Aug 18, 2015, Counter Punch
-by Eva Bartlett
Part One of Two
Infant Rimas Al-Nayef was one of at least 5 children killed by NATO-backed terrorists’ shelling on August 10, 2015 in the northwestern Syrian village of Foua. Another 25 residents were killed by the up to 1,500 rockets and mortars which Jebhat al-Nusra (al-Qaeda in Syria) and other terrorist factions rained down on Foua and neighbouring Kafarya village, just north of Idlib. Scores more were injured on that day alone. Yet, scarcely a peep in the corporate media, as massacres committed by western-backed “moderates” do not merit media coverage, do not suit the war agenda.
The attack was waged by a number of different factions, primarily al-Nusra, Jaysh al-Fattah (the so-called “Army of Conquest”), and Ahrar al-Sham (Liberation of the Levant Movement) along with other “moderates” of the umbrella organization Jabhat al-Islamiyah (the Islamic Front).
Crescent International reported: “The barrage of rockets has intensified; Western, Saudi and Turkish-supplied 500 kg rockets are fired at the villages accompanied by incursions with the clear aim to capture them.”
Until late March, residents—although surrounded by militant factions—still had an access road, thus supplies for their survival. With the militants’ occupation of Idlib at the end of March, the Syrian Arab Army (SAA) had to withdraw forces from bases in the province. Foua and Kafarya became utterly isolated.
Beirut-based justice activist Mariam Mohammad maintains contacts with people in the villages and follows the few Arab media channels and news sites (al-Mayadeen, al-Manar, as-Saffir) reporting on the desperate situation. On August 11 she wrote of the situation in the villages, where roughly 40,000 people are under siege:
“138 days of siege, with no water, electricity, communications, or medical & food supplies. And while the terrorists carry out almost daily rocket attacks against the residents, leaving tens of martyrs and wounded, the injured are many times left with no treatment.
During the last week of July 2015, The terrorists launched a unified attack on the two villages under what they entitled “The Battle of liberating Kafarya & Foua”, and ever since, the rocket attacks have become more frequent and aggressive.”
Indeed, Syrian journalist Alaa Ebrahim noted on July 21 [translated from Arabic] “Kafarya and Foua towns were shelled today with 450 rockets and projectiles, and the total number has reached 1,000 since the beginning of the assault. In spite of this, the defending local popular militias are preserving their positions and sometimes were advancing and making traps for the attackers. There are no Iranians or others among the defenders of Foua, but their attackers are from all sides of the planet.”
Mariam Mohammed wrote on August 11:
“Yesterday, in the most brutal attack yet launched by the terrorists against Kafarya & Foua since the beginning of the Syrian Crisis, the residents announced 22 civilian martyrs (mostly children) and dozens of wounded, with more than 1,500 shells hitting their neighbourhoods. A tunnel had been dug under the villagers and this was packed with 15T of explosives and detonated.
Finally, one of their suicide bombers strapped explosives to their body and blew themselves up injuring more innocent civilians.”
Saer Asleam, a Syrian journalist from Idlib, clarified who is defending the villages and the nature of Hezbollah support:
“The fighters in the towns of Kefraya and Foua are residents. There are an unknown number of Hezbollah members providing military advice on the ground.”
A personal friend—a resident of Kafarya studying in Beirut—has been sending updates from family under siege and attack. As I do not want to make his family targets for the terrorists, I will simply call him “K” after the village he is from.
“The SAA are unable to reach the area, it’s very remote, about 80 km from the edge of Hama Governorate. The only defense we have are the villagers. From the beginning, when the “FSA” and other militant groups attacked us, the people defended themselves by whatever means, with rifles. By 2012, people had acquired machine guns on their own, to defend themselves.
The villagers set up checkpoints. Every week the militants attacked, to see if the people were vulnerable. They fired rockets at the villages. At the beginning, it was only mortars, then they started using a larger size of mortar. Then, the militants started using cooking gas canisters as bombs, “hell cannons.”
They fire from Binnish, a few km south of al-Foua; from Ma’rat Mesreen, about 2 km to the north; and recently from the centre of Idlib they fired rockets to the village, about 8 km away.
But the people are still defending themselves however they can. You can see from the latest martyrs: one is a teacher, another is a university student, another an engineer, another is sheikh…they were all defending their town when killed.”
According to Saer Asleam: “Ahrar Al-Sham is trying to lessen the pressure on its fighters in al-Zabadani by strangling the inhabitants of Kafarya and Foua. This is being done by targeting them with hundreds of missiles, and by direct attacks using tanks and armored vehicles. Al-Nusra is also participating through suicide attacks and bombed cars. But all these attacks haven’t worked out to achieve any breakthrough to get in the two villages thanks to the resistance by the locals of the two villages who have formed popular committees.”
In his report “A Safe Zone in Syria… for terrorists!” Iyad Khuder noted that Jaysh al-Fattah has the direct support of both Turkey and Saudi Arabia, and that one of its leaders is a Saudi: Abdallah Al-Mhesni, who vows to exterminate Alawis in his “liberating” of Syrian areas. Further, these “moderates”, Khuder noted, dedicated their success in Idlib to “Muslims worldwide and our brothers in the Islamic State.”
Khuder remarked “In their speech, they refer to the Kafarya residents as ‘occupiers’ of the village, with statements like, ‘These two villages are settlements.’ They make a comparison to Zionist colonists in occupied Palestine! This is part of the greater ploy to divide Muslims and to distract them from the Palestinian cause.”
BREAKING THE CEASE-FIRE, ZIONIST-STYLE:
As Israel has repeatedly done in the past, NATO-backed militants broke an August 12 truce (just two hours after its announcement) meant to last for 48 hours, shelling Kafarya and Foua, killing 3 civilians and wounding more.
In one of the only reports in corporate media deigning to mention the isolated villages, Reuters noted on August 12 (Kefarya and Foua mentioned almost as though an afterthought):
“A ceasefire began at 6 a.m. today for 48 hours to halt military operations in Zabadani,’ Hezbollah’s al-Manar reported. ‘It also includes the two villages of al-Foua and Kefraya in the Idlib countryside.’”
On August 14, Al Masdar News updated on the fight in al-Zabadani, a district roughly 45 km northwest of Damascus and close to the Lebanese border.
“For the last 38 days, Al-Zabadani has been under siege by the Syrian Arab Army’s 63rd Brigade of the prestigious 4th Mechanized Division and Hezbollah; this has left the Islamist rebels from Harakat Ahrar Al-Sham and the Syrian Al-Qaeda group “Jabhat Al-Nusra” in a difficult predicament, with very few choices.
During the first days of this offensive at Al-Zabadani, Hezbollah and the Syrian Armed Forces gave the Islamist rebels two options:either put down their weapons and surrender or prepare to fight until the last man. …Yesterday, 40 Islamist rebel fighters surrendered themselves to the Syrian Armed Forces and Hezbollah inside Al-Zabadani; however, more than 300 militants remain entrenched inside the Mahata District.”
Mariam Mohammad noted on August 13 that sources from inside Kafarya and Foua reported:
“Throughout yesterday the neighborhoods witnessed sporadic shelling by the terrorists after three civilians were killed in the morning attack. They said: ‘Two shells hit the neighbourhood in the afternoon, and streams of gunfire were heard from the side of “Ma’rat Mesreen”, and later at night when we were having dinner, we had to seek refuge in one of the bathrooms again due to the attacks.’ There are no shelters inside the two villages.”
On the attempts at negotiating a cease-fire deal, K observed:
“Turkey is able to unify the groups. Before the big attack on Idlib last March, they unified many groups to form Jaysh al-Fattah. So if you want a real truce, you should contact their master.”
Syrian journalist Iyad Khuder likewise noted: “The Turkish and Saudi role in enforcing this truce proves, once again, their command over the terrorist groups that the MSM has been calling ‘Syrian rebels’!”
On August 15, Mariam Mohammad updated on the situation in the two northwestern villages:
“Ahrar Al- Sham has officially announced the collapse of negotiations with the Iranians regarding the Kafarya & Foua/ Zabadani Deal, and thus the terrorist factions besieging the two villages in Idlib have resumed shelling the neighborhoods. Sources from Kafarya reported about collisions between the armed militias and the men assigned to protect the villages, and emphasized that the shelling is fierce and and continuous.”
K further noted that there are two new martyrs, “Fadi Assad and his daughter Rimas.”
Mariam Mohammad’s August 16 report read:
“Official news reported fierce collisions in a massive attack carried out by the terrorist factions against Kafarya and Foua using heavy artillery this morning. A previous attack was launched Saturday night (15 August) and was resumed Sunday early morning, and sources reported that the shelling lasted throughout the entire night.” [Note in this video of August 15 attacks, the very inaccurate gas canister “hell cannons”can be seen being fired.]
According to Mohammad, four more from the villages were killed in the terror attacks today.
As of Monday August 17, Mariam Mohammad’s latest update noted: “According to a Foua resident on Sunday night, the number of shells fired at the two villages in the past 48 hours since the truce collapsed is 2,500, killing 10 more residents, including two children, and wounding 40 more.” This brings the number of martyred to at least 41 since the last week of July, and at least 130 since the end of March.