Syria Direct: News Update 1-28-15

Russia-sponsored conference attracts few

Representatives from the Syrian government and members of the opposition tolerated by the regime began discussions to find a political solution for the Syrian conflict in Moscow on Wednesday, said official state news SANA. 

“Our consultative meeting should be a serious platform to reflect the goal of this meeting, which comes amidst much suffering, loss, and challenge in our homeland,” said Bashar al-Jaafari, Syria’s UN Permanent Representative, who is heading the regime’s delegation.

Outside observers of the discussions, which are being hosted by Russia, have few expectations for the conference because the main opposition parties have declined to attend. A total of 32 members of various small opposition groups that are "tolerated by the regime" are attending the Moscow conference.

The discussions are a “departure from the spirit of the Geneva Conventions…and UNSC Resolution 2118, which stipulated negotiations between the opposition and the regime would take place in an international conference under the auspices of the UN,” said Khalid Khoja, the president of the Syrian National Coalition in a statement on Monday.

Syria's UN rep Bashar Jaafari in Moscow on Wednesday. Photo Courtesy of @AlMayadeenNews

5 more Islamic State fighters assassinated in Mayadeen

Unknown gunmen again targeted Islamic State fighters in the Khanat district of Mayadeen on Tuesday, killing five including one Kuwaiti, reported pro-opposition media campaign Deir e-Zor is Being Slaughtered Silently.

Amongst people in Deir e-Zor province, the assassins are being called the Saraya al-Kawatim, or the “Silencers’ Brigade,” though the provenance of the name is unknown. They are exclusively killing IS fighters across Deir e-Zor [see OrientNews' report on the White Shroud here].

IS sent a letter to the governor of Mayadeen, circulated on social media websites Tuesday, demanding that he develop a security plan to kill the “apostates” who are targeting IS in the area.

Unknown assailants have targeted IS fighters across Deir e-Zor, and specifically in Mayadeen, over the past three weeks. The gunmen have not publicized why they are picking off Islamic State fighters, but one activist in Mayadeen says the group has alienated residents since taking over the city last July.

“It may be because of their practices and behavior...their seizing citizens’ homes on charges of apostasy and treason, as well as [frequent] beheadings,” a media activist in Mayadeen told Syria Direct.

Israel attacks Syrian army

Israeli warplanes hit Syrian army positions in Quneitra Tuesday night in response to at least two rockets originating from Syria that landed in Israeli-controlled territory in the Golan Heights earlier that day, said the official Israel Defense Forces Twitter account on Wednesday.

It is unclear who fired the first rockets from Syria, although the IDF suggested that Hezbollah forces fighting on behalf of the Syrian regime were responsible, reported the Israeli newspaper Haaretz.

The attacks come in the wake of Israel’s airstrikes on the Syria’s side of the Golan Heights that killed an Iranian Revolutionary Guard General and six Lebanese Hezbollah fighters on January 18.

In related news, Hezbollah claimed responsibility for an attack against an Israeli military convoy in the Israeli-controlled Shebaa Farms on Wednesday, said Hezbollah channel Al-Manar.

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