Syria: Fleeing Damascus

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April 5, 2013: A growing number of rebels are not waiting for the Assad forces to be defeated before fighting each other. The Islamic radical and secular factions increasingly accuse each other of trying to assassinate rebel leaders they disagree with, and relationships between rebel gunmen are growing more antagonistic and violent. The Islamic radical rebel factions are trying to take over entire areas and force secular rebels to move elsewhere. The Islamic radicals are particularly strong in the north and the southeast (along the Iraqi border, where they cooperate with Iraqi Islamic terror groups). The Kurds control the northeast and an Islamic terrorist group is most active on the Israeli border (Golan Heights). The U.S. and Gulf Arabs are concentrating their aid on rebels in the south, who are fighting around Damascus and advancing from the Jordanian border. In the north rebels, especially Islamic radical groups, are advancing into Aleppo neighborhoods the government had long believed secure. The rebels are close to shutting down the main airport.

The foreign fighters are mostly from other Arab countries, although at least 500 are from Moslem communities in the West (mainly Europe). Many are from Lebanon and Iran (who often stand out because Iranians are Indo-European, not Semitic). There are a hundred or more from Hamas (in Gaza) who act primarily as trainers and technical experts. Some of the Hamas (pro-rebel) and Hezbollah (pro-Assad) men trained in Iran, and a growing number of pro-Assad fighters are being flown to Iran for training in special urban fighting and irregular warfare tactics. Iran is helping Assad to build a special infantry force of men trained in urban warfare. The rebel factions, especially the Islamic radicals, tend to do as they please, and this includes stealing aid shipments or any commercial truck traffic they encounter. This has led to aid shipments and commercial traffic to no longer use many roads, at least at night.

While the Islamic radicals are the most fierce fighters among the rebels, many of them are foreigners. Most Syrians are opposed to living under a religious dictatorship, especially one that contains many foreign elements. One thing that still unites all Syrians is the desire to end the fighting. In terms of casualties, March was the worst month so far, leaving over 5,000 dead. There are now over five million refugees, with nearly 80 percent of them inside Syria. Over 75,000 have died so far, plus several hundred thousand wounded. In addition to the dead, there is the growing number of people inside Syria at risk from starvation and disease because of food, power (electric and vehicle fuel), and medical shortages. The rebels and the government accuse each other of deliberately blocking supplies for each other’s supporters.

The government line now is that Syria is beset by foreign enemies (Islamic terrorists supported by neighboring states, particularly Turkey and Jordan). Lebanon and Iraq, because of heavy Iranian influence, are seen as “allies,” despite all the pro-rebel fighters coming from those countries. The rebels sense victory and believe the government is slowly losing territory and the strength to resist. This can be seen in the growing number of pro-government families in Damascus selling their possessions and leaving the country. It’s become increasingly difficult to drive to Lebanon and there is growing fear that the rebels will soon shut down the airport. Assad supporters, like the rebels, can count, and the numbers are going against the government forces despite aid from Iran.

April 3, 2013: Israeli aircraft apparently bombed another Syrian convoy in an effort to prevent Syria from transferring high-tech weapons (especially anti-aircraft missiles and chemical warfare gear) to Hezbollah.

In the south rebels captured an anti-aircraft base outside Daraa (90 kilometers south of Damascus).

April 2, 2013: Israeli troops fired several tank shells into Syria, to destroy a machine-gun that was firing into Israel and had hit an Israeli military vehicle.

April 1, 2013: In the east a dispute between rebel factions over who should control the oil from three captured wells (producing 5,000 barrels a day and some natural gas) led to the wells being set on fire.

March 30, 2013: Rebels are advancing from the Jordanian border towards Damascus and today captured the town of Dael (15 kilometers from the Jordanian border and 100 kilometers from Damascus).

 

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