Warning: This site contains images and graphic descriptions of extreme violence and/or its effects. It's not as bad as it could be, but is meant to be shocking. Readers should be 18+ or a mature 17 or so. There is also some foul language occasionally, and potential for general upsetting of comforting conventional wisdom. Please view with discretion.

Saturday, July 4, 2015

The Baniyas Ambush of Syrian Soldiers, April 10 2011

July 2, 2015
major edits July 7
last edits November 26, 2015
(Ayrout edit and link updates)

This is a fascinating incident I heard about early on and only just now decided to revisit. It's from the first weeks of the Syrian "Arab Spring" uprising that began on March 15, 2011. And it was in Baniyas, Tatrous province - an area that - following a brief flash here at the start - remained fairly calm and secure up until the present, by the standards of death and destruction most of the rest of Syria has witnessed.

A Loss in the Family: Landis Reports
Joshua Landis, director of the Center for Middle East Studies and a professor at the University of Oklahoma, is recognized as one of the top expert on Syria in the US. It was noteworthy, but little-noted, when he posted on April 11, 2011:
Lt. Col. Qash'ur's widowed wife Rudayna, at the funeral

The Syrian revolution struck home yesterday. My wife, Manar Qash`ur [Kachour], burst into tears last night as she read the Facebook page that has kept her updated on events in her hometown, Latakia. Lt. Colonel Yasir Qash`ur, who was Manar’s cousin and 40 years old, was shot in Banyas on Sunday. He was one of two Lt. Colonels and 10 military personnel killed – more were wounded. Yasir’s funeral was held in the village this morning – Monday. My brother-in-law, Firas, and father-in-law, Shaaban, both attended.
He then cites a lower (correct) death toll in this article from al-Watan (the Nation), a pro-government paper (in Arabic - auto-translated and hopefully corrected right)
"Nine died, including two officers .. and to raise the status of a martyr, and 46 wounded from the army, police and civilians, some seriously wounds. This outcome of the real battle witnessed by the Banias city yesterday in which a large number of militants barricaded raised the slogan "jihad", and used explosives, grenades, machine guns, those interested in making the Banias an arena for chaos and murder under the Freedom lid and under financial cover have been arrested to explain that arms were financed by Abdel-Halim Khaddam (exiled Sunni opposition leader from Baniyas, linked to Hariri in Lebanon) and a man named Mohammed Ali Biasi aka Ahmed Musa, is prominent for securing weapons coming from Lebanon and distributing shipped guns to "rebels" ...
He doesn't say that's the true story, just passes it on. (Mr. Biassi likely refers to  "Abu Ali" Biassi, defense minister of an embryonic Islamist "emirate" in Baniyas - see here

The activist-informed mainstream news of the attack broke quickly - the "Assad regime" sent its troops to "crackdown" on Baniyas after Friday protests (April 8) allegedly got out of hand or violent. Then nine soldiers were killed by their own side for disobeying orders to kill innocents (see below). This spurred Landis to a second report two days later; on April 13, he declared Western Press Misled:  Who Shot the Nine Syrian Soldiers in Banyas? Not Syrian Security Forces (Eurasia Review mirror) In this he cites an alleged survivor - "colonel `Uday Ahmad, brother-in-law of Lt. Col. Yasir Qash`ur" - who describes the attack so:
Uday Ahmad was sitting in the back seat of the truck which Yasir was driving when he was shot dead on the highway outside Banyas. Uday said that shooting was coming from two directions. One was from the roof of a building facing the highway and another from people hiding behind the cement median of the highway. They jumped up and shot into the two trucks carrying Syrian troops, killing 9. Col. Uday survived. Here is video of the shooting shown on Syrian TV sent by my brother-in-law, Firas, who lives in Latakia.
Below is that Ad-Dounia video of the attack, seeming to show both alleged angles of fire, occupied by armed me seen running around. At this resolution, the action isn't really clear, but it's analyzed below anyway.

Location, Geo-Location, Incident Analysis
This is in Baniyas, a city in Syria's coastal Tartous province (governorate), a major port city north of Tartous city and bordering on southern Latakia province. Tartous is Alawite-majority, like Latakia, but Baniyas is historically more Sunni, although fairly mixed today. Ras al-Nabi ( راس النبع ) ("head of the spring") on Wikimapia is a southeast district of the city - it would also be the site of the infamous and brutal 2013 Baniyas Massacre of perhaps hundreds of people we know very little about - the only one of its kind to ever occur in the city.

A bridge near Ras al-Nabi is specified. Here's a bridge it's near but labeled un-clearly - I suppose it means the overpass into the city proper: this is like a "gate" local rebels want to control. But I was easily able to geo-locate the spot, for whatever it's worth, to a different bridge just north of that where the highway itself bridges over the (??) river into the Baniyas harbor. First, a composite from the Addounia video's main view. This is a low-resolution copy - I might've hunted for better, but it seems to suffice.

A satellite dish (off-frame here) pointing roughly left means that's approximately south, and this view is partly west-facing, across a partly north-south highway. The stretch of highway through Ras al-Nabi is the best fit for this (below, left). Then a second, more distant view (below, lower right inset), makes it clear the trucks are on a bridge over a river when attacked, and about in the middle of it. The combined clues point to only one spot, as indicated (red circle) just at the northern edge of the district. That's a good spot to spring an ambush - it left them no cover to run to unless they wanted to leap into the river.

They were driving in from the northeast. It seems the shooters were on the roof of the black-circled building, at the edge of Ras al-Nabi. The other shooters were at about the yellow circle. (Orange marks the smaller bridge just northwest, green the taller trees that way. The white-circled building is just for reference.)  

Orders to Kill Protesters, and Objectors?
The widely-reported opposition claim - taken as fact by the most prominent news media to ever consider this event - is much different from the narrative suggested by the video or the survivor accounts cited above. The Guardian, most prominently, reported Syrian soldiers shot for refusing to fire on protesters. That report was filed by Katherine Marsh – a pseudonym that's not "Gay Girl" – in Damascus.
"Syrian soldiers have been shot by security forces after refusing to fire on protesters, witnesses said, as a crackdown on anti-government demonstrations intensified. ... Human rights monitors named Mourad Hejjo, a conscript from Madaya village, as one of those shot by security snipers. “His family and town are saying he refused to shoot at his people,” said Wassim Tarif, a local human rights monitor."
An AFP report passes on about the same story, adding the claim of Yasser, a shopkeeper, that "Security forces were responsible for killing soldiers in Banias because they had refused to attack the city." Commentators were practically giddy at the obvious implication - the Syrian government was unable to enforce its brutal will without brutalizing its own enforcers. That was clearly unsustainable, and the system would surely crack soon at this rate.

It seems the city was not attacked, whether that was ever planned or not - it's hard now to prove. But the opposition Center for Documentation of Violations in Syria (VDC) lists zero civilian "martyrs" from Tartous province on the 10th, or even in the span April 8 to 12 (local civilians would start dying soon, 16 of them between April 16 to May 18, real circumstances unclear). But on the 10th, it seems not one soldier followed up on this alleged order to the tune of even one unarmed protester killed.

AFP's report added "a crackdown on demonstrators on the weekend ... left at least 30 people dead in Banias and another flashpoint town, Daraa." Did they have to combine two areas to get a newsworthy number? Apparently. If you check the VDC for the whole weekend, Friday to Sunday, nationwide you'll see 15 martyrs total - 7 in Deraa, none in Tartous, 8 between  Homs, Damascus, Dier Ezzour...

... and one officer from Aleppo killed April 10, unclear where. martyr #166 Rami Qattash, Lieutenant Colonel. Notes: "He was martyred for refusing to open fire at the residents" He's the only non-civilian "martyr" listed for all of Syria that day - and the only martyr at all. According to this Arabic list of "Assad victims" he's #323, "ninth battalion, third-execution in banias, for refusing to hit the demonstrators 10/4/2011." So he's part of this story, and the second Lt. Colonel.

Those Syrian Arab Army soldiers presented by the VDC as defecting, or killed for trying, are usually put on the "martyrs" list. But Lt. col. Qattash is the only one here. There are many soldiers listed by the VDC as killed on April 10, explicitly or probably in Banyas - but they're listed as regular "regime forces," usually meaning 'bad guys' killed by rebel fighters - which didn't officially exist at this time. And none of them aside from martyr Qattash is noted as for refusing that order. Perhaps the usual system just wasn't decided on this early, or perhaps the VDC is being more "credible" here and acknowledging the obvious - to some degree.

See  27 regime forces fatalities "from" Baniyas (meaning from unknown and killed there?) plus 4 from other areas killed in Baniyas, another that fits, (killed on Latakia-Tartous highway) and another - Murad Hajjo - killed in Deraa, it says, but everyone else says in Baniyas. Including martyr Qattash, it's apparently 34 soldier total that were killed. That number is higher than any reports I've seen would explain; the ambush story only supports about nine or ten killed. The VDC entries' scant details add a separate "explosion" perhaps. Do they reflect other unreported attacks? Or is this a padded record, for whatever reason? For example, did some 20 rebel fighters they couldn't acknowledge wind up getting killed in the clash, and swept under this rug? Is AFP's line "left at least 30 people dead in Banias and another flashpoint town, Daraa" actually an understatement?

The list of 27 includes Landis' cousin-in-law by name: Yaser Ahmad Qashour Lieutenant Colonel, from Tartous  Qadmous - Beit Marij, age 43, Martyrdom location Tartous - Banyas. Notes: "in an ambush that targeted army equipment in Banyas near Ras Nabie bridge." As we've seen, it was actually on the bridge. But this seems to bear out everything else we've seen, although the VDC doesn't attribute blame clearly for this whole large batch, and suggests the same as other opposition sources.
So there was an alleged order to kill demonstrators, and then there was something of a one-sided fight between the Army's members sent in for that reason - a fight over this important and controversial order. Some were so upset by it they refused, probably despite threats. Others were so gung-ho about it they'd kill the Sunni protesters plus their own soldiers. The ones refusing apparently lost this fight, and those willing to kill innocents must have won. But then it seems no one wound up acting on the order. So... what was so important about it to begin with?

Logic aside, activists would allege a paper copy of the order to kill dissenting soldiers was found by them before April 13 - somehow intercepted by unarmed activists, and smeared with blood. Landis called it clearly fake (same second link - I'd love to have a picture of that but the old link there doesn't seem to have it anymore).

And further, the first reports already contained hints that rebels themselves knew this story might fall apart. The Guardian's "Marsh" report added "Activists said not all soldiers reported dead or injured were shot after refusing to fire. "We are investigating reports that some people have personal weapons and used them in self-defence," said Tarif," the "human rights monitor." That was the only credible thing he heard remotely similar: improvised, individual "self-defense" ... against an army allegedly too busy killing itself to have killed anyone else. One wonders how that investigation came out. It probably just didn't. 

The Tell-All Soldier
At the time, opposition and mainstream media sources they wrote the news for had published this video (Arabic dialog, no subtitles):

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f3nveUVbSPk - description:
اعتراف الجندي الذي جاء إلى بانياس أنه مغرر بهم من قوادهم وأن إطلاق النار كان من خلفهم من قوات الأمن بتاريخ
"The soldier who came to Banias that deluded them of their leaders and that the fire was behind them of the security forces on recognition"

So, one of the soldiers shot by his own side in the back, then left around for these unarmed activists ... to find and ... get medical help for. That in itself makes fairly little sense. He was probably captured, by the attackers, who were them. Anyway, in their custody, they say he explains how he was shot in the back after he refused the alleged order. Considering how duress exists, he just might say that. People generally accepted that he did. But it was hard to be sure - it's all in Arabic.

Then Joshua Landis had a look, and published that in his second article Western Press Misled - already cited above - which focused largely on this video. He contended, after reviewing the dialog - that is, what's said - that it had been "completely misconstrued," and "the Guardian irresponsibly repeats a false interpretation of the video provided by an informant."
"The soldier denies that he was ordered to fire on people. Instead, he says he was on his way to Banyas to enforce security. He does not say that he was shot at by government agents or soldiers. In fact he denies it. The interviewer tries to put words in his mouth but the soldier clearly denies the story that the interviewer is trying to make him confess to.  In the video, the wounded soldier is surrounded by people who are trying to get him to say that he was shot by a military officer. The soldier says clearly, “They [our superiors] told us, ‘Shoot at them IF they shoot at you.’
The interviewer tried to get the wounded soldier to say that he had refused orders to shoot at the people when he asked : “When you did not shoot at us what happened?” But the soldier doesn’t understand the question because he has just said that he was not given orders to shoot at the people. The soldier replies, “Nothing, the shooting started from all directions”.  The interviewer repeats his question in another way by asking, “Why were you shooting at us, we are Muslims?” The soldier answers him, “I am Muslim too.”  The interviewer asks, “So why were you going to shoot at us?” The soldier replies, “We did not shoot at people. They shot at us at the bridge.”
Landis' analysis clearly wins over that of "Katherine Marsh." S/He never explains how it was decided the soldier actually said "he was shot in the back by security forces." Clearly, he didn't - activists said he did, and tried to get him to, but he didn't say that.  He said, instead, what all credible evidence does.

Consider how the Hariri-linked Now Lebanon panned Landis in September 2011 as the Professor of Propaganda: "To read Landis’ commentary about Syria over the past half year is to track the development of Baath propaganda." For example, "Landis has persisted in his denial of the claim, in the face of mounting evidence compiled over a series of months, that the Syrian regime has carried out a policy of killing soldiers who refuse to fire on unarmed civilians." They would love to share any debunk of that one video analysis, but there apparently was none - the author skipped to newer allegation, mostly verbal claims by successfully defected soldiers - that is, anti-government, and largely Sunni extremist partisans. He also failed to mention the blood-smeared paper copy that was once supposed to prove the order.

Indeed, defector and "desperate regime collapsing" claims in 2011 went well beyond this one case, including others like the alleged regime killing of over 100 rebelling soldiers in Jisr al-Shughour next to Turkey, weeks later. Do note, it's shady too, with Islamist eye-gouging and a real FSA defector behind it that even the Turks  - if not the ruling ones - sent back to Syria to stand trial (see ACLOS page, on-site defector profile)). Whatever one makes of those, the one claim at least remains pretty clearly fake, concocted to obscure a covert pattern of armed mayhem to destabilize the state. (see also: Peter Lee, Counterpunch - Sharmine Narwani, al-Akhbar English)

AFP/Al-Arabiya Version and Rahman Mosque
Interestingly, there's another account of the day's violence that might be an abortive early version of the rebel story where the dead weren't soldiers at all, but mosque-oriented   "people" - implicitly protesters. In this report of April 10 (Arabic text - app. video version here) from al-Arabiya (Saudi Arabian-owned) unnamed activist told AFP that:
"security forces fired on the perimeter of the Al-Rahman mosque in the outskirts of Baniyas that resulted in at least four dead and 15 wounded ... Activists said that the connections to mobile and landlines with Baniyas were cut off completely. As reported by activists fired on the mosque of Abu Baker al siddique in the city, what resulted in the injury of 5 people." 
The five injured story seems to be at a different place - perhaps "mosque Abu Bakr, may Allah curse" as currently labeled in Arabic here on Wikimpaia. But the 4 dead story near "Rahman mosque" is what matters; as we've seen, there were no protesters killed that the record still show, and the only people to die in numbers of "at least 4" were the ambushed soldiers. But they didn't die at the perimeter of Rahman mosque. Or did they? That's locatable, by labels anyway, here on Wikimapia, 300 meters northwest of the bridge where the ambush happened, with a clear line of sight to see how far away that is - too far to be relevant, unless ... it's close enough that perhaps a sniper in its minaret could have provided a third angle of fire no one noticed at the time.

And this seals the location that the video and everyone agrees on, and that clarifies the activists were talking about the same batch of "people" shot by "security forces."

The al-Arabiya report also mentions, as less credible, "according to the official authorities one officer was killed and another wounded in an ambush of a Syrian military unit in the region of Baniyas." So both of these competing stories sound like early and incomplete reports of the same thing - one was less informed of the death toll (1/9 known) but correct on circumstances, and the other was more aware of the death toll (at least 4 dead, couldn't get a full count yet - 15 or so injured anyway...) but fudging the details, quite badly as we can see. 

To add: Original AFP report cited by al-Arabiya, via Muscat Daily)
"Syrian security forces have been firing for the last two hours in the (Sunni) neighbourhood of Ras al-Nabee where there is the Al-Rahman mosque," a focal point of demonstrations, two witnesses said by telephone. "At least three were killed and dozens wounded," they said, providing the names of the casualties and referring to the violence as "a real massacre with snipers shooting to kill."
The gunfire, according to both witnesses, came from the Alawite neighbourhood of Al-Quz. A third witness, a rights activist, said the shots were aimed at the mosque and left "four dead and 15 wounded." All of the witnesses and activists who spoke to AFP requested anonymity, citing security concerns. 
(Another version via Saudi Gazette)
Syrian government forces killed at least four people and wounded 17 when they strafed a residential area of the coastal town of Banias with gunfire for hours Sunday, witnesses told AFP.
A Syrian security officer was later killed and another was wounded when their patrol was ambushed in the northwestern coastal town, the official SANA news agency reported.
Digesting all of this: I cannot locate this "al-Quz district" on Wikimapia. In fact Ras al-Nabi is the only set aside and marked district I see. I have no clue but this what any other districts are even named. This IRIN article on increasing sectarian segregation explains how Alawi tend (more so now) to live in the north and Sunnis in the south of Baniyas. The mosque is not in Ras al-Nabi, as labelled, but there is no other match for Rahman mosque in Baniyas, and for no Rahman anything inside the district. Shooting towards both would best be done from the north.

But then I remembered I've heard of this Rahman mosque before. In connection with the Khaddam-backed Baniyas emirate mentioned above, it's interesting that, as I summarized some time ago:
A confession aired on May 23 claimed one "Abu Ali" Biassi was the "defense minister" of an "emirate" planned for Baniyas in these first days. The "emir" was a local, Sheikh Anis' (? - انس ) Aarot. All were paid and provided weapons from outside, explosives, rifles and pistols from Lebanon. Rahman Mosque was their warehouse. There was a plan of minister Biassi's to rig explosives at the Baniyas refinery and the thermal station, to be blown up on the orders of the ministers. They had the explosives, the captive driver says, but this was apparently where they were busted instead.
See, again, here - needing update now or here, already updated partly. Sheikh Anas Ayrout was later "a member of the Syrian National Coalition who is from the coastal city of Banias,"who praised (openly encouraged, see here) the massacres of hundreds of Alawi civilians and seizure of hundreds more in Latakia province, August 2013, for bringing a "balance of terror" against Syria's Alawi citizens and in the rebellion's favor.

Anyway, here's the scene and the claims. One can guess why they dropped the first story and decided "okay, it was soldiers killed, and not at the mosque, but..."

Bad Blood Between Neighbors
And note how this first and fakest story blamed shooting from an "Alawite neighborhood" ... they were getting blamed for a reason. Was it to justify some premeditated punishment? Or just to terrify people with that possibility? It never played out fully, because security forces and the city at large came together, shut down the terror cells, and kept the peace there, at least until the infamous massacres two years later.

As for those, the May 2013 al-Bayda and Baniyas massacres: in both cases, rebels said Alawites has slaughtered hundreds of innocent Sunnis on purely sectarian grounds. The first one targeted the family of a government-loayalist Imam after a deadly ambush of soldiers, in a purely Sunni town. So we know the "Alawite Shabiha" were targeting Sunnis, as virtually everyone has dutifully noted. But the second massacre with a murkier death toll happened in Ras al-Nabi, not rebel-held but accessible at least, of use in the case of a new surge of fighters sneaking in from the al-Bayda direction. And it's fairly near a lot of Alawite civilians - like the ones in al-Quz - who can be kidnapped in times of chaos.

A Civilian Death After All
Back to April 10, 2011... what else happened in Baniyas on this bloody day of the peoples' peaceful uprising against the "Alawite dictatorship"? One civilian at least was killed - 30-year-old Nidal Jannoud - an Alawi farmer who had the sense to not even live in Banyas, but in a village outside the city. But he did pass through that day, April 10, and was accosted by a group of lively Sunni "activists" before he could get back home.

It may be a hard rock hit or, more likely, a blade they used to split or slice his cheek open badly. That left him pouring blood as he apparently tried to carry on, to calmly get away to somewhere safe. But he was captured on video continually hounded by the mob in a city street in broad daylight. The inset shows one view, with Mr. Jannoud threatened with both a rock and a pistol by these vanguards of Syria's "dignity revolution." Shortly after these scenes and off-camera, the farmer died of a gunshot, after what other abuse is not fully clear (see here at ACLOS)

Some reports say the rebels had actually blamed Janoud's murder on "Assad's" security forces. But it's also said that "Omar Ayrout and Yahya Al Rayes confessed later that they killed Janoud. Their confessions appeared on the Syrian TV." (source) Omar Ayrout is the protest leader in Baniyas, and quite likely related to would-be Baniyas emir and Alawi massacre cheerleader, Anas Ayrout. 

Perhaps the VDC didn't want a list of just a murdered Alawi farmer for civilian deaths in Tartous that day. For whatever reason, he was shifted to regime forces, rank: civilian, and martyrs (civilian) were left at zero. The revolution was clearly winning in Baniyas that day, and we can see what that looks like, as it would look later but on a bigger scale; soldiers killed, security upended, exposed Alawites or other civilian enemies butchered, "Assad" blamed anyway, and outside help against the "Alawite regime" pleaded for on that fake moral basis.

Rousing Conclusion
The corporate and controlled media at the time failed to fill us in on any of these details. All we heard was there was an order to kill and soldiers killed for refusing it, and then a widely-decried crackdown. The increase in civilian shootings, we were told, meant the activists would have to take up arms and form a "Free Syrian Army" to get all these defectors safely into and start protecting the people of Syria.

And now here we are, more than four years after this little-understood event, and probably over 400,000 people of all kinds killed, often horribly like Mr. Jannoud. It's gotten so insanely bad with all of Syria's empty desert in Islamist hands and the North in other Islamist hands, there are increasing claims - still as horribly wrong as ever - that Syria has passed some tipping point it can't survive, at least in one piece; maybe the best thing to do now is accelerate the inevitable end.

But that in fact still depends on a lot. I think we can keep on this course another three years - or an accelerated one for 18 months - and still debate ending the project finally before we hit the dreaded mark of one million dead. And Syria would still survive, if maimed. It is not too late to turn this thing back and leave it at "badly injured."

We - the actual international community with no specific leaders or recognized powers - should work towards that frustrated end. Let's spread the truth so more people can see the wisdom of that. Late is far, far better than never.  


  1. After those first few days in Daraa the killing of Syrian security forces continued,
    but went largely unreported outside Syria.
    Nevertheless, independent analyst Sharmine Narwani wrote about the scale of this killing in early 2012 and again in mid-2014.

    An ambush and massacre of soldiers took place near Daraa in late March or early April.
    An army convoy was stopped by an oil slick on a valley road between Daraa al-Mahata
    and Daraa al-Balad and the trucks were machine gunned. Estimates of soldier deaths, from government and opposition sources ranged from 18 to 60.

    A Daraa resident said these killings were not reported because: ‘At that time, the government did not want to show they are weak and the opposition did not want to show they are armed’.

    Anti-Syrian blogger, Nizar Nayouf, records this massacre as taking place in the last week of March. Another anti-Government writer, Rami Abdul Rahman (based in England, and calling himself the ‘Syrian Observatory of Human Rights’) says:
    ‘It was on the first of April and about 18 or 19 security forces … were killed’ (Narwani 2014).

    Deputy Foreign Minister Faisal Mikdad, himself a resident of Daraa, confirmed that: ‘this incident was hidden by the government … as an attempt not to antagonize or not to raise emotions and to calm things down – not to encourage any attempt to inflame emotions which may lead to escalation of the situation’ (Narwani 2014).

    Yet the significance of denying armed anti-Government killings was that, in the western media, all deaths were reported as (a) victims of the Army and (b) civilians.

    For well over six months, when a body count was mentioned in the international media,
    it was usually considered acceptable to suggest these were all ‘protestors’ killed by the Syrian Army.

    For example, a Reuters report on 24 March said Daraa’s main hospital had received ‘the bodies of at least 37 protestors killed on Wednesday’ (Khalidi 2011). Notice that all the dead had become ‘protestors’, despite earlier reports on the killing of a number of police and health workers.

    Another nineteen soldiers were gunned down on 25 April, also near Daraa.

    Narwani obtained their names and details from Syria’s Defence Ministry, and corroborated these details from another document from a non-government source.

    Throughout April 2011 she calculates that eighty-eight Syrian soldiers were killed ‘by unknown shooters in different areas across Syria’ (Narwani 2014

    1. That's a good piece there. If 30-some soldiers could become protesters and not be admitted by either side, maybe there were also 34 soldiers killed here. FWIW I checked VDC - 54 civilians killed March 23 in al Omari mosque massacre, one on the 24th. About 19 soldiers diff. areas on the 24th, less the day before, some killed in Homs. Only 2 in the whole span noted as killed in Daraa - on the 23rd both, one from Tartous, one from Latakia. Maybe here they left the Alawite soldiers and claimed all the Sunni ones as protesters?

    2. and here's a third http://www.vdc-sy.info/index.php/en/details/martyrs/15417#.VZnBZ_lyTm4 from Homs, Talkalakh, Refused to open fire at the peaceful demonstrators, in Daraa March 23

  2. On Baniyas districts, I happened to check the SNHR's ridiculous report on the 2013 Baniyas massacres (458 killed, they say! 263 in al-Bayda, whereas actual evidence suggests about 80, not including the mutilated NDF fighters)

    Anyway ... they give a population of 177,000 - 105k Alawi, 45k Sunni, 20k Christian. And it gives this sort of jumbled but useful list of districts/villages and religious populations:

    Eastern (Qusour neighborhood) : inhabited by Alawite sect
    North (Hrison) Majority Alawite and Minority Sunni
    Southern entrance is bordered by thermal station
    Southeast entry through Ras al-Nabi, possibly taken by the real killers as they came over from al-Bayda - not mentioned)

    Baniyas divided into four districts :

    Villages center district (Baniyas district) Multi-denominational

    Ar-Rawdah district : Multi-denominational, Christian majority

    Al-Anazah district : Alawite

    Talin district : Aalwite

    Dahr Mhirz, Qusor, Qawz, Hrison: multi-denominational, Alawite majority

    (is al-Quz the same as Qawz, or Qusor or neither? It's the only one mentioned in the report - rebels hate that district most.)

    Ar-Rawdah, Faihaa, Marah: Multi-denominational, Christian majority

    (Ras al-Nabi, Sunni (majority or what?) and site of the massacre in question, not listed)

    Sunni villages: Maqrab wikimapia, Alkin, Bustan al Najar (WM), Wata Albida, Albasia, Ras Alrifa, Basaten (wm) Bayda (wm) Adima


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