Syria Direct: News Update 6-15-15

Balaus: No military service for ‘sons of Suwayda’

The Sheikhs of Dignity issued a strongly worded Sunday excusing Druze young men from mandatory service in the Syrian army and forbidding the arrest of those who have fled from active duty, reported the Suwayada LCC Monday, which posted a copy of the statement.
 
“We announce that from today on, neither recruitment nor mandatory service in the army or security services is incumbent upon the sons of Suwayda,” reads the first item in the announcement.
 
Sheikh Waheed al-Balaus, head of the Sheikhs of Dignity, delivered the address at his home in Suwayda, which was then transcribed and distributed across social media pages, Noura al-Basha, a Druze member of the grassroots Syrian Revolution Coordinators Union in Suwayda, told Syria Direct Monday.
 
The Sheikhs of Dignity movement, which says its goal is to protect Suwayda from both regime excesses and potential rebel attacks, has taken an increasingly oppositional stance towards the former as Daraa rebels have approached the province over the past month.
 
The Sheikhs of Dignity prevented a column of regime tanks from leaving Suwayda earlier in June, claiming that they needed the weaponry for self-defense, and most recently sheltered a group of young men fleeing military service on Saturday.

Limited rescue capabilities exacerbate west Damascus attack

A barrel bomb attack on the western Damascus countryside left five civilians dead and dozens wounded, a doctor in the field told Syria Direct Monday, adding that the area‪'s limited medical capabilities prevented an effective rescue effort‪.
 
Following the regime's attack on Madhaya village, the ‪injured‪ women and children ‪were taken to Damascus Hospital roughly 50km away, Abu Nadhal a-Suri, head of the neighboring a-Zabadani hospital, told Syria Direct Monday.  
 
“The regime turned the only hospital in the area into a military base, and we couldn't take the men to the Damascus Hospital because they're wanted by the regime.”
 
“The lightly wounded men were taken to the Madhaya medical station, with the seriously injured taken to the a-Zabadani field hospital, as the Madhaya location has very limited capabilities,” he added.
 
Regime helicopters used eight barrel bombs in the attack, reported pro-opposition Siraj Press. State media had no comment about the attack, the motive for which was not immediately clear.

  A bedroom destroyed by a barrel bomb in Madhaya. Photo courtesy of Madhaya.

Two days of defections in Quneitra

Regime forces stationed in the town of Khan Arnaba in the Quneitra countryside witnessed two days of defections on Sunday and Monday, Syria Mubasher reported.
 
On Sunday “a commander defected with his men and headed towards the [rebel-held] village of Beit Jinn” 14km north in the Damascus countryside bordering Quneitra, Ahmed al-Joulani, the head of the Quneitra Media Center told Syria Direct Monday.
 
An unspecified number of fighters fled to nearby rebel positions on Sunday, Syria Mubasher reported, as remaining regime forces fired artillery and rocket launchers trying to thwart their escape.
 
The operation was carried out in cooperation with an unnamed FSA faction in the area, al-Joulani said, adding that the men “had been passing information to the FSA” before leaving regime positions.
 
On Monday, 25 fighters with the pro-regime Popular Committees also ran to rebel positions, opposition al-Etihad Press reported, in the first defections of their kind for the southern Syrian province.