Syria Update, December 18, 2012 (Institute of Middle Eastern, Islamic and Strategic Studies. By Sherifa Zuhur)
Deathtoll: 120 including 41 civilians.
NBC News’ Chief Foreign Correspondent Richard Engel and 4 members of his network production team were freed from their captors by the al-Ahrar al-Sham battalion in Syria after a firefight at a checkpoint on Monday. They were taken prisoner on Thursday after crossing into Syria from Turkey according to NBC News. While NBC identified the kidnappers only as “unknown gunmen” the opposition said they were pro-regime fighters. The al-Ahrar al-Sham learned of the kidnapped journalists and that they were being held in the town of Ma’artamasreen. They searched the area but found no-one and then after a clash at a checkpoint to the west of this town, the armed kidnappers fled leaving a vehicle with the journalists in it. http://www.nytimes.com/2012/12/19/business/media/richard-engel-of-nbc-is-released-in-syria.html?_r=0
The massacre of Syrian Alawites appears to have been the hands of other Alawites – militia members. Or was it? Earlier reportage told of explosions following the killings. http://www.nytimes.com/2012/12/13/world/middleeast/alawite-massacre-in-syria.html?_r=0
On Tuesday, fighting continued in Yarmouk camp between opposition fighters and the PFLP-GC fighters. The Syrian regime’s air force bombed Yarmouk. Palestinian residents of the camp have been fleeing to Lebanon. Yesterday, shabiha warned residents of Taqadoum to flee as the government forces intend to storm the area. Sporadic clashes took place between opposition and the PFLP-GC pro-Assad militia in the al-Taqadoum neighborhood in the Yarmouk refugee camp. Explosions were heard in that area as well as in the neighboring Hajar al-Aswad neighbourhood. For the past 2 days there has been large-scale migration out of the Yarmouk camp, with media claims that half of the camp has departed.
A young man was found dead in Tabala. Security forces arrested 6 men from Dara`a province (3 reported to be from Sura) in a raid on their house in Zahira.
The Syrian air force carried out several air raids on the city of Harasta and the town of Masraba Violent clashes were fought near the cities of A’rbeen and Zamalka and in the Thiyabiyya area. The regime forces shelled Beit Sahm, Daraya, al-Mleiha, Shab`a, and Yalda.
In clashes, regime forces killed an opposition fighter in the countryside of Harasta after midnight on Monday. The Syrian air force shelled A’rabiya, killing 3 men.
The Syrian military has been bombarding areas of the the Ghuta al-Sharqiyya.
Dara`a province: https://maps.google.com/maps?hl=en&q=map+of+daraa+province&ie=UTF-8&hq=&hnear=0x15195fa1016e8de7:0xff6b41761235d49c,Daraa+Governorate,+Syria&gl=us&ei=u9DLUPDfIcXq0gGRwIHADQ&ved=0CC8Q8gEwAA
The Syrian military killed 1 person in shelling on the town of Naseeb around midnight Monday. 3 opposition fighters from Nahta and Inkhil towns, were killed in clashes with regime forces during a raid of a brigade in the Lijah area.
Deir az-Zur province:
Heavy clashes occurred between regime forces and opposition fighters in the Jbeila neighborhood of Deir az-Zur. Fighters from several different opposition battalions are continuing their siege of the Deir az-Zur airport.
3 civilians were killed in the shelling of the village of Hseiniya late on Monday.
Hama province: https://maps.google.com/maps?hl=en&q=hama+governorate&ie=UTF-8&hq=&hnear=0x15248293d5052f19:0x6e6de1581c39ed96,Hama+Governorate,+Syria&gl=us&ei=CdPLUKKbIqyF0QHB94HQAw&sqi=2&ved=0CIEBELYD
Heavy clashes took place between the opposition and the regime forces at various checkpoints in the northern countryside of Hama province. The regime forces retreated on Tuesday from checkpoints and their centers in Halfaya, Hasraya, Hayaleen, Kafarnabuda and al-Shaykh Hadid. The regime forces suffered casualties at the Ghurbal checkpoint, and also at those near the villages of Hayaleen, and Hamamiyat, while others were imprisoned by the opposition who seized military vehicles. 4 opposition fighters and at least 6 regime forces were killed.
Homs province: https://maps.google.com/maps?hl=en&q=homs+governorate+google+map&ie=UTF-8&hq=&hnear=0x15230eeab10528a7:0x65655b88027a8699,Homs+Governorate,+Syria&gl=us&ei=BFPRUM6RBaTI0AHw1ICoCQ&ved=0CDMQ8gEwAA
The Syrian military shelled neighborhoods of the city of Homs today. The Syrian military shot dead 3 brothers whose bodies were found on their land in the village of Naqeera.
Idlib province: https://maps.google.com/maps?hl=en&q=idlib+governorate+google+map&ie=UTF-8&hq=&hnear=0x152500e6cc6ed27b:0xe59a7e2f651fc24c,Idlib+Governorate,+Syria&gl=us&ei=51PRUIiREsaB0AHN_YD4BQ&ved=0CC8Q8gEwAA
Clashes took place between regime forces and opposition fighters near the Wadi al-Dayf encampment and the Syrian regime forces are shelling the towns and villages nearby. The regime forces shelled the town of Bansh, and a civilian died of his wounds. Another man died of wounds suffered in the shelling two days ago.
Latakia province: https://maps.google.com/maps?hl=en&q=latakia+governorate+google+map&ie=UTF-8&hq=&hnear=0x15241c8bc2bf561f:0xdbb2edac5c45c32b,Latakia+Governorate,+Syria&gl=us&ei=U1TRUMyzBYaM0QHtpoHABg&ved=0CC8Q8gEwAA
Two Russian nationals and an Italian –all employed by a steel works plant were abducted traveling on a road coming from Tartus. The abductors are demanding a ransom from the men’s employer.
The spokesperson for the UN World Food Program, Elisabeth Byrs said that 2.5 million Syrians need food aid, but her agency can only reach 1.5 million of them. The World Health Organization said that severe malnutrition is being reported in Damascus and more women and children are being badly injured.
Russia has sent a tanker, an escort ship and two war ships to the Mediterranean Sea. This may be to evacuate Russian citizens from Syria (Interfax).
Iran’s Deputy Minister Hossein Amir Abdollahian suggested that Iran does not believe that Bashar al-Assad’s government will soon fall. http://www.hurriyetdailynews.com/iranian-minister-sees-no-change-in-russias-syria-stance.aspx?pageID=238&nID=37121&NewsCatID=359
The French foreign ministry spokesperson, Phillipe Laliot said that it supports the mission of the U.N. – Arab League special envoy Lakhdar Brahimi who must report back to the U.N. Security Council. http://www.kuna.net.kw/ArticleDetails.aspx?id=2282452&language=en
Lebanese are deeply divided on the Syrian conflict, especially in Tripoli
Syria and Russia
Q. Why does Russia support the regime of Bashar al-Assad?
Q. Did communism flourish in Syria?
*personal witnessing of alleged communists arrested by the H. al-Assad regime.
Q. Has the Syrian Communist Party supported the revolution?
A. No. (However, some former communists are part of the revolution)