By Peter Clifford © (http://www.petercliffordonline.com/syria-news-2/)
During an agreed cease-fire and under the supervision of the International Red Cross and the Syrian Red Crescent Society, the Assad regime allowed between 1,500 and 1,800 people to leave the Damascus suburb of Moadamiyah yesterday, Tuesday.
The suburb, to the south-west of the capital, had suffered not only chemical attacks, but had been under siege for months with credible reports and pictures of some children and adults who had starved to death.
The Weakest Were Carried Out of Moadamiyah by Stretcher
The Syrian Government says that only “terrorists” remain in Moadamiyah, but some activist sources say that thousands of civilians still remain, too terrified to leave.
Initially yesterday, the men leaving the suburb were separated from the women and searched separately but later, by 17.00 GMT, most of them arrived at the same shelter as the women, where they are expected to be able to stay for as long as a month.
One of the women released from the siege told the BBC that, “We didn’t see a piece of bread for nine months. We were eating leaves and grass.” Those too weak or exhausted to walk were carried out on stretchers.
The pro-Assad nun, Sister Agnes Mariam, reported previously on this page over chemical weapons “evidence”, was involved in organising the release of the civilians from the suburb. The BBC has a video report, HERE:
The UN has estimated that more than 1 million people are trapped in areas where no aid is getting through, at least 500,000 of those is rural Damascus not far from the capital and another 310,000 in Homs.
An Assad security official, known as Abu Haider, was overheard to say at a central Damascus checkpoint that it was all part of Government policy, describing it as “Our Starvation Until Submission Campaign”.
Syrian Army soldiers conduct vehicle and body searches to prevent “smuggling” of bread, baby milk and medicine into besieged areas, imprisoning those who violate their rules. Reuters has a comprehensive report, HERE:
AS “WHO” CONFIRMS POLIO OUTBREAK IN DEIR EL-ZOUR, OPPOSITION INTENSIFY ATTACK ON CITY’S AIRPORT:
The World Health Organisation (WHO) has confirmed that at least 10 of the 22 suspected cases of polio are indeed wild polovirius type 1, causing paralysis. Most of the victims are under 2 years of age, the first cases recorded in the country since 1999.
WHO is stepping up its immunisation programme, particularly in the Deir El-Zour area where most of the cases seem to be clustered.
Health Worker Administers Oral Polio Vaccine in Damascus
There has been speculation that the virus has been reintroduced into Syria by “foreign fighters”, many carriers, particularly adults, remaining unaffected by the disease. Polio remains endemic in both Pakistan and Afghanistan. WHO has a posted statement, HERE:
Meanwhile, fighting has continued in other parts of both Damascus and Deir El-Zour. One Opposition rocket fell on Masa Plaza in the Malki neighbourhood of Damascus and another on Al-Jahez park in the Abu Rummanah district, both up-market areas mainly populated by Alawites.
South-west of Damascus, Opposition fighters are reported this morning to have taken over the regime’s Brigade 137 base in Khan Al Shih, killing numerous soldiers in the process.
In Deir El-Zour, a huge column of smoke was seen rising from the military airbase, HERE: while just outside the perimeter of the regime airfield, Opposition fighters kept up their attacks on the district of Jaffra, HERE:
The Syrian Army, now under heavy pressure in the city, has retaliated with shelling and rocket fire, setting fire to vehicles, HERE: and leaving a huge crater in a field with a Scud missile, HERE:
Unknown gunmen have also assassinated the leader of the Omar bin al-Khattab Opposition battalion in Deir El-Zour city centre, his body being found riddled with bullet holes on Hassan Taha Street. Some activists have suggested the killing is a result of Opposition group rivalry, rather than a regime attack.
EDITOR: Not quite sure where this is, but incredible video of a tank shell flying directly towards the camera. Hairy!
In Aleppo, a young child was shot dead by an Assad sniper as he used one of the main crossings in the city, his mother being wounded too, HERE: while this 13 year boy fights with the Opposition after his father was shot dead, here:
13 Year Old Joins Fighters After Death of His Father
The Free Syrian Army (FSA) continues to target the Kuwaires airbase in the Aleppo countryside with increasingly heavier weapons, HERE: and there is video footage of the Opposition Ahrar al- Sham Brigade taking over the headquarters of the Kurdish YPG militia in the village of Jabul, (reported below), HERE:
In Hama province the Opposition advance continues with the fighters destroying 2 tanks and other vehicles at a barrier near Suqaylabiyah due north of Hama city and capturing the “offices barrier” near Souran,HERE:
In Homs province while there are ongoing clashes around Sadad in the desert, HERE: there is also heavy fighting in the Al-Waer district of Homs city.
Assad’s forces tried to penetrate the district yesterday, Tuesday, following an intense bombardment and setting fire to buildings, HERE: but Opposition fighters drove them back, re-occupying a block of flats formerly held by the Syrian Army. 8 civilians, including a 6 year old child, were killed in the shelling onslaught and 50 wounded.
There are also reports today, that Jihadist units have taken the Government checkpoint at Shallouh in Homs province, killing 6 soldiers and 11 residents of the nearby Alawite village. Further information awaited.
In Hasakah province fighting continues between the YPG Kurdish militia and the jihadist groups, with the YPG announcing definitive control of the villages of Tal A’lo Ghamer, Abu Hajar, Kari Fati, Karhouk, al-Yusufiya, al-Jneidiya, the Al-Sawame’ area, and the Dajla oil company and nearby oil fields.
However, this morning, Wednesday, the Islamic State of Iraq and Levant (ISIL), the Al-Nusra Front and Ahrar al-Sham have launched a heavy 3-pronged attacked on YPG positions in Ras Al-Ain, the strategically important frontier town on the border with Turkey.
This video footage of religious desicration and in tolerance, which appeared on the Internet recently, does nothing to enhance the reputation of the Islamists and has been deplored by several Opposition groups, HERE:
AS UN INSPECTORS MAKE GOOD PROGRESS ON CHEMICAL WEAPONS, ASSAD DISMISSES DEPUTY PM FOR “UNAUTHORISED” TALK TO USA’S FORMER SYRIAN AMBASSADOR:
On the chemical weapons front the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) reports good progress in Syria and cooperation from the authorities, having visited 21 or the 23 sites identified by the Assad Government.
The 2 sites remaining are in contested areas of fighting where the UN appointed inspectors would find it unsafe to go at present. Within the 23 sites there are at least 41 actual chemical weapons facilities.
On the diplomatic front, Lakhdar Brahimi, the joint UN/Arab League Syria envoy is reported to have met with President Assad this morning in Damascus, though how that went is anyone’s guess as Brahimi has been reported on several occasions saying, in one form or another, that “Assad must go”.
Sacked! – Qadri Jamil
Assad also issued a degree yesterday, Tuesday, dismissing his Deputy Prime Minister for Economic Affairs, Qadri Jamil, for being “absence without authorisation from his post” as well as “activities and meetings outside the country without authorisation from the government.”
The real bone of contention appears to be a meeting between Jamil and the former US ambassador to Damascus, the much hated by the regime, Rober Ford, in Geneva. Ford while still in Syria went to Hama and other cities supporting the “revolutionaries” in their peaceful demonstrations in 2011.
Jamil is part of the Assad “tolerated” Opposition in Syria and a leading member of the “People’s Will Party. He had been allowed into the Government, for what that’s worth – not a lot it seems – and there are reports that both he and his family have been living in Moscow in recent weeks, a city where he originally studied economics.
A perhaps a more pleasant picture of the war in Syria as Opposition fighters sit down for a meal together in the green of the Idlib countryside:
Opposition Fighters Meeting to Share Food in Idlib Countryside