The Islamic State of Iraq and ash-Sham Expands Into Rural Northern Syria

In the previous post, Aymenn al-Tamimi discussed developments in the relationship between two primary al-Qa’ida affiliates operating in Syria: Jabhat al-Nusra, and the ISIS. Through his analysis he concluded that in some areas the distinction between Jabhat al-Nusra and the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) is blurry, while in other areas the two seem to visibly operate as distinctly separate groups. He also believes that though a “grand ideological clash” between the two groups is not impossible, it is premature to point to one at present. Now, in part two, Aymenn delves into the growth of ISIS power in specific communities and discusses the plausibility of predicted FSA – ISIS confrontation.

 

The Islamic State of Iraq and ash-Sham Expands Into Rural Northern Syria

Aymenn Jawad al-Tamimiby Aymenn Jawad al-Tamimi for Syria Comment


Introduction

In a post for Jihadology a few weeks back, I identified how the Islamic State of Iraq and ash-Sham (ISIS) was playing an important role in the fighting on the outskirts of the city of Aleppo and in the surrounding countryside. Since that time, it has become apparent that the group has been seeking to expand outwards and to consolidate control over outlying towns in both the Aleppo and Idlib regions, particularly those of strategic importance along or near the border with Turkey.

Azaz

This initiative has already served to foster division. For example, in the town of Azaz, which is in close proximity to the Turkish border, a protest ocurred on July 1 against ISIS’ entry into the town and its attempt to establish headquarters there. Yet on July 5, Azaz saw a counter-rally in favor of ISIS featuring a slogan common for such demonstrations—‘Labbayka ya Allah’ (‘I am at your service, God’)—accompanied by conspicuous numbers of ISIS flags.

It should be noted that this pattern of division—between those members of Syrian society who support ISIS vs. those who do not—is also observed in the city of Aleppo itself, where ISIS supporters have generally held separate rallies from those of other demonstrators. (I have found one notable exception: a rally on June 4 for the then-besieged city of Qusayr in the area of al-Firdus, featuring both ISIS and Free Syrian Army [FSA] flags).

Resentment over the ISIS presence in Azaz grows. One notable outlet for this disapproving sentiment is a youth activist Facebook page called ‘The Youth of Aleppo—Azaz’ which posted the following status: ‘We ask the Islamic State of Iraq and ash-Sham to establish their state from Iraq [meaning ‘in Iraq’?] since the system of prostitution [there] has not yet fallen.’

The group has also circulated an alleged statement from a local council in the town of Tel Abyaḍ in Raqqah Governorate claiming that the ISIS has confiscated internationally-donated generators intended to provide drinking water for the residents of the town.

On the other hand, ISIS is attempting some outreach to the locals of Azaz, offering Qur’an and Sunnah recitation competitions—among other religious activities—for the population during Ramaḍān.

Jarabulus

As for other towns, here is a photo of the ISIS headquarters in the northern border town of Jarabulus. The banner reads: ‘The Islamic State of Iraq and ash-Sham: Province of Aleppo. Emirate of Jarabulus.’

ISIS headquarters, Jarabulus, Syria

Another photo shows the flag of ISIS flying over Jarabulus:

ISIS flag flies over Jarabulus, Syria

One activist page on Facebook called ‘Jabhat al-Nusra does not represent me’ claims the following to give context to the first photo: ‘Photo from Jarabulus following the seizure of it by al-Qa’ida after battles with the FSA. It is said that ISIS then killed scores of civilians, among them children, during al-Qa’ida’s attempt to occupy the town.’

In a similar vein, on June 15, the Arabic news outlet al-Waie News claimed to cite a local source in Jarabulus on clashes between ISIS and a rebel battalion known as the ‘Family of Jādir,’ which uses the FSA flag.

The source claimed that the clashes started after a member of ISIS was wounded during a round of celebratory gunfire that followed a concord reached between the two groups, giving rise to a renewed violent battle between ISIS and the Family of Jādir for fifteen hours, resulting in ISIS’ seizure of the town, as well as the killing of one ISIS fighter and several from the Family of Jādir.

On 13 June, the leader of the Family of Jādir—Yusuf al-Jādir—released video testimony in which he claimed that ISIS launched an attack on the home of Ahmad al-Jādir and then began shooting at dozens of innocent civilians, resulting in the deaths of several children: among them, Mahmoud Kerkaz, Sheikho Shawish, Ibrahim al-Ahmad, and a young Kurdish girl. He continues by documenting other alleged acts of ISIS aggression in the town.

It thus appears that ISIS seized control of Jarabulus by force. One thing that is important to note from the opposing testimony is the issue of naming. The source for al-Waie News from Jarabulus merely sees ISIS as a new name for Jabhat al-Nusra (JN) in the town, and Yusuf al-Jādir likewise deems the two names interchangeable.

Thus, even if my formulation for the city of Aleppo itself—that ISIS and JN are two separate entities—applies here, the perception of at least some residents of the town nevertheless differs. As in Raqqah, the two may well be interchangeable in Jarabulus.

The concept of interchangeability could make sense here in light of the fact that JN has had an active presence in the northern Turkish border areas in the past (cf. clashes with Farouq Battalions in April on the border in Raqqah Governorate). Certainly, Jarabulus has been known for a JN presence in the past: here is a video of a JN-led rally in Jarabulus from December 14, 2012, featuring the chant of ‘We are Anṣar Allah.’

In this context, one should also note a revealing report from the Damascus Bureau, which actually visited Jarabulus. The reporter, Youssef Shaikho, explains that Jabhat al-Nusra in Jarabulus supported the announcement of ISIS, and most of its fighters in the town are native Syrians, providing a notable exception to the media narrative of ISIS as a group solely composed of foreign fighters.

Further blurring the lines of group-alignment and public sentiment, not all those who, like al-Jādir, use the FSA flag in Jarabulus are necessarily opposed to ISIS’ ideological vision. For example, here is a Facebook activist page from Jarabulus that uses the FSA flag. Yet it has put up a status that laments the loss of the Khilafa (Caliphate) and denounces the UN and its decision-making as a mere front for occupation.

In any event, ISIS is now said to be operating an active Shari’a court in Jarabulus, which has allegedly executed three young men recently on charges of rape and murder. ISIS is also accused of detaining the son of a prominent martyr from the Family of Jādir known as Abu Furāt.

In terms of the reasons behind the Jādir-ISIS clashes, one should be cautious about presenting them as a simple ideological battle. It rather seems to have been a power struggle for control of an important border area. The Kurdish PYD, as the Damascus Bureau notes, also has a small activist presence in Jarabulus, yet it has been left untouched and tolerated by ISIS.

At the same time, ISIS is trying to counter the allegations put out about its conduct in Jarabulus by emphasizing local support in the town for the group, including children.

al-Bab

Another town in rural Aleppo where ISIS is establishing its presence is al-Bab. On July 5, the outlet Saḍa ash-Sham al-Islami put up a set of photos of a meeting for Dawah  held by the ISIS in al-Bab. [Da’wa means “invitation” and often refers to proselytism—the inviting of others to join Islam. In this case, it refers to outreach to Muslims to strengthen their faith.]

Da'wah meeting in al-Bab

In contrast to what appears to have been a more aggressive approach in Jarabulus, ISIS seems to be engaging in an active outreach effort to the population of al-Bab. Thus, the local outlet al-Bab Press reported that ISIS is running school bus services for children who have seen their education disrupted for many months by Assad regime bomb attacks. A local FB page in al-Bab also gave an account last month from an ISIS fighter of clashes between ISIS and Assad regime soldiers aided by Hezbollah fighters in the wider Aleppo area.

Manbij

The town of Manbij offers a case contrasting with that of al-Bab. Recently, Manbij has seen a protest rally against ISIS. The demonstration was sparked by two grievances against ISIS: first, ISIS is accused by some local activists of destroying works of art in Manbij, and second, of kidnapping a local sheikh. Protests continued into Friday of last week, on which day ISIS had been holding a daw’ah meeting in Manbij featuring a number of locals in support of the group, as per the photo below.

ISIS holds dawah meeting in Manbij, Syria

Prior to Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi’s announcement of the formation of ISIS in early April, Manbij had been known for an active JN presence in alliance with Ahrar ash-Sham, who together took on the Farouq Battalions in violent clashes in the town at the beginning of the month, resulting in the expulsion of the Farouq Battalions from Manbij.

The clashes began after Ahrar ash-Sham had arrested a certain Abu Khaldun, a friend of the leader of the Farouq Battalions in Manbij. Ahrar ash-Sham and its allies justified the arrest on the grounds that this man had been one of the leading criminal figures in Manbij and had to be put on trial by the Shari’a committee in Aleppo, while emphasizing that there was no fundamental conflict between them and those under the banner of the FSA.

Following the defeat of the Farouq Battalions, Ahrar ash-Sham held a victory rally in Manbij on 6 April with dozens of supporters and allies, featuring the al-Qa’ida flag and a banner reading ‘The Ummah wants an Islamic Khilafa.’ The person who uploaded the video described it as being held in celebration of the expulsion of ‘gangs of thieves’- a common charge leveled against the Farouq Battalions in the north, which unlike the Ikhwaan-aligned Homs division lack ties to any major Islamist groups.

On a side note, the rally itself should illustrate that those who posit a strict dichotomy between supposedly ‘nationalist’ Salafists in Ahrar ash-Sham as opposed to transnational jihadists are mistaken. This rally in Manbij and Ahrar ash-Sham’s statement on JN’s pledge of allegiance to al-Qa’ida show that concepts of the transnational ummah that supersedes “artificial borders” and the nation-state of Syria are often blurred in Ahrar ash-Sham’s ideological thought.

Of course, one also must not generalize in the opposite direction and portray all of Ahrar ash-Sham as bent on an international Khilafa. Yet whenever non-Islamists protest against groups like ISIS, as a rule Ahrar ash-Sham can be expected to side with the latter (cf. the case of Raqqah which I documented last month).

In the context of Manbij, therefore, one should not be surprised about a blurring of distinction between Ahrar ash-Sham’s support base and what is now known as the ISIS presence. Indeed, it is also apparent that there is another virtual mirror front of ISIS active in Manbij: namely, Ansar al-Khilafa, which is composed of a mix of native Syrians and foreign fighters, though exact proportions are unclear.

Ansar al-Khilafa is most prominent in rural Aleppo and Latakia. In the April rally led by Ahrar ash-Sham, it is likely that there were Ansar al-Khilafa supporters among the crowd. Here is a recent mural put up in Manbij in support of the group:

Ansar al-Khilafa mural in Manbij, Syria

ad-Dana

The final case we come to on the subject of ISIS’ expansion is that of ad-Dana in Idlib, near the border with Turkey. Here, a protest rally is said to have taken place against ISIS (though no video footage of it has emerged so far), sparking violent clashes. Yet it is the only case where we have a mainstream media outlet allowing ISIS to give its full side of the story thanks to an al-Jazeera English report (H/T: @khalidelmousoui) from the town. In the report, ISIS fighters claimed that those denouncing their presence were actually agents of the Assad regime.

However, it appears that this testimony is contradicted in an account given by pro-ISIS activists in Idlib, who denounced the clashes as ‘the work of some of the apostates of the Free Army.’ Meanwhile, a pro-ISIS Twitter user complained at the time of the clashes that the ‘malicious Free Army’ was besieging ISIS and expressed concerns about the beginnings of a ‘Sahwa’ movement against ISIS.

As of now, the al-Jazeera report says that ISIS is the only remaining armed group in the town. This is corroborated by local Idlib activist testimony that there are now no armed clashes in the town and reconciliation initiatives are underway. At the same time, claims that ISIS executed dozens of supporters of those identifying under the banner of the FSA—stemming chiefly from an ad-Dana rebel leader’s testimony were denied.

That said, both the rebel leader whose testimony is given by the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights and the al-Jazeera report corroborate each other on the ISIS fighters as being from outside Syria.

Now in control of the town, ISIS is running a school for the children, and the ISIS presence as reported by al-Jazeera is corroborated by a video that has now emerged of ISIS fighters manning the entrance into ad-Dana.

Conclusion

In short, these various cases illustrate ISIS’ growing power in the north of Syria. ISIS is clearly not a force to be dismissed as marginal without any real support on the ground, even as its presence is undoubtedly sparking backlash in many areas. Above all, these recent developments as regards ISIS’ expansion vindicate to an extent my prediction in March in a guest post for Syria Comment about the emergence and establishment of jihadist strongholds in the north and east of Syria.

In terms of the future, one needs to be skeptical of the narrative being put out by Supreme Military Command (SMC) supporters of a looming, grand-scale FSA effort to take on ISIS in the north of Syria in a fundamental clash of ideologies. Resentment at the ideological level is more to be expected from civilian protestors rather than armed rebels.

One should particularly note my distinction here between SMC supporters and those in general who go by the banner of the FSA. While SMC supporters would like to portray all of those under the banner of FSA as opposed to ISIS, the evidence speaks otherwise, exemplified in this recent statement by an FSA military council in Aleppo denying rumors of clashes between their ‘brothers’ in ISIS and JN.

SMC supporters are likely the source of at least some of the allegations against ISIS, including the recent claim that ISIS is planning to declare a wider northern state after Ramaḍān: plausible in light of ISIS’ expansion in northern Syria but as of now uncorroborated in pro-ISIS circles.

Other rumors likely originating from pro-SMC sources include an alleged statement by JN distancing itself from ISIS (not released through JN’s official channel al-Manārah al-Bayḍā, so therefore suspect) and claims that ISIS killed Abu Furāt of Jarabulus, when his funeral actually took place a few months before ISIS was announced.

In particular, the reports attempting to portray JN in open conflict with ISIS are building on a narrative stemming from a Reuters piece in which JN was portrayed as a group of native Syrians disillusioned with the machinations of the foreign fighters of ISIS, hinting at the possibility of JN teaming up with other rebels to take on ISIS.

The motivation for spreading rumors about ISIS is quite apparent: namely, the SMC’s bid to secure Western arms, which will then be supposedly used to take on what Western nations like the UK perceive to be the number-one threat emanating from Syria.

In any case, the current PR war between SMC supporters and ISIS supporters will continue. Feeling the pressure, the latter have recently announced the formation of a new forum intended to counter purported media disinformation about the group. Thus can the exchange of claims and counter-claims be expected to intensify. Ascertaining the full truth short of getting on the ground will remain elusive.

 

Aymenn Jawad Al-Tamimi is a Shillman-Ginsburg Fellow at the Middle East Forum and a student at Brasenose College, Oxford University. His website is http://www.aymennjawad.org. Follow on Twitter at @ajaltamimi

Comments (491)


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351. Badr said:

If you want to believe otherwise, be my guest.

By relying on Iran, Syria’s Assad risks irrelevance

* Hezbollah fighters used in place of elite troops

By Khaled Yacoub Oweis (Reuters)

Assad is mainly left with Damascus and a corridor running through Homs to his Alawite heartland and army bases on the coast and to Hezbollah’s strongholds in Lebanon.

Andrew Terrill, research professor of national security affairs at the U.S. Army War college, said the rebels will “hang on” because Assad has lost too much of the country.

“Winning battles is very different than winning wars because people who are under assault are going to recoup at some point. The rebels remain armed and remain able to strike at him,” Terrill told Reuters.

“Assad may be able to win in the sense that he may stay in power and he is not overthrown directly, but I cannot imagine him pacifying the country because I just think there are too many rebels and too much resistance,” he said.

Terrill said new weapons expected from Saudi Arabia are bound to redress the balance of power as well as promised U.S. arms.

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July 22nd, 2013, 5:23 am

 

352. SANDRO LOEWE said:

HA will be included in EU list of terrorist organizations

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July 22nd, 2013, 6:39 am

 

353. don said:

Another 75 of NATOs finest trained killers bit the dust in Damascus alone

Activists: 75 Syria rebels dead in Damascus battles

BEIRUT (AP) — Syrian activists say government troops have killed at least 75 rebels over 24 hours in battles for control of the capital, Damascus.

The death toll reported by the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights on Monday included 49 rebels killed in an ambush in Damascus’ northeastern suburb of Adra early Sunday. The group says an elite unit loyal to President Bashar Assad ambushed the rebels as they were trying to push into the city.

The Observatory reported that another 17 rebels died in fighting Sunday in central Damascus, while another nine were killed in its suburbs.

http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/world/2013/07/22/syria-unrest/2573977/

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July 22nd, 2013, 6:41 am

 

354. SANDRO LOEWE said:

Hezballah has been a terrorist organization for the last 30 years kidnapping, torturing and killing people but the EU did not notice, was not sure about it. Was it a semantic question to be resolved?

Finally today the EU has realized that Assad is a mafia supported by terrorist international groups of wide range that includes mafias and drug smuggling in Colombia and Brazil as well as diamant traffic in Africa. Crimes commited by this mafia are not easy to track but we can imagine how many thousands of people died to their leaders personal beneffit.

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July 22nd, 2013, 6:44 am

 

355. Akbar Palace said:

HA will be included in EU list of terrorist organizations

And it only took 30 years! Let’s give the EU a big round of applause, and a lawsuit for waiting so long.

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July 22nd, 2013, 6:45 am

 

356. majedkhaldoun said:

Europe said HA is terrorist organization US already consider HA terrorist organization.

Assad troops along with HA troops destroyed Khaled Ibn AlWalid shrine, we will remember that.
Rebels are achieving victories in some battles and losing in others,that depends on arms availabilities

KSA is supplying the Syrian rebels with weapons while US and Europe are not, there is contradiction that has to be resolved in the future

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July 22nd, 2013, 6:49 am

 

357. don said:

They decided to negotiate for the sake of negotiating. Haven’t we seen this movie before lol

Press-imism abounds over renewed talks

Israeli media not expecting much by way of results from prospect of restarted negotiations with the Palestinians

US Secretary of State John Kerry announced Friday evening that Israel and the Palestinian Authority “reached an agreement that establishes a basis for resuming negotiations,” but Maariv leads off with a skeptical clause saying “it was only the opening shot in a long and tedious race, full of twists and impediments, of which it’s doubtful the sides will reach the finish line.”

According to the paper, Kerry warned PA President Mahmoud Abbas that should he refuse to come to the table, “aid to the PA will be harmed.”

The first matter the two sides will discuss is the order of business, it cites an American source as saying. According to Haaretz, the Palestinians want negotiations to lead off with sorting out borders and security arrangements, while the Israelis prefer the core issues — water, Jerusalem, Palestinian refugees and the right of return.

Makor Rishon’s top story is that, contrary to that report of a West Bank settlement building freeze ahead of renewed talks, “there will be no building freeze, not even a slowdown,” according to “sources involved in the negotiations.” It also reports that Israel will only release of 80 Palestinian prisoners — “serious murderers,” it calls them — “once the talks take place and are serious,” according to sources.

http://www.timesofisrael.com/press-imism-abounds-over-renewed-talks/

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July 22nd, 2013, 7:11 am

 

358. majedkhaldoun said:

يحرئ حريشك
A word will not be understood by Ra-veneer,as he is not syrian,it is common in Damascus,it is not insult, it is عتب wish to change

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July 22nd, 2013, 7:26 am

 

359. Juergen said:

Majed

unfortunately the HA is not totally banned. The EU has banned the military arm of the HA. Many critics have raised their concern that one can not separate the military arm from the political arm, the HA itself stressed always that all decisions, including suicide bomber missions are decided by the leadership.

I hope my government will follow the dutch example by banning the HA in total. But nevertheless HA will have major problems now to do their crowdfunding in Mosques and “cultural centers” throughout Europe. I am sure they will through their criminal expertise gained will laundry their money through other states.

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July 22nd, 2013, 7:28 am

 

360. SYRIAN HAMSTER said:

@ 316.
Get lost

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July 22nd, 2013, 7:36 am

 

361. Uzair8 said:

Rebel momentum continues. As expected the Regime/Hezbo offensive appears to be petering out. Much credit must go to the Homs freedom fighters for ensuring the regime is bogged down.

From AJE Syria Blog about 37 minutes ago:

Syrian rebels seized strategic village near Aleppo

Syrian activists said rebels have seized a strategic village on the edge of the northern city of Aleppo. The capture of Khan al-Assal is a rare bright spot for Syria’s rebels, who have been battered in recent months by government forces on several fronts in the nation’s civil war.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says opposition fighters took full control of Khan al-Assal on the western outskirts of Aleppo on Monday.

The village has been the site of frequent clashes between the army and rebels for months

[…]

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July 22nd, 2013, 7:37 am

 

362. majedkhaldoun said:

Juergen
How can you seperate the military part from the political part? the military part is controled by the political leadership, Hassan Nasrallah is the comander of both
HA without the military part is a useless organization, the seperation is a justification to work with HA in the lebanese goverment
Nevertheless it is a setback to HA

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July 22nd, 2013, 8:12 am

 

363. Tara said:

Ariha market massacre: A regime with a penchant to massacre people waiting on bread line or in a market.

“In the northern city of Ariha, government forces fired mortar rounds into a market on Sunday, killing at least 23 people, some of them women and children, the Syrian Observatory reported.”

http://www.nytimes.com/2013/07/23/world/middleeast/syria.html?partner=rss&emc=rss&_r=0

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July 22nd, 2013, 8:37 am

 

364. zoo said:

Syria: Deterioration or Compromise?

http://www.oxfordresearchgroup.org.uk/publications/middle_east/syria_deterioration_or_compromise

Summary

Military progress by the Assad regime, the likelihood of US and/or European aid to the rebels, as well as Russia’s attitude, all complicate the possibility for negotiations on the situation in Syria. However, neither side can win outright, and so, a compromise is necessary, if further years of conflict with further heavy casualties are to be avoided. The Iranian election result may be the only positive element in a deteriorating regional security environment. This may well have opened up an opportunity to address one level of the proxy war in Syria, that of Saudi-Iranian rivalry.

It is unlikely that the Assad regime can regain control of the whole country in the coming months, but it continues to have sufficient confidence to make it unwilling to accept even a temporary ceasefire, let alone substantive negotiations. This position is made possible by continuing aid from Iran and Russia, with the Maliki government in Baghdad also an ally through its willingness to facilitate Iranian access to Syria.

The difference in the regime’s position compared with late last year is striking – only a few months ago, Iran was helping to fund, arm and train militias that would ensure Iran’s continued influence in a post-Assad Syria, thus assuming that the regime would not long survive.

The changes in fortunes of the regime depend partly on external support, but there are other relevant factors:

The regime’s morale is being boosted by Putin’s recent statement that Russia would prevent the establishment of a no-fly zone.
The establishment of a National Defence Force by the regime, comprising local militias engaged in local protection, is beginning to prove effective, especially in releasing regular SAA units for direct action against rebel forces.
The SAA has become more effective in conducting combined operations utilising helicopter gunships and strike aircraft in support of army units.
The SAA is some way from exhausting the range of equipment available, with little use made so far of the Fatah-110 solid-fuelled surface-to-surface missile.
The rebels appear to have made a serious error in seeking to maintain control of al-Qusayr by using substantial forces engaged in regular rather than guerrilla operations. Their determination to prove they could control territory using only light arms against the SAA proved disastrous, with as many as 400 rebels killed.
The increased effectiveness of the more Islamist-inspired elements among the rebels is serving to enhance support for Assad from confessional groups fearing an Islamist ascendency in a post-Assad Syria.

When these factors are integrated into a single assessment, it seems that the regime is secure and likely to remain so, even if some rebel groups are further supplied with weapons and munitions. The effect of such supply is likely to increase casualties rather than alter the outcome of the war.

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July 22nd, 2013, 8:56 am

 

365. revenire said:

Terrorists assassinate mosque imam in a village in Banias

Jul 22, 2013
Tartous, (SANA)- In the framework of targeting moderate religious figures, terrorists on Monday assassinated sheikh Osama Tawfiq al-A’sar, Imam of the mosque of al-Qreir village in the countryside of Banias in Tartous.

An official source told SANA reporter that terrorists opened fire at sheikh al-A’sar in the farms of al-Qreir village using machineguns.

The source stressed that sheikh al-A’sar was martyred along with another man accompanying him.

There have been many assassinations of religious figures committed by terrorists. Chairman of the Levant Scholars Union, Dr. Mohammad Said Ramadan al-Bouti and preacher of Anas Bin Malek Mosque in Damascus, Dr. Ahmad Sadeq, were among the victims.

Mosques and churches have also been targeted by the armed terrorist groups.

H. Said

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July 22nd, 2013, 9:49 am

 

366. apple_mini said:

I saw the gory pictures of the massacre in Areeha. The opposition blame the SAA fired mortar shell. Of course all those MSM chimed in. This is the pattern now and unfortunately no longer an effective propaganda.

The extensive carnage and damage cannot be attributed to a single mortar shell.

The regime got it right this time again: It was a rocket, one of those big homemade ones by the rebel. Of course they did not intent to kill those civilians this time. The rocket was intended to target a nearby SAA checkpoint.

Those locals know well who is the perpetrator. The opposition can win a little hearts and minds if they come out and denounce those rebels and brigades. Unfortunately, the sinister and coward people there and here don’t have any decency or guts.

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July 22nd, 2013, 10:12 am

 

367. revenire said:

Exactly. Crying “massacre” no longer works. It is war and people are going to die. They will keep dying until there is a battlefield winner. The West will sacrifice 500,000 Syrians to get rid of Assad. Syrian lives mean nothing to the rulers of US, UK or Saudi Arabia. The longer this goes on the better for Israel. The Zionists would love to see Syria bleed for fifty years.

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July 22nd, 2013, 10:34 am

 

368. majedkhaldoun said:

Ra-veneer
I heared 200 prisoners in Iraq escaped , do you know where are they going to?

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July 22nd, 2013, 12:42 pm

 

369. SANDRO LOEWE said:

364. APPLE_MINI

If the FSA had serious weapons providers like Assad has (Russia and Iran) these things would not happen. You are right. Then only Assad could kill and not by mistake.

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July 22nd, 2013, 12:43 pm

 

370. revenire said:

Sandro Loewe the FSA doesn’t have enough weapons? Awww. They should have thought of that before they started this.

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July 22nd, 2013, 12:55 pm

 

371. Mina said:

Quiz! Is it a mistake or is it intended?
http://english.ahram.org.eg/NewsContent/2/8/77107/World/Region/Dutch-woman,-,-arrested-for-recruiting-Syria-jihad.aspx
“107 Dutch citizens fought on the side of Bashar al-Assad in Syria; combat recruitment in the Netherlands carries a sentence of up to four years in jail or a fine of 78,000 euros ”

In the body of the article it gets correct “… a British study in April saying at least 107 Dutch citizens were fighting President Bashar al-Assad’s forces in the war-torn country.”

I remember the same kind of mistake about some djihadists who had been treated in israeli hospitals. It would be very nice if all the bad guys were all on the same side, uh?

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July 22nd, 2013, 1:17 pm

 

372. Uzair8 said:

Rebel momentum seems to be gathering strength.

From AJE Syria Blog from about 2 hours ago:

Rebels have seized the villages of Obeida and Hajireh southeast of Aleppo city, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights have said.

The takeover comes amid a rebel attempt to cut off the army’s main supply route linking Hama in central Syria to Aleppo in the north.

[…]

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July 22nd, 2013, 1:35 pm

 

373. Uzair8 said:

It seems the regime and it’s allies are running out of steam. The short sequence of alleged ‘victories’ have apparently dried up. No surprise there as experts have suggested that the regime, due to it’s limited resources, can only press on for so long, before it has to rest, recuperate and regroup for another major push.

Just wait and see, before long the regime camp will begin the internal finger pointing and public blame game. They’re feeling the heat for sure.

May Allah cause discord and distrust amongst the ranks of the tyrannical alliance.

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July 22nd, 2013, 1:44 pm

 

374. Tara said:

I would expect a 60 yo to have some respect to his/her age and not to spy.  What is next?  A 70 yo woman spying?والله عيب   

German prosecutors charge Lebanese-German man with spying for Syria on exiled dissidents
Published July 22, 2013Associated Press

BERLIN –  German prosecutors have charged a Lebanese-German dual national with spying on exiled Syrian dissidents for Syrian intelligence.

The federal prosecutors’ office said Monday it filed espionage charges at a Berlin court against the 60-year-old, identified only as Mohamad K. in line with German privacy rules.

http://www.foxnews.com/world/2013/07/22/german-prosecutors-charge-lebanese-german-man-with-spying-for-syria-on-exiled/

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July 22nd, 2013, 2:03 pm

 

375. Uzair8 said:

When asked about 6hrs ago whether the brick factory base had been liberated (by rebels) Syrian Smurf denied it. Here.

He then followed with this tweet:

Abdullah ‏@SyrianSmurf 6h
Qarmeed (brick factory) Base has not been liberated…90‰ of fb pages share crap..

*****

A point to consider. If tomorrow Syrian Smurf claims/reports that the location has been liberated, I’d say he would be a reliable source.

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July 22nd, 2013, 2:04 pm

 

376. majedkhaldoun said:

Qadri Jamil is in Russia beging for a loan, he is asking for money as soon as possible

Farooq Al Sharaa requested from Bashar to allow him to go to Algyria,along with his family,Bashar refused

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July 22nd, 2013, 2:10 pm

 

377. Akbar Palace said:

Assad’s Road to Victory: Year 2.5

Reverse,

People (those who love Assad) and Terrorists (those that don’t like Assad) are still getting killed in Syria. I thought you said the war was over.

Do you know the status of the civil war in Syria? Has the war been won, and if not, do you have an ETA when Assad will be victorious?

Thanks,

AP

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July 22nd, 2013, 2:42 pm

 

378. amal said:

majedkhaldoun, how’s that no fly zone coming? You know, the one you posted every day about two and a half yers ago! You hang in there now. It’s like you told us way back then, any day now. Ramadan mbarak habibi.

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July 22nd, 2013, 3:35 pm

 

379. amal said:

Anyone hear from my cousin Khaled Tlass or Moutaz Al-Dandashe lately? Al-Dandashe was a great prolific contributor. I sure miss his contributions.

Thanks

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July 22nd, 2013, 3:45 pm

 

380. Uzair8 said:

Rebels aren’t standing around in Aleppo. While the regime is bogged down in Homs the Aleppan freedom fighters are marching on.

From AJE Syria Blog from about 41 minutes ago:

Syrian rebels seize Khan al-Assal which was one of the last towns in western part of Aleppo province held by army.

Syrian rebels has seized the northern town of Khan al-Assal, which had been one of the last towns in the western part of Aleppo province held by President Bashar al-Assad’s forces.

An army build-up around Aleppo province to retake Aleppo city has been dogged by rebel counter-attacks.

Al Jazeera’s Mohammed Adow reports.

[Video]

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July 22nd, 2013, 3:59 pm

 

381. amal said:

366. majedkhaldounsaid:

I heared 200 prisoners in Iraq escaped, do you know where are they going to?

Let me take a crack at answering your question. I say they’re going to meet their maker on the hands of the Syrian army somewhere in Syria.

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July 22nd, 2013, 4:03 pm

 

382. zoo said:

For Syria’s Assad, Homs is the key target, not Aleppo

Forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar Assad are escalating their offensive to push rebel fighters out of the divided strategic city of Homs in the central region, indicating that their much-touted drive against the northern city of Aleppo was a feint.

The strategic objective seems to be to drive a wedge between rebel forces in the north and south and consolidate the center of the country and the western border with Lebanon that connects Damascus to the coastal stronghold of Assad’s minority Alawite sect.
..
That would be a body blow for Assad’s badly fragmented opponents, who are even fighting among themselves these days, and it would likely force the United States and Europe to decide whether to start funneling arms to the rebels groups or call it a day.

The fighting in Homs, Syria’s third-largest city 90 miles north of Damascus, is reported to be fierce. The Syrian army is reported to have made some advances in the battered city, the cradle of the uprising to topple Assad in March 2011, but rebel resistance is said to be intense.

However, the rebels are reported to be running low on ammunition, and resorting to suicide attacks on the advancing regime forces, which might suggest that another Assad victory is within reach amid a fierce artillery and air bombardment of rebel positions.

Some rebels have reportedly sneaked out of the city because they have no weapons to carry on the fight.

After Assad’s troops took Qusair, the word was that the regime’s next target was Aleppo in the north, where rebels hold much of the city. In June, regime officials even announced the start of “Operation Northern Storm” aimed at overrunning the city.

But no major offensive took place there. “The Aleppo operation may have been a feint all along,” drawing rebel forces away from Homs, Badran cautioned.

“A major operation in northern Syria was never the logical move after Qusair. The real, strategically coherent next step always was in Homs and Damascus and their countryside along the border with Lebanon.”

Read more: http://www.upi.com/Top_News/Special/2013/07/22/For-Syrias-Assad-Homs-is-the-key-target-not-Aleppo/UPI-36011374518011/#ixzz2Zo4fpr4L

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July 22nd, 2013, 4:07 pm

 

383. amal said:

378. Uzair8said:

Syrian rebels seize Khan al-Assal.

Waiting for that strategic withdrawal any minute now tick tick tick…

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July 22nd, 2013, 4:10 pm

 

384. zoo said:

Once Homs is under the Syrian Army control, the ideological and ethnical breakup of Syria geography appears inevitable

http://www.voanews.com/content/syria-break-up-worries/1706929.html

The Turks aren’t alone in fearing that Syria may be heading toward a break-up that would see the formation of at least three new mini-states.

Three mini-states

One such mini-state would be an enclave for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s government in the west and northwest that would be populated by members of the Alawi sect, an offshoot of Shia Islam, Shiites and Christians. Another would be a Sunni-majority state in the center and south of the country and the third would be a separate entity in the northeast for Syria’s two million Kurds.

The province of Homs would be crucial for establishing a viable Assad rump mini-state because it would link predominantly Alawite areas on the Syrian coast with Shiite-dominated areas in Lebanon’s Bekaa Valley.

Bassel Saloukh of Lebanese-American University argues there are already signs of ethnic redistribution in Syria, with more Shiites concentrating in Shiite areas, and Sunnis being displaced or moving from areas near the border with Lebanon.

“Look at the sectarian map of Baghdad before 2006 and after 2006,” Saloukh said. “Look at Lebanon. Look at the map of Beirut and its suburbs before the Lebanese civil war and after. This has happened in Iraq and this, alas, is happening in Syria.”
..
Tensions between Kurds and jihadists have increased in recent weeks as al-Qaida affiliated rebel groups have tried to exert more power over enclaves they control in northern Syria.

Some analysts believe the fighting between Kurds and jihadists could spread. They say Kurdish militants are eager to snatch some of the oilfields currently controlled by the jihadists.

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July 22nd, 2013, 4:15 pm

 

385. zoo said:

In Speech to Veterans Rand Paul Condemns US Policy on Egypt, Syria, Pakistan

Matthew Feeney|Jul. 22, 2013 3:17 pm

http://reason.com/blog/2013/07/22/in-speech-to-veterans-rand-paul-condemns?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+reason%2FHitandRun+%28Reason+Online+-+Hit+%26+Run+Blog%29

..
The Assad regime is no friend to freedom or the United States. But this does not mean the enemy of our enemy is our friend. There are currently 17 different rebel groups in Syria, including the largest group, al-Nusra.

Al-Nusra fighters are radical anti-American jihadists that are affiliated with al-Qaeda. Politicians in Washington, who are eager to send these weapons, promise they will not fall into the hands of our enemies.

Do you believe that? Does anyone believe that? We have trouble telling friend from foe in Afghanistan. Syria is a thousand-fold more chaotic. Even our Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Martin Dempsey, warns that it is becoming increasingly difficult to tell friend from foe in Syria.

Would Eisenhower, who believed small wars could lead to big wars, buy into such nonsense?

Even if you believe we should arm Islamic fighters in Syria, shouldn’t, at the very least, Congress vote on the matter? The Constitution is very clear. Congress is to declare war, not the President.

Nevertheless, President Obama is moving ahead with plans to get involved in the Syrian civil war, without the authorization of Congress.

How can we ask our brave men and women to fight against al-Qaeda in some countries and with al Qaeda in other countries?

It makes no sense.

A great irony is that these weapons may well be used against the two million Christians currently in Syria, who are generally protected by the Assad regime.

I, for one, will fight with every ounce of my energy to prevent American arms from being used against Christians!

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July 22nd, 2013, 4:23 pm

 

386. amal said:

371. Uzair8 said:

May Allah cause discord and distrust amongst the ranks of the tyrannical alliance.

Nice touch this Arabic “Allah” coming from an Israeli. Bravo!

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July 22nd, 2013, 4:29 pm

 

387. AMEERA said:

امل

شلونك حبيبتي انت امل حنون شي؟

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July 22nd, 2013, 4:38 pm

 

388. amal said:

385. AMEERA said:

امل

شلونك حبيبتي انت امل حنون شي؟

Laa habibti ana Amal Tlass. enti btaarfi Al Dandashi (SNP)? 😉

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July 22nd, 2013, 4:41 pm

 

389. AMEERA said:

انت شامية ولا من الساحل؟ ما شالله انكليزياتك كتير مناح ايه نيالك انت و تارا بدرغلو درغله و انا يا حسرتي.

على سيرة تارا او ام ليلى متل ما انا بحب سميها هي ما بعرف ليش تئلانة وما عم تتحاكى بس لما ترجع تحكي معي بعرفك عليها. انت و هي رح تكونو متل الشحمة و النار بالسياسة بس بأي شي تاني و خصصا حكي النسوان رح تكونوا مية المية

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July 22nd, 2013, 4:44 pm

 

390. amal said:

Ana assli mn Homs. Ana baarefa la Tara. Ejaha enheear assab masskeene. ou ma aadet tabee3eye. Allah ykoon be ona.

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July 22nd, 2013, 4:49 pm

 

391. zoo said:

UN Official urges Syria’s neighbors (hosting refugees) not to allow children refugees to be recruited as fighters
22/07/2013

UNITED NATIONS, July 22 (KUNA) — A UN Official on Monday urged Syria’s neighbours to be vigilant and not to allow the children in refugee camps, such as the Za’atari camp in Jordan, to be recruited as combatants and be sent home to fight.
Leila Zerrougui, the Special Representative of the Secretary General for Children and Armed Conflict, told a press conference following a recent trip to Syria and the neighbouring countries that in some camps outside Syria, the recruitment of children as combatants is “ongoing to send them back home to fight,” giving as an example the Za’atari camp in Jordan.
She urged the “neighbouring countries hosting civilians not to allow the recruitment of children to go back to Syrian as combatants.
“We heard very clearly from boys that were injured that they were involved in different functions from many armed groups that are operating inside Syria, ” she said.

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July 22nd, 2013, 4:49 pm

 

392. AMEERA said:

منو هادا اس ان بي؟

انا بعرف اس ان كيه يعني سوريا نو كانداهار

على فكرة انا ما بعرف ازا انت قديمة هون بالمنتدى بس بدي إلك انو هالمنتدى متل الحمام المئطوعة ميتو و حارة كل مين ايدو الو. زمان كان في نقاشات مرتبة بس هلا منحكي الشيشبرك و المكدوس و مرتو لريفرن و الجو بكولورادو عند ماجد و بعدنا عم نحاول نعرف ازا غفران هو نفسو غسان و ازا زياد هو جاد بس دايمن دنجوان المنتدى الهامستر السوري بيفرفح قلبنا بشوية شعر من فترة لفترة

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July 22nd, 2013, 4:51 pm

 

393. Amal said:

Kllo mnih. Bass hal klab el israelie ybaatlon hummah nshalah ya rab a3deen hon leil ou nhar! 3ala kzb b kzb. Allah la ywafokon

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July 22nd, 2013, 4:56 pm

 

394. AMEERA said:

لك يؤبشوني الحماصنة شو حلوين مافي منون احلى ناس و اطيب قلب واطايب شيش طاووق من كريش

له له له مسكينة يا ام ليلى الله يؤمك يا تارا بالسلامة بس ايه لكن صرلها سنتين بالمنتدى هون ما غابت ولا يوم على إلي لألئك و نقار و نقير و سمة بدن و رفع ضغط معلوم بدها تمرض عقبال الظلام وولادين الحرام

شي بدي إلك تشكلي آسي انت بعدك عايشة بحمص ولا طلعتي؟ كيف امنتي الفيزا؟

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July 22nd, 2013, 4:59 pm

 

395. amal said:

Ana ayshe b amrica sarly zaman hon. Ana mara kbeere bl amr. Allah ykhalikee ou yehfazek. Maskeen hal Majed sarlo sentain ou nouss ou huwe am yntizer hal no fly zone! Allah ykoon bee3ono kharfan hal maskeen

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July 22nd, 2013, 5:05 pm

 

396. SANDRO LOEWE said:

388. Ziad

Very interesting Ziad. I believe the effects of US war on Irak will be very long and painful in terms of genetical disorders and long term pollution.

As it will be the effect of Assad and his powerfull weapons from Iran and Russia. Assads not only transformed Syrian Desert into a nuclear garbage hole but now infect the whole country and their water reserves with uranium.

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July 22nd, 2013, 5:06 pm

 

397. SANDRO LOEWE said:

There are still many brainwashed syrians that still suffer the effects of a decaying corrupt dictatorship educational system. They can easily develop a critical spirit. Only religion can help them do it. This is the great gift of Assad the laic, the half prophet half God of the alawites.

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July 22nd, 2013, 5:07 pm

 

398. SANDRO LOEWE said:

Where is Maher Al Assad hiding, the brave God of the Rats… ?

Anyone saw him after 18th July 2012?

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July 22nd, 2013, 5:08 pm

 

399. SANDRO LOEWE said:

Where is the fuxxxx air intelligence official I had the pleasure to met at the Palestine Branch of Damascus some years ago?

The place were many people dispappeared forever more.

I hope he is buried and well buried underground of the Idlib plains fertilizing the olives.

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July 22nd, 2013, 5:09 pm

 

400. SANDRO LOEWE said:

We are not brave men here. Most brave men died defending their lands and their children and families from the criminal Assad Army. Still some of them remain but if the rebels fail to topple Assad the new population of Syria will receive a genetical influx of cowardness and sadism since most brave and honest men will be gone. The sons and daughters of these brave men will one day topple Assad the GOD DOG and his persian mercenaries.

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July 22nd, 2013, 5:10 pm

 

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