Syria Direct: News Update 2-19-15

Battle for villages key to Aleppo

Fighting continued for the third consecutive day Thursday in the northern Aleppo countryside after the regime captured three villages Tuesday, effectively cutting off rebel supply lines running south into Aleppo as part of its larger campaign to complete the encirclement of rebel neighborhoods in the city.

Syria Direct received conflicting information Thursday on the course of the battles in Herdtein, Ratyan and Bashkuy.

The Syrian army “is still progressing and maintaining its points of troop concentration” in Herdtein and Bashkuy, but not Ratyan, Rida al-Basha, an Aleppo-based correspondent with pro-regime Lebanese news agency al-Mayadeen told Syria Direct Thursday.

Pro-opposition Syria Mubasher reported Thursday that rebels had retaken Herdtein.

A local citizen journalist on the ground, Yassin Abu Raed, confirmed the news, telling Syria Direct on Thursday that regime warplanes bombed the outskirts of Herdtein Thursday to secure the withdrawal of its forces from the village, while clashes are ongoing in Bashkuy.

Jabha-ShamiaAl-Jabha a-Shamia sends reinforcements to Aleppo north countryside. Photo courtesy of Halab News Photography

Nusra breaks non-aggression pact with FSA brigade

The FSA's al-Liwa a-Sabia brigade* issued an announcement Wednesday clarifying the circumstances of Jabhat a-Nusra's Monday raid on their headquarters in the Jabal a-Zawiya region of Idlib province.

On Monday, Nusra abducted al-Liwa a-Sabia's top general and military commander, placing them at the front of large military columns and entering the al-Liwa a-Sabia-held town of Ein La-Roz in Jabal a-Zawiya. Using the men as hostages, Nusra entered the village and raided stores of humanitarian aid, weapons and ammunition.

Nusra captured the Liwa fighters who did not manage to flee, Juma al-Idlibi, alias of a citizen journalist in Jabal a-Zawiya, told Syria Direct on Thursday.

Nusra attacked the village “because it is the highest peak in Jabal a-Zawiya, and looks out of Sahl al-Ghab...and the entire southern Idlib countryside,” he said.

Nusra and al-Liwa a-Sabia had signed a previous non-aggression agreement with Ahrar a-Sham moderating. The FSA brigade imparted full responsibility on Ahrar a-Sham for the breach of trust.

Nusra-affiliated media did not comment on the raid.

Nusra captured most of Jabal a-Zawiya from the US-backed Syrian Revolutionaries' Front in late October/early November 2014.

SNHR: 82 burned alive by Syrian regime forces

Regime forces have burned alive at least 82 people since the beginning of Syria’s civil war, according to a joint report released by the Euro-Mid Observer for Human Rights and the Syrian Network for Human Rights on Wednesday.

The report comes two weeks after the Islamic State released video footage showing captured Jordanian pilot Moaz al-Kasasbeh being burned alive.

According to the report, acts of incineration by the Syrian regime “haven’t garnered much media attention, as government forces [publicly] deny that they commit such acts.”

In an interview Dec. 3 with the French magazine Paris Match, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad denied accusations that the regime targets civilians in any way.

“The focus of the international community on the crimes committed by the Islamic State, while ignoring almost all similar crimes committed by Syrian government forces and pro-government local and foreign militias, is fueling IS with more fighters and resources,” the SNHR concluded in its report. 

*The brigade was initially reported as al-Liwa a-Sadis in error. The correct name is al-Liwa a-Sabia.

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