Syrian opposition pledges to continue anti-Assad revolution

Russian-brokered deals have paved the way for fighters and civilians to be evacuated from Eastern Ghouta in the past weeks. (Reuters)
Updated 03 April 2018
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Syrian opposition pledges to continue anti-Assad revolution

  • Syrian opposition to Assad's regime vowed to continue the revolution after loosing Ghouta
JEDDAH: The Syrian opposition on Monday pledged to continue the revolution against President Bashar Assad as pro-regime forces drew closer to taking full control of the besieged enclave of Eastern Ghouta.
“What’s happening in Syria isn’t a matter of geography,” opposition spokesman Yahya Al-Aridi told Arab News.
“The uprising in Syria is in the hearts and minds of people who reject the brutal dictatorship (of Assad). We’ll never stop.”
Pro-regime newspaper Al-Watan said in an editorial on Monday that it was a matter of hours until Douma, the last significant center of resistance in Eastern Ghouta, was declared a “town empty of terrorism.”
Backed by Russia, pro-regime forces have scored a series of victories over the opposition in recent years, often through sieges, aerial bombardment and ground offensives that have drawn widespread international condemnation.
“These aren’t Assad victories. This is an occupation achieved with horrible military power against civilians,” said Al-Aridi. “This is the propaganda of the regime and Iran when they talk about victory. It’s immoral.”
His remarks came as the presidents of Russia, Iran and Turkey planned to meet on Wednesday in Ankara for their second three-way summit on Syria.
The meeting follows the first tripartite summit between the three presidents in Sochi last November.
Al-Aridi said: “It’s the start of the revolution all over again — reorganizing and learning from mistakes made… and organizing forces at the political and other levels. We’ll rebuild our efforts on different levels.”
He added: “Our uprising has been peaceful from the very beginning. We didn’t select to carry weapons. We just tried to defend ourselves.”
He said: “The regime created all sorts of pretexts, including terrorism, militias, Daesh and Al-Nusra Front. And it internationalized the Syrian case so it could sideline the people’s main request for freedom.”
US Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, warned President Donald Trump on Sunday against pulling American troops out of Syria, saying it would lead to a resurgence of Daesh and increased Iranian sway in the country.
Al-Aridi said: “The main beneficiary of Daesh is the Syrian regime and those who support it. Iran and Russia used Daesh as a pretext to rescue a falling regime.
He added: “The revival of Daesh, if there is one, will be used again to oppress and suppress and kill people. Daesh is a tool in the hands of dictators.”
He said: “There are different narratives of the deal struck between the people of Douma and Russia. The opposition says the wounded will be taken away for treatment but the people will remain there.
“Russia’s story is different. It wants everybody removed. No final deal has been achieved yet. This is the last thing we heard from our people.”
A Russian-brokered deal had been reported on Sunday for fighters with Jaish Al-Islam, the largest opposition group still in Eastern Ghouta, to leave Douma.
But the fighters have not yet confirmed the agreement, amid reports of divisions within the group as hard-liners refuse to abandon their posts.
In the past few weeks, such deals have seen more than 46,000 people — fighters and civilians — board buses with scant belongings to be driven to the northwest province of Idlib, which is largely outside regime control.
“It isn’t the Syrian regime that has occupied Eastern Ghouta or has full control over it. It’s an Iranian and Russian occupation,” said Al-Aridi.
He condemned “the Iranians with their militias on the ground and their vicious plan, and the Russians with their deadly jets bombing everything in a scorched-earth strategy like what they did in Grozny,” the capital of Chechnya.
“People from the very beginning didn’t select to carry weapons. They chanted for freedom, but the regime resisted with firepower and killed them.”


Assad forces target fighters near Golan Heights

Nearly half of Syria's pre-war population of 23 million have been uprooted from their homes. AP
Updated 16 July 2018
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Assad forces target fighters near Golan Heights

  • Regime forces fired more than 800 missiles at an area between northern Daraa and the Quneitra countryside
  • In Daraa, the evacuation deal will hand over areas held by the fighters for years back to regime control

BEIRUT: Syrian regime forces unleashed hundreds of missiles on an opposition-held area near the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights on Sunday, activists said, the latest phase in an offensive to clear southern Syria of insurgents.
The regime’s push came after it had secured control of most of Daraa province in an offensive that began in June. On Sunday, the first batch of armed fighters and their families left the city of Daraa, the provincial capital, in buses that would take them to the opposition-held Idlib province in the north.
Similar deals in other parts of Syria resulted in the evacuation of thousands of opposition fighters and civilians — evacuations that the UN and rights groups have decried as forced displacement.
Syrian President Bashar Assad said Sunday the success in driving the opposition out of Daraa embodies the will of his army and allied forces to “liberate all of Syrian territories” of “terrorism.”
In recent months and backed by Russian air force, the Syrian regime has restored control of over 60 percent of previously opposition-held territory across the country.
Assad spoke during a meeting on Sunday with visiting Iranian Foreign Ministry official Hossein Jaberi Ansari. Assad’s office said the two agreed that the “elimination of terrorism in most of the Syrian territory has laid the most appropriate ground to reach results at the political level” that could put an end to Syria’s war.
Syria’s regime refers to all armed opposition groups as “terrorists” and accuses the West, Turkey, Israel and regional countries of supporting them.
The statement came a day before President Donald Trump and Russia’s Vladimir Putin are to meet in Finland. Syria is expected to feature highly on the agenda. Russia is a major Assad ally.
In Daraa, the evacuation deal will hand over areas held by the fighters for years back to regime control. Daraa, which lies on a highway linking Damascus with Jordan, was the cradle of the 2011 uprising against Syrian President Bashar Assad.
Since early Sunday, regime forces turned their missiles toward a stretch of land controlled by the armed opposition in northern Daraa and the countryside of adjacent Quneitra.
The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said regime forces fired more than 800 missiles at an area between northern Daraa and the Quneitra countryside, about 4 kilometers, or 2.5 miles, from the frontier with the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights.
The Observatory said government forces advanced on Massharah, a village in Quneitra, and rebels fought back in intense clashes that killed several pro-government fighters. The pro-Syrian regime Central Military Media said a number of insurgents were killed in the clashes.
The Observatory reported airstrikes in Massharah, the first in over a year to hit the Quneitra countryside. It also reported airstrikes in a nearby village in northern Daraa, where regime forces have been trying to retake a key hill there after failing to reach a deal with the fighters. Capturing the hill would enable them to advance on militants in the area linked to Daesh.
Daraa activist Abou Mahmoud Hourani said an estimated 400 members of the armed opposition and their families will be evacuated out of Daraa.
Pro-regime TV Al-Ikhbariya said 10 buses carrying 407 people left for northern Syria.
The station said the evacuation of nearly 1,000 people was likely to be completed by Sunday.