is in an unusual state of alert. The same can be said about the enemy forces in the Golan.

In Amman, the regime is reiterating the claim that is is not involved in what is happening. It has been sending out messages washing its hands clean of what is happening in southern Syria

According to high-level officials in Damascus, the Syrian leadership has been acting with wisdom, taking into account the fact that the government in Jordan has come under immense pressure from the West and some Arab states, but they say the leadership can no longer remain silent and accept the naive responses from the king’s government especially in relation to what is happening on the ground. Damascus reportedly sent multiple times detailed and documented information about what is taking place on Jordanian territory, including training and arming of militants, but Jordan denied this assertion. Even when training camps were named, the royal court replied by claiming the camps were for the Jordanian army.

Of course, it is no longer possible for Syria or the parties of the resistance axis to remain silent vis-a-vis the Jordanian government’s actions, especially since what happened over the past few weeks in parallel with the military offensive, established that Jordan is involved beyond being a mere “corridor,” and that it rather is a full partner in the attack on Syria. “Foolish ambitions” emerged on the Jordanian side, represented in the dream to control Houran through full sponsorship of the armed groups there and direct intervention in that area.

Although the voices opposed to the policies of the king do not reach the level of an internal confrontation in Jordan, the course of events could turn over time into direct pressure on the government and people, because the decision of the resistance axis is not tactical. It is not based on the assumption that others are neutral, but on the contrary, the resistance axis, which does not seek a confrontation for the time being with any party outside the area of confrontations, is acting on the basis that the militant groups will receive additional sponsorship in this phase and the next one.

This sponsorship comes jointly from the war room in Jordan, the king’s regime, and the Israeli enemy. Subsequently, the resistance axis will not back down from its plan in that region, and will take into account how best to deal with the parties trying to put pressure on Damascus though the armed groups.

Israel concerned: What should be done?

On the part of the enemy, there is an additional level of concern, which is related to the strategic security of its entity. The occupation forces are sensing that a new strategic situation is emerging a few kilometers from the areas where they are deployed.

In effect, this did not start with the most recent military offensive, but started a while ago. The Israeli attack in Quneitra against Hezbollah operatives and an Iranian general put it to the test.

The resistance response in the Shebaa farms, and then the declaration by Hezbollah Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah that all existing rules of engagement are null and void, were followed by the present offensive in the south. All this is meant to tell the enemy that the resistance axis will not sit idly by vis-a-vis the attempt to create new facts on the ground in that area, and that the resistance will not accept any fait accompli even by the militant groups.

The resistance axis, which moved its forces into that region, is acting on the basis that there is a strong possibility the enemy would be involved in a new foolish act, imposing a particular sets of challenges on all sides. These challengers could reignite the front between Israel and opposing forces in the north.

What is new and what Israel knows and fears, is that the north is no longer a set of separate geographical and military zones, but a single contiguous front with close military, political, and security coordination.

In this context, the action taken by the resistance axis forces in the area could be seen as an operational indication the resistance understands the context of the existing battle which is expected to become more heated with the enemy there. This context does not resemble at all what existed along the border with Lebanon between 2000 and 2006, or the one that existed between 2006 and December 28, 2014.

Rather, it is a context where there is full operational readiness to confront any Israeli movement, be it direct or by proxy through its agents in the armed groups. The confrontation in question will not be bound by traditional constraints that Israel was familiar with throughout the past four decades along its northern borders.

The new major challenge for the occupation forces is how to deal with developments on the field in that area, and how this relates to the rules of engagement that emerged post-1973.

Previously, and throughout the past two years, Israel defended fiercely the buffer zone. With the withdrawal of the UNDOF peacekeeping force, Israel proceeded to impose its equations of deterrence vis-a-vis the movements of the Syrian army. Each time the airplanes of the Syrian army approached a 4-km zone, or artillery pieces were moved outside the parameters set forth by the armistice agreement, the enemy took direct military action. Israel downed a Syrian military plane and two reconnaissance planes operated by the Syrian army and the resistance over that area. Israeli forces also shelled Syrian artillery emplacements in the area.

The question now is: How will Israel act in the event the field confrontation requires the Syrian army and its allies to advance with heavy equipment and infantry to the area near the border with the occupied Golan, where the militants operate? Will the enemy attack these forces? Will the enemy consider the possibility of an immediate response from the resistance forces? Is the enemy ready for a confrontation that may seem contained at first, but that no one can predict how it would evolve?

(Source / 16.02.2015)