Valerie, an American Business Owner in Latakia, Tells Her Story of Gun Boats, Rimal al-Janubi, the Evacuation, and Miliatry Operations

Valerie – an American business owner in Latakia – tells her story of Gun Boats, Rimal al-Janubi, the Evacuation, and the Military Operation in Latakia

Reuters: Smoke rises in the city of Latakia August 14, 2011.

It is scary here. It seems the longer this goes on the worse the outcome is going to be for the Syrian people. Latakia is pretty much empty. This is supposed to be the busy season for most businesses here. Many of the business owners like us have been paying employees to sit and do nothing but busy work for months now. We are emptying our own personal savings to pay them. We won’t be able to do this for much longer.
Below is my account of what happened a few weeks ago in Latakia.

Regarding the military operation in Latakia on August 12th – 15th.

I am an American woman living in Latakia. I was at the Assad Sports City complex when residents from Rimal al Janubi and the Rimal Palestinian refugee camp were sheltered there.

On Thursday, August 11th, my husband called me from Turkey, where he was working for business, to tell me I should plan on staying close to home for the weekend. He told me the government had made an announcement of a planned military operation in Rimal al Janubi, a poor neighborhood that includes the nearby Palestinian camp. He said that the government was advising residents of the Rimal neighborhood to evacuate and that anyone who remained behind risked being caught in the gunfights they expected to ensue. They would also risk being arrested for suspicion of aiding the opposition fighters. Rimal is on the outskirts of Latakia and at the opposite side of the city from where I live. My husband was concerned that fighting might spill out from Rimal and into neighborhoods near the center of the city.

Gun Boats

My apartment is in the Al Asher neighborhood not far from Al Assad Sports City. I can see the complex from the balcony and roof of my apartment. Friday I stayed home with my children and listened to the news waiting to hear about what was going on in Rimal and if anything was happening in other parts of the city. My electricity, water, and internet were never cut. When I began hearing reports later in the day that the military was using war ships to shell parts of the Rimal neighborhood, I called another American friend who lives in an apartment near the southern corniche that overlooks the sea onto the Rimal neighborhood. He said he could see the ships sailing back and forth near Rimal, but had not seen or heard them firing. Like me he had been home all day. He had noticed the ships when he first awoke and had been watching them all day. He explained that he knew about the planned military operation and was thus waiting it see if anything happened and for that reason paid particular attention to the gun ships. When I spoke with him later, he said he had spent most of the weekend watching the ships and said never saw or heard them fire anything.

The Sports City complex

On Saturday morning my driver arrived at 8:45 am and went with me on my run. I run 6 days a week around the perimeter of the Sports City complex. While on the run I noticed about 4 or 5 cars of people pulling into the complex. I also noticed several children playing near the entrances with park staff. The complex is usually fairly empty at this time of the morning unless there is an event going on. When I asked, my driver later told me that these were people coming from Rimal and that many of them were staying inside the stadium. When the cars pulled in they had to register and show their ids to the guards. This is a standard procedure for anyone entering the complex at anytime. At about 10:30 am, after my run I sent the driver on a shopping errand in the center of the city. He came back early and told me that there was a lot of gunfire in the city and didn’t feel it was safe to be there. He said there were no protests going on. This was also the first time there had been gunfire in the center of the city so early in the day. During the day I watched a 3 or 4 buses of people from Rimal dropping off residents at Sports City. I also watched as truckloads of supplies and food were brought in. The Joud family (a prominent family in Latakia) donated a truckload of food for the Iftar dinner each night.

On Sunday, I watched as 2 or 3 more buses dropped Rimal residents off at Sports City. I had heard on the news that 5,000 people were staying at Sports City. This report seemed to be a great exaggeration. From what I could see from my apartment, I estimate there were only about 500. My driver told me that because of the announcement made early by the government of the planned military operation and the on going violence in the neighborhood many people had left the city to stay in the villages with family members. Latakia as a whole is nearly empty. Most residents who are able to, have escaped the daily gunfights here to their familial villages.

Four Soldiers and 50 Non-Soldiers Killed

On Monday, the government announced it had finished its’ military operation in Latakia. I watched as several bus loads (maybe 5 or 6, but definitely not 5,000 people) carried people from Sports City back to Rimal. Government television said 4 soldiers had been killed and 35 were wounded by gunfire. Approximately 50 others were killed and many others were wounded. It is difficult to determine if these were opposition fighters or civilians caught in the crossfire. No one that I have spoken to in Latakia believes there were any protests taking place in Rimal that weekend.

There have been rumors circulating in Latakia, some from credible sources, that the reason the military had gone into Rimal al Janubi and the Palestinian camp was that opposition fighters had taken over the neighborhood. Some rumors have gone as far as to say that the opposition had actually been able to set up their own check points and had closed several of the roads into the neighborhood. Being in Latakia and seeing what I have seen over the past 5 months these rumors seem more credible than the reports I see everyday on the news on peaceful protesters being murdered en masse.

I don’t believe all of the deaths in Syria are those of innocent non-violent protesters. I also don’t believe that the government is responsible for all of the deaths. The events I have witnessed here in Latakia lead me to believe opposition groups are taking arms up against the government forces (I have seen a Palestinian girl arrested after weapons were found in her apartment, the cousin of a friend was killed while walking in an Alawi neighborhood that has never seen any protests, another expat friend of mine saw a man setting up a sniper rifle on the rooftop across from the building where he worked and watched as the man was arrested after someone else called the police, the list goes on…). If the opposition is taking up arms against the government here in Latakia, the sheer number of deaths make it easy to believe opposition groups in cities and villages like Homs and Jisr al Shuggour are not peacefully opposing the government as the western media would like us to believe.


A Syrian from Aleppo writes:

I can confirm the death of the 4 soldiers in Latakia that day as Valarie mentioned. My cousin is serving his compulsory military service in the navy in a base in Latakia. He’s a medicine graduate, so he is a medic. That day in the morning they gave everyone on the base bulletproof vests and ordered them to wear them all day. Later in the day they took the medics to al-raml Al-janoobi area. My cousin saw 4 dead soldiers brought in and many others wounded. There is no question about the existence of militancy in the opposition. The coastal and boarder areas have surely witnessed a flood of arms coming in during the past six months. With the 24/7 incitement on Aljazeera and 2 dedicated extremist channels funded by Saudi and calling for people to jihad against the “heretics” and “Shiaa” and “rawafedh” in Syria, it would be strange if Al-Qaeda and other extremists aren’t pushing for holly war in Syria with arms and money.

Militancy is still a limited phenomenon in the revolt. My concern is that the media and activists want us to believe that the militancy does not exist and that the government wants us to believe that all demonstrators and revolutionaries are armed. This is not true. The activists should denounce the violence and the government should allow real peaceful demos to take place.

BBC Report: “It’s the first time, for a long time, that they’ve used gunboats.”

NYTimes: Syrian Navy Joins Attack on Key Rebellious Port City

Al-Jazeera video footage: Tanks and gunboats ‘fire on Latakia’

Comments (271)

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251. annie said:

Alain Soral back from Syria and in French

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August 26th, 2011, 3:36 pm


252. Aboud said:

Ivanhoe, in every interview I’ve given to the BBC, they never once asked for or implied a certain angle. Sometimes the interviews would be live, or recorded a mere half hour before broadcast.

They had to run with it whatever I said, otherwise they would have had a big hole in their program. Their questions were always neutral, like “tell us how things are in Homs today”.

Obviously, a far cry from junior’s latest softball-prepared-beforehand *cough* “interview”

We have every right to point out the glaring holes in her account. If that upsets some people, so be it.

And I’m still waiting for a video of the stadium. No one would be happier than me to know it wasn’t used as a mass prison camp.

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August 26th, 2011, 4:04 pm


253. beaware said:

US: Libya death toll could be at 30 000
28 April 2011
Washington – An Obama administration official says estimates of the death toll in Libya after more than two months of violence could reach as high as 30 000.

Gene Cretz, the US ambassador to Libya, says it is very hard to gauge how many people have died in strongman Muammar Gaddafi’s crackdown on protesters and the subsequent fighting between rebels and pro-government forces.

Cretz says that US officials have seen figures ranging from 10 000 to 30 000.

He told reporters on Wednesday in Washington that the US keeps getting reports of “bodies that have been uncovered on the beach” as it maintains communication with contacts it established when it operated an embassy in Libya.

Cretz warned: “We just have no sense of the scale of this thing until it’s over.”


Tripoli hospital horror as patients die untreated
26 august 2011

Abu Slim saw fierce fighting for days, and it was only on Thursday that the hospital was secured.

As the days passed, many patients inside died, one after another.

The scene in the three-storey hospital was macabre.

Scores of putrefying corpses were lying all around, dead from lack of treatment.

On Friday, an AFP correspondent counted some 80 of them, though Mohammed Yunis, a medical-student-turned-nurse, said many more had already been removed.

“There have been hundreds of deaths (in Tripoli) in recent days,” he said, visibly shaken.

“It is a disaster,” he said. “There is no more medicine in the hospital, no more medical personnel. They all left for fear of the snipers.”

Without air conditioning, the survivors waited for days in the heat as the stench of decomposing and bloated bodies grew. The basement morgue was overflowing with corpses, and the air was virtually unbreathable.

Twenty bodies were piled on the grass in the garden outside, and one was still lying on a bloody gurney outside the emergency ward.

At the end of one corridor, spattered with blood and littered with empty water and medicine bottles and other debris, lay a ward with 25 bodies, the floor covered with a thin film of bodily fluids.

Abdel Abdel Rahman is one of just two nurses and one doctor who remained holed up in the hospital throughout the ordeal.

He does not remember how many people he saw die before his eyes — civilians, loyalist soldiers and rebels.

Without electricity, bandages, oxygen, medicines and other supplies, he said there was no way for three people to treat everyone.

Asked how felt, he said nothing.

As for the 17 survivors, a Red Cross worker said they would be taken to the capital’s central hospital, which is still functioning./

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August 26th, 2011, 4:08 pm


254. Mjabali said:


The woman is American where the uncle of her husband was jailed by Hafez al Assad and you still talking. Shame on you sectarian violent devil smearing honest people

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August 26th, 2011, 4:31 pm


256. Hans said:

Anyone belives that syria or any other country in the middle east can have a true democracy is out of touch!!
The ture democracy which we all want and hope for is not what the Arabic street asking for! Many on the street are angry for many different valid reasons; some becuase of the atrocity the regime has done, others because of lack of economical or intellectual freedom and the last because of sectarian.
Syria is a country like any other country in the middle east, cannot be ruled but by Iron of fest, people don’t have democracy in their homes first, therefore, can’t have democracy in their goverment, rules are all based on heircacy, tradition and foremost tied to religion, speaking of such you can’t have a free democracy unless you seperate the state from the mosque which is not going to happen in the middle east! you need to have people who can revolt against the religion first before revolting against the sociopolictal condition.
Even the young people who started the reveloution for whatever reason are not ready for free syria or true democracy, at the end it is going to be a theocracy where religion is the rule that’s why it is going to a very difficult to have a free Syria. Biggest example is Egypt where the Muslim brotherhood are establishing the Sharia Law instead of the civil law egypt had previousely, similar to Iran after the islamic reveloution.
syria has many different sects of religion and to have it ruled by the Sunni who are the majority and will ignore and persecute the others as every majority does is a shame.
The USA is not playing a fair game with Syria, they want Assad to go but they don’t inforce the demorcarcy they claim they champion; example the new Iraqi consistituation doesn’t respect the freedome of the minorities in Iraq.
It is all about citizenship and if religion is the ruler then the Citizenship not the reason for the existance of a human being… that’s is the problem with Islam, it is about religion all and foremost then the nationality it should be the otherway around, then you will have a true democracy like in Europe, Japan, etc…. in the USA and other countries muslim identify themselves as muslim americans instead of americans there is not other ethnic group use this kind of identity ( which will bring havoc to the USA in the future). Muslims have to leave the mosque and become citizens first to be able to have a free countries, seperate themselves from religions belongs 1500 years old, and have the freedome of thinking, arguing and make a free opinion not attached to religion accept others if they don’t believe in the same of if they don’t beleive at all in god or religion!
The world has moved centuries ahead of the muslims and they are still fixed to stone age ideas and concepts, Europe and the USA were liberated only after they seperated state from the church and that’s what needed in the middle east or in anyother muslim country before they can catch with the civilized world.
Saudi Arabia ( Sunni) is the biggest financier of spreading the Wahabi teaching all over the world from China to Russia to the USA. The Wahabi teaching is for people who are closer to primate than to humans.

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August 26th, 2011, 6:10 pm


257. Norman said:


Your questioning the integrity of DR Landis Indicate to me what kind of person you are so i am not surprised that you think that the people who want reform without your bloodshed are not as smart as you are, they are not advancing the plan for the destruction of Syria.

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August 26th, 2011, 7:00 pm


258. Ammar Shami said:

Dear tara,

I just spoke to my dentist and he told me that the name of the church is Al-saleeb chruch. just down the street from harmony cafe. I don’t know if you heard about the souk al hall incident. It was in late april early may, now i’m not sure it happened on the same day, but from what “people” are saying, i understand is that the 2 guys who were being chased from souk-al-hall came across the al saleeb church and stopped and shot at the church but aimed high ( i guess it was at the cross). they managed to hit the church and the building next to it while they drove away. no major damage was done, and the incident was indeed as u said, not brought up on the news. When i was there i was told that it happened in the very early hours of the morning, which would make sense since the souk is open very early and the shooting that happened there was during the start of business hours.

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August 27th, 2011, 10:51 am


259. Ammar Shami said:

Dear tara,

I just spoke to my dentist and he told me that the name of the church is Al-saleeb chruch. just down the street from Harmony (or melody) cafe. I don\’t know if you heard about the souk al hall incident. It was in late april early may, now i\’m not sure it happened on the same day, but from what \”people\” are saying, i understand is that the 2 guys who were being chased from souk-al-hall came across the al saleeb church and stopped and shot at the church but aimed high ( i guess it was at the cross). they managed to hit the church and the building next to it while they drove away. no major damage was done, and the incident was indeed as u said, not brought up on the news. When i was there i was told that it
happened in the very early hours of the morning, which would make sense since the souk is open very early and the shooting that happened there was during the start of business hours.

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August 27th, 2011, 11:01 am


260. Tara said:


Is there a physical evidence of Saleeb church in Bab-Tuma sprayed by bullets, meaning bullet holes on the walls of the church that can confirm the incidents?

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August 27th, 2011, 11:33 am


261. Ammar Shami said:

I’m gonna get u pictures and we can get this over with. I’m going down there in the next couple of days anyways. this way we can put this matter to rest once and for all.

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August 27th, 2011, 12:06 pm


262. Tara said:


Only at your convenience. Because even if you show me physical evidence, I will still doubt whether the actual act was done by the Mukhabarat to smear the revolution. The answer to this would have been free press, no?

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August 27th, 2011, 12:13 pm


263. Ammar Shami said:

Dear Tara,

You seem to have changed you tone a bit. Why would you ask me for physical evidence if u r going to deny it anyways? does that sound very sound to you? you ask me if “Is there a physical evidence of Saleeb church in Bab-Tuma sprayed by bullets, meaning bullet holes on the walls of the church that can confirm the incidents?” and then you basicly say “don’t bother, because if there was proof i’m not gonna believe it anyways, because it was the mokhabarat” you know something, the mokhabarat could have faked the moon landing too.
If you are going to be so paranoid and believe only what u want to, then you could have said that from the beggining and not have waisted my time. This is exactly what is wrong with opposition members, they r just as silly as the “menhebak” crowd. Both are in complete denial when they are faced with info they don’t want to hear. I wouldn’t concider my self on either side, i take a realistic grey stance. There is no way on God’s green earth that the army and security services did not make mistakes, same goes for the armed opposition. but do we label the whole army as monsters because a few out of the 100’s of thousands behaved badly, and do we do the same for an entire city because a few of it’s people chose to rebel with weapons? If the army killed every person that went out to protests, the death count would not be at 2300, and if every citizen picked up a gun and shot at the army, the death count would not be at 450. Please don’t waste my time again.

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August 27th, 2011, 2:19 pm


264. Ammar Shami said:

Dear revlon,

You were asking about the smoke, and what can cause it. here is another way this kind of smoke can be caused, a reason other than tires that is. take the video to 4:85

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August 27th, 2011, 2:26 pm


265. Norman said:

Ammar, Tara,

The problem is not the church and if it was shot at, The problem is the chaos that will make difficult to know who is doing what to whom as Tara said somebody could be trying to start a sectarian conflict so at a time of anarchy infiltrators could be trying to lead Syria into division divide, therefore security and safety are essential to have political reform that we all can feel that we are worth something,

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August 27th, 2011, 5:54 pm


266. Jim Conaway said:

The West has taken advantage of Arab States and people for years. The United States (my home, which I love) has for too long followed a biased policy toward the Middle East, blindly supporting Israel right or wrong. This is inconsistent with the values that we espouse as a nation. I am not anti Israeli but I am against blind support of any group, religion or country. I often think how very different (and better) things would be in the Middle East if we had as large a Arab Community in the US as we do a Jewish Community. Our weak politicians would be forced to be fair and objective. Still, the most important thing now is for Arabs to choose their own lifestyles within a multicultural state. Freedom of choice and respect for Constitutional Laws. I truly wish the very best for all of you in your efforts to move forward.

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August 27th, 2011, 6:51 pm


267. Ammar Shami said:

dear norman,

I agree with you that someone is trying to play on peoples sects to devide them, the question is, who? i believe that both sides are playing dirty tricks. and its time we stop pretending that every Syrian is an angle and every soldier is the devil. There is no way something like this can happen in a country that has never seen this kind of devide (religious or otherwise) without both sides being guilty.

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August 28th, 2011, 10:16 am


268. Hans said:

Many syrians who live outside syria, would like the new syria to be a free democratic country where free speech, fair and square election, intellectuals can express their opinion without the fear of repression or retalliation from the regime.
Better economy and less unemployement, improve the broken and infested education with out of date science.
Everyone wants the bribery to disappear and the people law is the law of the land based on equality, free of sectarian, or religious beleive no need to put religion on the ID card.
it is almost like being in a democratic western country although the latter has its own share of corruption as we all know but still human being is well respected in many ways.
I think the picture I painted above about the new syria is closer to a wishfull thinking than to reality, first of all many of the opposition are not looking at syria as a secular country instead the support they are receiving from Saudi Arabia is all for a new Sunni country where everyone else is a second class and human right are less respected than the current regime that’s clear in Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Sudan etc…
The Sharia Law is the future law of Syria as in Egypt where the Alazher sheiks and theocractic leaders are making the new egypt law.
it is a disgusting idea to dream of a free syria and end up with another theocratic country worse then Saudi Arabia or Iran for that matter.
to build a new Syria we have to have an agreement that the country is going to stay secular and Islam is not the source of legislation, leave the mosque and join the civil society to build a free progressive country where religion is left at the mosque and human being respected regardless of who they are!!! I would love to see that supported by muslims by actions not by words, there is no muslim country in the world respect or treat minority with dignity.
I don’t think something like this will happen in the middle east becuase islam is the main probelm and muslims have to look with open mind at their religion and say this is not what the 21st century is all about, who cares if you eat pork meat or not i am not a muslim and rarely I eat pork meat it is very stupid idea to follow something 1500 years old and has not relevant to human well being at the current time. making kids and women wear a veil is the dirtist thing islam uses as a political statment in the west as an identity and in the main land to repress the women. Muslims always complaints that the west is the main source of their problem but they deny that islam can’t live with others!!! example not related to the west is India, China, Russian where muslims wants to have muslim countries and can’t live with the rest of Hindu, others.
Westerners to most part are naive and they don’t understand the sneaky tactics Saudi Arabia and other muslims like Iran deploy to prey on the wensternes minds it is called Soft Jihad in opposite to the violent Jihad by force which made spread Islam spread all over the world. I know many of you will say I hate Islam and my anwser is that Islam hates me and everyone else who is not muslim.
and the only one thing i would say to muslims that they are missing on life if they don’t liberate themselves first and join the humanity into the 21st centruy.

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August 28th, 2011, 6:08 pm


269. ahmad said:

I am from lattakia but living in canada now
After asking my family and friends about what is happing there i got shocked that syria could bring these kind of people murders drug dealers.

Everything she said is true these people had their own rules and own life they even had hangers to hand people who they tought where police or with the president and we saw videos about that.

The boats where going back and fourth to check if any body tries to escape from the city

I hope everybody sees this video

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September 3rd, 2011, 10:54 pm


270. ahmad said:

stay in touch with out media to see people who the army caught the are from arab and weastearn countries in syria and espically lattakia .


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September 4th, 2011, 3:28 am


271. » Blog Archive » Guerra de cifras en el conflicto de Siria said:

[…] V. LA MARINA QUE NO DISPARÓ EN LATAKIA En quinto lugar, ha habido otra intoxicación en relación a la represión de la rebelión en Latakia. Se ha dicho que en esa represión intervino la Marina siria, bombardeando los barrios rebeldes: así lo declaró EFE y Público. Lo cierto es que en las imágenes difundidas se veía un barco pero no había ni una sola imagen de bombardeos desde el barco, lo que coincide con el testimonio de personas residentes en la zona que declararon que no hubo bombardeo en absoluto. […]

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October 1st, 2011, 1:42 pm


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