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Sat Oct 6, 2012, 06:07 AM

Syrian Forces Attack Rebel Stronghold Near Palace

Source: New York Times

A large armored contingent of Syria’s elite Republican Guard stormed a western Damascus suburb near the presidential palace on Friday, residents and antigovernment activists said, bringing intense combat with insurgents unusually close to the doorstep of the embattled Syrian leadership.

Abu Mohammed, the Qudsaya resident, said that three months ago the president had sent senior Republican Guard officers to negotiate with the people of Qudsaya and Hameh, a neighboring area where fighting also flared on Friday. He said an agreement had been reached that neither security forces nor insurgents would enter the area.

“The agreement was good for both sides; there was no arresting, no killing and no shabiha,” he said, referring to pro-government militias. But recently, he said, shabiha from the president’s Alawite minority had violated the truce by killing three young men and attacking women, so residents sought protection from rebels, who began attacking government checkpoints. The government has shelled the area since Tuesday, according to residents and video posted by activists.

Antigovernment activists reported that security forces, led by 4,000 Republican Guard forces, stormed the Qudsaya area with artillery and tanks.

Read more: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/10/06/world/middleeast/syria.html?pagewanted=all

The fighting detailed here is in the Damascus area in the south. The article also cites continued shelling and bombing of Homs in the center of Syria. And, of course, there is heavy fighting in Aleppo in the the north and further east near the border with Turkey.

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Response to pampango (Original post)

Sat Oct 6, 2012, 07:43 AM

1. The FSA has lost every major battle in the last few months. Meanwhile, the #s of foreign fighters

in Syria has grown, along with the influence of al-Qaeda and the Jihadis. Defections from the Syrian military to the armed opposition have also dwindled. While the rebels are now equipped with heavier weapons, they are also increasingly divided and dependent upon outside militant groups for manpower and support, forcing surrounding states to take a growing role.

It appears that the insurgency has failed to produce regime change, and this is now turning into a regional war.

After the election, if the Obama Administration has a choice. Either escalate into an open military intervention, or pressure its erstwhile "allies" in the region to reach some accommodation with Damascus. We will see. Either way, there will be costs. Regime change is proving to be a failed policy.

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Response to leveymg (Reply #1)

Sat Oct 6, 2012, 09:15 AM

2. I agree that the FSA is heavily outgunned and loses the pitched battles with the army only to pop

up elsewhere in the country.

The peaceful protests against Assad failed to remove him and now the insurgency is failing as well. I can't blame folks for not wanting to live under a dictator but they can be very difficult to remove when their military is able and willing to use its power to keep him in power.

When the peaceful protests began 18 months ago, I view that as internal regime change. I wish Assad had not repressed it violently and I wish the opposition had not resorted to violence itself. I excuse neither.

Regime change can indeed be a costly endeavor, but living under a dictator has 'costs' as well.

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Response to pampango (Reply #2)

Sat Oct 6, 2012, 12:35 PM

3. The peaceful protests lasted for less than two weeks before the battle for Daraa started on 04/08/11

Same chain of events happened, virtually simultaneously in Benghazi. The pattern in both countries, focused on these two cities, was broadly as follows:

Week One: The Twitter Factor - exile groups promote “Days of Rage.” Largely ignored.
Week Two: Demonstrations grow, calls for overthrow of regime. A few serious casualties.
Week Three: Militants shoot at police and demonstrators during riots, Police/Army overrreact, massacres.
Week Four, and thereafter: Mob Anger, Storming of Gov't buildings, arsenals looted, troops attacked, foreign fighters and al Qaeda carry out bombings, civil war.
Coverage of events by “liberal” western media fixates on Week Three: PR for Islamic Revolution and "humanitarian intervention."

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Response to leveymg (Reply #3)

Sat Oct 6, 2012, 11:16 PM

4. The "Battle for Daraa" was actually a one-sided crackdown by government forces

So poor Assad and his minority Alawite government is simply the victim of an international conspiracy? I think not, or at least not entirely. His thugs have certainly done their part, too. According to Wikipedia:

As the protests and unrest continued, the Syrian government began launching major military operations to suppress resistance. This signaled a new phase in the uprising, as the government response changed from a mix of concessions and force to violent repression. On 25 April, Daraa, which had become a focal point of the uprising, was one of the first cities to be besieged by the Syrian Army. An estimated hundreds to 6,000 soldiers were deployed, firing live ammunition at demonstrators and searching house to house for protestors. Tanks were used for the first time against protestors, and snipers took positions on rooftops. Mosques used as headquarters for demonstrators and organizers were especially targeted. Security forces began shutting off water, power and phone lines, and confiscating flour and food. Clashes between the army and opposition forces, which included armed protestors and defected soldiers, led to the death of hundreds. About 600 people were arrested during the crackdown. By 5 May, most of the protests had been suppressed, and the military began pulling out of Daraa. However, some troops remained to keep the situation under control.

During the crackdown in Daraa, the Syrian Army also besieged and blockaded several towns and suburbs around Damascus. Throughout May, situations similar to those that occurred in Daraa were reported in other besieged towns and cities, such as Baniyas, Homs, Talkalakh, Latakia, and several other towns. After the end of each siege, the violent suppression of sporadic protests in the area continued throughout the following months.

Tanks, rooftop snipers, shutting off water & power --this sounds not so much like a battle, but a brutal government crackdown on dissent. Are we to suppose the conspiracy to portray Assad as the a brutal dictator extends to Wikipedia as well?

I think your assertions are facile in the extreme, ignoring clear evidence of a government whose security forces which have gone out of control, rocketing and bombing their own cities for over a year. It should come as no surprise that under such conditions extremists can find some succor from a desperate populace.

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Response to al bupp (Reply #4)

Sun Oct 7, 2012, 06:27 AM

6. Not so one-sided. Look at the box with casualties on the Wiki page for Daraa. You'll see that

during the period of the first Daraa uprising, the estimates for the number of opposition killed range from 50-220 (with 81 defected soldiers killed), while government casualties are reported to be killed 25 killed and 177 wounded. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/April%E2%80%93May_2011_Daraa_siege

April–May 2011 Daraa siege
Part of the Syrian uprising

Date 25 April – 5 May 2011
Location Daraa, Syria

Result Protests suppressed

Syrian opposition
• Opposition protesters Syrian government
• Syrian Army

Commanders and leaders
Unknown Gen. Maher al-Assad
Gen. Suheil Hassan
Gen. Mohsin Makhlouf
Gen. Ahmed Yousef Jarad
Gen. Ramadan Ramadan[1]

Units involved
4th Division (42nd brigade)
5th Division (12th, 15th, 112th, 132nd brig, 175th reg)
Special forces (35th, 41st regiment)[2]

100,000 protesters 1,100 (originally)[3]

Casualties and losses
50[4] – 220[5] killed,
600 arrested,[6]
81 defected soldiers killed[7]
25 killed,
177 wounded[8]

The fighting with military defectors was a battle that developed within the context of armed uprising in Daraa. The events of April 8 that led to the arrival two weeks later of large number of government troops are key to understanding how the violence was sparked and why the use of force by the regime escalated. There were three key actions that sparked the crackdown: snipers, the burning of the Ba'ath Party Headquarters by a large, armed mob, and the killing of 19 policemen and security personnel. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Timeline_of_the_Syrian_civil_war_%28January%E2%80%93April_2011%29

8 April – "Friday of Resistance"
External videos
Unknown Gunmen Filmed at Syria Demo
(YouTube: Associated Press.)
8 April 2011. Retrieved 9 April 2011.
Protests in Duma near Damascus

On the third Friday called "Friday of Resistance", thousands of protesters took to streets in Daraa, Latakia, Tartus, Edlib, Baniyas, Qamishli, Homs and the Damascus suburb of Harasta, in the largest protest yet.[160][161]

27 anti-government protesters were killed in Daraa and many other were wounded when security forces opened fire with rubber bullets and live rounds to disperse stone-throwing protesters.[161][162] The clashes started when thousands of prayers staged rallies following the Friday prayers. In a telephone call one of the activists told the news agencies that demonstrators, starting from three mosques, have marched to the city's main court where they were confronted by security forces dressed in civilian clothing.[163] A witness told Reuters he saw "snipers on roofs."[164] It was also reported that another resident has seen "pools of blood and three bodies" in the Mahatta area of Daraa.[164] The protesters have also smashed a stone statue of Basil al-Assad, the brother of the current President of the country, and set fire to a Ba'ath Party outpost.[163][164][165] The state-run Syrian Television reported that 19 police officers and members of the security forces have been killed in Daraa.[166]

You may view the original AP Raw Feed from Daraa on April 8 which shows the mob and the snipers, here:

http://www.youtube. com/watch?v=Le6WpCSXCyI - (dissected URL version, eliminate the space after youtube._ to reconnect)

Raw Video: Deadly Day of Protests in Syria - YouTube
► 1:13► 1:13

www.youtube.com Apr 8, 2011 - 1 min - Uploaded by AssociatedPress
State-run Syrian TV says 19 police officers and security forces have been killed in southern city of Daraa. (April 8)

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Response to pampango (Original post)

Sun Oct 7, 2012, 01:42 AM

5. Syrian defense minister: Rebellion will be crushed

BEIRUT (AP) -- Syria's defense minister says the rebellion against President Bashar Assad's regime will be crushed.

Gen. Fahd Jassem al-Freij told state-run Syrian TV on Saturday that violence in the country will end soon, as troops are determined to bring back stability.

Al-Freij rarely makes public statements. His remarks came as Syrian troops launched a major offensive to retake rebel-held areas in the northern city of Aleppo and the central city of Homs.

In comments marking the anniversary of the 1973 Arab-Israeli war, al-Freij said the government is ready to give amnesty to rebels who "repent."


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