Syria Direct: News Update 6-18-15

Suwayda residents force regime to release Druze sheikh

Police in Suwayda arrested and then released a leader belonging to the Sheikhs of Dignity movement on Wednesday after facing stiff resistance from residents that threatened to escalate into armed confrontation.

“The regime said they found two Bedouins' bodies in Suwayda, and that the Sheikh Wael al-Hajali [of the Sheikhs of Dignity] killed them,” Noura al-Basha, a Druze pro-opposition citizen journalist in Suwayda, told Syria Direct Thursday.

“They did that merely to weaken the Sheikhs of Dignity and Balaus [the leader of the movement],” she added.

Regime police arrested al-Hajali and took him to their headquarters in Suwayda city. Protestors gathered out front, firing into the air and threatening to storm the building, while others surrounded the military security building and civilian prison, reported pro-opposition Swaida Khabar.

The regime released al-Hajali the same day.

“It's all a game by the regime—they didn't announce the names of bodies nor [explain] who those Bedouin were who were killed,” said al-Basha.

After al-Hajali was released, protestors marched from the police headquarters to the nearby village of Qanawat and demanded the resignation of the governor and head of police, reported Suwayda Khabar.

Suwayda city this week. Photo courtesy of Syria Rising.

Rebels edging toward west Aleppo

The Aleppo Victory Army joint operations room announced that rebels had taken full control of the a-Rashideen district in Aleppo city Wednesday, the opening salvo in a campaign to capture predominantly regime-controlled western Aleppo, a local journalist told Syria Direct Thursday.

A-Rashideen “is among the entryways into west Aleppo,” a member of the pro-opposition Media Office in Aleppo who requested anonymity told Syria Direct.

“We are now at the walls of the al-Buhuth al-Ilmiya [military barracks] that is located between A-Rashideen and New Aleppo, where violent clashes are ongoing amidst an attempt to storm the complex,” Abu Basheer Maara, a commander with the Nur a-Din a-Zinki militia, was quoted by All4Syria as saying Wednesday.

Pro-opposition media confirmed the report of rebel control over a-Rashideen Wednesday [see All4Syria here, AksalSer here].

“A source in Aleppo province denied what is being disseminated by the media that is involved in shedding Syrian blood, that terrorist takfiri organizations took control of the a-Rashideen neighborhood,” reported state-owned news agency SANA Wednesday night.