Syrian fighters ready final assault on Suleiman base
Syrian fighters ready final assault on Suleiman base
Their optimism has been buoyed by a steady stream of defectors from the ranks of the several hundred troops defending the strategic base, the last major garrison still in army hands between the border and Syria’s northern metropolis.
“We have been besieging the base for nearly two months, the 300 or 400 soldiers entrenched inside are in a desperate situation,” rebel commander Sheikh Tawfik told AFP.
“Many have deserted. Just this morning five more escaped — they are with us now,” beams the bearded commander, whose authority is now unquestioned in the nearby town of Qabtan Al-Jabal.
The base sprawls over nearly 200 hectares of rocky hills about 25 km west of Aleppo.
Sheikh Tawfiq says according to the deserters, morale among rank and file conscripts is at rock bottom and it is only the officers, mostly drawn from the same Alawite minority as President Bashar Assad, who prevent a full surrender.
“Every soldier in the base understands that the end of the regime is near. They are just waiting for an opportunity to lay down their arms, but their Alawite officers prevent them,” he said.
“The fall of the Sheikh Suleiman base is only a matter of days,” according to Sheikh Tawfik.
Earlier this week, insurgents took control of another military camp in the region, Base 46 nearer to Aleppo. Nearly 300 of the soldiers were killed, according to the rebels, and a large cache of arms and ammunition seized.
Now rebels are counting on the capture of Sheikh Suleiman to give them full control of the countryside west of Aleppo and boost to their forces inside the commercial capital where fighting has reached stalemate after five months of deadly urban combat.
“The day Sheikh Suleiman falls, all of western Aleppo will finally be liberated. Give it 45 days and Aleppo city will fall too,” said Sheikh Tawfik.
For now, the rebels are thwarted by the imposing defense system of the garrison, whose soldiers have weapons of every kind at their disposal. The base continues to be supplied by helicopter, while warplanes regularly bomb rebel positions.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a key rights watchdog, reported 25 rebels killed earlier this week in an abortive attack on the base, most by anti-personnel mines and air strikes.
The attack was led by fighters from the jihadist Al-Nusra Front, a rebel source told AFP, confirming the death of a dozen fighters.
As with Base 46, the gunners of Sheikh Suleiman have been bombarding the surrounding towns and villages to ward off any renewed assault. Twenty rockets struck nearby Atareb on Friday.
The tenacity of the defense has raised all kinds of speculation. A deserting conscript told AFP that it contained a clandestine scientific research whose purpose was unknown even to the rank and file.
The prize of the bases’ huge arsenal has stoked rivalries among the multiple rebel groups laying siege, some fighting under the banner of the mainstream Free Syrian Army (FSA) and others under the flag of Islam.
Sheikh Tawfik’s Noureddin Zinki battalion, and Bayt Al-Ansar battalion, both fight under the banner of the FSA but other groups, including the Al-Nusra Front, do not.
Meanwhile, Iran lashed out Friday at Turkey for requesting that NATO supply it with Patriot surface-to-air missiles to deploy along the border with Syria, denouncing the step by Ankara as counterproductive.
Iranian parliamentary speaker Ali Larijani made the remarks after a visit to Damascus. “The internal crisis in Syria cannot be solved through the deployment of such weapons,” Larijani said at a news conference in Beirut where he went after leaving Syria.
Firefighters tackle blaze in high-rise tower in Dubai
DUBAI: A fire broke out Sunday at a prominent skyscraper in Dubai, sending smoke billowing from its roof and those inside fleeing into the streets.
Firefighters and police on the scene of the blaze at the Almas Tower in Dubai’s Jumeirah Lake Towers neighborhood.
The government’s Dubai Media Office described the blaze as a “minor fire.”
“All employees and visitors are being evacuated and no injuries have been reported so far,” the Dubai Media Office wrote on Twitter.
Dubai Civil Defence has fully brought under control a minor fire that broke out in Almas Tower in Jumeirah Lakes Towers. The building was evacuated safely. No injuries have been reported.— Dubai Media Office (@DXBMediaOffice) April 22, 2018
Image Courtesy: Kamran Jebreili / @AP pic.twitter.com/MWinl6bfQa
The Almas Tower, over 60 stories tall, is home to the Dubai Multi Commodities Center, which is also an economic free zone. The DMCC had hosted a conference earlier Sunday in partnership with Asia House called “The New Global Trade Order.”
The DMCC did not immediately answer a request for comment.
It was the tallest building in Dubai, until 2009, when it was surpassed by Burj Khalifa. It is primarily an office building and remains the tallest building at the Jumeirah Lakes Towers cluster off Dubai’s Shaikh Zayed Road.
Dubai, a skyscraper-studded city in the United Arab Emirates, has suffered a spate of fires in its high-rises.
Dubai passed new fire safety rules last year requiring that quick-burning side paneling on buildings be replaced with more fire-resistant cladding. Authorities have previously acknowledged that at least 30,000 buildings across the UAE have cladding or paneling that safety experts have said accelerates the rapid spread of fires.