Syria Direct: News Update 9-23-2014

IDF downs Syrian warplane

The Israeli military shot down a Syrian warplane that was reportedly flying over the occupied Golan Heights Tuesday and targeting rebel positions along the border, Al-Arabiya reported.

“The warplane that penetrated Israeli airspace was targeting Free Syrian Army locations along the Syrian-Israeli border,” Luka Zaabi, a spokesperson for the FSA, told Syria Direct Tuesday.

The Syrian-Israeli border has been unstable over the last month since opposition forces captured the Syrian side from the regime. The rebels, led by FSA fighters and Jabhat a-Nusra, are holding the area, despite repeated bombardment from air and ground.

“A Syrian aircraft infiltrated Israeli airspace.  The IDF’s Patriot air defense system intercepted the aircraft,” an IDF spokesperson said in an announcement. 

A photograph taken immediately after the plane was struck appears to show two Syrian pilots parachuting down from the destroyed aircraft.

Meanwhile, the Syrian state news channel condemned the attack, calling it “a clear assault.”

US and Arab allies attack IS in Syria

The United States, in conjunction with a coalition of Arab countries, struck Islamic State targets Monday in Syria, launching at least 50 strikes across the country according to the monitoring group Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

The US informed the Syrian government of the attacks beforehand, according to official Syrian state news agency SANA Tuesday, although it appears the regime did not explicitly give its consent.

Meanwhile, the Free Syrian Army expressed its support of the long-awaited attacks.

“We are ready to control the areas where IS is concentrated after the international alliance successfully expels them,” said Abdullah al-Bashir, the Chief of Staff of the FSA, in a statement Tuesday.

The US and its Arab partners – Jordan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and the UAE – used a combination of fighter jets, bombers, drones and Tomahawk Land Attack Missiles, according to a statement released by the US Department of Defense Tuesday, targeting A-Raqqa, Al-Hasakah, Deir e-Zor and the city Al-Bokamel on the Syria-Iraq border.

The DOD also said they targeted the little-known Khorasan Group, a reported offshoot of al-Qaeda, “west of Aleppo.”

It was not immediately clear whether that attack referred to an airstrike on a Jabhat a-Nusra-controlled Idlib town Tuesday morning that killed 10 people including civilians.  

Airstrikes-in-Syria-One

Hama rebels begin new campaign

Rebels in the outskirts of Hama announced the beginning of a new battle Tuesday, “Drive Back Tyranny,” aimed at reversing recent regime gains in the area on the heels of the failed Badr a-Sham campaign, the pro-opposition Smart News reported.

Participating units include both Islamic factions and FSA-affiliated outfits, including Harakat Hazm and Feilaq a-Sham, and the “Drive Back Tyranny” operations room has announced that it is open to any rebel faction wishing to join.

On Monday, “Drive Back Tyranny” rebels conquered the Zleen checkpoint that falls just north of the city of Halfaya, Jabhat a-Nusra's former stronghold in the northern outskirts of Hama that the regime captured in mid-September.

In related news, rebels with Harakat Hazm downed a regime MiG-23 warplane on Monday that was conducting its third air raid over the skies of Kafr Zeita in the northwest outskirts of Hama, according to the Greater Damascus Alternative Coordination Committee.

Kurds push back IS in Al-Hasakah

Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG) captured large sections of the Islamic State-controlled village of Al-Mabruka in the northern outskirts of Al-Hasakah Monday, part of a campaign to expel IS forces from Kurdish villages in the north and northwestern outskirts of Al-Hasakah, Smart News reported.

IS responded by carrying out two deadly suicide attacks on Kurdish forces in the village Monday night.

One suicide bomber crashed his explosive-laden car into a building in Al-Mabruka reportedly containing 70 Kurdish fighters, after which “IS soldiers stormed the building and killed everyone inside,” said an IS source quoted by pro-opposition daily Zaman al-Wasl.

As of publishing, the YPG is still battling IS for full control of Al-Mabruka and the nearby villages of a-Rawiya and a-Dahma, the Kurdish Democratic Union Party was quoted as telling Zaman al-Wasl.

More than 7,000 civilians have fled the area as fighting has intensified, media activist Siraj al-Hasakawi posted on his Facebook page Tuesday.

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