DEBKAfile Exclusive Report June 6, 2011,
Thousands of paramilitary rebels wielding guns and explosives have seized an area of northwestern Syria between the towns of Homs, Hama and Latakiya. Syrian State TV interrupted its broadcasts for the second time Monday, June 6, to announce that “terrorist gangs” had killed at least 120 troops and security officers, most of them in the embattled town of Jisr al-Shughour.
In that town, at least 35 protesters were killed by pro-government forces in the last 24 hours.
debkafile’s military sources disclose that Syrian President Bashar Assad has dispatched Brigade 555, the strategic reserve guarding the regime in Damascus, and the army’s 85th brigade, in a desperate bid to snuff out the armed revolt in the Homs-Hama-Restan-Jisr al-Shughour region.
Our sources say rebel control of this area is complete. They have torched all the buildings housing government and ruling institutions and no government forces are to be seen there.
Monday night, the rebels seized the army’s explosive stores near the big dams on the Orontes River. They used a part of the five tons of explosives they gained control of to blow up the river bridges linking central and southern Syria to the northwest so as to block the passage of tanks and commando reinforcements.
Our intelligence sources disclose that potential mutiny in the Syrian armed forces was first signaled Sunday, June 5, when Brigadier Manaf Tlas, commander of the 105th Brigade of the elite Republican Guard and deputy of the president’s brother Gen. Maher Assad, announced that he and his staff officers were going on strike until Bashar Assad met their demands.
Those demands relate to the honor of the prominent Tlas clan of the city of Restan. But more importantly, that one of Assad’s key commanders was willing to lay down arms in the middle of the government’s life-or-death struggle against a rapidly advancing revolt attested to the black mood sweeping the military elite in the regime’s direst time of need.
Monday night, Syrian TV suddenly interrupted its broadcasts for Interior Minister Gen. Muhammad Sha’er to make an announcement. He said Syria’s problem today is not an attempt to overthrow the regime but a deliberate attempt to topple the Syrian state. Syria faces a rebellion staged by armed terrorists, he said.
The general was the first Syrian public figure to publicly describe the uprising and demonstrations engulfing the country in terms of a regime fighting for its life.
Sunday, debkafile reported that Assad’s security machine is creaking badly, a judgment made by Israeli and Western intelligence watchers on the strength of its failure to raise thousands of Palestinian and Syrian volunteers to brave the Israeli troops manning the Golan. The staged protest fizzled out Monday when only dozens of volunteers turned up opposite the Israeli border, only to be turned back by Syrian troops.