The situation here in Latakia is calm. The city itself is safe. We have not had any recent missile attacks, and that is good. The rural countryside is full of terrorists, and especially the village called Selma (aka Salma). This is a small village in the hilly area North East of Latakia. You can find Slounfa on the map, which is a mountain resort town 1 hour drive due East of Latakia. It is a bit higher elevation than Selma. Selma is very close to Slounfa, and sits to the North West of Slounfa.
Map of Syria
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The problem with Selma is that it is within walking distance of Turkey. Since Turkey has supported and sponsored the Jihadist, and Radical Islamic ideology attackers on Syria since 2011, these terrorists have a safe-haven in Turkey. They receive their paychecks there as well as receive all forms of supplies and medical care there. The Turkish businessmen of the Syrian border region have been milking the Syrian conflict for every US dollar and Saudi Rial they can get. They are also the men who are making money hand over fist in shipping the Syrian refugees to Greece, on their journey to Europe.
The government of Turkey is following a Radical Islamic ideology, even though Turkey was founded on secular and democratic ideals. Some of the Turkish people go along with this new Radical Islamic trend, and others are very much against it, and want to defend their secular and modern democratic traditions. There is currently a huge political divide in Turkey among the population. There is an upcoming election which may either settle the issue, or could possibly lead to an uprising and revolution in Turkey from the grassroots level. Will we see the "Turkish Winter"? The future of Turkey is at stake.
Selma was infiltrated very early in 2011. Because of the borderline location, the terrorists can literally walk back and forth, and so they receive everything they need, quickly and easily. When Republican Senator John McCain of Arizona made his historic visit to the Free Syrian Army, aka FSA, he entered Syria illegally very close to Selma and had his meeting with FSA commander Selim Idriss in their HQ not far from Selma.
Selma has been occupied by terrorists, protected by Turkey, and during this long occupation they have dug many tunnels, so they can go into Turkey and come back safely, without ever showing their face above ground.
In mid-August 2013 the FSA attacked a small village near Slounfa called Ballouta. That night they went house to house and massacred 220 unarmed civilians sleeping in their homes. Men, women and children were massacred, including an unborn fetus, which was cut out of the mother's belly, and hung in the trees. George Sabra, one of the founders and still a moving force of the Syrian National Coalition (located in Istanbul) , aka SNC, openly praised the FSA for their attack on Ballouta. The FSA is the armed wing of the SNC. The SNC are recognized by the Obama administration as the legitimate representatives of the Syrian people (aka Syrian opposition).
Besides the massacre, that same night they kidnapped over 100 children and several teenaged females. Initially, we thought those kidnap victims would be taken to Turkey and possibly sold as sex slaves to Saudi men. We also contemplated the possibility that they could have been taken to Turkey and used for organ harvesting, with the organs and eyes sold to wealthy Turkish and Saudi persons.
However, 9 months later, 44 of the kidnapped children were released in a famous 'deal' made between the FSA and Syrian government. That deal allowed terrorists in the Old City of Homs to come out unharmed, with their rifle and 1 bag of belongings, and they were bused to the Idlib area. The other side of the deal was the releasing of hundreds of Syrian civilians who had been held hostage by the terrorists, and the release of the 44 children from Selma.
At the hospital, the children of Ballouta were examined and interviewed. They said they had been held the 9 months underground in Selma. Many reports of torture and killing and abuse were also made known. They recalled that one of the kidnappers spoke English with an Australian accent, as well as spoke Arabic with a Latakian accent. That kidnapped was later identified as a well known Islamic leader from Sydney, Australia who had ties to the Australian political scene, as well as the Australian Islamic community.
The tunnels of Selma are extensive, and that is where the kidnapped children had been held. The fate of the other half of the children is still not known.
The main battles in an around Latakia are at Selma. On a map, you might ask why on earth can't Selma be liberated from the terrorists? It appears to be so small, and remote. However, it is surrounded by 5 hills, and the Syrian Arab Army must take all of those hills in order to walk into Selma and start hand to hand combat. It is a hard and dangerous process.
The general feeling among Latakia residents is hopeful and waiting for peace to return. People have started to make plans again, and to shop and enjoy going out to eat again. Everyone had felt despair and loss of hope. People felt they were facing evacuation.
Many people have left to go to Germany. Not all of them were poor. Many of them were middle class and upper middle class. Many had homes with no mortgage, they had offices or shops and they had cars. Some sold off everything to finance their trip to Germany. Some already had the 5,000 Euros on hand, and just locked up their homes and properties. The really poor people are sleeping in tents inside Syria, or in Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan. The people you see on TV walking through Macedonia and Serbia and Croatia have money and are paying their own way to Germany. Nothing is for free. I wish there was a free migration program for people who really have nothing, but that is not on offer. I currently have many relatives and friends who have made the journey through Europe from Syria.
Lastly, I don't harshly judge any person leaving Syria. We have all suffered almost 5 years of death and destruction. Many people have lost hope, or just want to start a new life in a new place. Since Germany and Sweden are offering lucrative free welfare packages, many are taking advantage of the offer, before Europe decides change it's mind and shut the doors. There are indeed some refugees in Europe who have suffered greatly and deserve help, probably more than others, but if the help is freely offered, then it is something to be considered. I have chosen to remain in Syria for as long as possible, and many others share my way of thinking, but I do not ridicule anyone looking for safety and hope of a better future.