Syria Direct: News Update 9-3-2014

Regime reportedly evacuates Deir e-Zor airport

 

The Islamic State (IS) bombarded the Deir e-Zor military airport Wednesday with 57mm artillery, taking six planes out of commission, according to pro-opposition website Zaman al-Wasl and statements made by IS-affiliated Twitter accounts.

 

The statements could not be independently verified.

 

This, while regime warplanes struck Islamic State military positions in the vicinity of the airport on Monday and Tuesday as IS continues to mass troops in the area, a process that began the week of August 25th.

 

As of publishing, it is unclear whether IS has attempted to storm the airport itself. IS-affiliated Twitter accounts widely circulated the following statement Wednesday: “I advise you not to publish the military movements and plans of the Islamic State before the battles.”

 

In advance of the anticipated IS assault, 400 officers from the Deir e-Zor airport were evacuated to Mezza airport in Damascus and Khalkhala airport in Suwayda. The regime’s military leader of Deir e-Zor province, Issam Zahr a-Din, was photographed in civilian dress in the city of Suwayda, pro-regime al-Hadath news reported Tuesday.

 

Syrian official news agency SANA did not comment on reported evacuation.

 

DR.Hussam

Regime commander of Deir e-Zor province reportedly spotted in southern Syria. Photo courtesy of @hussam_q.

 

Regime intensifies assault on Ghweiran

 

Regime and PYD forces attempted Wednesday to break the holdout neighborhood of Ghweiran in Al-Hasakah city from several fronts, chiefly from the east and north, an activist who asked to be identified as Amir told Syria Direct.

 

As of publishing, regime and PYD soldiers were still battling for the neighborhood.

 

Regime warplanes continued their day-old bombing campaign in the neighborhood, resulting in an unspecified number of casualties, according to the pro-opposition monitoring group Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

 

Pro-regime Syria Now quoted an unnamed military source Wednesday saying that “the goal of the operation [we began Tuesday] is to remove militants from the city of Al-Hasakah. Ghweiran is the only neighborhood that contains militants.”

 

The operation will end quickly,” the source added, “seeing as civilians have left the neighborhood, which makes executing operations much easier.”

 

Although anti-regime sentiment exists in Ghweiran, it is unclear which rebel faction holds sway over the neighborhood.

 

Nusra claims three checkpoints in Hama

Rebels led by Jabhat a-Nusra reportedly captured three checkpoints south of Mherda, a regime-controlled strategic city in northern Hama, Wednesday in part of their larger bid to capture the Hama Military Airport, according to a statement released by a Jabhat a-Nusra related social media account. 

Mherda is a Christian-majority city that serves as a launching pad for regime attacks in the area.

The news comes on the heels of Nusra’s capture of the nearby military checkpoint and the village of Btaish Monday, which one local activist described as a “great danger to regime forces in the city of Mherda.”

“The regime tried to surround and besiege the rebels in Btaish on Wednesday morning but failed,” Abu Rayyan told Syria Direct Wednesday, speaking on behalf of the pro-opposition Hama Media Center.

While Btaish is the most strategically important of the checkpoints near Mherda, Nusra’s capture of the three additional checkpoints, whose vicinity was not immediately clear, is a sign of the imminent threat it represents to the city, according to pro-opposition news agency Eldorar.

Fighting for Christian district, home to water station, in Aleppo

Opposition forces led by the Islamic Front captured several important buildings on Tuesday from the regime in the strategic neighborhood of Suleiman al-Halabi, an eastern district of Aleppo where one of the city’s two water stations is located, according to a statement released by the Islamic Front.

The rebels killed 15 regime soldiers in the fighting for the neighborhood Tuesday, according to pro-opposition Smart News.

The Suleiman al-Halabi neighborhood was at the center of a water crisis in Aleppo city earlier this summer when the regime, who controlled the water station at the time, stopped pumping water into the city, citing infrastructural damages caused by fighting.

Since then, the Free Syrian Army has gained controlled over the water station, but the city still experiences frequent water shortages. The Red Cross, a humanitarian aid organization, has been attempting to fix the station.

Meanwhile, official state media SANA confirmed the fighting in the district: “The Syrian Army killed a group of terrorists in the Suleiman neighborhood.”

A majority Christian neighborhood, Suleiman al-Halabi is also close to a regime military barracks and security office.

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