The Meaning of Syria’s Victory at Salma Is Hard to Overestimate 21 January 2016 Articles 1664 By David MacIlwain Source: Russian Insider Salma, which has recently been captured by Syria army was a heavily fortified town, had been occupied by rebels leaning on Turkey which is only a stone’s throw away and had been constantly fought over for years – pro-government Syrians will breathe a sight of collective relief this particular story of the war appears to have ended. Moreover the town has a connection to dark attrocity which may now come closer to being resolved As the Western world was worked up into a lather of outrage over stories of the ‘starving children of Madaya, kept under siege by the Syrian army’, another siege was taking place in Syria which failed to interest the Western press. Unlike the stories of Madaya, where gruesome images were hawked around the world like paparazzi shots of semi-naked celebrities, but valued for their emotive power rather than their authenticity, the story of Salma was too real to need such ‘publicity’, and word rapidly spread around Syria of the town’s liberation from terrorist forces. Perhaps at some time in the future, some Western historians, or aging journalists, will try to find out what really happened in Syria when the West’s fabric of lies has finally collapsed under the weight of its irreconcilable contradictions. At that time they will need to know what happened in Salma, a small village near the Turkish border north of Latakia, long occupied by ‘rebels’. So this is the story of Salma, relayed to us by a friend we can call ‘Leila’ who lives in Latakia. “The local, native population of Salma numbered in the dozens. They were mainly Syrian citizens of Kurdish ancestry. They were not Turkman. Salma was strictly Sunni Muslim. Salma was not a famous place, or even a pretty place, or even a scenic place. Salma’s claim to fame was the fact it got cool evening breezes, coming in from the North and East during the hot and humid summers in Latakia province. There is a village close to Salma called Slounfa. Slounfa is a higher elevation, and is even colder, but the native population are Alawi. Slounfa was never in the hands of the rebels. Slounfa is a mountain resort, of the type that you find in Lebanon. Stone houses, oak trees, cedar trees, church and mosque. Slounfa’s claim to fame was also the cold evening air temperature all summer, and snow in winter, because of the high elevation. But Slounfa is pretty, scenic and every panorama is a beautiful picture postcard scene. Salma was the ‘ugly sister’ to Slounfa. However, during the period of 1990 to 2011 a steady real estate development went on there. People from Aleppo and Latakia and other places (including Saudi Arabians and Qataris) built homes, apartments and palaces there. Salma, just like Slounfa is full to capacity in summer, and deserted in winter. Both places were ‘summer-use only’. When the terrorists became mobilised and organised in 2011, they quickly set up headquarters in Salma. They were Syrians, and many foreigners. The terrorists were able to hold Salma and use it as a strategic location because of the tunnels they dug to connect them with the Turkish military, who were over the border, and officially supporting the terrorists in Salma.” So what happened, that has caused such celebration and particularly in Latakia, whose loyal population has long been a target of the violent insurgency? Leila explains: “Here in Latakia, we all could not believe that a tiny, tiny place like Salma would be so difficult to take control of. For almost 5 years we have only heard about “The Battles in Salma”. It became a story of epic proportions, like the legendary “never-ending story”. Finally, after so many years, and so many martyred Syrian Arab Army soldiers, and civilians, we have victory. It is a huge blow to the Syrian Opposition, their armed wing the Free Syrian Army, and all their allied Al Qaeda type terrorists. The fall of Salma is a huge event.” And she is unreserved in her praise for Russia and the crucial role played by the Russian air-force in helping the Syrian armed forces kill and drive out the terrorist groups from this key bridgehead: “It cannot be underestimated the value of the Russian Air Force. The ‘boots on the ground’ are still mainly Syrian men, but the air power is Russian. The Russian intervention in late September, early October, has changed the course of the Syrian war.” In August, just before Russia came to the aid of the beleaguered Syrian Arab Army, which had been fighting a losing battle against the ‘Army of Conquest’ in this area north of Latakia, Leila had spent a month in the village of Slounfa, overlooking the ongoing battles around Salma from a safe distance. But the terrorist groups were advancing and she escaped back to Latakia: “I left Slounfa and returned home to Latakia prepared to evacuate at any moment, because the Army was losing ground, and there was real panic in the air, among the civilians up there. We had one evening in Slounfa when the residents all came up onto their roofs with hunting rifles, used for shooting birds and rabbits. When I saw I was faced with real possibility of being overrun by the terrorists, who were very close, I had to calculate how I and my guests could evacuate in the night, without any car available. We passed that night and were not attacked, but we will never forget the look on the local residents up there who were prepared to fight to the death and stand their ground. After I returned home to Latakia, it was just days later the Russians arrived. Since then, everything changed here. Latakia breathed a collective sigh of relief, and now we can see real progress and hope that an end to the war is possible.” Details on the final assault on Salma have come from another contact in Latakia who witnessed the battle, noting both the ‘merciless’ bombardment by Russian Su-25s, as well as the participation amongst the Syrian army of both NDF (National Defence Forces) and former FSA units. These fighters it seems have now realised they were tricked into fighting for a false ‘Syrian revolution’, and may be expected to fight even harder against the foreign tricksters. This contact described the battle: “The destruction inside Salma is limited, but in Salma suburbs it is huge. The main battle took place on the hill tops and in Salma suburb and nearby towns, inside Salma the army did not have to fight, the Nusra fled their positions. I have seen a warehouse full of food from Saudi and medicine from Turkey – it seems that the Nusra was planning to stay longer but the army and the Russians did not give them a chance. More than 800 air-strikes were conducted in 5 days I have been told. After Salma was liberated the next strategic hills fell one by one into the hands of the SAA and the supporting NDF units easily.” He continued: “Everyone is very happy around here after the huge victory in Salma and some other towns and villages – Jisr al Shughour is the next goal..” (and then Idlib, Aleppo and Raqqa, Leila notes) But this is only the story of the final conquest of Salma, and the expulsion of the terrorist groups from this area near the Turkish border – the very same area incidentally where the Russian SU24 was shot down by Turkey last November. Salma has a particularly dark secret, connected with probably the most horrific single crime committed by ‘Opposition forces’ in Syria – the massacre of the villagers of Ballouta. A couple of weeks before the ‘Sarin gas attack’ in Ghouta of August 21st 2013, a large group of ‘Free Syrian Army rebels’ went into Ballouta, which is not far from Salma, and slaughtered 220 of its Alawite villagers, killing them brutally and barbarically in their homes. The ‘FSA’ at that time included extremist factions and ‘moderates’ and the attack was condoned by the ‘Syrian National Coalition’ in Istanbul. The only Australian member of the SNC, Sheik Fedaa Majzoub, who was resident in Salma and whose brother had been killed there a year earlier, allegedly also played a role in this unspeakable crime. News of the massacre came first from some villagers who managed to escape to the safety of Latakia, and described seeing their relatives cut open and hung from trees, as well as the theft of their children. We can only speculate on the intentions of these barbarian forces when they kidnapped the young children of Ballouta, taking a hundred of them back to Salma and holding them hostage in an underground prison. (45 children were released 9 months later following negotiations to end the ‘rebel’ siege of Homs’ Old city). Perhaps the intention was simply to use them in trades for captured insurgents, but something else happened that suggests a far more evil intent. Two weeks after the massacre and abductions, when videos were released showing rooms full of children allegedly gassed with Sarin in Ghouta, east of Damascus, some of the distraught parents who survived the massacre in Ballouta recognised their own kidnapped children in the videos. We know now that the ‘Sarin attack’ was a fabrication, with substantial evidence of Turkish planning and involvement of Al Nusra. And close analysis of the videos at the time had already raised questions about their authenticity, as the same children appeared ‘dead’ in different positions and places. Perhaps access to the torture rooms of Salma will now tell us what became of the unaccounted 55 children of Ballouta. While some of those directly responsible for their incarceration may have received swift justice from the Russian air-force and Syrian patriots, the fight for the liberation of Syria from the suffocating pall of Western propaganda seems to have barely started. But liberating the truth of what happened in Salma ‘from her bodyguard of lies’ would be a good beginning.