[Marxism] Syrians March to Protest US Airstrikes Strategy
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Mon Sep 29 07:29:47 MDT 2014
Syrians March to Protest US Airstrikes Strategy
Rebels Protest Civilian Deaths and Sparing of Assad Regime
Sam Dagher and
Sept. 26, 2014 7:26 p.m. ET
Youths protest against U.S. airstrikes in Islamic State's de facto
capital of Raqqa on Friday. Reuters
Demonstrations against the U.S. and its Arab allies and those
collaborating with them swept through rebel-held areas in Syria on
Anger over the U.S. decision to target the militant Nusra Front in its
air campaign against Islamic State—and to spare the regime of Bashar
al-Assad and its allies—spurred protests after Friday prayers, a rebel
practice that has dwindled since the peaceful uprising against Mr. Assad
in March 2011 gradually gave way to a brutal civil war. Protests erupted
in more than 40 towns and villages across Syria.
One of the largest was held in the city of Maaret al-Numan in northern
Idlib province, which is home to a mix of secular and Islamist rebels
that cooperate with al-Qaeda-linked groups like Nusra and others
classified as terrorist organizations by the U.S.
"Down with America!" shouted hundreds of men streaming through the
streets of the city, according to video clips posted by activists. "With
our soul and blood we defend you, Nusra!"
In the town of Qaalet al-Madeeq in neighboring Hama province, protesters
burned a T-shirt emblazoned with an image of President Barack Obama.
Others held up posters assailing what they saw as U.S. inaction and
silence toward the crimes committed by the Assad regime and its
Iran-backed allies such as Lebanese Shiite militia Hezbollah, which has
thousands of fighters in Syria battling on the side of the regime. Most
of those fighting against the regime are Sunni.
"Ok, what about Hezbollah militia?" read a sign held by teenage boy.
Others shamed Arab pilots by name for taking part in the U.S.-led
In the town of Houla, northwest of the central city of Homs, protesters
included fighters praised Islamic State and condemned Saudi Arabia's
King Abdullah for taking part in the U.S. campaign.
"People want the Islamic caliphate," they chanted.
In nearby Talbiseh, protesters burned a U.S. flag.
"Assad, Obama and the coalition are enemies of God," they chanted. They
called the Western-backed Syrian Opposition Coalition and the rebel
groups that expressed their support for the U.S.-led airstrikes
An organizer of the Talbiseh protests, Firas al-Homsi, said the protests
would continue "to show the whole world that the United States is the
main protector of the Assad regime."
Protests were also held in cities and towns regularly bombarded by the
regime where the Nusra Front has no known presence. like parts of the
countryside around the northern city of Aleppo or the southern province
of Deraa adjacent to the Jordanian border.
"We are against America and what it did, it struck the Nusra Front and
the civilians instead of ISIS and the regime," said one man at protest
in the town of Atareb, west of the city of Aleppo.
A former fighter of the Western-backed Free Syrian Army who said he had
lost his leg battling against the Assad regime led the protest in
"Why strike Nusra? Nusra has never directed their weapons against the
people, but protected us against the regime," said Baraa al Halabi in
the Aleppo neighborhood of Bustan al Qasr. "The regime has [support
from] Hezbollah and those Iraqi militant fighters, and there are no
strikes on them…When Assad was killing and torturing us, it was groups
like Nusra that defended our dignity."
Mr. Halabi said he didn't agree with Nusra's radical ideology but
worried that the international strikes would aid the regime at the FSA's
On Friday regime warplanes and helicopters bombed rebel-held areas in
the center, north and south of the country, with one attack using barrel
bombs dropped from a helicopter killing nine people including women and
children in an Aleppo market, according to the monitoring group the
Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
Regime jets also attacked rebel position on Friday in Idlib province. In
the same region, the U.S. said it bombed the al-Qaeda-linked group
Khorasan on Tuesday, feeding local perceptions that attacks were
coordinated between the U.S. and the Assad regime. The U.S. denies any
Several local activists in the Aleppo and Idlib countrysides interviewed
via Skype said the U.S. struck a base and a training camp in an area
called al-Muhandeseen west of Aleppo city on the border with Idlib
They said a Nusra Front leader who goes by the pseudonym Abu Youssef
al-Turki, a Turkish national who previously fought in Afghanistan, was
among those killed. Mr. al-Turki was praised by jihadists on social
media as one of the "best snipers in the Middle East." Activists said he
had trained dozens of local snipers.
The U.S. also hit four structures in a poultry factory in Kfar Daryan in
neighboring Idlib province that had been used by the Nusra Front as a
weapons depot and command center. They said an adjacent two-story
structure occupied by civilians displaced by the conflict was also
demolished during the same airstrikes.
They said 20 and possibly up to 50 Nusra Front fighters as well as at
least 12 civilians from two families were among those killed in Kfar
On Friday residents of Kfar Daryan held a silent protest at the wreckage
of the building destroyed by Tuesday's airstrikes.
"The international alliance kills civilians," read one of the placards
they held up.
Thousands of civilians and rebels protested against the strikes across
Syria Friday, raising anti-American banners, a departure from when
activists pleaded for international intervention in the early days of
the revolution. Leading one protest in Aleppo was fighter from the
U.S.-backed Free Syrian Army, hobbling on crutches, one leg amputated in
wounds sustained in battle.
For the first time in many months, Syrians appeared united in a common
cause after three years of bloodshed in a revolution turned civil war.
"The protests were large—the largest I've seen in a long time. It took
me back to the first months of the revolution," said Mr. Halabi in
On Tuesday, nearly a dozen of the FSA's most powerful groups signed a
declaration denouncing the strikes, demanding they target the Syrian
regime in tandem with the Islamic State and calling for cooperation with
the armed opposition. Signatories to the statement included Harakat Hazm
and the Fifth Legion, some of the only FSA units to receive
American-made weapons from the Military Operations Command, a grouping
of western and Arab intelligence agencies coordinating their support to
the opposition, led by the U.S.
In a heated meeting with the Syrian opposition in Istanbul Thursday,
U.S. officials demanded an explanation for the statement condemning the
"They said 'friends don't speak against friends,'" said an opposition
official with knowledge of the meeting. "We told them, 'true friendship
means coordination.'" The meeting was confirmed by a second opposition
The Syrian opposition has been put in a tight corner with the U.S.-led
strikes, which have killed at least a dozen civilians so far and risk
further enraging the population against the FSA for their alliance to
the international coalition.
On Tuesday, the first day of the strikes, 12 civilians were killed. The
casualties included two members of a family in Kfar Daryan in Idlib
province, when a nearby Nusra training camp was targeted.
At 3.a.m. Tuesday, 13-year old Mohammed al Omar was sleeping at a
relative's house when a loud explosion caused part of the ceiling to
collapse in the room he was sleeping in. He fought to make it out of the
rubble, and headed to his family's house to check in, discovering that
his two year old sister, Rayyan, and seven year old brother, Khalid, had
been killed in the strikes – some of the first by the international
"Our house was destroyed. We're accustomed to the regime aircraft's
destruction but this was much bigger," Mr. Omar said. "We are so angry,
especially that Arabs, our own people, are in this alliance to kill us—
directly or indirectly—and they are helping the regime kill us."
Like most Syrians interviewed, Mr. Omar called for the international
coalition to target the Syrian government alongside Islamic State.
"The U.S. military has the technology but still they are killing us
civilians," he said. "We are now refugees in these strikes, our home is
destroyed. We want this all to end."
On Friday, at least one civilian was killed and five injured in the
"Our fear is that those airstrikes will hurt civilians and create
casualties and increase recruits for ISIS," said Ahmed al-Eid, a
commander for Harakat Hazm, one of the more powerful, U.S.-backed FSA
groups that is fighting in Syria's north.
Complicating the military campaign, the Islamic State is moving its
sophisticated weapons and personnel further away from standalone
military bases and into civilian populated areas and infrastructure,
according to the FSA.
When the U.S. announced that it would start striking Islamic State in
Syria, the group began moving its most valuable prisoners—including
western detainees—and its most sophisticated weapons such as tanks and
artillery to Tabqa dam in Raqqa province, in an attempt to ward off any
strikes. If hit, Tabqa dam, Syria's largest, has the ability to flood
several cities across the country, including Damascus, the opposition
—Mohammad Nour Alakraa contributed to this article.
Write to Sam Dagher at sam.dagher at wsj.com and Maria Abi-Habib at
maria.habib at wsj.com
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