Thursday, 22 August 2019

'A publicity stunt': Syrians in Idlib baffled by offer of humanitarian corridor exit

 'As its bombardment of Idlib province continued on Thursday, the Syrian government announced it had opened a “humanitarian corridor” for civilians who want to leave the rebel-held enclave.

 Whether such an exit can transport Syrians to safety or not, however, is unclear; with many pouring scorn on the proposal as they flee the government's assault and shelter from its arsenal.

 Civilians would be allowed to leave Idlib’s southern countryside and the north of neighbouring Hama province through the corridor in the town of Souran, Damascus' statement said.

 However, Ahmed al-Sheikho, media director for Syria’s Civil Defence in Idlib, said that there are effectively no civilians left in Idlib’s southern countryside to use such an exit.

 “The majority of people who fled the Khan Sheikhoun and Maaret al-Numan countrysides have chosen to flee north, towards the Turkish border,” Sheikho said.

 Souran, located in Hama’s northern countryside, is considered the first line of defence for government forces stationed on the doorstep of the city of Hama.

 “The corridor is located in an area already void of civilians. How will the régime receive the people it’s been accusing of supporting terrorists?” activist Massoud Sayyah said.

 More than 80,000 people have been displaced from the Maaret al-Numan eastern countryside since Monday due to the government and Russia’s escalating violence.

 Abbas Jomaa, a civilian preparing to flee the Maaret al-Numan area, likened the current situation to “doomsday”.

 “I have not yet heard of the opening of a corridor. All we hear is the sound of bombings and warplanes,” Jomaa said.

 Like Jomaa, several displaced people were surprised to hear that a corridor had been opened up for them when the road to the exit has been cut off by pro-government forces in the first place.

 “How can I leave to the side of those who destroyed my village? Even if there were people who would have wanted to use the corridor, they can’t because the road is blocked,” said Jomaa.

 Pro-government forces have escalated their offensive over the past week in the last opposition-held bastion in Syria, and have steadily chipped away at towns and villages in Idlib’s south.

 Syrians in opposition-held areas are deeply sceptical and mistrustful of government corridors. Many doubt their security once in Bashar al-Assad-held territory. Others worry they will become moving targets as they make their way out of rebel areas.

 One civilian recalled how he chose to flee to Idlib when the government opened a humanitarian crossing in his native Eastern Ghouta during a punishing offensive last year.

 “And I would still choose to stay in Idlib today rather than go to a régime area,” he said, wishing to remain anonymous.

 The local councils of Kfar Zeita and Latamneh in northern Hama said in similar statements on Thursday that the offensive has emptied their towns of residents.

 “Government corridors are a farce and a publicity stunt. I never have and never will cross to régime areas,” said a displaced civilian, who wished to be named Abdel-Rahman Qaytaz for security reasons.

 Hassan al-Shawa, vice president of Idlib’s civilian council, echoed Qaytaz and said he believed that the corridors are “a message from the régime to prepare the world for a new wave of displacement, killings and destruction”.

 On Thursday, the government bombing campaign pounded towns east of the key rebel-held town of Maaret al-Numan, including Jarjanaz, Deir al-Sharqi and Tallmannis; where a man and a child were killed and 10 people were wounded.

 Opposition fighters on Tuesday pulled back from Khan Sheikhoun - one of the province’s largest towns - a strategic win for Assad's government that places pressure on Turkey, which has forces stationed in the nearby town of Morek.

 Morek has been cut off from its supply line after government forces attacked and paralysed the highly strategic M5 Damascus-Aleppo highway, down which a Turkish military convoy was heading to the town.

 Turkish state media reported on Thursday that Ankara had sent further reinforcements inside northern Syria.

 A military convoy was heading from Khirbat al-Jawz crossing towards a Turkish observation point in the town of Jisr al-Shughour in Idlib, Turkey's official Anadolu Agency reported.

 Earlier, two Turkish officials told the Reuters news agency that Syrian government forces opened fire on one of Ankara's observation posts on Thursday, without specifying which of Turkey's 12 posts in northwest Syria - set up under an agreement with Russia and Iran - was hit.'

Monday, 19 August 2019

Testimony of three detainees in Assad prisons

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 'Mohammed Eyad, former Syrian detainee, has unveiled with a heavy heart the details of his suffering in the Air Force Intelligence prison in the capital, where he had been held for four years between 2012-2016.

 “They were very painful years,” says Mohammed, who preferred to use a pseudonym as his current circumstances do not allow him to reveal his real name. In one of our meetings with him in Muadamiyat al-Sham, the western suburbs of Damascus, Mohammed was not the only one to speak, joined by Marwan and Massoud, two other detainees who were united by the scenes of "unbearable cruelty" in the regime's jails.

 Massoud was arrested at Al-Arbaeen checkpoint on the eve of the outbreak of the major battle the regime launched against Darayya and Muadamiyat al-Sham in November 2012 and was released at the end of the fifth year of the revolution, too. Marwan, despite the short time he spent in prison (not more than two months), lived a bitter experience that made him think he spent more months in imprisonment.

 “In that prison, I got to experience the horrible method the jailers forced us into. It was painful and frightening at the same time,” says Muhammad Iyad, “In which the jailer orders two of the prisoners to torture one another by beating his face. Once a young man from the city of Darayya was the victim, one of his friends was forced to beat him in this way for hours until he died."

 This talk of death led Massoud to recall another method that parallels it in brutality. "On holidays, the jailer would come in and mockingly wishes us happy holidays. ‘I will choose a number of you to get Eidiyah (gift as part of the celebration of Eid) he would say... choosing about 15 people… We were surprised by this apparent change in treatment. But, after only a quarter of an hour things started to get clearer. The poor young men were tortured, hit with a nylon hose on their feet until they all died."

 Marwan, who was imprisoned after the truce between the regime and the rebels of the Muadamiya early 2014, says his arrest was surprising. He passed through the Damascus barriers easily, but at the al-Jadida checkpoint near the capital he was arrested without any reason.

 “I stayed for 8 days in a solitary cell. Then they led me to a hall that was not more than 50 meters long, filled with dozens of prisoners. The surprise was not in the narrowness of the room, but in the prisoners. There were six bodies of detainees who died as a result of torture, malnutrition and disease.”

 "In fact, many of the internees were about to die as a result of medical negligence. For the rest of the time I stayed in the hall, other people died, the bodies living with us for several days, and when the number increases, the jailers come to take them away. It's been a terrible time, I can not imagine how I lived without going mad,” he continues.

 The three witnesses preferred not to publicize their real names because of their security conditions. Mohammad and Massoud recounted their experiences in the Air Force Intelligence prison adjacent to the cities of Darayya and Muadamiyat al-Sham. Marwan was detained in the 215th branch, one of the worst branches of the regime’s security, if not its worst.'

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Sunday, 18 August 2019

Assadist captured pilot in Idlib says orders given to burn land

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 'The Assadist pilot, who was captured on Wednesday (August 14), said, the task of his fellow Assadist pilots was to conduct the scorched land policy before the Assad ground forces could progress towards any town or village in the Idlib countryside.

 Speaking in pictures posted by Hayet Tahrir al-Sham (HTS), Assad Lieutenant Colonel Mohammad Ahmad Suliman, said, Russians gave orders and plans to Brigadier Suheil al-Hasan (The Tiger) to launch attacks on Idlib's town and villages.

 "Brigadier Suheil's campaign depends on the scorched land policy. When he intends to storm any axis or village, the task of the airforce is to burn that axis before he makes any progress. And thus he will advance towards a neutral land," the captured pilot said.

 HTS earlier on Wednesday posted footage of what its militants said was the Assadist pilot whose plane was shot down.

 "My name's Lieutenant Colonel Mohammad Ahmad Suliman. I serve in the Brigade 70. While I was conducting a "Ramz Bayreq Mission" in the east Khan Sheikhoun, my plane was downed. I'm now captured by the opposition fighters," he said.

 Hundreds of airstrikes were conducted on Idlib countryside, killing more than 1000 civilians, injuring dozens of thousands and displacing 400.000 of the population to the north of the major opposition-controlled area.'

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