Syria Direct: News Update 8-19-15

Jund al-Aqsa fighers join IS in Raqqa

An estimated 50 former members of the rebel faction Jund al-Aqsa arrived in A-Raqqa city on Tuesday to join the Islamic State and pledge allegiance to its leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the director of the Raqqa is Being Slaughtered Silently campaign told Syria Direct on Wednesday.

“This is the first time fighters from Jund al-Aqsa have arrived to pledge allegiance to IS,” said Abu Ibrahim a-Raqqawi.

The move highlights the group’s uneasy relationship with other rebel factions in northern Syria, says one Idlib-based journalist.

“The pledge of allegiance (bay’ah) by the Jund al-Aqsa fighters to IS and their leaving to areas under IS control is better for the rebels, so that they aren’t planted amongst our rebels and our areas,” said Wasim Shamdin, who reports on areas of Idlib province with a Jund al-Aqsa presence for the opposition news website Umayya.

The Jund al-Aqsa brigade, which mainly operates in Idlib and Aleppo, is considered by other regional rebel groups to have an extremist Islamist ideology, similar to that of IS, and has cooperated closely in several battles with al-Qaeda affiliate Jabhat a-Nusra.

The group is a participating faction in the Victory Army rebel coalition, but is suspected by rebels of assassinating the leader of another rebel group, Feilaq a-Sham, last month, drawing sharp criticism from other rebel leaders.

Yarmouk camp doctors raise awareness of typhoid, hepatitis

Medical professionals in Damascus’ regime-encircled Yarmouk refugee camp are launching an awareness campaign “to inform the world of the tragic situation” facing residents of the Islamic State-controlled camp, a citizen journalist in the camp told Syria Direct on Wednesday.
 
In addition to alerting local and international aid organizations, the “More Disease and No Medicine” campaign which began on Tuesday seeks to “raise the health consciousness of camp residents in order to avoid the diseases we are exposed to” including typhoid fever and hepatitis, Ammar al-Meydani, a citizen journalist from Yarmouk, told Syria Direct Wednesday, relaying information from Muawiya Muhammad, a doctor and the director of the Yarmouk camp’s medical compound.
 
An ongoing regime blockade of the camp coupled with the absence of most relief agencies after IS took over this past April have led to severe fuel, water and medicine shortages in the camp, putting all the hospitals and clinics in the camp out of service, the Action Group for Palestinians of Syria reportedTuesday.
 
“The wounded are moved using motorcycles due to a lack of ambulances,” Riyad Idris, the director of the Surgical Medical Center said in a video posted online by the Yarmouk Press Office on Tuesday as part of the campaign.
 
Water cutoffs by the regime are one source of illness in the camp, as “people have taken to drinking unsanitary well water to meet their needs,” a citizen journalist told Syria Direct this past June.

 Yarmouk camp doctors warn the public. Photo courtesy of Al Yarmouk Camp Press.

Fatwas justify confiscation of property, forced marriage

The Islamic State has issued two new fatwas, one requiring widowed women to marry an IS fighter and the second mandating the confiscation of property belonging to anyone who leaves their territory, reported pro-opposition Madaar Today Tuesday.
 
IS forces “are appropriating all empty houses in A-Raqqa regardless of the owners’ situations,” a journalist with the pro-opposition Raqqa is Being Slaughtered Silently campaign told Syria Direct Wednesday.
 
The justification for this property confiscation is that residents have left the “lands of Islam” and gone to the “lands of the infidels,” according to Madaar Today’s report.
 
“I am afraid to leave Al-Bab city since I own a number of farms here and as soon as I leave, IS will get its hands on them,” Abu Samir, a resident of IS-controlled al-Bab, told Madaar Today.
 
The new fatwa concerning the immediate marrying of widows to IS fighters is contrary to widely accepted Islamic practices that require a widow to wait at least four months and ten days after the death of her husband if she wishes to remarry.
 
This is not the first IS practice criticized by other Islamic scholars concerning marriage. Earlier this year, the Saudi cleric Manea al-Manea accused IS of marrying off women to IS fighters after their husbands had been declared apostates.