Syria Direct: News Update 8-10-15

Christians flee rural Homs in wake of IS advances

The Islamic State is moving closer to the Damascus-Homs highway following a string of wins bringing them less than 20km away from it, reported pro-opposition All4Syria Monday.

“IS is trying to capture the supply depots [in the area],” Mohammad Hassan, an activist and journalist from the eastern Homs countryside, told Syria Direct Monday.

Despite bolstered defensive positions between al-Qaryatayn, a village IS captured last week, 60km to the east of the Damascus-Homs highway, IS forces are pushing their offensive to take the numerous regime-controlled villages in the region, starting east and moving west toward the highway.

IS advances have led to a major exodus of civilians, many of them Christians, towards the cities of Homs and Damascus.

Sadad, an ancient Christian village that the Islamic State is approaching toward as of Monday, is home to approximately 5,000 Christian families, many of whom are fleeing, a source from the Assyrian Monitor for Human Rights was quoted by ARA News as saying on Monday.

More 100 Syriac Christian families were arrested in al-Qaryatayn after IS took control of the village, reported the Assyrian Monitor for Human Rights last Thursday, adding that more than 1,400 Christian families had fled southeastern Homs province on the heels of these IS advances.

Nusra: ‘We do not think it is legitimate to enter this coalition’

Jabhat a-Nusra claimed an ideological rather than a strategic justification behind its recent decision to hand over its positions against the Islamic State (IS) in the northern Aleppo countryside to Ahrar a-Sham al-Islamiya and other rebel brigades, confirmed Al-Qaeda’s Syria franchise in a statement released Sunday.

“We do not think it is legitimate to enter this coalition, not in terms of joining its ranks, nor benefiting from it, or to even coordinating with it,” read the statement, referring to the proposed Turkish-US effort to set up a safe zone along the Turkish border announced late last month.

“The Syrian armed opposition is entirely capable of fighting off the Kharajite State group (IS) without the assistance of international or regional powers,” continued the statement.

Al-Jabha a-Shamiya, one of the rebel groups taking over former Nusra positions, has begun digging in to its newly inherited front with IS.

“We received these positions from our brothers, Jabhat a-Nusra, just this morning, and we’re now facing off with the Islamic State Kharajites,” said a Jabha fighter in a video released Sunday as he documented the changing of the guard at Nusra’s former positions. The fighter said he was stationed in a village on the border with Turkey.

With Nusra out of the northern Aleppo countryside, the Islamic State captured the village of Um al-Hawsh, 14km northwest of Aleppo city’s industrial zones and military training centers, reported pro-opposition Halab News on Sunday.

Jabhat a-Nusra handed over several regions in the northern Aleppo countryside to Ahrar a-Sham al-Islamiya and other rebel brigades last week.

 Fighter from Jabahat a-Shamiya takes a Nusra Position in Aleppo. Photo courtesy of Sham Front.