Syria: Another failed FSA propaganda stunt

 

Asaad Hanna, a political officer for the Free Syrian Army, recently posted an image of a young girl on Twitter, claiming that she had been imprisoned 3 years ago in Syria, and has still not been released.

This little girl still in prisons since more than 3 years

Firstly, the girl in the image appears to be around 4-7 years old. Therefore, based on Asaad Hanna’s Tweet, she was imprisoned when she was 1-4 years old. If true, this would be the first report, even considering unverified reports, of a child of such young age being imprisoned in Syria.

The reason of her imprisoning is also ambiguous. For propaganda purposes, it is typically alleged that the majority of current inmates in Syrian prions were detained for opposing the government/peacefully protesting.

However, in 2014 (the year of her apparent imprisoning), there weren’t any protests occurring in Syria. Protests began in Syria in March 2011, and by mid-2012, the country was engulfed in a full-scale civil war. Therefore, it seems there is no logical explanation as to why she would imprisoned.

Attempts by members and supporters of the armed opposition to portray the Syrian authorities in a negative light are expected, but this is a particularly poor effort, as there is not only no proof, but the entire story is baseless, and doesn’t conform to the principles of logic.

Follow Reporter on Twitter for Updates: @SulimanM98

Suliman Mulhem is a British-Syrian journalist. He writes for @SputnikInt, a Russian Media Outlet, and @TheArabSource.

Syrian War Report – February 10, 2017: Syrian Army Clashes With Pro-Turksih Militants Near Al-Bab

ٍSouth Front

In the northern Aleppo countryside, the towns of Tell Rifaat, Menagh, Mayer, Tell Jibbin, Ma’arasteh Khan and Hardatnin have joined a reconciliation agreement with the Syrian government after talks with a Russian mediation. Tell Rifaat and Menagh had been controlled by the Kurdish YPG.

On February 9, an escalation erupted between Syrian government and Turkish forces in the area of al-Bab.

Initially the Turkish General Staff announced that an accidental Russian airstrike had killed three Turkish soldiers and wounded 11 others in the area of al-Bab. The incident was confirmed by the Russian military.

Later at the same day, pro-Turkish militants engaged Syrian army and National Defense Forces (NDF) troops at Abu Zandin and Shamawiya located at the road to the ISIS stronghold of al-Bab.

As a result of a series of firefights, two Syrian soldiers were allegedly killed and pro-Turkish militants seized a BMP vehicle.

The Hawar-Kilis Operation Room, one of the biggest factions involved in the Turkish Operation Euphrates Shield, was involved in the escalation. Also, Turkish artillery units allegedly delivered a number of strikes against government forces in the area, according to sources close to Hawar-Kilis.

The escalation came amid reports that Turkish forces once again entered into Qabasin and Bzaah, and the army and the NDF liberated Abu Taltal located in a striking distance from Tadef, an important ISIS defense site at the southern flank of al-Bab.

Separately, Islamists launched an advance in northeastern Latakia, engaging government forces at the Rashu Hill. Initially, militants seized the area and made attempt to develop the success, but then the army and the NDF reversed their gains. The situation remains tense.

SYRIAN WAR REPORT – FEBRUARY 7, 2017: SYRIAN MILITARY DEPLOYS ELITE UNITS TO BATTLE FOR PALMYRA

Turkish forces once against lost the key town of Bzaah east of Al-Bab after temporarily capturing it from ISIS yesterday. Meanwhile, ISIS units launched an advance against pro-Turkish militants in Al-Ameh aiming to re-establish a supply line to al-Bab which had been under constant artillery fire from the Syrian army since Sunday.

Sporadic firefights and artillery duels continue between pro-Turkish forces and the so-called “Syrian Democratic Forces” backed by the US in northern Aleppo. Recently clashes were observed near Sheikh Issa, Ayn Daqnah, Tell Rifaat, Mranaz and Shawarigha. An armored personnel carrier with pro-Turkish fighters was destroyed by the SDF between Jibrin and Ayn Daqnah.

At least 6 ISIS vehicles equipped with machine guns were destroyed by the army and the NDF in the clashes near the al-Seen Airbase. Some 34 ISIS members were also reported dead.

The Desert Hawks Brigade has deployed to the area of the Tiyas Airbase in order to support the Syrian army’s advance against ISIS in the province of Homs. The brigade will participate in the army’s operation to liberate the gas fields north of the Homs-Palmyra highway and allegedly take part in the advance on Palmyra. Pro-government sources claim that up to dozen of ISIS suicide vehicle-borne improvised explosive devices were destroyed in the recent clashes in the area.

Strategically, government forces will need to Palmyra back from ISIS if they want to develop an advance in the direction of Deir Ezzor where the army defends local population from ISIS attacks. In case of the Russian-US coordination over the conflict, this push will be likely synchronized with the US-backed operation aimed to isolate al-Raqqah. This will increase a military pressure on ISIS and will push it to fight on two fronts in the area between al-Raqqah and Deir Ezzor simultaneously.

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Coverage of Aleppo: a new low in the mainstream media’s integrity

A general view taken with a drone shows the Old City of Aleppo and Aleppo's historic citadel, Syria October 12, 2016. REUTERS/Abdalrhman Ismail/File Photo - RTSV11Y

Old City of Aleppo and Aleppo’s historic citadel, Syria October 12, 2016. REUTERS/Abdalrhman Ismail/


By Bas Spliet, Submitted by Bas Spliet
Scrutinised Minds, 3/2/2017

Remember Aleppo? Close to two months have now passed since the eastern part of Syria’s largest pre-war city was retaken by the government. Peace has returned to the ancient city, the jihadis and their sympathisers have been evacuated to rebel-held parts of the country, and negotiations between the government and the armed opposition under the auspices of Russia, Iran and Turkey are ongoing. The mainstream media, however, is suddenly relatively silent. Perhaps they don’t want you to know what life under rebel occupation must have been like. In this article, I offer a comprehensive analysis of the mass media’s war-time coverage of Aleppo, with emphasis on what they described as its “fall” in December 2016.

Unreliable sources and undocumented allegations

When Cartman and Stan broke the world’s largest beaver dam in the ninth season of South Park, it caused the town of Beaverton to flood. Standing 10 miles outside of the destroyed city, unable to get in, reporter Mitch explained the situation inside the city to news anchor Tom:

Mitch: “We have not any reports of fatalities yet, but we believe that the death toll may be in the hundreds of millions; Beaverton only has a population of 8.000, Tom, so this would be quite devastating.”

Tom: “Any word on how the survivors in the town are doing, Mitch?”

Mitch: “We’re not sure what exactly is going on inside the town of Beaverton, Tom, but we’re reporting that there is looting, raping, and yes, even acts of cannibalism.”

Tom: “My god, you’ve actually seen people looting, raping and eating each other?”

Mitch: “No. No, we haven’t actually seen it, Tom, we’re just reporting it.”[1]

At first glance, it might seem odd and even perverse to link this South Park scene to the mass media’s coverage of the real-life war-torn city of Aleppo. The similarities, however, are striking. Just like in the above-mentioned clip, the mainstream media has almost no reporters on the ground in Aleppo, let alone in Syria, as its correspondents almost exclusively report from Lebanon or Turkey. The Western press therefore has to rely on their usual compromised sources, such as the White Helmets, an obscure Western-funded NGO infamous for being armed and partial contrary to their own claims, spokespeople from Nour al-Din al-Zinki – infamous for decapitating a 12-year-old Palestinian boy with a small knife – and other Western-backed “moderate rebel” groups, and a handful of other “journalists,” “activists” and “doctors” embedded with the insurgents (the primary sources of many documented fabrications)[2] who sent out their “final videos” when the Syrian army was closing in on east Aleppo, implying that they were awaiting an imminent genocide. The Daily Beast went as far as including allegations circulating in rebel chat forums in its reporting.[3]

Claims coming from these “reliable” sources that the Western press eagerly reported on without much scrutiny include the estimation of 100.000 trapped civilians in only “a few streets, a few blocks, maybe a neighbourhood,”[4] bombs falling at a ratio of 10 per minute,[5] more than 100 unattended children being trapped in a building amid attacks by the Syrian army,[6] the Syrian army and pro-government militias executing more than 180 people after taking over rebel-held neighbourhoods,[7] the streets lying “full of dead bodies,” government forces capturing the remaining food supplies, women and children being “cooked alive by barrel bombs,” and “the conquerors of Aleppo” raping in the course of their “Assadist blitzkrieg,” prompting numerous women to kill themselves in order to escape rape.[8] None of these claims were accompanied by evidence.[9]

The UN OHCHR High Commissioner, Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein, too, alleged from “reports” that pro-government forces might have killed 82 civilians. Again, it was the Western press that distorted Zeid’s words and presented the undocumented allegation as a fact, however. The BBC claimed that “Syrian pro-government forces in eastern Aleppo have been killing people, including women and children, on the spot in their homes and on the street, the United Nations says,”[10] while the UN never said such a thing. The only thing that Zeid (who, it should be noted, is a prince of the Jordanian monarchy, which is heavily involved in the war against Syria) said, was that he had “reports.” Furthermore, when Rupert Colville, the Commissioner’s spokesperson, was asked which forces would be involved in these executions, it became pretty clear how substantiated this claim is:

I can’t say who has done all of them, but we understand that at least one Iraqi militia was involved. We’ve heard of killings of civilians in this way in four different locations, so it may well be different forces involved.”[11] (emphasis added)

Compare this to the OHCHR-linked Commission of Inquiry on Syria, which also received “allegations” the next day of opposition groups, including Ahrar al-Sham, “preventing civilians from leaving as well as opposition fighters embedding themselves within the civilian population, thus heightening the risk to civilians of being killed or injured.”[12] While the Commissioner’s statement found its way to headlines across the world, these warnings have been swept under the rug by the mainstream media. The latter, however, follows an existing pattern,[13] while to date, no evidence or even a source of the former claim has been put forward.

Reminding us of the Iraqi and Libyan opposition’s numerous undocumented and later disproven allegations that the Western press uncritically reported on in concert at the time, the Independent’s Patrick Cockburn stated:

“Experience shows that foreign reporters are quite right not to trust their lives even to the most moderate of the armed opposition inside Syria. But, strangely enough, the same media organisations continue to put their trust in the veracity of information coming out of areas under the control of these same potential kidnappers and hostage takers. They would probably defend themselves by saying they rely on non-partisan activists, but all the evidence is that these can only operate in east Aleppo under license from the al-Qaeda-type groups. It is inevitable that an opposition movement fighting for its life in wartime will only produce, or allow to be produced by others, information that is essentially propaganda for its own side.”[14]

In another article, Cockburn reiterates:

“By kidnapping and killing [foreign journalists], it is easy to create a vacuum of information that is great in demand and will, in future, be supplied by informants sympathetic to or at the mercy of the very same people (in this case the jihadi rulers of east Aleppo) who have kept out the foreign journalists. Killing or abducting the latter turns out to have been a smart move by the jihadis because it enabled them to establish substantial control of news reaching the outside world.”[15]

Then again, as this situation plays right into the hands of the US-NATO interventionists, we have to ask ourselves to what extent this is a self-fulfilling prophecy. As the imperialists and their regional proxies (Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Turkey in particular) continue to supply both Syrian and foreign jihadis with weapons, finances and training while knowing full well the nature of these insurgents, it would be naive to think that the jihadi media monopoly was not the intended outcome. Moreover, NATO has been able to exert considerable influence in the propaganda that is exported to the West, not only through funding but also by providing special “media training” to the very same “rebel activists” that are the primordial disinformation agents in sustaining the false narrative.[16] Most notably, the French government and the EU funded the notorious Aleppo Media Center,[17] and, in addition to George Soros’ Open Society Foundation, the US, the UK and some other countries have made large contributions to the White Helmets, an opposition-linked NGO established by a former British intelligence officer.[18] Not surprisingly, both organisations continuously blame the Syrian government for everything, just like NATO, and tirelessly call for a Libya-style no-fly zone, just like NATO.

The suppressed voices: Aleppo’s citizenry

Reaffirming its methodology of reporting on the war in Syria, the mass media is relying almost exclusively on the unverified accounts of a handful of obscure sources representing only a tiny minority of Aleppo’s population, implying that their view of seeing the Syrian government not just as the primary, but as the sole culprit of all the dead and devastation surrounding them is shared by most of Aleppo’s citizens. Yet, the two other parts of the Aleppo citizenry, both much greater in number, are ignored by the mainstream media.

First of all, we have to take into account that Aleppo has been artificially divided for the last four and a half years as a result of the war. The historical order of the city was restored by the reunification of its eastern and western parts. The population of the west – estimated at 1.5 million, several times higher than that of the east – is therefore significant to the story. Yet, while the Western press constantly quoted “activists” in east Aleppo, it failed to listen to what west Aleppans had to say about the situation in their city. Certainly the well-oiled propaganda machine would have brought demonstrations mourning the “fall” of east Aleppo to our attention, if there were any. Not only had opposition-linked social media none of the sort to offer their imperialist funders, but the absolute opposite happened when it became clear that the army’s seizure of east Aleppo was imminent. Indeed, many west Aleppo citizens took to the streets to celebrate, not decry, the government’s retaking of east Aleppo while waving not rebel-backed Free Syrian Army flags, but official ones.[19]

Second, and even more important, are the civilians that fled to government-controlled areas. According to UN[20] and Red Cross[21] estimates, 34.000 to 35.000 people have been evacuated to rebel-held Idlib. Take in mind that although these undoubtedly include some unarmed civilians, they are mostly made up of thousands of fighters and their families, as hinted by UN envoy to Syria Staffan de Mistura.[22] As the media consistently claimed (and probably exaggerated to some extent) that there were at least 250.000 civilians trapped in east Aleppo for the last few months, this means that a much larger amount of east Aleppans have flocked to government-controlled areas. Indeed, according to the Russian Reconciliation Center,[23] more than 100.000 civilians (including over 40.000 children) had left the eastern part of the city by 12 December, when fighting was still ongoing. When we listen to the stories of these refugees, it becomes clear why the mass media chose to ignore what they had to say.

First and foremost, long-time Middle East correspondent Robert Fisk interviewed one of the very first Muslim families that fled eastern Aleppo during a ceasefire a couple of weeks before the final advance of the Syrian army:

“The father had just been told that his brother was to be executed by the rebels because he crossed the frontline with his wife and son. He condemned the rebels for closing the schools and putting weapons close to hospitals. And he was no pro-regime stooge; he even admired Isis for their good behaviour in the early days of the siege.”[24]

Andrew Ashdown, a British Anglican priest, visited east Aleppo and the centre for internally displaced persons at Jibreen on 14 December, emphasising that the Syrian authorities did not receive prior notice of his visit. I could not but cite a large chunk of his account:

“The sense of relief amongst the thousands of refugees is palpable. All were keen to talk [and] all said the same thing. They said that they had been living in fear. They reported that the fighters have been telling everyone that the Syrian Army would kill anyone who fled to the West, but had killed many themselves who tried to leave – men, women and children. One woman broke down in tears as she told how one of her sons was killed by the rebels a few days ago, and another kidnapped. They also killed anyone who showed signs of supporting the Government. The refugees said that the ‘rebels’ told them that only those who support them are ‘true Muslims’, and that everyone else are ‘infidels’ and deserve to die.

They told us they had been given very little food: that any aid that reached the area was mostly refused to them or sold at exorbitant prices. Likewise, most had been given no medical treatment. […] Most of the refugees said they had had members of their families killed by the rebels and consistently spoke of widespread murder, torture, rape and kidnap by the rebels. […] They all said they were glad to be out and to be free. All the refugees without exception were visibly without exception clearly profoundly relieved and happy to be free.”[25]

This may sound absurd if you consistently relied on the mainstream media for the last few months. None of the stories of other journalists and travellers that have visited Aleppo, including US congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard, contradict Ashdown’s account, however.[26] All recorded testimonies of east Aleppo residents speak of the unimaginably barbaric behaviour of the insurgents, and no one relinquishes “moderates” from this inhumane activity. As a matter of fact, the residents themselves don’t seem to make a distinction between “extremist” terrorists and “moderate” rebels. The discrepancy between the narrative of the Western press and that of the people who are actually living through this is just mind-boggling. Vanessa Beeley, for instance, visited east Aleppo on 11 December and interviewed a woman from Hanano, who said, among other things, that one woman told the insurgents she wanted to leave, after which they shot her in the mouth.[27] Most tellingly, though, Bolivian-American actress and filmmaker Carla Ortiz, who spent eight months in Syria working on a documentary called Voice of Syria, somehow found her way to a CNN studio to share what east Aleppo residents told her:

“[They told me] how they were starved, how they were deprived from education, how, if they would dare to cross to the other side the terrorists would kill them, how little girls are […] sexually abused. […] They say for them it’s just Daesh [ISIS]; they don’t care if it’s a rebel or Free Syrian Army [fighter].”[28]

It should be noted that, contrary to the situation in rebel-held areas, the Syrian government does not have a full-scale monopoly on news in areas under its control. In a rare instance for the Western press, the BBC even had a correspondent on the ground during the final stages of fighting in Aleppo. As the BBC has been trying to demonise the Syrian government at every turn for the last five years (including manipulating, and most likely even fabricating, video evidence of alleged chemical warfare by the Syrian army),[29] you would expect its correspondent, Lyse Doucet, to find as many civilian accounts as possible to corroborate the undocumented allegations of government atrocities. Surely she could have easily countered all the above-mentioned stories if they would tell only half of the story, as she talked to many refugees from east Aleppo. When going through her reporting, however, none of the sort is to be found. Moreover, although she clearly tries to bend the issue as much as possible to the “both sides are equally bad” narrative, it looks like she only managed to find seemingly pro-government families to talk to. Indeed, in two separate videos, a woman and children are filmed praising Assad, the army and the government.[30]

In context: coverage of Aleppo during the war on Syria

By now, it has become quite clear that most media coverage of the reunification of Aleppo is the absolute antithesis of the reality on the ground. But what about the last four and a half years, was there ever any objectivity in the major news outlets’ reports?

Aleppo was Syria’s largest city before the war and is one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world. According to the dominant narrative, Aleppo rose up against the dictatorial Syrian government in July-August 2012, paving the way for pro-democracy fighters to liberate the ancient city. Yet, by the end of August, when the “revolutionaries” had taken control of much of the city, a rebel commander admitted to the Guardian that the overwhelming majority of the Aleppo citizenry was pro-government:

“Around 70% of Aleppo city is with the regime. It has always been that way. The countryside is with us and the city is with them. We are saying that we will only be here as long as it takes to get the job done, to get rid of the Assads. After that, we will leave and they can build the city that they want.”[31]

Taking this into account, the word “uprising” seems inapplicable. Indeed, as acknowledged by India’s then ambassador to Syria, it was pretty clear that the people in Aleppo did not want to take part in the armed rebellion’s so-called revolution:

“Aleppo remained calm and this troubled the [armed] opposition greatly. The opposition couldn’t get the people in Aleppo to rise up against the regime so they sent bus loads of people to Aleppo. These people would burn something on the streets and leave. Journalists would then broadcast this saying Aleppo had risen.”[32]

Rather than an internal revolt, the armed opposition invaded the city in convoy trucks coming from the north.[33] The BBC’s Ian Pannell even rode in with the militants into Aleppo, admitting in his otherwise twisted report (the scenes of which look an awful lot like what the Indian diplomat described above) that “many fear what they are really seeing is an Islamic takeover.”[34]

And so the eastern part of Syria’s financial and industrial centre fell to the Islamist insurgents. In the next few years, media attention mainly moved to other parts of Syria, and Aleppo remained divided. Media hysteria stirred up again in 2016, conveniently around the time it became clear that the Syrian army was slowly gaining the upperhand. Opposition-linked social media often went into overdrive, making up countless false stories and producing a myriad of undocumented allegations of government atrocities, which were then eagerly adopted by the Western press.[35] In July temporarily, and in September permanently, the army finally managed to encircle rebel-held east Aleppo, thus imposing a siege. This provoked unilateral outrage among Western officials, totally neglecting the fact that they have either been directly responsible for or supportive of numerous other inhumane siege-like situations in the region – from the years-long devastating sieges of the al-Qaeda-affiliated militants on the villages of Foua, Kafraya, Nubl and Zahraa in Syria, to the vast humanitarian crises and hundreds of civilian deaths resulting from the US military campaigns to drive Daesh (ISIS) out of Mosul, Manbij, Fallujah and many other Iraqi and Syrian cities, to similar past and present sieges in the Middle East such as the US siege on Iraq that left 500.000 children dead according to UN estimates or the US Navy-backed blockade on Yemen’s ports, not to mention the crippling Israeli blockade on the Gaza strip, and last but not least, to the catastrophic economic sanctions imposed by the US and the EU on the whole of the Syrian people, some of which were installed well ahead of the eruption of violence in 2011.[36]

Now that they are driven out of Aleppo, the true face of the insurgents is emerging, and the fake narrative propagated by the mainstream media is falling apart. Reports of Syrian and Russian troops finding mass graves with bodies showing signs of torture and mutilation confirms the accounts of civilians who have lived under the jihadi occupation.[37] This does not mean that the West’s leading news producers could not have known the real story of Aleppo prior to its seizure by the army, however. They downplayed as much as they could the fact that these Western- and Gulf-equipped so-called revolutionaries killed hundreds of civilians by indiscriminately shelling urban parts of west Aleppo on an almost daily basis during the whole of 2016, leaving UN envoy to Syria Staffan de Mistura “appalled and shocked” of the rebels’ usage of disproportionate weapons.[38]

While the Western press seized every opportunity to smear pro-government forces by persistently giving a platform to undocumented claims of the same “rebel activists” known for their numerous lies, it remained silent when the jihadis shot at civilians trying to leave.[39] While the picture of Omran Daqneesh, the (supposedly) wounded toddler in the ambulance, made it to almost all front pages across the globe, the story of 12-year-old Abdullah Issa, who was beheaded by the US-backed “moderate rebels” of Nour al-Din al-Zinki, remains largely untold. While the mainstream media cried crocodile tears every time the jihadis claimed that Russian or Syrian air strikes leveled the “last hospital” in east Aleppo, it ignored refugee accounts that denounced the rebels for depriving them of education and medical treatment. While the press decried the alleged death of the “last pediatrician” in an attack on the makeshift al-Quds hospital (which did almost certainly not even happen), it ignored accounts of real doctors in Aleppo refuting the mainstream media lies.[40] Instead of listening to the few civilians that managed to flee east Aleppo prior to the final advance of the army in December,[41] the mainstream media kept relying solely on “activists” embedded with the Islamists, thereby prolonging the suffering of the Syrian people by convincing Western policy makers, and much of the world by extension, that rebel successes must be cheered upon. And thus, when the outside world mourned the fall of Aleppo, Syrians celebrated its liberation.

Conclusion

While the corporate press is now labelling everything not in accordance with its own coverage as “fake news,” this article has made it pretty clear who the chiefs of deception really are. One must not underestimate the power of the fourth branch of the government. If it serves not as a critical examinator of government policies but instead as its purveyor and mouthpiece and at the same time is still regarded as “pluralistic and free,” a very dangerous cocktail of propaganda emerges. The masses could then be convinced into supporting wars of aggression, which is exactly what happened in the lead up to the military campaigns against Libya, Iraq, Afghanistan and Vietnam. What makes you think this is any different?


RELATED BY THE SAME AUTHOR:

THE PROXY WAR ON SYRIA

the-proxy-war-on-syria

https://scrutinisedminds.com/category/the-proxy-war-on-syria/


Notes

[1] “Southpark – we are just reporting it,” Youtube channel of PeanutButterFingers, 26.05.2014, consulted on 15.12.2016, http://youtube.com/watch?v=Zd0p96miSK8.

[2] Many documented examples are mentioned in part 3 and 4 of my The proxy war on Syria series: Bas Spliet, “The proxy war on Syria – part 3: Does Assad ‘kill his own people?’ Deconstructing the ‘Assad must go’ narrative,” Scrutinised Minds, 13.12.2016, https://scrutinisedminds.com/2016/12/13/the-proxy-war-on-syria-part-3-does-assad-kill-his-own-people-deconstructing-the-assad-must-go-narrative/; Bas Spliet, “The proxy war on Syria – part 4: The export of disinformation,” Scrutinised Minds, 20.12.2016, https://scrutinisedminds.com/2016/12/20/the-proxy-war-on-syria-part-4-the-export-of-disinformation/.

[3] Michael Weiss, Roy Gutman and Alex Powell, “Women in Aleppo choose suicide over rape, rebels report,” The Daily Beast, 13.12.2016, http://.thedailybeast.com/articles/2016/12/12/last-rebels-in-aleppo-say-assad-forces-are-burning-people-alive.html.

[4] “Estimated 100,000 civilians still trapped in  Aleppo,” CNN, 13.12.2016, http://edition.cnn.com/videos/world/2016/12/13/crisis-as-syrian-troops-advance-pleitgen-lkl.cnn.

[5] “Aleppo resident: ‘nowhere to go’ as bombs interrupt interview,” BBC, 14.12.2016, http://bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-38315465.

[6] May Bulman, “Aleppo: more than 100 children in building under heavy attack, says Unicef,” The Independent, 13.12.2016, http://independent.co.uk/news/world/middle-east/aleppo-children-trapped-syria-civil-war-unaccompanied-unicef-eastern-a7472506.html.

[7] Jack Khoury, “Aleppo: massacre reported as Syrian army presses assault on last rebel holdout,” Haaretz, 13.12.2016, http://haaretz.com/middle-east-news/syria/1.758513.

[8] Weis, Gutman and Powell, “Women in Aleppo choose suicide over rape.”

[9] Following a long pattern throughout this war, fake images and images falsely attributed to Aleppo have also circulated widely on social media. For the most part, however, the mainstream media was wise enough not to jump on that bandwagon. For some examples, see “Fake ‘Aleppo genocide’ pics spread online amid new calls for ‘humanitarian’ war on Syria,” Mintpress News, 20.12.2016, http://.mintpressnews.com/fake-aleppo-genocide-pics-spread-amid-new-calls-for-war-on-syria/223306/; “Fake images about Aleppo circulate on social media, France 24, 15.12.2016, http://observers.france24.com/en/20161215-fake-images-aleppo-social-media.

[10] “Aleppo battle: UN says civilians shot on the spot,” BBC, 13.12.2016, http://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-38301629.

[11] “‘Assad tue des civils’: un responsable de l’ONU accuse, mais, penaud, ne peut rien prouver,” Youtube-channel of RT France, 16.12.2016, consulted on 21.12.2016, http://youtube.com/watch?v=Up3ZPoautDo.

[12] “Statement by the Independent International Commission of Inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic on the situation of civilians affected by the capture of Aleppo,” UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, 14.12.2016, http://ohchr.org/EN/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx?NewsID=21031&LangID=E.

[13] Bas Spliet, “The proxy war on Syria – part 2: The two myths about the armed opposition,” Scrutinised Minds, 06.12.2016, https://scrutinisedminds.com/2016/12/06/the-proxy-war-on-syria-part-2-the-two-myths-about-the-armed-opposition/; also acknowledged in the past by the pro-rebel Syrian Observatory for Human Rights: “Calls grow for Syrian government to end Aleppo siege,” The Daily Star, 29.07.2016, http://dailystar.com.lb/News/Middle-East/2016/Jul-29/364570-calls-grow-for-syria-government-to-end-aleppo-siege.ashx.

[14] Patrick Cockburn, “This is why everything you’ve read about the wars in Syria and Iraq could be wrong,” The Independent, 02.12.2016, http://.independent.co.uk/voices/syria-aleppo-iraq-mosul-isis-middle-east-conflict-assad-war-everything-youve-read-could-be-wrong-a7451656.html.

[15] Patrick Cockburn, “There’s more propaganda than news coming out of Aleppo this week,” The Independent, 17.12.2016, http://independent.co.uk/voices/aleppo-crisis-syrian-war-bashar-al-assad-isis-more-propaganda-than-news-a7479901.html.

[16] “Syria – killing journos enabled ‘media activist’ domination – intended effect?”, Moon of Alabama, 19.12.2016, http://moonofalabama.org/2016/12/unconventional-warfare-killing-journalists-creates-media-activist-domination.html#more.

[17] Vanessa Beeley, “‘Aleppo Media Center’ funded by French Foreign Office, EU and US,” 21st Century Wire, 20.09.2016, http://21stcenturywire.com/2016/09/20/exclusive-aleppo-media-centre-funded-by-french-foreign-office-eu-and-us/.

[18] Brandon Turbeville, “White Helmets NGO: a ‘rescue and assist’ operation under the guise of human rights,” Mintpress News, 11.05.2016, http://mintpressnews.com/white-helmets-ngo-rescue-assist-operation-guise-human-rights/216324/.

[19] Clearly visible in video’s presented by RT, Press TV and Reuters: “Street celebrations in Aleppo on news of Syrian  army retaking east of city – RT reporter,” RT, 12.12.2016, http://rt.com/news/370084-aleppo-liberation-reports-celebrations/; “Celebrations in Aleppo after its full liberation,” Youtube-channel of Press TV News Videos, 22.12.2016, consulted on 24.12.2016, http://youtube.com/watch?v=Cgh6wcqQamM; “Celebrating victory in Aleppo,” Reuters, 22.12.2016, http://reuters.com/video/2016/12/22/celebrating-victory-in-aleppo?videoId=370787914. Also acknowledged by the pro-rebel Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (according to which, celebrations erupted in several cities), al-Jazeera, the Daily Mail and International Business Times: “Celebrations of ‘Aleppo victory’ in cities and areas controlled by the regime forces,” Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, 23.12.2016, http://syriahr.com/en/?p=57657; “Rebel-held east Aleppo nears collapse,” Al-Jazeera, 13.12.2016, http://aljazeera.com/news/2016/12/rebel-held-east-aleppo-nears-collapse-161212195346604.html; “Merry Christmas in Aleppo (if you’re on the winning side): dozens of Assad loyalists dress up as Santa and ‘celebrate’ in shattered city square,” The Daily Mail, 21.12.2016, http://dailymail.co.uk/news/article-4055526/Merry-Christmas-Aleppo-winning-Dozens-locals-dress-Santa-celebrate-square-enjoy-taste-normality.html; Tom O’Conner, “Christmas in Aleppo: photos, video show Christians celebrate Assad victory in Syria,” International Business Times, 22.12.2016, http://ibtimes.com/christmas-aleppo-photos-video-show-christians-celebrate-assad-victory-syria-2464372.

[20] Ellen Francis, “Syrian army announces victory in Aleppo in boost for Assad,” Reuters, 22.12.2016, http://reuters.com/article/us-mideast-crisis-syria-idUSKBN14B1NQ.

[21] “Syria: Aleppo evacuation completed,” Red Cross UK, 23.12.2016, http://redcross.org.uk/About-us/News/2016/December/Syria-Aleppo-evacuation-completed.

[22] John Irish and Alison Williams, “U.N. Syria envoy says rebel city Idlib risks Aleppo fate if no peace talks,” Reuters, 15.12.2016, http://uk.reuters.com/article/uk-mideast-crisis-syria-demistura-idUKKBN1442N4.

[23] “Over 100,000 civilians left eastern Aleppo since operation against militants began,” Russian News Agency TASS, 12.12.2016, http://tass.com/world/918621. Note that no other world body or more neutral organisation bothered to estimated the amount of civilians that fled to government-controlled areas. Therefore, I had to resort to the estimation of the Russian Reconciliation Center.

[24] Robert Fisk, “There is more than one truth to tell in the terrible story of Aleppo,” Counterpunch, 14.12.2016, http://counterpunch.org/2016/12/14/there-is-more-than-one-truth-to-tell-in-the-terrible-story-of-aleppo/.

[25] Andrew Ashdown, “Aleppo: the truth that the Western media refuses to report,” Talfanzine, 15.12.2016, http://talfanzine.info/blog/2016/12/15/aleppo-the-truth-that-the-western-media-refuses-to-report/.

[26] Some other examples of testimonies and interviews: Jan Oberg, “The destruction of eastern Aleppo, Syria: December 2016,” Jan Oberg Exposure, 25.12.2016, http://janoberg.exposure.co/the-destruction-of-eastern-aleppo-syria; Jan Oberg, “Humans in liberated Aleppo: December 11-12, 2016,” Jan Oberg Exposure, 29.12.2016, http://janoberg.exposure.co/humans-in-liberated-aleppo; Charlotte d’Ornellas, “Alep Liberée: un reportage de Charlotte d’Ornellas,” Youtube channel of Boulevard Voltaire, 29.12.2016, consulted on 30.12.2016, http://youtube.com/watch?v=w8DJJDCGQ9g&app=desktop; Robert Fisk, “‘We were living a real tragedy in east Aleppo’: one family’s journey across the city amid the bloodshed,” The Independent, 01.11.2016, http://independent.co.uk/news/world/middle-east/thousands-of-civilian-families-forced-by-militias-to-remain-in-eastern-aleppo-a7389346.html.

[27] Vanessa Beeley, “East Aleppo video diaries: Hanano testimonies that shatter corporate media propaganda myths,” 21st Century Wire, 22.12.2016, http://21stcenturywire.com/2016/12/20/aleppo-diaries-bearing-witness-to-the-liberation-of-hanano-east-aleppo-a-personal-view-by-vanessa-beeley/. Other testimonies of east Aleppo residents can be found at the video section of her Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/vanessa.beeley/videos?lst=100001241535936%3A667683867%3A1483038887.

[28] “Surprise: Carla Ortiz tells truth about Syria on CNN – fake news network,” Youtube-channel of Daily News TV, 22.12.2016, consulted on 25.12.2016, http://youtube.com/watch?v=uoL_Vu5Oqy0.

[29] Spliet, “The proxy war on Syria – part 4.”

[30] Lyse Doucet, “Aleppo siege: ‘we are crying and afraid’,” BBC, 03.12.2016, http://bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-38194962; “Syria: celebrations as families return to homes in Aleppo,” BBC, 06.12.2016, http://bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-38218086; Lyse Doucet, “Aleppo’s terrified residents flee rebel districts, dead and hunger,” Guardian, 10.12.2016, http://theguardian.com/world/2016/dec/10/aleppos-terrified-residents-tell-of-death-and-hunger-as-flee-rebel-districts.

[31] Martin Chulov, “Syrian rebels fight on for Aleppo despite local wariness,” Guardian, 21.08.2012, http://theguardian.com/world/2012/aug/21/syrian-rebels-aleppo-local-hostility.

[32] Alia Allana, “Gulf countries played a role in the Syrian uprising,” Fountain Ink, http://series.fountainink.in/gulf-countries-role-uprising/.

[33] Tony Cartalucci, “In Syria – how to ‘liberate’ a pro-army city? NATO terrorists come to overrun, not ‘liberate,’ Aleppo,” Land Destroyer, 25.06.2012, http://landdestroyer.blogspot.be/2012/07/in-syria-how-to-liberate-pro-army-city.html.

[34] Ian Pannell, “Aleppo: BBC journalist on Syria warplanes bombing city,” BBC, 24.07.2012, http://bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-18976690. For a critical review of Ian Pannell’s coverage, see Tony Cartalucci, “BBC rides with al Qaeda in Aleppo, Syria,” Land Destroyer, 25.06.2012, http://landdestroyer.blogspot.be/2012/07/bbc-rides-with-al-qaeda-in-aleppo-syria.html.

[35] The case of the alleged destruction of a Doctors Without Borders-supported hospital by a Syrian or Russian airstrike and the case of Omran Daqneesh, the boy in the ambulance, are discussed in part 3 and 4 of my The proxy war on Syria series, respectively. The amount of exposed false allegations, however, are too numerous to recount here.

[36] This unimaginable hypocrisy is explained perfectly in Stephen Gowans, “Our sieges and theirs,” What’s Left, 20.10.2016, http://gowans.wordpress.com/2016/10/20/our-sieges-and-theirs/.

[37] “Mass graves discovered in Aleppo, bodies showed signs of torture,” CBC News, 26.12.2016, http://cbc.ca/news/world/mass-graves-discovered-in-aleppo-bodies-showed-signs-of-torture-1.3912716.

[38] “Syrian rebels’ Aleppo offensive could amount to war crimes, UN envoy warns,” Guardian, 31.10.2016, http://theguardian.com/world/2016/oct/31/syrian-rebels-aleppo-offensive-could-amount-to-war-crimes-un-envoy-warns.

[39] “Gunfire intensifies in Aleppo despite ceasefire,” ITV News, 20.10.2016, http://itv.com/news/2016-10-20/itv-news-witnesses-fierce-gunfight-in-aleppo-despite-ceasefire/.

[40] Eva Bartlett, “Western corporate media ‘disappears’ over 1.5 million Syrians and 4,000 doctors,” Signs of the Times, 14.08.2016, http://sott.net/article/325238-Western-corporate-media-disappears-over-1-5-million-Syrians-and-4000-doctors; Patrik Paulov, “‘Aleppo has been under fire by terrorists for four years.’ Interview with Aleppo doctor about life in Syria’s largest city.” Protetarën, 25.05.2016, http://proletaren.se/utrikes-mellanostern/aleppo-has-been-under-fire-terrorists-four-years; “A Syrian physician demolishes the propaganda put out by politicians and the media,” Ora Pro Siria, 26.07.2016, http://oraprosiria.blogspot.be/2016/07/a-syrian-physician-demolishes.html?m=1.

[41] Christoph Germann, “The world’s biggest hostage crisis is coming to an end,” Newsbud, 08.12.2016, http://newsbud.com/2016/12/08/newsbud-exclusive-the-worlds-biggest-hostage-crisis-comes-to-an-end/.


SOURCES:
By Bas Spliet, Scrutinised Minds
Submitted by Bas Spliet
War Press Info Network at :
https://syrianfreepress.wordpress.com/2017/02/04/coverage-of-aleppo/
~

THOSE WHO TRANSMIT SYRIAN VOICES ARE RUSSIAN PROPAGANDISTS? MONITORS OF ‘FAKE NEWS’ NEGATE SYRIAN SUFFERING

In Gaza

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*In the old city of Homs, June 2014, speaking with Zeinat and Aymen al-Akhras who endured years of hell under the rule of militant factions. In May 2014, an agreement saw the reportedly 1,200 militants bussed out of Homs (as recently happened in Aleppo), bringing peace to the neighbourhoods they’d occupied and terrorized. Excerpt from my article on this visit and interviewing residents of the old city of Homs: “I dropped to 34 kilos. Aymen told me to weigh myself. I got on the scale and said, ‘What’s 34 kilos?’. A ten-year-old weighs more than that! And Aymen was 43 kilos. For a man, 43 kilos…”


“We were twelve siblings with eight houses in the area, and the family house. We all had stores of food.”


“Thirty-eight times they came to steal our food. The first couple of times, they knocked on the door, after that they just entered with guns. The last things they took were our dried peas, our cracked wheat, our olives, finally our za’atar (wild thyme). We started to eat grass and whatever greens we could find in February, 2014, and that’s all we had till Homs was liberated,”–Zeinat al-Akhras. Read: Liberated Homs Residents Challenge Notion of “Revolution”

Russian Propagandists?

Since it is a theme that those who report differently than the MSM war propaganda on Syria must therefore work for either/both Syria or Russia, I’ll address that in this brief post, drawing on some interviews and related material, since I continue to be incredibly busy.

Some excerpts from: ‘If I write in line with Russian media, it’s because we both tell the truth’ – Eva Bartlett to RT, 17 Dec, 2016, RT

Some people have taken issue with the things I said because I was basically criticizing much of the corporate media reporting on Syria, and instead of actually digesting what I said and criticizing the details of what I said, people have gone to the usual tactic of trying to smear who I am and imply that I am an agent of either or both Syria and Russia,” Bartlett said, adding that it’s been openly implied she is on the payroll of the Syrian and Russian governments. The fact that she is an active contributor to RT’s op-edge section has also been jumped all over.

The fact that I do contribute to the RT op-edge section apparently, in some people’s eyes, makes me compromised. I began contributing to the RT op-edge section when I lived in Gaza, and this was not an issue for people who then appreciated my writing,” she stated.

What I am writing, and what I’m reporting, and who I am citing are Syrian civilians whom I’ve encountered in Syria.

“If people do not wish to hear the voices of Syrian civilians and if they want to maintain their narrative which is in line with the NATO narrative – which is in line with destabilizing Syria and vilifying the government of Syria and ignoring the overwhelming wishes of the people of Syria – then they do this by accusing me of spreading propaganda,” the journalist stressed.

The fact that my writing is in line with the Syrian people… in some respect aligns with Russian media reports, does not mean that I’m reporting Russian propaganda, and it does not mean that what Russian media is reporting is propaganda. It happened to be that I report the truth as I see it on the ground, and some Russian media happen to report the truth as they see it on the ground.

“Why do we not see these accusations when a BBC journalist goes to Syria and reports what I often believe to be not the full story? Why are they not accused of working for the State of England? Why are Al Jazeera journalists not accused of working for Qatar?”

My Related Comments:

 

*Please note, I do not have ‘my own blog’ on RT, as written in the RT overview of an interview I gave to the site (and as also alleged by a factually-challenged ‘fact check’ by Channel 4 News, the debunking of which will be out soon). In fact, the RT disclaimer at the bottom of Op-Edge contributions is clear: “The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.” How did the fact checkers at Channel 4 miss that?

Since April 2013, I have contributed total of 8 opinion pieces to RT’s Op-Edge section (3 of which were from or on Gaza, Occupied Palestine), an RT section which contains writings from over 70 authors.

8 articles in a period of nearly 4 years, that’s not exactly “active” writing dedicated to RT. Take a look at some of the other authors who are indeed very active.  In fact, to the claims that any of my writing is opportunism, wouldn’t one expect me to thus direct most of my articles to RT and get paid something (nothing compared to BBC, NYTimes or other fake news journalists), rather than instead directing my articles to a variety of lesser or not at all paying sources? I have no qualms about my scant contribution of opinion pieces to RT, but to paint me as ‘working’ for RT is a fact-checking error, one which I believe to be intentional.

Further, Dr. Helen Caldicott and William Engdahl also contribute to RT Op-Edge. Will Channel 4 and other smear sites now claim they are working for Russia?

Thus, I am not ’employed by’ RT, I contribute sporadically to RT, as well as more regularly to a host of independent media (21st Century Wire, SOTT.net, MintPressNews, Dissident Voice, and formerly: Al Akhbar English, American Herald Tribune, Zero Anthropology, and others).

If not already glaringly clear, the intention of such ‘fact-check’ pieces is solely to discredit myself and others like me. And even though I strongly disagree with the lexicon of ‘civil war’ and ‘rebels’ frequently used in RT reports and commentaries,  RT has been one of the few English-language media outlets to consistently have journalists on the ground, risking their lives to report the realities MSM would not report. I would encourage people to follow RT’s reports on Syria.

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*From June 2014, old city of Homs, interviewing Nazim Kanawati, who knew and was a friend of Father Frans van der Lugt and who arrived moments after the 75-year-old priest had been shot in the back of the head. From my article on this visit: “Father Frans was a peace-maker and played an important role in arranging the evacuation of civilians from the Old City during the siege. He was trusted by both sides, and didn’t distinguish between Christians and Muslims. He was concerned with humanity.” Like Father Frans, Kanawati refused to leave Homs while others fled. “I didn’t want to leave, I’m a Syrian, I had the right to be there.”

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*Entering Damascus neighbourhood by shared taxi from Beirut, Oct 2016.

On Funding:

 

Addressing the smear-tactic accusations that I’m funded by either or both the Syrian and/or Russian governments, for the sake of time I’ll share excerpts from a social media post I wrote not long ago:

Writing truth doesn’t pay. Independent sites which are courageous enough to host the truth usually cannot afford to pay more than $50/article, or often nothing at all. But for those who have principles and are not writing about Syria and related issues for profit, this is irrelevant.

So the obvious question that hacks have assumed they know the answer to: how do people like myself and colleagues manage to exist, if not being paid ridiculously-well per article as some in corporate media, often writing lies, are.

In order to go to Syria many times, I have either saved money slowly and when able traveled to the country, or I have publicly fundraised. I travel the cheapest means, always with long layovers and inconvenient routes, but ensuring airfare that is far cheaper than those in corporate media traveling to Syria. Then again, that’s me making an assumption: perhaps they also flew economy from North America to Dubai (much further east than destination Beirut), slept on the airport floor, traveled back west to Beirut, stayed in the cheapest closet-sized rooms in the city or outside where it is cheaper, and took a shared taxi to Damascus.

I’m aware of many colleagues like myself who live on the edge, sometimes down to the last dollars in their pockets until a meagre payment comes in for an article many hours/days worked on. Many I know have had to borrow money, as have I, in order to travel to Syria, or fundraise, or wait until we accumulate enough through writings and also the kind donations to our work by people who value it.

castello
*Castello road, shelled on Nov 4, 2016 by militants 7 times on humanitarian corridor day, twice while I was there.

Independents Only Go To Safe Areas of Syria?

 

This is another charge levied at independent journalists and others who go in solidarity to Syria to speak directly with Syrian people instead of getting the story from the one man UK-based ‘observatory’, the SOHR, or from lying corporate media whose propaganda has been debunked and–with the case of the BBC–which portrayed a photo from Iraq alleging that the photo was in Houla, Syria.

Government-secured areas of Syria are not free of danger: many have been or continue to be subject to terrorism, whether in the form of car bombings (as with the many times terror-attacked district of al-Zahra’a, Homs, which I visited some days after a major series of car and suicide bombings in December 2015 or as with the Akrama school in Homs, Oct 2014, killing at least 41 children, to cite 2 of endless examples. Some more examples here), rocket and mortar attacks, and snipings.

On 6 visits to Syria, when back  in Damascus I’ve stayed in the Old City and was in the midst of mortar attacks which in 2014 and 2015 were near-daily and quite heavy. In 2016, there were still mortar attacks but less than prior. That said, a dear friend lost her sister and that woman’s infant son to such a mortar attack in July 2016. The “moderate” “rebels”‘ idea of “revolution” is to indiscriminately shell civilian areas. These maimed children were a sampling of the injured (some critically so) when I visited Damascus’ University Hospital in February 2015. These children were injured in April 2014, when militants mortared their school in Old Damascus.

Prior to its liberation, to enter Aleppo the sole route (with the exception of the August securing of Castello road) was via Ramouseh road, known for snipings and shelling from militant factions. I traveled that road 6 times (3 visits), in times when snipings had recently occurred. Traveling the Castello road even posed a danger, as I and colleague Vanessa Beeley learned in August 2016 when leaving Aleppo. The road was being mortared by militant factions and our simple taxi, while trying to speed along, was boxed in by other trucks also leaving.

While in Taaouna this summer, taking the testimonies of Syrians from the village of Aqrab where there was a massacre perpetrated by the ‘moderates’ of the Free Syrian Army, there was great risk of shelling or sniping by the terrorists still occupying Aqrab. Of that visit, I wrote:

“Yesterday, via a winding road through the Masyaf region hills, descending to the village of Ta’aouna, I met with residents of neighbouring Aqrab, which in December 2012 was attacked by the so-called “Free Syrian Army” who massacred between 120-150 Aqrab residents (more on their testimonies soon).

Standing on the roof of the home to which three Aqrab survivors had come to give their testimonies, the village of Aqrab, roughly 500 metres away, was distinctly visible—as are any people in Ta’aouna who go rooftop (for laundry, water or other reasons) to terrorist snipers in the hills near Aqrab. The home owner pointed out holes from such snipers’ bullets prior.

Two hundred metres down a lane, some fifteen houses remain inhabited by local Ta’aouna families (including children), in homes 300 metres from where terrorists and their snipers lie.

When terrorists massacred villagers in Aqrab in December 2012, they were then known as “Free Syrian Army” terrorists.

Now, occupied villages in the region comprise terrorists from Jabhat al-Nusra, Ahrar al-Sham, Jaysh al-Islam, and Da’esh (ISIS). As most Syrians I’ve met say, they are the same, with different names and financial backers, but commit the same heinous beheadings, assassinations, kidnappings and other western-sanctioned crimes in Syria.

Rooftop the home closest to the dirt embankment beyond (this particular house uninhabited, although only 5 metres from the next inhabited one), Abu Abdo, a local defense volunteer explains how he and others in the village take night shifts to watch for attempted terrorist infiltrations. The Syrian Arab Army has hilltop posts around Ta’aouna, but nonetheless the village defenders (including many who are family men and formerly served in the SAA) watch to see if/where terrorists are shooting from/at. “We organized ourselves, since 2011. We communicate with the army and give them targets, and they do the same with us,” he says of the watch for terrorist attacks.

We sit behind a wall of tires, some concrete blocks to one side serving as a defensive wall from behind which to watch for and shoot at terrorists. A second local defender appears, greets me with a friendly handshake, explains that in late 2013 terrorists managed to advance to the low hills to our right. But not since.

I ask Abu Abdo what he did prior to the war on Syria. A school principal, and he still is, he does the defense volunteering after hours….

They point to the land between Ta’aouna and the low hills flanking the village, and the start of Aqrab beyond.

“That small cement building on the land, right near there, about one month ago, a university student was shot in his head and killed, by a terrorist sniper. He was an engineering student.”

Earlier they’d told me about this, and about another university student who roughly 2 weeks ago was torn apart by shelling from terrorists in Aqrab. “He had just finished his exams,” they had said.

Descending from the roof, we walk past a nearby house, the children on the porch stoop. The second defense soldier tells me, with a proud smile, they are his kids. He takes me to the side of the house to show three creatively covered holes, “Dushkie” shots from the terrorists about 10 days ago.” READ MORE ABOUT THAT VISIT  HERE

waer

At the outskirts of al-Waer, Homs, I was urged not to remain standing at the checkpoint where I’d been watching civilians re-entering their district. I was told that some 2,000 + militants (this estimate may be too low) still remained in al-Waer, under a truce, but that they could violate it at any moment, hence sniping was a risk. READ MORE ABOUT THAT VISIT HERE.

On two occasions I’ve been sniped at by militants. In summer 2014 outside the walls of the Old City of Damascus, a sniper in Jobar fired my way, bullets whizzing past, startling a number of Syrian women and men sitting on the grass.  In summer 2016, passing through the Damascus district of Barzeh, the taxi I was in was sniped at by a militant in that district (it is under a truce since early 2014. FSA within still have light arms).

On Nov 4, I was at the Castello road humanitarian crossing, along which in theory civilians (and even militants) who wished to leave militant-occupied areas could do so. While there, the road was shelled 2 times by militant factions. This video captured the 2nd shelling.

These are just some examples to highlight that even when reporting and taking testimonies of Syrians living in government-protected areas, it is not without great risk. The smear tactic of implying otherwise completely negates the hell that Syrian civilians have been living for years under these various types of attacks.

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*Gas canister bombs litter the roads between Aleppo and the northern villages of Nubl and Zahra’a, which I visited in July 2016. It is such bombs, and larger water heater bomb variations (as well as Grad missiles, mortars and explosive bullets), which for years militant and terrorist factions were firing near-daily on the 1.5 million people of greater Aleppo, before liberation.

aleppo-u-res
*Aleppo University residences housing well over 10,000 internally displaced Syrians from militant-occupied areas of Aleppo and its countryside for around 4 or more years. One of the residences was hit by a terrorist missile days prior to my 2nd November visit, killing four from one family alone.

Related:

Aleppo: How US & Saudi-Backed Rebels Target ‘Every Syrian’, MintPressNews, Nov 29, 2016, Eva Bartlett.
Aleppo and nearby villages ravaged by the U.S.’s “moderate” terrorists (Photo Essay), SOTT.net, Sep 8, 2016, Eva Bartlett
Western corporate media ‘disappears’ over 1.5 million Syrians and 4,000 doctors, SOTT.net, Aug 14, 2016, Eva Bartlett

 

The End Of Mingling – “Moderate Rebels” Join Al-Qaeda In Syria

The End Of Mingling -

EDITOR’S CHOICE | 30.01.2017

The End Of Mingling – “Moderate Rebels” Join Al-Qaeda In Syria

Moon of Alabama

Lots of confusion about the infighting in the “rebel” held Idleb governate in Syria, the situation is now clearing up. After other tricks, like renaming the group, did not work to deceive al-Qaeda finally pulled back the veil. It is no longer hiding between the “moderate rebels” but is now (again) a clearly identifiable groups. Groups near to al-Qaeda integrated with it, other groups split with significant parts joining the al-Qaeda organization.

Qalaat Al Mudiq @QalaatAlMudiq
N. #Syria: Tahrir Al-Sham Corps is born. Zinki, #JFS, Jaish Al-Sunna, Ansar Al-Din & Liwa Al-Haq merged under unified leadership (Abu Jaber)

The Zinki (Zengi) group had CIA support and received anti-tank weapons from the U.S. and its Gulf proxies. JFS is the short form of Jabhat Fateh al-Sham, formerly Jabhat al-Nusra, the official al-Qaeda group in Syria. It is the strongest “rebel” group on the ground. Abu Jabar is a former Ahrar al-Sham leader who had long argued for integrating both groups. The Turkish and U.S. supported Ahrar al Sham has now officially split. The probably larger part under Abu Jabar is now joining al-Qaeda.

The “new” Tahrir Al-Sham is not a coalition of the various groups but THE new al-Qaeda group on the ground with a unified command and ideological structure. The operative military leader is Abu Jabar while the founder of al-Qaeda in Syria, Abu Mohammad al-Julani, will stay in the background as the overall emir of the group. Tahrir Al-Sham has a military alliance in Idleb with the smaller local ISIS group Jund al-Aqsa. Joining with them is not (yet) convenient.

The now further enlarged al-Qaeda formation under the new name Tahrir Al-Sham is by far the biggest “rebel” dog in the Idleb-region town with now many more than its previous 10,000 active fighters. Of all other groups the “moderate” side of the split Ahrar al-Sham is the biggest one. Left beside it are just splinters of those groups (like Zinki) that mainly crossed over to al-Qaeda. Some local warlords and their small gangs are also still around. These groups will probably continue to receive Turkish and U.S. support. But they will have no chance against the much more powerful al-Qaeda collective.

The leader of al-Qaeda in Syria al-Julani made a huge mistake by initiating this open split from the “moderates”. The group can now no longer hide by “mingling” with the CIA supported “moderates”. When it is attacked by the Syrian government it can no longer claim to be a victim. As it is a UN designated terrorist group it will receive no significant outside support. It can not even go into guerrilla mode because the “fish” (the guerrilla) will have no “water” (a sympathetic local population) to swim in.

This plays well into the Russian hands which initiated the Astana peace conference exactly for this purpose. The U.S. under Obama and Kerry had declared it impossible to separate al-Qaeda in Syria from the “moderate rebels” it supported. The Astana conference and in its consequence the now open al-Qaeda conflict with the “moderates” achieved the separation. The “moderates” left now can only join al-Qaeda, make peace with the Syrian government and its allies or flee the country to survive.

* * *

In other news the Syrian government forces have finally recaptured the Ayn al-Feejah in Wadi Barada that supplies Damascus with drinking water. 5.5 million people were cut off from tap water when the Takfiris captured, poisoned and blocked the spring 44 days ago. After three earlier deals had failed the now defeated Takfirs agreed to being transported to Idleb.

moonofalabama.org

What will Turkey do and what will US do? ماذا ستفعل تركيا وماذا ستفعل أميركا؟

What will Turkey do and what will US do?

يناير 29, 2017

Written by Nasser Kandil,

The Turks were almost end their celebration of the end of Astana Conference by devoting the legitimacy of the factions which affiliate to them as a partner in the Syrian political process till Al Nusra front started to snatch these factions one after the other, so the cost paid by the Turks in Aleppo for Astana’s process was in vain. Today they are in the worst situation compared if they accepted two years ago the classification of Al Nusra as terrorism and lifting the coverage off it, and if they gave the choice to the factions affiliated to them between Ankara and Al Nusra, however they have gambled on playing with bets hoping that Al Nusra and the factions would win in the war of Aleppo, and thus they would insert it into their project publically, while if they lost, they would negotiate on its cost. Now they have lost the capital with which they sat on the table of bets and started to borrow from the lenders in order to find what can face-saving, after they witnessed with Al Nusra what has happened to them with ISIS which started as Turkish powerful card that threatened the world under the slogan of either ISIS or Al Nusra, ISIS has hit in Turkey and the Turkish army, but it was unable at the gates of Al Bab city for three months, so it found itself in a great challenge after the invasion of Al Nusra of the areas of the Turkish factions.

Therefore, the Turks have to accept the reality of the loss and the serious positioning in the war on Al Nusra and ISIS , and the humility in accepting that the Kurdish formations are more serious and bold in confronting ISIS and Al Nusra from the groups which were bred from the Wahhabi Muslim Brotherhood thought, and which are unable to fight the groups which are older in that thought, so they have to accept the Kurdish formations as opposition armed factions that integrate in the political process, although these formations  maybe the only groups which still carry weapons among the opposition, and to accept the fact that the fight against ISIS and Al Nusra with Syrians will not be useful only if they are affiliated in an alliance with the Syrian army and under its banner, furthermore they have to accept that the ceiling of what the American can do is what he did in Al Raqqa against ISIS despite the fiery cover which presented by the Americans, and that the secret of the victory of the Syrian army and the allies is not the Russian air cover which becomes important when there is a ground force in the field that can reap the outcomes of the fiery cover, otherwise the Russian aircraft becomes as the US aircraft.

The new US President Donald Trump is no less confused regarding the Syrian scene despite the clarity of his desire to avoid the continuation of the wars and the bets of the administration of the Former President Barack Obama, so he announced his decision of forming a safe zone under the slogan of finding solution for the displacement crisis and addressing the Europeans that he is a guarantor of solutions, and that the title of the safe zone is old but now it is renewed, so Turkey which is  the owner of the original idea which its center is the embargo of the aircraft of the Syrian army from approaching from an area that is settled for the armed opposition and considered good for accommodating the Syrian refugees instead of heading to Turkey and across it to Europe felt with satisfaction toward this decision. And because the immediate question is what will Trump who refuses to get involved in a war with Russia and Syria do, knowing that Obama who was ready for half of an involvement was not able to do so?

The answer came after hours from Washington about the clarification of Trump’s decision by calling his ministers to study the idea and how to implement it in addition to its costs and consequences. The answer is known, the safe zone in the formula which we heard repeatedly is a war project and an involvement in a war that does not stop at the borders, so the one who does not want to involve in a war has to redefine the safe zone as areas that are far from the fighting areas and close to the Syrian borders with the neighboring countries and can be reached safely by the returned refugees, moreover the UN organizations can serve them, so the way to set it up as huge cities that accommodate hundreds of thousands of the returnees or the newly displaced is the coordination with the Syrian government and the neighboring countries, in addition to the presence of fund in order to finance the needs of its forming and its services, and providing security control for it that prevents its turning into a shelter for the militants by units of local police that are related to the Syrian state, and  be tolerate with the identities of the opponents as long as there is no weapons, this safe zone will be  sponsored by a partnership of international organizations in guarantees and aids. This is a project that Trump can adopt as a prelude to search it with Russia in preparation for an understanding with the Syrian state without the complexities of Obama, and a way to go to the Security Council through a decision accepted by the Syrian state, and thus it will be as a beginning for US Syrian dialogue to cooperate in ending the crisis and the war in Syria according to a bilateral of a political solution and a war on terrorism

The margins of the maneuvers got narrow.

Translated by Lina Shehadeh,

 

ماذا ستفعل تركيا وماذا ستفعل أميركا؟

ناصر قنديل

– لم يكد الأتراك ينهون احتفالهم بانتهاء مؤتمر أستانة بتكريس شرعية الفصائل التابعة لهم كشريك في العملية السياسية السورية، حتى بدأت جبهة النصرة بالتهام هذه الفصائل الواحد تلو الآخر، فذهب الثمن الذي دفعه الأتراك في حلب للترسمل لعملية أستانة أدراج الرياح، وصاروا اليوم بحال أسوأ بكثير مما لو أنهم قبلوا من قبل سنتين بتصنيف النصرة إرهاباً ورفعوا الغطاء عنها وخيّروا الفصائل التابعة لمرجعيتهم بين أنقرة والنصرة، لكنهم راهنوا على اللعب على حبل المراهنات، أملاً بأن تكسب النصرة والفصائل حرب حلب فيتمّ دمجها في مشروعهم علناً، وإنْ خسرت يفاوضوا على ثمن رأسها. وها هم قد خسروا الرأسمال الذي دخلوا به طاولة المراهنات وبدأوا بالاستلاف من المرابين، علهم يجدون من ينقذ ماء الوجه، بعدما تكرّر معهم في تجربة النصرة ما حدث في تجربة داعش التي بدأت ورقة قوة تركية تلوّح بها للعالم تحت شعار داعش أم النصرة، فإذ بداعش يضرب في تركيا وبالجيش التركي يعجز على أبواب مدينة الباب لثلاثة شهور ويجد نفسه اليوم في تحدٍّ أكبر مع اكتساح النصرة مناطق الفصائل التركية.

– ليس أمام الأتراك سوى القبول بحقيقة الخسارة، والتموضع الجدي في خط الحرب على النصرة وداعش، والتواضع في قبول أنّ التشكيلات الكردية أشدّ جسارة وجدية في مواجهة داعش والنصرة من الجماعات التي تربّت في مزارع الفكر الإخواني والوهابي وتعجز عن مقاتلة الأشدّ عراقة منها في هذه المزارع، وارتضاء القبول بالتشكيلات الكردية كفصائل معارضة مسلحة تدمج بالعملية السياسية قد لا يبقى سواها من المعارضين الذين يحملون السلاح، وأن يرتضوا بحقيقة أنّ القتال ضدّ داعش والنصرة مع سوريين لن يستقيم إلا عندما يكون هؤلاء السوريون منضوين بالتحالف مع الجيش السوري وتحت لوائه، وأن يتقبّلوا أنّ ما يستطيعه الأميركي سقفه ما استطاعه في الرقة بوجه داعش، رغم كثافة الغطاء الناري التي يقدّمها الأميركيون، وأن سرّ نصر الجيش السوري والحلفاء ليس الغطاء الجوي الروسي الذي يصير مهمّاً عندما توجد في الميدان قوة برية تقدر على قطف ثمار الغطاء الناري وإلا صار فعل الطيران الروسي كفعل الطيران الأميركي.

– الرئيس الأميركي الجديد دونالد ترامب لا يقلّ ارتباكاً في المشهد السوري رغم وضوح رغبته بتفادي مواصلة حروب ورهانات إدارة الرئيس السابق باراك أوباما، فيعلن قراره بتشكيل منطقة آمنة تحت شعار حلّ أزمة النزوح ومخاطبة الأوروبيين بأنه ضامن للحلول، وعنوان المنطقة الآمنة قديم يتجدّد فتهلّل تركيا صاحبة الفكرة الأصلية ومحورها حظر طيران الجيش السوري من الاقتراب من منطقة تفتح للمعارضة المسلحة وتعتبر صالحة لاستيعاب السوريين النازحين بدلاً من توجّههم إلى تركيا وعبرها إلى أوروبا، ولأنّ السؤال الفوري هو كيف سيفعل ترامب الرافض للتورّط بحرب مع روسيا وسورية، وهو ما لم يقدر أوباما على فعله وهو المستعدّ لقدر من نصف تورّط؟

– يأتي الجواب بعد ساعات من واشنطن بالحديث عن توضيح لقرار ترامب بدعوة وزاراته لدراسة الفكرة وكيفية تنفيذها وأكلافها وتبعاتها، والجواب معلوم، المنطقة الآمنة بالصيغة التي سمعناها مراراً مشروع حرب وتورّط في حرب لا تتوقف عند حدود، ومَن لا يريد التورّط في حرب عليه إعادة تعريف المنطقة الآمنة بصفتها مناطق بعيدة عن مناطق القتال وقريبة من الحدود السورية مع دول الجوار ويمكن الوصول إليها بأمان للنازحين العائدين، ويمكن للمنظمات الأممية تخديمها، والطريق لإقامتها كمدن ضخمة تتسع لمئات الآلاف من العائدين أو من النازحين الجدد، وهو التنسيق مع الحكومة السورية، وبينها وبين دول الجوار، وصندوق مالي لتمويل حاجات إقامتها وخدماتها، وتوفير ضبط أمني لها يمنع تحوّلها ملاذاً للمسلحين، عبر وحدات شرطة محلية ترتبط بالدولة السورية وتتسامح مع هويات المعارضين، طالما لا سلاح لديهم، وترعاها شراكة من منظمات دولية في الضمانات والمساعدات. وهذا مشروع يستطيع ترامب اتخاذه بداية لبحث مع روسيا تمهيداً للتفاهم مع الدولة السورية بلا عقد وتعقيدات أوباما، والذهاب إلى مجلس الأمن بقرار ترتضيه الدولة السورية، ويكون بداية حوار أميركي سوري للتعاون في إنهاء الأزمة والحرب في سورية وفقاً لثنائي حلّ سياسي وحرب على الإرهاب.

– ضاقت هوامش المناورات.

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Donald Trump’s foreign policy proposals have been somewhat of a mystery & his call for the establishment of safe zones in Syria, in order to help refugees fleeing war, does not provide much clarity. Turkey & Qatar, both supporters of no-fly/buffer zones in Syria, have cautiously welcomed President Trump’s call, while Russia has called for Trump to properly study the consequences of such action. The biggest unanswered question remains as to if this is proof that Trump is now reneging on his promise to work with Russia to defeat terrorism in places like Syria.

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