11:15 AM - 20 Dec 12 · Details
FSA ADVANCE CONTINUES TO ROLL AS THEY GAIN CONTROL OF A SYRIA/LEBANON BORDER CROSSING FOR THE FIRST TIME:
TIMELINE – 20th DECEMBER 2012 13.35 GMT:
Reports this morning say that the Free Syrian Army (FSA) has seized its first border crossing post between Syria and Lebanon at Rankous in the western part of Damascus province and just 26 kilometres north of the capital.
Whether they can hold the rather minor crossing against a renewed Syrian Army attack remains to be seen. There is a video of the remote crossing (Arabic only), HERE:
However, the FSA assault on regime positions continues across Syria. In Deir el-Zour the FSA is scaling up its attacks on the military airbase there with continuous gunfire and also shelling by tanks, HERE: and HERE:
Opposition fighters also took the Seyouf Roundabout within the city.
In Hasaka to the north-east, the FSA ambushed a military convoy consisting of 10 vehicles transporting arms from the nearby air defence base near the town of Houl. 50 Government troops and Shabiha were reported killed or injured in the attack.
Fighting has continued in Hama province for a second day, the FSA holding their previous gains and additionally taking control of the village of Bsereen in the southern part of Hama city and destroying a school used by the Assad Army as a base. They also overran the Jisr checkpoint and destroyed a BMP armoured vehicle in the area of Mawrak.
In Aleppo there was a bit of setback for the Opposition following a massive car bomb explosion in the Opposition held suburb of Aziza. More than 33 people were reported killed, including FSA fighters, and many more wounded. Following the explosion the district also came under shell and rocket attack from Government forces.
There was also heavy fighting around Aleppo Old City with the FSA moving into the districts of Qaser Baladi and Bab Janeen and Opposition units completely surrounding the Meng airbase.
Yesterday saw the start of an offensive against the nearby Qouayres airbase as well using home-made rockets among other weapons, HERE:
In Homs province there are unconfirmed reports that the FSA have arrested the officer who led the massacre in the village of Houla where 108 people were massacred, including 49 children and 38 women, many of them executed with knives.
The FSA have said they will put him on trial.
ALEPPO SHOPKEEPER SHOOTS HIS RUSSIAN WIFE DEAD OVER ARGUMENT ABOUT SUPPORT FOR ASSAD:
Government shelling and rocket fire is reported to have killed more than 65 people yesterday in the Damascus suburbs, including Daraya and Douma.
Daraya, despite being under constant attack by Assad’s troops for over a month has not buckled under the strain and it is reported that the Opposition fighters there were yesterday reinforced by several more brigades.
Opposition fighters also destroyed the 3 tanks and a BMP at a Government checkpoint in the Damascus suburb of Wadi Barada, while the Government side subjected the northern suburb of Qaboun to significant bombardment, killing not only humans but injuring and killing livestock, (Caution, a bit gory), HERE:
At the Yarmouk Palestinian camp, it is quiet this morning allowing a few hundred residents to move back in rather than continuing to sleep rough in the capital. The Government controls the main entrances to the enclave and Palestinian officials from Cairo have been negotiating to get the Opposition fighters to retreat to avoid further bloodshed.
Activists now put the death toll in Syria after 21 months at 44.000, mostly civilians, although the figure now includes nearly 11,000 Assad military personnel plus Opposition fighters.
In one bizarre additional death, the Syrian owner of a clothes shop in Aleppo is reported to have shot dead his Russian born wife yesterday after she expressed support for President Assad following a quarrel.
The shopkeeper, a FSA supporter, criticised Assad and the row got out of hand. As there is no police force in the south-western suburb of Maysar, the man was not arrested by them or so far by the FSA.
(EDITOR: Thinking with my psychotherapist “hat”, I don’t think he liked her much in the first place!)
It was also reported yesterday that Mohammed Shaar, Assad’s Interior Minister who was reported last week to have “minor injuries” when his office ceiling fell on his head after a car bomb explosion (scroll down see below), is apparently in need of more serious help.
The reports say that he has been transferred by plane to the American University Hospital in Beirut, Lebanon.
RUSSIA’S PUTIN SAYS “WE ARE NOT CONCERNED OVER THE FATE OF ASSAD”, WHILE UN MAKES BIGGEST AID APPEAL EVER:
The UN yesterday appealed for $1.5 billion, “the largest short-term humanitarian appeal ever”, in order to provide life-saving aid to displaced Syrians in 5 countries.
Al Jazeera has a video interview with one poor man and his family who have spent 10 months on the run from Homs to Hama to Aleppo to Hasaka and then finally to the desert refugee camp in Za’atri, Jordan, HERE:
A final member of the NBC team held captive in Syria has escaped to Turkey accompanied to the border by FSA fighters. Ian Rivers, a Briton working with NBC’s correspondent Richard Engel, somehow got separated from the rest of the team after they were liberated following a gunbattle at a FSA checkpoint. You can read Engel’s report of their captivity and release, HERE:
Following comments by Assad’s veteran Vice-President, Faruq al-Sharaa, (scroll down and see yesterday’s report), saying neither side could win the conflict, which some would see as an implied criticism of President Assad’s abilities, it is reported this morning that 2 of al-Sharaa’s nephews have been arrested along with 5 others by military intelligence.
The group, in favour of peaceful and democratic change in Syria, were apparently meeting in a cafe at the time.
Al-Sharaa’s comments however, were also echoed by President Putin of Russia this morning, where he addressed journalists in his annual press conference, saying, “We are not concerned about the fate of Assad’s regime. We understand what is going on there. We are worried about a different thing – what next?”.