By Peter Clifford © (http://www.petercliffordonline.com/syria-news-2)
A new front opened over the weekend in Latakia province, when Opposition brigades in a joint operation attacked 10 Alawite villages and army positions not far from the provincial capital.
The assault, started at dawn on Sunday from the Opposition base in Salma, seems to have taken the Assad regime by surprise.
Opposition Fighters Take the High Ground in Northern Latakia
Multiple Opposition units, including Ahrar al-Sham and the Islamic State of Iraq and as-Sham (ISIS), claim to have quickly taken a number of high points in the Jabal al-Akrad mountains, including 5 Government observation posts and 4 villages, though one of the villages has since been lost.
Alawite villagers are reported to have fled to Latakia city in droves.
Activist sources have reported the capture of a number of weapons and ammunition stocks, as this video would appear to confirm, HERE:
More than 50 people are reported killed in the attacks, 20 from the regime side and 32 from the Opposition, according to latest reports, though some unconfirmed reports put the figures much higher.
The Opposition advance is reported to be continuing this morning, Monday, but the Assad regime has rushed Shabiha and National Defence Force fighters to the area
This video shows the Opposition fighters using a KonKurs anti-tank missile launcher to destroy a tank or armoured vehicle on an opposing hilltop, HERE:
There are also reports that the Opposition fighters have arrested the Alawite cleric, Badr Ghazal, from the captured village of Barouda after he issued a religious decree urging that rebel forces should be “stamped out completely.”
Opposition Fighters Stage Mountain Attack in Latakia
The big question is whether the Opposition brigades can hold the gains that they have so suddenly made.
Given that it is very mountainous territory, as can be seen in the picture above, this may be possible, though Government jets have already attacked Salma and some of the captured positions.
In a related move, there are also credible reports that Opposition fighters are very close to the Latakia ancestral home of the Assad familly in Qardaha, setting up barriers not far from the town centre.
The capture of this area and destruction of the mausoleum of President Assad’s father, Hafez, which is situated on the edge of the town, would be a major blow to the Alawite community and the Syrian Government.
Al Jazeera has a video report, HERE:
NEW REPORT THAT AS MANY AS 400 HIT BY GAS OR CHEMICAL ATTACK IN DAMASCUS SUBURBS:
In the countryside around Damascus, the Assad regime is this morning, Monday, being accused of a major gas or other chemical attack on the residents of the suburbs of Douma and Adra, with as many as 400 people being hospitalised.
Victims of Reported Gas Attack in Douma
Symptoms of victims include convulsions, shortness of breath, profuse sweating and foaming at the mouth.
This video shows victims arriving at a hospital in Douma last night, HERE:
Further information is awaited.
There are also unconfirmed reports in the last few days from The Syrian Human Rights League (SHRL) that as many as 5,000 inmates from Adra prison and other detention centres have been executed and buried in mass graves in the vicinity of the Army’s 3rd Division headquarters at Al Qutaifah in the Qalamoun district.
According to the reports, if correct, hundreds of detainees in regime detention centres were bused here on a regular basis and exterminated in what appears to be little more than a concentration camp. Families were apparently informed of the deaths of their relatives by government officials but not given the location of their remains.
If proven, this would one of the worst war crimes since World War II. Some estimates suggest there are as many as 200,000 people still detained by the Assad regime.
In the village of Qaldun, also near Qalamoun in the Damascus countryside, Opposition fighters have taken control of a huge regime weapons store, seizing hundreds of Grad and anti-tank/anti-aircraft missiles with their Konkurs, Kornet and Milan launchers, as can be seen in this video, HERE:
The Kornet 9M133 missiles are interesting, one of my sources advises me, because the basic model has a 5.5 km. range and the ability to track slow-moving targets like helicopters or taxiing jets. With estimates of only 100 fully functioning aircraft left and a similar number of trained pilots, this in not good news for the Assad regime.
Heavy fighting is reported around the southern Damascus suburb of Dariyah and repeated shelling and rocket attacks on Jobar, Barzeh and Yarmouk.
In a rare TV appearance on Sunday Assad dismissed the Opposition Syrian National Coalition as a “failure”, saying “I don’t think that any sane human being would think that terrorism can be dealt with via politics”.
He then went on to pledge, “No solution can be reached with terror except by striking it with an iron fist”. The 45 minute burble went on to say, “It is true that there is a battle being fought in the media and on [the Internet], but the crisis will only be solved on the battlefield”. Not much room for compromise there then.
In Tehran, Assad’s Prime Minister, Wael al-Halqi, obtained a pledge from the new Iranian President, Hassan Rouhani, that, “The deep, strategic and historic relations between the people of Syria and Iran … will not be shaken by any force in the world,” thereby confirming the continuation of Iran’s support of the Assad regime.
In another move, suggestive of a deepening economic crisis, Assad also released a degree over the weekend banning the use of foreign currency in Syria for the purchasing of goods or transactions. The degree “forbids the use of anything other than the Syrian pound as payment for any type of commercial transaction or cash settlement” and threatens transgressors with fines and up to 10 years in prison.
This is pure hypocrisy of course as the Syrian Government conducts most of its international transactions in Russian, Chinese or Iranian currency, as well as US dollars (the value of which is now well over $200 to the Syrian pound).
FSA CLOSE TO OVERRUNNING MENNEGH AIRBASE NEAR ALEPPO AFTER MONTHS OF SIEGE:
In Homs, ferocious attacks are being reported on the Opposition districts of Al-Waar and Al-Qarabees, both of which still house civilians and this video of continued indiscriminate regime shelling in the city was released this morning, HERE:
However, there are reports of new weapons arriving in Opposition hands in the north of the city, as this video released Saturday demonstrates, HERE:
A new video of the massive fireball from the explosion caused by a mortar and missile attack on an Assad missile store near Homs (scroll down – see below), breaking windows near the cameraman, can be seen. HERE:
Previous BMP Bomb Explosion Inside the Mennegh Airbase
Near Aleppo, fierce fighting is reported around the Mennegh air force base which has been under Opposition siege for months.
Using the same technique as they used before, the Opposition has just exploded an armoured BMP vehicle containing 6 tons of explosive near the entrance to the airbase, HERE:
This may well be the week the airbase falls as they have not had reinforcements and seem to be taking a pounding from the Opposition on Saturday, HERE: and under further assault this morning, Monday, HERE:
Violent clashes between the 2 sides are also reported around the Khasrafiya Shool in the Old City Aleppo district of Halab al-Qadeema.
In Idlib province, Opposition fighters have successfully attacked a Government checkpoint near Ma’arat Al-Numan over the weekend and also destroyed a Grad missile launcher that was terrorising local people.
Lastly, Human Rights Watch (HRW) has said this morning that it estimates from the reports it has investigated that 9 Assad missile strikes in the last 6 months between February and July have killed 215 people, at least 100 of them children.
HRW says that such missiles have ” wide-area effect” and when used in populated areas cannot distinguish between civilian and military targets. “Military commanders, as a matter of policy, should not order the use of ballistic missiles in areas populated by civilians”.
But the repeated use of such missiles, HRW went on to say, in areas populated by civilians “strongly suggests that the military willfully used methods of warfare incapable of distinguishing between civilians and combatants, a serious violation of international humanitarian law”.
FSA Fighter Prepares For Battle in Aleppo