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Syria Live Coverage: Rebel Gains and Civilian Losses Grow

Bomb fall on Aleppo's Streets on Wednesday.
See Also Wednesday's Syria Live Coverage: Insurgents Take Another Airbase --- Next, a Major City?
Syria Analysis: A New Insurgent Alliance --- With New Weapons --- Is Changing the War
Bahrain (and Beyond) Live Coverage: The 2nd Anniversary of the Mass Protests

2125 GMT: Tal 'Arn Attacked. Rebels launched an intense attack against Tal 'Arn, between Al Safirah and Aleppo (map).

This video, posted yesterday, reportedly shows rebels firing an RPG. Several more show RPGs fired from different angles.

This reportedly shows a tank destroyed by an RPG, also posted yesterday:

Heavy fighting today, reportedly the result of an attack on an Assad convoy:

And this video reportedly shows a sneak attack on the convoy. A piece of Assad's armor appears to take a direct hit towards the end of the video:

This appears to be one of the routes that Assad has used to send reinforcements to Al Safira. Last week, rebel positions, mostly ones held by Jabhat al Nusra, came under heavy attack by tank convoys racing down the road. Al Safirah is important because it holds a massive chemical weapons depot, and it's unclear whether the weapons have been moved. The rebels appear to be trying to cut Al Safirah off before moving against the base.

2045 GMT: Air Defense Base Falls in Daraa. One of the locations where new foreign-made anti-tank weapons have been showing up is in el Sahoah, in Daraa province. This is the same location where a military convoy was ambushed and destroyed yesterday. Now, the nearby air defense base (map), a location we've always suspected was the eventual target of the rebel offensive, has fallen.

The video below shows the rebels in possession of the base, including several new tanks and a large surface-to-air missile. The full extent of the weapons looted from the base is still unclear:

Another video shows two destroyed tanks in the road in the town. Another videos shows them riding a newly captured BMP armored troop carrier. Between the destroyed convoy, these tanks, the lost base, and the tanks the rebels captured, the Syrian military's material losses appear to have been significant. Furthermore, the rebels are closer to holding control of the towns east of Daraa. This is significant as the rebels are also attacking Darra city, but seem to be attacking it from the southwest.

1654 GMT: Death Toll Rises. According to the Local Coordination Committees, 73 people have been killed so far today:

19 martyrs in Damascus and its Suburbs, 17 in Homs most of them in Haula, 11 in Aleppo, 10 in Deir Ezzor, 7 in Idlib, 5 in Daraa, 2 in Hasaka, 2 in Hama and 1 in Raqqa.

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

1637 GMT: UN Transition Plan. According to the Lebanese Daily Star, a peace plan is being circulated around the UN, one that would place Syria's Vice President at the head of a senate tasked with transitioning to a new government:

Members of the Syria-based opposition that is tolerated by the regime of President Bashar al-Assad took part in the drafting of the plan, the paper added.

The draft does not elaborate on Assad's fate, though the West and opposition groups calling for his fall have said any talks should lead to his departure.

The plan foresees the creation of a 140-member senate body tasked with leading the dialogue process between the regime and the opposition during a transitional phase, said Asharq al-Awsat.

1629 GMT: Wreckage of Downed Plane. Two videos appear to show the wreckage of one of the aircraft that was reportedly shot down near Kahn Sheikhun. These wrecks crashed near Morek (map), only 7 kilometers from Khan Sheikhun. However, another claim is that a damaged jet was seen near Ma'arrat al Nouman, 28 kilometers to the north. This claim may or may not also be the same burning aircraft filmed somewhere in the countryside of Idlib province.

Regardless of how many jets have been shot down, it seems clear that an aircraft has crashed in Idlib province. We're still trying to identify what type of aircraft it could have been.

1614 GMT: Oil Town Falls to Rebels. As we reported earlier, the oi town of Al Shaddada (map), between Deir ez Zor and Hasakah, has fallen to the Syrian rebels in an attack led by Jabhat al Nusra. The BBC adds details:

Thirty al-Nusra fighters, 100 Syrian soldiers and "dozens" of civilians were killed, the UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reports....

Reuters news agency quoted a spokesman for the main Syrian rebel group, the Free Syrian Army, as saying al-Nusra had overrun state security and military intelligence compounds in al-Shaddada.

The spokesman, Abu Laila, said an army garrison guarding a nearby gas field, al-Ghabsa, had fled as armed opposition units advanced towards al-Shaddada.

Syrian rebels have already been exporting some oil, according to sources, and have used that money to pay fighters or buy supplies. It's unlikely that the oil or gas operations will be back up and running at full production any time soon, though. The real significance of this development is that it's more evidence that Deir Ez Zor is surrounded and al Hasakah is cut off from the regime.

1600 GMT: Regime Loses Multiple Aircraft. As we've been reporting today, there is growing evidence that multiple aircraft were shot down by the rebels today. The video below reportedly shows a jet fighter in flames over Ma'arrat al Nouman, in Idlib province (map). One video was reportedly taken in Khan Sheikhun just south of here (map), and another was only labeled "Idlib countriside." It's hard to tell, but these may be separate jets, which would match the description posted initially by the LCC.

The Guardian, quoting the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, says both were brought down by heavy machineguns.

1523 GMT: Revolutionary Guard Commander Killed - Update. This is a cross-post from our Iran live coverage:

The English-language Khabar Online website suggests that General Hassan Shateri, the Revolutionary Guard commander killed in Syria, “has been assassinated by suspected Israeli agents.”

What's so interesting is that the Syrian opposition appears to be saying the same thing - sort of. Some activists are reporting that Shateri was killed in the Israeli airstrike against a suspected Hezbollah military convoy that was reportedly delivering anti-aircraft missiles from Syria into Lebanon:

1430 GMT: Battle for Damascus. So far today, news from the capital appears to be dominated by news of airstrikes. For instance, the CFDPC, a network of activists working to report the news from Damascus, posts several videos of jets flying over the eastern suburbs, including this video which reportedly shows an Assad fighter dropping a bomb in East Ghouta:

The CFDPC also posts similar vidoes of jets above the eastern suburb of Saqba, and very graphic videos of the carnage, reportedly created by the regime's airstrikes.

This video reportedly shows civilians digging through the rubble after airstrikes hit Kafer Batna, also in the east. Another video, a closeup of the rubble appears to shows a cooking pot, and maybe some other household goods, suggesting that:

Again, the civilians are paying the price for these airstrikes. However, in Kafer Souseh, the Free Syrian Army is reportedly pushing the assault. This video, posted by the LCC, shows a tank, apparently pulling back, in the face of an FSA assault. Kafar Souseh is arguably the rebel gateway into the city, as its most central areas house the heart of the Assad regime, but its outer areas border places that are firmly in rebel control (map):

1311 GMT: Evidence of Rebel Victories. In our initial report, we noted the claim by the LCC that 190 people died yesterday. We neglected, however, to note a much more controversial part of that statement, one that we were uncomfortable posting without backing evidence. That evidence, however, is now arriving. Here is the initial claim:

Clashes between the FSA and the regimes army occurred in 120 point, 2 warplanes were brought down one in Idlib and the other in Qalamoun, the FSA confronted a military convey in Sfereh’s road and destructed few regime’s forces machineries and freed the railroad near Aleppo International Airport . In Daraa the FSA freed Sahaa checkpoint in Jezeh.

Working backwards, we've posted video of the FSA's attack on the convoy in Daraa province, which is very close to Jeezeh, and there are rumors of more fighting in both places. There is a rumor circulating that the rebels have destroyed 3 tanks in Al Safira, an important claim if we can verify it. And we're still searching for images of downed warplanes, but we've seen this video, sent to us on Twitter, which appears to match one of the reports - a downed warplane in Idlib province:

We're still working on all these stories, but they suggest that the rebel offensives across the country are continuing today.

1220 GMT: Insurgent Advance. Insurgents claim that they have taken Al-Shaddadeh, a town near the Iraqi border in Hasakah Province.

Omar Abu Laila, a spokesman for the eastern command of the Free Syrian Army, said units including fighters of the Islamist Jabhat al-Nusra front were now in control of al-Shaddadeh, 46 kilometres (30 miles) south of Hasakah city, after overrunning State security and military intelligence compounds.

0700 GMT: Fighting Continues in Damascus. Intense fighting is reported across Damascus today. We'll post several of the latest updates from the LCC:

Zabadani, Eastern Suburbs:

Damascus Suburbs: Zabadany: Sounds of massive expolosions shake the city in conjunction with fierce clashes between the Free Syrian Army and the regime forces that are reported at the checkpoints of the Public Street.

Douma, northeastern suburb:

Damascus Suburbs: Douma: A number of shells have landed in different areas across the city.

Darayya, western suburb:

Frequented and intensifying shelling using rockets and artillery from the Military barracks and tanks was reported from the checkpoints blockading the city.

0643 GMT: Military Convoy Destroyed in Daraa Province. Activists say they have destroyed an Assad military convoy in Al Sahoah, between Daraa and As Suwayda (map). The video below shows rebels everywhere as the convoy burns and explosions fill the air. It is graphic, as it shows bodes in the street. A second video shows the convoy burning in the distance, the smoke rising above the town.

The town contain an air defense base, and it has reportedly been under attack for days. Also, those "foreign weapons" have been spotted in the area in recent weeks, which could help explain how this attack was so successful.

0638 GMT: UN Aid, Approved by Assad. NPR reports on UN aid getting into northern Syria - foreign aid that was approved by Bashar al Assad himself. The arrival of the aid is needed, but has sparked large protests as it arrived:

0632 GMT: Iranian Commander Killed in Lebanon. Iranian officials have confirmed that General Hassan Shateri, a senior commander in the Revolutionary Guard Corps, has been killed in Lebanon. An Iranian embassy said "terrorist armed groups" were behind his killing, but Hezbollah claimed it was Syrian rebels:

The slain Iranian official led Guard forces in Lebanon and oversaw Iranian-financed reconstruction projects there, according to The Associated Press.

0622 GMT: Heavy Fighting In Daraa City. Rebels advanced on Wednesday in Daraa city, clashing with regime forces in several areas. This video, for instance, shows rebel forces trying to attack the security forces in Daraa. Note that one of the rebels holds what appears to be a M 79 Osa anti-tank weapon - one of the "foreign weapons" that have appeared in Syria, starting in Daraa province, over the last month and a half.

For the latest on the influx of foreign arms see our separate Syria Analysis: A New Insurgent Alliance --- With New Weapons --- Is Changing the War

0600 GMT: Wednesday's Death Toll. Two elements of this war have grown in fury over the last several days - the rebel offensives, and the regime's airstrikes. However, the heavily armed rebels fighting in Syria's streets don't seem to even be the target of most of the airstrikes. Despite the fear that airplanes in the sky breeds in Syria, the rebel advances don't seem to be hampered by the strikes. In fact, rebel heavy equipment and vehicles are visible in or just outside every major city in the country now, operating with near impunity.

On the other hand, civilian deaths are increasing in areas where rebel advances have not been halted. According to the Local Coordination Committees, 190 people were killed on Wednesday, many of them in airstrikes:

56 martyrs in Aleppo; 37 martyrs in Damascus and its suburbs including 14 in Jobar; 28 martyrs in Idlib; 19 in Dier Ezzor; 16 in Homs; 14 in Daraa; 11 in Hama; 14 in Raqqa; 4 in Latakkia; and 1 in Hassakeh.

Fighting continued on the ground as well, as rebels continued their assault on Aleppo International Airport, and targets in eastern Damascus. Meanwhile, to the west of Damascus, Assad airforce, artillery, and tanks attacked Darayya, the focus of Assad's wrath before the new rebel offensive was launched last week.

This video reportedly shows explosions and gunfire, as Assad forces target rebel positions:

The explosions in Darayya lasted well into the night:

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