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Syria Live Coverage: Insurgents Take More Bases as Damascus Hit by Bombs

The wreckage of a regime fighter jet downed by insurgents on Wednesday

See also Syria Analysis: A Threatened Regime Cuts the Internet

Syria Feature: After Insurgent Victories, US Again Considers "Deeper Intervention
EA Video Analysis: Egypt --- A 4-Point Guide to the Political Crisis
Wednesday's Syria (and Beyond) Live Coverage: The Insurgents Challenge the Regime in the Air

Please note our separate Palestine, Egypt (and Beyond) Live Coverage: The UN Votes on Palestinian Statehood

2047 GMT: According to the LCC, 93 people (including 21 children) have been killed across the country today:

51 martyrs were reported in Aleppo (most of them in a massacre in Zebdiya neighborhood); 15 in Damascus and its Suburbs; 8 in Daraa; 6 in Deir Ezzor; 5 in Idlib; 4 in Hama; 3 in Homs; and 1 in Raqqa.

See our note on the casualty figures published by the LCC.

2017 GMT: Syrians are finding many ways to communicate, even though the internet is down. Some have equipment, given to them by the US, that allows them to access the internet anyway. Some are relying on the some-what unreliable cell networks. Others are using dial-up internet connections. Yet others are using satellite uplinks.

Still others are using a technology that allows them to call a number which will tweet their voice message:

1959 GMT: We've been so busy reporting other dramatic developments that a true human tragedy has been lost in the news. The LCC says barrel bombs hit the Zebdiya/Ansari area of south-central Aleppo city, killing at least 20 people and injuring 80 others. The barrel bombs hit homes, so many children were directly affected. This video shows the immediate aftermath:

Another video shows "a mother" pulled from the rubble and put in an ambulance - though it's hard to see her condition or if she is alive. Another shows a rescued little girl. Another little girl is not so lucky - the video shows her limp body brought from the wreckage of her home in a bucket trucks and draped with a burial cloth. And another appears to show a dead little boy, though he may just be unconscious - his injury is obviously serious.

And then there is this tragic video, described here by The Guardian:

The cameraman arrives on the scene on a motorbike. He runs to an area of smoke and rubble. He says today's date. Visibility is low. Others are crying out for survivors. The first terribly wounded victim the cameraman comes upon is a child. The video is 19 minutes long.

Viewer discretion is advised.

A note - a boy who may be that "dead little boy" we described above is found, alive, near the 1:42 mark on the video.

In videos like these we see the worst, and the best, that this crisis has to offer - as untold human suffering is met with courageous efforts of those who would help the helpless.

1925 GMT: On another day, we would be very unlikely to post a video this short. Videos are often kept short in order to hide information, like the real location, or the language being spoken by the people in the video. However, the video comes from a Youtube channel that has been fairly reliable. Furthermore, the amount of videos uploaded from Syria today is down significantly, it seems, so it's possible that, with the internet down, the video upload was shortened for some reason.

Most importantly, we post this video because it could be significant - this looks to us as if an anti-tank missile is being fired at this Assad tank, reportedly a T82 in, we believe, Aleppo:

This is not the first anti-tank missile we've seen in Syria, but if the FSA has a lot of these, then this would pose a significant threat to the Assad military.

1910 GMT: Egypt Air has suspended all flights to Damascus from now on, according to Egypt's official news agency, via Reuters.

1905 GMT: EA's John Horne reports:

Hezbollah has issued a statement condemning recent bombings in both Syria and Iraq. The statement refers to yesterdays bombings which reportedly killed at least 54 people, and wounded 120 others, in the predominately Christian and Druze town of Jaramana near Damascus, as well as bombings today's in Iraq which targeted Shi'a pilgrims and security forces, leaving at least 45 dead and 205 injured. Hezbollah's statement, which equates the attacks in the two countries, reads in part:

Terrorists attacked the civilians in Syria and the pilgrims in Iraq on Wednesday and Thursday, killing and injuring dozens of them and causing more pain and instability for the two countries.

The senseless killing and terrible blood shedding of innocent people is the execution of a Western devilish will.

We hold the Arab and western military support of gunmen responsible for the explosions in the Damascus suburbs.

Is the humanitarian aid provided by some Lebanese figures contributing to bringing democracy, prosperity, and peace to the Syrian people?

Both sides in Syria are blaming the other for the bombings in Jaramana. Yesterday, France 24 spoke to Nabil in Damascus who was visiting friends in Jaramana at the time of the explosions. Nabil :

The majority of the inhabitants in Jaramana belong to the Druze sect [a heterodox offshoot of Islam] or are Christians. [There are also Palestinians and Iraqis]. But since the beginning of the Syrian crisis, there has also been an influx of people who were forced to leave their homes in other suburbs of Damascus due to fighting. They moved to Jaramana because it was, relatively speaking, quite safe. The locals allowed people seeking refuge or medical aid to come in. So it’s difficult now to differentiate between those supporting the regime and those against it.


This is not the first time there’s an explosion in Jaramana. There was an explosion nearly three months ago, then a series of explosions one month ago. These attacks followed threats from members of the Free Syrian Army [the rebel army], who asked the district’s residents to support them – or else.

Now, both sides are blaming each other for trying to intimidate Jaramana residents into picking sides. While there is no way to know who is behind the attack, these explosions definitely seemed like a warning to the people: you have to take sides now.

1832 GMT: The Associate Press reports that sources inside the American government have told that that the US is set to recognize the National Coalition as the official representatives of the Syrian people:

The new status would be accompanied by pledges of more humanitarian and non-lethal aid for the opposition, but not US arms support.

Already, the last sentence is telling - this is hardly a shift from the current status quo, especially considering the pace with which the military situation on the ground in Syria is changing.

1826 GMT: More notes from John Horne who is watching Nuland's speech:

Question - How does the communications equiptment get there:

Nuland: "As you know we have quite a number of opposition figures who are able to move in and out of Syria, particularly as the regime loses control of broad swathes of border. I don't want to get into it more specifically than that.

"We also maintain, through Ambassador Ford and the embassy's network, broad contacts with political figures and emerging leaders across Syria. We are particularly seeking to maintain [links] to LCC leaders in councils that have sprung up in towns across Syria.

"Many are starting to take up the slack where the regime is no longer able to provide services, everything from refuse collection to [maintaining law & order]."

1820 GMT: EA's John Horne has been watching a speech by US State Department spokesperson Victoria Nuland, and she has made some statements that caught his attention. Here's a partial transcript:

"We have been learning from Local Coordination Committees inside Syria over the last dayor so that the regime does seem to be resorting to cutting off all sorts of communication... all across the country. Obviously we condemn this latest assault on the Syrian people's ability to communicate...


"Yes, we've provided some 2000 communication kits since this effort began. these are all kinds of things - computers, cameras, phones - they are all designed to be independent from and circumvent the Syrian network .... precisely to keep them free from regime tampering, interference and interception.

1807 GMT: Activists have been reporting a major Assad military operation south of Damascus, near the international airport. Al Jazeera English carries a report from Syrian State media:

Syrian state media say Damascus airport road has been "secured" after military intervention in the area.

1801 GMT: Another hard-working Syria watcher finds the first video that claims to show the FSA in possession of equipment taken from Deir Ez Zor airport (see entry 1659 GMT):

1748 GMT: There are reports from many activists that the Free Syrian Army has shot down an Assad attack helicopter in Binnish, Idlib. While no videos of the downed aircraft have been found by EA yet, several videos do claim to show an attack helicopter making strafing and rocket strikes against the city below:

1734 GMT: Michael Weiss, who has been in northern Syria as well as turkey and has many contacts in both locations, reports:

1710 GMT: EA's John Horne reports:

Syria's Information Minister has denied government responsibility for cutting off internet. According to AlArabiya, the minister said that they are currently working on fixing the problem.

On the other hand, there is more evidence that the government, not any other party, "flipped the kill switch" on the internet:

An interesting update from Renesys, who have been monitoring the situation concerning the internet. It suggests that five Syrian networks are still connected to the internet and these networks include servers "that were implicated in the delivery of malware targeting Syrian activists in May":

Looking closely at the continuing Internet blackout in Syria, we can see that traceroutes into Syria are failing, exactly as one would expect for a major outage. The primary autonomous system for Syria is the Syrian Telecommunications Establishment; all of their customer networks are currently unreachable.

Now, there are a few Syrian networks that are still connected to the Internet, still reachable by traceroutes, and indeed still hosting Syrian content. These are five networks that use Syrian-registered IP space, but the originator of the routes is actually Tata Communications. These are potentially offshore, rather than domestic, and perhaps not subject to whatever killswitch was thrown today within Syria.

These five offshore survivors include the webservers that were implicated in the delivery of malware targeting Syrian activists in May of this year.

1707 GMT: An unconfirmed report from a journalist who has been covering developments in Syria closely:

This could be significant - it may not be. There have been military campaigns ongoing in the area for days. Still, Zaid is not typically over-alarmist - we will monitor the situation closely.

1659 GMT: For (I hope) obvious reasons EA, and the media, has been focused on Damascus today, but there may be huge news several hundred miles away.

Before the reports of the internet going down, I had received many reports of fierce fighting, accompanied by equally fierce shelling and bombing, in and around Damascus. Activist social media sites echoed those reports. Now the LCC, a prominent and reliable source, has a rather remarkable claim:

The Free Syrian Army has taken over three armored personnel carriers and ammunitiion belonging to the regime after clashes at the airport.

If insurgents are overrunning the airport in Deir Ez Zor, the regime may lose a significant base - perhaps its most significant base in eastern Syria.

The LCC also posted several videos of damage from bombs dropped on Mohasan, just 10-13 kilometers from Deir Ez Zor airport (map).

1647 GMT: Reuters, via Guardian, reports that the fighting may only be 3-4 kilometers from the international airport in Damascus:

Rebels and activists said the fighting along the road to Damascus airport, southeast of the capital, was heavier in that area than at any other time in the conflict.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a opposition monitoring group, said clashes were particularly intense in Babbila, a suburb bordering the insurgent stronghold of Tadamon.

Nabeel al-Ameer, a spokesman for the rebel Military Council in Damascus, said that a large number of army reinforcements had arrived along the road after three days of scattered clashes ending with rebels seizing side streets to the north of it.

"There are no clashes directly around the airport; the fighting is about 3 or 4 kilometers away," he said via Skype, adding that rebels had taken control of many secondary roads and were expected to advance towards the airport.

1635 GMT: Two Austrian soldiers have reportedly been injured following a gun battle in Damascus. An Austrian journalistm, Isabelle Daniel, confirms on twitter that she spoke to the Austrian Defense Ministry and "it's official". A report, translated through google, carries the details that the soldiers were injured at around 14:50 local time today. They were in Damascus to fly back to Austria as part of an exchange of UN soldiers. The soldiers were reportedly "caught in a battle between rebels and the Syrian army and were fired upon". They suffered an injured arm and shoulder and are currently being treated. A vehicle in their convoy was also "badly damaged", whilst other "Austrian soldiers were brought to safety".

1630 GMT: The video is nearly impossible to make out, but this was reportedly taken in Tafas, Daraa, at sunset. A tank can be heard coming closer, and gunfire makes the cameraman go prone, but suddenly two quick beeps - and an explosion, reportedly a remote-detonated IED which destroys the Assad armored vehicle:

1614 GMT: EA's Scott Lucas reports:

The Local Coordination Committees has put out a statement about "the criminal Syrian regime cut[ting] all communications (cellular networks, landlines and the internet service) in most areas of Damascus...and in its suburbs. In addition, communications were cut in most areas in the governorates of Hama, Homs, Daraa; in all areas in the governorates of Tartous and Swaida; and in some cities in Deir Ezzor and Raqqa."

The LCC adds that it "would like to remind the Syrian people that it is possible to connect to the internet via the dial-up service" provided via Telecomix.

One activist assures, "Syria will not 'go offline', we have prepared for this since we saw what happened to Egypt. Revolutionary media centers will update as usual."

However, journalist Amal Hanano is worried: "We fear what we will find when the internet is switched back on."

1613 GMT: EA's John Horne has an update on the Damascus airport:

EgyptAir has cancelled its planned flight to Damascus tomorrow. Speaking to Reuters, an official at Cairo airport said the decision was because of the "deteriorating situation" in the capital. The official added that the airline will shortly be holding an emergency meeting with Egyptian officials to discuss the possibility of stopping all flights between the two countries.

1606 GMT: Journalist Brian Whittaker shares a chart showing the point where Syrian internet traffic today suddenly took a plunge:

1558 GMT: Why has the regime cut the internet? To understand a possible answer, one has to understand the duality of the insurgency.

The insurgency has many pieces, but to oversimplify it comes in two varieties. The first is what we see in Deir Ez Zor, or Aleppo, or Idlib province - a semi-functional military apparatus, either coordinated at the brigade level or on a larger scale, operating to win military victories, destroy Assad resources, and capture bases, equipment, and territory. This element to the FSA has been building for many months, and has not really lost a battle since September - and the longer trend is that it has been advancing steadily since June. However, in recent weeks, this force has exploded onto the scene in a series of one-sided victories from Damascus to Aleppo, from al Raqqah to Deir ez Zor, and beyond.

But in Damascus in particular there has been a creeping threat - while there is no place for a traditional military to hide, insurgents have been eating away at the Assad regime for many months. Despite efforts to put them down, insurgents have been able to hit regime targets and then melt away into the civilian populations, operating very much like insurgents in Iraq, or even South Vietnam - or even our own revolution (Google the "Minute Men.").

For the rest of this analysis, see Syria Analysis: A Threatened Regime Cuts the Internet

1521 GMT: Another video, this one taken earlier than our last, of the smoke rising over western Damascus:

Smoke rising as a result of aerial shelling in the Kafarsouseh and Daraya areas of Damascus.

And a reliable source posts this picture of Damascus right before sunset:

1512 GMT: Away from Damascus, to the south, we've been tracking the fighting in Tafas for several days. It's hard to tell who has the upper hand, but it is now clear that the fighting there is not hit-and-run style insurgency attacks. The FSA is making a stand to take the city from a rather sizeable Assad military force.

This video shows a group of insurgents defending a street:

And this video reportedly shows the FSA hitting a T-72 with an RPG (though it's not as clear what they hit):

1505 GMT: Many sources report intense bombing in many areas in and around Damascus. Now this video claims to show Kafer Souseh, just a few kilometers west of the heart of Assad's power - we believe this was taken around sunset, which means that it may be less than an hour old:

1456 GMT: According to Flight Radar 24, there are no planes in the air over Syria right now:

The only editorial note - we don't have a reference of what normal traffic would look like. However, it is clear that today is not normal.

So far, however, says that the only flight that has been cancelled to or from Damascus international is the Dubai flight which we already reported.

1452 GMT: An update, from Renesys, on the internet - which is almost entirely down nationwide:

77 networks experienced an outage in Syria starting at 10:26 UTC on November 29. This represents 92% of the routed networks in the country.

100% of the networks in this event reached the Internet through: Syrian Telecommunications Establishment (AS29386).

1446 GMT: Is the Damascus airport closed? Egypt air has delivered passengers but has halted all other service:

Airport sources in Cairo said an Egypt Air flight that left at 1:30 pm (1130 GMT) had landed in Damascus as scheduled.

"The Egypt Air plane has arrived ... and passengers are all safe but the pilot was instructed to take off back to Cairo without passengers if he felt that the situation there is not good to stay for longer," an official at Cairo airport said.

Meanwhile, there is confirmation that all internet service in Syria is down, according to the latest Renesys report:

Starting at 10:26 UTC (12:26pm in Damascus), Syria's international Internet connectivity shut down. In the global routing table, all 84 of Syria's IP address blocks have become unreachable, effectively removing the country from the Internet.

We are investigating the dynamics of the outage and will post updates as they become available.

1438 GMT: More news from Damascus. Al Jazeera reports fighting on the main road leading to the airport:

Fighting between rebels and government troops has forced the closure of the main road leading to Damascus airport.

The UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said clashes were particularly intense in Babbila, a southern suburb bordering the rebel stronghold of Tadamoun.

There are rumors that the entire airport is closed. That's not clear, though there is clarification of an earlier report - the Emirates airline says it has stopped flights because "the safety of our passengers and crew is of the highest priority and will not be compromised."

1433 GMT: More interesting international news we'll have to follow up on:

1421 GMT: Less than an hour ago this livestream ended, reportedly taken in Darayya, west of Damascus. The scene - massive devastation, and residents evacuating wounded children out of a nearby home:

The LCC has posted graphic video of a dead child in the city.

Speaking of the Local Coordination Committees, they report that 51 people have been killed already today across Syria:

29 martyrs were reported in Aleppo (most of them in a massacre in Zebdiya neighborhood); 7 in Daraa; 6 in Damascus and its Suburbs; 4 in Hama; 2 in Idlib; 1 in Homs; and 1 in Deir Ezzor.

See my note on the casualty figures published by the LCC.

This number will rise, as Damascus, and Idlib province, are currently being hammered by Assad airpower.

1359 GMT: BREAKING: According to LBCI News, "Emirates airlines suspends its flights to Damascus until further notice."

To be clear, while some may look at this as a political issue, framing it in a political battle between the Gulf States and Syria, it is likely far more significant - with rumors that the FSA has been attacking Assad positions near the Damascus International Airport off and on for days, it's likely that safety, not politics, is the reason for this disruption in service.

If other airlines follow suit, it could signal that these airlines believe the airport may be a site of a military battle in the following days.

There are more signs that normalcy has been significantly disrupted in Damascus. Despite all the violence, and the sanctions, Damascus has become the business hub of the country, especially since Aleppo has been so heavily disrupted. Today, there are many reports that internet and cell service have been disrupted:

Did the government cut the internet and cell networks? If so, this is a sign that the government is putting the capital into an emergency footing.

It's a phrase we've used before, but Damascenes - welcome to the "new normal."

1315 GMT: NATO is set to make a decision as early as next week as to whether Patriot missiles will be deployed to Turkey's border with Syria. While Patriot missiles alone cannot properly establish a total no-fly zone of even areas in the north of Syria, they have proven effective against aircraft before - because as recently as 2003, they have accidentally been used to shoot down friendly aircraft. For whatever reason, the media keeps dismissing the Patriot missile as purely anti-ballistic weapons technology, despite the fact that they were originally designed to shoot down aircraft.

Regardless, without jet-fighter patrols, even a partial no-fly zone will be somewhat ineffective. However, the real question is that with Patriots deployed to the other side of the border, and with the FSA having proven it can effectively use shoulder-fired anti-aircraft weapons, will this move deter the Syrian airforce from operating near the Turkish border?

Possibly - in fact, until this week, the Syrian airforce appeared afraid to fly too close to the border out of consideration that Turkey may fire on their planes. Now, with Assad's military foundering, the Assad airforce appears to be recalculating. The bombing of the olive press factory, just miles from Turkey, several days ago is the strongest evidence of this. Will Assad recalculate again with NATO Patriots just a few kilometers from his flight path?

1301 GMT: According to activists, the top member of the ruling Baath party in the south of the country has been killed in an assassination-by-car-bomb in Daraa:

Early Thursday, rebels detonated a car bomb near the house of Hussein Rifai in Daraa, the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said, killing Rifai and his bodyguards. The Observatory relies on reports from activists on the ground.

Syria state-run SANA news agency reported the bombing in Daraa. It said there were casualties in the blast, but did not say if Rafai was among those killed.

To our knowledge, we cannot remember a car bombing like this one in Daraa.

Though arguably no area in Syria has been involved in this conflict longer than Daraa, the insurgency is just starting to challenge the Assad military in the region. This is perhaps a sign of things to come in the southern city.

James Miller takes over today's live coverage. Thanks to Scott Lucas for getting us started today.

1005 GMT: Human Rights Watch has criticised insurgents for employing children in combat roles in at least three brigades.

Children as young as 14 had transported weapons and supplies and acted as lookouts, while those as young as 16 had carried arms and fought against regime forces.

Human Rights Watch based its claims on interviews with five boys between the ages of 14 and 16 Homs, Daraa, and Idlib Province. In addition, Human Rights Watch interviewed three Syrian parents who said their sons under 18 had remained in the country to fight.

0935 GMT: In a possible signal that it will authorise the arming of Syrian insurgents next year, the European Union has suspended the continuation of a ban on military supplies to any side in the conflict.

The ban was due to expire on 1 December, and a 12-month extension had been proposed.

However, Britain tabled a proposal for renewal only to 1 March. With support from France, and despite opposition from Sweden, the Czech Republic, and Belgium, the measure was adopted.

"This sends a strong message to the regime that all options remain on the table and make clear the need for real change," a British government spokesman said. "The regime's indiscriminate use of violence against their people will not be ignored."

However, London kept its options open, with a Foreign Office official saying that the move "did not pre-judge decisions that will be taken in three months".

0525 GMT: Insurgents made further advances on Wednesday, seizing another base south of Aleppo, the second taken in two days in that area. The victory accompanies seizure of bases and positions across the north, over to Deir Ez Province on the Iraq border, and near Damascus this month.

Opposition fighters also downed a regime fighter jet near Daret Ezza in Aleppo Province, capturing the injured pilot. It was the second notable success in the air in two days, after a surface-to-air missile was successfully used for the first time to strike a helicopter.

The insurgent gains followed the morning's big news of a double car bombing in the southern Damascus district of Jaramana, killing 34 people and injuring 83. There has been no claim of responsibility, as State media blamed "terrorists" and opposition groups claimed the regime had staged the incident.

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