Syria Direct: News Update 9-22-15

Regime 'closes door' to truce negotiations in Waer

The regime told representatives from Homs city’s last rebel-controlled neighborhood that the prospect of truce negotiations is now "completely closed" after rebels attacked a nearby government checkpoint, one of the council’s members told Syria Direct on Tuesday.

Syria government negotiators "told us that the door to the negotiations is completely closed, and they are no longer responding to us,”said Abu Aadi, a member of the Waer negotiation committee, told Syria Direct on Tuesday.

The breakdown in peace talks comes after rebel fighters attacked a checkpoint on the outskirts of Waer on Monday in response to a barrage of regime rockets on the neighborhood that killed four civilians earlier that day.

“The regime has been firing heavy machine guns non-stop since the beginning of the month, but on Monday there was an intense bombardment,”Sama Homsi, a member of the Homs Media Council, told Syria Direct from inside Waer on Tuesday.

“This was the 22nd regime violation of the ceasefire in Waer,” Homsi said.

The ceasefire had been in place in Waer since a United Nations visit there last month, when the local negotiation council requested a reboot of truce talks.

 Hom's Waer neighborhood on Monday, photo courtesy of Homs Media Center

200,000 Syrian children to get a free education in Lebanon

The Lebanese Ministry of Education and two UN agencies launched a $94 million “Back to School” campaign on Monday that will provide a free K-9 education to an estimated 200,000 Syrian children in Lebanon, announced UNICEF on Monday.

“It’s our duty to provide an education for every child in Lebanon,” Lebanese Minister of Education Abu Saab told reporters during a press conference at the ministry on Monday.

Lebanon’s Back to School campaign, funded principally by Germany, the European Union and the United States, aims to provide a free K-9 education for the 2015-2016 school year for a total of approximately “350,000 displaced children,” both Lebanese and foreign-born, wrote UNICEF in a series of Facebook posts Monday.

Of the 350,000 children targeted by the new Back to School program and similar initiatives, 200,000 are Syrian, reported pro-opposition SMART News Agency on Monday. Although that number is substantial, it is about half the 400,000 school-aged Syrian refugees inside Lebanon.  

IS, YPG in second prisoner exchange

The Islamic State and Kurdish People's Protection units (YPG) completed a prisoner exchange Monday in the southern Hasakah countryside utilizing “indirect tribe-based mediation,”a local citizen journalist told Syria Direct Tuesday.

Eight YPG prisoners were exchanged for eight Islamic State prisoners in the deal, which took place in the IS-controlled town of al-Haul, said Majed al-Majed, located in nearby Tel Tamar.

Kurdish citizen journalist Masoud Aqil was among the IS prisoners released in the exchange, reported Kurdish ARA News Monday.

The YPG and IS completed a similar prisoner exchange in early September.