Unable to halt, much less reverse, the rebel advances, the government
has apparently ordered its air force to make maximum attacks on civilians who
are supporting the rebels. The idea is that the civilians will cease sheltering
and supplying the rebels in order to avoid more of this. On the 29th the air force made its biggest daily effort ever, carrying out 60 attacks in 24
hours. Before that the number of daily attacks had averaged 20 a day and
had stayed at that level for months.
aircraft are using dumb bombs, so they are only effective against large
targets, like residential neighborhoods or villages. Because the rebels now
have portable anti-aircraft missiles, warplanes have to bomb from high altitude
(over 6,000 meters/20,000 feet). That reduces accuracy even more. Each of these
attacks causes, on average, more than 20 casualties. Few of the victims are
armed rebels and most of the attacks are occurring in areas where there are no
government ground troops nearby. This strategy is not working, which the
government already knew, from areas where civilians had been bombed for weeks
and continued to hate the Assad dictatorship. The air raids drive people out of
their homes and some flee the country. But there’s not enough of that to allow
government troops to retake lost ground. The government is desperate and
unwilling to surrender control of the country.
heavier air force effort has been going on for a week now and the warplanes are
wearing out. Even transport helicopters are being used. These cannot use
aircraft bombs so they drop improvised weapons (barrels full of explosives and
scrap metal or oil). Many of these improvised bombs don’t explode and the
scattered fragments tell the tale.
sent in dozens of small UAVs, which are being used to spot targets for
artillery and air strikes. This has made it more difficult for the rebels, who
cannot move around as freely as they used to. The army also has problems
getting around, mainly because the rebels control sections of the highway from
Damascus (where the largest military bases and supply stockpiles are) and
Aleppo (the second largest city, with a population of 2.5 million). In
particular, the rebels took control of Maaret al Numan, in early October. This
town is on the highway and the army has failed in at least three major attacks
to get the rebels out. As long as the rebels block the highway government
troops in the northwest are facing a growing shortage of food, fuel, ammo, and
reinforcements. These shortages hurt morale and encourage more soldiers to
desert. Those who remain begin to think surrender isn’t such a bad idea. Even
some of the officers and NCOs are losing heart, and Basher Assad knows it.
addition to the main highways, the rebels are increasing pressure on air bases
and the artillery units pounding rebel positions. The government now finds that
it has to use more of its dwindling manpower to guard the bases and artillery
units. Moving artillery has now become a major operation because rebels try to
ambush the artillery battalions on the road.
Damascus, in the largest Syrian refugee camps (Yarmouk, population 150,000,
about 30 percent of the Palestinians in Syria), fighting continued between
Palestinians loyal to the camp leadership (a Palestinian terrorist
organization, which has long enjoyed the support of the Assads) and
Palestinians who support the rebels. Palestinians realize that if the rebels
win, and it looks like they will, they will be driven out unless pro-rebel
Palestinians take control of Palestinian refugee camps (which are actually
separate towns or neighborhoods occupied and run by Palestinians). Hamas, the
Palestinian terror group that controls Gaza, had long received support from the
Assads. But under pressure from major donors (oil-rich Sunni Arabs) to oppose
the Iran-backed Assads, Hamas has switched sides. Earlier this year Hamas
moved its headquarters out of Syria and openly denounced the Assaads. Hamas
apparently also told the Syrian Palestinians to oppose Assad if they wanted
Hamas and other Arab states to persuade the new rebel government to allow
“loyal” Palestinians to remain and avoid retribution. Palestinians are 1.7
percent of the population.
the success of the rebels on the battlefield, the U.S. has openly called for a
new rebel leadership group. The Americans believe that the SNC (Syrian National
Council) has been unable to effectively unite all the anti-government factions.
In particular the United States wants a rebel leadership that does not include
Islamic terrorist groups in the rebel coalition. The rebels believe they cannot
do that because the Islamic rebels are the most fanatic fighters and provide
most of the manpower and expertise for suicide attacks. These terrorist attacks
are a major combat advantage for the rebels. At present the rebels believe they
are getting more battlefield assistance from the Islamic terrorists than from
the Americans. Western countries want to intervene but are reluctant to do so
without UN approval and that is being withheld because of the Russian and
Chinese vetoes in the UN Security Council. Many Turks want to intervene but
most don’t. The U.S. has said that it
would intervene if the Syrians used chemical weapons. Arabs are beginning to
blame the West of deliberately not intervening (as they did in Libya) in order
to get more Arabs killed.
1, 2012: In Damascus three bombs went off in a pro-Assad residential
neighborhood. One person was killed and two wounded. Most of the residents were
shaken by the ability of the rebels to get into their well-guarded
30, 2012: For the first time warplanes bombed rebel targets inside Damascus,
the capital and home of the most dedicated Assad supporters. Elsewhere in
Damascus rebels ambushed and killed a senior air force general.
29, 2012: The four-day ceasefire ended, without much cessation of fire. Over
500 people died during the ceasefire, mainly because some rebel factions did
not agree to the ceasefire and kept attacking. Government forces responded with
more artillery fire and air raids. In Damascus two car bombs went off, killing
at least twelve people. Several Syrian artillery shells again fell on the
Turkish side of the border. Nearby Turkish artillery returned fire.
27, 2012: In Aleppo fighting broke out between rebels and 200 Kurdish gunmen
who arrived in a Kurdish neighborhood to, as they put it, celebrate an upcoming
religious holiday. Something went wrong and 22 people were killed and 180
rebels surrendered. The Kurds have so far remained neutral in the civil war,
and if they joined the government it would be a serious defeat for the rebels.
There are believed to be 100,000 armed Kurds in Syria but they are also split
into many factions,
26, 2012: After much effort by the UN, the government and the rebels agreed to
a four-day truce (coinciding with a major Moslem holiday).
25, 2012: Saudi Arabia expelled three Syrian diplomats for unspecified but
apparently inappropriate actions.
Damascus artillery fired into a pro-rebel neighborhood.