By Peter Clifford © (http://www.petercliffordonline.com/syria-news-3)
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:
MUTINY AGAINST ASSAD REPORTED IN ALEPPO AND OPPOSITION ADVANCE IN QUNEITRA & DERAA PROVINCES CONFIRMED:
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.
SYRIAN ARMY STILL ADVANCING IN QALAMOUN, WHILE RELEASED ISIS PRISONER GOES BACK TO FORMER PRISON:
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