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Syrian Village Gives Up Secrets After Massacre

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#1 Nouhed 'Nev'

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Posted 29 May 2013 - 05:21 PM

Syrian village gives up secrets after massacre



BAYDA, Syria: Awakened by the sound of gunfire, Ahmad could hear the armed men knocking on his brother’s door, shouting insults and calling the family “dogs.” Ahmad’s sister-in-law said the gunmen told her husband to “bow to your god, Bashar” – the Syrian president.

She and her husband and their two teenage sons were dragged toward the village square.

“She told me her son’s knees were bloodied as they kicked and dragged him,” Ahmad said.

When the violence was over, Ahmad ventured out from his hiding place in an attic. In less than two hours, Bayda, his picturesque village near the Mediterranean, had become the scene of one of the worst mass killings in Syria’s 2-year-old war.

As the country fragments under the weight of civil strife, troops loyal to Assad have made gains against rebel fighters in a counteroffensive to secure a corridor linking the capital Damascus with the president’s clan heartland on the coast.

Bayda, a tiny pocket of rebel sympathizers surrounded by pro-Assad villages, was an ideal place for the government to deliver a harsh message.

A few steps from his home, somewhere near the main village square, Ahmad discovered his brother’s body.

“He had been stripped of his clothes,” he said, reading from his own record of what he saw. He paused and composed himself. “He had been shot in the head, and the bullet left a gaping hole the size of a hand.”

For almost 90 minutes, Ahmad described how he found torched bodies and evidence of mass killings: in one case 30 men, and in another, 20 women and children who had hidden in a small room.

He read out the names of the dead, their occupations, ages and relations to each other, and the positions of their bodies. The attack left dozens of his relatives and neighbors dead. Ahmad recorded every detail so that history might judge.

It was May 2, a Thursday and the start of a six-day holiday. Many students had come home, and the men of the village had no plans to venture down to the coast to sell their vegetable crops, as many usually do. Children had no school that day.

The roosters had already crowed when armed men entered Bayda, a close-knit village of narrow alleyways that was home to 5,000 mostly Sunni Muslims. Bayda, visible from surrounding Alawite villages with whose inhabitants it had coexisted well enough before the war, sits just outside the small town of Banias, which overlooks Syria’s coastline from the hills.

According to opposition activists, what came later was a sectarian bloodbath followed by another in Ras al-Nabaa, the next village along.

The attack on Bayda came shortly after rebels had attacked a bus carrying pro-Assad militiamen, killing six.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, an activist group based in Britain, says at least 300 were killed in Bayda and Ras al-Nabaa. Victims were buried in mass graves, activists say, and thousands fled.

The International Criminal Court in The Hague, which deals with war crimes, cannot investigate Syria unless it receives a referral from the United Nations Security Council – something Russia and China have blocked.

The Syrian government has kept silent about Bayda. But a Syrian intelligence officer, speaking anonymously, acknowledged the perpetrators were government loyalists, including some from the surrounding Alawite villages.

The mainly Sunni Muslim villages of Bayda and Ras al-Nabaa had aligned themselves with the rebels, putting them in a precarious position amid the mainly Alawite, staunchly government loyalist villages that surround them.

Bayda and Ras al-Nabaa became havens for army defectors, and many young men also joined the rebel Free Syrian Army.

Today, like Ras al-Nabaa, Bayda is a ghost town.

Houses have been torched and hardly any women and only a few men remain. Except for a few chickens, most livestock has disappeared.

Tightly controlled by government security, the only way for a stranger to enter Bayda is through a dirt back road that snakes through the hills.

“I woke up to the sound of bullets before 7 a.m.,” Ahmad said in his modest but immaculately tidy home. He fetched from another room his notebook, where he had meticulously recorded in neat handwriting everything he saw.

“None of us knew what was happening. We couldn’t tell where the shells were falling,” Ahmad said, reading from his account.

His wife and children hid in the basement, and Ahmad went to his brother’s home, located on the first floor of the family’s two-storey building. When the sound of gunfire kept getting closer, Ahmad’s mother urged her sons to hide.

Over the past two years, whenever government security forces raided the village, usually only men with suspected ties to rebels were arrested. Women and children were left alone.

But this time, something urged Ahmad to hide, even though he had done nothing wrong. He went up to the attic, but his brother stayed put, arguing with their mother.

“He kept telling her: ‘Why should I run away? I haven’t done anything wrong. It’s best I stay put at home. They have nothing on me,’” Ahmad recalled.

The list of victims included women and toddlers, the elderly and community leaders.

Mohammad Taha, 90, was for decades the village shoemaker, even after he lost a leg in a car accident.

There was Sheikh Omar Biyasi, 62, whose body Ahmad found alongside the Sheikh’s slain wife and son, Hamzah, a medical student.

Sheikh Biyasi had been the village imam for 30 years. He was a government loyalist who alienated local people with his political views before resigning two years ago.

“Even though [Biyasi] always opposed the protests, they still killed him,” said Ahmad.

The Biyasi family suffered some of the worst losses, with 36 documented deaths. Ahmad found bodies belonging to the family in one small room; a mother and her three daughters and young son, who was at the local school with Ahmad’s children.

“They were leaning on each other,” Ahmad recalled.

Before dark set in, Ahmad stumbled upon another chilling sight.

Three charred bodies lay one on top of the other. “Smoke was still rising from one of them,” he said.

They were identified the next day, when the Red Crescent came in with a government official. One of the charred victims was Ibrahim al Shoghri, 69, who was mentally disabled.

The bloodshed has left many Syrians wondering if the Syrian government is preparing for an Alawite state along the coast.

One Alawite anti-government activist, who goes by the nom de guerre Sadeq, said it was unlikely Assad would establish a separate Alawite state, or that he would homogenize it ethnically. But an autonomous Alawite region, something like Kurdistan, might be viable.

So far, there have been no direct clashes between rebels and government forces along the coast. Many Alawite villagers did not believe the rebels could make it to the mountains.

So when the rebels started to make verbal threats against the coast in the last few weeks of April, alarms went off, explained Sadeq. The sectarian killings in Bayda and Ras al-Nabaa were a message from the Assad government to the rebels.

“It’s a reminder that the coast is a red line. That if they so much as think they can attack the coast, this is what will happen to the pockets of Sunnis here,” he said.

“It was ethnic cleansing, and the objective is to frighten.”

Ahead of the killings, tensions had been rising in Alawite villages, where many serve in the Syrian army and security forces. Alawites have mourned hundreds of their dead. During a drive through some of the Alawite villages, larger-than-life posters of the town’s fallen hung on lampposts along main roads.

The few men remaining in Bayda agreed that the massacre was something of a payback for the village’s pro-uprising stance.

“Let us speak the truth. We support the uprising, and they don’t,” said one young man.

It was not clear to what extent news of what had happened in Bayda and Ras al-Nabaa traveled along the coast.

In the town of Banias, people were too nervous to discuss the topic. In Latakia, the news traveled only in hushed conversation among the Sunni Muslims. Sadeq, the Alawite activist, said the Alawite community was “in denial about it.”

“They believe it was a fight against terrorists from Chechnya or something like that,” he said.

In Tartous, a hefty, tattooed man who works for state intelligence “in the cyber security branch” and is a member of the pro-government militia, said his chain of command knew exactly what had unfolded in Bayda and Ras al-Nabaa.

“It was the regime loyalists who did it, from the surrounding Alawite villages,” said the official, who did not want to give his name. “But they were not acting under orders. They carried it out on their own accord.”

“The leadership has all the names of the perpetrators, but now is not the time to punish them for the crime.”

Asked if the idea of an Alawite state sounded viable to the intelligence community, he said the idea is often discussed. “But the leadership definitely rejects it. It would be the absolute worst case scenario, an independent Alawite-loyalist state,” he said.

“We’ll have Homs, Damascus and the coast. [The rebels] can have Aleppo and Deir al-Zor, Qamishli and the north. Sure, let them have it.”

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#2 DancesWithChairs

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Posted 30 May 2013 - 03:20 PM

This is really a Sunni v Shiite battle.


The press try to portray the Syrian conflict  as a dictator vs downtrodden people but that is not the case.


I realised that as soon as Hezoballah stepped in.  Syria is backed by Shiite Iran and Hezbollah, also Shia, obtains its weapons from Iran via Syria.

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#3 Nouhed 'Nev'

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Posted 30 May 2013 - 06:21 PM

Regardless of who is fighting who, and whatever the ideologies or perspective the people involved hold, this article presents an example of the atrocities committed in this particular war.  People with guns can shoot at each other as much as they want, they have chosen to do so and they will bear the consequences of their actions (in this world and when they meet their Lord), however there is no reason to target civilians (whomever those civilians support or do not support).


This is really a Sunni v Shiite battle.


The press try to portray the Syrian conflict  as a dictator vs downtrodden people but that is not the case.


I realised that as soon as Hezoballah stepped in.  Syria is backed by Shiite Iran and Hezbollah, also Shia, obtains its weapons from Iran via Syria.

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#4 furry_animal

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Posted 31 May 2013 - 02:32 AM

This is really a Sunni v Shiite battle.


The press try to portray the Syrian conflict  as a dictator vs downtrodden people but that is not the case.


I realised that as soon as Hezoballah stepped in.  Syria is backed by Shiite Iran and Hezbollah, also Shia, obtains its weapons from Iran via Syria.


Interesting, isn't it?  But certainly nothing new when one looks thru 1000's of years of history.


Hezbollah and Iranian fighters (Shia) going toe to toe with Sunnis (Al Nursra - effecively al Queada).


So you have muslims belting the snot our of other muslims (because they are the wrong type of muslims) right on the border of the freemason jooish zionist state.


Not only are muslims killing each other, but weapons supplies (tanks, missiles etc) are being exhausted, and infrastructure is being levelled.


And the conflict is drawing in ("extremist") muslims from Australia/Europe/USA etc, who are going there to fight, sorry,  deliver meals on wheels to the needy, and end up being killed.


Must be popcorn time at IDF headquarters.


And on the occasion that the syrian fighters have the guts to send a mortar into the Golan aka occupied freemason zionist land?  Well, they can expect a Tammuz missile sent back in return, and landing right in their coffee cups.  And filmed from the nose of the missile too (just like others like the Deliah air launched missile).  The juice can make these land on a postage stamp.


The joos have their number.  Both the Hezbies and Quadies know this.  So they carry on killing each other ie muslims.


Maybe koalaboi and roobarb can explain how this sits with their views on islamic doctrine regards to killing.


Meanwhile, the smartest people on the planet wait, and watch and learn... 




(Reuters) - Israel tracks every heavy missile fired in the Syrian civil war, keen to study Damascus's combat doctrines and deployments and ready to fend off a feared first attack on its turf, a senior Israeli military officer said on Thursday.


Colonel Zvika Haimovich of the air defence corps said southward launches against Syrian insurgents by President Bashar al-Assad's forces gave Israel mere seconds in which to determine it was not the true target - a distinction that could prove crucial for warding off an unprecedented regional conflagration.


"Syria's batteries are in a high state of operability, ready to fire at short notice. All it would take is a few degrees' change in the flight path to endanger us," he told Reuters in an interview at his base in Palmachim, south of Tel Aviv.


Syrian opposition activists say Assad's army has fired dozens of devastating Scud-type missiles at rebel-held areas in the last six months, out of a ballistic arsenal believed to number in the hundreds.


Long-range radars feed real-time data on the barrages to Haimovich's command bunker, where officers brace to activate Arrow II, a U.S.-backed Israeli missile shield that has yet to be tested in battle.


The more threatening launches set off sirens across Palmachim, whose warplanes also await orders to scramble.


Before the more than two-year-old civil war, Israel enjoyed a stable standoff with Syria for decades. Israeli strategists saw little menace in Syria's ageing Soviet-supplied military - even from its reputed chemical warheads.


Such complacency is long past. Haimovich said that although Israel was staying out of the Syrian fighting, he and the rest of the top brass were conducting regular battle assessments, including on Assad's missiles launches.


"We are looking at all aspects, from the performance of the weaponry to the way the Syrians are using it. They have used everything that I am aware exists in their missile and rocket arsenal. They are improving all the time, and so are we, but we need to study this, and to be prepared."


He would not detail how Israel determines a missile fired in its direction will not cross the border, saying only that the process took "more than a few seconds, but not much more".


Another Israeli expert, speaking on condition of anonymity, said it combined split-second analysis of the strength of the launch with up-to-date intelligence on Assad's intentions.




Asked about a report on Israel's Channel 10 television that Assad had used up around half of his Scud stockpile against the rebels, Haimovich said: "That sounds credible." But he cautioned that Damascus may have been replenished by its foreign allies.


Haimovich also oversees the Iron Dome short-range rocket interceptor, as well as Israeli coordination with U.S. air defence systems. He described Syria as part of a nebulous northern front with Lebanon, whose Iranian-sponsored Hezbollah militants have been fighting for and armed by Assad.


At least three times this year, Israel has bombed Syria to destroy what intelligence sources described as advanced weaponry in transit to Hezbollah, which fired 4,000 missiles at the Jewish state in their 2006 border war. Syria and Hezbollah have hinted at reprisals, a scenario the Israelis assume could spiral to include missile salvoes from Iran and Palestinians in Gaza.


Under such circumstances, Haimovich said, "the Israeli homefront will be hit, but we won't be paralysed - and I believe we will ensure that by keeping the fight short".


He declined to confirm what Arrow designers have described as its 90 percent shoot-down rate. But he said Israel had beefed up its deployment to more than four nationwide batteries, to allow for repeated interception of any incoming missiles.


"My intention is to ensure that we have at least two opportunities to intercept. We have not yet been called into action on the northern front, but I believe that we will be."


Pointing out a launching ground in Palmachim's sand dunes where towering concrete barricades were being erected to protect future Arrow units, he said: "Our job is to withstand any crisis and deliver the necessary defence."


Israel has fielded five batteries of Iron Dome, which has scored around an 80 percent success rate in intercepting Gaza rockets, the kind of weapons that also feature in Hezbollah's arsenal. Haimovich said a sixth unit would be deployed soon.


A more powerful version of Iron Dome, known as David's Sling or Magic Wand, performed well in its first field trial in November and prompted some Israeli officers to predict it could be ready for use this year. That would bolster the multi-tier missile defence programme.


Haimovich said he knew of no such plan but that Iron Dome, Arrow and their U.S. counterparts already provided Israel with an adequate "protective umbrella". (Editing by Jeffrey Heller/Mark Heinrich)

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