By Peter Clifford © (http://www.petercliffordonline.com/syria-news-2/)
Many Opposition supporters in Syria are becoming increasingly disaffected with and alarmed at the behaviour of the extreme Islamist group The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS).
ISIS consists mainly of foreign fighters whose philosophy and aim is to declare an Islamic state consisting of Syria, Iraq and Palestine (known as Sham or greater Syria) strictly controlled by orthodox Sharia law.
To give you an idea of what this would be like, ISIS have already detained men and held them incarcerated for a few days because “they were not praying properly”.
Raqqah Was the First Entire City to Fall to the Opposition
Effectively, if Jihadists like ISIS take over Syria, the population will be swopping one dictatorship of the extreme right for one on the religious right which would be equally, if not more, brutal.
Activists already believe that ISIS are holding hundreds of Opposition supporters in their detention centres.
In Raqqah, the only city in Syria completely controlled by the anti-Assad Opposition, things came to head between this week after a series of violent clashes between ISIS and the local FSA battalion, the Ahfad Al-Rasul Brigade, a number of fighters killed on both sides.
On Wednesday night, local citizens of Raqqah demonstrated infront of the ISIS headquarters in the central square calling for an end to the fighting between the 2 armed groups, who are ostensibly both supposed to be fighting the Assad regime, though Ahfad al-Rasul has accused ISIS of working with the Syrian Government.
During the demonstration shots were fired from the ISIS HQ at the unarmed demonstrators and some were injured, HERE:
Wednesday night’s demonstration followed others over the last few weeks by local people demanding that ISIS release numerous detainees, including members of Raqqah’s civil society who were attempting to put a new civilian administration in place to run the city for the benefit of all. ISIS clearly has other ideas.
Late on Tuesday, Jihadists from ISIS detonated a car bomb infront of an Ahfad Al-Rasul command post in the city, killing 5 of their fighters, and have since gone on to drive Ahfad Al-Rasul from all the positions they held in the northern suburbs of the city, killing many of the FSA fighters.
“They wanted to take our munitions and weapons,” an official from Ahfad Al-Rasul has said and to “take over the whole city”. Surviving members of Ahfad Al-Rasul units have now retreated to the Raqqah countryside.
It is almost certain, according to activist reports, that they have executed Father Paolo Dall’Oglio, a well respected pro-revolution Catholic priest who had met with ISIS in Raqqah in early August to negotiate the release of detained activists.
There are also reports that ISIS is responsible for the disappearance of the anti-Assad activist, Abu Mayam, well known for his chants at weekly protests in the city of Aleppo. Activists have staged protests infront of the gates of the ISIS headquarters in the eastern part of Aleppo city, calling for his release.
Jihadists Trying to Take Control in Syira
The Jihadists groups like ISIS and their sister group Jabhat Al-Nusra, initially welcomed in Syria, have been particularly successful in the current conflict for 4 main reasons.
Firstly, because of their deeply held religious beliefs they are disciplined and obey orders and secondly, they are brave and fearless believing that death is martyrdom which will be instantly rewarded in heaven.
Thirdly, they have received large amounts of money from religious donors outside Syria, enabling them to buy substantial quantities of weapons. And fourthly, they are very good at ingratiating themselves with the poorer, and perhaps more pious, members of Syrian society by freely distributing money, food and essential supplies such as full butane gas tanks for cooking and heating.
For some of these reasons, the Jihadists have also been more successful in taking control of Opposition areas in northern Syria than in the south, where educational levels are sometimes higher and the FSA have better access to arms supplies directly from Jordan. There is an excellent article by Michael Weiss on this, recommended reading, HERE:
OPPOSITION FIGHTERS TAKING ADVANTAGE OF ASSAD’S DISTRACTION IN LATAKIA BY STEPPING UP RAIDS IN IDLIB, HAMA AND DEIR EL-ZOUR:
In Hama province on Tuesday, as many as 18 Opposition fighters were killed near the town of Morek after Government forces shelled their positions and hit ammunition stockpiles. Opposition fighters have been more active in Hama province in recent weeks, combining together to attack Government installations.
Hama province is also adjacent to Homs, and Morek sits astride the main highway between Homs and Aleppo. By controlling Morek, the Opposition has been able to prevent Assad reinforcing his units in Aleppo.
Revolutionary Art in Northern Syria – RYK
Further north in Idlib province, Opposition fighters intensified their attacks on a former brick factory yesterday, Wednesday, which has been used as a major Assad base for months. This was followed, shortly after midnight in the early hours of this morning, Thursday, by the exploding of a bulldozer filled with TNT at the gates of the factory.
The explosion produced a huge fire-ball that was seen and heard across the towns and villages of central Idlib. If the Opposition can take this site, one of the few remaining that Assad holds in the province, then the way will be clear to attack Idlib city.
Also in Idlib province, Opposition fighters are reported to have raided the Syrian Army base at Al-Hamidiya near Ma’arat Al-Numan, storming the site and capturing heavy weapons and ammunition before retreating. A number of Syrian Army rocket launchers near Ma’arat Al-Numan are also reported destroyed by Opposition action.
Another excellent article of recommended reading, from Robin Yassin-Kassab in the Guardian, on a journey to Kafranbel, the Opposition held town famous for its pithy cartoons and comment, HERE:
In Aleppo city Opposition fighters have destroyed a Government tank near the Hanano barracks, while in the suburbs there are continuing reports of clashes between the FSA and Kurdish militia units resulting in the death of an Opposition commander and several fighters.
Activists are also reporting today, Thursday, that Jihadists have executed 2 young Shia men from the Opposition besieged Shiite-majority towns of Nubul and Zahra north of Aleppo city.
In Deraa province to the far south, progress by Opposition forces is still being made and currently, under heavy regime bombardment, they are still attempting to advance from Naima into the eastern entrances of Deraa city.
In Latakia, the Opposition forces are still holding their own, with the Syrian Army making little progress at dislodging them from the villages they occupy. Numerous airstrikes have been made against the Sunni village of Salma and heavy fighting, with many dead on both sides, has been reported around the villages of Ubin and Aramo.
While the Assad regime are having difficulties deploying tanks in mountainous terrain, the Opposition seem well equipped, launching Grad missiles from the Latakia highway against Syrian Army positions.
The Opposition are additionally making good progress in Deir El-Zour and have been backed up by reinforcements from other areas. In this video a vehicle bomb destroyed a Syrian Army post within the grounds of a private school, HERE: and these buildings were filmed burning in the Hwieyqa district where most of the current fighting is taking place, HERE:
SIEGE OF HOMS CONTINUES, BUT ANOTHER ASSAD AIRCRAFT REPORTED DESTROYED OVER THE DAMASCUS COUNTRYSIDE:
In Homs the Government siege continues on Opposition held areas which are almost completely surrounded, but some pressure has been removed with Assad needing to turn his attention, and troops, to the attack on Latakia, the family heartland. This map shows the current position, Opposition held areas in Green. Click HERE, courtesy of @dawnslight6, for a larger version.
Syria Map of Opposition Regime Areas in Homs
In Hasakah province to the north-east, ISIS is continuing its attacks on the Kurdish militia in control of the Turkish border town of Ras Al-Ain, from where they were driven out last month, and there are reports of frequent clashes between the two sides throughout the region.
In Damascus, the Government continues to fire rockets into the Yarmouk Palestinian Refugee Camp in an attempt to dislodge Opposition fighters and has kept up a bombardment on most of the Sunni suburbs of the capital, but without any signs that the regime is making any real “progress”. Opposition brigades seem well equipped and strong enough to resist the barrage.
In the Damascus countryside Opposition fighters overran the ceramics factory at Adra being used by the Syrian Army as a base and destroyed portraits of Assad at the earliest opportunity, HERE:
This afternoon, Thursday, there are also new reports that Opposition fighters have shot down another Assad aircraft over the Khalkhala Military Airport in East Ghouta in the Damascus countryside.
In a vain attempt at creating an air of “normality” the Assad regime has lifted restrictions on the sale of foreign currency to private individuals but it must be purchased at banks at “rates fixed by the central bank”.
A UN team charged with investigating chemical weapons attacks has at last, after much prevarication, arrived in Damascus to start its work.
And Ahmed Jarba, the President of the Opposition Syrian National Council, SNC, has called for the unification of Opposition fighters into a force that could eventually become a national army.
This has been met with rage by Jihadists and criticism even within the SNC, some thinking that the move is too premature.
“We need this army so that it becomes the foundation of a new army, that has air defense capabilities… tanks, logistical support, medical units,” said Jabra. The SNC has also been working on a plan for contingency measures and a new state once the Assad regime falls.
Destruction in the Yarmouk Refugee Camp