Syrians share their stories and thoughts about fleeing the Armenian town of Kessab, which is now under rebel control on the Turkey border and is being sought after by government forces, with the Los Angeles Times:
“We escaped with the clothes on our back,” said one of those who eventually made it to Lebanon. […]
“We knew we would be butchered if we stayed,” said George, 45, a displaced Kasab resident now living in Beirut’s Bourj Hammoud neighborhood. […]
“I telephoned my house and someone answered, ‘We are Jabat al Nusra,'” recalled Maral, 40, still stunned at the turmoil that has torn apart her once tranquil family life. “They are helping themselves to our food, to our homes.”
The day of the attack, she noted, was Mother’s Day in Syria. Many had prepared pastries and other treats.
She and others bemoan their current predicament: dependence on the generosity of relatives and friends, the inability to enroll children in schools, the absence of homes where most resided all their lives — all of the unfortunate realities of life as a refugee, now so familiar to multitudes of Syrians. That they are better off than many Syrian refugees living in tents and abandoned buildings is of little consolation.
“People have been very kind to us, they are sharing everything,” said Maral, a mother of three. “But Kasab is our home, not here. We all dream about Kasab. We dream about what we left behind.”
Lebanese militant group Hezbollah remains loyal and confident of Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad. They believe he will rule on for a long time. They also say Western nations must accept that they have gotten used to a stalemate and won’t help. Rebels won’t admit a defeat but Assad is having strong success in remaining in control, they say.
On the ground
Two car bombs hit the city of Homs Wednesday and killed 25, wounding many more.
“Units of the Syrian army have now accomplished their operation in the Rankous area and restored security and stability after eliminating a large number of terrorists,” Syria’s state news agency reported on government forces taking back Rankus in the Qalamoun region by the Lebanese border.
Formerly al-Qaida affiliated Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS/ISIL) has lost ground by the Iraq border against their opposite jihadist groups, such as al-Qaida backed al-Nusra and its allies, in Syria. The fighting resulted in 24 people dead.
ISIS has been reported to be taking back Albu Kamal after being pushed out earlier this year. The Free Syrian Army says they still control and run the Syria-Iraq crossing at Al-Qaim despite the ongoing ISIS clashes on both sides and in various villages between Syria and Iraq.
The battle for Ghouta, a Damascus suburb, continues on. The town is well known internationally as it was recognized as an area where a chemical attack occurred last August. Rebels hold their footing and claim government forces are trying to capture Mieha. [Read the full interview of an Atlantic fellow at Syria Deeply on Ghouta]
Lebanese patriarch suggested housing Syrian refugees in Syria on Wednesday, recognizing issues in Lebanon as the country welcomed the millionth Syrian refugee last week.
“Why not install some camps for them in Syrian territory where there is security? The area of Syria is 20 times greater than that of Lebanon,” he said. “There is plenty of spare space in secure terrority or at least to facilitate the passage of humanitarian aid in no man’s land between the borders of Lebanon and Syria.”
Ordinary Lebanese had welcomed the Syrians but were now paying a price for doing so, he said. “They take all the work from the Lebanese people and the Lebanese are chased out. It’s not possible.”
Some time after the patriarch’s comments, it was announced 20 Syrian refugee families residing in Lebanon had returned to Syria’s Flita Thursday after government forces had taken it back from rebels.
Syria’s opposition, just as the number of refugees hit a million in Lebanon, sees the upcoming Lebanon election as a life or death matter. They are aiming for a presidency that leans more towards their side and not necessarily on Assad’s.
Sheikh Naim Qassem of Hezbollah stated, “I expect that the stalemate will continue in the Syrian crisis because of the lack of an international and regional decision to facilitate a political solution.”
#SaveAleppo, Syria’s cry for help.
Local initiatives, including homemade yogurt, tackle unemployment in Damascus and across the country.
An “American jihadist,” Eric Harroun, died in Arizona after being arrested and charged by the FBI for spending time with the Free Syrian Army. A football Lokomotiv Moscow player Lassana Diarra publicly denied rumors he became a jihadist in the Syrian war, saying he “never set foot into Syria. “