Syrian War Report – March 8, 2018: Syrian Army Liberates Key Town, Advances Further In East Ghouta

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The Syrian Arab Army (SAA), the Tiger Forces and their allies liberated the town of Bayt Siwa, the Tank Base around Hawsh al-Ash’ari and imposed fire control over the town of Misraba in the Damascus suburb of Eastern Ghouta on March 7. Next day, the SAA advanced further on militant positions in Misraba where clashes erupted.

If Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (formerly Jabhat al-Nusra) and its allies lose this town, the city of Douma and the militant-held part of the Harasta district will be isolated from the rest of the militant-held area.

Fierce clashes were also reported in the area between Bayt Siwa and the Armoured Vehicles Base, about 1km-long militant area left between two these government-held areas.

Pro-government rallies were reported in the villages of Hammuuriyah and Kafr Batna. Locals are especially upset with a decision by militant groups to reject a Russian evacuation proposal for Eastern Ghouta.

In the area of Afrin, the Turkish Armed Forces (TAF) and the Free Syrian Army (FSA) have captured the town of Mash’alah, the Maydanki Dam and the village of Hallubi Sagher on March 7.

The YPG attacked TAF and FSA positions in the southern part of the Shara district. According to the YPG media wing, Kurdish forces destroyed a battle tank, an armoured vehicle and killed over 30 Turkey-led fighters.

Meanwhile, the number of so-called “neutralized terrorists” in Afrin according to the TAF’s general staff grew up to about 3,000.
On March 8, the TAF and the FSA continued their advance aiming to isolate the YPG-held city of Afrin.

Large demonstration held in East Ghouta town, residents raise Syrian flag (video)

BEIRUT, LEBANON (2:30 P.M.) – Another large demonstration was held inside the East Ghouta region of Damascus this week, as the fighting intensifies between the government and Islamist forces.

According to Damascus Now, the demonstrations took place inside the towns of Kafr Batna and Al-Hammouriyah, which are close to the Syrian Arab Army’s (SAA) front-lines.

 The demonstrators in both Kafr Batna and Al-Hammouriyah raised the flag of the Syrian Arab Republic and called for peace between the Syrian Arab Army and Islamist forces.

Below is the short video that was released by Damascus Now this afternoon:

Large demonstration held in East Ghouta town, residents raise Syrian flag (video)
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The Coming Backlash Against the Pentagon’s Hybrid War in Syria

The Coming Backlash Against the Pentagon’s Hybrid War in Syria

Turkey is throwing in with Russia and Iran, all three of which want to see us gone.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani (L), Russian President Vladimir Putin (C) and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan (R) shake hands prior to the Syria talks in Sochi. ( Credit: CreartiveCommons/

U.S. and Turkish officials are due to meet in Washington today to begin thrashing out the range of issues now threatening to tear the already fragile relationship between the two NATO allies apart.

The Turkish-American discord goes back to the Obama administration when Washington persuaded Ankara to spearhead the regime-change project in Syria circa 2011, only to see the U.S. retract later, leaving Turkey holding a can of worms.

Since then the relationship has become mired in several disputes, with the overarching geopolitical result that Turkey has steadily drifted away from its Western allies towards a détente with Russia. This has taken the form of a quasi-alliance with Moscow over the Syrian conflict—a partnership that appears to be flourishing as a “win-win” economic relationship and has resulted in the Turkish decision to purchase an S-400 air defense system from Russia.

The situation in Syria will top the agenda during the talks in Washington on Thursday. The priority for both sides will be to avert a standoff in northern Syria where the U.S. and Turkey are pursuing sharply divergent interests. At least since 2014, the U.S. has aligned with Kurdish groups that Ankara regards as terrorists belonging to the PKK, the separatist movement waging a bloody struggle to carve out an independent state in the Kurdish homelands in eastern Turkey. On the other hand, Kurds are the Pentagon’s foot soldiers in its war against the Islamic State in Syria.

To say the talks are taking place in an acrimonious climate is an understatement, and the trust deficit is palpable. The only high note is that both Turkey and the U.S. are diplomatically experienced enough to navigate their perennially problematic relationship as allies and, most certainly, neither seeks a showdown in Syria. Recent remarks by Pentagon officials suggest the U.S. has no intentions of terminating its alliance with Kurdish militia in eastern Syria anytime soon, as Turkey demands. Meanwhile, Turkey wants the redeployment of the Kurdish militia in Manjib in northern Syria to the east of the Euphrates. During his visit to Ankara in February, Tillerson had assured the Turks that the U.S. would heed their sensitivities over Manjib. But curiously, Turkey now alleges the U.S. is instead “lifting” the Kurdish fighters in Manjib to the frontline in the canton of Afrin, 100 miles to the west, to stiffen the Kurdish resistance against the current Turkish military operation there.

To be sure, an elaborate pantomime is playing out. The Turks suspect that Washington is simply playing for time by engaging them in talks, while on a parallel track systematically advancing a geopolitical project to create an independent Kurdish entity carved out of northern Syria, which would eventually have direct access to the eastern Mediterranean. The Turkish press is awash in accusations of bad American intentions. In a sensational report on Monday, the pro-government Turkish Daily Star published a supposed American blueprint for establishing a full-fledged Kurdish state in eastern and northern Syria along Turkey’s borders.

Amidst all this, Erdogan recently spoke on the phone with Russian President Vladimir Putin on Tuesday to discuss Syria. The Kremlin evidently takes an interest in creating space for Turkey to negotiate effectively with the U.S. Ankara also finds it useful and necessary to keep the line open to Moscow. The Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu plans to meet his Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov in Moscow next Tuesday prior to a likely visit to Washington on March 19 to activate yet another “mechanism” between himself and Tillerson.

Turkey is openly disregarding Washington’s misgivings over the Astana process on Syria and continues to work actively with Russia and Iran. The foreign ministers from all three countries plan to meet in Astana on March 16. A statement by the Kazakh Foreign Ministry on Tuesday said that the ministers of the three “guarantor countries” would assess the results of their collaboration and “identify common steps.” The three foreign ministers propose to issue a joint statement after their meeting to determine areas of further work within the Astana process with specific reference to the tragic events in Eastern Ghouta. Again, the Turkish Foreign Ministry announced on Wednesday that a trilateral summit of the Turkish, Russian, and Iranian presidents is slated for April in Istanbul to “discuss Syria and potential steps in the region.”

Suffice to say, if Tillerson’s mission to Ankara had aimed at getting Turkey out of the Russian-Iranian orbit, he had no success. The Astana process is returning with renewed vigor, and Turkey’s growing frustration and anger towards the perceived U.S. intransigence is strengthening its axis with Russia (and Iran). It is of the utmost importance for Turkey that Russia continues to remain passive while it presses ahead with the present operation in Afrin. A tacit understanding is apparent between Turkey on one side and Russia and Iran on the other as regards the Turkish operation in Syrian territory. For its part, Ankara will not impede the operations by the Syrian government forces and allied fighters in the Eastern Ghouta region and in Idlib and Aleppo provinces. Significantly, Erdogan virtually held out an assurance to Moscow on Tuesday when he said in a TV interview that Turkey will not cancel the contract for purchasing the air defense systems S-400 Triumf from Russia, even if it risks U.S. sanctions.

In hard-hitting remarks on Monday, Erdogan warned the Trump administration “Today we are in Afrin, tomorrow we will be in Manbij, the day after we will be east of the Euphrates to clean up all terrorists all the way to the border of Iraq. We will hold the terrorist organization [Kurdish militia] and its supporters [U.S. special forces] accountable… We are well aware of their treacherous tricks… Turkey has the power, energy and strategy to deal with those tricks.” To be sure, in immediate terms, the Turkish objective will be to coax out of the Trump administration a firm timeline for the redeployment of the Kurdish fighters in Manjib. But it is hard to see the Pentagon agreeing. Manjib serves as a supply hub for various front lines in northeastern and eastern Syria.

The bottom line is that Ankara, Moscow, and Tehran have converged on the opinion that an open-ended U.S. military presence in Syria will be detrimental to their interests. The recent testimony by the commander of the U.S. Central Command General Joseph Votel before the House Armed Services Committee cast Russia as an adversary in the Syrian conflict. Votel described Russia as playing the destabilizing role of “both arsonist and firefighter” in Syria. Ankara gathers that the U.S. is fueling Kurdish nationalism for geopolitical purposes, which poses a threat to Turkey’s security and sovereignty. Iran, of course, is only too aware of the United States’ containment strategy towards it in Syria and Iraq.

The fundamental contradiction here is that the Pentagon is fighting a “hybrid war” in Syria using the Kurdish proxy without formal congressional approval. Behind the fig leaf of the residual operations to mop up the defeated ISIS, the U.S. hopes to take advantage of Syria’s overall fluidity to weaken the regime, get the Russians bogged down in a quagmire, roll back the Iranian presence in Syria and Iraq, and tame Turkey—all without really putting boots on the ground. Somewhere along the line, in a not-too-distant future, there is going to be a backlash.

M.K. Bhadrakumar is a journalist and former career diplomat in the Indian Foreign Service who served as ambassador to Turkey.

Shabbatai Zvi : A False Jewish Messiah and the Founder of the Donmeh Sect*

March 01, 2018  /  Gilad Atzmon


Dr Jaafar Hadi Hassan

 Shabbatai Zvi is the most famous false messiah in modern Jewish history.  He was born in 1626 in Smyrna (modern Izmir) in Turkey and was one of three brothers.  He was described as handsome and clever.  His father, who was a merchant, wanted him to become a rabbi and when he was old enough he began to study religion with some rabbis in his home town.  While he was studying the normal prescribed books, he was also attracted to the Kabbalah (Jewish esoteric knowledge).  He delved into this subject until he became well versed in it.  When he was about twenty years old he graduated as a rabbi, after which he began to teach some students who subsequently became his disciples and admirers.  Shabbatai would tell them sometimes about his sadness and anger over the Chmielniky massacre against the Jews in the Ukraine which had happened in 1648 and would also tell them about his determination to revenge it.

After a while Shabbatai began to hint to his disciples that he might be the saviour of the Jews and their redeemer (Shabbatai was born on 9th of Ab, in the Jewish calendar which was the same day on which the Jewish messiah was supposed to be born).  Later he began to tell them secretly that he would be the Jewish messiah and would save the Jews.  In the meantime he contracted a marriage but did not consummate it for months and when his wife’s family asked for a divorce he agreed to it.  Some time later he contracted another marriage but did not consummate this either and this marriage also ended in divorce.  Meanwhile his claim to be the future Jewish messiah had reached the rabbis of the town of Izmir and had enraged them.  They decided to summon him and interrogate him, but he refused to attend the meeting.  Because of the trouble he was facing with the rabbis, he decided to leave on tour and go to Greece where there were Jewish communities.  In these places he also gave hints that he was the Messiah.  After some time he returned to his home town Izmir.

Shabbatai was known to suffer from periods of depression followed by an extreme state of elation during which he danced and sang in front of his students and friends. He was also known to have a beautiful voice.  When his brothers became aware of his states of depression which used to last for weeks, they suggested he travel to Palestine and go to Jerusalem which might alleviate his problem.  Shabbatai agreed and he left his home town with some money provided by his brothers.  He did not go directly to Palestine but took the route to Egypt.  No one knows the reason for his decision but while he was there he was told about an official in charge of the finances of the country and leader of the Jewish community called Rafael Joseph Chalabi, who was interested in Jewish religion and especially in the Kabbalah and had gathered together a group of rabbis in his palace.  Shabbatai visited him and Rafael offered to let him stay in his palace with the rest of the group. There he stayed for some time and was treated with respect by both the group and Rafael.  He then decided to travel to Palestine with Jerusalem as his destination.  After his arrival there he began to study the Kabbalah with well known rabbis but he also used to go on his own to visit the graves of some famous rabbis at night.

It is not known how long Shabbatai stayed there before the Jewish community asked him to go to Egypt as a messenger for them to beg Rafael, whom Shabbatai knew and had stayed with, for financial help as the community was in dire need of money to pay for their heavy taxes.  Shabbatai agreed to go and to help the community of Jerusalem.

While Shabbatai was there he heard about a woman of Polish origin, living in Italy, whose name was Sarah who mixed with men and told fortunes and predicted the future.  More importantly she used to say she would get married to the Jewish messiah.  Shabbatai then sent a message to her offering to marry her.  She immediately accepted his offer and went to Egypt where the marriage took place with extravagant celebrations in the palace of Rafael Chalabi.  When Shabbatai was asked how he could marry such a loose woman, he replied by saying that he followed the example of the prophet Hosea who was ordered in the Scriptures to marry a whore.

While Shabbatai was in Egypt he also heard from the rabbis in the palace about a rabbi living in Gaza called Nathan of Gaza.  This rabbi, as the rumours said, treated the “sick souls” of people and minds.  As Shabbatai was struggling with the problem of depression, he thought it would be good for him to meet this rabbi.  So he travelled to see him and when Nathan first saw Shabbatai he immediately bowed to him and showed him great respect.  They talked together for many hours, and then Nathan informed him that he was the messiah and what he suffered was the suffering of the Messiah and was, in fact, a sign of his messiahship.  Then Nathan, while he was with his students, produced what looked like a leaf of an old book which supposed to be from 12th century in which it said Shabbatai Zvi who would be born in 1626 would be the redeemer of the Jews and the messiah.  On another occasion, while Nathan was celebrating a feast with his companions he began to sing and dance frantically and then lay on the floor for some time apparently without breathing.  The people around him thought that he was dead and put a piece of white cloth over his face.  Then he suddenly uttered a sentence saying that Shabbatai Zvi was his messiah and his beloved and he then told those around him that Shabbatai was the messiah.

This was in 1665.  Then Nathan spread the news and he began to try to convince people that Shabbatai was indeed the messiah.  People started to descend on Gaza to see the messiah and day after day the crowd multiplied and people had to sleep in the streets as there was not enough room in the houses.  When Shabbatai decided to go to Jerusalem a number of people, including some rabbis, accompanied him.  In Jerusalem he was well received by the people and one day he put on a green garment, mounted a horse and rode round Mount Zion seven times.  During this time, he was behaving like a messiah, according to Jewish tradition, for example, he uttered the name Yahweh and ate food which is prohibited in Jewish Law and he asked the people around him to eat it too.  Shabbatai’s behaviour and the support which he had from the people angered the Chief Rabbi of Jerusalem as well as the rest of the rabbis in the city.  Consequently, they issued a decree of excommunication against him and had it publicised.

So Shabbatai decided to go to Turkey.  He first went to Syria and from there planned to travel on to Turkey.  When he arrived in Damascus he was received by many people who celebrated his arrival.  Even some rabbis received him cordially and some even believed in him.  In the meantime, Nathan was sending letters to the Jewish communities in the Middle East and Europe urging them to believe in Shabbatai Zvi and promising them redemption.  Shabbatai then went to Aleppo and in this city people celebrated his arrival and many came to him to be in his presence and to have his blessing.  People also began to prophesy and fall down unconscious and while in this state announced the mission of Shabbatai.  He stayed in Aleppo for more than a month before deciding to leave for Istanbul.  The Jews in Aleppo begged him to stay longer but he told them that he was in a hurry to fulfil his mission.  Many people accompanied him on the way to protect him and his entourage.  They told of thousands of beings coming from heaven at night and disappearing during the day.

When he arrived in Turkey, Shabbatai did not go directly to Istanbul but instead went to his home town Izmir.  The news had already reached the people there and on his arrival they received him with great celebrations.  The rabbis there kept silent because of Shabbatai’s popularity and because anyone who dared to criticise Shabbatai was attacked and so consequently some of these rabbis left the town as they were frightened of their own people. The Jewish population of the town was in a festive mood and Shabbatai was always surrounded by people.  He had a bodyguard and a scribe to write his letters to the Jewish communities and hundreds of people went with him whenever he went to the synagogue.  People would clear the way in front of him when he went to visit someone or to the synagogue and he had assistants who carried a few things of his such as a comb.  The Jewish community in Izmir began to call him “king” and they engraved the word “king” on the birmah of the temple (where the Bible is read).  He also began to sign his name as Shabbatai, the King, and Messiah in the letters he used to send.

Meanwhile, there were rumours that the lost tribes of Israel had appeared in Morocco and numbered hundreds of thousands and also in the Arabian Peninsula where they had occupied Mecca, demanding that the Sultan give them Palestine in return for handing over this city.  There were also rumours circulating of the appearance of the Prophet Elijah who, according to Jewish tradition, was still alive.   Both these two events are thought to be signs of the immanent appearance of the messiah and so many people believed these rumours.

During this time many people came to visit Shabbatai from abroad and meet with him.  There were some demonstrations, too, at this time by Jews in several places outside Turkey to celebrate the appearance of the messiah and in some of them, for example Poland, they carried Shabbatai’s picture.  The demonstrations caused friction between Christians and Jews.  Some governments like those of the Yemen and Morocco banned the demonstrations.  Furthermore, people began to torture themselves in different ways as a sign of repentance.  Some buried themselves up to the neck, others fasted for a long period of time while some injured themselves with thorns and so on.  Also, there were many people who prophesied after they had fallen unconscious and uttered words announcing that Shabbatai Zvi was the messiah.

After a few months in Izmir, Shabbatai decided to go to Istanbul presumably to take the power from the Sultan.  He travelled by sea and was accompanied by a group of his followers.  The ship was delayed by rough seas and his followers were worried asking each other “geldi mi?” (Has he arrived?).  But there was a surprise awaiting Shabbatai there.  As soon as he arrived at the port he found a group of soldiers waiting to arrest him.  This was a great shock to the group with him as he was then taken to a small prison which was assigned to criminals.  He stayed in this prison for a while until the Jewish community in the city intervened on his behalf with the authorities to have him moved to a better place.  Then the government moved him to the fortress of Gallipoli where there was a prison for political prisoners.  Here Shabbatai was comfortable and his wife Sarah had her own section.  People began to visit him in their hundreds and even some prominent people who believed him began to visit him too and offer him money.  In this prison Shabbatai had his scribe with him who wrote letters on his behalf and in one of his letters Shabbatai instituted the 9th of the month of Ab as a feast day rather than a solemn one of fasting as it is usually kept by the Jews and he prescribed some homilies and texts from the Bible to be read on this occasion.  Shabbatai also instituted his birthday celebrations.  In connection with this he wrote a circular letter to his followers detailing the manner in which his followers should behave on this occasion.  It was an elaborate way of celebrating his birthday.  Another change he brought about in the prison was that he began to sign his letters with the phrase “I am your Lord Shabbatai Zvi”.

People continued to come to pay homage to Shabbatai in increasing numbers and so, as a direct result, prices for passage by ship and the prices of commodities sold in the area around the prison also increased.  In the meantime, the Prophet Nathan continued to send letters to Shabbatai’s followers telling them that the redemption was near and that his imprisonment was part of the mission.

While he was in the prison, a Polish rabbi came to visit him whose name was Nehemiah Cohen.  This rabbi, it is said, used to prophesy and Shabbatai heard about that and sent for him but it seems that the rabbi came to Shabbatai to argue with him about some aspects and signs of the messiah  according to Jewish beliefs.  As soon as he arrived he began to discuss these aspects with him.  He argued with Shabbatai that he could not be the messiah because there should have been another messiah (minor one) before him called the Messiah ben Joseph who would have to have been killed in battle before the appearance of the last messiah.  In reply to him Shabbatai stated that the Messiah ben Joseph had appeared and had been killed in 1648 during the massacre of Jews in the Ukraine and Poland during the rebellion of Baghdan Chmielinsky.

But Nehemiah Cohen was not convinced and continued to argue with him for three days.  Shabbatai’s followers became angry about this when they learned of it and Nehemiah, scared of them, told the guards at the prison that he had converted to Islam.  He did this to protect himself from attack by Shabbatai’s followers.  Nehemiah decided to tell the authorities that Shabbatai was a false messiah, an impostor and a deceiver who was encouraging people to rebel against the government and should therefore be punished.  When he told this to the authorities, Shabbatai was taken by the army from the prison together with some rabbis to accompany him as Shabbatai requested.  When they were on their way to the Sultan’s palace he told them he was scared and did not know what to do.  In the palace a council, consisting of the governor of the city, the vizier, the Imam of the Palace Prayers,  the Mufti, The Sultan’s physician and the Sultan who was sitting on the upper floor to see but not to be seen, were awaiting Shabbatai.

When Shabbatai arrived, the council began to interrogate him and accused him of pretending to be the messiah in order to seize part of the empire (by which they meant Palestine).  It is said that the Sultan suggested that Shabbatai should stand against a wall and be hit by arrows to test his claim and that if he was the true messiah then the arrows would not harm him.  Shabbatai was confused as to what to do, so the physician of the Sultan who was a Jewish convert to Islam whispered to him that it would be better for him to convert to Islam to save himself from death.  Shabbatai immediately agreed and told the council that he had for a long time been thinking of converting to Islam and would like to do so and they accepted this and performed the procedure and the rites necessary for his conversion. So he was taken to have a bath, was given new clothes and made to wear a turban, given the name Muhammad Aziz Effendi and was also given the honorary title “Keeper of the Gates of the Palace”.

Shabbatai’s followers were shocked when they heard of what had happened and had different reactions to it.  Some of them left Judaism altogether and some rejected Shabbatai and abandoned their belief in his messiahship but others continued to believe in him despite what had happened and the prophet Nathan announced to his followers that converting to Islam was part of the process of the Messiahship and that they needed to convert to Islam as Shabbatai had.  Shabbatai then began another phase of his activity which was to convince his followers to convert to Islam and even asked people who came to visit him to do so likewise. In the synagogue itself he used to preach Islam and convinced people to convert.  But he forbad them to marry Muslims.  This is one of the 18 beliefs which he laid down for his followers.  The Turks began to call those of his followers who proclaimed Islam “Donmeh” which literally means “turning” ie because they turned from Judaism to Islam.

The Donmeh followers who converted to Islam began to pray like Muslims in the mosques and secretly like Jews in hidden synagogues.  They also began to use two names, one Jewish which they used with Jews and another Muslim one used in public.  Shabbatai continued his activities in Turkey and after a few years the Turkish authorities accused him of trying to convert Muslims to Judaism and decided to deport him to Albania to a town called Uslinj.  Here too some of his followers began to visit him and pay homage to him.  In the meantime, his wife Sarah died and a short while after her death he married another woman, a daughter of a well known rabbi from Salonika who was one of his followers.  Shabbatai lived here for a few rather quiet years and died in 1676 and was buried there on the seashore as he requested.


A few years after his death, hundreds of his followers who had not converted to Islam announced their conversion and some years after that his followers became divided into two groups and finally, not many years later, the movement divided itself into three separate sub-sects as they remain to this day.


The members of the Donmeh Sect are estimated to be about one hundred thousand and most of them  live in Turkey today. Since the beginning of the twentieth century they have begun to play an important economic and political role in the country.  Many of them also became high ranking officers in the army.  Some of them became ministers like Muhammad Jawid Bek who was Minister of Finance on three occasions at the beginning of the last century and Ismail Jem who became foreign minister in the nineties of the last century and Tansu Chelar who became Prime Minister in the same period.


The Donmeh are active nowadays in business and in education and they have a big university which has many faculties for different subjects.  They are also very active in the economy and in the media too.  The Donmeh nowadays would prefer to be called Saloniki rather than Donmeh as they think that the latter name now has pejorative connotations but in fact they still continue to be known as Donmeh.


*I have published a book (in Arabic) on the Donmeh Sect which has been reprinted three times.



South Front

Last weekend, the Syrian Arab Army (SAA), the Tiger Forces, the 4th Armorued Division and other pro-government units delivered a devastating blow to the defense of militant groups in the eastern part of the Eastern Ghouta region, near Damascus.

Government forces liberated al-Shaffoniya, Beit Nayem, al-Rayhanah, al-Muhammadiyah and other points and deployed within about 3.5 km of dividing the militant-held area into two separate parts.

Jaish al-Islam, Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (formerly Jabhat al-Nusra), Ahrar al-Sham and Faylaq al-Rahman were not able to organize an effective defense there. However, pro-militant sources claim that the SAA and its allies had suffered significant casualties – about 150 soldiers. This number is not confirmed by photos or videos.

On Monday, government forces advanced further attacking militant positions in the areas of Mersaba and Beit Sawa. Should the SAA liberate them militant groups will have little chances to achieve a kind of victory in the ongoing battle.

Reports are circulating that the 5th Assault Corps and Liwa al-Quds have been also deployed to Eastern Ghotua to support the SAA offensive.

Over the last few days, the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) have retreated from the villages of Ramadiyah, Sheikh al-Hadid, Mistekan, Hajji Khalil, Rajo and other settlements in the Afrin area under pressure from the Turkish Armed Forces (TAF) and the Free Syrian Army (FSA).

On March 4, the Kurdish Hawar News Agency (ANHA) reported that the YPG had killed 9 Turkish special operations soldiers in the Rajo disitrict. On the same day, the TAF’s general staff said that 2,688 so-called terrorists had been neutralized in the Afrin operation.

A limited presence of pro-government National Defense Forces in Afrin was note enough to stop the Turkish advance. A comprehensive deal between the YPG and Damascus has still not been reached.

In western Aleppo and southern Idlib, clashes are still ongoing between Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) and the Syrian Liberation Front, a coalition of Ahrar al-Sham and Nour al-Din al-Zenki. According to local sources, HTS is steadily taking an upper hand in this standoff.

Government Forces Liberate Rayhan From Militants In Eastern Ghouta


Government Forces Liberate Rayhan From Militants In Eastern Ghouta

A US-made TOW anti-tank guided missiles launcher captured by the Syrian Army in Eastern Ghouta. Click to see the full-size image

Following previous advanced in Eastern Ghouta, Syrian government forces have continued developing momentum in the eastern part of the militant-held pocket, liberated the village of Rayhan and entered the village of Muhammadiyah.

An intense fighting is now also ongoing in the vicinity of Beit Sawa and Mersaba.

The advance followed an end of daily humanitarian pause in the area, which had been set to allow civilians to leave the combat area. However, Ahrar al-Sham, Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (formerly Jabhat al-Nusra), Jaish al-Islam and Faylaq al-Rahman prevented a major part of the civilians attempting to leave from evacuating the area.

Government Forces Liberate Rayhan From Militants In Eastern Ghouta

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فتح الغوطة واطلاق سراح 8 ملايين رهينة .. نهاية حكاية شريرة

بقلم نارام سرجون

حتى هذه اللحظة لم تبدأ معركة الغوطة بعد رغم كل مايقوله الاعلام على طرفي المعركة .. فالارهابيون المحاصرون يكتبون اخبارا اشبه ماتكون بحكايات المقاهي بين قرقرات الأراكيل .. ولكننا على الطرف المقابل فان كل مانراه هو جيش ينتظر على الجمر وبالكاد يمكن أن نلجم فيه الدبابات التي تحمحم كخيول الحرب ..

 وجنود صار الاقتحام لعبتهم المفضلة وهوايتهم .. وصار من العسير أن نرضي روح المغامرة فيهم دون انتصار على الطبيعة ذاتها .. فقد صارت نزعة استئصال الأشرار في الحكاية هي مايحركهم .. وهاجسهم هو أن يضيفوا انتصارات الى قائمة انتصاراتهم وليس أن يضيفوا كيسا من الذهب أو حورية من الحوريات أو سبية من السبايا الى أملاكهم .. ففي الحكايات لايموت الا من يفوز بالذهب والحوريات والسبايا .. ولايحيا الا من يفوز بالأبدية عندما يقتل الشر في الحكاية ..

والغوطة أرادها البعض حكاية للشر .. فالأشرار اليوم هم أولئك الذين يحتجزون الرهائن والمدنيين فيها ويستعملونهم كأكياس الرمل ويعاملونهم كأكياس الرمل وليس كالبشر .. وصاروا يريدون احتجاز 8 ملايين مدني خارج الغوطة في دمشق ليضيفوهم الى قائمة الرهائن .. وتراهم يقتلون كل يوم عددا منهم دون تمييز لاثبات ان ملايين دمشق الثمانية رهائن لهم .. ولايشبههم في ذلك الا خاطفو الطائرات الذين يمهلون مفاوضيهم مدة محدودة قبل أن يقتلوا احد المسافرين وكلما طال التفاوض وتمسك الطرف الآخر بموقفه خسرت رهينة مسافرة حياتها لزيادة الضغط والابتزاز ..

وطبعا كانت الأيام الماضية زاخرة بتصريحات من فئة خمس نجوم أو سبعة .. فمثلا ترامب صرح مؤخرا واجتر كلامه مرارا عن انتصاراته الكاملة على داعش .. وهي تصريحات ليتسلى بها الشعب الأميريكي قبل كل عطلة اسبوع وبلغت نسبة المحليات والأصباغ فيه 100% فقد قال “أنه وتحالفه قضيا على داعش بنسبة 100% في كل من سورية والعراق” .. ورغم ذلك فانه كلام فشلت كل المحليات والسكر والحلوى والعسل والشوكولاتة في أن تخفي طعمه المر في فم ترامب وفم ضباط المخابرات الاميريكية .. حتى السكر والعسل صار طعمهما مرّا .. فترامب يدرك أن داعش جيش اميريكي سري من تأليف معسكر كلينتون ولكن تمكن الروس والسوريون والايرانيون من استئصاله واقتلاعه والحاق هزيمة منكرة به ..
أما الفرنسيون فقد صنعوا لنا “شوكولاتة الغوطة الفرنسية” المحشوة باللحم والدم .. وقالوا فيها الأشعار واستعانوا بشعارات كان رجالات الثورة الفرنسية يتداولونها .. وكادت حكاية الخبز والكعك التي رويت عن ماري أنطوانيت تنسب الى جدال بين جائعي الغوطة والرئيس الأسد .. فالغوطة الشرقية صارت فجأة شوكة في ضمير الدنيا .. ولايصح طعام الافطار الا بعد الصلاة من أجل أهل الغوطة .. كما كانت الصلوات من أجل بابا عمرو والقصير وحلب ويبرود وووو ..

وعندما أستمع للزعماء الغربيين وهم يحاضرون في الأمم ويعظوننا أخلاقيا أحس بالصداع وأعراض التسمم لأن كمية الملونات والأصباغ المغشوشة في كلامهم تبلغ حد السمية .. وأحس أحيانا أنني مرغم على ابتلاع هشيم الزجاج مع كل تصريح غربي .. وكل الكلام عليه شحم وزيت ومزلقات وخروع كي يسهل انزلاقه في آذاننا وقلوبنا وأفواهنا .. لكنه في النهاية يسبب لنا مغصا ويجبرنا على أن لانفارق الحمّام .. ولأن كمية الحلاوة والعسل والشوكولا المفرطة تجعل مذاق اي خطاب غربي تصيب من يستمع لها بالسكري خلال دقائق .. فهناك ألوان كثيرة وكلام مزخرف ومذهّب وموشى بالقصب حتى تبهر عينيك وتضطر لاغماضهما من وهج اللمعان والبريق الخاطف من كل حرف يغار منه الماس .. وهناك فن وأناقة في نحت الدمع المذروف والمسبوك الخاص بحقوق الانسان والحريات الذي عليه أوشحة من قماش الانجيل وموسيقا الحزن الكنائسية حتى أن المسيح نفسه يعتقد أنه شرير أمام هذه الطاقة الهائلة للحب والعظمة في خطابات النخب السياسية الغربية أصحاب القلوب الديمقراطية الشفافة ..

ولكن علينا أن ننظر للأمر على انه حلقة من حلقات الهلع قبل هزيمة المعارضة (المتسلحة بالغرب) بالتقسيط واخراجها من المعادلة السورية شعبيا .. قبل الاجهاز على القوى المسلحة عسكريا .. فنحن نذكر لاشك كل الأحداث ونذكر لاشك كل مسرحيات البكاء والتباكي على كل المجازر التي كانت تصنع في الغرف الاعلامية وتحضّر قبل كل جلسة لمجلس الأمن .. ونذكر كيف استنفر العالم من أجل “أليبّو” .. (أي حلب) .. حتى انها دخلت في المنافسات المحلية للانتخابات البلدية في أميريكا بين الديمقراطيين والجمهوريين .. ولكن كان هذا البكاء الشامل في كل الطبقات السياسية والاعلامية مؤشرا على أن الغرب يدرك تماما أن عصاباته ليس لها قبل مواجهة عسكرية مع الجبش السوري وحلفائه الذين لايمكن ايقافهم الا بالدموع وحواجز البكاء ..

الهدنة وفن الضغط النفسي:

كان البعض يحس بالقلق من التأخير الذي يحدث قبل كل جلسة مماحكات لهدنة في مجلس الأمن .. وعندما تحصل الهدنة يزدادا مستوى القلق من قبول الضغط الغربي .. ولكن من يراجع كل الهدنات السابقة يلاحظ أنها جميعا كانت فخاخا روسية للغرب لأن الروس أتقنوا لعبة الضغط النفسي العسكري والديبلوماسي على الخصم .. حيث كان الروس يتصلبون جدا قبل القبول باي هدنة حتى يفتحوا ثغرة في القرار الدولي بحيث يتحول القرار الى صمام أمان يترك لهم مجالا للالتفات نحو جبهة أخرى تشغلهم هي المقصودة الرئيسية بالمعركة .. فتجد ان معظم الهدنات السابقة تركت جزءا كبيرا من المسلحين مكبلين لايقدرون على القيام بهجمات كبيرة بسبب انهم تحت ضمانات الدول الراعية للهدنة المسؤولة عن التزامهم بالقرار .. وهذا مايريده الجيش ليتفرغ للقضاء على جيوب خطرة (لايشملها القرار) دون أن يضرب في الظهر من تنظيمات محسوبة على قرار مجلس الأمن .. وهو مبدأ (أكل الثيران الثلاثة الأبيض ثم الاسود ثم الاحمر .. بالتقسيط واحدا واحدا) .. وهذا تسبب في أن القوى التي تصنف على انها معتدلة تفقد معاطفها الواقية المتمثلة بالنصرة وداعش .. لأن القوى الضارية هي داعش والنصرة وهي التي تشكل حائط الصد الذي يحمي نواة التمرد .. ويتم كسر هذا الحائط في الهدنة لأن الجيش السوري يقاتل وهو مرتاح عسكريا على جبهات أقل .. وتنكشف المجموعات المسلحة بعد ذلك .. وهذا رأيناه في حلب التي تم تحريرها بعد هدنات كثيرة تمت الاستفادة منها في قضم تدريجي لداعش والنصرة في محيط حلب .. حتى صار ارهابيو حلب مثل ثمرة مقشرة .. ومثل قنفذ عار بلااشواك .. أطبق علهم الجيش في أسابيع قليلة ..

مايلفت النظر في سلوك خاطفي الغوطة من الارهابيين أنهم هم الذين فتحوا المعركة وهم الذين تحرشوا بالدولة السورية وكأنهم يريدون استدراج الدولة الى معركة استعدوا لها وهي لم تستعد لها .. ولكن لوحظ ان المعركة اشتدت فجأة وكأنما أريد بها اطلاق حدث قبل الانتخابات الروسية لان التقديرات الغربية أن الروس ليسوا في وارد خوض معركة قبيل الانتخابات الرئاسية الروسية وهم مرتاحون لما انجزوه في السياسة الدولية .. ومن هنا يفهم البعض مدة الهدنة 30 يوما التي ستفيد الروس كثيرا للتفرغ للانتخابات الرئاسية .. ولكن من يعرف العقل الغربي فانه يعرف انه عقل يرى في الهدنة الانسانية دوما فرصة لتغيير الواقع او احداث خرق في معسكر الخصم … فكل الهدنات التي أبرمها الانكليز مع الفلسطينيين قبل النكبة كانت لتبريد ثوراتهم واختراق صفوفهم وخلخلتها وكلها نجحت وأجهضت تحركاتهم .. وهدنة أوسلو الصهيونية كانت لها نفس روح الخديعة لامتصاص الانتفاضة التي خرجت عن السيطرة .. فكانت مخدرات اوسلو التي انتهت باعلان القدس عاصمة ابدية لاسرائيل .. ولينقع الفلسطينيون أتفاق اوسلو ويشربوا ماءه ..

ولذلك فان التقارير عن سيناريو كيماوي كبير في ادلب يجب تنفيذه قبل 13 آذار كما ذكر الدكتور الجعفري أمام جلسة مجلس الأمن الأخيرة يذكرنا بأن جلسة في منظمة حظر الاسلحة الكيماوية ستعقد في اليوم التالي ويذكرنا بأن الانتخابات الروسية ستعقد في 18 آذار .. والسيناريو الكيماوي يظن الاميريكيون أنه سيسبب ازعاجا كبيرا ولغطا كبيرا وسيطلق ابان انشغال الروس في شأنهم الداخلي ..

ولكني اريد أن ألفت النظر الى حقيقة واضحة وجلية كالشمس وهي أن الحلفاء سيحولون اللعبة الغربية الى فرصة وسيرى الجميع كيف أن لاأمل لارهابيي الغوطة بالصمود وستنكسر شوكتهم بسرعة فائقة وبأسرع مما نتوقع .. لأن جيش الاسلام واشواكه من النصرة وبقية التنظيمات الارهابية المحاصرة لن يكونوا أقوى من ارهابيي حلب .. ولاأكثر منهم عددا ولاتسليحا .. ولن تكون في ظهرهم تركيا كما مسلحو حلب كي تدعمهم وتذخرهم .. فارهابيو الغوطة محاصرون في النهاية .. وكما أن جيش الاسلام أمضى سنوات يتحصن ويتمترس فاننا أمضينا هذه السنوات في تجميع المعلومات ورسم خارطة الانفاق والتحصينات كما فعلنا في حلب .. واستفدنا من جو الرفض المتنامي لممارسات جيش الاسلام وغيره بين سكان الغوطة الذين تحول ابناؤهم ونساؤهم الى عيون للجيش حتى صار الجيش على علم بكل المتاريس والتحصينات المقامة .. ويعرف مايأكله أبو همام البويضاني كل يوم .. وليس سرا أن يقال بأن خلايا نائمة كثيرة في الغوطة تنتظر ساعة الصفر للالتحاق بالمعركة ..

لذلك .. فان هذا الجيش الذي انتقل وتجمع حول الغوطة لن يعود الا بعد أن يستعيدها سلما أو حربا وبسرعة ويعلن تحرير 8 ملايين دمشقي رهائن بيد الارهابيين في الغوطة .. فمواكب الخيول تحمحم من حميميم وحتى حوش الضواهرة .. مع فارق بسيط .. هو أن الانتظار هذه المرة لن يكون طويلا .. وسيفاجأ الجميع من انهيار قبضايات الغوطة ..
بكلمة مختصرة .. دوما ليست حائط برلين لتنتظر خمسين سنة .. ولو كنت أقدر على قول المزيد لقلت لكم بالضبط متى ستكون أحذية الضباط والجنود السوريين في قلب دوما .. فقد تقرر ذلك الموعد سلفا .. وليشرب مجلس الأمن مايشاء من بول البعير حتى يرتوي .. وليشرب جيش الاسلام من بول نيكي هايلي مايشاء حتى يرتوي .. فلا فرق بين البولين في حلوق الأغبياء ..

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وما قيمة الكلام؟ فالسيادة أفعال


مارس 1, 2018

ناصر قنديل

– تحت هذا العنوان يرد الكثير من المواقف التي تستهتر بالمواقف السياسية التي ترد في معرض الدفاع عن السيادة بوجه ما تتعرّض له من انتهاك. ففي لبنان كما في سورية سجال لا يتوقف حول مفهوم صيانة السيادة، وها هم دعاة حزب السعودية في لبنان ومحازبوها ووسائل إعلامها يتحدّثون علناً عن تشاور مع السعودية في شأن سياديّ صاف لا مجال للتشارك مع غير اللبنانيين فيه هو الانتخابات النيابية، ويضربون عرض الحائط بنص القانون الذي صاغوه وصوّتوا عليه، وهو يحرّم تحريماً كاملاً، كلّ تلقّ لمال من غير لبناني. وهم يقولون في منابرهم العلنية إنّ التمويل السعودي للانتخابات ينتظر نتائج جولة الموفد السعودي وزيارة رئيس الحكومة إلى السعودية.

– في سورية، وحتى تاريخ إسقاط الدفاعات الجوية السورية لطائرة الـ أف16 الإسرائيلية بالدفاعات الجوية السورية وتاريخ انتشار القوات الشعبية شبه الحكومية في عفرين بوجه العدوان التركي، وإعلان تشكيل فصائل المقاومة الشعبية السورية في الرقة ودير الزور بوجه الاحتلال الأميركي، ونحن نسمع معزوفة متصلة تنتقد المواقف السورية الرسمية التي تصرّ على وصف كلّ عمل عسكري إسرائيلي أو أميركي أو تركي بصفته عداوناً على السيادة، ومبرّر الانتقاد أنّ الكلام بلا قيمة ما لم تسنده الأفعال، والقيمة أولاً وأخيراً هي للفعل لا للقول.

– في لبنان يقول البعض إنّ التدخلات قائمة ومعلومة والتمويل حاصل، ومعلوم المصادر على ضفتي التنافس الانتخابي. وهو ليس لبنانياً فلماذا تفتعلون قضية من الكلام، اللعب على المكشوف أفضل من التستر على ما نعلم أنه حقيقة. ويذهب هؤلاء لتسخيف كلّ انتقاد للكلام العلني عن التمويل السعودي وعن التدخّل السعودي، وربما يعتبره البعض فضيلة غداً ويقول على الأقلّ جماعة السعودية يتكلّمون بينما جماعة إيران لا يتكلمون.

– القضية هنا هي غاية في الخطورة، لأنها تتصل بتشريع الفعل، فالكلام الرسمي والعلني هو مصدر الشرعية التي تنالها الأفعال. فالعدوان التركي إذا وصف من الحكومة السورية بالعمل العسكري صار شرعياً، والاحتلال التركي والأميركي إذا وصف بالوجود صار شرعياً، والشرعية أصل التأسيس في قانونية الفعل. فمناهضة العدوان ومقاومة الاحتلال تبدآن من التوصيف القانوني والتوصيف كلام، ومهما طال الوقت اللازم لبدء الفعل فيجب أن يبقى ما هو غير شرعي غير شرعي، حتى تتوافر ظروف وشروط إزالته. والتوصيف الذي ينزع الشرعية عن الانتشار الاحتلالي والعمل العدواني هو الذي يمنح الشرعية للمقاومة.

– القضية في لبنان مشابهة، ففعل التدخّل في الانتخابات وتمويلها من الخارج منافٍ للقانون وانتهاك للسيادة، مهما كان مصدره وأياً كان الفاعل، لكن المجاهرة بذلك هي فعل أشدّ خطورة، لأنها محاولة تشريع هذا الانتهاك، ودعوة للرأي العام لتقبّل هذا الانتهاك وتخفيف وطأة الشعور بالمهانة الوطنية مع حدوثه وتكرار الحدوث وتراكم الكلام. فيصير التطبيع مع الفعل المشين بالكلام الشائن، وكلّ منهما بذاته انتهاك للسيادة وانتهاك للقانون ولعلّ الكلام أخطر من الفعل هنا، لأنه مصدر شرعية شعبية وسياسية.

– يكفي القول في هذه الحالة إذا ارتكبتم المعاصي فاستتروا ، وليبقَ توصيف المعصية معصية والخطيئة خطيئة، والمخالفة مخالفة، حتى لو تكون الظروف مهيأة لإيقافها والأخذ على يد مرتكبيها.

– السيادة أفعال يشرعنها الكلام، وانتهاك السيادة أفعال يُسقط شرعيتها ويمهّد لمقاومتها كلام آخر.

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قرار الهدنة علامة تغيّر التوازنات

قرار الهدنة علامة تغيّر التوازنات

فبراير 26, 2018

ناصر قنديل

– في كلّ مرة كان يصدر قرار أممي لوقف النار منذ بداية الحرب على سورية كان واضحاً أنه إجهاض لمشروع حسم كان يقترب لصالح الجيش السوري، وأنّ القبول به من سورية وحلفائها كان لتفادي الأسوأ، وهو مخاطر تدخل غربي مباشر وتصعيد عسكري تدخل فيه قوى إقليمية ودولية، لم يكن ما ظهر منها في آب 2013 بحشد الأساطيل الأميركية قبالة سورية مجرد مسرحية ولا مناورة. وفي كلّ مرة كان يصدر قرار أممي بوقف النار كان يتوزّع جهد الجيش السوري على عشرات الجبهات، وضعف الحضور العسكري للحلفاء يفرض عليه حساب توزيع قدراته بطريقة مجدية وتقبل التهدئة على جبهة والتفرّغ لسواها. وفي كلّ مرة كان يجري صدور قرار أممي بوقف النار كان يثبت أنّ مضمونه توفير فرصة الاستعداد للجماعات المسلحة لجولة جديدة أشدً خطراً.

– منذ التموضع العسكري الروسي في سورية نهاية العام 2015، وانكسار خطر التدخل الأميركي الواسع منذ عام 2013 وعجز إدارة دونالد ترامب عن تخطي هذا العجز، تبدّلت المعادلة الدولية وزالت مخاطر كانت في الحسبان. ومنذ تموضع الآلاف من المقاتلين من الحلفاء واستنهاض الشعب السوري لضخّ عشرات الآلاف من المقاتلين ضمن قوات رديفة للجيش، وتأثير الانتصارات المتلاحقة على منح الجيش السوري مقدرات معنوية وبشرية ومادية جعلت منه صاحب اليد العليا في كلّ المعارك العسكرية، وصولاً لتدحرج الانتصارات لحساب الجيش السوري وحلفائه، وما نتج عنه من تراجع عدد جبهات القتال وقدرة الجيش والحلفاء على إدارة ما بقي منها.

– منذ معركة حلب ونحن نشهد ثباتاً سياسياً روسياً في مجلس الأمن، وتحمّلاً استثنائياً للضغوط والحملات، لمنع أيّ وقف للنار يؤدّي الغرض الذي كان مرسوماً لكلً هدنة، ليأتي القبول بالنص المعدّل للقرار الأخير ويحمل تعبيراً عن التوازنات الجديدة، فترضاه سورية وتصوّت عليه روسيا. فللمرة الأولى يأتي القرار الأممي ليربط فك الحصار بفك حصار موازٍ في كفريا والفوعة، ويربط وقف النار في الغوطة بوقف شامل في كلّ سورية فيضمّ الأتراك والأميركيين والإسرائيليين لموجباته، ويمنح سورية وحلفاءها اعتبار أيّ خرق تركي أميركي إسرائيلي سقوطاً للقرار، كما يمنح سورية ربط إجراءات المعونات والإخلاء والتهدئة بمثلها في الفوعة وكفريا وعفرين، والأهمّ أنه بوضوح يستثني النصرة وداعش ومَن معهما، ما يعني مواصلة حرب ضرب النصرة في إدلب والغوطة، وضرب داعش شمال دير الزور، وهذا ما قاله عملياً السفير السوري في نيويورك بشار الجعفري تعقيباً على القرار وشرحاً للفهم السوري لتطبيقه، مضيفاً تهديداً لواشنطن رداً على تهديد مندوبتها لسورية، لوضع النقاط على الحروف في كون القرار تعبيراً عن توازنات جديدة لم يعُد ما كان صالحاً بالأمس صالحاً لليوم.

– لم ينتظر الجيش السوري والحلفاء مفاوضات ترسم آليات تطبيق القرار، بل بدأ بالتطبيق وفقاً لمفهومه للقرار بالتقدّم على محاور انتشار جبهة النصرة في الغوطة، ليحقق إنجازات مهمة في شمالها تمثلت بالسيطرة على مساحات واسعة وتلال هامة وصولاً للسيطرة على بلدتي الصالحية والنشابية جنوب شرق الغوطة الشرقية، والتقدم على محاور حزرتا وجوبر، وهذا ليس إلا اليوم الأول، ويبقى الكلام الفصل لما هو آتٍ، ومعادلة كلّ قذيفة تسقط على دمشق تعني سقوط الالتزام بوقف النار.

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