Syria: Full Circle

The Syria civil war erupted two-and-half years ago because Bashar al-Assad wouldn’t listen to the demands of protesters and had his security forces shoot at them to suppress the demonstrations. Last night (October 6), the Al Qaeda affiliate, the Islamic State of Iraq and Sham, which has taken over the town of Azaaz near the Turkish border fired at unarmed civilians protesting their takeover of the town.

What a difference a couple of years make! Here is a link to a YouTube video posted this morning.


Assad Unleashes Fuel-Air Bombs On High School

And so it continues. The Russian-brokered deal that would strip President Bashar al-Assad of his chemical weapons – a deal that averted a U.S. airstrike on Syria – appears to have emboldened the regime in launching ever more brutal attacks with “conventional weapons”. On Sunday (September 29), a Syrian government warplane dropped two bombs on a high school in rebel-controlled Raqqa in northern Syria killing at least 16 and wounding 25 others. Many of the killed and injured were teenagers attending their first day of the school year.

As I report for the Daily Beast rights groups believe the bombs dropped were fuel-air ones that detonate in mid-air and create a fireball of burning fuel. A 2000 U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency study compared fuel-air bombs in their violence to chemical weapons. You can read my article here.

Linked Fates of Hizbullah and Assad

Tripoli, Lebanon

From my Daily Beast piece on Hizbullah and Syria.

“For months, the challenges have been severe in ferrying the wounded out of Syria for treatment in neighboring Lebanon. The refugees have braved strafing from Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s warplanes and risked run-ins with the Syrian army. But in recent weeks, the hazardous jouney to transport wounded rebel fighters and injured civilians from war-savaged Syria has turned more perilous, with increasing intervention along the border by Lebanon’s militant Shiite movement Hizbullah.”

Turning More Islamic?

“While the international media focuses on whether al Qaeda has latched onto the escalating Syrian conflict, opposition activists and human-rights observers are less alarmed than the Pentagon about the trickle of foreign fighters arriving in the war-torn country than about the home-grown hardening of sectarian attitudes among Syrians and the adoption by rebels of more muscular Islamist views.” See my Daily Beast dispatch.

Syrian Rebels Trying To Buy Black Market Missiles


“Syrian rebels are redoubling their efforts to acquire portable anti-aircraft missiles following government airstrikes on cities and towns in the north of the country.

In the latest such strike, a Syrian Air Force jet bombed the rebel-held town of Azaz near the Turkish border, killing at least 50 people and wounding more than 100.

Rebel commanders and activists say their buyers are now scouring the arms black markets in the region to get the shoulder-fired missiles that can counter the government airstrikes.”

Read more from my recent VOA dispatch here.

Syrian Rebels Ignore Human Rights Pledge and Torture


From my Daily Beast piece today:

“During a disturbing and at times surreal visit to a detention center in Al Bab in northeastern Syria on August 10, members of the Free Syrian Army (FSA), the main rebel-fighter force, still appeared to be involved in torture and abuse.

Their instruments of pain were on clear display: in the small dusty yard in front of the facility, not far from where guards lounged and smoked cigarettes, wooden sticks and iron bars were scattered in the shade, still coated with blood.”


Syria: A Haunting Rape Testimony


From my latest depressing filing from inside Syria for the Daily Beast:

“She speaks haltingly. Telling the story isn’t easy for the 38-year-old Syrian Sunni Muslim, and she won’t be explicit about the physical details that suggest her friend had been raped before dying….Her story adds to mounting allegations that Syrian forces—most especially the pro-government Shabiha civilian militia, the ultraloyal enforcers of embattled President Bashar al-Assad’s regime—are using sexual violence and rape to terrify and punish rebels.”

Why Rebels Are Finding It Hard To Hang On To Aleppo


Running low on ammunition and faced by a fierce onslaught from President Bashar al-Assad’s forces, rebels from the Free Syrian Army are finding it tough going in Aleppo. I reported on this last week for the Daily Beast. Yesterday, FSA commanders met in Turkey to discuss what to do about the ammunitions crisis but could come up with no immediate solution. They are encouraging brigades with a surplus to share with those running low, hardly a sustainable policy.