Posted by Joshua on Sunday, July 22nd, 2012
Syria rebels’ gains in Damascus surprise even them – LA Times
Violence in the Midan neighborhood of Damascus, Syria: Syrian soldiers stand next to burned cars during a government-organized tour Friday after the army regained control of the Midan neighborhood of Damascus, the Syrian capital. The rebels later returned and clashed with soldiers again. (Bassem Tellawi, Associated Press / July 22, 2012)
The uprising enters a crucial phase as the rebels face the challenge of trying to seize the capital despite a shortage of weapons and lack of unity among themselves.
Kurds and Iraq: A friend writes:
You know I’m in Iraqi Kurdistan… I had to cancel a trip to the Sinjar region because of a lot of irregular activity in the area; major Iraqi troop deployments are taking place along the border because of a lack of Syrian troop presence and hence a lack of security.
Today a Kurdish paper published an article saying that in the past 6 months, many Syrian Kurds have been smuggled here and have been given weapons training in the Kurdistan Region by one of the Syrian Kurdish parties operating here. The article says that today 1,000 young Syrian Kurdish men from among this group have re-entered the Syrian Kurdish region to contribute in attempting to control it. Some people here feel that breaking this story will create a political crisis between the KRG and Damascus. There’s also a sense that the 1,000 may be an exaggeration.
Next to Sinjar, Syrian rebels or FSA (whoever) took over a border outpost and Iraqi soldiers report witnessing them massacreing between 21-26 (different reports) Syrian soldiers.
Iraq is sending flights to Damascus to evacuate Iraqis. It is not allowing Syrian refugees into Iraqi–only Iraqi passport holders, and apparently issued a statement of regret saying that despite Syria’s hosting of 45,000 refugees during all these past years, it simply cannot accept Syrian refugees at this time.
Syrian rebels say fight for Aleppo has begun, Businessweek, By Bassem Mroue
Col. Abdul-Jabbar Mohammed Aqidi, the commander of rebel forces in Aleppo province, said “we gave the orders for the march into Aleppo with the aim of liberating it.”
“We urge the residents of Aleppo to stay in their homes until the city is liberated,” he said in a video posted by activists on YouTube. He added that rebels were fighting inside the city while others were moving in from the outskirts.
Aqidi called on government troops to defect and join the opposition, and said rebels will protect members of President Bashar Assad’s Alawite minority sect, an off-shoot of Shiite Islam, saying “our war is not with you but with the Assad family.”
The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights and Aleppo-based activist Mohammed Saeed said the fighting is concentrated in several neighborhood.
Saeed said rebels are in full control of the central Salaheddine district and the nearby Sakhour area. He added that thousands of residents have fled tense quarters of the city for safer neighborhoods and the suburbs.
“Aleppo is witnessing serious street battles” and many shops are closed, Saeed said.
He said there were fierce clashes on the road leading to the city’s international airport, known as Nairab, as rebels tried to surround the airfield to prevent the regime from sending reinforcements.
From Washington Post
Like Damascus, the country’s capital, Aleppo had long been seen as a bastion of government support. That the revolt is now spreading there represents another blow to the regime in a week that has seen its veneer of control in the country’s two biggest cities shattered by the assassinations of four of its top security officials in a bombing.
Syrians who crossed the border into Lebanon on Saturday gave harrowing accounts of intense street fighting and attacks by government helicopters and tanks in residential areas of Damascus as basic supplies such as bread and water dwindled. As many as 30,000 Syrians may have crossed into Lebanon in recent days, a spokeswoman for the United Nations said Friday. …
Domou said that she and her family walked several miles to escape the shelling and helicopter attacks in her neighborhood, Sayida Zeinab, before they found a driver. As they drove through the capital, Domou said she witnessed nightmarish scenes. In one neighborhood, she saw a group of boys and teenagers kicking a corpse while chanting “shabiha,” the name of a militia group fighting alongside government forces. In another neighborhood, she saw an ambulance filled with bodies careening through garbage-filled streets.
“I believe the situation is going to get worse,” she said. “I don’t know when we can go back.”
…Many people at the border Saturday were critical of the Syrian government, but most appeared deeply uneasy talking about it even on Lebanese territory, with some looking over their shoulder and whispering “shabiha” if strangers got too close.
U.S. changes course on Syria
By Eric Schmitt and Helene CooperZeina Karam
The New York TimesThe Associated Press
A gunman who said he is a member of a jihadist group called Shura Taliban Islam writes, “Our leader is forever Mohammed” near the Bab al-Hawa border gate between Turkey and Syria on Saturday. (Bulent Kilic, AFP/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON — The Obama administration has for now abandoned efforts for a diplomatic settlement to the conflict in Syria, and instead it is increasing aid to the rebels and redoubling efforts to rally a coalition of like-minded countries to forcibly bring down the government of President Bashar Assad, U.S. officials say.
Administration officials have been in talks with officials in Turkey and Israel over how to manage a Syrian government collapse. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta is headed to Israel in the next several days to meet with Israeli defense counterparts, following up on a visit last week by national security adviser Thomas Donilon, to discuss, in part, the Syrian crisis.
The administration has been holding regular talks with the Israelis about how Israel might move to destroy Syrian weapons facilities, administration officials said. The administration is not advocating such an attack, the officials said, because of the risk that it would give Assad an opportunity to rally support against Israeli interference.
Still options for under-pressure Assad: experts
By Deborah Pasmantier | AFP
A fight to the death to keep Damascus, a fall back to his Alawite strongholds or even exile abroad — experts say Syrian President Bashar al-Assad must be considering a range of choices in the face of an armed rebellion.
And each, they say, is fraught with risks.
For now the embattled leader’s focus is on retaining control of the capital, where Syrian forces launched an all-out assault on opposition strongholds on Friday two days after a bomb attack killed four senior members of the regime.
“As long as Assad controls the capital, he controls the government and has legitimate power,” said Fabrice Balanche, an analyst with the Mediterranean and Middle East Studies and Research Group in Paris.
“The redeployment of troops from the Golan and the Iraqi border to the capital, at the risk of stripping other fronts, shows that he is going to stay,” Balanche said.