Syria Direct: News Update 9-21-15

IS arrests DEZ civilians in advance of airport offensive

The Islamic State is arresting Deir e-Zor residents and sending them off to the military airport front reportedly in advance of a new offensive, the head of the Deir e-Zor is Being Slaughtered Silently campaign told Syria Direct Monday.

“It appears that IS is preparing for an operation soon on the [regime-held] Deir e-Zor airport, they're sending civilians to the front lines after arresting them on silly charges,” said Ahmed Ramadan.

On Sunday, IS detained 20 young men from al-Mayadeen city and sent them off to the front, Deir e-Zor is Being Slaughtered Silently reported Sunday.

The pace of the arrests has increased in recent weeks, Mohammed al-Khalif, a member of the Syrian Network for Human Rights, told Syria Direct Monday.

“IS takes the civilians and has them undertake strenous labor on the fronts—digging trenches, building barriers,” he added.

The arrests coincide with IS summoning large reinforcements into Deir e-Zor city, which lies adjacent to Deir e-Zor airport, reported ARA News Sunday.

Regime claims to apprehend Homs car bombers, locals skeptical

The latest in a series of car bomb attacks in Homs city struck the Alawite a-Zahra neighborhood Sunday following a regime announcement that security forces had apprehended individuals preparing bombs earlier that day.

“Most people don't believe here that the army has caught a terrorist cell,” Abu Seif, a resident near a-Zahra, told Syria Direct on Monday. Rather, Abu Seif suggests that the arrests are meant to assuage the “indignation of locals towards the governor and the role of soldiers at checkpoints in protecting the neighborhood.”

The arrested individuals, all Palestinian-Syrians, were taken from the Abbassiya neighborhood, reported the pro-regime newspaper al-Watan. The neighborhood is adjacent a-Zahra where an Alawite resident was killed by a car bomb.

While Jabhat a-Nusra claimed responsibility Saturday for nine car bomb attacks in Homs since March, the city has witnessed dozens of unclaimed car bombs targeting pro-regime neighborhoods over the past two years.

Daraa protesters call for increased security after media activist’s assassination

Dozens of demonstrators in Daraa city called on the FSA military leadership in the city on Sunday to implement increased security measures following the assassination of a well-known opposition media activist in the southern provincial capital by unknown assailants over the weekend, local activists reported.

Unknown gunmen assassinated Ahmad al-Musalamah, a well-known media activist in the city with the local Nabaa Media Foundation, on Saturday evening, prompting its members to organize Sunday’s demonstration.

“You are all partners in our killing, where are the checkpoints?” says one sign held by the demonstrators, who called for tighter security and for tinted windows to be banned by the military leadership in Daraa al-Balad, the rebel-controlled southern part of the city. “Today me, tomorrow you,” reads another.

Al-Musalamah’s assassination is only the latest in a series of killings in Daraa targeting opposition journalists by both regime and local opposition groups that have caused locals to decry the general state of lawlessness.

“Months ago, regime sleeper cells were found to be assassinating revolutionary personalities in liberated areas in exchange for SP900,000 [$4,767] per victim,” Omar al-Hourani, a media activist in Daraa city told Syria Direct on Monday. “As usual, the regime targeted the media because it is the strongest weapon to expose its crimes.”

 Protesters in Daraa on Sunday. Photo courtesy of Omar Alhariri.

No water in Damascus, but regime cuts water bills nationwide

After bursting a water main that left faucets dry across Damascus last week, the regime decreed on Sunday a nationwide discount on monthly water bills of 10 percent, along with other discounts, reported the Damascus-based, independent news site the Mortar Shell Diaries on Sunday.

“Keep your 10% and just get me some water,” wrote one angry Damascene on Facebook, responding on Sunday to the regime announcement. “We don’t have a drop of water–and you want us to pay our bills,” added another citizen.

The regime’s shelling last week of rebel towns east of Zabadani to the northeast of Syria’s capital cracked and ultimately ruptured the vital main supplying Damascus with water, now offline for almost a week, reported Step News Agency on Sunday.