Syria rebels are now recuperating and gathering their bearings in the Lebanon border town of Arsal after the deadly March offensive by Syria’s government in the Qalamoun mountain region. The regime now has control over the disputed region by the Lebanon border and especially the Yabroud province.
For now, Mohammed’s hopes of returning to his own town of Yabrud have been shattered, as the army and its Lebanese ally Hezbollah consolidate their control over much of the Qalamun mountains.
During the last days of the battle for Yabrud, “there was insane shelling. Twelve men died around me, only one other man survived,” said the 26-year-old. “I was taken to Arsal for treatment because the field hospital in Yabrud was not equipped to help me.”
The journey from Qalamun to Arsal, along a dangerous mountain road, was hell. “They drove me here under cover of night for two hours, with the headlights off and a [Syrian air force] helicopter hovering above us,” he said, adding that he was in “immense pain” all the way.
“Then, when I head Yabrud had fallen, I cried for two days,” he said, as he walked slowly clutching his black prayer beads, his dark eyes glowing as he pointed at a rocky hill separating Lebanon from Syria.
“Yabrud is my town, where I have always lived, where my family and friends lived,” added Mohammed, a former marketplace vendor-turned-rebel in the uprising against Assad.
A watch group says 600 members of government troops have died in the Qalamoun offensive. These groups are still pushing into and establishing control over the region. Rebels are also reportedly staging on the border to
Turkey fired at Syria after a rocket hit a mosque near a refugee camp off the Turkish border Monday. Three mortar rounds hitting Turkish soil in Yayladagi, Turkey fired back. One Syrian woman was reported to be injured from the attack.
United States President Obama discussed Syria during his trip to Saudi Arabia and the administration is reportedly in talks of considering covert aid for Syria rebels.
Details of the plan were still being debated this past week, but its likely outlines were described by knowledgeable officials: Syrian opposition forces would be trained in camps in Jordan, northern Saudi Arabia and Qatar. The number of Syrian opposition fighters who would receive training would roughly double, to about 600 per month.
The CIA would oversee training, expanding the program that it currently manages. The administration is still discussing whether U.S. Special Operations forces and other military personnel should play a role. Syrian rebels have argued that Special Operations trainers would provide better help, without the CIA’s political baggage.
The Lebanon Daily Star has more on the United States discussions of furthering Syria rebel aid.
The United Nations has criticized the Syria government over their restrictions on humanitarian aid deliveries into the country. The international organization called the restrictions “convoluted.” The Human Rights Watch also slammed the regime for not complying with the UN humanitarian aid access resolution. Activists are also accusing those in the Red Crescent of bias in aid deliveries.
On the ground
Deadly clashes have brewed in Kassab, on the Turkey border, as government forces push to possibly retake it from rebels.
The Syria government is pounding rebels in the Latakia province off the Mediterranean coast in the northwest. Anti-government group efforts to push into President Assad’s home province are ongoing. Electricity has been cut off by rebels in the area, as per reports.
Fighting in northeast Hasakeh province in Syria has killed 50 people, a NGO reports. Among those killed are Syria rebels and Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) jihadists clashed over a town bordering Iraq Sunday. It was reported that ISIS/ISIL took a town in Hasakeh from al-Qaida supported al-Nusra.
Syria accuses Turkey of sending fighters into their country, claiming foreign fighters ordered from Turkey’s Ankara government has been sent to fight governmental forces in areas such as Latakia.
Public political rifts at last week’s Arab annual summit are most likely to benefit Syria, among other nations in the Middle East. “Heads of state assembled in Kuwait publicly acknowledged they needed to end quarrels that are exacerbating an already catastrophic war in Syria.”
Formerly al-Qaida Islamic State of Iraq and Syria group has been growing to pose as a valid threat to Turkey. Recent events and attacks have risen these worries by the Turkish government and population.
Reasonably distant by land, Iranians start to feel heavy burdens of Syria’s war.
Germany has arrested three over hard-line Syria ISIL group ties in Berlin, Frankfurt and Bonn.
Sectarian divisions are growing in Lebanon’s Bekaa region over Hezbollah involvement in Syria.