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Entries in Idlib (13)


Syria Analysis: Chemical Weapons Attack --- Is This Plastic Canister A Vital Clue?

Update: A new video (above) of the canister that allegedly carried a cehmical weapon in Saraqib.


Despite increasing reports that Assad's forces have used chemical weapons attacks against insurgents, so far there has been no concrete evidence. A video taken yesterday of a small piece of plastic, burned up deep inside Syria's warzone, may actually contain a vital clue as to whether forces loyal to Assad have deployed chemical agents.

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Syria Live Coverage: The Insurgents Capture a Major Airbase

An insurgent-controlled tank forces its way into the Taftanaz airbase

See also Syria Audio Analysis: Swapping 2130 Civilian Prisoners for 48 Iranian "Pilgrims" --- Scott Lucas with Monocle 24
Turkey (and Beyond) Live Coverage: Three Kurdish Officials Killed in Paris Attack
Wednesday's Syria Live Coverage: A Mass Killing in Idlib Province?

1930 GMT: Taftanaz. Claimed footage of the insurgent attack on the last building held by regime forces on the Taftanaz airbase:

1910 GMT: Taftanaz. State news agency SANA dismisses reports of the insurgent takeover of Taftanaz airbase in a two-sentence report:

The guards of Taftanaz airport in Idleb countryside repelled a terrorist group that tried to storm into the airport on Thursday. The guards inflicted heavy losses upon the terrorists, killing and injuring a number of them, while the rest fled.

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Syria Analysis with Videos: The Insurgent Advances Across the Country

Free Syria Army units in control of an artillery piece and other equipment, reportedly in northern Idlib province, where the base of the Regular Army's 46th Regiment was located:

UPDATE: More video has been added to the bottom of this entry:

In Idlib and Aleppo Provinces, the Free Syrian Army is expanding its hold on territory and has not suffered a military setback in these two regions in more than two months. The insurgents are no longer lightly armed, accelerating the pace of their advance.

In Damascus, the regime still holds the upper hand, and the probability of a sudden collapse of the Assad strength is minimal. However, the Free Syrian Army is still winning battles. Despite intense bombing campaigns by the regime, the FSA is keeping Assad forces on the defensive in some locations.

Having to concentrate on the capital, the stretched regime forces have failed to retake Ma'arrat al Nouman, the key in the northwest to Aleppo and Idlib. Assad forces appear to be retreating in the east, with only one remaining airbase in Deir Ez Zor Province.

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Syria Analysis: Have Insurgent Victories Broken The Stalemate?

Free Syrian Army soldiers inspect a destroyed tank in Jisr al Shughour in Idlib Province

In the last week, the Free Syrian Army has won a series of victories in Idlib Province in the northwest and just outside Damascus, eroding the position of the Assad regime.

Is this the end of the story of "stalemate"?

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MENA Video Special: The Biggest and Most Important Protests are in Syria

Protesters in the Syrian city of Kafranbel hold a placard reflecting the focus of their concerns (Source).

See also Syria (and Beyond) Live Coverage: Re-Focusing on the Conflict
Syria Video Feature: Inside the Al-Farouq Brigade (Mani/Channel 4)

The past forty-eight hours has been a tense time in the Middle East and North Africa, following the anti-American violence in Egypt and Libya which resulted in the death of a US Ambassador. However, whilst there have been demonstrations in many countries against the US-produced film deemed blasphemous to Islam by many, these protests have been notably small in number and comparatively peaceful. Widespread regional demonstrations had been anticipated today, following Friday prayers. However at present, despite incidents in Sudan and Lebanon, and clashes in Egypt, protests against the film are failing to rally large numbers of people.

In Syria, the focus is different and the story is different. There, we are seeing large, peaceful and motivated protests against the Assad regime. Indeed, the largest, most widespread, likely the most peaceful, and definitely the most dangerous protests today are in Syria - not elsewhere in the Middle East. While protesters elsewhere are focused on a Youtube video created by an individual in the United States, Syrians are using their own YouTube videos to oppose the Assad regime.

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Syria Snap Analysis: Deir Ez Zor & Human Rights Watch is a comment on the article I wrote last night, Syria Special: Welcome to Phase Two Insurgency, responding to today's news.

Basically, I argue that the Free Syrian Army has reached a new level of sophistication in their attacks, and have entered a stage that will be characterized by ambush attacks, improvised explosive devices, and other guerrilla tactics. I also respond to Joshua Landis' claim that we are likely to see more terrorism and a move towards a more sectarian opposition. Basically, I argue that the terrorism that is on the rise in Syria doesn't seem to be directly linked to the main-stream opposition (a major difference from Iraq or Afghanistan) and so far the most sectarian violence is evident in Homs and Idlib, but it is fairly isolated.

But there are two developments today that intersect my article.

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Syria (and Beyond) Live Coverage: More Opposition, in More Places

One of Saturday's marches in the Bahraini capital Manama, broken up by police with tear gas and sound grenades (see 1745 GMT)

See also Saudi Opinion: Hamza Kashgari, "Blasphemy", and the Two Sides of Islam
Egypt Anniversary Opinion: J'Accuse the Military Rulers and Muslim Brotherhood
Friday's Syria (and Beyond) Live Coverage: Protests Amidst the Regime's Assault?

2100 GMT: Anti-Assad regime protest in Trafalgar Square, London.

2030 GMT: Two American women accused of aiding anti-government activists deported from Bahrain

2020 GMT: Higher Revolutionary Council of Syria says that the death toll rises to 67 across the country and the army tries to storm Baba Amro district in Homs.

2000 GMT: It is claimed by Al Arabiya English that Saadi Qaddafi is arrested in Niger.

1925 GMT: According to CNN, the United States is increasing intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance operations over Syria. A senior official says: "There are media reports but we also want to verify exactly what is happening."

1900 GMT: Exchange of fire between two rival factions, the Sunni Muslims and the Alawite sect in Lebanon leaves one from each party dead and 12 wounded. 

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Syria Snap Analysis: What the Massacre in Homs Means

Dany Abdul Daym talks to CNN while shells fall in Homs

See also Syria 1st-Hand Video: Inside Homs Before the Massacre
Syria Video Special: The Dead, Dying, and Injured in Homs
Syria (and Beyond) Live Coverage: Hundreds Dead in Homs as Regime Strikes

Last night, after two days of relative calm, there were reports that the Free Syrian Army had won some key positions in the Bayada district in northern Homs and captured perhaps 75 regime soldiers. There have also been reports of several major defections in the area, and despite a week of losses, the opposition had used a few captured armoured vehicles to score strategic victories. It appeared that the FSA was still standing its ground.

By this morning, as many as 300, or perhaps even more, were dead in Homs. Wholesale shelling of the city has reportedly flattened whole neighbourhoods, including a major hospital. The shelling lasted 12 straight hours, and reports of violence continue, with more than 60 killed on Saturday. There are also assertions that a major military convoy is headed to Zabadani.

The Syrian regime is trying to remind the world, the United Nations, its people, and members of its own military that it is still powerful and capable of holding control over its own territory.

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Syria (and Beyond) Live Coverage: The Regime Strikes Back

2200 GMT: Meanwhile, large evening protests are reported in Raqqa, Syria. This video is reportedly from one of those protests:

2150 GMT: The rocks in this picture used to be a fairly high wall on Mohamed Mahmoud Street, surrounding the Interior Ministry. This is all that is left, according to activists Tweeting from the street:

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Syria Video Special: "We'll Continue until the Regime is Toppled"

Today was busy, and with so many dramatic pictures, videos, and nuggets of news, the scale of the protests can easily be overlooked. In the liveblog, we have focused on the violence, but what occurred this Friday, like many others, was another mass demonstration of peaceful protesters, in nearly every corner of the country, demanding the resignation of those responsible for the violence.

See Also, Syria, Bahrain, Libya (and Beyond) LiveBlog: Watching the Protests

7. Homs at Night

6. Homs by Day

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