Following are the words of a friend in Syria, on the recently-liberated Syrian village of Selma (also spelled Salma), with news reports on its liberation at bottom. This is a very personal account of Selma and the recent history of its occupation by terrorist forces, as well as some interesting history on the region:
“Selma is a very small village on the Turkish-Syrian border, just 1 hour drive North East from Latakia. With good hiking shoes you could walk to Turkey, and there was never any border fence, or guards or anything to prevent the free movement between Syria and Turkey at the location.
The local, native population of Selma numbered in the dozens. They were mainly Syrian citizens of Kurdish ancestry. They were not Turkman. Selma was strictly Sunni Muslim. Selma was not a famous place, or even a pretty place, or even a scenic place. Selma’s claim to fame was the fact it got cool evening breezes, coming in from the North and East, during the HOT and HUMID summers in Latakia (June-October).
There is a village close to Selma called Slounfa. Slounfa is higher elevation, and is even colder, but the native population are Alawi. By car it is a 15 minute drive from Slounfa to Selma. Slounfa was never in the hands of the rebels. Slounfa is a mountain resort, of the type that you find in Lebanon. Stone houses, oak trees, cedar trees, church and mosque. Slounfa’s claim to fame was also the cold evening air temperature all summer, and snow in winter, because of the high elevation. But, Slounfa is pretty, scenic and every panorama is a beautiful picture postcard scene. Selma never had the beauty, but had some of the cool temperatures during summer, and no winter snow.
Slounfa has summer house, summer cottages, and summer palaces. Slounfa’s resort status dates back to Ottoman days, and the French occupation of 1920-1946 saw added resort building, and the French built a CASINO, not meaning gambling, but a resort hotel with musical (orchestra and singer) facility. Some of the singing legends of the Arab world did perform in Slounfa, even as early and the 1940’s and onward.
Selma was the ugly ‘sister’ to Slounfa. However, during the period of 1990-2011 a steady real estate development went on there. People from Aleppo and Latakia and other places (including Saudi Arabians and Qataris) built homes, apartments and palaces there. Selma, just like Slounfa, is full to capacity in summer, and deserted in winter. Both places were “summer-use-only”.
When the terrorists became mobilized and organized in 2011, they quickly set up head quarters in Selma. They were some Syrians, and many foreigners. The Australian cleric Sheikh Fedaa Majzoub , who was born in Latakia, set up shop in Selma, and his brother was killed fighting not far from there. Sheikh Fedaa was identified as one of those involved in the Ballouta massacre in August 2013, which kidnapped 100 small children, and held them underground in Selma. 9 months later 44 of the 100 were released, and the remaining are either dead, or still in Selma? Soon we will know….
[more on the Ballouta massacre here]
The terrorists were able to hold Selma and use it as a strategic location because of the tunnels they dug to connect them with the Turkish military, who were over the border, and officially supporting the terrorists in Selma.
It is a huge blow to the Syrian Opposition, their armed wing, the Free Syrian Army, and all their allied Al Qaeda type terrorists. The fall of Selma is a huge event.
Here in Latakia, we all could not believe that a tiny, tiny place like Selma would be so difficult to take control of. For almost 5 years we have only heard about “The Battles in Selma”. It became a story of epic proportions, like the legendary “never ending story”. Finally, after so many years, and so many martyred Syrian Arab Army soldiers, and civilians, we have victory.
It appears the next step is to march Eastwards to Idlib, then Jisr Al Sughour, and finally to march into Aleppo. After Aleppo, set sights on Reqaa. One step at a time.
It can not be underestimated the value of the Russian Air Force. The ‘boots on the ground’ are still mainly Syrian men, but the Air power is Russian. The Russian intervention in late September, early October, has changed the course of the Syrian war.
I spent 30 days in a rented house in Sloufa, from Aug 15 to Sept 15 (I was not really brave, I just wanted to find a COOL place to sleep. Latakia had a real heat wave last summer. It was terrible. My summer house in Kessab was destroyed March 2014. So I had no where to go to cool off. I went 7 days without sleep. The doctor gave me some sleeping pills, but said I couldn’t stay on them because they were habit forming. I couldn’t sleep at night because of the heat. There was no electricity, so no fans or air conditioners. I went to Slounfa to SLEEP.). [NOTE: See “The liberation of Kassab” and “testimonies from Kasab, attacked by Turkish and foreign mercenaries March 21“]
I was literally watching the battles at Selma, but from a safe distance. I left Sloufa and returned home to Latakia prepared to evacuate at any moment, because the Army was losing ground, and there was real panic in the air, among the civilians up there.
We had one evening in Slounfa when the residents all came up onto their roofs with hunting rifles, used for shooting birds and rabbits. When I saw I was faced with real possibility of being over run by the terrorists, who were very close, I had to calculate how I and my guests could evacuate in the night, without any car available. We passed that night and were not attacked, but we will never forget the look on the local residents up there who were prepared to fight to the death and stand their ground. After I returned home to Latakia, it was just days later the Russians arrived. Since then, everything changed here. Latakia breathed a collective sigh of relief, and now we can see real progress and hope that an end to the war is possible.”
“Al-Marouniyat, Bait Miro, Sheikh Khalil and Marj al-Khokha villages under army controlAn army unit, in cooperation with the popular defense groups, established on Wednesday control over al-Marouniyat village, 1 km north of Salma town in the northeastern countryside of Lattakia province, a military source announced.
Taking control of the village followed fierce clashes with the terrorist organizations last night and today morning that ended up in killing many terrorists, according to the source.
Tens of terrorists fled towards Rabiaa town, near the Turkish borders.
The engineering units swept the village completely for explosive devices and mines, dismantling dozens of bombs and seizing large amounts of arms and ammunition left behind by the terrorists.
An army unit, aided by the popular defense groups, assumed full control of Bait Miro village after eliminating gatherings of terrorists to the last one.
Later, a military source told SANA that Army and Armed Forces units, in cooperation with popular defense groups, established control over Sheikh Khalil and Marj al-Khokha village east of Salma town….”
Syrian Army liberates the strategic town of Salma in northeast Latakia, Jan 12, 2016, Al Masdar News
“Moments ago in the Latakia Governorate’s northeastern countryside, the Syrian Arab Army’s 103rd Brigade of the Republican Guard – in close coordination with the National Defense Forces (NDF), the Syrian Social Nationalist Party (SSNP), Liwaa Suqour Al-Sahra (Desert Hawks Brigade), the Russian Air Force, and Muqawama Souri (Syrian Resistance) – liberated the strategic town of Salma after a short battle this morning with the Islamist rebels of Jabhat Al-Nusra (Syrian Al-Qaeda group) and the Free Syrian Army (FSA).The loss of Salma for the Islamist rebels will prove devastating in the coming weeks, as the town overlooks much of the Latakia Governorate and the western countryside of the Idlib Governorate, where Jaysh Al-Fateh (Army of Conquest) has enjoyed unrivaled control.
The next step for the Syrian Armed Forces will be to take the rebel stronghold of Al-Rabiyah in the Turkmen Mountains (Jabal Al-Turkmen); if captured, the Islamist rebels will likely retreat from the entire province, as they will no longer possess any high ground.
The military operation in Salma did not take a toll on the Syrian Armed Forces, as a local source reported that 6 soldiers were killed this morning, with another 8 reportedly wounded after intense fighting with the Islamist rebels inside the town….”
**the chant at the end, heard throughout Syria: “With our blood and our souls, we , we sacrifice in order to preserve/protect Syria”
Russian Air Force destroyed around 1,100 terrorist positions in Syria since beginning of 2016, Jan 11, 2016, SANA
“The General Staff of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation said that the Russian Air Force destroyed around 1,100 terrorist positions in Syria since the beginning of 2016.
Chief of the Main Operational Directorate of the Russian General Staff, Forces Lt.Gen. Sergei Rudskoy, stated on Monday that within the first 10 days of 2016, the Russian Air Force carried out 311 sorties targeting 1,097 terrorist positions in the countryside of Damascus, Aleppo, Idleb, Lattakia, Hama, Homs, Deir Ezzor, Hasaka, Daraa, and Raqqa provinces.
He said that the airstrikes targeted petroleum infrastructure controlled by terrorists, sites for extracting and refining oil, positions where terrorist groups were stationed, and military equipment, asserting that the airstrikes focus on weakening the capabilities of terrorist organizations and providing direct support to the Syrian Arab Army and other formations fighting ISIS.
Rudskoy noted that the most significant successes in battle against terrorists were achieved in Aleppo, Lattakia, Hama, Homs, and Raqqa provinces, adding that the Syrian Army reestablished control over 153 towns and villages with the support of the Russian Air Force.
The Russian Air Force has been carrying out sorties targeting terrorist sites in Syria since September 30th 2015 as per an agreement signed by Syria and Russia to fight terrorism and eliminate ISIS.”