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Sunday, January 17

UPDATED 5:30pm EST- Islamic State massacres 280 Syrian civilians REUTERS WILL YOU PLEASE WAKE UP OVER THERE AT THE EDITORIAL DESK IN LEBANON?

UPDATE
Syrian Field Commander Refutes Reports of 400 People Kidnapped by Daesh -- Sputnik 20:28 17.01.2016. Sputnik finally snapped out of its daze, but this didn't mollify me by much. Here's my reaction to the above report. 
END UPDATE

Pundita if you don't calm down we're going shopping. Now sit on your temper; I mean it. 

I'm going to take readers through something and when you get to the punchline you might ask why I did this to you. Because you need to see with your own eyes that when it comes to the Syrian War, there is actually very little fog of war. Instead, there is a ton of lying. 

They're getting away with it because there are no Western reporters embedded with Syrian Army troops on account of Western governments turn their noses up at the army. This has allowed the bad guys in Syria to have a field day; they control the story that reaches Western TV audiences and news readers. 

The only way around the blockade is by reading a small handful non-Western news sites such as Iran's FARS and the Russian sites Sputnik and RT, although the Russianss can be caught napping sometimes. The only exception seems to be Al Masdar News, which seems to be run by Westerners.

Now who is "they?"  Chiefly SOHR (Syrian Observatory for Human Rights), which is situated in London and is a straight-up propaganda outlet for 'opposition' fighters in Syria. Which opposition fighters? Wouldn't we like to know.

It has occurred to me that at least some of SOHR's mysterious sources on the ground in Syria are the White Helmets, a medical ngo funded by one of George Soros' organizations that cares for wounded 'opposition' fighters. And yes, Soros has been mucking around in Syria's war for years. Why? Give me a moment while I ring up the Saudi defense minister and ask.  

If you say at this point you're not going to follow this crazy war anymore -- I say that once an hour. 

Ready?       

From the Al Masdar News report, filed January 16 at 8:51 PM local time by Chris Tomson:
Moments ago, horrific reports emerged that militants loyal to the Islamic State (ISIS) have executed hundreds of civilians in Deir Ez-Zor [actually in a village near the city called al-Bailya] amidst a huge offensive to capture Al-Bughayliyah and Ayyash.
Although the overall death toll is unknown for now, some 280 civilians, many whom were women and children, are believed to have been executed at point blank range allegedly due to their allegiance with the Syrian Arab Army (SAA). Among those reported dead, only 5 were captured SAA soldiers. [...]
Stop right there. A report on the massacre from Russia's RT news site (17 Jan, 2016 05:17 GMT Edited time: 10:36), which I picked up around 2am EST, cited Lebanon's Al-Mayadeen TV as the source for their report. ("Al Mayadeen said that 280 people were killed, including children and women. The TV channel added that the dead bodies were dumped in the Euphrates River, while 400 survivors were taken hostage".)

(This could explain how Al Masdar News picked up the news of the massacre so quickly. Although Chris Tomson lives in Denmark, AMN is situated in Lebanon. Not Yemen, as I incorrectly stated when I first mentioned AMN. I was incorrect because the only Al Masdar identifed by Wikipedia was in Yemen and because it didn't occur to the people at AMN to tell readers where their organization was based. I had to learn it from one of Al Masdar's reporters, who wrote to correct me and thank me for favorably mentioning his reporting on the fake Madaya starvation photos. He also mentioned AMN is relocating to Damascus.)

To return to the RT report:
Reuters also reported at least 250 people dead in Bagilya [also spelled settlement, citing a source close to the government. Some of the victims were beheaded, according to the source.
Now let's traipse to Reuters:

Islamic State kidnaps 400 civilians in Syrian city of Deir al-Zor: monitor
Sun Jan 17, 2016 - 5:24am EST
BEIRUT
Reuters
Islamic State militants kidnapped at least 400 civilians when they attacked government-held areas in the eastern Syrian city of Deir al-Zor on Saturday, a monitoring group said.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said on Sunday families of pro-government fighters were among those abducted.
"There is genuine fear for their lives, there is a fear that the group might execute them as it has done before in other areas," said the Observatory's head Rami Abdulrahamn.
Deir al-Zor is the main town in a province of the same name. The province links Islamic State's de facto capital in the Syrian city of Raqqa with territory controlled by the militant group in neighboring Iraq. [..]
Back to Al Masdar News (remember, they're in Lebanon and surely Beirut). I also picked up this report around 2am EST -- same time I picked up the RT one. As to why the spelling of Deir al-Zor is all over the place in AMN in reports, dunno.

ISIS offensive has been officially repelled in Deir Ezzor [Deir al-Zor]
Written by News Desk on 17/01/2016 12:18 am [local time]
Al Masdar News

The Islamic State of Iraq and Al-Sham (ISIS) launched a massive offensive inside the provincial capital of the Deir Ezzor Governorate on Saturday morning, targeting the Syrian Arab Army’s frontline defenses at the northwestern districts of Ayyash and Al-Bughayliyah near the western bank of the Euphrates River.

Initially, the ISIS terrorists were relatively successful during the onset of the offensive in the provincial capital, capturing several neighborhoods and government sites inside the Al-Bughayliyah and Ayyash Districts, including the Ayyash weapons storage depot and the Ayyash fuel station that are both located to the west of the Euphrates Hotel.

As a result of their initial success, several pro-ISIS and pro-rebel social media activists began to report that the Ayyash and Al-Bughayliyah Districts were captured by the terrorist group, despite conflicting reports from Syrian Arab Army sources inside this city in eastern Syria.

Under duress from the ISIS assault, the Syrian Arab Army’s 137th Artillery Brigade of the 17th Reserve Division called for reinforcements from the elite 104th Airborne Brigade of the Republican Guard to help them drive out the terrorists attacking their positions in the northwestern section of the city.

Not long after their arrival, the Syrian Arab Army’s 104th Airborne Brigade – alongside the 137th Artillery Brigade and the National Defense Forces (NDF) – beat back the encroaching ISIS terrorists, seizing the Ayyash weapons storage depot and the neighborhoods lost in the Al-Bughayliyah District.

Sadly, as the Syrian Armed Forces recaptured the neighborhoods they lost to ISIS in the Al-Bughayliyah District, they found over 280 civilians slain by the terrorist group before they fled the scene of this horrific crime.

The massacred civilians had been reportedly murdered for having “ties to the regime”; meaning, many of these civilians were relatives of an SAA [Syrian Arab Army] or NDF soldier.

In addition to repelling ISIS at Ayyash and Al-Bughayliyah, the Syrian Armed Forces also repelled the terrorist group at the 137th Artillery Brigade’s Headquarters in Jabal Al-Thardeh.

According to a military source in Deir Ezzor, the Syrian Armed Forces lost a total of 49 soldiers during ISIS’ offensive – the source was unable to confirm ISIS’ death toll.


[END REPORT]

Now why didn't Al Masdar News make any mention of the 400 hostages in the above report? And why, for that matter, didn't Reuters think to include in its above report that the Syrian Arab Army had secured Deir al-Zor? 

Now for the punchline:   

By Leith Fadel [AMN Editor-in-Chief]
17/01/2016 5:56 am [local time]
Al Masdar News

The top Islamic State of Iraq and Al-Sham (ISIS) commander in the Deir Ezzor Governorate has been killed by the Syrian Arab Army (SAA) after his units launched a massive offensive inside the provincial capital’s northwestern districts.

“Abu Hamza Al-Ansari” was reportedly killed by the Syrian Arab Army’s 104 Airborne Brigade of the Republican Guard during the massive offensive launched by ISIS to capture ‘Ayyash and Al-Bughayliyah from the latter on Saturday morning.

Not much is known about this ISIS emir in Deir Ezzor; however, his death was lamented by several ISIS social media accounts and several of their followers.

[END REPORT]

See the report at Al Masdar News for a photo of Abu Hamza while he was still alive. He looked like an extra in Pirates of the Caribbean.   

So let me get this straight. Abu Hamza and his buddies fought a losing battle but never used the 400 hostages as a bargaining chip or stalling tactic while they tried to scare up reinforcements. Nor does it seem likely that the fleeing Islamic State fighters would have a driven a herd of 400 hostages ahead of them while they retreated. Nor is there is any mention of Islamic State massacring any civilians in Deir al-Zor or the army finding a large number of dead civilians when they took over the rest of the city.

Which raises the question: Where are the 400 hostages?  Were they loaded into a truck convoy and spirited out of the entire province of Deir al-Zor? It's possible though not very likely given the large presence of Syrian Army troops and allied militias in the area. 

Have a nice day! I'm going shopping. Wait, let me check at SANA one more time. [taptaptap]  Still no report on 400 hostages.  What really ticks me off is that at least twice in the past three months Sputnik has put up articles warning their readers about SOHR. But they also swallowed the SOHR report on 400 hostages without so much as a hiccup. Pundita. Shopping. We're out of chocolate milk and cream. 

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