Archive for the ‘ Red Lion Revolution ’ Category

Syrian regime jet downed near Aleppo

Wednesday, 06 April 2016

A fighter aircraft belonging to the Syrian government was shot down by a surface to air missile on Tuesday, Syria’s SANA news agency has reported. Pro-regime media sources said that the pilot of the Sukhoi-22 was captured after his jet was downed in the town of Eis, near Aleppo.

No Syrian faction has claimed responsibility for bringing the fighter down. However, according to the UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, rebels from Al-Nusra Front were responsible.

Source: Middle East Monitor.

Link: https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/middle-east/24867-syrian-regime-jet-downed-near-aleppo.

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Aleppo rebels unite under former Ahrar al-Sham commander

Tuesday 16 February 2016

Alex MacDonald

Nine leading rebel groups in Aleppo are to be unified under the leadership of a former Ahrar al-Sham commander, as the Syrian army and allied militias continue their assault on the former rebel stronghold.

The announcement on Monday that Hashem al-Sheikh, also known as Abu Jaber, is the new commander of the rebel groups, comes after demonstrations last week in which locals in Aleppo protested against the lack of unity among rebels in the beleaguered city.

Hashem al-Sheikh was leader of Ahrar al-Sham until September 2015 when he was replaced by Abu Yahia al-Hamawi.

Among the groups under the new command will be Ahrar al-Sham itself, Liwa Suqor al-Jebel and the 16th Division of the Free Syrian Army. A number of the groups have been vetted by US security agencies and have in the past received international support, including US-manufactured TOW missiles.

Sam Heller, a Washington-based writer and analyst, told Middle East Eye that rebel unity had been lacking in Aleppo.

“Coordination between rebel brigades has been a persistent problem, although it seems to have affected the fight against IS most directly,” he said.

However, he added that the “most proximate cause for the regime’s recent gains, on the other hand, seems to be Russian aerial bombing that has overwhelmed rebels”.

Ahrar al-Sham has proved itself to be among the most powerful armed groups in Syria, but its hardline Salafist views – calling for the establishment of an Islamic state and condemning democracy as “idolatry” – has made some foreign supporters uncomfortable.

It has also been willing to work with Al-Nusra Front, the Al-Qaeda AFFILIATE in Syria, although Ahrar al-Sham has repeatedly distanced itself from the group’s ideology.

The announcement comes as the UN’s peace envoy for Syria, Staffan de Mistura, is set to hold talks in Damascus on Tuesday with the country’s Foreign Minister Walid al-Muallem in an apparent effort to secure Syrian government commitment for a tentative internationally agreed plan for a cessation of hostilities within days.

De Mistura, who has called for peace talks to resume in Geneva on 25 February, arrived in the Syrian capital on Monday night, Syrian and UN officials said.

A UN official said that de Mistura was there to “follow up on commitments made in Munich”, referring to the international security conference where the agreement to halt fighting within a week was announced last Friday.

Forces loyal to Bashar al-Assad, including Iran-backed Shia militias and the Lebanese Hezbollah group, have won numerous gains in the countryside surrounding Aleppo in recent weeks and are now threatening to surround and besiege Aleppo.

The threat of Islamic State to the east of Aleppo has also prompted a number of countries to moot the possibility of a ground intervention.

A general from Saudi Arabia said in early February that the kingdom was ready to join any ground operation launched in future by the US-led coalition against the Islamic State group.

“If there is any willingness in the coalition to go in the ground operation, we will contribute positively to that,” said Brigadier General Ahmed al-Assiri.

However, Heller dismissed as unrealistic the rumours of a ground intervention.

“I don’t think these are realistic, at least not in Aleppo,” he said. “I can’t imagine them entering this area under the threat of Russian air strikes.”

Source: Middle East Eye.

Link: http://www.middleeasteye.net/news/aleppo-rebels-united-under-former-ahrar-al-sham-commander-1930344528.

More than 100,000 protest against Assad during funeral of Kurdish opposition figure

Saturday, 08 October 2011

By AL ARABIYA AND AGENCIES

More than 100,000 Syrians rallied against the regime of President Bashar al-Assad on Saturday during the funeral of Mishaal Tammo, a Kurdish opposition figure slain the previous day, Abdessalam Othman, of the Kurdish Future Movement in Syria, told Al Arabiya.

Othman said security forces in civilian clothing randomly opened fire on demonstrators, killing five and wounding dozens.

Earlier, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported that more 50,000 people were participating in the Tammo’s funeral.

Protesters also took on the streets in the northern eastern cities of Amouda and al-Dirbasiya.

In the central city of Homs, roads were blocked to prevent protesters from demonstrating and communication was cut.

Gunmen shot dead Tammo on Friday in his home in the east of the country, activists said.

Rami Abdel-Rahman, head of the British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, said four gunmen entered the house in Qamishli, shooting Tammo dead and wounding his brother, Reuters reported.

The opposition Local Coordination Committees said Tammo “was killed on Friday at his home by unidentified men. His son as well as female activist Zahida Rashkilo were wounded.”

The official SANA news agency reported “the assassination,” but gave a different account of Tammo’s death. It said he was killed “by gunmen in a black car who fired at his car.”

Tammo founded the liberal Kurdish Future Party, which considers the Kurds to be an integral part of Syria.

He was a member of the newly formed opposition Syrian National Council (SNC) and had been released recently after spending three and a half years in prison.

Tammo’s killing sparked indignation at home and abroad.

The United States said Assad’s regime is escalating its tactics against the opposition with bold, daylight attacks on its leaders, while France said it was “shocked” by the news of the murder.

“This is a clear escalation of regime tactics,” State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland told reporters, referring to reports of Tammo’s murder, as well as the beating on Friday of former MP Riad Seif.

Nuland said both opposition leaders were attacked in broad daylight.

France condemned the regime’s “brutal violence” in its crackdown on the opposition.

“We are shocked by the assassination of opposition figure Mishaal Tammo… and by the attack on opposition figure Riad Seif,” a foreign ministry spokesman said in a statement.

Seif, a former lawmaker, had to be given hospital treatment after being beaten outside a mosque in the capital’s commercial neighborhood of Medan.

Before the news of Tammo’s killing, a prominent Sheikh from the opposition was killed.

Source: al-Arabiya.

Link: http://english.alarabiya.net/articles/2011/10/08/170791.html.

Syrian insurgents seize last military base in Idlib province

May 19, 2015

BEIRUT (AP) — Insurgents in Syria captured the last military base and several small villages in the northwestern province of Idlib on Tuesday, marking the latest collapse of government troops in the region now almost entirely in opposition hands, activists said.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said factions — including al-Qaida’s branch in Syria, the Nusra Front, and the ultraconservative Ahrar al-Sham — captured Mastoumeh base after days of fighting. It said government forces left the base and withdrew to the nearby town of Ariha.

The Local Coordination Committees said the Islamic militants targeted the government forces as they were retreating, heading toward Ariha. In an implicit acknowledgement of defeat, state-run Syrian TV said army units in Mastoumeh base were moving to reinforce defenses in Ariha further south. Ariha is one of the last government holdouts to remain in Idlib.

Government troops withdrew from the provincial capital of Idlib after it fell to opposition fighters in March, followed by the strategic town of Jisr al-Shughour and Qarmeed military base days later. The Idlib offensive is being led by a unified command known as Jaysh al-Fateh, or Conquest Army, and aided by a new strategic alliance between Turkey and Saudi Arabia to strengthen insurgents fighting to topple President Bashar Assad.

Assad recently acknowledged what he said were recent military “setbacks,” in the war against insurgents trying to topple him, promising a comeback by his troops in northern Syria. His forces are also engaged in heavy fighting with Islamic State group militants trying to advance toward government-held areas in the central town of Palmyra, an ancient heritage site.

Meanwhile, Assad received support on Tuesday from his top ally, Iran. State-run news agency SANA said Iran is extending a credit line to make up for market needs and reported that the two countries have signed several agreements in the fields of electricity, industry, oil and investment.

The new credit was announced during a visit to Damascus by Ali Akbar Velayati, a top aide to Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. Iran is believed to have supplied his government with billions of dollars since the Syrian conflict began in March 2011. Tehran extended a $1 billion credit line to Syria to help support the local currency in June 2013.

The new credit — it was not clear how much — comes as the Syrian pound’s depreciation has accelerated. Velayati, who met with Assad on Tuesday, promised continued Iranian support for Syria with everything necessary to boost the Syrian people’s “resistance in defending their homeland and confronting terrorism” and its sponsors. Assad’s government refers to those trying to topple him as “terrorists.”

Rebels seize northwest Syrian town as government retaliates

April 25, 2015

BEIRUT (AP) — Hard-line Syrian rebel groups seized a strategic town Saturday in northwestern Syria, sending government troops fleeing after intense clashes that have seen the opposition take nearly all of a crucial province.

The takeover prompted retaliatory government air raids in the town center — as many as 30 airstrikes according to one activist group — that left an unknown number of people killed and wounded. Among those wounded was a TV reporter for an opposition station who entered the town with the rebels.

If they can hold the town of Jisr al-Shughour in Idlib province, rebel fighters from Islamic factions — including the al-Qaida-affiliated Nusra Front — will have gained in only a few days a gateway to the Mediterranean coast, a refuge of embattled President Bashar Assad, and cut government supply lines from the coast to northern and central Syria. The town is one of the last bastions of Assad’s government in the area and fighting around it continued Saturday.

The offensive, which rebels have called the “Battle of Victory,” comes less than a month after the provincial capital, also called Idlib, fell to the opposition. Opposition television station Orient News aired images inside the town showing rebel fighters milling in the town’s central square, raising their black flag. Meanwhile, fighting continued Saturday in a sprawling agricultural plain south of the town, and activists said rebel fighters were gaining new ground.

A Twitter account affiliated with the Nusra Front posted pictures apparently from inside Jisr al-Shoughour Saturday, calling it “liberated.” Other pictures posted on social media showed bodies of government troops piled in the street as rebels sat atop tanks in the town’s center.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights also said the rebels completely controlled Jisr al-Shughour after government troops and allied forces fled south. The group said there were clashes on the outskirts of the town. A video the group posted showed civilians leaving the town accompanied by a number of government troops.

The government conceded its forces had left the town. A military official, quoted by Syrian state media, said government forces redeployed to surrounding villages to avoid civilian casualties after fierce battles with “armed terrorist groups” in Jisr al-Shughour.

Later, state TV said government aircraft targeted a convoy of fighters east of the town. But the Observatory and the Local Coordination Committees, another activist group that tracks the conflict, said the air raids were in the town center. The Observatory counted at least 30 raids in the town and its environs. The LCC said at least six raids were in a square in the town’s center. There were no immediate casualty figures.

The Orient News television network, which was airing live coverage of the rebels’ takeover, said one of its reporters was injured and its broadcast vehicle destroyed in one of the raids. The reporter, Ammar Dandash, emotionally told the broadcaster that he was returning to Jisr al-Shughour, his hometown, for the first time in years with the rebels. “Today I return to my home after four years of being deprived of it,” he said, before he was injured.

Asaad Kanjo, an activist in touch with residents of the town, said most civilians had stayed indoors, fearing government retaliation. The Observatory said members of a government security agency also killed 23 detainees before they withdrew. Pictures shared on social media by the Nusra Front showed bodies of civilians piled in what they said was a local prison, near a hospital where fighters had earlier said government troops were taking cover.

Government fighters had reportedly also carried out a similar mass killing before withdrawing from Idlib city last month. The fight for Jisr al-Shughour began Wednesday and activists have said thousands of fighters took part in the offensive, which first targeted military facilities and checkpoints outside of town.

The town of Jisr al-Shughour was one of the first towns to rise against Assad’s regime, but has largely remained under government control despite briefly falling to the rebels in early 2011. The government accused the rebels there of killing over 100 soldiers, a charge they denied.

Activists say the fall of the town is of also of symbolic significance because a military camp on the town’s outskirts had been used to target much of Idlib’s countryside, leading to many casualties. The Nusra Front and Syrian rebels have controlled the countryside and towns across Idlib province since 2012. After the fall of Idlib, the government moved its offices and staff to Jisr al-Shughour.

Assad has blamed Turkey for the fall of Idlib to Islamic fighters, saying Ankara provided “huge support” — logistical and military — that played the key role in the defeat of his forces. Syria’s civil war, now in its fifth year, has killed some 220,000 people, and wounded at least 1 million. At least 4 million Syrians have become refugees in neighboring countries. Nearly double that figure are displaced inside Syria because of the conflict.

Islamic fighters led by al-Qaida in Syria seize major city

March 28, 2015

BEIRUT (AP) — Islamic fighters led by al-Qaida’s branch in Syria seized almost full control of the northwestern city of Idlib on Saturday, taking over major roundabouts and government buildings in a powerful blow to President Bashar Assad whose forces rapidly collapsed after four days of heavy fighting, opposition activists and the extremist group said.

Idlib, a major urban center with a population of around 165,000 people, is the second provincial capital to fall into opposition hands after Raqqa, now a stronghold of the Islamic State group. Its capture by the Nusra Front underscores the growing power of extremist groups in Syria who now control about half the country.

Opposition fighters including Nusra have controlled the countryside and towns across Idlib province since 2012, but Assad’s forces have managed to maintain their grip on Idlib city, near the border with Turkey, throughout the conflict.

On Saturday, Islamic fighters jubilantly swept in, taking over key buildings and tearing down posters of Assad. Videos posted online by activists and the Nusra Front showed a group of heavily armed fighters kneeling down in prayer in the city’s sprawling Hanana square as others fired their guns in celebration.

“Allahu Akbar!” — God is great — they shouted. The fighters then took down a Syrian flag flying in the center of the square and set it on fire to the backdrop of incessant shooting. The video appeared genuine and consistent with AP reporting on Idlib’s takeover Saturday.

On its Twitter account, Nusra posted pictures of the Clock Tower and other landmark locations now under its control. The Nusra Front is leading a group of ultra-conservative rebels in a major offensive that began earlier this week to take Idlib. They include the hardline Ahrar al-Sham and Jund al-Aqsa groups and a few smaller groups loosely affiliated with the Free Syrian Army.

With the takeover of Idlib, an island of government territory in the midst of mostly opposition terrain, the Nusra Front further cements its hold over an impressive stretch of land it controls from the Turkish border to central and southern Syria.

With the world’s attention focused on the Islamic State group, the Nusra Front has quietly consolidated its power in Syria in recent months, crushing moderate rebel groups the West may try to work with while increasingly enforcing its own brutal version of Islamic law.

Idlib, besides being a major population city, is located near the main highway linking the capital Damascus with Aleppo. The main Western-backed Syrian National Coalition opposition group said the wresting of Idlib from government control is an “important victory on the road to the full liberation of Syrian soil from the Assad regime and its allies.” However, it said more “decisive” assistance to Syrian rebels was needed for that to happen.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said rebel fighters seized control of Idlib in a push Friday evening and early Saturday after rapidly collapsing government forces withdrew. The group, which relies on an extensive network of activists across Syria, said some fighting continued Saturday amid heavy artillery shelling from both sides. The Local Coordination Committees, another opposition activist collective in Syria, also reported the “almost complete” capture of Idlib by rebels.

An unnamed Syrian military official quoted by state-run news agency SANA said army forces were fighting “fierce battles” against “armed terrorist groups” to regain control in Idlib. The government claimed earlier this week that “thousands of terrorists” streamed in from Turkey to attack Idlib and its suburbs. Turkey is one of the main backers of the rebels.

The humiliating losses in Idlib mark the second blow to government forces this week, after rebels, also led by Nusra, captured the ancient and strategic town of Busra Sham in southern Syria. Also Saturday, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said he was angry and shamed by the failure of the world to stop Syria’s raging civil war. He promised to step up diplomatic efforts in comments at a summit of Arab leaders in the Red Sea resort city of Sharm el-Sheikh in Egypt.

More than 220,000 people have been killed in the conflict, which began with popular protests amid Arab Spring uprisings in March 2011 and turned into an insurgency following a brutal military crackdown.

Associated Press writers Albert Aji in Damascus, Syria and Hamza Hendawi in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt contributed to this report.

Syrian rebels regain ground lost near Aleppo

February 18, 2015

BEIRUT (AP) — Syrian rebels on Wednesday regained much of the territory north of the city of Aleppo lost to government troops in fierce fighting the previous day in ongoing clashes that left more than 100 dead on both sides, activists said.

The violence came as U.N. envoy Staffan de Mistura said he received a government commitment to suspend airstrikes on the city of Aleppo for six weeks, which would allow a proposed U.N. plan to “freeze” hostilities in the country’s largest city to be tested.

De Mistura briefed the Security Council late Tuesday on his efforts to find a solution to Syria’s civil war, which has killed more than 220,000 people. The envoy said he will return to Syria “as soon as possible” to assess whether the government’s commitment is possible and to announce a start date.

An activist in Aleppo said most rebel factions will abide by a truce if the government stops airstrikes and release detainees, starting with female prisoners. Ahmad Hamed said via Skype that the al-Qaida-linked Nusra Front, which has a small presence in the city, is not expected to abide by the plan.

The Islamic State group is about 30 kilometers northeast of the city. “The most important thing for the opposition is a cease in the (government’s) barrel bombs campaign in Aleppo,” Hamed said, referring to large canisters packed with explosives and metal scraps that the Syrian army drops regularly from the air, causing widespread damage and casualties.

Another activist in Aleppo, Bahaa Halaby, said Syrian troops were trying to besiege rebel-held areas before any freeze goes into effect. “The regime wants to implement the initiative after advancing on the ground,” Halaby said via Skype. “The regime says it wants dialogue then attacks rebel positions.”

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights and Turkey-based activist Bari Abdellatif said rebels regained control of the villages of Ratyan and Dweir Zeytoun early Wednesday. The Observatory says 70 troops and 86 rebels were killed in Tuesday’s fighting.

The Observatory and Hamed, the activist, said fighting is now concentrated in the village of Bashkoy, just north of Aleppo.

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