News in Images

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    NEIGHBORS: Jabhat a-Nusra’s capture of the Quneitra border crossing between Syria and Israel last Wednesday led to an unlikely pairing: flags from the Free Syrian Army, which allied with Nusra for the battle, and Israel, side by side.

    In response to the escalated violence, Israel deployed soldiers from its Northern Command army in armored cars to the border Tuesday. On Monday, Israel declared Quneitra a closed military zone after mortar shells landed in its territory on the Golan Heights.

    The Syrian government, meanwhile, has launched an aggressive campaign to regain control of the border crossing using a combination of heavy bombing and artillery fire to pressure the rebels.

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    GROUND ZERO: A Nusra suicide bomber says farewell to his comrade before carrying out a successful car bombing in a small town west of Selimiya, on the eastern outskirts of Homs province on Sunday night

    Selimiya–an Ismaili-majority, regime-controlled city–is located on the highway from Homs to A-Raqqa, the Islamic State’s de facto capital. While IS hasn’t directly attacked Selimiya, there have been reports of skirmishes between IS and the government on the city’s outskirts.

    Selmiya has also served as the main route connecting Hama to Homs since the rebels cut off the M5 highway, which previously was the primary supply line between the two provincial capitals.

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  • SLICE OF LIFE: Each week, the Violations Documentation Center issues a “Martyrs Report” roughly documenting casualties around Syria. Last week, Aleppo and the Damascus suburbs were the most deadly fronts, with the majority of the 316 Syrians killed from those areas.

    As fighting rages across the country and battles with the Islamic State grab the headlines, hundreds of Syrian citizens are killed by shooting (33.5 percent - the top cause of death), followed by air strikes that include barrel bombs (27 percent) and thirdly by torture in regime detention centers (19.5 percent).

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  • SYRIAN PoWS: The Islamic State (IS) took over Tabqa airport Sunday, the last remaining regime military base in A-Raqqa province and reportedly captured more than 20 Syrian army soldiers, including three majors.

    The picture above, widely circulated on social media Wednesday, was posted by an IS-affiliated account and reportedly shows some of the soldiers under the caption “Alawites from Tabqa airport...in Islamic State hands.”

    IS detained the solders as they attempted to flee from Tabqa airport, according to the monitoring group Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

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    DAILY BREAD: Residents of A-Raqqa city line up to receive free bread from volunteers belonging to the Relief Bakery, a charity kitchen that relies on donations to produce and distribute 2,000 meals a day.

    Earlier this month, a “bread crisis” swept the city. Most bakeries closed their doors and huge crowds massed around those that remained open, according to pro-opposition Facebook page A-Raqqa 24.

    On August 22, the International Red Cross and the Red Crescent jointly warned that scarcity of rain during the winter, combined with unusually hot temperatures during the summer had heavily impacted agricultural harvests,  damaging food security in A-Raqqa, Aleppo, Hasaka and Deir e-Zor.

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    PLEDGING ALLEGIANCE: Rebel forces including Jabhat a-Nusra took control over the eastern district of Mherda city in Hama province Sunday as at least one brigade, the reportedly 120-strong al-Bitar brigade pictured above, shifted its alliance over to a-Nusra. 

    Mherda is used as a base by the regime to bomb surrounding FSA-held territory and as a central point along regime supply lines running from the coast to Hama city and to surrounding pro-regime villages.

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    REMEMBERING AUGUST 21: On August 21, 2013, a chemical weapons attack killed an estimated 1,400 Syrians in the Damascus suburbs of East Ghouta, sparking outrage from the international community as both the regime and rebels accused each other of being behind the attacks.

    One year later, while much of the world has turned its attention to the chaos in Iraq and the rise of the Islamic State, Syrians on Thursday marked the anniversary by holding vigils and posting online memorials.

    In this picture, circulated widely on social media on Thursday, a man in the Damascus suburb of Moadimiyat a-Sham commemorates the one-year anniversary by arranging a collage of photographs of the victims. The town, then under rebel control, has since held to a truce with the regime that returned it to government control.

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  • IS WANTS YOU: While the Islamic State (IS) sparked outrage in the international community Wednesday after releasing a video purportedly showing the execution of American journalist James Foley in retaliation for airstrikes in Iraq, a new report finds the group’s appeal in Syria higher than ever.

    IS has reportedly recruited an estimated 6,300 fighters in Raqqa and Aleppo since July 2014, the highest number since they established their headquarters in A-Raqqa in late 2013, according to a report released Wednesday by monitoring group The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

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    EYE OF THE STORM: Water is a major concern for residents of the rebel-held Damascus suburbs of East Ghouta as the area comes under heavy fire following the regime’s capture of Mleiha last week.

    “There is no electricity to operate the pumps to supply houses with water,” Hassan Taqi al-Din, a Ghouta-based correspondent for the pro-opposition news agency Sham Network for Syria.

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    GROUND ZERO: Opposition forces caught between the regime and the rapidly advancing Islamic State (IS) in northern Aleppo appear to be realizing that they may be driven out from the region that has served as their stronghold throughout the war.

    “Great efforts are being made now in order to activate the [military] operations rooms between the rebel factions,” Abdul Karim Abu Firas, a media spokesperson for the Islamic Front, told Syria Direct Monday, “in addition to a high level of coordination between the Islamic Front, Noor al-Din Zanki, Haraka Hazam and other opposition groups in northern Aleppo.”

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Reports

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Nusra captures strategic Hama checkpoint

By Dan Wilkofsky and Osama Abu Zeid September 2, 2014 AMMAN: Jabhat a-Nusra captured a third checkpoint in as many weeks on Monday in Hama province in a bid to take Christian-majority... Read more

North Homs rebels struggle to hold gains

August 27, 2014 By Brent Eng and Osama Abu Zeid AMMAN: Government forces bombed the opposition-controlled town of Taldou in the northeastern Homs countryside Tuesday, killing at least five as they intensified... Read more

Rebels move closer to Hama airport

August 19, 2014 By Osama Abu Zeid and Brent Eng AMMAN: Rebels in Hama province are continuing their push to capture the military airport, destroying a building inside after shelling it with... Read more

A conversation about jihad

July 3, 2014 Dr. Nelly Lahoud is Associate Professor at the Department of Social Sciences at the US Military Academy at West Point as well as Senior Associate at the Combating... Read more

The making of a refugee

June 19, 2014 Photographs by Syria Direct's Amjad Tadros HADALAT, JORDAN: They lined up on the other side of the border, exhausted, carrying what was left of their possessions in small plastic... Read more

Editorial: On the unchecked ascent of ISIS

June 12, 2014 The fall this week of Mosul to the Islamic State of Iraq and a-Sham, a transmutation of Al-Qaeda, is not where the story of the modern Islamic caliphate... Read more

Interviews

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What is moderate Islam?

September 2, 2014 It depends on whom you ask, writes Dr. Najib Awad, associate professor of Christian theology and the director of the International PhD Program... Read more

Pro-opposition monitoring group: 'regime still hiding chemical weapons'

September 1, 2014 “The most dangerous chemicals in Syria's arsenal” were destroyed on board the US vessel Cape Ray, the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical... Read more

Hama military airport key to controlling province

August 28, 2014 The battle for the central Syrian province of Hama intensified this month with the Badr a-Sham campaign, led by Jabhat a-Nusra, to take... Read more

Hama military airport key to controlling province

August 28, 2014 The battle for the central Syrian province of Hama intensified this month with the Badr a-Sham campaign, led by Jabhat a-Nusra, to take... Read more

Iraqi rebel leader: American ‘selective intervention’ ignores Sunni displacement

August 27, 2014 Before US President Barack Obama initiated airstrikes in Iraq earlier this month, in part to save Yazidis trapped on Mount Sinjar by nearby... Read more

Rural Hama ‘an open front,’ says activist

August 26, 2014 Earlier this year, Hama was one of the quietest fronts in Syria. Once the site of the largest demonstrations against Assad in 2011,... Read more

News Roundup

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Syria Direct: News Update 9-2-14

Regime seeks to break holdout neighborhood Regime warplanes initiated several airstrikes on the holdout neighborhood of Ghweiran in the joint regime-PYD controlled city of al-Hasakah Tuesday,... Read more

Syria Direct: News Update 9-1-14

Israel declares Quneitra active military zone A mortar shell landed inside Israeli territory in the Golan Heights Monday, resulting in no casualties, one day after Israel... Read more

Syria Direct: News Update 8-28-14

Rebels hold Quneitra border crossing – for now Regime warplanes bombed the Quneitra border crossing between Syria and Israel Thursday after rebel groups led by Jabhat... Read more

SYRIA DIRECT: NEWS UPDATE 8-27-2014

Nusra attacks Christian town Opposition forces led by Jabhat a-Nusra struck Mherda in northern Hama with rocket fire Wednesday in an attempt to storm the town,... Read more

Syria Direct: News Update 8-26-2014

Nusra hangs on to Hama checkpoint Jabhat a-Nusra fought off regime attempts to take a key checkpoint in northern Hama, killing at least five regime soldiers... Read more

Syria Direct: News Update 8-25-2014

IS captures Tabqa Airport The Islamic State (IS) took over the Tabqa military airport Sunday by repeatedly suicide bombing the site and finally gaining entry and... Read more