Once a curiosity, captured tanks are a growing part of Syrian rebels’ arsenal
Ankir Ankir normally drives a wheat harvester, but a battle in December found him piloting a tank, a skill he had learned 17 years ago as an 18-year-old conscript in the Syrian army.
“If the government knew we would use these against them one day, they never would have trained us,” said Ankir, who used a Russian-made T-72 tank captured from government forces to help drive Syrian soldiers from this north-central Syrian town of 25,000.
“We used the tank to destroy another tank, a truck with an anti-aircraft gun and to attack a building the army was using,” Ankir said.
The rebel use of captured tanks and armored personnel carriers was first noticed last summer, though the engagements then were often short. One battle that this reporter witnessed in June outside the city of Talbiseh south of Kfar Nbouda ended quickly when government helicopters destroyed two armored personnel carriers the rebels had captured and turned on government soldiers.
Since then, however, rebels have captured dozens, if not hundreds, of tanks and armored vehicles and have become adept at using them to attack Syrian government positions. The prevalence of rebel armor – in rebel-held areas it’s now common to see tanks and other armored vehicles parked in alleyways and orchards or covered with foliage to camouflage them from airstrikes – belies the common image of the rebels as vastly outgunned by a superior government force.
Syria conflict: John Kerry extends US aid to rebels
Mr Kerry said the US would provide direct support to rebel forces in the form of medical and food supplies.
He also promised an additional $60m (£40m) in aid to the opposition to help it deliver basic governance and other services in rebel-controlled areas.
Mr Kerry was speaking at a gathering of the Friends of Syria group in Rome.Mr Kerry said the decision was designed to increase the pressure on President Assad to step down and allow a democratic transition.
John Kerry: "This funding will allow the opposition... to be able to rebuild"
"The US decision to take further steps now is the result of the brutality of superior armed force propped up by foreign fighters from Iran and Hezbollah.
"President Assad is out of time and must be out of power," said Mr Kerry, adding that the Syrian leader could not "shoot his way out" of the situation.
However, Kerry's offer "fell short of rebel demands" for arms, including anti-tank and anti-aircraft weapons, as well as the alternative military assistance – body armor, armored vehicles, training – some had speculated would be on the table, Reuters reported.
Western and Arab countries may go further, however, when they meet with leading opposition bloc the Syrian National Coalition in Istanbul next week. One European diplomat told Reuters that the SNC's allies would discuss providing "military and humanitarian support."
The US pledge has been met with skepticism inside Syria.
"America is planning and bluffing the world with statements many know they will not adhere to it," said one activist from Ariha who asked not to be named. "When has America committed to its promises?"
The university student, who studied in Aleppo before the revolution suspended has education, said little of the money received through the Syrian National Council, based outside of the country, reaches the fighters on the ground.
Syrian opposition postpones meeting to choose PM
The main Western-backed Syrian opposition group has postponed an upcoming meeting in Turkey where it was to choose a prime minister for a transitional government in rebel-held areas.
The Syrian National Coalition said in a statement posted on its Facebook page Thursday that the March 2 conference in Istanbul was canceled for "logistical reasons." It said it would announce a new date as soon as possible.
The opposition umbrella group has struggled to agree on the leadership of a transitional administration since the Coalition was formed late last year. The group has met on previous occasions to select an interim prime minister, but has failed to reach a compromise.
1603 GMT: Croatia to Withdraw Troops from Golan.
Croatia has been implicated - by EA Worldview, Eliot Higgins, Michael Weiss, the Washington Post, and the New York Times, just to name a few - of having their weapons show up in Syrian rebel hands.
Whether the government of Croatia had knowledge of this fact is unknown, and their government has denied this knowledge, but the existence of the weapons is now well established. Now, it seems that the Croatian government has decided to remove its troops, part of a UN peacekeeping team, from the Golan Heights as a result:
Croatia said Thursday it will withdraw its soldiers stationed on the Golan Heights as part of a UN force after reports said that Syrian rebels battling the regime of Bashar al-Assad were receiving weapons from the Balkan country.
"After talks with President (Ivo) Josipovic I have initiated the withdrawal of Croatian troops from the Golan Heights," Prime Minister Zoran Milanovic told a cabinet session...
"We can deny the reports as much as we want but that won't go anywhere," Milanovic said. "Our soldiers are no longer safe. We want them back home safe and sound."
Putin says Russia should listen to French arguments on Syria, over vodka
President Vladimir Putin said Thursday that Russia should listen to some of the French arguments about Syria — over a bottle of vodka, not merely wine.
Putin made the comment after talks in Moscow with French President Francois Hollande, whom Putin said made some new proposals on dealing with the nearly 2-year-old conflict in the Arab state.
The Russian leader did not offer any details on the French ideas or elaborate which of them Moscow should heed, but his remarks were unusually conciliatory for a man who has spent most of the past two years criticizing the West’s stance on Syria’s civil war and insisting Russia’s approach is best.
“We should listen to the opinion of our partners on some of the aspects of that difficult problem,” Putin told reporters. “It seems to me that we would need to sit over a bottle of vodka — a bottle of good wine wouldn’t be enough — to sort things out. We would need to sit down and think it over.”
Hollande responded jokingly that he would prefer port.
resistance fighters destroyed military station 36 near the jordanian border http://youtu.be/dC6S4fCLXGQ
resistance fighters have destroyed a bmp-1 in darayya
jabhat al-nusrah says resistance fighters have liberated an oil field near the town of al-ramilan in al-hasakah
resistance fighters near al-qamishli airport http://youtu.be/KvFv7Ek1p7A
Russia, US+France can agree all they want on a unified Syria. But disintegration is happening on ground,longer they wait, harder to prevent