Newscast Media DAMASCUS—Calm prevailed Wednesday in most of Damascus districts after the wide range operation of cleansing was carried out by the Syrian regime forces. The Syrian Army continues to pursue armed groups in the Damascus countryside, and has inflicted them with heavy losses, particularly in Daraya. Syria state television reported that the national security forces have also inflicted armed groups in each city of Aleppo, Sakhoor, Marja and Neirab with heavy losses.
Also on Wednesday, the Syrian security forces carried out a raid in Qamishli countryside and confiscated a large quantity of smuggled weapons. Earlier in the day, the state-run television reported that an infiltration operation was foiled in the region of Talkakh which caused heavy losses among the rebels in the countryside of Lattakia.
Analysts are saying Assad’s counter-offensive effectively ended rebels’ hopes of capturing Damascus and has brought a swift end to a 16-month uprising that killed over 18,000 people.
How Assad did it -by Yusuf Fernandez
On January 20, Syrian state television reported that the country’s army had cleared the Al-Midan area of the capital of armed groups. The forces regained control of most parts of the neighborhood following heavy clashes with armed gangs. Government forces confiscated ammunition and vehicles equipped with machine guns from the armed opposition.
While some Western agencies, like Reuters, were echoing the Free Syrian Army’s propaganda about an “inexorable” rebel advance inside Damascus, what seemed especially inexorable on Friday July 20, was the destruction of groups that infiltrated the capital. Syrian TV released a video showing the bodies of Free Syrian Army (FSA) fighters in the area of Qaboun, ensuring that many of them were “terrorists from other Arab countries”.
A report from Syrian television, which showed soldiers in the sub-district of al-Zahra in Al-Midane, said that the army had declared this area safe and asked residents to return home. In this sense, the quick and easy victory of Syrian forces in Damascus obviously has served to reassure the population and Assad’s foreign allies. Apparently, the thousands of rebels who entered the city were unable to seize it, but they were able to create insecurity and make the news.
The soldiers showed their optimism after Al-Midans’s takeover. One of them said that the assassination of the Defense Minister and other officials on Wednesday had given them more courage and that he and his comrades would destroy all those who had damaged their country. Another said: “This land is forbidden to any foreign hand who wants to bring us evil. This hand will be cut without mercy!” Another soldier exclaimed: “Here it is Syria. Down with Qatar!”
And another: “We are here to defend our land, our people and our blood. We will sacrifice ourselves for Syria! Here in this land of Al-Midane. Only the Syrian Arab army has the right to be there. This land is ours and it is us who control the ground!”
Rewind—Thursday June 19, clashes
During the night of Thursday and early Friday there were no big explosions like the previous days. Those explosions had alarmed residents, some of whom started to move to safer neighborhoods and others who chose to leave the country, according to reports.
The correspondent from Russian news site in English Russia Today, Maria Finoshina, wrote that Thursday’s clashes were the “worst she had seen in weeks”. Columns of black smoke rose on the horizon and sounds of gunfire could be heard regularly. Maria Finoshina added that despite all this and a general climate of tension, life had gone on as if nothing was happening in many neighborhoods which were not directly affected by the fighting, especially in the daytime. “People still frequent cafes and many shops remain open,” she said.
Fighting in other parts of Syria
At the same time, Syrian security forces recaptured a number of key areas across the country from armed rebels. Even newspapers such as the French conservative Le Figaro came to recognize that the government and its army had achieved successes against the rebels: “His troops (those of Bashar) crushed the rebels in Douma, near Damascus, bombed for the first time on Thursday, in a district of the capital, Kfar Sousseh, and launched the same day a deadly offensive against Al-Treimseh, killing over a hundred insurgents.”
The armed forces also regained the control of the Silqin area in Idlib and recaptured the al-Bukamal area near the Iraqi border as well as Bab al-Hawa, a town close to the Turkish border.
The terrorist attack
On the previous day, the news was dominated by the terrorist attack that killed the Minister of Defense, General Daoud Rajha, the brother in law of Bashar al-Assad, Assef Shawkat. The attack also seriously injured the Minister of Interior, Mohammad Ibrahim al-Shaar and other government officials. According to the Syrian Minister of Information, Omrane Zoebi, “the terrorist attack was perpetrated by the intelligence services of countries enemies of Syria. All countries that send money and weapons to terrorist groups take responsibility for what happened in Damascus,” said the minister in an interview with Syrian television, and added that the attack was “the last chapter of the American-Israeli conspiracy against Syria.”
The attack was rapidly broadcast by anti-Syrian media (Al Jazeera, Al Arabiyya etc) to increase their disinformation campaign. They said that General Hassan Makhlouf, the head of State Security was among the killed, which was denied. They claimed the Vice-President Farouk al-Shara has defected (he did an interview for ANB to deny it in person). There was also news on Al Jazeera about some alleged explosions in the site of the Fourth Division of the Syrian army, commanded by the brother of Syrian President, General Maher Al-Assad, which also proved to be completely wrong. Their message was clear: Assad did not control the situation on the ground and the regime would fall in some days or even in hours. The US administration echoed these claims, saying that “it is clear that President Assad is losing control in Syria.”
Israeli media also expressed their delight. The correspondent of the Arabic TV channel Al-Mayadine and editor of the Palestinian agency Maan in the occupied West Bank, Nasser Lahham, reported that Israeli television had announced the information of the murderous attack against the Syrian military officers with rejoicing, and it speculated about the imminent fall of the Syrian president.
Israeli President Shimon Peres could not hide his joy. “After the end of the Assad regime, we want to maintain good relations with Syria,” he said. A limited cabinet was even convened in an emergency meeting.
Meanwhile, the Syrian National Council (CNS), the opposition coalition supported by the West and the Gulf monarchies (and implicitly by Israel), asserted that the following days would be “decisive” and called the Syrians “to prepare themselves for the fall of Bashar al-Assad.”
The Syrian government responds
However, Syrian authorities reacted immediately after the attack. President Assad appointed General Fahd al-Freij, hitherto Chief of Staff, as new Minister of Defense. He inaugurated its functions by an unequivocal statement on the government’s desire to end terrorism, bombs and bands. The Syrian army expressed its determination to “cleanse” the country of “terrorists” after the attack.
“This terrorist act strengthens the resolve of our armed forces to clean the home of the remnants of terrorist gangs,” it said in a statement broadcast by state television. After this statement, an active pursuit operation against the insurgent groups in Damascus took place.
(Several) security experts have also told several Arabic channels that the attack was not likely to undermine the Syrian regime. One of them is Pierre Khalaf, who heads the Beirut-based Center for Strategic Arab and International Studies. Khalaf is certainly on the far side of the Syrian government –but it is in any case opposed to misinformation. He considers that the FSA has currently about 7,000 armed combatants and it is not a serious rival to the Syrian army.
“The Syrian leadership’s plan is to destroy most of the insurgents’ strongholds, whose number is estimated at 7,000 armed men. They also plan to control international frontiers. Having regained control of the countryside of Damascus, where the FSA had vast stores of weapons, operating rooms and underground hospitals, the effort is currently heading towards Homs, in order to pacify and regain control of neighborhoods which are still under the control of insurgents. At the same time, large operations are conducted at a border with Turkey through which weapons, money and men are being introduced into Syria.
“The situation of the rebels has reached a state of weakness and dispersal”, says Khalaf, but opponents living in five-star hotels (in Paris and other cities) are multiplying their statements on the “imminence” of the Battle of Damascus, which will be “decisive”.
Peter Khalaf has asked: “Are these claims realistic? It seems indisputable that the FSA and assimilated groups are on the defensive everywhere and that every serious confrontation with the Syrian military turns for them into a bloody defeat. And we can assume that the army, assured the Russian and Chinese support, will not to stop its deadly pressure.”
Source: Al-Manar News
Yusuf Fernandez is a Spanish journalist who also works for Radio Prague. He is the editor of several Islamic sites in Spanish and English and is currently editor of the Spanish site Al Manar.
Newscast Media TEHRAN, Iran — Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi said on Monday that Syria is heading for tranquility as the army is gradually suppressing the armed insurgent groups.
“Enemies imagined that they can create a vacuum in the management of the country by explosions in Damascus but the enemies of the Syrian nation have been defeated… and the army is gradually finding supremacy over the armed opposition,” Salehi told reporters after a cabinet meeting.
The foreign minister presented an assessment of the situation in Syria in which groups with divergent and opposite views are pursuing: One is public legitimate demand that Iran has announced should be met and the second one is a strategy which has resorted to violence with the support of the West and certain regional
countries and because their purpose is to break out civil war and topple the government.
He again repeated that Iran is ready to mediate between opposition groups and the Syrian government, saying, “Since a year go we have been in contact with the Syrian opposition groups.”
However, he said the Syrian opposition is a combination of different groups with different purposes. He added, “We believe that the opposition groups should reach a compromise with the Syrian government to get out of this situation even though Syria is heading toward calm.”
Source: Tehran Times
Newscast Media DAMASCUS, Syria—Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Gennady Gatilov says a Western-backed UN Security Council resolution on Syria will pave the way for a “civil war” in the Arab country. Gatilov told Russian media on Tuesday that a draft resolution on Syria “will not help in the search for a compromise” if it is approved.
“Pushing it through is the path towards civil war,” Gatilov added.
On January 27, the UN Security Council met to consider the draft, which was presented to the UN body by Morocco and supports an Arab League plan that calls on Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to resign and hand over power to a deputy to form a national unity government “with the opposition within two months.”
The United States, the United Kingdom and France have supported the new Arab League plan. Gatilov had earlier said Moscow would “not support any measure which orders Assad to leave office.”
Arab League Secretary General Nabil al-Arabi said in a statement issued on January 28 that the organization had decided to “immediately stop the work of the Arab League’s mission to Syria” due to “the critical deterioration of the situation” in the country.The observer mission had been in Syria since December 26, 2011 and was tasked with monitoring the implementation of the Arab League resolution to end the unrest in the country.
The Syrian government said on Saturday Damascus “regrets the decision taken by Arabi to suspend the observer mission” and that the decision called for “foreign intervention” and encouraged “armed groups to increase violence.”
This is not the first time Russia opposes measures against the Syrian government. On January 18, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Moscow was strongly against the imposition of any sanctions against Damascus or the deployment of foreign troops in Syria. Lavrov made the remarks after the European Union planned new sanctions against Syria on the same day. Syria has been experiencing unrest since mid-March 2011, with demonstrations being held both against and in favor of President Assad.
Damascus says “outlaws, saboteurs and armed terrorist groups” are responsible for the unrest, which it says is being orchestrated from abroad. On January 11, Assad joined thousands of government supporters in the capital Damascus and said Syria will “undoubtedly triumph over foreign conspiracies.”
Source: Press TV
by Marc Bennetts
Newscast Media MOSCOW — Moscow would agree to host talks between the Syrian authorities and opposition forces in a bid to end the violence the United Nations says has so far claimed the lives of over 5,000 people, Russia’s foreign minister said on Wednesday.
“As concerns the venue [for talks], we would welcome any choice agreeable to all sides,” Sergei Lavrov said. “If the opposition does not want to go to Damascus, this could be Cairo – the headquarters of the Arab League – Turkey or Russia.”
Russia has been one of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s staunchest supporters during the more than ten-month uprising against his regime. Damascus has rejected international criticism of its human rights record during the conflict and says some 2,000 police and members of the security forces have been killed by “terrorists and extremists.”
“Russia and Syria enjoy old, solid ties that strengthen every year,” the new Syrian ambassador to Russia, Riyad Khaddad, told a news conference in Moscow later on Wednesday. “Syria does not take one step in the international arena without consulting with its Russian colleagues.”
He also thanked Russia for its refusal “to stay silent in the face of Western exploitation of the UN Security Council” and slammed the international media for its “lies and delusions” on Syria.
Moscow vetoed in November a UN Security Council resolution harshly condemning Syria and warned against attempts to end the crisis by the use of what it called “the Libya scenario.” Russia abstained in the March 2011 UN vote on authorizing military intervention in Libya, but sharply criticized the NATO bombing raids that helped end the four-decade-long reign of Muammar Gaddafi last fall.
Russia has also spoken out against unilateral sanctions imposed on Syria by the European Union and the United States last year. On Wednesday, Lavrov again said Moscow would stonewall attempts to gain UN approval for the sanctions. Moscow has proposed its own draft UN resolution on Syria, but Western members of the Security Council have criticized it as too weak.
But one Middle East analyst suggested that Russia’s backing for Syria had ulterior motives.
“Russia’s support for Syria, it seems to me, has been agreed on with the U.S. and other leading European countries,” said Sergei Demidenko of the Moscow-based Institute of Strategic Studies and Analysis.
Demidenko suggested that Western powers have no stomach for military intervention in Syria, which he said could see the rise of Islamic extremism – dangerous for both Russia and the West – throughout the region. “Russia is playing the bad guy,” he told RIA Novosti. “The West can therefore wash its hands of Syria, saying Russia and China block us at every step.”
Russia has rejected international calls for an arms embargo against Syria, saying this would leave the authorities without a source for legal arms deliveries, while doing nothing to prevent backdoor weapons shipments to opposition forces. It has also refused to explain or justify its own arms deliveries to the violence-stricken Middle East state.
Human Rights Watch’s UN advocacy director, Philippe Bolopion, criticized Russia on Tuesday for its stance.
“Russia has continued selling and delivering weapons to Syria, which is really an insult to the Syrian people who are at the receiving end of these weapons,” he said. “They should try to prevent an escalation of the crisis and instead they are really fueling the fire by sending more weapons.”
His criticism was echoed – albeit without direct mention of Russia – by Western members of the UN Security Council on Wednesday. “It is glaringly obvious that transferring weapons into a volatile and violent situation is irresponsible and will only fuel the bloodshed,” said British UN envoy Mark Lyall Grant. The head of the Rostekhnologii state corporation that controls official arms exporter, Rosoboronexport, Sergei Chemezov, said on Wednesday that Moscow faced losing its leading position in the Middle Eastand North African arms market if it ailed to maintain arms deliveries to Syria.
Newscast Media DAMASCUS, Syria — Syrian President Bashar al-Assad vowed on Wednesday to vanquish “foreign conspirators” plotting against his government, saying the crisis in the country is nearing its end.
Addressing tens of thousands of Syrians in the capital Damascus, Assad said that the support of Syrians for his government gives him power to fight hard against the external conspiracy trying to destabilize the country.
“I wanted to be with you so I can draw strength from you in the face of everything that Syria is subjected to. It was important that we maintain our faith in the future. I have that faith in the future and we will undoubtedly triumph over this conspiracy,” the Syrian president told his supporters, Reuters reported.
“You are standing against a desecration of our identity, and you are confirming your steadfastness and support for the armed forces, whose martyrs are falling every single day so you can live in safety,” he added.
Assad’s wife Asma and their two children joined him for his surprise appearance in the capital’s central Umayyad Square.
“I belong to this street,” Assad, 46, said, adding Syria faced foreign conspirators. We will make this phase the end for them and their plans. We are going to win without any doubt.”
His remarks followed a 100-minute speech on Tuesday in which he censured the Arab League, vowed to hit “terrorists” with an iron fist and promised reforms, but with no hint that he would relinquish the power he inherited from his father in 2000.
The Arab League, which suspended Syria in November for failing to halt its crackdown on protests, sent an observer mission in December that has not stopped the violence. It urged Syria this week to protect its observers.
In his speech on Tuesday, Assad had scorned the Arab League for trying to discipline Syria, saying it had “failed for six decades to take a position in the Arab interest” and that “the Arab League without Syria suspends its own Arab identity.”
The Syrian president, however, said that Damascus will not close the door on any Arab solution which respects its sovereignty.
“Our priority now is to regain the security in which we basked in for decades, and this can only be achieved by hitting the terrorists with an iron fist,” Assad said.
Syria has been experiencing unrest since mid-March. According to the UN, over 5,000 people have been killed in ten-month long unrest. While the West and the Syrian opposition accuse the government of killing
protesters, Damascus blames ”outlaws, saboteurs and armed terrorist groups” for the unrest, insisting that it is being orchestrated from abroad.
Source: Tehran Times
Newscast Media DAMASCUS, Syria — Usually before something big happens in a chaotic nation, the US government asks its citizens to leave as it has just done in Syria. The US State Department also said some non-essential embassy staff and all embassy dependants would be leaving, in addition, the Obama administration is contemplating sanctions against Syria.
Several media outlets have reported violence, crackdowns and arrests in Syria despite the lifting of an emergency law last week. More than 350 people are reported to have been killed in the violence since the protests started in March. In a statement carried by the official news agency, the Syrian government said it had sent troops to several cities on the request of citizens who were worried about “armed extremists”.
Arrests were made and those people would be processed through the civil courts, the government statement added, following the lifting of emergency laws last week.
“The bullets continue against the people, but we are resisting,” local activist Abazid Abdullah told AFP news agency.
The British Foreign Secretary, William Hague, has called for an end to the “violent repression” of protests in Syria, and said London was working to send a “strong signal” to Damascus.
“This includes working with our partners on the United Nations Security Council to send a strong signal to the Syrian authorities that the eyes of the international community are on Syria, and with our partners in the European Union and the region on possible further measures.”
According to a UN Security Council diplomat, the UK and other European states are circulating a draft statement condemning the violence in Syria. The Obama administration is considering sanctions to put pressure on the government of President Bashar al-Assad to stop its crackdown, US officials say. The steps could include a freeze on the assets of Syrian leaders and a ban on business dealings in the US, but no time scale has been given for the measures.