Syria Direct: News Update 8-26-15

Raqqa rebels reject folding Tel Abyad into Kurdish statelet

One day after Arab tribal leaders from Tel Abyad agreed to cooperate militarily with the Rebels of A-Raqqa brigade to eliminate the Islamic State in the province, the brigade announced their rejection of the Kurdish Democratic Union’s (PYD) decision to administratively merge the Arab-majority city into the semi-autonomous Kurdish state. 
 
“Tel Abyad is administratively part of the province of A-Raqqa and this issue requires the rule of law and legislation,” Rebels of A-Raqqa brigade spokesman Abu Muath A-Raqqa told Syria Direct on Wednesday.

“We reject the decision completely.”
 
This decision has “led to tension” between the brigade and the Kurdish People’s Protection Units, the military wing of the PYD and the brigade’s allies in the Euphrates Volcano coalition, Abu Hammoud al-Mousa, an activist with the Raqqa is Being Silently Slaughtered campaign told Syria Direct on Wednesday.
 
The original administrative decision to merge was signed on Sunday by the PYD and the PYD-established Tel Abyad Council of Representatives, which is staffed by local Tel Abyad residents loyal to the PYD, reported London-based al-Arabi al-Jadeed.
 
The brigade also called on Tel Abyad residents to organize elections in order to form a provincial council to replace the PYD-controlled one, said al-Mousa. 

Coalition planes bomb Deir e-Zor petroleum fields

Coalition warplanes reportedly bombed Islamic State (IS) equipment and positions near the IS-held a-Tanak oil and gas field 80km southeast of Deir e-Zor city on Tuesday, local journalists and activists told Syria Direct on Wednesday.
 
The strikes allegedly missed the field’s infrastructure, Mohammed al-Khalif, a member of the pro-opposition Syrian Network for Human Rights based in Doha, told Syria Direct on Wednesday from Deir e-Zor. It was not immediately clear what the coalition targets were.
 
“They smashed IS vehicles near the oil wells,” al-Khalif said, adding that the field–one of seven under IS control–“still isn’t out of commission.”
 
“It’s clear coalition bombers had no intention of knocking the field out of service,” a Deir e-Zor-based journalist to Syria Direct on Wednesday.
 
A leaflet drop, warning civilian oil vendors and workers to avoid the Deir e-Zor oil wells, reportedly preceded the coalition air strike, reported the pro-opposition Deir e-Zor News Network over the weekend.
 
In related news, IS sent negotiators to bargain with the regime for oil-production equipment in exchange for easing their blockade on the remaining regime-controlled districts of al-Joura and al-Qasour in Deir e-Zor city, reported Deir e-Zor 24 on Tuesday.

For the first time, blockaded Al-Waer residents call on UN for help

An aid caravan entered the last rebel-held neighborhood in Homs city Tuesday alongside a visiting delegation from the United Nations, which was called in for the first time by Al-Waer residents to assist with stalled negotiations between local rebels and the regime.
 
During the visit, the UN envoys met with civilians to investigate ways of getting food and medicine into Al-Waer given the regime’s total blockade of the district, as well as the major sticking points in negotiations with the regime, reportedpro-opposition All4Syria Wednesday.
 
Civilians are being squeezed in Al-Waer, says a journalist who lives there, “because nothing enters without the regime’s agreement.”
 
The sporadic food trucks that get through are hardly enough for Al-Waer’s remaining population of approximately 90,000 people, Jalal a-Talawi, a citizen journalist and photographer, told Syria Direct Wednesday from Al-Waer.
 
The food though will “only last a few days,” said a-Talawi.
 
With the exception of Al-Waer, the regime has completely controlled the provincial capital since mid-2014, when a UN-brokered truce escorted the last of the armed rebels out of the city.
 
The regime has imposed a complete encirclement of the rebel-controlled Al-Waer neighborhood in western Homs city for nearly two years, where the majority of the population is now internally displaced Syrians from other regime-held neighborhoods.

 UN delegation in Al-Waer on Tuesday. Photo courtesy of Homs Media Center.