Syria Direct: News Update 9-10-14

Regime goes after IS in Deir e-Zor

The regime continued to escalate its aerial campaign against the Islamic State (IS) in Deir e-Zor province Wednesday, conducting at least 10 airstrikes that resulted in 12 dead and dozens wounded as of publishing, according to pro-opposition Jordan-based newspaper a-Sabeel.

Air raids targeted, among other locations, IS headquarters in the Ardi neighborhood of Deir e-Zor city, killing at least three militants and three civilians, according to the pro-opposition monitoring group Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

The air raids come a day after Syrian army forces destroyed a 21-meter long tunnel in the Deir e-Zor city neighborhood of al-Urfi, reportedly used to transport weapons and ammunition, “killing all the terrorists inside,” said Syria's official General Organization for Radio and TV.

The regime intensified military maneuvers in and around Deir e-Zor city since IS began massing troops around the Deir e-Zor airport the week of August 25 in preparation for an assault.

As of publishing, it is unclear whether IS has attempted to storm the airport itself.

In related news, the military commander of Deir e-Zor province, Issam Zahr a-Din, was reportedly photographed inside Deir e-Zor airport late last week after pictures surfaced that purported to show the commander in civilian garb in the city of Suwayda.

12522 10152761237359203 8226892816056753 n Issam Zahr a-Din, the regime's commander of Deir e-Zor, resurfaces there after photos last week placed him in Sweida. Photo Courtesy of al-Hadath News.

Bomb decimates Ahrar a-Sham leadership

The Ahrar a-Sham movement's Shura Council announced the appointment of a new general and new top military commander in a video circulated online Wednesday following an explosion Tuesday in Idlib province that decimated the Islamist rebel group's top leadership.

“Ahrar a-Sham will remain in the service of jihad in Syria,” says a member of the Shura Council in the video, “and will fight the shameless regime and the treacherous organization [the Islamic State] until the people of Syria are saved.”

At least 28 high-ranking members of Ahrar a-Sham, including General Hassan Aboud and top military commander Abdulnaser al-Yassin, were killed in a blast Tuesday in the town of Ram Hamdan as they met in the cellar of a house, according to pro-opposition monitoring group Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. 

The Islamic Front—a coalition that includes Ahrar a-Sham—issued a statement Tuesday attributing the explosion to a car bomb. No party has claimed credit for the explosion.

A senior member of Ahrar a-Sham who operates the Twitter handle Mujahid a-Sham said Tuesday that while the cause of the explosion is still unclear, the source of the blast was a bomb-making workshop near the meeting room.

Most of the leadership, he wrote, died after inhaling toxic fumes from exploded TNT.

The meeting, the senior member tweeted, was held to discuss whether Ahrar a-Sham, a Salafi-jihadi group with reported ties to al-Qaeda affiliate Jabhat a-Nusra, would join the Council for Leading the Revolution, a moderate coalition of rebel groups formed in early August. 

Regime targets new towns in East Ghouta

Assad regime warplanes bombed the East Ghouta town of Douma on Tuesday, killing 23 and injuring more than 120 as it increases the pressure on Damascus-area rebels, according to pro-opposition news agency Sham News Network.

Douma is the epicenter of opposition resistance in the Damascus area. The regime has stepped up its bombing campaign in East Ghouta, the rebel-held gateway of towns leading in and out of the capital, since it captured the town of Mleiha, the southwest gate into the capital, in mid-August.

In addition to the airstrikes on Douma, the Syrian government also struck the rebel-controlled town of Hazeh in East Ghouta Tuesday, killing five and injuring 20, reported pro-regime news agency Syrian Telegraph.

Hazeh is situated adjacent to the opposition-controlled towns of Kafr Batna and Jisreen, which are both located directly between Mleiha and Douma, suggesting the regime may attack Douma by means of Kafr Batna and Jisreen.

First theater performance in ‘most dangerous city in the world’

The opposition group Tariq al-Khubz is in the midst of a three-day showing of the play “Shops” in Aleppo city, the first known theatrical performances without censorship from the Assad regime since the conflict began, according to pro-opposition news agency Siraj Press. 

“Shops” is an original play performed from Monday to Wednesday nights this week by opposition activists from a myriad of backgrounds, including doctors, citizen journalists, fighters and relief workers, according to the group’s Facebook page.

“The play will give some hope for the people who are tired of the war,” the director of the play, who chose to remain anonymous, said in a statement Monday.

While the theater is located in Aleppo city in an area under opposition control, the actual location is undisclosed out of fear that the Assad regime will target the gathering. The group’s social media page says that “buses are arranged to pick up the audience around 3 [pm].”

The translation of the group’s name, Tariq al-Khubz, is ‘Bread Way,’ a reference to Broadway and the cultural importance of bread in Syrian culture.

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