This is what the Islamists want to do to the Christians, Alawis, Shiites, and the Sunni who don’t agree with them… any questions?
On Sunday, rebels and state media said that Syrian forces flushed Islamist terrorists from their last redoubts in northwestern Syria near the Turkish frontier, capturing two villages and restoring government control over the border crossing. The military’s advances fully reversed the gains rebels had made during their three-month campaign in Latakia Governorate, the rugged coastal region that is the ancestral heartland of President Bashar Assad. The counteroffensive’s success is the latest blow to the rebels, who suffered a string of bitter recent setbacks in more the than three-year-old Syrian Civil War.
Islamist terrorists launched a surprise assault in Latakia in March, pushing south from the Turkish border to seize a string of villages in the lush mountainous terrain. The military, nervous about an incursion in a bastion of government support, dispatched reinforcements to blunt the rebel advance and eventually turn the tide. On Sunday, Rami Abdurrahman, the director of the UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, said that after months of bloody clashes, army troops backed by Lebanese Shiite Hezbollah fighters seized the seaside hamlet of Samra before also taking the village of Kassab and its adjacent border crossing. He said there were minor clashes still taking place west of Kassab, a predominantly Armenian Christian village whose residents fled after the rebels seized control. The Syrian army command issued a statement saying that it “restored security and stability to Kassab”. It also said the operation “smashes the illusions” of the rebels securing a sea port in Samra or a buffer zone along the border to use as “a base for launching terrorist acts against the Syrian people”.
Lebanon-based al-Mayadeen TV, whose reporter is with the Syrian troops, broadcast live footage from Kassab that showed a blown-out stone building with a smouldering wooden staircase. Soldiers in camouflage uniforms were in the streets, and the rocky hills typical of the area could be seen in the background. Syrian al-Ikhbariya TV said that engineer units were clearing mines and dismantling booby traps in Kassab. The government made dislodging rebels from Latakia a priority for strategic as well as symbolic reasons. The coastal province is a stronghold of Assad’s minority Alawite sect, which is an offshoot of Shiite Islam, and losing control of even a portion of it was an embarrassment to the government.
Now in its fourth year, Syria’s conflict spilled far beyond the country’s borders to shake the foundations of the Middle East. Last week, an al-Qaida breakaway group known as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, which holds much of northern and eastern Syria, overran huge swaths of neighbouring Iraq and captured the country’s second-largest city. In the wake of its onslaught, the jihadi group has pillaged Iraqi military bases, carting off Humvees, ammunition, and weapons. The terrorists transferred some of that materiel to Syria to bolster their forces there. The Syrian Air Force hasn’t targeted Islamic State territory with the same ferocity as it has other rebel factions. However, on Saturday and Sunday, Abdurrahman said that its aircraft bombed facilities belonging to the extremist group in Hassakeh Governorate bordering Iraq and in the groups’ stronghold of Raqqa Governorate, the Syrian military appeared to be wary of the Islamic State’s possessing high-grade military equipment. Among the places targeted by the airstrikes was Shaddadi, a town just across the Syrian border from Iraq that terrorists said is a hub for the movement of men and equipment across the frontier.
Also on Sunday, SANA said that a general amnesty declared by President Bashar al-Assad following his re-election freed some 230 prisoners from lockups in the central cities of Homs and Hama, as well as northeastern Hassakeh Governorate. The Observatory confirmed that the government released prisoners on Sunday, although it couldn’t provide exact numbers. The group said that the presidential amnesty freed more than 1,500 people… a mixture of anti-government malcontents and common criminals… since its announcement on 9 June. International rights groups say that there are tens of thousands of anti-government figures imprisoned in the country. It isn’t yet clear how many of them will be receive clemency under the pardon.
Most activist figures are off by an order of magnitude… there aren’t tens of thousands of political prisoners in Syria. There might be a couple thousand… there’s no need to imprison more. Assad will keep about a thousand of the most adamant hardheads in custody. That’s all that he needs to do. After all, he DOES have popular support amongst ordinary sorts… they DON’T want to live in an Islamist hell (nor do they want their country to disintegrate like Iraq and Afghanistan). The army has popular support, especially, after Islamist massacres. Interestingly, one of the bitterest foes of the Islamists is the established Sunni Muslim hierarchy (who have deep ties with the Tatar Muslims in Russia). Fancy that…
15 June 2014