Syria army retakes key post in Assad’s home province

A torn picture of Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad (R) is seen in front of the post office and the telecommunications center after rebel fighters seized them from government forces in the Armenian Christian town of Kasab March 30, 2014.

Backed by militia fighters and warplanes, the Syrian army recaptured on Monday a key position in coastal Latakia province, which is considered to be President Bashar Assad’s ancestral homeland, Agence France-Presse reported state television as saying.

“Syrian army units have full control of Observatory 45 in the north of Latakia province and are continuing to pursue terrorist groups,” AFP quoted the state broadcaster as saying.

Observatory 45 is a strategic hilltop that overlooks several areas inhabited by residents from the Alawite community, the religious sect to which President Assad belongs.

The rebels and opposition groups have not confirmed its capture.

Meanwhile, state television showed footage of what it said were “terrorists,” many of them foreigners, killed in the area during the government offensive. Several bearded men in military uniforms lay dead, covered with blood, as government troops stood in the background.

Opposition fighters from several conservative and hard-line Islamic groups, including the Al-Qaeda-affiliated Nusra Front, launched their assault on the northern stretches of Latakia province along the Turkish frontier March 21.

So far, they have seized a border crossing, several villages and the predominantly Armenian-Christian town of Kassab. They’ve also gained control of an outlet to the sea for the first time since Syria’s uprising began three years ago.

Their push for the area from which Assad’s family hails from appeared to have caught Damascus off guard.

Government forces, backed by Lebanese Hezbollah fighters, have recently triumphed against the opposition along the border area with Lebanon, ousting rebels from their border strongholds inside Syria and cutting off supply routes from the neighboring country.

Turkey retaliates

Meanwhile, Syria’s information minister lashed out at Turkey, accusing Ankara of sending foreign fighters across the border to fight Syrian government troops in Latakia.

Hours after Omran al-Zoubi’s comments, Turkey said its artillery fired into Syrian territory in retaliation for a rocket that hit a mosque in a Turkish border town.

The rocket from Syria wounded an elderly Syrian refugee woman in Hatay province on Sunday, where several mortar rounds also hit the ground, without causing harm, Turkey’s Dogan News Agency reported.

“In accordance with our new military engagement rules, our artillery units on the border fired into Syria in response,” Hatay officials were quoted saying in a statement.

Turkey, a staunch opponent of the regime in Damascus, hosts more than 750,000 refugees from the three-year-old Syrian conflict, many of them in camps along the border.

The military along Turkey’s Syria border often retaliates when munitions from fighting there hit its territory.

‘Syria in war against Turkey’

Turkey’s Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, in a late-night speech after his party scored a landslide victory in Sunday local polls, said “Syria is currently in a state of war against us.”

A week before Erdogan spoke, Turkey said its own F-16 aircraft had shot down a Syrian fighter jet for a breach of Turkish airspace as it was on a mission to bombard rebels near the border.

Both Erdogan and President Abdullah Gul congratulated the Turkish armed forces following the incident.

Turkey toughened its rules of engagement after the downing of one of its fighter jets by the Syrian air force in June 2012, warning that any military approach of the Turkish border from Syria would be considered a threat.

(Source / 31.03.2014)

Settlers hurl stones, chant ‘Death to Arabs’ near Jenin

JENIN (Ma’an) — Hundreds of Israeli settlers gathered on a main road in the northern West Bank on Monday and hurled stones at Palestinian vehicles, witnesses said.

Locals told Ma’an that settlers arrived in buses to an intersection near the town of Yaabad near Jenin. Under guard by Israeli troops, the settlers climbed a hill and began to hurl stones at Palestinian vehicles.

While throwing the rocks, the settlers chanted “Death to Arabs,” witnesses said.

The stones smashed through the windshields of several Palestinian vehicles as soldiers stood by, locals told Ma’an.

An Israeli army spokeswoman did not immediately return calls seeking comment.

Settler violence against Palestinians and their property in the occupied West Bank is largely ignored by Israeli authorities, who rarely intervene in the violent attacks or prosecute the perpetrators.

In 2013, there were 399 incidents of settler violence against Palestinians in the West Bank, according to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.

More than 500,000 Israeli settlers live in settlements across the West Bank and East Jerusalem, in contravention of international law.

The internationally recognized Palestinian territories of which the West Bank and East Jerusalem form a part have been occupied by the Israeli military since 1967.

(Source / 31.03.2014)

National Beverage Company Coca-Cola Funds Food Parcels for Yarmouk Camp

RAMALLAH, March 31, 2014 (WAFA) – The National Beverage Company Coca-Cola/Cappy (NBC) and the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian Refugees (UNRWA) signed Monday a memorandum of understanding for the donation of NIS 350,000, a joint press release stated.

“This donation will fund food parcels in support of Palestinian refugees who have been besieged in Yarmouk Camp for more than seven months,” the press release said.

The memorandum of understanding was signed by Dina al-Masri, Vice-president of the Board of Directors at NBC, and Lionello Boscardi, Chief of the Partnerships Unit at UNRWA, in NBC’s headquarters in Betunya in the presence of Imad al-Hindi, General Director of NBC, and Felipe Sanchez, the Director of UNRWA Operations in the West Bank.

Al-Masri affirmed that this support comes as part of the company’s responsibilities towards the Palestinian people wherever they may be, especially those in Yarmouk camp.

“We at the NBC will contribute by offering this donation to aid in the provision of necessary food supplies for the besieged people of Yarmouk” said al-Masri, and added: “We do this because we are part of Palestinian society and we must all act quickly to help our people.”

al-Hindi explained that the NBC launched a campaign to support Palestinians in Yarmouk camp through donating from the company’s sales value in Palestine.

“Such donations contribute in empowering UNRWA’s capacities to deliver aid to the refugees in Yarmouk camp, which they have been patiently waiting for,” said Sanchez.

“The private sector in Palestine has contributed $1.2 million to Palestinian refugees in Syria since the beginning of this year” said Boscardi.

(Source / 31.03.2014)

Jordan king, Israeli opposition leader discuss peace

King Abdullah II of Jordan addresses delegates at the 9th World Islamic Economic Forum in London on Oct. 29, 2013

AMMAN (AFP) — Jordan’s King Abdullah II held talks on Monday with Israeli opposition leader Isaac Herzog on the Middle East peace process, a palace statement said.

“The king and the head of the Labor Party and member of the Knesset Isaac Herzog discussed efforts to achieve peace between Israel and the Palestinians under the sponsorship of the United States,” the palace said without elaborating.

Herzog’s visit to Jordan came as the United States is struggling to find a formula that would enable Israel and the Palestinians to continue faltering peace talks beyond an April 29 deadline.

US Secretary of State John Kerry last week visited Jordan, where he held seperate talks with the king and President Mahmoud Abbas.

Kerry was heading back to the region Monday, a US official said, adding that he would land in Tel Aviv and would possibly hold meetings in Jerusalem and Ramallah.

On Sunday Israel handed the Palestinians a proposal they hope will lead to an extension of their peace talks.

Jordan signed a peace treaty with Israel in 1994.

(Source / 31.03.2014)

Syrian Coalition: Assad’s Targeting of Turkmen is a Crime

Fayez Sarah, member of the political committee, demands that the international community put pressure on the Assad regime to stop the fierce military campaign waged against the people of Mount Turkman. “The Assad regime is attempting to eliminate the cultural components that have long enriched the Syrian civilization throughout history. It should have also followed the example of the FSA fighters, who liberated the town of Kassab without committing any violations against Armenian population of the town, nor did they attack churches or houses of worship.” Sarah also calls on the FSA fighters not to do harm to any of the people of the coastal region, including Kassab, which contains one of the most important historical monuments in the world. “We have to protect the civilians in the areas that we liberate, regardless of their views or orientation. FSA fighters must fight those who are armed and that kill the civilians on charges of supporting the revolution. The Assad regime poses a threat not only to Syrian culture, but also to the regional and global culture.” Mohammed Sarmin, Advisor to the interim Prime Minister, visited the town of Kassab north of Latakia and met with the leader of the Western Front, Colonel Mustafa Hashim, and leaders of the Ansar Al Sham brigade. Sarmini handed them the aid sent by the Syrian interim government to the coastal front. He also toured some medical centers and field hospitals, stressing the readiness of the Ministry of Health in the interim government to provide all kinds of medical support. The Shariah Committee in Mount Turkman condemns the murder of two young men by Assad’s shabiha in the dominantly Turkman neighborhood of Ali Jamal in central Latakia as a retaliation to the victories of the Free Syrian Army in Latakia province, in which the Turkman fighters played a vital role. The spokesman for the Sharia Committee also said that the battle for the Syrian coast has not witnessed any revenge killings, based on ideology, religion or race.  The Syrian minorities, which the Assad claims he protect, are playing a vital role in the battle, which proves to the whole world that the Assad regime lies when it talks about protection of minorities.
(Source: Syrian Coalition / 31.03.2014)

Arab Tweeps celebrate Erdogan’s victory with viral hashtag

 Erdogan addresses largest crowd in Turkey's history Images of approximately 1.2 million supporters attended the Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyib Erdogan’s rally in Istanbul last Sunday

“Erdogan won”, reads an Arabic hashtag that went viral as the results of Turkish municipal elections started to come out on Sunday.

Twitter and Facebook users from across the Arab World used the hashtag #فاز_أردوغان to celebrate the victory of Turkey’s Prime Minister Recep Tayyib Erdogan’s party in local polls with a wide margin. Erdogan is hailed in the Arab world as a model leader whose party brought about economic and social welfare for his people, in addition to his firm opposition to the Egyptian coup and the fascist Syrian regime.

Most participants in the hashtag agreed that Erdogan and his party succeeded in reaching out to different constituencies of the Turkish people and addressing their needs.

Thanks to Erdogan’s AK Party, some Tweeps said, Turkey achieved a leap in economic growth which led to a marked increase in average living standards. Before Erdogan, the per capita income did not exceed USD 3,000. Now, however, it is higher than USD 10,000. This places Turkey among the 10 richest countries in terms of per capita income.

Arab Twitter and Facebook users considered Erdogan’s victory as a victory for Syrians, Palestinians, all Arab and Muslim-majority countries. Erdogan’s government has provided unprecedented humanitarian aid to Syrian refugees and internally displaced Syrians following the revolution.

(Source / 31.03.2014)

Sa’adat: “I will not accept the price of my freedom to be several meters of the land of Palestine”


ablasaadat“I refuse to be released on the basis of a ‘condition for negotiations’ and I will not accept the price for my freedom to be several meters of the land of Palestine, the land that we have fought for and been imprisoned for. I refuse to be free on the condition of the expansion of settlements. I refuse this offer, not even a single house for Zionist settlers will be built as the price of my freedom.” – Ahmad Sa’adat, from Gilboa Prison

In an interview with the Palestinian Information Center, Abla Sa’adat (Um Ghassan), Palestinian women’s activist and the wife of imprisoned Palestinian leader Ahmad Sa’adat, recounted Sa’adat’s rejection of any release on the basis of concessions of Palestinian land and rights, expressed to her in their last visit at Gilboa Prison, where Ahmad Sa’adat is being held by the occupation.

This came following reports that the release of Sa’adat and Marwan Barghouti, other imprisoned Palestinian parliamentarians and sick prisoners could be offered in exchange for extended negotiations or political cncessions.

In relation to her husband’s position, Abla said, “I have known Ahmad before we married and I know his life, and therefore I know and live with the knowledge that it is possible to lose him, and that he will not change his position on this, and I support this position because it is the correct position.” She continued: “Many of her people were martyred for the sake of this land, and many have paid dearly over the years for the sake of the land of Palestine,, so this land cannot be sacrificed for years lived outside of prison.”

Abla Sa’adat condemned the ongoing campaigns of political arrests against various factions of the Palestinian resistance, demanding the Palestinian Authority to unite with the Palestinian people and to end the political arrests which only serve the interests of the Zionist occupation, especially as the detainees are often held in a “revolving door” between the Authority and the occupation, and their files are shared, and this is serving as the employment and assigment of the occupier. The occupier finds information readily at its hands. “The Sa’adat family suffered from political detention. My husband was arrested politically four times before his last arrest by the Authority, between the Oslo agreement and the year 2000.

Ahmad Sa’adat denounced the negotiations between the occupation state and the PA leadership, Um Ghassan said, noting that he has been against these negotiations altogether since before the Oslo agreement and ever since. “This is not just an individual position, it is a collective position of the Popular Front,” she said.

“This approach is absurd and destructive to the Palestinian cause and Palestinian land,” Ahmad said to her, saying that Palestinian officials should instead be confronting the Zionist occupation in international arenas rather than relying on negotiations “controlled by the Zionist occupation and the US administration, the enemies of the Palestinian people.”

“Sa’adat’s position on the negotiations is, in fact, the position of the Palestinian people and the Palestinian factions, the negotiations only benefit ‘Israel’ which perpetuates its assault upon the Palestinian people and its just cause,” she said.

Regarding the impact of the years of detention upon their family, she noted that their children had been impacted by many years of imprisonment and living underground from the pursuit of occupation forces. During the years Sa’adat was held in the PA prison in Jericho, Abla said, “we had continuous contacts, he saw the children on an ongoing basis, but the last eight years were very difficult, including three years of solitary confinement where he saw none of us and received none of our communication except through his lawyer.” She said that this was one of the most difficult periods of his arrest, but that after he left isolation following the achievements of the Karameh hunger strike of 2012, he was only able to receive visits from Abla and their one son, Ghassan, due to them holding Jerusalemite identity and his other children have been denied visits repeatedly.

“It was very difficult to not have Abu Ghassan in our lives; there were many events where we really longed for his presence. For example, our children graduated from university without their father being with them…Ghassan and his sister Iba have both been married and their father could not attend their weddings,” she said.

“I believe that we and all of the families of the Palestinian prisoners are living in the same circumstances…we are not the only ones who are suffering and living from this experience.”

Ahmad Sa’adat had further messages from prison, Abla said: “The issue that grips him most in prison is the general situation of the Palestinian cause, especially the internal Palestinian division. He has always maintained in every message from inside prison that Palestinian unity is necessary to confront the Zionist occupier and the basis for the victory of the Palestinian people.”

He also urged the activation of campaigns to call for the victory of the prisoners, explaining the suffering of the prisoners, their cases, and making this cause an international issue, particularly highlighting the issues of sick prisoners and child prisoners, Um Ghassan said.

“Abu Ghassan always has hope in his heart,” she said. “Ahmad says, ‘People always rise to freedom and to revolution, and I am in prison to carry on the march of struggle outside the prison walls.’”

“Ahmad Sa’adat has engaged in constant struggle within the prison, organizing with other detainees and making them aware of struggle outside, strengthening the positions of prisoners inside. The occupation is aware of this issue and he has been transferred repeatedly to different prisons,” she said.

The released prisoners from all Palestinian factions consistently discuss the role of prisoners in the national struggle, in addition to the forms of struggle inside the prison, she said. She noted that on a personal level that “Even at the level of health, the prisoners struggle to maintain their health so as to not go to the clinic of the Zionist enemy.”

At the end of the interview, Sa’adat called for the Palestinian people and their allies everywhere to not be silent about what is happening; the reality is that the occupation is still on the ground and increasing its attacks. “We must return to resistance, as it is the only option to restore our dignity, our freedom, our prisoners and our land,” she said.

(Source / 31.03.2014)

Egypt sets presidential vote for May 26-27, with former army chief expected to win

CAIRO — Egyptians will vote on May 26 and 27 in a presidential election that Abdel Fatah al-Sisi is expected to win easily, meaning the former army chief who deposed Islamist President Mohamed Morsi could be sworn in as head of state by early June.

It will be the second time in less than two years that Egyptians have voted in a presidential election. The only other announced candidate is leftist politician Hamdeen Sabahi, who came in third in the 2012 election. Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood, which had been Egypt’s most well-organized political party, has been banned and driven underground.

Widely seen as Egypt’s de facto leader since the July ouster of Morsi, Sisi enjoys backing from supporters who see him as Egypt’s savior. But he is viewed by the Islamist opposition as the mastermind of the coup, which ignited the worst internal strife in Egypt’s modern history.

The military-backed government has carried out a fierce crackdown on dissent that has targeted Islamists as well as secular-minded democracy activists. But protests and militant actions continue, sometimes with deadly consequences. One student was killed Sunday in clashes with police at the Islamic al-Azhar University in Cairo, state-run Middle East News Agency reported, quoting university officials. And a soldier was killed Sunday in an attack by militants on the bus he was driving in the Sinai Peninsula town of al-Arish.

The Egyptian Foreign Ministry on Saturday said that since last summer, 496 people, 439 of them soldiers and police officers, had been killed in what it described as terrorist attacks.

With Sisi expected to win comfortably, the presidential vote is not likely to go to a second round. The result of the first round will be announced no later than June 5, the organizing committee said at a news conference to outline the timeline.

Sisi stepped down as defense minister and army chief to run, and he announced his candidacy Wednesday. He has been lionized by state-run and independent media loyal to the army-backed government.

A Sisi victory would mark a return to the days when Egypt’s presidency was held by men from the military — a pattern interrupted by Morsi’s year in office.

Parliamentary elections are expected after the presidential vote, though a date has yet to be set.

(Source / 31.03.2014)

Palestinians give Kerry 24 hours to solve prisoner crisis

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, right, shakes hands with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem, Monday, March 31, 2014, for a previously unannounced stop in Israel to continue working on talks about the Middle East peace process. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin, Pool)
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, right, shakes hands with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem, Monday, March 31, 2014, for a previously unannounced stop in Israel to continue working on talks about the Middle East peace process.


RAMALLAH, Palestinian Territories: The Palestinians on Monday gave US Secretary of State John Kerry 24 hours to resolve a dispute with Israel over prisoners after which they will resume moves to seek international recognition.


“If we don’t get an answer from John Kerry on the prisoners tonight, we’ll begin to ask for membership in all UN agencies tomorrow,” Palestinian MP Mustafa Barghuti told AFP following a top-level leadership meeting in Ramallah which took place as Kerry arrived in Israel.

US peace efforts are teetering on the brink of collapse after Israel refused to free a group of 26 long-serving Palestinian prisoners under an agreement which brought the sides back to the negotiating table in July 2013.

Furious Palestinian officials have warned that unless Israel changes its stance on the prisoner releases, it could signal the end of the talks.

Another Palestinian official who attended the meeting in Ramallah told AFP “the Israeli government violated the agreements and must bear the consequences of its decisions”.

The two Palestinian officials also said that the leadership had confirmed there was “no link between the release of Palestinian prisoners and the extension of negotiations”.

Top officials also agreed there would be no extension of talks without a “comprehensive” freeze on settlement construction in the West Bank and annexed east Jerusalem, they said.

The peace talks, which have so far yielded no obvious results, are due to draw to a close on April 29 and US efforts are currently focused on getting the parties to agree an extension.

Kerry arrived on Monday evening from Paris for a flying visit and was locked in talks with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu ahead of a late-night meeting with Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas.

He was to return to Europe on Tuesday morning, officials said.

(Source /31.03.2014)


By Peter Clifford                 ©                  (


Latest reports from north-west Latakia province confirm that while the Assad regime is attempting to mount a counter-attack, Opposition fighters continue to hold their ground and even advance in the Kasab region.

The Syrian Observatory of Human Rights estimated Sunday that the Syrian Government had lost 600 of its pro-Assad soldiers and militia killed or wounded in the Latakia region in the 10 day Opposition campaign in the province which started on March 21st.

Mountainous North-West Syria Bordering Turkey


While Opposition losses have also been high, they seem to have sufficient reinforcements, weapons and ammunition to support and continue their campaign, seemingly having caught the Assad regime by surprise in their Alawite heartland.

The town of Kasab, nearby to the border crossing to Turkey with the same name, and towns and villages nearby in fact have an Armenian Christian majority.

Some Armenian sources have tried to put out “reports of massacres” and the “destruction of Armenian Churches”, but there has been no confirmation of any of this, in fact the Opposition has been going out of its way to produce videos showing that it is guarding these people and institutions with respect.

On the ground regime helicopters are reported to be dropping barrel-bombs on a number of Opposition positions this morning, Monday, and heavy clashes between the 2 sides are said to be taking place today between the village of Qastal Maaf and Observatory 45 (See earlier reports below – scroll down).

Latest reports from regime sources this afternoon, Monday, are claiming they have recaptured Observatory 45 (EDITOR: Though there is not much left of it), but there is no confirmation of this as yet.

At the end of last week, Opposition fighters ambushed a regime convoy near the village of Nab’ain, HERE: and seized this specially designed gun-firing vehicle, HERE:

They have since gone on over the weekend to capture the village of Mesherfeh and are also attacking the coastal village of Al-Badrousiyeh. Once again the Opposition have also been attacking Assad’s ancestral home village in Latakia of Qardaha with Grad missiles: HERE:  as well as Latakia airport.

Opposition fighters this morning, Monday, are claiming that last night’s Grad missile attacks on Latakia’s airport have forced the shutdown of Bassel Al-Assad International (named after Assad’s elder brother who died in a car crash) near Jableh.

In Idlib province, Opposition forces are reported to have stopped or attacked several convoys of regime reinforcements urgently needed in Latakia. This convoy came under Opposition shelling, HERE: and this one with trucks loaded with supplies was stopped, HERE:

In one of the Opposition attacks on these regime convoys it is reported that Assad’s head of Military Security in Idlib province, Brigadier General Ahmad Awad and 3 of his guards were killed.

Also in Idlib province the Opposition are seen shelling a regime barrier near Kafr Shalaya with their “hell cannon”,HERE: and training on a M-46 130mm field gun in the northern part of the province, HERE:


Unconfirmed reports from Aleppo province say that 280 of Assad’s Shabiha (armed militia, probably now part of the National Defence Force [NDF]) have been detained by Government security agencies because they apparently refused to leave Aleppo to go and and fight the Opposition advance in Latakia.

Reports over the weekend say that 2 more of Assad’s senior officers have been killed in Aleppo city, General Ahmed Mansour, has been killed by Syrian Rebels in Lairamoun district and Hossam Haider at Saadallah.

Battles continue in the Sheikh Najjar industrial area to the north-east of Aleppo city with the Opposition striking regime positions with a captured tank, HERE:

Remains of the Ummayad Mosque in Aleppo

Heavy overnight fighting on Sunday left this regime BMP armoured vehicle completely overturned near the Umayyad Mosque in the central part of Aleppo Old City this morning (the video starts in darkness with heavy gunfire, but the night’s work revealed at the end), HERE:

In Quneitra province, close to the demiliterised zone with Israel, the Opposition finally lifted a week long self-imposed blackout, to claim that they had killed over 500 of Assad’s troops and Hezbollah in the last couple of weeks, captured 5 tanks plus other armoured vehicles and anti-aircraft guns.

Opposition fighters also say they have cleared a number of regime barriers, attacked a Syrian Army barracks and opened the road between Quneitra and Deraa. In retaliation, the Assad regime is heavily bombing a number of captured villages in the province this morning, HERE:

In Deraa itself Opposition forces are reported to have moved further into the Al-Manshiyah western district of the city over the last few days, attacked Government positions near the National Hospital and clashed with the regime in the Dera’a al-Balad and Tariq al-Sad neighbourhoods.

At the same time 150 Syrian Army reinforcements are reported to have reached an Army base just to the north of the city over the weekend.

Fighting continues around Hama city with reports of Opposition fighters destroying a Syrian Army Shilka, killing all the military personnel inside.


Fighting also continues between the more moderate Opposition and the Islamic State of Iraq and Levant (ISIL or ISIS), ISIL reportedly killing 39 Al-Nusra Front (ANF) and Islamic Front (IF) fighters in battles when the extreme Jihadists recaptured the town of Markada in Hassakah province. 13 ISIL fighters were reported killed in the same battle.

Fighting between the 2 groups is continuing in the north-eastern part of Aleppo province, the moderates shelling ISIL positions, HERE:

Former ISIS Prisoner Recounts His Torture

In late February, ISIL fled Azaz in northern Aleppo province which they had held for months and where they had held 300 prisoners throughout a bitterly cold winter, some in cells with no roofs or protection. Mohammed Jazar, who was held by ISIL but eventually released, describes how they tortured him and gives a guided tour of the prison, HERE:

In Damascus, Assad’s military are continuing to rain down barrel-bombs and shells indiscriminately on Opposition held areas including Zbadabi, Zamalka, Jobar, Dumeir and the Eastern Ghouta regions generally. Destruction Zabadani can be seen, HERE:

And in the Qalamoun region between Damascus and Lebanon, Government forces are confirmed to have captured the villages of Flita and Ras al-Maara. Flita, just 7 kilometres from the Lebanese border had been a major crossing point for Opposition fighters and their supplies.

Government forces are now reported to be concentrating on attacking the major Opposition stronghold of Rankous.

On the international front, President Obama has met in Saudi Arabia with King Abdullah, following months of tense relations between the 2 allies after the US failed to follow through on its threat to attack Syria.

Some commentators suggest that the meeting has led to new agreements with the Saudis being allowed to supply the moderate Opposition in Syria with more advanced weapons, including the desperately needed anti-aircraft missiles and launchers, HERE:

Russian sources though are saying that US Secretary of State John Kerry has told the Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov that these weapons are still proscribed, HERE:

Lastly the best news of the last week, Spanish journalist Javier Espinosa and a colleague, photographer Ricardo García Vilanova, who were captured by ISIL 194 days ago were released and flown back to Madrid on Saturday. The BBC has this moving video of Espinosa’s reunion with his son, HERE:

(EDITOR: I look forward to reading more from Espinosa – he has done some excellent reports from Syria in the past).

Javier Espinosa Greets His Son After Freedom From Imprisonment by ISIS

More Sad Statistics From Syria