Rebels seize towns in central Syria
[Reuters] Syrian rebels have captured at least six towns in the central province of Hama, activists say, in an operation aimed at putting pressure on Hereditary President-for-Life Bashir Pencilneck al-Assad
Leveler of Latakia...
from the north as cut-throats close in on the capital from its southern suburbs.

The rebel gains came as the United Nations
...where theory meets practice and practice loses...
on Wednesday launched what it said was its "largest short-term humanitarian appeal ever", for $1.5 billion to help millions of Syrians suffering a "dramatically deteriorating" humanitarian situation.

"The violence in Syria is raging across the country and there are nearly no more safe areas where people can flee and find safety," Radhouane Nouicer, U.N. regional humanitarian coordinator for Syria, told a news briefing in Geneva.

The Syrian opposition has scored significant military and diplomatic gains in recent weeks, capturing several army installations across Syria and securing formal recognition from Western and Arab states for its new coalition.

The capture of large parts of Hama province could now give the rebels effective control of a stretch of territory from the northern Turkish border 180 km (110 miles) to the north.

Qassem Saadeddine, a member of the rebel military command, said most of the rural western part of Hama province, which stretches to the foothills of the mountains which are home to Assad's minority Alawite community, was under the control of the mainly Sunni Mohammedan rebels.

Saadeddine announced the rebel offensive in Hama on Sunday. Assad's opponents already hold much of the northern provinces of Aleppo
...For centuries, Aleppo was Greater Syria's largest city and the Ottoman Empire's third, after Constantinople and Cairo. Although relatively close to Damascus in distance, Aleppans regard Damascenes as country cousins...
and Idlib, and are fighting to advance from the southern Damascus
...Capital of the last remaining Baathist regime in the world...
suburbs towards the heart of the capital.

"The battle is ongoing. We have freed many areas (of Hama) and we are studying plans to liberate more," Saadeddine told Rooters by Skype from inside Syria. "Three-quarters of western rural Hama is under our control."

He said the towns taken by rebels included Latamneh, Helfaya, Kfar Naboudah, Hasraya, Tibat al-Imn and Kfar Zita, and that fighting had also broken out in the city of Hama itself.

The latest battlefield accounts could not be independently verified due to tight restrictions on media access to Syria.

Rebels had intended to concentrate their offensive on rural areas before an assault on the city of Hama where some 10,000 people were killed in a 1982 crackdown by ordered by Assad's father against an armed Islamist uprising. But festivities broke out in the city after authorities launched a wave of arrests, possibly in response to the rebel offensive.

The Syrian Observatory for Human rights, an opposition-linked group which monitors violence across the country, said several of the Hama towns overrun by rebels came under bombardment on Wednesday.

It said at least 100 people had been killed across the country, adding to a corpse count in the 21-month-old uprising against Assad of more than 40,000 people.

At least 21 people, including 15 rebels, were killed when a boom-mobile went kaboom! in Aziziyah on the southern approach to Aleppo city, the Observatory said. It was not clear what the bomb was targeting and it may have detonated accidentally. State media had no immediate report on the kaboom.
Posted by: Fred 2012-12-20