Syria Direct: News Update 6-16-15

Civilians killed in rebel western Aleppo city offensive

Heavy rebel shelling of regime-held western Aleppo neighborhoods over the past two days killed 34 civilians and injured hundreds of others, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported on Tuesday, in what the group calls the largest massacre committed by rebel factions so far in Syria’s second city.

Rebel forces working within the Aleppo Victory Army operations room launched more than 300 shells at regime neighborhoods after beginning a new offensive on Monday to take control of regime-held west Aleppo, pro-opposition AlSouria reported.

The rebel coalition targeted the a-Rashideen neighborhood on Tuesday and “took control of a number of buildings stationed with Shia forces,” Ahmed Hamaher, spokesman for Harakat Noor al-Din al-Zinki, one of the rebel factions operating in Aleppo told Syria Direct on Tuesday.

The goal of the new offensive is “to open the doors of western Aleppo city and liberate the [a-Rashideen] neighborhood in order to enter the heart of Aleppo from the west,” Hamaher added.

Opposition fighters also took control of buildings in the Khalidiya, Ashrafiya and Layramoun neighborhoods on Monday, Eldorar reported.

Official regime news agency SANA confirmed the presence of ongoing military operations in a number of western Aleppo neighborhoods on Monday.

 Rebels in Aleppo’s embattled al-Khalidiya neighborhood. Photo courtesy of Eldorar.

Diesel shortage means 'disaster' for Hama hospitals

The rebel-affiliated Hama Health Administration, responsible for providing medical services in that province’s northern countryside, declared the suspension of all hospital and clinic work on Monday because of a diesel crisis.

“Diesel has been cut off for two weeks because the Islamic State is not allowing convoys to pass from the eastern regions,” Hukm Abu Riyan, spokesman for the pro-opposition Hama Media Center, told Syria Direct Tuesday.

“They're cutting off the heads of fuel truck drivers heading to the area,” he added.

It was not immediately clear why IS is blocking the convoys.

The shortage “threatens medical organizations with collapse, which will have dangerous ramifications for the general health of Hama province,” read the announcement from the Health Administration, which is part of the Syrian Interim Government.

“The situation is tragic right now; there are a number of hospitals off line. It will be a disaster—what will happen to those who are wounded, and those with diseases that require dialysis?” said Abu Riyan.

New Quneitra brigade grabs hills

Rebels announced the creation Tuesday of a new alliance in the northern Quneitra countryside, one that took control of a series of hills separating Quneitra from West Ghouta the same day, reported the Quneitra LCC.

The Jaish al-Haramun's capture of the Red Hills region “opens supply lines to rebels in the Jabal a-Sheikh region [of Quneitra], encircled for two years...and to the rebels in the western Damascus countryside,” Maher al-Hamdan, a member of the Quneitra LCC, told Syria Direct Tuesday.

The Jaish al-Haramun alliance includes Ahrar a-Sham al-Islamiya, Jabhat a-Nusra, Ajnad a-Sham and other brigades.