Syria Direct: News Update 10-23-14

Fight for Hama town gets bloodier

Rebels led by Harakat Hazm and Feilaq a-Sham repelled a regime attempt to capture the opposition-controlled town of Mourek in northern Hama Thursday, reported the pro-opposition Smart News Agency.

The rebels reportedly destroyed two regime tanks and recaptured a military site in the town after regime forces temporarily broke through on Wednesday.

The regime has made Mourek and the nearby Kafr Zeita a priority, as both sit on strategic supply routes between Hama city and Idlib.

“Syrian army units destroyed a number of terrorist dens in Mourek…and Kafr Zeita,” reported pro-regime news outlet Al-Baath on Wednesday.

Rebels killed as many as 55 regime soldiers earlier this week in the fight for Mourek, said pro-opposition news channel Al-Gad TV, with the regime reportedly sending reinforcements to the area Thursday.

Feilaq a-ShamMourekLunch in Mourek between battles. Photo courtesy of @jarjanaz.

Coalition airstrikes kill 553 in first month

US-led international coalition airstrikes in Syria have killed at least 553 people, the majority Islamic State fighters and 32 of them civilians, since they began bombing militant Islamist sites in the country a month ago, reported the monitoring group Syrian Observatory for Human Rights on Thursday.

The attacks, which began on September 22, have mainly targeted Islamic State positions in A-Raqqa, Aleppo, Deir e-Zor, and Al-Hasakah provinces where IS has created an intricate network of military bases and oil production facilities. In addition to the US, the coalition includes military support from Jordan, UAE, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, and Qatar.

Most of the deaths, 464, were IS fighters. The airstrikes also killed 57 fighters from the al-Qaeda affiliated Jabhat a-Nusra, as well as six children and five women.

The causalities could not be independently confirmed.

Information on deaths in Syria is notoriously difficult to gather. The London-based Observatory is one of the few organizations that still attempts to count the death toll. The UN stopped updating its toll in January, citing increasing barriers to independent verification.

Assad fires governors

President Bashar al-Assad issued a decree Wednesday replacing the governors of Aleppo, Quneitra, Idlib, Latakia and Tartus provinces, reported official Syrian news agency SANA.

Neither SANA nor al-Watan, another pro-government newspaper that covered the firings, gave any reason for the decree.

Several pro-opposition news outlets viewed the move as an attempt to make a scapegoat of provincial governors for military and political problems beyond their control.

“Pro-regime supporters are directing their rage at the governors of their cities, and Assad agrees with them—part of the game of 'fighting corruption' is through changing governors in a country where everyone knows that the intelligence branches and their security staff control the situation and have the last word,” wrote pro-opposition youth group “Gathering of the Free People of Suwayda” on Wednesday.

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