April 5, 2013
The siege on the Syrian army’s largest fighting force in the northeast continued on Friday, as an estimated 550 officers and soldiers from Division 17 who refused to defect remained holed up inside. Earlier this week, the trapped soldiers reached out to local media centers in A-Raqqa, pleading for food and medical assistance. The FSA, led by Ahrar A-Sham, has cornered the division from all sides and already captured three-quarters of the Division’s surface area. Nuha Shabaan got the latest from an activist named Husam, who asked that his last name be disclosed, from the A-Raqqa province Local Coordination Committee (LLC). He is now based in the town of Tabaqah and has covered several battles.
Q: Yesterday we learned that the FSA has surrounded Division 17 and captured 75% of it. What is new today after the airstrikes on the area around Division 17?
A: The siege on the division continues and the FSA has increased its mortar and rocket bombardment on it. They are using locally made rockets against the division.
The [government air forces] executed three airstrikes this morning in attempt to break the siege. The regime’s soldiers and officers inside the division are still asking for help from the regime, but the FSA controls all the roads and the only way to support the government army is by using the skies. All the ammunition and medical assistance they sent so far has been captured by the FSA.
Q: Is the [government’s] bombing around the division random?
A: The air forces often make random airstrikes because the FSA air defenses prevent them from flying low.
Q: Do you think the regime would eliminate its soldiers by bombing the division so that it wouldn’t be captured by the FSA?
A: The regime would do anything [not to lose the weapons in the division to the rebels]. They might destroy the entire area and eliminate the soldiers so that they wouldn’t be captured.
Q: How many army soldiers are still inside the besieged area?
A: Around 550 soldiers. All the officers are still there, including the head of the division, a major general, and more than 10 high-ranking officers.
Q: What kind of weapons do they have inside?
A: They have a lot of ammunition. They also have Kornet, Cobra, Medsu and Maldoka missiles.