Syria Direct: News Update 9-9-15

Islamic State ‘treachery’ in south Damascus

Ajnad a-Sham accused the Islamic State of “treachery” during negotiations with the Islamic State to stop fighting in and around the south Damascus neighborhood of al-Qadam, pledging on Wednesday to “continue to confront them.”

“IS has not respected these mediation initiatives, but rather continued their treachery against the rebels, so rebels are continuing to confront them,” Wael Alwan, a spokesman for Ajnad a-Sham told Syria Direct on Wednesday, referring to IS’s lack of commitment to the talks and ongoing provocations on the ground. 

Rebel factions announced the failure on Tuesday of negotiations with the Islamic State “to stop the bloodshed” in and around the south Damascus neighborhood of al-Qadam, after IS refused to withdraw from al-Asaali, the eastern gate to al-Qadam and the district’s only link to surrounding towns, Walid al-Agha, a south Damascus journalist told Syria Direct on Wednesday.

“The failure of negotiations means continuing fighting,” Agha said, as Ajnad a-Sham rebels in al-Qadam announced renewed clashes on Tuesday in al-Asaali.

IS has blockaded al-Qadam from al-Asaali since beginning its campaign late last month, preventing the entry of food and basic supplies into the neighborhood.

Rebels capture checkpoints in effort to break north Homs siege

Joint Jabhat a-Nusra and Ahrar a-Sham forces captured several regime checkpoints south of Hama city in an operation to “break the [regime] siege on the northern Homs countryside,” an Ahrar a-Sham fighter told Syria Direct Wednesday.     

The regime has blockaded the rebel-held northern Homs countryside since 2012 with a cordon along southern Hama province that prevents aid, originating in Turkey, from reaching northern Homs.

The campaign to capture checkpoints near the 47th Armored Brigade’s headquarters, 5km south of Hama city, has two purposes: “Firstly to advance towards Hama city and secondly to break the siege on the northern Homs countryside” just to the north of the Homs province, Ahmad a-Taha, a fighter in the Ahrar a-Sham’s ranks, told Syria Direct.

The 47th is “one of the most important regime units besieging the northern Homs countryside,” he said.

The regime checkpoints near the Hama-Homs border and the 47th Armoured Brigade’s presence in the area “prevents any assistance from reaching the blockaded northern Homs countryside,” Muhammad a-Dahik, a citizen journalist from the encircled Homs countryside, told Syria Direct Wednesday.

Brigade 47 has reportedly become an Iranian base where Hezbollah fighters are stationed, according to a leaked document from February 2014 published by the pro-opposition news outlet AlSouria last month.

IS seeks to disrupt YPG natural gas transport

An IS fighter detonated a car laden with explosives on Tuesday outside a YPG military base near one of the latter’s largest hubs for piping natural gas in northeastern Al-Hasakah, a local journalist told Syria Direct on Wednesday.

“IS is trying to disrupt the transportation of gas and oil to the Peshmerga in Iraq,” said Hasakah-based Ali al-Nayef, noting the Islamic State achieved this goal when they temporarily captured the nearby Rabiya border crossing with Iraq last year.

IS-affiliated Twitter accounts claimed credit for the attack on the facility in the village of al-Suwayidiya, less than 5km away from the Iraqi border.

The Islamic State killed 35 members of the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) in the blast.

“This is the first time IS has attacked the area, which is considered a secure area that funds the regime and the YPG since it contains one of the largest natural gas facilities in Syria,” said Majid al-Majid, an activist in Al-Hasakah city.