Syrian government security forces have conducted operations in Az-Zabadani since the start of pro-democracy protests last year, but renewed their focus on the town in recent months. From mid-January to late March 2012, the number of Syrian government forces and equipment in the area increased significantly despite a reported ceasefire, and these forces continue to conduct security operations in the town.
On January 17, press reports stated Syrian government security forces agreed to withdraw from Az-Zabadani by the following morning.1
Read more… Two days later, press reports indicated the Syrian government withdrew its armored vehicles and other military equipment from Az-Zabadani,2 indicating that the Syrian government forces were honoring the ceasefire.
In February, media reports noted Syrian government security forces resumed operations in Az-Zabadani, inconsistent with the ceasefire agreement.3
By February 5, Syrian government forces emplaced artillery 6.5km outside of Az-Zabadani, putting the entire town within range of artillery fire. Days later, Syrian government security forces massed in areas around Az-Zabadani. Between February 5 and 11, security forces shelled farmland outside the town, likely in support of armored vehicle movements along a main road into the town. On February 11, armored vehicles were on the outskirts of the town, and, two days later, they were inside the town. Armored vehicles took positions both outside a hospital and in a residential area.
As of late March 2012, government security operations persist throughout Az-Zabadani. Two armored vehicles remain outside the hospital. Armored vehicles continue to move about the town. In late March, armored vehicles arrived on a road outside the town.
Syrian government security forces turned their attention from Homs to the border town of Al Qusayr in February and March.
Military units moved into the town of Al Qusayr in late February. Armored vehicles were deployed in Al Qusayr by late February, and artillery units were deployed near the town. By mid-March, artillery units deployed near the town oriented toward Homs were reoriented toward Al Qusayr, and another artillery unit was deployed to Al Qusayr. Two bridges between Al Qusayr and the border with Lebanon were damaged in early March. Additional armored vehicles arrived in Al Qusayr by late March.
According to media reporting, Syrian government security forces on March 6 bombed a bridge with artillery shells some three kilometers from the Lebanon border used to evacuate the refugees from the central flashpoint province of Homs.1 According to Human Rights Watch, witnesses reported dozens of artillery shells fired on Al Qusayr on a daily basis since late February. Witnesses also reported attacks on protesters, destruction of property, home raids, and sniper attacks.2 According to media reporting, fighting continued in Al Qusayr as of late March.3
Footnotes for Az-Zabadani Text
1. BBC News, “Syrian Military ‘agrees to ceasefire in Zabadani,’” January 18, 2012
2. New York Times Online, Kareem Fahim “In Syrian City, a Calm That Few Expect to Last,” January 21, 2012
3. Reuters, “Assad’s Forces Enter Zabadani after Ceasefire,” February 11, 2012
Footnotes for Al Qusayr Text
1. The Telegraph, “Syria: Bashar Al Assad vows to crush ‘terrorism’ in new campaign of fear,” March 6, 2012
2. Human Rights Watch, “Syria: Government Uses Homs Tactics on Border Town,” March 22, 2012
3. AFP, “Al Assad Tours Homs Neighborhood,” Gulf News, March 28, 2012
Disclaimer: The Office of Policy Planning and Public Diplomacy, in the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor, of the U.S. Department of State manages this site as a portal for international human rights related information from the United States Government. External links to other internet sites should not be construed as an endorsement of the views or privacy policies contained therein.