- 1st Hand: A Day In Atmeh (Maysaloon & Mohamad Ojjeh)
- Video Analysis: When “Al Qa’eda” Fights “Al Qa’eda” (a.k.a. How to Make the Media’s Head Explode)
- Interview With Salahuddin Shishani, Amir Of Jaish al-Muhajireen wal Ansar
The claimed death toll from starvation in the Yarmouk camp in southern Damascus is now about 50, with the prospect of more fatalities from the six-month siege by Syria’s military.
Yarmouk, largely populated by Palestinians, was taken by insurgent forces in early 2012. After fighting and the siege, its pre-war population of 250,000 is now less than 20,000. Palestinian organizations have been trying unsuccessful to get aid to the camp this week, and activists said that eight people died in Yarmouk on Tuesday.
Syrian forces have blockaded insurgent-held areas near Damascus for up to 14 months in an effort to break the opposition. Cases of death by starvation have been reported in towns such as Moadamiya, southwest of the capital.
Last month, the Syrian military and Moadamiya’s local council agreed a truce in which the regime flag would fly in return for aid to the town. Activists say deliveries of food have been sparse, however.
Opposition groups have demanded a lifting of sieges as a precondition for their attendance at the January 22 “peace” conference in Geneva. The United Nations has also called on Damascus to allow deliveries of aid.
On Monday, US Secretary of State John Kerry, meeting Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, said he hoped the easing of blockades would prefer the conference. Lavrov said that insurgents must also lift their sieges of regime-held areas.
Chechen-led Faction Jaish al-Mujahireen wal-Ansar Deployed In Naqqarin, Aleppo Against Regime
The predominantly North Caucasian faction Jaish al-Muhajireen wal Ansar has been deployed to Naqqarin north of Aleppo city, where the regime has launched an offensive, according to Kavkaz Center, a Chechnya-based pro-jihad website close to the leader of JMA, Salahuddin Shishani.
Сирия. Подразделения "Джейш Мухаджирин ва Ансар" переброшены в район аль-Наккарин под Алеппо, где войска Асада предприняли наступления
— Kavkaz Center (@kavkazcenter) January 15, 2014
JMA has said that it is working with Jabhat al-Nusra, though it is not formally aligned to that faction.
Map showing the location of Naqqarin:
The news follows reports by Syrian State media earlier this week that regime forces had gained control over Naqqarin, as well as neighboring az-Zarzour (shown on the map above immediately east of Naqqarin), Taaneh, and Subeihieh.
This string of villages is located on the M4 road southwest of al-Bab — which was recaptured by ISIS fighters, led by Chechen Amir Umar Shishani, earlier this week.
So while it is not possible to get a totally clear picture of what is happening in the area north of Aleppo, we can suggest that fighting among insurgent factions continues in the area, with the regime taking advantage of that fighting to try to make gains, and with Jabhat al-Nusra and factions working alongside it being deployed to combat regime forces.
Video Of Palestinian Man Crying Out About Lack of Aid — With Subtitles
Syria Direct have added English subtitles to this video, which we posted earlier this week, showing a young Palestinian resident of Yarmouk in Damascus as he cries out about the lack of aid supplies reaching the neighborhood.
“By God, we have nothing to do with the two conflicting parties,” the man yells in an Arabic dialect that mixes between Syrian and Palestinian.
UN Abandons Aid Shipment to Yarmouk After Convoy Fired Upon
The United Nations has aborted a delivery of food and polio vaccines to besieged Yarmouk in southern Damascus.
The U.N. Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) said Damascus authorized a six-truck convoy to deliver food for 6,000 people, 10,000 doses of polio vaccine, and medical supplies to Yarmouk, which has been under regime siege since July 2012.
However, the “required” route to the southern entrance of the neighborhood meant that the convoy had to drive 20 kilometers (12 miles) “through an area of intense and frequent armed conflict, in which numerous armed opposition groups, including some of the most extreme jihadist groups, have a strong and active presence”, according to the UN.
As the convoy passed the southern checkpoint, with its Syrian Government escort sending a bulldozer to clear the road of debris, machine gun fire erupted and a mortar exploded close to the convoy.
No one was wounded in the incident.
Earlier this week, Palestinian organizations tried unsuccessfully to deliver food and supplies to Yarmouk.
About 50 people have reported died of starvation in the area.
More Claimed Details Of ISIS Sugar Factory/Dairy Farm Battles Near Al Bab
A Twitter account belonging to a man who claims to be fighting in Syria with ISIS has published more details that accord with the account given by FiSyria, the site close to ISIS Emir Umar al-Shishani.
@khorasani_ (Abu Layth) tweets about the battles for the dairy farm and the sugar factory as Umar’s ISIS convoy was en route to Al Bab, having heard about the attacks on ISIS from various insurgent groups:
Abu Layth says that the ISIS group were in Maskana in Aleppo Province (click for map) when insurgents from Ahrar ash-Sham began to fire on the town.
We fired back anyway with heavy artillery and sent in some foot soldiers, they lost hope and retreated to a nearby sugar factory where they
— Abu Layth (@khorasani_) January 11, 2014
Had reinforcements. And began firing recklessly into Maskana with a 23 (a weapon typically used against aircraft) many houses were hit.
— Abu Layth (@khorasani_) January 11, 2014
Again I was cut off and I’ll explain why after insha Allah. Anyway as they attacked us at Maskana, we tapped into their radio frequency on Their walkie talkies. Shortly after we engaged in conversation with the pigs and they started to scream down the mic ‘YOUR USAMA BIN LADEN ISN’T HERE TO HELP YOU NOW!’. Subhan Allah their stupidity is great to think we rely on a dead man for victory. Anyway the brothers laughed at their lack of I.Q and replied “You dogs don’t you know? We are all Usama”. Shortly after we gave them the glad tidings of the martydom operation being sent their way so they got scared and stopped trying to egg us on. Alhamdulillah whilst they were at the sugar factory may Allah reward our brothers in Jabhat An Nusra fully. They supported us in the wiping out of the pigs…
Abu Layth explains what happens next:
Anyway we based up at the sugar factory and news came of extras joining our convoy to go to Aleppo to aid the brothers there and Ahrar got slightly shaky at the knees after they found out so they tried to cut off one of the routes to Aleppo with a ‘surprise checkpoint’ prior to this, we prepared for an attack at a nearby Ahrar HQ which I forgot the name of the area but it’s extremely close to Maskana. We did all the required preparations and Alhamdulillah attacked them the next day, I don’t even know if any of them were killed, 1 ended up handing himself in and pledged Allegiance to The Islamic State of Iraq and Shaam Alhamdulillah.
After Abu Layth’s group head out, they meet the “surprise checkpoint”. This is where Umar Shishani comes in:
Anyway the convoy heard of the news and Shaykh Umar Shishaany and another truck full of chechens rolled down to try and talk to them, soon as they saw the lights of our cars approaching (this was about midnight and completely blackness apart from the headlights of cars) they screamed out “StOP YOUR REINFORCEMENTS! NOW! 1..2..3′ – then fired with their dushka at the car of Shaykh Umar Shishaany, damaged it but him and the brothers retreated for the sake of our safety at the front, Alhamdulillah no one was hurt but then it broke out into a fire fight…
Abu Layth explains how the group find the dairy farm the next morning:
convoy rolled out to the new HQ to peep the Ghaneema, some 20-30 pick ups, black flags, Cannons, lots of heavy artillery, probably the most
— Abu Layth (@khorasani_) January 15, 2014
impressive sight i've seen in Syria. Alhamdulillah amongst it was a cow farm of 7000 cows lol, the milk was a nice treat!
— Abu Layth (@khorasani_) January 15, 2014
Kuwait Pledges $500 M for Syrian Humanitarian Crisis
Kuwait has pledged $500 million to help alleviate the Syrian humanitarian crisis.
Speaking at a donor conference in Kuwait City on Wednesday morning, Kuwaiti Emir Sheik Sabah Al Ahmad Al Sabah said, “The flames of the humantarian crisis in Syria are still going on … destroying all signs of life…It is my honor to declare from this conference that the state of Kuwait pledges $500 million.”
The United States pledged $380 million. Qatar and Saudi Arabia each pledged $60 million.
Turkish President Calls for “Re-Calibration” of Syria Policy
Turkey’s President Abdullah Gül has called for a re-assessment of Ankara’s apprach to Syria.
Addressing Turkish ambassadors, he said on Tuesday:
The key for the settlement of both internal and external issues is common sense, collective mind, dialogue and the empathy. I am of the opinion that we should re-calibrate our diplomacy and security policies given these facts in the south of our country and given the threat perception of (political) centers around us.
Gül did not give specifics, but Turkey has been a prominent supporter of the Syrian opposition and insurgency since the start of the conflict in March 2011. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has insisted that Syrian counterpart Bashar al-Assad has blood on his hands and must leave power.
However, Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu has eased that language recently, supporting the “Geneva II” conference on January 22 without a pre-condition of Assad’s departure.
Gül told the ambassadors:
We are pondering what to do for the realization of a win-win situation in the region; the way for that is patience, calmness, insistence and when necessary silent diplomacy. But I believe difficulties could be overcome through diplomacy and I am confident that Turkey is playing and will play very important roles thanks to its rooted tradition of diplomacy and diplomats….
Today’s situation, however, represents a lose-lose scenario for each state, regime and people of the region. Unfortunately we see there are no magic formulas to reverse this picture.
Islamic Front Leader: “We Are Fighting Deviant Group” in Islamic State of Iraq
Zahran Alloush, the head of military operations of the Islamic Front, says the confrontation with the Islamic State of Iraq and as-Sham is not “in-fighting” against another part of the insurgency: “We are fighting a deviant group.”
Zahran Aloush: Syrian people are like any other Muslim people, they make mistakes. You can't call them 'deserters' and kill them.
— Hassan Hassan حسن (@hhassan140) January 15, 2014
FM Zarif Meets Syrian President Assad on Wednesday
Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif has arrived in Damascus for a meeting with Syrian President Assad.
Zarif is visiting Syria after discussions in Lebanon, Iraq, and Jordan and will go to Russia after today’s conversation with Assad.
Iran has been seeking a place at the top table at the January 22 conference in Switzerland to resolve the Syrian crisis.
(Cross-posted from Iran Daily)
Deputy Foreign Minister: Western Intelligence Services Consulting Damascus About “Radical” Insurgents
Deputy Foreign Minister Faisal Mekdad has claimed, in an interview with the BBC, that Western intelligence agencies have visited Damascus for discussions on how to counter extremist groups in the insurgency.
Mekdad insisted there was a division between Western security officials and politicians who are calling for President Assad’s departure.
In a recent interview, Mr Mekdad told the BBC that many Western governments had finally understood that there was no alternative to the leadership of President Assad.
Asked if Western intelligence agencies – including British intelligence – had recently visited Damascus, he said: “I will not specify but many of them have visited Damascus, yes.”
Yes, there are many countries who are approaching us. Of course some are waiting for Geneva [the January 22 “peace” conference], some are saying we are exploring the possibilities, some are saying we want to co-operate on security measures because those terrorists they are sending from Western Europe into Turkey, into Syria, have become a real threat to them.
The BBC’s Lyse Doucet, who has been in Damascus, said “informed sources” had confirmed the meetings between Western intelligence and Syrian officials.