* Islamist rebel groups in northern Syria announced the launch of simultaneous offensives to combat the Syrian government’s recent push in Aleppo province Thursday. The coalition includes the Islamic Front’s Ahrar a-Sham and Liwa a-Tawhid, as well as al-Qaeda-affiliated Jabhat a-Nusra and Fajr a-Sham al-Islamiya, who have titled their campaign “The Promise of Truth Approaches,” a Quranic reference. The announcement warned civilians living near regime military bases or checkpoints to leave within 24 hours, before the areas are targeted. Meanwhile, Ahrar a-Sham also announced that it will coordinate with Jabhat a-Nusra and two other groups in targeting the regime’s Kweires airbase in northern Aleppo province, in a campaign titled “Do Not Divide.”
* The Islamic Front’s Liwa a-Tawhid sought to regain control of the town of al-Ra’ee in northern Aleppo from the Islamic State in Iraq and a-Sham (ISIS) Thursday, three days after ISIS consolidated control of the city when its representative blew himself up in negotiations with Liwa a-Tawhid, activists told Syria Direct. A-Tawhid regained control of the villages of Ka’ibe and al-Waqif, the electricity generator south of the town and a checkpoint Thursday, destroying four ISIS vehicles. A-Tawhid also advanced towards another ISIS stronghold in the northeastern Aleppo town of al-Menbej, gaining control of Jabel al-Hamam and the bridge in the village of Fuzaq, east of al-Menbej.
* Syrian helicopters pounded the city of Daraya in the Damascus suburbs Thursday with barrel bombs, pro-opposition Sham News Network reported. In one week of barrel bombings, the Syrian army has not progressed into the city, a spokesman at the Daraya Media Center told Syria Direct. The Syrian air force also dropped the makeshift devices - empty oil drums stuffed with explosives and metal fragments - on the Aleppo neighborhoods of Hanano, a citizen journalist in Aleppo told Syria Direct.
Regime bombardment targets Daraya Thursday. Photo courtesy of
Daraya Media Center.
* Syria will still meet its June 30 deadline to destroy its chemical weapons arsenal, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon said Thursday, adding that he believed the process was progressing “rather smoothly.” Syria missed another deadline to destroy its chemical stockpiles Wednesday, Zaman al-Wasl reported, one week after Reuters revealed that the Syrian government had destroyed less than 5% of its arsenal.
* More than 5,000 food parcels have been distributed over the past seven days in the Yarmouk Palestinian Refugee Camp, official government news agency SANA reported Thursday. As many as 85 starved to death in the camp in January before the Syrian government granted access to a United Nations humanitarian aid convoy. The UN announced Wednesday they had received formal authorization to vaccinate for polio in the camp, three months after 17 cases of polio were detected in Syria. In a joint campaign, UNICEF and the World Health Organization have vaccinated as many as 2.5 million Syrian children against highly-contagious polio, but have been barred in their efforts to reach all children due to heavy conflict and government siege.