Syria Direct: News Update 8-4-15

YPG, regime drive IS out of Al-Hasakah city

Islamic State (IS) fighters clung to a small number of positions in the southern countryside outside Al-Hasakah city on Tuesday, one day after Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) working with Syrian regime forces and international coalition planes forced IS from its last hold in the provincial capital, pro-opposition Zaman al-Wasl reported.
 
“Military operations [against IS] are now concentrated in the countryside 4km south of Al-Hasakah city,” Alev Hisen, a correspondent in the city for Kurdish language Arta FM radio told Syria Direct on Tuesday.
 
Kurdish forces began fighting to expel IS from the Al-Zuhour neighborhood of the provincial capital last week. IS forces holed up in several buildings there withdrew Monday after YPG forces backed by US-led international coalition planes moved in from the southeast, pro-opposition Eldorar reported on Monday.
 
Regime forces collaborated with the Kurdish fighters in order to push IS from the city, local sources say.
 
“The regime mobilized ground forces and elite Republican Guard fighters to protect [YPG units] from IS,” Abu Umr al-Hasakawi, an activist and member of the local Hasakah Youth Union told Syria Direct on Tuesday.
 
“[The regime] then withdrew its forces to Deir e-Zor, taking advantage of the international coalition’s air-cover in support of the YPG,” al-Hasakawi added.
 
IS launched an attack on Al-Hasakah city more than a month ago, taking control of most of the regime-controlled neighborhoods in the city. Over the past week, combined forces have reversed nearly all those gains.

Wildfires devastate crops in eastern Homs countryside

Wildfires devastated parts of the eastern Homs countryside Tuesday, burning farmland, destroying the summer crop yield and exacerbating an already dire situation for civilians.

“Civilians are suffering greatly from no electricity and a lack of water,” Mohammad Hassan, a civilian from the eastern Homs countryside, told Syria Direct Tuesday.

“Summer temperatures and the sun’s rays make civilians, particularly children, susceptible to meningitis,” said Hassan, citing local fears as the fires raged on for a second day.

The wildfires are primarily affecting Dahiyat a-Nasiriya village, roughly 15km east of Homs city, where temperatures reaching 43 degrees Celsius (109 degrees Fahrenheit) fueled the blaze now threatening an estimated 7,000 acres of farmland, reported the pro-regime Day Press News. The initial cause of the fire remains unknown.

Firefighters are working to contain the fire, Habib Watifa, the president of a-Nasiriya municipality, told Day Press News in an interview published Tuesday.

Last month, wildfires burned over 1,360 acres of additional farmland in eastern Homs province.

Regime blows up East Ghouta lifeline

Regime forces blew up a rebel tunnel used to smuggle food and supplies into encircled East Ghouta after “digging underground to reach the tunnel,” Abu Mujahid a-Shami, a member of the Islamic Union of Sham Soldiers, told Syria Direct Tuesday.

The tunnel, blown up on Monday from the inside with explosives, “was partially destroyed, but it is possible to return it to working order,” Abu al-Hassan al-Andalusi, a Ghouta-based pro-opposition activist and journalist, told Syria Direct Tuesday.

Measuring approximately 7km, the tunnel is a lifeline between opposition-controlled Harasta in eastern Ghouta and the Barzeh neighborhood, located 7km northeast of central Damascus, where a truce has been in place between rebel and regime forces since the beginning of 2014.

The destruction of the tunnel follows a decision on August 1 by the Islamic Union of Sham Soldiers and Feilaq a-Rahman (two rebel factions operating in East Ghouta) to transfer control of it to the opposition’s civilian administration in order “to oversee the evacuation of civilians, ensure the provision of goods and monitor their distribution.”

A-Shami denied any connection between the recent decision and the tunnel explosion, saying, “the East Ghouta theater is heated… any event will inevitably coincide with another event.”

Ariha plane crash leaves dozens dead

A Syrian warplane crashed into a vegetable market in the eastern Idlib countryside, killing 30 and injuring 70 as first responders called in nearly a dozen teams to deal with the number of casualties, the head of the Civil Defense in opposition-ruled areas told Syria Direct Tuesday.
 
“The destruction was massive; the infrastructure and surrounding buildings were destroyed,” said Raed Salih of the crash in Ariha, which occurred on Monday.
 
The airplane crashed due to a technical failure in the motor, reported pro-opposition Ariha Today Monday. Both pilots were killed in the incident, said Salih.
 
As of publishing, members of the Civil Defense were still searching for survivors trapped under the rubble, reported Ariha Today. 

 The Ariha market after a plane crashed into it. Photo courtesy of Ariha Today