Syria Direct: News update 9-17-15

New Idlib university priority to ‘protect students from bombardment’

The Victory Army’s Idlib city administration announced the beginning of the admissions process for branches of the newly re-opened Idlib University on Wednesday, pro-opposition Eldorar reported, as opposition officials in Idlib province look for ways to protect prospective students from the threat of aerial bombardment.

“We tried as much as possible for the university’s halls to be on the ground level,” during the month of construction before they opened, Jamal al-Shahoud, the Syrian National Coalition’s minister of education in Idlib province told Syria Direct on Thursday, “to protect them somewhat from bombardment.”

The Idlib city administration announced the re-opening of Idlib University at the beginning of last month, pro-opposition Smart News reported, as one of a number of institutions of higher education to be opened by the National Coalition’s Ministry of Education in order to allow Syrian students in rebel-held territories to continue their studies.

Plans for a number of higher education institutes in rebel-held Homs and a university in Aleppo were also announced last month.
 
Syrians who received their high school diplomas between 2011 and 2015 are eligible to register for admission for studies at the university’s branches in multiple cities across Idlib province, Eldorar reported.
 
The opposition-administrated university will be recognized by the Turkish Ministry of Higher Education. 

East Ghouta battle intensifies

Regime warplanes bombarded the city of Douma, the base of Jaish al-Islam (JAI), with five barrel bombs on Thursday amidst the ongoing battle for the suburbs northeast of Damascus, which cost both sides acute losses the day before.
 
While casualty figures from Thursday’s bombings were not available at the time of publishing, they come one day after JAI announced the loss of its second-in-command, Mahmoud al-Ajwa, who died in fighting with regime forces in the al-Assad suburb Wednesday.
 
Al-Ajwa’s death comes as JAI continues waging its “God Prevails” campaign to take the high ground in al-Assad from which regime forces are able to bombard rebel positions throughout East Ghouta.
 
The regime also lost six members of its elite Republican Guard unit in the same fighting in the al-Assad suburb on Wednesday, reported a local pro-regime news website.

Total casualty figures from the “God Prevails” offensive, which JAI launched last Thursday, could not be independently confirmed, although the faction claims 270 regime fighters were killed as of this past Monday. 

A day in Aleppo: dozens killed behind regime, rebel lines

Regime warplanes killed and wounded dozens in rebel-held west Aleppo on Wednesday in response to the indiscriminate shelling of regime-held neighborhoods earlier this week, Bassel Abu Hamza, an Aleppo-based journalist, told Syria Direct on Thursday.
 
“The regime is avenging a series of defeats across Aleppo in the last few days–it’s lost a huge number of fighters,” explained Abu Hamza.
 
“The regime is also retaliating against the random rebel shelling of regime-held Akramia and al-Hamdania [4km southwest of the Citadel] on Tuesday, which killed and wounded dozens of civilians,” the journalist said.
 
Regime warplanes struck three west Aleppo neighborhoods that lie on the battle lines between rebel and regime forces, all within 2km of the Aleppo Citadel, a medieval castle now serving as a regime fortress.
 
Thirty-six people were killed in the west Aleppo attacks, Ibrahim al-Haaj, a journalist with the Aleppo Civil Defense Forces media desk, told Syria Direct on Thursday.

“We’re still pulling bodies from out of the rubble, so we expect the body count to rise,” he added.
 
The random rebel shelling of regime-held New Aleppo [a suburb on the western edge of Aleppo], Akramia and al-Hamdania killed some 35 people and wounded 150, including at least 14 children, reported the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights on Tuesday.

Northern Homs residents protest arbitrary arrests

More than a dozen residents of Talbisa in the northern Homs countryside protested Wednesday against the local Sharia Court, controlled by Jabhat a-Nusra and Ahrar a-Sham, for detaining young men without informing their families of their whereabouts or the charges leveled against them.
 
“My nephew, a fuel salesman, was kidnapped six months ago...without us knowing who took him,” Abu Taha, a resident of Talbisa, told Syria Direct Thursday. “A month ago we discovered Ahrar a-Sham had him, and that his charge was sympathizing with the Islamic State.”
 
“We will continue [protesting] until the fall of the Sharia Court supported by Nusra and Ahrar a-Sham,” Abu Taha said.
 
“The sheikhs [judges of the Sharia Court] in Talbisa have one job: to fill their bellies,” read one sign held by a child in Wednesday's protest, reported the Syria Rebels Gathering.
 
Discontent with the Sharia Court, based in Talbisa, is shared across the northern Homs countryside. 
 
In nearby al-Houla, Nusra and Ahrar a-Sham are holding approximately 60 young men in detention centers “without trying them, or telling their relatives where they're being held,” Abu al-Bara, a citizen journalist from the town, told Syria Direct Thursday.

 The Talbisa protest against arbitrary arrests. Photo courtesy of Syria Rebels Gathering.