Syria Direct: News Update 8-13-2015

Latakia city hit by rockets twice this week

A series of rockets struck residential neighborhoods in the coastal city of Latakia Thursday, resulting in at least two deaths and dozens injured and bringing the city to a near-standstill for the second time in less than a week.

“The rockets and explosions caused a huge panic and paralyzed residents’ movement,” Abu Anas, a Latakia resident, told Syria Direct on Thursday.

“Some people even consider their homes no longer safe because last time a number of children were killed by rockets hitting residential buildings.”

No group claimed responsibility for the rocket fire but the Jaish al-Islam rebel brigade released a statement on Thursday announcing its intent to carry out rocket attacks on Shiite villages and the Syrian coast in support of Zabadani, a town under siege by regime and Hezbollah forces now under a 48-hour ceasefire.

Of the three rockets fired toward Latakia, one landed in the ocean, while another two landed in front of non-military buildings.

YPG closing in on IS way station

Kurdish YPG forces reached within 20km northeast of an Islamic State (IS)-held village on Thursday along the Syria-Iraq border that serves as a way-station for IS guns and fighters flowing from Iraq into Syria, a Hasakah-based journalist told Syria Direct on Thursday.
 
“Coalition Apache helicopter gunships supported the Kurdish ground assault on al-Hawl–the site where IS forces in Iraq’s Sinjar province cross into Syria,” said Majid al-Hasakawi.
 
IS forces reportedly attempted a novel countermeasure against coalition air strikes, as foot soldiers “dug trenches around al-Hawl, filling each with crude oil, which they then plan to set alight, to blacken the skies and blind coalition war planes supporting the Kurdish assault,” added al-Hasakawi.
 
The fight for al-Hawl, 40km southeast of Al-Hasakah city, is ongoing, reported pro-regime news agency Dam Press on Thursday.

Although scattered news and social media reports additionally noted the use of coalition Apaches during the fight, Syria Direct could not immediately verify the weapon system’s deployment in Al-Hasakah.

Syrian ministry raises fuel prices

The Syrian Ministry of Internal Trade and Consumer Protection raised the official price of the widely used diesel fuel locally known as mazot on Thursday, a move promptly denounced on social media as fuel shortages plague the country.

The price hike, announced Wednesday, brings the official cost of a liter of fuel to SP130 per liter ($0.69) from SP125 ($0.66), official regime media agency SANA reported on the same day.

The changes only affected subsidized prices, however, as civilians report higher costs on the ground.

“At Damascus fuel stations, mazot sells for between SP140 and SP170 SYP [$0.75-$0.90], and there are large crowds waiting to buy,” Um Ziyad, a Damascus resident told Syria Direct on Thursday.

Sarcastic comments on the ministry’s official Facebook page mocked the announcement of Thursday’s price increase, which also raised transportation costs by 1 percent.

“Leave us alone, we don’t want consumer protection,” one commenter posted. “Get rid of your criminal employees, enough with the farce.” Others called the hikes “shameless.”

Two weeks ago, the ministry increased the cost of other fuels by 10 Syrian pounds, SANA reported, leading to long lines at gas stations and triggering a spike in black market prices. 

Douma bombed after artillery fire on Damascus

Regime warplanes launched several raids on numerous targets in East Ghouta Wednesday, killing dozens of civilians, allegedly in response to Tuesday’s unclaimed artillery barrage on several neighborhoods in Damascus, an opposition activist told Syria Direct Thursday.

The regime air raids “were a response to several artillery attacks on Damascus on Tuesday,” Abdullah a-Shami, the head of Douma’s LCC, told Syria Direct Thursday.

Regime warplanes launched four air raids on Douma, 10km northeast of central Damascus, devastating a crowded market and killing 28 civilians and injuring dozens more, according to a report by the opposition-led Syrian Civil Defense in the Damascus countryside on Facebook.

Following the raids, various rebel factions exchanged blame on social media for the attacks on Damascus, each accusing the other in light of the heavy-handed regime response in East Ghouta.

The pro-regime news site Damascus Now saw a conspiracy, alleging that rebels in East Ghouta were accusing Zahran Aloush, the leader of Jaish al-Islam, of bombing Damascus in order to elicit the regime response as a “lesson” to the citizens of East Ghouta who have demonstrated over the past weeks against his leadership.

Last month, a total of 882 barrel bombs were dropped on all of the Damascus suburbs, including East Ghouta, the Syrian Network for Human Rights reported this week.

 Destruction in Douma market after regime air raids. Photo courtesy of Douma City Coordination Council.