Beirut, Asharq Al-Awsat – According to information provided by the opposition Local Coordination Council, the death toll in Syria yesterday topped 160, whilst activists reported that nearly 40 people, including women, had been arrested at a Syrian Army checkpoint. In addition to this, the Syrian army renewed its shelling of Darya, Zamalka, Saqba and Douma in the Rif Dimashq governorate.
The Syrian army also began to shell the town of Hajar al-Aswad and renewed its shelling of Yarmouk Camp which resulted in a mass migration from the area just one week after numerous families had returned. Yarmouk Camp is a Palestinian refugee camp in the Syrian capital Damascus that has been repeatedly attacked by al-Assad regime warplanes throughout the recent period. Yarmouk camp houses Palestinians in addition to Syrians who have been displaced by the fighting.
Clashes intensified in Idlib governorate where Free Syrian Army [FSA] members were able to bring down an al-Assad regime helicopter in Taftanaz. The London-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported that Syrian rebels had attacked the Afis military air base just outside the city, with Observatory director Rami Abdelrahman revealing that Wednesday’s attack was the latest of several attempts to capture the air base. Adelrahman said that the al-Nusra Front and Ahrar al-Sham Brigade were among the units that took part in this attack against the al-Assad-held air base, adding that both sides suffered losses in the fighting.
Fighters on the ground informed Asharq Al-Awsat that the FSA is working to “completely liberate Idlib governorate and purify it from regime forces, particularly now that they are only present in three or four locations.”
The FSA fighters revealed that “Wadi Deif [military base] is surrounded and heavy clashes are taking place there, whilst the Afiz military air base near Taftanaz is witnessing daily violence and the al-Ramiyya camp remains in the hands of the regime forces.”
The FSA sources also told Asharq Al-Awsat that Idlib governorate “occupies a strategically important location and the majority of its residents overwhelmingly support the revolution and the FSA.”
As for the reason behind Idlib governorate’s strategic importance, the FSA sources related this to the governorate’s geographic location, describing this as “a transit point between Turkey and the rest of the Syrian governorates allowing the delivery of supplies and aid to reach the Syrians.”
In addition to this, the village of Hamama in Jist al-Shagour was also shelled on Wednesday, whilst clashes broke out on the outskirts of al-Rami town in Jabal al-Zawiyah.
In Daraa governorate, the opposition Local Coordination Council reported regime shelling of the city of Da’al and al-Malhiya al-Sharqiya. Regime forces clashed with the FSA over army checkpoints in the region whilst the al-Assad regime also heavily shelled the city of Busra al-Harir.
As for Hama governorate, the Local Coordination Council reported heavy shelling of Latamina from a nearby town, as well as rocket-fire targeting Halfaya resulting in a number of casualties. Halfaya was the scene of a previous massacre last month that saw a government air strike targeting a bakery resulting in a large death toll, with some sources reporting that up to 200 people had been killed in the blast.
In Aleppo, heavy clashes continued between regime and rebel forces in Bustan al-Basha. The Local Coordination Council reported that “warplanes fired on the al-Jazmati and Tariq al-Bab districts” adding “clashes also broke out between FSA and regime fighters in the area surrounding Dawar Shihan.” In addition to this, the towns of Hayan and Andan were shelled by regime forces.
In Homs governorate, violent clashes broke out at Krak des Chevaliers [castle] between regime forces and the FSA. Krak des Chevaliers is a crusader castle originally built in the early 11th century and viewed as being one of the most important preserved medieval castles in the world. It has been recognized by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site. In addition to this, regime shelling targeting the city of Homs reportedly led to a number of casualties. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported that “clashes took place in Tilbisa, whilst the regime forces were reinforced along the Damascus – Deir Ezzour road, accompanied by air support from regime forces helicopters.”
MiG warplanes also launched air strikes against the Jabaliya district of Deir Ezzour, accompanied by artillery fire targeting the districts of Jabaliya, Hamidiya and al-Ardi.