Syria Direct: News Update 8-18-15

Prices on Syrian-produced pharmaceuticals to go up 50%

Civilians in regime and rebel-held areas reported steep increases in the cost of Syrian-manufactured pharmaceuticals on Tuesday as local pharmacists disregarded official instructions to wait before implementing a 50 percent price increase announced by the regime the day before, pro-opposition Zaman al-Wasl reported.
“We have noticed a large increase in the cost of medicines in pharmacies over the past two days,” Um Ziyad, a central Damascus resident told Syria Direct on Tuesday, adding that the cost of aspirin had increased to SP250 ($1.32) from SP150 ($0.79).
These increases run counter to a statement from the Syrian Pharmacists’ Union confirming that a list of official prices for medications had not yet been issued, urging pharmacies and pharmaceutical warehouses to adhere to pre-increase prices or be held responsible, pro-opposition Zaman al-Wasl reported Tuesday.
The Syrian Ministry of Health announced on Monday that it would raise the prices of locally produced medicines by 50 percent, allowing for 25 percent profit margins for pharmacists, pro-regime Shaam Times reported.
The prices could be even higher in rebel-controlled areas.
“The price of the medication that we get now is 150 percent more than in regime-held areas,” a doctor with the field hospital in rebel-held Moadamiyet a-Sham told Syria Direct on Tuesday.
“After this latest official increase, the number will surely double.”
Before Monday’s increase, the last price hike for the pharmaceutical sector was two years ago, when the Ministry of Health began pricing the materials used to manufacture medicine according to the dollar, DP NEWS reported

Renewed attack on Zabadani after ceasefire collapse

Regime forces intensified their bombardment of the city of Zabadani Tuesday, reportedly making advances in two neighborhoods of the city, located only 8km east of the Syrian-Lebanese border, according to the pro-regime Lebanese channel Al-Mayadeen    

“The battle is still on,” Majin a-Shami, a correspondent with the pro-opposition Qasioun News Agency, told Syria Direct Tuesday, adding that the regime dropped 24 barrel bombs on the city Tuesday. A-Shami denied al-Mayadneen's report of a regime advance, saying that regime forces have not achieved any "clear advance."

Last Wednesday, Ahrar a-Sham rebels and an Iranian delegation agreed to a 72-hour ceasefire in Zabadani, considered the gateway into the Qalamoun mountains, as well as in two Shiite-majority villages in Idlib province, temporarily halting the intense fighting in both places.

Extended ceasefire negotiations broke down on Saturday, when Ahrar a-Sham rebels refused to accept Iranian conditions, and fighting in the three locations resumed. Both sides traded blame for the collapse of negotiations.

Islamic State 2.5km from Lebanon

Following a surprise attack on a Hezbollah outpost, the Islamic State (IS) is now 2.5km from Syria’s border with Lebanon, on the other side of the Bekaa Valley, reported Kurdish news network ARA News on Tuesday.

The lightning attack on the west Homs village of Jusiyah, launched from the Qalamoun mountains, “did not end with IS capturing the border crossing itself–as rumored,” Hazim al-Baraqi, a west Qalamoun based journalist, told Syria Direct on Tuesday.
The fight for Jusiyah, which sits on the border, appears to be ongoing, with IS supporters tweeting the border crossing’s fall on Tuesday. Pro-Hezbollah media called reports of the capture of Jusiyah “completely false.”

Europe gives Jordan 60 million euros for Syrian students

The Jordanian government has signed two agreements providing for a total of €60.5 million ($67 million) in European grants to support the education of Syrian refugees in the kingdom, Jordanian daily Ad-Dustour reported Tuesday.
The aid intends to mitigate the “continued impact of the crisis in Syria… and its implications for the Jordanian education sector,” Shaam News Network quoted Imad Fakhoury, the Jordanian Minister of Planning and International Cooperation as saying in a statement on Monday.
The agreements provide for a European Union grant for €55 million ($60.8 million) to support the accommodation of Syrian refugees in the Jordanian school system as well as a second grant from the EU-based Erasmus+ Foundation that provides funding for 350-400 Syrian students to attend institutions of higher education in Europe, Shaam News Network reported.
Jordan currently hosts at least 630,000 Syrian refugees, according to latest UNHCR statistics, a massive influx for the country’s 6.5 million population.