|Syrian rebel tanks rolling into the field of battle yesterday|
I have seen tank kills by Syrian rebels using anti-tank guided missiles.
I have also seen rebels driving away tanks captured from Syrian army facilities.
But it is the first time I see rebels in a tank formation rolling into Reef Dimashq (see above my screen grabs from a video posted on YouTube yesterday afternoon).
As I hinted in yesterday’s post, the Syrian rebels seem to have seized back the military initiative, launching major offensives against forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad on several fronts.
They used tanks and heavy artillery to advance to within 12 miles of the Assad family’s mountain hometown of Qardaha in the province of Latakia, according to activists and human rights groups quoted by the Washington Post.
Videos posted by rebel groups on YouTube showed tanks firing on mountain villages and rebel groups raising their flags over captured government positions in four villages belonging to members of Assad’s minority Alawite-cum-Shiite sect.
The Latakia Coordination Committee said scores of Alawites had fled from the countryside into the city.
Charles Lister of IHS Jane’s Terrorism and Insurgency Center said the scale of the offensive, which appeared to be the biggest yet in Assad’s heartland, would come as a blow to the recent confidence displayed by the regime.
|Aleppo's central prison under fire|
Rebels in the northern province of Aleppo are meanwhile pounding Aleppo’s central prison ahead of storming it to free some 4,000 men and women being held there.
They are also threatening to seize Nubl and Zahra, two Shiite villages loyal to Assad. Activists say Assad’s allies, among them fighters from Iran and Hezbollah, had reinforced both villages.
The rebels had earlier revealed a list of six demands, including the surrender of Assad forces and their weapons, followed by a power sharing deal between the villagers and the rebels.
Assad said yesterday the country's crisis can only be solved by using an “iron fist” to eradicate “terror.”
Speaking at an Iftar meal in the countdown to the end of Ramadan, he also dismissed the political opposition as a “flop” that could play no role in solving the country's brutal war.
“No solution can be reached with terror except by striking it with an iron fist,” Assad said.
“I don't think any sane human being would think terrorism can be dealt with via politics… There may be a role for politics in dealing with terrorism preemptively,” but as soon as “terrorism” rears its head, it has to be struck down.
Also yesterday, Assad got cheering words from Tehran, where his Iranian counterpart Hassan Rohani said the Islamic Republic’s strong support of the Syrian president is unflinching.
“No force on earth can destabilize or undermine the deep-rooted, historic and strategic relations between the two friendly peoples and countries," Rohani told Syrian Prime Minister Wael al-Halki, who was in Tehran for the Iranian president’s inauguration.
In New York, Human Rights Watch today said in a press release: “Ballistic missiles fired by the Syrian military are hitting populated areas, causing large numbers of civilian deaths, including many children.
“The most recent attack Human Rights Watch investigated, in Aleppo governorate on July 26, 2013, killed at least 33 civilians, including 17 children.
“Human Rights Watch has investigated nine apparent ballistic missile attacks on populated areas that killed at least 215 people that local residents identified as civilians, including 100 children, between February and July.
“It visited seven of the sites. There were no apparent military targets in the vicinity of seven of the nine attacks investigated by Human Rights Watch. In two cases there were nearby military objectives that may have been the government force’s intended targets, but were not struck in either attack…”