Syria Direct: News Update 2-11-15

Regime campaign seeks to protect Damascus

Regime forces took control of a village in the northwestern Daraa countryside as part of a new campaign to push rebels away from Damascus, the Deir al-Adas LCC confirmed on Wednesday.

 The LCC’s confirmation follows reports in the Arabic media that the village of Deir al-Adas, about 50km southwest of Damascus, fell to the regime on Tuesday.

The regime's success in recapturing large parts of the village was precipitated by a multi-pronged land attack coupled with heavy artillery and air support, in addition to aid from Iranian and Hezbollah militias, a correspondent from Syria Mubasher told Syria Direct on Wednesday.

State owned news agency SANA reported that “army units secured control over the village of Deir al-Adas...and returned security and stability” to the area.

Al-Arabiya also reported that Hezbollah and “other allied militias” participated in the attack.

The Syrian military began a new operation over the weekend to isolate Damascus from rebel-held areas in the Daraa and Quneitra countrysides following a series of rebel gains in the south over the past several months, including the rebel capture of Sheikh Miskeen last month, reported the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights Tuesday.

DaraaArmySyrian regime carries out operations in Daraa Wednesday. Photo courtesy of @AlakhbarNews.

Nusra forces Kurds to undergo “sharia course”

Jabhat a-Nusra released a number of Kurdish teachers in Aleppo province on Tuesday after capturing them two weeks ago and subjecting them to a “sharia [Islamic law] course,” reported the pro-opposition news agency Zaman al-Wasl.

The Kurdish teachers’ release comes after activists in Aleppo demanded Nusra to reveal their fates, according to pro-opposition Syria News.

The teachers were on a bus from Aleppo to the Kurdish city of Afrin when Nusra fighters stopped the bus and arrested them. The teachers, who are Sunni Muslim, were told that their religious practices were not “as they should be,” and that they needed instruction.

The Kurdish teachers were released on Tuesday with a larger group of Kurds who had undergone similar treatment.

The forced “training” is consistent with reports describing Nusra’s increasingly aggressive and unilateral behavior in northern Syria.

The Islamic State uses similar proselytization tactics in Deir e-Zor and A-Raqqa.

Regime, rebel fighting despite truce in Qaboun

Syrian army forces targeted the rebel-held Qaboun neighborhood in northern Damascus with anti-aircraft weaponry Tuesday amidst clashes in a district that concluded a truce with the regime last year, reported the Qaboun LCC.

The neighborhood has witnessed period clashes since a truce was signed in July 2014, Rami Abdullah, the alias of a local citizen journalist, told Syria Direct Wednesday. Gun battles on Tuesday led to the death of a rebel fighter, prompting rebels to open fire on a regime checkpoint. This led to a violent response from the Syrian army, including targeting high-rise buildings with anti-aircraft weaponry.

The truce was agreed upon in July 2014, reported al-Jazeera. It never went fully into effect, Abdullah told Syria Direct, but an unofficial ceasefire has governed rebel-regime relations since that time.

The regime has committed several ceasefire breaches, including targeting a children's school in November 2014, reported the Qaboun LCC's media office.

Syrian pound now 250 to $1

The chairman of the government Consumer Protection Association said on Tuesday that it would be a mistake to remove welfare subsidies and not simultaneously increase government employee salaries in light of the precipitous decrease in value of the Syrian pound, reported regime-affiliated newspaper Al-Watan.

The value of the Syrian pound has dropped to SP250 per $1, as compared to SP50 per $1 before the war, according to the pro-regime news agency Suriya News. 

The depreciation of the Syrian pound has caused food prices to increase exponentially.

Frozen meat, for instance, now costs SP2,400/kilo, as opposed to SP1,750/kilo just several months ago.

While the SP250 per $1 exchange rate is not official, the black market is currently trading at that price and has been driving up the cost of goods.

A government monthly salary of SP20,000 now needs to be at least SP90,000 in order to meet daily expenses, the association’s chairman said.

Last month, the Syrian government cut several public subsidies, increasing the price of bread and fuel in regime-controlled areas.

For more from Syria Direct, like us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter.