BREAKING: Free Syria Army launches major new offensive in Aleppo

If this late report is true, the Free Syria Army may be on the verge of creating its own "no-fly" zone:

It looks like the FSA's new strategy of raiding airbases is bearing fruit, and doubly so, if it is forcing the Assad regime to withdraw some forces from other areas to protect those airbases.

Remember, the first US Marines to hit the beaches of Vietnam, did so to protect the airbase at Da Nang from guerrilla attacks. That's how an insurgency fights an air power. They may not be able to get at them while those planes are attacking, but they've got to land sometime.

Of course, the US could always rely on its warplanes out at Yankee Station which were clearly out of the reach of the Vietnamese opposition.

But Assad doesn't have any aircraft carriers!

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In a major new development we have reports of a new offensive by the Free Syrian Army in Aleppo. The Assad forces, with vastly superior firepower, have only been been trying to dislodge the rebels from Syria's largest city and commercial hub for five weeks, and now the FSA is again pushing them around.

It just goes to show that along with lying about everything else, Bashar al-Assad was also lying about the military situation in his recent TV interview.

I'm thinking of renaming my cat "Bashar" because she is always lying on something!

Question: "Mr. President, regarding the military operations taking place inside Syria now; there is talk on the Syrian street that Syria American green light?" from interview transcript

From @Alexblx we have this report on the new fight:

#FSA OFFENSIVE: "the Free #Syria Army has launched a major offensive in #Aleppo last night, the preparations for which have been evident for a few days.

The AP's assessment - this is a testament to the Regime's failure to dislodge the fighters after more than a month of massive bombing and shelling campaigns.

"He said the first attacks began shortly before midnight Thursday and lasted until Friday, when the "Brigade of Free Syrians" launched coordinated strikes on several security compounds in Aleppo.

"The new operations aim to strike at regime forces' centers and air bases throughout Aleppo (province)," Saeed said via Skype...

Saeed said rebels attacked four security buildings around Aleppo, using tanks, rocket launchers and machine guns.""

Free Syria Army We Control 80% of Aleppo Assad Invasion Has Failed | 23 August 2012

Journalist with Free Syria Army fighters in Basha neighborhood of Aleppo | 30 August 2012

We have these media reports on the fighting in Aleppo:

From The Daily Star we have this report

Rebels say hold half of Aleppo despite air strikes

August 31, 2012 04:51 PM
By Mariam Karouny | Reuters

BEIRUT: A local rebel commander in Aleppo said rebels still control more than half of Syria's biggest city after a month of fighting and aerial bombardment, and that the military stalemate was playing into the hands of President Bashar Assad's opponents.

Assad sent reinforcements to the northern commercial hub in July to seize control back from rebel fighters who had swept into Aleppo from their rural strongholds, and authorities said the army's mission could be accomplished within days.

Using air power, artillery and ground forces, the army has pushed rebels back in strategic southwestern districts which form a gateway into Aleppo along the main highway from Damascus.

But despite their military superiority, Assad's forces have yet to press home their advantage across the city, and the military commander of the rebel Fatah Brigade in Aleppo said a lengthy conflict would give his fighters time to grow stronger.

"The main target of this phase (of fighting) is to win time," Major Anas Ibrahim Abu Zaid told Reuters by telephone.

"If we hold our ground and continue the attacks, the longer we do that (the more) the regime will lose on the international, regional and local fronts, and the position of the rebels will firm up and give us a chance to re-arm," he said. More...

From Today's Zaman we have this report

Opposition fighters engaged in fierce clashes with Assad forces in Aleppo

31 August 2012 / AP/REUTERS, BEIRUT

Syrian opposition forces have begun a major operation in the Aleppo region, aiming to strike at security compounds and bases around Syria's largest city, activists said Friday.

It would be evidence that weeks of intense bombardments by the Syrian military, including airstrikes, have failed to dislodge the opposition. Instead, fighting rages across the country in a 17-month civil war that shows no sign of ending soon.

The opposition offensives in Aleppo are led by a brigade made up mostly of army defectors who specialize in operating artillery and tanks, said Mohammed Saeed, an activist based in the city.

He said the first attacks began shortly before midnight on Thursday and lasted until Friday, when the “Brigade of Free Syrians” launched coordinated strikes on several security compounds in Aleppo.

“The new operations aim to strike at regime forces' centers and air bases throughout Aleppo [province],” Saeed said via Skype.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said one of Friday's targets was a compound in the Aleppo neighborhood of Zahraa, killing and wounding a number of troops. It gave no figures.

Saeed said opposition forces attacked four security buildings around Aleppo, using tanks, rocket launchers and machine guns. More...

From Al Arabia News we have this report of a major new polical and military development:

Syrian fighters in Aleppo form ‘Revolutionary Transitional Council’

Fri Aug 31, 2012 16:05 pm (KSA) 13:05 pm (GMT)

Syrian opposition forces in the northern province of Aleppo have declared the formation of a “Revolutionary Transitional Council” as future umbrella for all the rag tag opposition groups battling to bring down the regime of President Bashar al-Assad.

“[The Revolutionary Transitional Council] includes all those working in the revolution; civilians, politicians and military men,” one member of the newly formed council said in a statement aired by Al Arabiya television on Friday.

The council aims to “facilitate the formation for a [wider] national transitional council to include all of the Syrian provinces,” the statement added.

“In a time when the Syrian revolution has reached an advanced stage, there needs to be an incubator inside Syrian territory to lead the revolution from the inside.”

While the main Syrian opposition group, the Syrian National Council, has a military section, many of its political leaders and figures are living abroad, and their meetings happen to be outside the country in Turkey, France or Germany.

“The council is a pioneering example for other provinces to follow.” More...

From Now Lebanon we have this report

Syrian rebels hit security services in Aleppo

Friday, August 31, 2012 | 18:55 Beirut

Syrian rebels attacked a security service building in Aleppo early Friday as clashes rocked both the main northern city and the outskirts of Damascus, a human rights group said.

The assault on the feared security services came in West Aleppo, sparking a firefight between rebel fighters and agents, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

Clashes also broke out between troops and rebels in the battleground districts of Saif al-Dawla and Salaheddin in the southwest of the city and Hanano in the northeast, the Britain-based watchdog said.

Around the capital, rebel fighters captured nine soldiers in clashes in Sayyida Zeinab, a southeastern suburb which houses a Shiite shrine that draws pilgrims from around the world, it added.

North of Damascus, troops bombarded the mountain resort of Rankus, an opposition stronghold.

In Albu Kamal, on the border with Iraq, rebel fighters attacked an air defense base, sparking fierce clashes. More...

Finally from EAWorldView today we have this report:

Syria (and Beyond) Live Coverage: The Insurgents Seize the Initiative

Friday, August 31, 2012 at 11:37 | James Miller

Today's demonstration in Kafrouma in Idlib Province, Syria

See also Iran, Syria, and the Non-Aligned Summit: 5 Questions and Answers Iran Special: Regime Show Collapses as Morsi Gives Tehran an "Islamic Awakening" on Syria Thursday's Syria (and Beyond) Live Coverage: Assad Says, "The Situation on the Ground is Better"

1444 GMT: Syria. The Local Coordination Committees have posted this video, which shows the building hit by a shell in the Yarmouk camp, a Palestinian refugee camp in Damascus (see previous updates). They have also posted several gruesome videos of two dead children, reportedly the result of the shelling.

1426 GMT: Syria. Dramatic footage of an Assad plane crashing on August 23rd.

Why are we just getting around to posting it now? Because we saw it days ago, but thought it was fake, and now The Guardian (who said that they had doubts about the video) cites The Aviationist as saying that, despite the fact that they were initially fooled by it, the video is likely fake.

It's worth noting that Wired also cited the video.

Why didn't EA post it? For starters, the Youtube account uploading the video has been flagged by EA as being of questionable reliability. Secondly, there were no eyewitness reports that could triangulate the video. The glaring problem, which we caught even before all that, is that there is a noticeable edit between the plane flying, and crashing, and the smoke. Beyond this, the physics seemed... off.

EA encounters an incredible amount of citizen journalism n the form of hundreds of Facebook pages and blogs, thousands of videos, and tens of thousands of Tweets, every day. The overwhelming majority of that information never makes it to EA's coverage, for a variety of reasons. When we do post videos, we try to ensure that they are real, and we try to relay to our readers exactly how credible we believe the information we post to be. In this case, we never thought the video was real, and additional research could not produce any confirming details. It's a perfect illustration of how hard this work is, and it's also a good example of how that hard work has paid off.

1252 GMT: Syria. Protesting in Syria is dangerous, but just being in Syria is dangerous. Today, there are multiple reports that mortars and tanks have shelled several districts in southern Damascus. The LCC reports that in the Yarmouk Palestinian refugee camp (map), some of those shells have killed children:

Two children were martyred and many people were injured; one of them is in a critical condition, due to another mortar shells that landed near Palestine Hospital.

We have not yet been able to verify the report.

1240 GMT: Syria. Today is Friday. In Islamic tradition, large crowds attend mosques at the same times, meaning that the streets are always bustling on a Friday. In the tradition of the Arab Uprisings, this makes it the ideal time to protest, and in the tradition of the Syrian Uprising, protesting is a dangerous decision.

Only months ago the protests were growing huge, as massive crowds braved the chance that security forces would turn on them. Now, there are gun battles in every region, open revolution is in many cities, the violence has escalated and the protests, as a result, greatly diminished.

That said, we've already received hundreds of videos of protests today, in many dozens of locations. Many people are chanting today for Darayya and Moudamyah, locations where the regime killed hundreds in reprisal attacks. The message is clear - the people on the streets are united against the regime, no matter what, and the violence has not deterred the protesters.

Below is a small sample of the videos we've seen:

Binnish, Idlib, a town that has been rocked by reprisal attacks and bombing runs for weeks, but a town that has hosted both large protests and death since the start of the uprisings:

Ash Sheikh Mustafa, southern Idlib (map):

Mare, Aleppo (map)

Jisr al Shughour, Idlib (map):

Nasib, just outside of Daraa (map):

Harasta, one of the most embattled suburbs of Damascus (map):

1215 GMT: Syria. The Associated Press reports that the Free Syrian Army has launched a major offensive in Aleppo last night, the preparations for which have been evident for a few days. The AP's assessment - this is a testament to the regime's failure to dislodge the fighters after more than a month of massive bombing and shelling campaigns.

He said the first attacks began shortly before midnight Thursday and lasted until Friday, when the "Brigade of Free Syrians" launched coordinated strikes on several security compounds in Aleppo.

"The new operations aim to strike at regime forces' centers and air bases throughout Aleppo (province)," Saeed said via Skype...

Saeed said rebels attacked four security buildings around Aleppo, using tanks, rocket launchers and machine guns.

James Miller takes over today's live coverage. Thanks to Scott Lucas for getting us started today.

1149 GMT: Yemen. Al Monitor reports an escalation in youth protest after an attempt to assassinate Yassin Saeed Noman, secretary-general of the Socialist Party and an adviser to President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi:

Hundreds of youth, especially youth members of the Socialist Party and independents, marched through the streets of the capital Sanaa, warning political leaders of the Joint Meeting Parties about the potential for a series of assassinations carried out against these leaders.

Youth protesters in Sanaa and a number of other cities demanded that authorities reveal details of the assassination attempt and arrest and hold accountable the perpetrators and those who support them.

1052 GMT: Syria. Harriet Sherwood of The Guardian reports on a divided community in the village of Majdal Shams, about 40 miles from Damascus in the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights:

Support for President Bashar al-Assad is conspicuous.

A Syrian flag flutters above the main square. Demonstrations backing the current regime have attracted up to 5,000 people, drawn from a local Druze population of around 20,000. Portraits of the Syrian president hang in the homes of pro-Assad activists.

But under the surface, there is uncertainty and dismay at what is happening in what most call "the homeland". A small minority of residents of the four villages populated by Syrian Druze high in the Golan have been open in their support for the uprising. But, they say, intimidation has stopped others speaking out.

1022 GMT: Syria. Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu has appealed to the United Nations Security Council to establish a buffer zone within Syria for refugees:

How long are we going to sit and watch while an entire generation is being wiped out by random bombardment and deliberate mass targeting? Let's not forget that if we do not act against such a crime against humanity happening in front of our eyes, we become accomplices to the crime.

However, Davutoğlu expresssed pessimism that he would be heeded: "Apparently, I was wrong about my expectations. This meeting will not even end with a presidential or press statement, let alone a robust resolution."

French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said after Thursday's meeting that France and Turkey had identified areas in the north and south that had escaped President Assad's control: "Maybe in these liberated zones Syrians who want to flee the regime will find refuge which in turn makes it less necessary to cross the border whether in Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan or Iraq."

0948 GMT: Syria. Aleppo-based activist Mohammed Saeed has claimed that insurgents are attacking four security buildings this morning around the city, using rocket launchers and machine guns.

0918 GMT: Syria. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, António Guterres, has issued a statement of concern about the "humanitarian emergency":

As of yesterday, 229,000 people had left the country and sought registration as refugees in neighboring states. Their number is rapidly growing.

Household assets are quickly being used up. Social support networks are fragmenting.
For many, becoming a refugee is the only way to survive.

The number of Syrians arriving each day in Turkey continues to increase dramatically.
Thanks to the Turkish government, more than 80,000 Syrians are now hosted in camps
and public buildings in the south-east of the country.

Guterres said Turkey had constructed new camps to increase capacity to 130,000 refugees. Meanwhile, , more than 5,000 people had arrived in Jordan in 30 hours, bringing the total of displaced to about 72,000. More than 57,000 are in Lebanon.

0838 GMT: Bahrain. The Information Affairs Authority reports that Deputy Prime Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Mubarak Al Khalifa has met with members of the leading opposition society Al Wefaq "upon their request and in an effort to encourage all parties to engage in dialogue in order to allow the nation to progress".

0751 GMT: Bahrain. Reports overnight suggest that leading human rights campaigner and political prisoner Mohammed Hasan Mohamed Jawad ("Parweez") is in critical condition after vomiting blood and falling unconscious. Parweez, who is 65, has been arrested multiple times over decades of activism, and is one of 13 political and human rights leaders whose appeal verdict is expected on Tuesday. He is currently serving a 15-year sentence, charged with plotting to overthrow the regime.

In January, the Bahrain Center for Human Rights reported that Parweez's "family has raised concerns over his health". At a court appearance in June, he spoke of the suffering and pain he still experiences as a consequence of the abuses he experienced last year. His case was examined by the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry (Case No. 2). The forensic team found which found that he was "tortured on a daily basis", had "fainted as a result of the beatings" and was "taken to a medical facility". Subsequently, "he became weak and lost 20 kilograms".

0545 GMT: Syria. Over the last 48 hours, there has been a series of political statements grabbing the headlines, from President Assad's "The Situation is Better" to the British and French foreign ministers playing for time on a "buffer zone" inside Syria. There have been the continued bloody stalemates in Aleppo and the Damascus suburbs.

But the most significant events may have been the insurgent attacks on President Assad's air force, from the destruction of about 10 helicopters in a ground assault on a military base to the downing of a fighter jet. While these episodes do not turn the course of the war, they dent the regime's supremacy in the air.

And that in turn bolsters the expanding presence of the insurgency across large areas of Syria from the northwest to the northeast to the south. Of course, Assad's forces will not accept this without response --- the Free Syrian Army and civilians alike have been pounded in Daraa Province --- but there is no prospect of control to back up the President's declaration of his better situation.

The Local Coordination Committees report the deaths of 164 people at the hands of security forces on Thursday, including 72 in Idlib Province.

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