NewsUpdateJan2014* Syrian government troops targeted the besieged neighborhood of Old Homs with artillery shelling Thursday, while clashes took place between the regime’s force and rebel combatants in the Homs neighborhoods of al-Bab and Souq al-Mosqouf, Sham News Network Reported.  Wednesday, SNN reported that Jabhat a-Nusra had seized control of the Syrian government’s checkpoint on the road between Athraya and Khanaser in Aleppo province Wednesday, killing a number of Syrian troops and seizing control of ammunitions and vehicles.

* The second day of the Geneva conference is under way Thursday in Montreux, Switzerland. On Wednesday, the discordant positions of Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moallem and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and the opposition Syrian National Coalition marked the opening of the long-awaited conference. In his lengthy speech, al-Moallem lambasted the West for supporting “terrorism” inside Syria, noting 83 different nationalities were fighting on Syrian land. "Instead of laying out a positive vision for the future of Syria that is diverse, inclusive and respectful of the rights of all, the Syrian regime chose inflammatory rhetoric,” the U.S. Department of State immediately responded.

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Al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri in 2005.
Courtesy of www.intelcenter.com.

* Ayman al-Zawahiri, the leader of al-Qaeda, released an audio recording Wednesday calling for Islamic rebel groups inside Syria to cease combatting one another. The announcement comes after weeks of heavy clashes pitting the Salafist Islamic Front, al-Qaeda-affiliated Jabhat a-Nusra and others against insurgent, al-Qaida-affiliated Islamic State in Iraq and a-Sham across Syria. “All Jihadi groups, and all free [people] in the Sham aiming to topple al-Assad’s rule, we call on all of them to seek to stop the fighting between the brothers of Jihad and Islam, immediately,” he said.

* Jordanian armed forces seized a cache of “arms, ammunition, explosives and drugs” in a violent confrontation with smugglers on Jordan’s northern border with Syria Wednesday, Al-Sharq al-Awsat reported. The pan-Arab newspaper reported that illegal border crossings between Jordan and Syria had increased 250%, while “6million narcotic pills, 24 cars of various makes and up [to] 90,000 sheep were also confiscated.”

* Syria’s Ministry of Justice responded to and belittled  a report by ex-United Nations war crimes prosecutors accusing the Syrian government of systematically torturing and executing prisoners since the start of the Syrian conflict, official news agency SANA reported Wednesday. “The report is a mere gathering of photos of unidentified persons proving that a number of them are foreign terrorists from several nationalities who die when attacking the military checkpoints and civil institutions,” the statement said. The report, leaked Monday, examined some 50,000 photos detailing the torture and execution of 11,000 detainees.

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