Eyes On the Ground: FSA Spotters Network Monitor Assad's Forces

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September 18, 2014
Idlib Province, Syria

Since the start of the Syrian war, groups of civilians have quietly monitored the movements of Bashar al-Assad’s forces in order to assist the armed opposition to the Syrian government. Known as "Spotters", their ranks include children and they monitor an area stretching from Quneitra to the Syrian-Turkish border.

According to some, it all started with individual efforts until these spotters became connected to each other through support stations. The spotters monitor the movements of the Syrian regime’s forces on the ground and in the air.
The air spotters monitor the movements of Assad’s air force on hand-held devices that specifically spy on pilots and airport terminals. They then inform fighters on the ground of the plane’s direction and its target. They follow up on the aircraft’s aerial activities to monitor and often confront them.

“Front Spotters” refers to those who monitor the movement of ground forces. They work on the front lines and in battles to keep abreast of enemy movements. They spy on the enemy’s activities and the movement of vehicles and soldiers, and provide targets for mortars and cannons.

Shots List:
1- Shots of the youngest spotter in the region, Ali Badran, aged 15, who has been monitoring for almost six months. He followed in the footsteps of his father who worked as a spotter before ceding his place to his son.
2- Shots of the spotter Ali Badran with his father as he monitors on the top of Zawiya Mountain in the Idlib countryside.
3- Interview with the spotter Ahmad Badran Abu Ali during which he talks about the start of his work, his gradual advance, how his son got involved in the field and how he sees his work.
4- Close-up and medium shots of Ahmad Badran during the interview with him.
5- Shots of Ahmad Badran and his son sitting on top of Zawiya Mountain in the Idlib countryside.
6- Interview with Ali Badran, the youngest spotter who is just 15 years old, during which he talks about his work, studies, the importance of his work, and why he dropped out of school to work in monitoring.
7- Close-up and medium shots of the youngest spotter Ali Badran.
8- Shots of the spotter Abu Khaled on the roof of his house where he refused to talk to the camera.
9- Wide, medium and close-up shots of the spotters Jamal Deebo and Abu Bahr, positioned on the highest hill peak in Maarrat al-Nu’man, covering Wadi Eldaif area and the Hamadia Camp from the Maarrat al-Nu’man side.
10- Interview with the spotter Jamal Deebo during which he talks about his work, its importance, and the difficulties he encounters.
11- Interview with the spotter Abu Bahr who works on the western front of Maarrat al-Nu’man during which he talks about his work, its mechanisms and importance, and the challenges they face given the shortage of equipment and support.
12- Shots of Mutaa’ AlQassem, the commander of one of the Martyrs of Syria Brigades and a fighter on Camp Wadi Eldaif’s front in the southern Idlib Countryside.
13- Interview with Mutaa’ AlQassem, the commander of one of the Martyrs of Syria Brigades during which he talks about the spotters, their importance to the front fighters, their types and work mechanisms.
14- Shots of Mutaa’ AlQassem, the commander of one of the Martyrs of Syria Brigades and a fighter on Camp Wadi Eldaif’s front in the southern Idlib Countryside.
15- Interview with the spotter Muhammad Abu Abdullah from Maarshamsha Town in the Southern Idlib Countryside who is a military spotter on the front, during which he talks about his work, its mechanisms, how to pick up the enemy’s signals and deal with the information he gets from the hand held devices, and the difficulties he encounters.
16- Close-up and medium shots of Abu Abdullah during his interview.
17- Interview with Abu Abdullah continues as he talks about his work with the Syrian Army in monitoring.
18- Close-up and medium shots of Abu Abdullah inside his own spotter on Wadi Eldaif’s front in the southern Idlib countryside.
19- Shots of Abu Abdullah while working on the handpieces.
20- Shots of Abu Abdullah on the front line correcting to the fighters the targets of the missiles launched on Wadi Eldaif and shots of Wadi Eldaif’s where Al Assad’s forces are positioned and considered surrounded for more than two years.
21- Wide and medium shots of Omar Ibrahim AlJaban (Abu Uday) Commander of The Martyr Sheikh Abdul Waris Battalion in the Nation Brigade in Edlib Countryside that works in Wadi Eldaif and Hamadia Camp.
22- Interview with Abu Uday during which he talks about the fighting places, the spotters and their importance for the fighters on the ground, and the difficulties they encounter.
23- Close up shots of Abu Uday during the interview.
24- Close up, medium and wide shots of Abu Uday with the fighters in his battalion in their camp on the Wadi Eldaif front.

Soundbites
Starts at 00:34
Ali: How are you?
Other man: I hear you, over
Ali: Where are you? How’s the situation at your end?
Ali: Calling for Sham, Sham how is the situation?
Sham: There is only one aircraft hovering.
Ali: The war in Hama has not ended yet. The pig said it had but he’s a liar and a deceiver. Be cautious, the war has not ended yet.
Sham: I see two helicopters with barrel bombs
Ali: There are two helicopters with barrel bombs coming from Hama, brace yourselves and be cautious.
Ends at 01:22

Starts at 01:31
Man: Badran, Badran
Badran: I hear you, brother
Man: How are you Abu Ali?
Badran: May God Protect you
Badran: I go with my colleagues, and monitor the battle for a day, or two or even three, I have no problem. Now my son, Spotter Ali Badran nicknamed The Young Badran monitors the area while I work and try to make a living.
Badran: Hello
Man: Hello
Badran: When they talk about him I feel proud because he’s doing all he can to help in Jihad, this is his capacity.
Ends at 02:09

Starts at 02:22
Ali: I monitor the area and I help by sending warnings to the brothers to avoid the barrel bombs. I am 15 years old and I am in grade 9. I am in grade 9 but I will not attend my classes because of the situation and because schools will not open their doors. We have to fight in the name of God. This is what God called Jihad.
Ends at 02:55

Starts at 03:02
Ali: What do I do? For example an aircraft just left Hama, when it leaves he sends me signals and riddles, he says pines for example. Now the riddles we use have been changed and I’m trying to learn and memorize them step by step. For example when an aircraft leaves Hama I send warnings to the fronts of Northern Hama Countryside, the Southern Front, Khattab, Muri, Kifirzeity. I send warning to the liberated areas and the fronts.
Ends at 03:31

Starts at 03:35
Ali: My plans? I hope I have state-of-the-art equipments that are more developed than those the other spotters use so that my voice reaches Al Qalamoun, Aleppo, Ar-Raqqah, Latakia and all fronts.
Ends at 03:57

Starts at 04:01
Jamal Deebo: okay Abu Yasser.
Man: tell them there is a checkpoint on the road
Abu Bahr: I see soldiers moving next to the checkpoint
Ends at 04:15

Starts at 04:19
Abu Bahr: okay, God bless you
Ends at 04:22

Starts at 04:25
Abu Bahr: it’s clear, all clear
Ends at 04:27

Starts at 04:46
Abu Bahr: Abu Bahr here, I hear you, over
Man: How are you?
Abu Bahr: Great
Ends at 04:57

Starts at 05:01
Jamal Deebo: At each moment and each second you find us working to serve the fighters on the fronts and to serve the civilians in their houses and towns. As you can see, aircraft are constantly hovering and towns and villages are always showered with missiles and shells, from the far Karm Al Hawajez targeted by airports, long range cluster missiles and ground-to-ground missiles.
We are noticing that anyone with no job is becoming a spotter. Unfortunately this is a mistake we are making. It is a huge mistake we are making. We are supposed to organize the work because as you know spotters are the best weapon we have right now. Tanks and missiles would be useless without a spotter. Intruders cannot do their job without spotters who clear their way.
Ends at 06:06

Starts at 06:12
Abu Bahr: Our spotter is a part of a network that covers an area stretching from Daraa to the Syrian Turkish borders. I work here on these fronts from Hama’s airport to the area I told you about. We send warnings to the civilians and the fighters on the ground who are the rebels about the aircrafts, missiles, shells. Civilians go to the shelters while the fighters prepare themselves to the battle. This is what we do as spotters.
Ends at 06:44

Starts at 06:47
Abu Bahr: I used to serve in the army’s signal battalion. A fight is pointless without a sign, wherever it takes place. We have very simple equipment.
Ends at 06:57

Starts at 07:01
Man: During the battle I was searching with Fouad for Hammoud
Ends at 07:06

Starts at 07:15
Mutaa’ AlQassem: We have two types of spotters that serve our interests. Air spotters and Front spotters who have stations just like us. The first spotters, who are air spotters, send a warning from the moment the plane takes off by saying: aircraft take off from Hama’s airport for example. The spotter defines the location of the pilot as his work station location. This is when all the campers and all the rebels take precautions. And when a plane takes off without a notice, the spotter warns all the fronts that the aircraft took off and the pilot did not send a notice.
Ends at 08:34

Starts at 08:39
Mutaa’ AlQassem: The second spotter is the one at the front. He is a camping spotter who monitors the movements of the soldiers and their vehicles. He also has listening devices to spy on them. For example if the spotters on the eastern front see soldiers in a certain area and building, they have to deal with the situation.
Muhammad Abu Abdullah: For him and his fellow campers. I’ve been a spotter for two years
Interviewer: And what did you do for a living before that?
Muhammad: I was a concrete worker. As you can see we have hand devices that belong to the army. We saved the frequencies the army uses. After thorough research we managed to reveal these frequencies. Each time we reveal a frequency and know it is used in our area or in other areas such al Hamdiya or Jdar ElKheder we save it. We try to save them in order, the Emmay frequency has other 5 sub frequencies, so we save them together, this makes it easy for us to switch between frequencies. The army has state-of-the-art equipment. This is how we can manage to be as fast as them in switching between frequencies. We save the frequencies of one area on one device. We spy on all the talks and all the targets and warn the other guys on the front. An Air spotter is not located near the front, he is usually far from the fronts in an area he deems fit and has equipment to monitor aircrafts. He might be able to listen to the army’s frequencies; however his work is concentrated on the aircraft frequencies. He reports the movement of the aircraft, their possible targets and the airport they are heading to.
Ends at 10:48

Starts at 11:00
Man: we hear you
Muhammad Abu Abdullah: for all the brothers filling bags, the pigs can see you and are preparing an attack but I can’t know where they are. They are talking about you. Be cautious. May God protect you.
Ends at 11:20

Starts at 11:27
Muhammad: Brothers on the western front, God protect you.
Ends at 11:40

Starts at 12:10
Interviewer: How old are you?
Abu Uday: 79 years old. My brother was responsible of this area. He died in the Al Marsous battle. Thank God spotters are very beneficial. There are air spotters and ground spotters that monitor the army’s movements. Spotters have warned fighters on the ground more than a dozen times of the army’s attacks. These attacks would be lethal were it not for the spotters on the fronts who warn the fighters of the army’s movements, the fighters would have died. Spotters on the fronts have saved the fighters more than a dozen times. Air spotters also play a key role when they report an aircraft taking off from Hama’s airport, we take precautions and stand ready to fight.
Ends at 13:55