News24

Assad fights back after rebel surge

2012-07-21 11:51

Bab al-Hawa - Syrian government forces pounded rebels in Damascus overnight, battling to reverse opposition gains in the aftermath of the assassination of President Bashar al-Assad's security chiefs.

Army helicopters and tanks aimed rockets, machineguns and mortars at pockets of rebel fighters who have infiltrated the capital this week in an operation they call "Damascus Volcano".

Lightly-armed fighters have been moving through the streets on foot and attacking security installations and roadblocks.

But the heart of the city was quiet by 04:00 GMT on Saturday, residents told Reuters.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, an opposition group which monitors the violence in the country, said 240 people had been killed across Syria on Friday, including 43 soldiers.

The Observatory's combined death toll over the past 48 hours stands at 550, making it the bloodiest two days of the 16-month-old uprising against Assad.

On Wednesday a bomb killed four members of the president's narrow circle of kin and lieutenants, including his powerful brother-in-law, defence minister and intelligence chief.

"The regime has been rudderless for [the] last three days. But the aerial and ground bombardment on Damascus and its suburbs shows that it has not lost the striking force and that it is re-grouping," opposition activist Moaz al-Jahhar said by phone from Damascus.

In the days since, rebels have pushed deep into the heart of the capital and seized control of other towns. On Thursday, they captured three border crossings with Iraq and Turkey, the first time they have held sway over Syria's frontiers.

Looting

At Bab al-Hawa, a busy border post with Turkey seized by advancing fighters, rebels watched on with approval while jubilant villagers looted a duty free shop, part of the vast business empire of one of Assad's cousins.

"This is the people's money; they are taking it back," said rebel fighter Ismail. "Whoever wants to should take it."

Assad has failed to speak in public since Wednesday's blast. A funeral was held on Friday for three of the officials slain in the attack, but Assad did not attend and was nowhere to be seen.

A Damascus resident said he saw three tanks on the southern ring road late on Friday evening, firing at districts in west Damascus.

"The road was cut off and troops were firing mortar rounds from next to the tanks," he said.

A resident of Mezzeh, a district of high rise towers, villas and cactus fields, said helicopters were firing machineguns into the neighbourhood and rebels were firing back "uselessly" with automatic rifles.

A man in Barzeh, a neighbourhood to the northeast, said a barrage of mortar rounds began hitting residential buildings before midnight.

Loyalist snipers stationed in Ush al-Wawrar, an enclave in hills overlooking Barzeh populated mainly by members of Assad's Alawite minority sect, had killed a woman earlier in the day and there was gunfire between the two districts, he said.

Accounts could not be independently verified. The Syrian government restricts access by international journalists.

Dead men in t-shirts

In at least one apparent success for Assad's forces, state TV said on Friday troops had cleared the central Damascus district of Midan of "mercenaries and terrorists". It showed dead men in t-shirts, some covered in blood, others burned.

Opposition activists and rebel sources confirmed they had withdrawn from that district after coming under heavy bombardment, but said they were advancing elsewhere.

"It is a tactical withdrawal. We are still in Damascus," Abu Omar, a rebel commander, said by telephone.

Assad's forces shelled the Abu Kamal crossing with Iraq on the Euphrates River highway, one of the most important trade routes in the Middle East, seized by rebels on Thursday.

A Reuters photographer at the scene said Iraqi forces had sealed off their side of the checkpoint with concrete walls. Late on Friday explosions and gunfire could be heard from the Syrian side, which had been burned and looted.

The surge in violence has trapped millions of Syrians, turned sections of the capital into ghost towns, and sent tens of thousands of refugees fleeing to neighbouring Lebanon.

Regional and world powers are now bracing for what could be the decisive phase of the conflict, hoping to wrench Assad out of power without unleashing a sectarian war that could spill across borders.

Israel said it would consider military action if needed to ensure Syrian missiles or chemical weapons did not reach Assad's allies in Lebanon, the Shi'ite Islamist movement Hezbollah.

"I have instructed the military to increase its intelligence preparations and prepare what is needed so that ... [if necessary]... we will be able to consider carrying out an operation," Defence Minister Ehud Barak said.

Diplomacy has failed to keep pace with events. A day after Moscow and Beijing vetoed a UN resolution that would have allowed sanctions, the Security Council approved a 30-day extension of a small, unarmed observer mission, the only outside military presence on the ground.

"The regime is going through its last days," Abdelbasset Seida, the leader of the main Syrian opposition umbrella group, the Syrian National Council, said in Rome, predicting a dramatic escalation in violence.

Comments
  • fidel.mgoqi - 2012-07-21 12:19

    "It is a tactical withdrawal. We are still in Damascus," Abu Omar, a rebel commander, said by telephone. So operation Volcano has turned into a fizzle then,now the FSA have "tactically retreated" from Damascus. And what has this achieved than death of ordinary Syrians and destruction to property. And still the residents of Damascus have risen up against their government?

      AnthonyfromAfrica - 2012-07-21 12:28

      Your HATRED for the Syrian population goes on unabated. And so also, your disturbed admiration for one of the worst dictators/tyrants in modern history! This assad DOG will be defeated, the only question remains, will he be hanging from a tree or will he catch a flight to The Hague!!

      fred.fraser.12 - 2012-07-21 12:32

      The bursting of Fidel's delusion is near. Will he reform it, thereby remaining delusional, or mature.

      fidel.mgoqi - 2012-07-21 12:39

      Fred I've decide not to respond to a sock puppetry from now on. In future don't try to address me as I won't be responding to your bulletins. @Anthony I want the violence to stop whereas you and your band of stoogies want it to continue past whatever chaos will ensue for years to come. Syria has its own problems and doesn't need the west sticking its nose in, making thing 1000x worse under the guise of "humanitarian intervention".

      AnthonyfromAfrica - 2012-07-21 13:03

      Without any doubt, Fred gives us the most level headed comments, re International issues. His insight, especially the ME, are off incredible value to these comment sites. Also, although he might 'mock' some one at times, there is NEVER any HATRED, RACISM or FILTH in his comments. Many, and especially you Fidel, can learn lots from him !! You don't want to 'debate' with him, shows YOUR WEAKNESS and HIS STRENGTH

      AnthonyfromAfrica - 2012-07-21 13:19

      Fidel, ""I want the violence to stop whereas you and your band of stoogies want....."" You are tops....in making up your own stories. EVERYBODY, AND EVERYBODY WANTS THE VIOLENCE TO STOP (thats off course besides your radical buddy, that Keith freak !! ) Thousands of history books is not going to tell you, HOW. BUT, RECENT HISTORY ,WILL In Tunesia, 95% of the killings stopped, HOURS after that Ben Ali went on the run ! In Egypt, 95% of the killings stopped, HOURS after Mubarak resigned asa President! In Libya, 95% of the killings stopped, HOURS, after that fruitcake, went to visit the abbatoir! NOW, you clever girl, come and explain, WHY the killings would not stop, HOURS after that assad terrorist is toppled.

      AnthonyfromAfrica - 2012-07-21 15:08

      Fidel, If there is anyone who bores us with the 'same threat" it certainly is you. Your 'main threat' is, that it HAS to be anti Western, and than a few personal insults thrown in with it. Even the (night) moderator gets so ooo booored with this crap, that out of frustration he/she deletes many of your comments !!! History; ok lets than diffeentiate between 'history of last year and last month, than 'your history' which is usual 60 years old !!! Percentages; If now also you profess to be an accountant, than let me refrase my '95%' to; "almost total" Happy now ???

      fidel.mgoqi - 2012-07-21 17:21

      It's called a "Thread", not a threat, numb skull! That's a bit convenient don't you think, for you to arbitrarily decide what stage of history is permissible. For where do you think the new day and the fresh future come from? The present and the future are built on the past, only the very near sighted can suppose that they can defy historical gravity and float above it all, sublimely free of all roots. "The past is never dead. It's not even past." -- Wm. Faulkner

      fred.fraser.12 - 2012-07-21 17:33

      I'm not addressing you, Fidel.

      AnthonyfromAfrica - 2012-07-21 19:50

      ""That's a bit convenient don't you think, for you to arbitrarily decide what stage of history is permissible.........."" If maybe , you would start thinking for yourself, instead of being so unbelievable childish, copying your 'quote book' on these sites, you might begin to understand some comments. This is the problem with radicals/extremists, they have decided what is important in history and what is not. And so created their own history. Take the continent of Africa; It is the radicals who go on and on, and on ,and on ,and on, about how the Europeans colonized Africa, But with them being stuck in this groove, they don't see the ironi of history. That it are these same Europeans, who form the back bone of many African econmies, and who have massive investments in this continent, and create ,direct and indirect ,hundred of thousands of jobs. It are also these same Europeans who EVERY YEAR,. save MILLIONS OF AFRICAN lives through AID. It is for this pathetically childish reason, that radicals have NEVER YET , made ANY contribution to the betterment of peoples !!!

      fidel.mgoqi - 2012-07-21 20:12

      Oh my goodness. European economies are formed on the back bone of this continent, not the other way around. Why do you think Europe has so much interest in this continent, to feed starving Africans? The aid Europe gives has the pain of an Arsonist's sympathy. They burn our houses down and then bring a little bucket of water to help put out the fire. Africa is not going to pat Europe on the back for such "sympathy"! They donate less than $2 billion to Africa and yet extract over $100 billion every year through their multinational corporations. They fund "rebellions" and supply arms, then pretend to be peacemakers, offering to mediate in ways that favor their puppets. They force us to open our markets for their goods, yet impose trade barriers for those products we are competitive on. So, yes, Anthony, we are much better off without their flimsy aid and their cynical "sympathy"! You are the most uninformed ranter on these pages who offers nothing other than ignorant hot air. For once try doing some serious research before you open that gaping gob of yours.

      AnthonyfromAfrica - 2012-07-21 20:35

      Fidel, There we go again............., with your silly and childish anti Western rantings, and than off course thrown in , a few insults . A typical Fidel comment; Lots of 'important words' but totally hollow in content. It is you blinding yourself of any reality, that you will never understand what makes the diffference between success in Africa, and a continuation of poverty and suffering. Your comment shows AGAIN clearly, that you are an ENEMY of Africa, and that by far the maojority of Africans despice you !! How do I know that ?? Because ANY political party in Africa, who propagate simular thoughts as yours, is a Failure, and many, including ones in SA, have ended up in the thrash bin. It is only with your history books and a few books of 'quotations' you want to impress others on this site. But in reality , your head is empty !!!

      fidel.mgoqi - 2012-07-21 21:38

      I suspect that you're simply one ignorant knuckle-dragging fool.

      fred.fraser.12 - 2012-07-22 01:38

      Unfortunately Africa is hardly on the radar of international direct foreign investment, because of its violence and corruption. Were we to change this, we'd attract more real investment, from all parts of the world, and be more prosperous. Fidel's pseudo-victim sob-story and immature anti-West core-beliefs are to be avoided at all cost, unless we wasn't to stay retarded.

  • malik.vazi - 2012-07-21 20:22

    Can someone tell me whether the west does ever asks itself why its militant humanitarianism is rarely appreciated by non westerners? First of all let me say I don't like generalisations and I have no beef with anyone. Again, as a non Arab, Arab wars are not my wars, as much as to Arabs, the deaths of Muslim and Christian Africans in Darfur in Sudan does not bother them. Now, my theory is that as long as western foreign policy is centered on selectively supporting humanitarianism based on narrow interests, it will have few supporters in the world. The west want Syria to fall and as a domino effect, Iran and Hezbollah will follow, while Israel benefits handsomely. If the west are present day Che Gueveras, why are they not in Bahrain? Why women in Saudi cannot drive or walk outside without male minders and no wars? Why Saudi is allowed to export wahabism that has presented the USA, London and Madrid with suicide bombers? In Syria, the killed defence minister was a christian but in saudi you cannot find a church. So, when it comes to foreign policy,both the US and Europe are the brides and Israel is the groom in a polygamous marriage based on Israel's permanent victimhood of world war 2. It amazes me how smart westerners with great civilization can be so unwise and foolish at the same-time. Even institutions like the UN are corrupted by the powerful,with the weaker states praying that they are not the next to be bombed by militant humanitarians of the west/The new Che Gueveras.

      AnthonyfromAfrica - 2012-07-21 20:39

      Malik, ""If the west are present day Che Gueveras, why are they not in Bahrain? Why women in Saudi cannot drive or walk outside without male minders..................."" And you wrote this all by yourself...Brilliant !!!

      fidel.mgoqi - 2012-07-21 21:06

      Well spotted Malik, despair not for Africans are awake!

      AnthonyfromAfrica - 2012-07-21 21:28

      Malik, If you just want to please Fidel, than don't go through all the trouble writing such a long post; Just say: 'To hell with the West' and you got her total admiration!! And, like Fidel, you don't have a clue, what Che Gueveras, and for that matter, Fidel Castro were/are about. Both of them would be horrified, if they find out you bring their names in disrepute with linking them 'in any way' with a MASS MURDERER !!!!

      fred.fraser.12 - 2012-07-22 01:54

      Your premise is corrupt, prejudiced and faulty. For as long as you blame the West for the chauvinism, autocracy and violence inherent to Middle East leaderships, nothing will change, in your personal life or in the Middle East. Yes, your personal life too. Thankfully the people of the Middle East are freeing themselves from decades of violent autocracy at the hands of unelected dictators. They're no longer allowing themselves to be imprisoned by these dictators, nor by the corrupt beliefs that you unfortunately hold.

  • malik.vazi - 2012-07-21 22:05

    Hi Anthony, please find fault in what I say and don't impose your views or anyone else's views on me. I will not say hell to the west because I have very good western friends who are quite open minded and no, they are not self hating. There are bad people in every group and there are bad people in every group. However, in Africa, Middle East, Latin America and Asia, every bad guy is traditionally protected by Western power and I think despite your views u seem smart enough to point a few examples. Mubarak,Ben Ali, Mobutu Seseko, Marcos, Pinoche, Arab monarchs are examples my dog Bush will give you. I can give you a 1000 years of history if injustice by the west, but I can also give u a 1000 years of good deeds. The same with Russia, China and any other powerhouse u can dream of, so don't expect me to stereotype and generalise. Differ with me but allow me to state my views. If Fidel's views are similar to mine on issues, then that is a confirmation of what I said: the west should ask itself why few appreciate what it sees as good humanitarianism. Even in Lybia they are destroying western wartime graves, the slaughter and unjust detentions of african lybians is continuing and NATO who made it possible are looking at the next conquest, syria. charity begins at home, so why not spend the money bailing out people who are losing houses in EU and US instead of more wars? I hate wars because its always the weakest and the poor who suffer and the west has a unique chance to stop them

      AnthonyfromAfrica - 2012-07-22 02:29

      These internet comment sites, lay themselves wide open to some weirdos wanting to entertain......themselves! Your two comments are, to put it mildly,strange, or should I rather say , they border on absurdity. But they again, confirm the shallowness of this Fidel, you can put 900 words together, and just put in one or two, that shows you are anti Western , and you got her all excited. So that takes care of one 'thumbs up' and than one from yourself. Ohh, you and me and 98% of the world population, have at least got something in common; ""I hate wars because its always the weakest and the poor who suffer"" Great !! Can hardly wait for your next comment!!!!

      fidel.mgoqi - 2012-07-22 06:48

      Poor you, nothing to counter-argue with? Or in the words of Cicero "When you have no basis for an argument, abuse the plaintiff." Remember ad hominen?

      AnthonyfromAfrica - 2012-07-22 09:10

      Not to argue to such an insane comment is more smart than to say: "well spotted" , cause than you fall into the same leaque as Malik. But, if you want to entertain each other with silly crap; Go for it !!

      fidel.mgoqi - 2012-07-22 11:36

      I second what Malik wrote and you disagree, why? Why is it silly crap? Don't run away, refute Malik's argument if you can and stop throwing pointless obstacles in the way.

      AnthonyfromAfrica - 2012-07-22 13:28

      Fidel, Sorry, but I know better things to do on a Sunday, than argue TOTAL BS, if it facinates you, kul, be happy. To be honest, there is something I somehow admire of extremists; They NEVER EVER give up, NEVER EVER !! Even if it is the same old crap, they been 'educating' the 'dumb masses' with for SIXTY YEARS, they go on and on and on !!!!!

      fidel.mgoqi - 2012-07-22 14:38

      Ad hominen!

      AnthonyfromAfrica - 2012-07-22 14:54

      Shame, you got the same problem now , as your lapdog, patrick. Once you have heard of a 'new' word, you can't let go of it !!

  • danmotaung - 2012-07-22 10:07

    Hahaha Fidel, they go to war, get a pasting and claim that they are tactically withdrawing. That's a new word for running away from the frontline. I wish peace upon all Syrians except those that keep on lighting fires and running away.

      fidel.mgoqi - 2012-07-22 11:04

      It's not even war, but causing irresponsible mischief and mayhem and burn a lot of tyres to give the impression of a battle raging on. Saw a news clip this morning of Syrian soldiers explaining the difficulty of locating these terrorists fighting within a civilian population, where they disguise themselves as civilians and get rid of their weapons and live with the civilian population being escorted. If Assad is proven to be deliberately and\or indiscriminately targeting innocents then that is a war crime. But I also believe firing from civilian populated areas at the army is an even bigger war crime. They are using innocents as human shields knowing fully well those they are firing at will fire back at least in self-defense or do they wish to deny the Syrian army the right of self-defense against an enemy bent on killing its soldiers? This is why SA didn't support the UK sponsored draft at the UNSC, because it only seeks to hold the Syrian government alone for any breaches in Annan's peace plan on no censure on these terrorists.

      fred.fraser.12 - 2012-07-23 00:12

      Fidel focusing on the wrong things, as haul, which is immature anti-West core belief leads him to do. Assad, who's in control of the Syrian state and military has killed thousands of unarmed Syrians with SNIPER FIRE, detained, tortured and had raped tens of thousands more. To Fidel with his anti-West blinkers, Assad, who only 12 countries out of the 166 on Earth have declared an illegitimate leader, leads a legitimate government of Syria. Notwithstanding that NO-ONE voted him into power.

      fred.fraser.12 - 2012-07-23 00:13

      Fidel focusing on the wrong things, which is immature anti-West core belief leads him to do. Assad, who's in control of the Syrian state and military has killed thousands of unarmed Syrians with SNIPER FIRE, detained, tortured and had raped tens of thousands more. To Fidel with his anti-West blinkers, Assad, who only 12 countries out of the 166 on Earth have declared a legitimate leader, leads the legitimate government of Syria. Notwithstanding that NO-ONE voted him into power.

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