Posts Tagged ‘ White Mist Revolution ’

Kurdish-led Syria forces face off with Turkish-backed rebels

August 27, 2016

BEIRUT (AP) — Backed by Turkish tanks and reports of airstrikes, Turkey-allied Syrian rebels clashed with Kurdish-led forces in northeastern Syria in a new escalation that further complicates the already protracted Syrian conflict.

Turkey’s military didn’t specify what the airstrikes hit, saying only that “terror groups” were targeted south of the village of Jarablus, where the clashes later ensued. A Kurdish-affiliated group said their forces were the target and called the attack an “unprecedented and dangerous escalation.” If confirmed, it would be the first Turkish airstrikes against Kurdish allied forces on Syrian soil.

Late Saturday night, Turkey’s official news agency reported that one Turkish solider had been killed and three wounded by what it said was a Kurdish rocket attack in Jarablus, near where the fighting has raged. It is the first reported Turkish fatality in Syria.

The new escalation highlights concerns that Turkey’s incursion into Syria this week could lead to an all-out confrontation between Ankara and Syrian Kurds, both American allies, and hinder the war against the Islamic State group by diverting resources.

Sherwan Darwish, a spokesman for Kurdish-led forces in the village of Manbij, said on Twitter Saturday night: “While our forces fighting #IS Some #Turkey backed militias r attacking our positions & hampering our & Intl Coalition’s fight against terror.”

The clashes underscore Ankara’s determination to push back Kurdish forces from along its borders, and curb their ambitions to form a contiguous entity in northern Syria. Kurdish groups have already declared a semi-autonomous administration in Syria and control most of the border area.

Jarablus, and Manbij to the south liberated from IS fighters by Kurdish-led forces earlier this month, are essential to connecting the western and eastern semi-autonomous Kurdish areas in Syria. Turkish officials said they will continue their offensive in Syria until there is no longer any “terror” threat to Turkey from its war-torn neighbor. Ankara backed Syrian rebels to gain control of Jarablus last week. They are now pushing their way south.

On Saturday, the Syrian rebels said they have seized a number of villages south of Jarablus from IS militants and Kurdish forces. Clashes were fiercest with the Kurdish-allied forces over the village of Amarneh, eight kilometers (five miles) south of Jarablus.

The media office of the Turkish-backed Nour el-din el-Zinki rebel group said the Syrian rebels were backed by Turkish tanks. A news report on ANHA, the news agency for the semi-autonomous Kurdish areas, said local fighters destroyed a Turkish tank and killed a number of fighters in an attack by the Turkish military and allied groups on Amnarneh.

There was no immediate comment from Turkish officials. The clashes were preceded by Turkish airstrikes against bases of Kurdish-affiliated forces and residential areas at Amarneh. The Jarablus Military Council, affiliated with the U.S-backed Kurdish-led Syria Democratic Forces, said the Turkish airstrikes marked an “unprecedented and dangerous escalation” that “endangers the future of the region.”

It vowed to stand its ground. Other groups which are part of the SDF vowed to support them, calling on the U.S-led coalition to explain the Turkish attacks on allied forces. Turkey’s state news agency, citing military sources, said the Turkish Military Joint Special Task Forces and coalition airplanes targeted an ammunition depot and a barrack and outpost used as command centers by “terror groups” south of Jarablus Saturday morning. The Anadolu Agency did not say which group or village was targeted.

Turkey has long suspected the Syrian Kurdish People’s Protection Units, or YPG, of being linked to Kurdish insurgents in its own southeast, which it labels as a terror group. It has demanded the YPG, which makes up the bulk of the SDF and has been one of the most effective U.S. ally in the fight against IS, withdraw to the east bank of the Euphrates River.

The U.S. supported Turkey’s call for the Kurdish forces to move back, and Kurdish officials said they withdrew the YPG forces from Manbij. But following the Turkish offensive, local forces with Kurdish fighters and backed by YPG advisers pushed their way north of Manbij, in a rush for control of Jarablus.

Meanwhile, the U.N. special envoy to Syria, Staffan de Mistura, appealed to the opposition to approve plans to deliver aid to rebel-held eastern Aleppo and government-held Aleppo through a government-controlled route north of Aleppo during a 48-hour humanitarian pause.

Aleppo has been caught in a bloody circle of violence, with rebels and government forces each promising to unite the divided city. The U.N. said it has pre-positioned aid ready for delivery into Aleppo, to reach 80,000 people on the rebel side and some on the government side. But the opposition, whose fighters have opened another route in the south, were wary of the use of the government-controlled route.

“People are suffering and need assistance. Time is of the essence. All must put the civilian population of Aleppo first and exert their influence now,” de Mistura said in a statement, urging an approval by Sunday.

But violence raged. Suspected government helicopters dropped two barrel bombs on a wake held for children killed a few days earlier, killing at least 15, according to the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

The Aleppo Media Center, an activist group in the city, and volunteers on the scene put the death toll higher at 24. Mohammed Khandakani, a hospital volunteer, said one of the injured told him a barrel bomb was dropped in the Bab al-Nairab neighborhood as people paid their condolences for children killed Thursday in an airstrike that left 11 children dead in the same neighborhood. Minutes later, Khandakani said another barrel bomb was dropped, injuring an ambulance driver, and hampering rescue efforts.

The Syrian government and its Russian ally are the only ones operating helicopters over Aleppo. The government denies it uses barrel bombs. Elsewhere, the Syrian government said it now has full control of the Damascus suburb of Daraya, following the completion of a forced evacuation deal struck with the government that emptied the area of its remaining rebels and residents and ended a four-year siege and grueling bombing campaign.

The declaration comes a day after the evacuation of nearly 5,000 residents and fighters from the suburb began. The deal followed an extensive government campaign of aerial bombing and shelling of Daraya, the last bastion against President Bashar Assad in the western Ghouta region, southwest of Damascus.

Some 700 gunmen and 4,000 civilians were evacuated. The gunmen and their families headed to the northern rebel-controlled Idlib province. Other civilians were escorted to shelters in government-controlled suburbs of Damascus.

Associated Press writer Albert Aji in Damascus, Syria and Dusan Stojanovic in Istanbul contributed to this report.

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Syria: Evacuation of Daraya begins in deal to end siege

27 August 2016 Saturday

The first buses carrying residents and rebel fighters left the Damascus suburb of Daraya on Friday under a deal that will see the area evacuated after a four-year siege by government forces.

Aid convoys arranged by the medical charity Red Crescent entered the suburb early on Friday, as part of the deal that grants control of the area to government forces.

Rebel fighters and government forces agreed to a deal on Thursday to evacuate the town, which pro-government forces have surrounded since 2012. Since then, only one aid shipment has reached the area, according to the United Nations.

Residents were suffering from severe shortages and malnutrition prior to the aid deliveries, according to local activists.

A Reuters news agency witness saw six buses leaving the town, and footage on state television showed buses carefully driving past a large group of soldiers through streets lined with rubble.

The Syrian opposition criticized the evacuation, saying that the international community had failed the people of Daraya.

“Daraya did not fail today,” George Sabra of the opposition peace talks team told DPA news agency. “It was the international community who failed, and failed the people of Daraya.”

Sources told Al Jazeera that about 8,000 civilians and 800 rebels would be evacuated from the Damascus suburb, which, before the war, was home to a quarter of a million people.

Al Jazeera’s Hashem Ahelbarra, reporting from Gaziantep on the Turkish side of the Syria-Turkey border, said the rebels were “forced to sign the deal”.

“For nearly four years, residents of Daraya have lived under siege, with civilians being starved to death by government forces. This is a deal that the rebels had to sign, and we will now see civilians moved to Sahnaya – a town in the Damascus governorate – under regime control,” he said.

UN ‘not consulted’ on deal

The UN, which has repeatedly called for the lifting of the siege, said it was “not involved and not consulted in this deal”, in a statement put out by the UN Special Envoy to Syria Staffan de Mistura’s office.

De Mistura, who met with the US Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov in Geneva on Friday, said the situation in Daraya was “extremely grave and tragic” and that “the repeated appeals to lift the siege of Daraya have not been headed”.

Reporting from Geneva, Al Jazeera’s diplomatic editor James Bays said the Syrian government’s “starvation of surrender policy has actually worked because they have now managed to close down Daraya and remove everyone from Daraya”.

Rebel forces from Daraya will be taken to the northern province of Idlib, held by the Army of Conquest, a coalition of armed anti-government groups.

The rebels who controlled Daraya belonged to two rebel groups: Ajnad al-Sham and the Martyrs of Islam, groups allied with the Army of Conquest.

However, activists told Al Jazeera that they were extremely concerned over the safety of civilians, many of whom are relatives of the rebels, as the government offered little to no guarantee.

‘A major setback’

Speaking to Al Jazeera from Jordan, advocacy adviser Chairman Mohamed of the Norwegian Refugee Council said although the end of hostiles in the town was a positive step, her team was “concerned about the protection of civilians” and that any evacuations “should be voluntary in nature”.

“There should be absolutely unfettered humanitarian access, and civilians should be protected, according to international humanitarian law”.

Some opposition groups also criticized the deal, calling it a major setback as Sunnis would be forced from their homes, further fracturing the country along sectarian lines.

“This is a pattern by the government to push Sunnis out of communities they control and have been living in for decades. In 2015, there was a similar deal in Zabadani on the outskirts of the capital,” our correspondent added.

In 2012, several hundred people were killed in Daraya, including civilians, many execution-style, when security forces stormed the suburb after locals took up arms.

According to the UN, nearly 600,000 live under siege across Syria, most surrounded by government forces.

In several places, lengthy government sieges have prompted rebels to agree to evacuation deals with the regime, leading activists to accuse Damascus of using “starve or surrender” tactics.

Earlier this year, de Mistura estimated that 400,000 people had died throughout the last five years.

The UN no longer keeps track of the death toll due to the inaccessibility of many areas and the complications of navigating conflicting statistics put forward by the Syrian government and armed opposition groups.

Source: al-Jazeera.

Link: http://www.aljazeera.com/news/2016/08/syria-aid-convoys-enter-daraya-deal-siege-160826084006363.html.

Druze youths protest in Syria’s Suweida

14/04/2016

BEIRUT – Students have been at the forefront of a recent protest movement in Syria’s Druze-populated Suweida province calling for comprehensive reforms in the regime-controlled region.

The newly-formed “You Broke Us” campaign called for Suweida residents to hit the streets early Thursday afternoon, the latest protest organized by the movement making a raft of social and economic demands that implicitly blame the government with mismanaging the province.

“You Broke Us” announced its public presence on March 13 in an opening statement in which it vowed to organize a “long-term protest” until its demands to help “build a better future for the province” were met.

The organization’s manifesto is not overly political and does not take any firm stance on the regime’s presence in Suweida, similar to a previous grassroots movement that briefly held a series of protests in the fall of 2015.

Instead, “You Broke Us” lists eight main problems it says are blighting the lives of the province’s residents: rampant corruption, poor electrical services, declining provision of fuel and heating gas, the firing of state employees who refuse military service, the fixed salary of state employees amid the inflation wracking the country, high prices for basic commodities, increased lawlessness, and poor healthcare.

Although the campaign has avoided anti-regime rhetoric, it launched an implicit broadside against local government figures in a March 22 post, saying: “We send a message to the concerned dirty and corrupt authorities that the people soon will direct their judgments against you, O criminals.”

So far, the student-led civil society movement’s protests have focused on the dismissal of public teachers who refused to sign-up for state military reserve service, a heavy-handed regime move that ran contrary to Suweida residents’ long-running opposition to conscription in the Syrian army to potentially fight in far-off battlefronts.

The first student protest over the matter was held on March 1 in front of Suweida’s Department of Education amid a heavy presence of security forces. Although the sit-in came over a week before the official launch of “You Broke Us,” the group has since claimed it organized the demonstration.

In the ensuing weeks, “You Broke Us,” dozens of students have gathered five subsequent times for marches and sit-ins, all of which were peaceful in nature and were not brutally suppressed by regime forces, as other protests in the early days of the Syrian uprising were.

Their latest protest on April 12 went beyond the local situation, with “You Broke Us” organizers saying the rally was in response to the situation in not only Suweida, but the country as whole. The call for action for the sit-in railed against “injustice, corruption and the violation of the rights of young people.”

Although Suweida is under regime control, a number of grassroots movements have sprung up in the past two years to protest decreasing living standards in the Druze-populated province.

In the fall of 2015, the short-lived “We Are Being Strangled” movement organized a series of protests, one of which turned into an unprecedented show of anger on September 2 when demonstrators went as far as storming the provincial government’s local HQ in Suweida.

Two days after the protest, the leader of the fiercely independent Sheikhs of Dignity Movement—the most powerful group challenging regime authority in Suweida—was assassinated by a massive car bombing in the provincial capital.

The Sheikhs of Dignity never made any official statement of support for the “We Are Being Strangled” movement, and the group has also remained mum on the recently-formed student protest group.

Although the Sheikhs of Dignity and its armed affiliates insist they are neutral, they have struck increasingly challenging positions against the Syrian government, and have announced they seek self-security.

Source: NOW.

Link: https://now.mmedia.me/lb/en/NewsReports/566869-druze-youths-protest-in-syrias-suweida.

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.

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.”

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