This is from a friend of a friend :-
I was in Damascus in January (official), in the suburbs of Douma and Harasta, two things i learnt very quick.
Activists are either amateurs or pros when dealing with their personal security.
Example Harasta group very secure the Douma bunch not. Also Douma activists were extremely manipulative, pushing a radio journalist forward down a fire lane where shabiha and army waited. We managed with pressure to break away and head back to Damascus, but our guides led us into a Army check point. Police were OK (i was on a journalist visa) two spoke English and said if it was the shabiha who grabbed us, it would be very unpleasant for us ! !
That we know.
Army were all very well armed, scoped weapons Dragnovs and tactically aware, far superior to forces encountered in other ME or North African countries.
Recently from Lebanon (Feb / Mar) it was a nightmare, smugglers charging $2000usd per person (thats standard for both Leb and Turk borders) to be smuggled across but Syrian intelligence is very active on both sides, Leb military has moved personnel and armour to the various routes in and out making it extremely hard to take that route.
Syrian army and shabiha are on the look out.
Risk versus gain, risks to high. !
Wadi Khalid in the north of Lebanon is an FSA refuge possible good pixs, plus refugge element
AJE´s James Bays went over last month via Lebanon, two of his guides and smugglers were killed trying to get them out.
BBC were operating in the southern area of Syria as well but spent 2 weeks basically on the run.
Turkey is the most obvious route, Beeb are in there at the moment along with many networks. This is the most secure at present.
If you turn up on the Turkish / Syrian border you will find numerous FSA and activists around, willing to guide. But some are trusted many are not.
You will find the FSA to be open minded in part ……and complete islamic extremists as well, personally i don´t trust them but you take what you can, they use you, you use them.
That goes for private security operators and companies. i.e one such person (ex Brit police) has sold the idea to both AJE and ITN that he has a personal force of Lebanese SF operators who can rescue any team that is in trouble inside Syria !!???Don’t believe that for a second.
I will this week after we have spoken pass you a contact who may be able to help you.
Islamic Militant Groups – a recent dimension in the conflict and the extent to which they are involved is unclear. A Jihadist Group – Jabhat an Nusra (The Salvation Front) has claimed responsibility for nine bombings in the country, including the simultaneous car bombs in Damascus.
Its a protracted low-intensity conflict, with ethnic and sectarian divisions fuelling a power struggle and will lead to a violent civil war, which could result in a disastrous regional conflict, which will keep the region in turmoil for many years to come.
The Jaish Al Hurrah is a rag tag mix of civilians, smugglers, army defectors and anyone else that has a gun. They have very little modern weaponry or ammunition, no artillery, mortars or armour. There is no central leadership with villages and towns forming their own militia to defend and protect themselves from the Syrian military. With the defection of more Syrian Army officers and men becoming regular the situation for the Syrian military in the province will become acute and force the military to take further action.
The Syrian military were mainly staying in barracks but mount concentrated operations on specific towns and villages to kill or capture anti government sympathisers or to enforce the regime authority in an area.
The cost of the crossing was $2000 for three media crew. It is very possible this cost will rise. Other quotes were between $1500 – $4000 depending on the smuggling group and how much they think you are willing to pay.
There are two main routes into Syria from Antakya. The northern route, it’s a good route but involves a two hour walk over rugged terrain, however there is a route south of Antakya that is less physical. I don’t know the route but was told it involves a short boat ride over a river, this might be seasonal, the rest of the journey is by vehicle to Saramada which seems to be the main cross roads for all the routes.
Antik Beyazit Hotel in Antakya: 36°11’57.17"N 36° 9’36.40"E
Medical, focus on Trauma but also never forget the medical side of remote medicine, cardiac, allergies and other illnesses can be increased by the difficulties in working in this type situation where stress, dehydration, anxiety, fatigue and elements of shock can cause or create a medical situation.
Prepare your self.
The quality of the medical facilities varies but they had the capability to deal with gunshot wounds and other life threatening injuries to a limited degree.
Know your skill set, your limitations and those that are with you.
Think mortality die off curve. And Tactical Combat Casualty Care. TCCC.
Life saving principles
On the good side I hope to be going soon be for Ramadan if you what to chat as I am looking for a partner as well