My wife hails from a beautiful town just East of Al-Hiffeh on the mountainous Syrian coast.  Her sister, Samira, lives in Al-Hiffeh with her husband, Ghassan, who inherited some really remarkable orchards from his father.  About seven days ago, Samira and her children were evacuated out of the town by the Syrian Army’s 124 Battle Regiment linked to the 4th Mechanized Armored Division surrounding Al-Hiffeh.  The soldiers warned Samira that the town would be shelled because the deserters and Islamist terrorists were now armed with “new equipment”.  Actually, he must have been referring to the German-manufactured, Saudi-purchased, Turkey-provided,  Cobra anti-tank missiles.  While the missile does not have a good track record, it does hit targets occasionally with devastating results.

Here it is.  Pretty complicated piece of hardware with limited accuracy.  It does hit expensive tanks though and the Syrian army held back on an armored assault until the terrorists were disoriented by heavy artillery.

The Western press has been hard put to explain why the inhabitants of the area met the U.N. observers with a measure of  hostility on Tuesday.  No one wants to tell the Western World that Syrians are tired of the U.N., Kofi Annan and all the hot air about “massacres”.  In truth, we are beginning to question whether Dr. Assad has the spine to finish this scum off, once and for all.  We do know this, Samira told my wife, as she spoke to her from Latakia, that “we are sick of the U.N. siding with the killers”.  That’s what she said. 

They don’t seem too bright or motivated.  We at SyrPer want them out of our country so that our army can exterminate the rats.  Unfortunately, Russia thinks otherwise.

The town of Al-Hiffeh is a mostly Sunni town nestled amidst an ocean of Alawi villagers.  The town is almost equidistant between my wife’s ancestral town of Slinfeh and the provincial capital of Latakia on the coast.  It used to be half Christian and half Sunni Muslim in happier days; but, since the rebellion of 1977, many Christians had been forced out by an hostile population.  With the exception of Samira and my brother-in-law, for example, the town is largely a Sunni mini-capital.  This is the reason why the terrorists selected it for a base.  I think the terrorists made a strategic blunder.  They apparently bet on the local people welcoming them as “liberators”.  If the truth be told, given the evacuations of almost everyone, nobody, including the Sunnis wanted them there. 

About two kilometers from Al-Hiffeh, is the town’s claim to fame, the spectacular Citadel of Saladdin. Absent the citadel and some lush orchards, the town is a sleepy hamlet with a population of zombies.   

The reason why even Sunnis did not host the terrorists very hospitably was the spreading fear that the Free Syrian Army was becoming increasingly “unSyrian”.  The presence of Libyan, Tunisian, Qatari and Saudi terrorists and other riff-raff from the sleazier Arab countries has not done much to help the reputation of the FSA among many anti-Assad Sunnis.  Wanting basically to enjoy a successful tourist season, the Hiffites, would have preferred to be left alone.  In any case, the Syrian army successfully engaged the killers and drove them out of the town into the countryside where they are being picked off or are being arrested.  Escaping back into the Wadi Al-Ghab or Jibal Al-Zawiya area is not going to be easy since they will have to pass through a gauntlet of unsympathetic Alawi and Christian towns. 

Credit for the swift victory over the Islamist killers must go to Syrian helicopter pilots who bravely held their positions overlooking Al-Hiffeh while artillery combed the town’s few alleyways and streets.  Efforts by the terrorists to use their RPGs against the helicopters met with failure for two reasons:  1.  Syrian Hind helicopters operate beyond the reach of the RPGs, and 2.  Hind helicopters have highly reinforced armored plating and anti-ordnance glass plates in the cockpit area.   

This “Hind” MI-24 helicopter gunship complements Syria’s already substantial array of attack helicopters such as the similar MI-17.  Syrian pilots are well-trained for the operation of this workhorse flying fortress.  

According to my contact, Ali Sleiman, in Hraysoun, (Tartous Province), the terrorists snuck into the Al-Hiffeh area in small numbers to avoid detection and bivouacked in fallowed orchards until their numbers had reached over 100.  Many of them were from North Africa and had thick accents easily spotted by the locals. So they had to remain extremely cautious about mixing lest they reveal their presence.  Thus, the plan was successful in that they did establish a foothold.  However, the plan was a disaster once they had essentially bottled themselves up in an hostile terrain with a population that gave them no protection.  The plan failed, also, because Al-Hiffeh is a significant Ba’ath Party center with an office for the Bureau of Political Security.  That the FSA thought they could pull this one off is now testament to the stupidity of its leadership.  A good sign for us.