By Peter Clifford © (http://www.petercliffordonline.com/syria-news-3)
Following on from the Opposition’s capture of the Kasab border crossing to Turkey in Assad’s Lattakia province last weekend (scroll down – see below), Opposition fighters have gone on to take control of a strategic hill and several more villages.
As well as Samra, west of Kasab, Opposition fighters have also taken Nab’ain to the south and are battling to take Qastal Maaf and Al-Mesherfeh further into Assad’s Latakia heartland.
Islamic Front Fighters Cross Latakia to Reach Mediterranean
The problem for Assad is threefold. Firstly, this mountainous area is extremely difficult to recapture once lost.
Kasab for example only has 2 roads leading in or out and if you control the surrounding hills, then you control the roads.
Secondly, losing part of Latakia, the Alawite sect heartland (although the majority in this particular area are Armenian Christians) threatens to undermine Assad’s support in the minority Alawite community, especially as hundreds of dead bodies are brought home.
While unconfirmed reports say that several hundred Opposition fighters have died in the last week, activists are reporting that Syrian Army and pro-Government losses since last Friday across Syria have exceeded 1,000 men and a maternity hospital in Latakia city has been turned into a field hospital.
The third problem for the Syrian Government, and one which the Opposition have factored into their advance, is that Assad will have to draw on troops from elsewhere in Syria to defend Latakia province, thereby weakening his strength at other key flashpoints.
Activist sources say that the Governor of Latakia, Major General Abdul Qader Sheikh, asked the Governor of Aleppo, Mohammed Waheed Accad, to send National Defence Force (NDF) reinforcements but he refused because of the current situation around Aleppo.
However, later, the head of Syrian intelligence, Major General Ali Mamlouk, forced the Aleppo Governor to send pro-government fighters. A large convoy was reported on the highway to Latakia south-west of Idlib province at Qiyasat but it has come under attack from Opposition fighters in the province, HERE:
Another Assad convoy with “technicals” (pick-ups with mounted heavy machine guns) has been reported at Al-Badrousiyeh driving north on the Latakia coast road.
Injured Opposition fighters have been taken across the border to hospitals in Turkey.
All the Opposition positions are currently under heavy air attack, 30 rockets falling on Kasab alone yesterday. The Assad regime has pumped out a lot of propaganda around “terrorists robbing homes and destroying Armenian Christian Churches”, although this video, at the time of filming at least, would seem to put the lie to that, HERE:
The capture of Observatory 45 on Tuesday was a significant gain for the Opposition. As well as being the site of a TV relay station, it was also a Syrian Army command and control post with eavesdropping radio and radar dishes both to spy on Opposition communications and the Turkish Army.
This is video footage of the capture of Observatory 45, HERE: and the victors (including the red bearded commander know as “The Viking”), HERE:
Since then, 5 barrel-bombs dropped on the hill by Assad’s forces have almost completely destroyed the remaining facilities, HERE: , though the Opposition fighters did get to raise their flag first, HERE:
Colonel Ghanoon, the Syrian Army commander of Observatory 45 is reported on pro-Assad Facebook pages to have been killed in the Opposition assault .
Opposition Fighter Checks Missile Launcher Near Kasab
West of Kasab, the Free Syrian Army (FSA) has captured Samra (which overlooks the Mediterranean), HERE: and below it battled for Karadouran Beach, HERE:, the Islamic Front finally reaching the sea, HERE:
This is the very first time that Opposition fighters have reached the Mediterranean. Karadouran, where there is no harbour, is well known as a smugglers beach, in particular bringing in untaxed goods from Turkey. While possibly useful to the Opposition, the Syrian Navy will do everything it can to blockade it.
The Assad regime is also furious with the Turkish Government, accusing it of aiding and abetting the incursion of Opposition fighters across the border and even, in letters to the UN, saying that Turkish artillery and tanks gave covering fire against Assad’s forces as the Opposition advanced on Kasab.
Turkey has denied the charges but also made it clear it will not put up with any incursions by Assad’s forces on its territory, having shot down a Syrian jet last week (scroll down – see below).
Orient TV has recorded the battle for Nab’ain, (Arabic only), HERE: and fighters can seen driving into the village,HERE: Unconfirmed reports say that 40 0f Assad’s soldiers died in the attack.
Al jazeera has a video report on the Latakia advance, HERE:
This morning, Thursday, Opposition fighters are reported to have taken Mount Chalma, the highest point in the Kasab area.
Elsewhere in Latakia, Opposition fighters have been firing Grad missiles at Assad’s ancestral family home in the village of Qardahah, HERE:
This map, published today courtesy of Cedric Labrousse, shows the latest positions (Opposition Green) in northern Latakia province, here:
Opposition Advance (Green) in Latakia 27.03.14
OPPOSITION HOMING IN ON MILITARY RESEARCH CENTRE WEST OF ALEPPO:
In Aleppo several airstrikes using barrel-bombs have been reported today in northern and eastern districts of the city, while Opposition forces say they have killed 2 dozen Assad soldiers in a convoy on the Khanasser road going towards Hama.
On the western side of Aleppo the Opposition have been firing Grad missiles at the Military Research Centre, HERE:
In Homs province, Opposition fighters have been targetting Assad’s troops at a barrier at Mamlouk near Talbisseh, north-west of Homs city, HERE: and have destroyed 2 tanks with anti-tank guided missiles (ATGM) in the same area, HERE:
In Deraa province the Opposition with another ATGM also destroyed a tank moving at speed, HERE:
In Raqqah province an airstrike has partly destroyed an old bridge across the Euphrates river and in Deir Ez Zour province, the Islamic State of Iraq and Levant (ISIL or ISIS) has consolidated its forces into a fighting unit of more than 2,000 men and is attempting to retake towns and villages north of the river.
While in Hassakah province the YPG, the Kurdish militia appears to be fighting both ISIL and Assad’s Army who are currently shelling some of their positions.
DIE-HARD ASSAD OPTIMISTS ABOUT TO LAUNCH A NEW “SORT OF AIRLINE” FLYING FROM SYRIA:
In Damascus, many Opposition-held suburbs are once again coming under rocket and barrel-bomb attack and at the same time 55 are reported dead in the province at regime-controlled hospitals from a swine flu outbreak which thrives in crowded and insanitary conditions.
“Kinda Airline” Due to Launch in Syria
In a southern suburb of Damascus these children were filmed picking up seeds and bread crumbs to eat, (Arabic only)HERE:
Lastly, some desperate Assad optimists are about to launch a new airline in Syria called Kinda (“kinda” in English slang means “sort of” airline!). According to state media outlet SANA, the airline was due to be launched this coming Sunday but other reports say that “paperwork problems” will prevent its launch until 1st May.
The airline, which is apparently backed by the money of 3 private individuals, aims to fly out of Latakia and Damascus airports, starting with a route to Kuwait and 10 other Middle East destinations within a year. (EDITOR: Good Luck! You’ll need it!)
World Powers Continue to Turn their Backs on the Plig