It’s safe to say that Syria is in a state of civil war. This was the bloodiest week since the uprising began, with hundreds of people dying.
On Monday, 70 soldiers tried to escape their base and were gunned down in the process. As far as I know, this number is unprecedented. I’ve seen reports of a few leaving here and there. One report said about a dozen left at once from one unit. The fact that 70 decided to ditch the regime together is pretty significant and it means that the pace of defections is increasing quickly.
Altogether, over 120 defectors died on Monday, according to Ammar Abdulhamid, an opposition activist.
On Tuesday, there were more defections and clashes in Idlib, leaving 80 defectors and members of the Free Syria Army dead. A total of 182 people died that day, with up to 100 in Idlib Province. Fourteen of the regime’s loyalists were killed in an ambush in Daraa.
On Wednesday, the regime carried out an “organized massacre” (in the words of one activist) of the Kfar Owaid village in northwest Syria (Idlib again), about 30 miles from Turkey. The area was surrounded and bombarded with rockets and gunfire, killing at least 111 people. According to one report, the regime used bombs with nails.
On Friday, two car bombs ripped through two security services’ headquarters in Damascus, killing at least 44, one day after the Arab League humanitarian monitors arrived. Predictably, the regime immediately blamed Al-Qaeda, saying it proved that the regime is fighting terrorists. One official of the Syrian National Council accused the regime of staging the attack, noting how hard it would be for a car bomb to get through security in that area.
At one of the funerals today, a state-sanctioned imam said that Burhan Ghalioun, the secular leader of the SNC, was responsible. The Free Syria Army and Syrian Muslim Brotherhood denied responsibility. Interestingly, a website meant to look like that of the Syrian MB popped up to claim the attacks, which is probably a trick by the regime.
There is increasing evidence that the Free Syria Army is accepting the aid of jihadists, even though its rank-and-file is secular. When your friends and family are being slaughtered and the West won’t help you at all, you’ll take help from wherever it comes.
On December 17, Daniel Iriarte reported that he met three Libyans when he visited the FSA. The first was al-Mahdi Hatari, a former high-level commander under Abdel Hakim Belhaj, the leader of the Al-Qaeda-tied Libyan Islamic Fighting Group. The second was Kikli Adem, a current lieutenant serving under Belhaj and a third Libyan whose real name is not known. This proves reports that the Libyan Islamists have been sending fighters into Syria, with some saying that as many as 600 have been dispatched.
Meanwhile, Iran is doubling down on its support for Assad. The regime has activated an air bridge to Damascus using commercial airliners as a cover. According to Fox, there are seven flights per week and transport legit passengers who do not know that their aircraft is packed with weapons. The good news is the reason for the air bridge: Assad’s forces are running low on guns and ammunition.