Talk:Conquest of Ar-Raqqah

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Pre-Conquest "Scud" Attacks

A number of the reported dozens of Scud missile attacks on north Syria are from Raqqah province. It might be worth mapping out how this alleged government escalation coincided with an apparent rebel escalation that ended in their unprecedented victory there. --Caustic Logic (talk) 09:55, 12 March 2013 (UTC) (forthcoming, to whatever extent) --Caustic Logic (talk) 09:55, 12 March 2013 (UTC)

Raqqa: Maadan: The number of martyrs due to the shelling using Scud missiles has risen to 11 martyrs and dozens of wounded most of them are reportedly in critical conditions ... Dozens of martyrs and wounded due to the shelling with a scud missile causing the destruction of an entire alley ... A Scud missile was fired at Maadan town and another at Sabkha town ... Video added Feb. 26: Aftermath of Scud shelling in Maadan, Raqaa
Maadan on Wikimapia - 56 km SE of Raqqah. Sabkha -didn't find it. --Caustic Logic (talk) 13:23, 12 March 2013 (UTC) Sabkha was right there, 26 km ESE of Raqqah, between it and Maadan. --Caustic Logic (talk) 12:53, 13 March 2013 (UTC)
  • Local Coordinating Committees, Feb 27: Syria Today 27-2-2013: 3 points using Scud missiles ... Raqqa: Tabaka: Local Coordination Committees activists expressed their concerns that Euphrates Dam might be shelled which will result in Disasters and tragedies the Syrian revolution did not witness thus far. ... The Local Coordination Committees documented seven Scud missiles (in Raqqa area?) one of them fall in Baath Lake in 16/03/2013 (Feb. 16?) and the final one was reported today west of Tabaka. The Local Coordination Committees activists in Raqqa declared that the targets of the missiles are not accurate which will put the Dam intentionally or unintentionally under heavy shelling, never the less being under continuous heavy shelling using artillery and rocket launchers ... Raqqa: Tabqa: Scud missile landed in Mahmodli village in the north of Furat dam ... Damascus Suburbs: Qalamoon: Shelling with SCUD of brigade 155 in Qtaifeh towards the north of Syria
Lake Assad -starts at the dam 15 km west of Raqqah. The hit village is probably this one, Mahmoudla, about 20 km NW of Ba'ath dam. Tabaka, just west of hit - Tabqa-Airport-Airbase, and/or Al-Thawrah-Tabqa, 20 km w-sw of the Dam. Damn. --Caustic Logic (talk) 12:15, 12 March 2013 (UTC)

One earlier strike was reported on video Feb. 13. الرقة الحفرة التي أحدثها صاروخ سكود في منطقة السحل... "Tenderness (Raqqah) crater caused by a Scud missile in the lynching ..." Locals gather next to an enormous crater in an orchard just north of some town. Location not given, but it may be near a major bridge, has orchards north of a town on a ridge with a tower and such as seen. Mentioned here:

Crater suspected to have been caused by a Scud missile landing in Al-Raqqah Governorate in north-central Syria. Judging by the location, timing and strategic importance of the site, this could have occurred during recent fighting for control of Euphrates Dam (or Tabqa Dam), located near the city of al-Thawra in Al-Raqqah Governorate. Eventually the "rebels" (primarily jihadist groups, including and possibly led by Jabhat al-Nusrah) established control over the dam. --Caustic Logic (talk) 09:37, 14 March 2013 (UTC)

Right in the middle of this campaign of Scuds on the north from Damascus, as rebels moved in on Raqqah, it so happens they found, on Feb. 23, two Scud missiles, they say, at a site 80 km southeast of Raqqah, at the Kibar alleged nuclear facility once bombed by Israel. This will look interesting on the map I'm making. --Caustic Logic (talk) 09:37, 14 March 2013 (UTC)

And, there are post-conquest reported Scud strikes, either because not having any might look suspicious, or for some other reason. March 5/6 "massacre", March 7 poison-leaking missile, March 8, etc.--Caustic Logic (talk) 09:37, 14 March 2013 (UTC)

Conquest Details

http://apxwn.blogspot.com/2013/03/zur-lage-am-euphrat.html (Translated from German):

[according to unspecified reports from Damascus, likely in Russian media] ...the first refugees from al-Raqqa have arrived in the 130 kilometers away Deir az-Zur, and according to their testimony (some of) the bandits ride on brand new "Humvees" through the streets of the infiltrated city.

The Uprising and the New Syria: Islamists Rise in Raqqa while Damascene Christians Dodge Fire By Matthew Barber, for Syria Comment, March 11, 2013

If the rumor is true that tribal authorities were ready for a change and facilitated the smooth nature of this takeover, one can’t help but wonder why local tribal leaders supported something like “Jabhat al-Wahdet al-Tahrir al-Islamiyya” as the new authority of their city, and install this “emir.” (“Emir” is a title of authority preferred by certain groups who believe in implementing an “Islamic state.”)
This narrative is suspicious. The first striking oddity is the falling statue after take-over. It seemed quite normal at first—after all, we’ve seen countless such videos. But that was the funny part: we saw them during the opening months of the uprising. When have we seen them recently? In most cities that the rebels take over, the statues of regime figures tend to have disappear far in advance of the final takeover. Opposition activity precedes the takeover, when symbols of the regime are usually the first target and destroyed. How does a city where a statue of Hafez al-Assad has remained standing for two years suddenly fall without a fight?
(they threatened to blow up the dam and flood the city?)
Furthermore, why does a tribal, predominantly Sunni city still have a standing statue of Hafez after two years?
(he explains, Shi'ite roots, cosmopolitan, liberal city, no real anti-regime activities or fighting prior, etc.)
If my Raqqan contact (a professional living in the city who belongs to one of the tribal bodies itself) is correct, they haven’t. Evidently, the tribes have NOT altered their position of support for the regime. Local citizens were taken by surprise and shocked by the abrupt takeover of the city. In other words, if this is true, then the Islamist rebels are a foreign, uninvited presence whose agenda runs contrary to the will of the residents. Furthermore, the city and tribes are apparently not capable of doing anything about it.
"Jabhat al-Wahdet al-Tahrir al-Islamiyya’s debut video" is shown: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KGvlmWx1bz0 --Caustic Logic (talk) 12:27, 13 March 2013 (UTC)

Legal Reforms

With a regional capitol under their belts, the UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported on March 9 on a new program of legal reforms directed at the entire heavily-Sunni northeast of Syria. "Islamic brigades establish Shari'a Committee to rule over the east of Syria":

The Islamic factions in control of large parts of eastern Syria, in a statement a copy of which was sent to the SOHR, the creation of a Shari'a Committee for the Eastern Region. The Committee has taken the rights to assume the role of executive, legislative and judicial powers, establishing a police force, courts, fatwa offices, humanitarian aid, and the role of guiding people on the right path of god. The Shai'a Committee has also sent a video showing off their military capabilities: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I4pwU6jM8KM--Caustic Logic (talk) 09:55, 12 March 2013 (UTC)

Middle East Insights offers an opinion:

I am not an “Islamophobe”, meaning that I don’t have strong feelings for or against the idea of people wanting to live according to the dictates of Islamic law. What does concern me is the idea popular among Western liberals that arms should be supplied to the Syrian opposition, in furtherance of the ideal of helping to support the creation of some kind of Western-style democratic government.
Such individuals are, plainly speaking, useful idiots. --Caustic Logic (talk) 09:55, 12 March 2013 (UTC)

Captured Syrian city a test for rebel forces Ben Hubbard, AP, March 10

BEIRUT — Since rebels seized the capital of Raqqa province in northern Syria from the government last week, they have posted guards at state buildings, returned bread prices to pre-war levels and opened a hotline that residents can phone to report security issues, anti-regime activists said Sunday.
At the same time, they have killed captured security forces in public squares and driven their dead bodies through the streets. The most powerful rebel brigades in the city are extremist Muslims and include Jabhat al-Nusra, which the U.S. government says is linked to al-Qaida.
Note the did happen vs. "activists say" --Caustic Logic (talk) 09:55, 12 March 2013 (UTC)

Prisoners

Special Status

Raqqah province Governor: Hassan Jalili. Local Ba'ath Party Head: Suleiman al-Suleiman SOHR reported March 4:

A lawyer in Raqqah city has confirmed to the SOHR that rebels have taken captive the governor of Raqqah province, Hassan Jalili, and the head of the Ba'ath party branch, Suleiman al-Suleiman, after violent clashes in the city. This is the first instance of such high ranking officials to be taken captive by anti-regime forces. A high level office in the police is confirmed to have been killed, and a high ranking state security officer was confirmed to be taken by the rebels. (also, a comment there directs to a site arguing that Assad must be destroyed because he's an Israeli puppet) --Caustic Logic (talk) 09:55, 12 March 2013 (UTC)

Same day:

Footage showing the regime forces and pro-regime gunmen tacked captive by rebel fighters after violent clashes in the governors palace in Raqqah city. The violent clashes over and around the palace also led to the taking captive the the governor of Raqqah province, Hassan Jalili, and the head of the Ba'ath party branch, Suleiman al-Suleiman. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5ZtIMosbt2U--Caustic Logic (talk) 09:55, 12 March 2013 (UTC)
The interrogation- SOHR video still
They're either on trial, or being interrogated anyway. Might be hard to tell the difference except for the sentencing part. Jabhat Al-Nusra ran this, according to the video. SOHR again:
The SOHR received footage of al-Nusra Front interrogating the governor of Raqqah city, Hassan Jalili, and the head of the Raqqah Ba'ath party branch, Suleiman al-Suleiman , showing who were taken captive 5 days ago by the jihadi rebels. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XrNcyKBtXZ0 --Caustic Logic (talk) 09:55, 12 March 2013 (UTC)

Somehow missed this before: What the captives say is pro-rebel stuff. I can't re-locate it, but the last day or two saw reference to one of them saying they wished for the downfall of "the regime." Ben Hubbard, Associated Press, writes:

In the videos, the second man, Suleiman al-Suleiman, says that before his capture, he was afraid that rebels were extremists. "But my view has changed, and I have seen that Jabhat al-Nusra has a religious program that follows Allah and his prophet," he said. There was no way to establish whether he was speaking under duress. [1]

"There was no way to establish whether he was speaking under duress." However, a direct (translated) quote like that will suffice to illustrate the possibility quite well. --Caustic Logic (talk) 08:25, 17 March 2013 (UTC)

Others

Raqqah: Footage also reached the SOHR of al-Nusra Front members interrogating a captive colonel, Abdullah al-Jaddou, from the Raqqah military security branch: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ohv5AABsovc
Raqqah province: Footage of 3 summarily executed members of the military security branch in, the al-Nusra Front held, Raqqah city. They 3 captives were executed in a public square, their hands tied behind their backs. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TmVZkTGbxQ4 --Caustic Logic (talk) 09:55, 12 March 2013 (UTC)
Some who weren't killed, or even beaten, it seems. They do all look nervous and unhappy, but they were reportedly freed after this. Perhaps all Sunni, all disavowed the Alawite regime, etc. What they each say seems to be too short, and too short on "Assad," to be statements of "defection." Mostly name, and city, with Raqqah repeated most often. --Caustic Logic (talk) 09:55, 12 March 2013 (UTC)
These same were apparently soldiers who were reported two days earlier as having defected. The Local Coordination Committees reported March 9: Raqqah: "30 soldiers have defected to the Free Syrian Army from Division 17, belonging to regime forces." Hooray for the courageous defectors! --Caustic Logic (talk) 13:26, 12 March 2013 (UTC)
Yalla Souria heard a "funny story" variation on how this happened: March 9: "HasanSari7: Funny Story. 30 Assad soldiers defected from Brigade 17,reached Raqqa with uniforms&arms.Locals thought Assad army back&wanted 2 attack them.'" So they were briefly detained, after coming from the brigade HQ elsewhere, to voluntarily defect in Raqqah? And they were released as soon as things were sorted out? Hard to square with the same-day achievement, as Yalla Souriya also reported], of "Liberation of brigade 17 in Raqqa and awaiting to complete a combing of the liberated streets and joy prevail in the streets of Raqqa." (Although the source HasanSari7 reported the brigade liberated again on March 16).
  • Ben Hubbard, AP:
Videos have surfaced in recent days that show dead government soldiers and security officials lying on the ground, their heads bearing gunshot wounds. One video showed rebels driving the dead body of a military intelligence official around in the back of a pickup truck to show it off. At one point, they lay out his body in a street next to another body. Both have large holes in their heads. "No one hurt me more than this man!" a voice off-camera yells. [...] Another video from Raqqa posted on Saturday shows three bodies in a street in pools of blood. "These are the dogs of military intelligence, and they were executed in Clock Square," a voice says, referring to a city landmark. [1]

Kurdish Involvement

Erbil- The Syrian Kurds, represented mostly by Democratic Union Party (PYD), denied a yesterday report that said Syrian Kurdish forces have seized an oil field in Raqqa, a province in the north of the country.
Talking to Kurdpress, two PYD officials in Kurdistan Region and Europe declined (denied) the report and confirmed the PYD forces have not seized control of the field.
PYD representative in Erbil Muhammad Rasho said the report is far from reality, stressing no media has talked to him and the report titled “PKK seizes Raqqa oil field” is far from being right and is a naked lie.
Meanwhile PYD foreign relation chief, residing in Europe said the Kurds are only controlling Remilan oil field and denied PYD forces have attacked a Raqqa field.
Zohaat Koban blamed some media “especially Turkey media” for increasing attempt in releasing fake reports about northern Syria. --Caustic Logic (talk) 09:55, 12 March 2013 (UTC)

Continued Violence

Clearly, the government will want to chase the rebels back out and re-establish control. Bombardment of various sorts follows. Some points of interest might be worth noting here. --Caustic Logic (talk) 09:55, 12 March 2013 (UTC) SOHR, March 10: "A large explosion rocked the al-Rmeila neighborhood of Raqqah city yesterday, no less than 7 civilians were killed. The footage sent to the SOHR of the aftermath shows that the dead include women and children. The blast is thought to be the result of bombardment."

This article on Syria Comment is an interesting read (at least the first part about Raqqa). Some oddities described and some background information. Apparently that's a different Jabhat which conquered the city, not Nusra, a rather small group and the stance of the tribes is unclear. I found it interesting that the blog article I linked over there mentions Humvees. Raqqa is around 80 kilometers from the Turkish border. Here is an article claiming that US stuff from Afghanistan was carried over to Syria, including Humvees. Although I kind of doubt that Fars News has insider information from the US army. Anyway, this could be a rather artificial group on a blitzkrieg from Turkey against a town which had not much defenses in the first place. --CE (talk) 12:40, 12 March 2013 (UTC)
It's the people with the flag seen here behind Jalil and Suleiman that matters. If it's a different group, that should settle out in time. As for driving humvees, I'll look at that. I was just scanning the map and saw this. So, yeah, if you can get by without being blown up, NATO anything is in that forest right up that valley. I could see mid-range imitation Scuds being driven in this route, at least, once rebels held the capitol there. And I can see one spot Syria should finally fire about 11 scuds right on. Maybe shouldn't really, but...--Caustic Logic (talk) 13:32, 12 March 2013 (UTC)
"Jabhat al-Wahdet al-Tahrir al-Islamiyya" is named as the main group - front for unified liberation Islamism - the grand Islamist alliance, what's it called? "a number of small groups that have banded together to form the larger body ... [to] support the Free Syrian Army," as opposed to the Jabhat Al-Nusra, the Support Front. Banned. This is the front for the front. Other great parts: "How does a city where a statue of Hafez al-Assad has remained standing for two years suddenly fall without a fight? " Good question. "Local citizens were taken by surprise and shocked by the abrupt takeover of the city. In other words, if this is true, then the Islamist rebels are a foreign, uninvited presence whose agenda runs contrary to the will of the residents." Great background. WIll be cited. --Caustic Logic (talk) 12:02, 13 March 2013 (UTC)

Al-Monitor

There's a good article there. When the link is working again, I will paste some quotes. Syria: Raqqah Lies in Ruins

References

  1. 1.0 1.1 Activists: Syrian regime bombs rebel-held city By Ben Hubbard, Associated Press, March 10, 2013