Syria Direct: News update 3-12-15

Daraa ceasefire between pro-IS group, FSA

A Free Syrian Army-affiliated brigade and a pro-Islamic State local militia group agreed to a ceasefire in southwestern Daraa province on Wednesday, days after fighting for control of a water station servicing the region, a spokesman told Syria Direct on Thursday.

“Armed parties from both sides will withdraw from the checkpoints immediately after signing the agreement,” said Ahmed Zoubani.

The fighting and reconciliation between the two groups comes in the wake of Harakat al-Muthanna, an Islamist battalion consisting of 600-1,000 local fighters, declaring support for IS and its “caliphate” in an official announcement on Sunday.

Harakat al-Muthanna’s Facebook page was closed after it published its statement of support for IS.

The Islamist group will withdraw from the area according to the agreement, a spokesperson for Harakat al-Muthanna told pro-opposition Smart New Agency.

The two groups had been fighting for control of the Yarmouk Project, an opposition-controlled water station that supplies water to most of Daraa province.

The Yarmouk Project is the only area in the region that receives electricity from the regime, which supplies power to the station in exchange for water.

IS reportedly planning new assault on Ras al-Ain

The Islamic State [IS] launched a second assault on Tuesday to capture Ras al-Ain in a multi-front campaign at a time when the Kurdish People’s Protection Units [YPG] appear to lack manpower, a Hasakah-based journalist told Syria Direct on Thursday.

“The strategy behind the IS attack is not to merely capture Ras al-Ain, but to open multiple fronts against the YPG, exploiting the fact that the Kurds just don’t have enough foot soldiers to respond in kind,” said Ali Al-Harith, bureau chief for the pro-opposition Step News Agency in Al-Hasakah.

Although the fighting has yet to reach Ras al-Ain, clashes between YPG and IS are ongoing in the town’s southern countryside, reported the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights on Thursday.

During its advance on Ras al-Ain, IS captured the village of al-Anba on Wednesday approximately 15km to the south, hanging the bodies of 13 dead YPG from checkpoints overlooking the village, reported the Step News Agency on Wednesday.

In preparation for the IS assault on Ras al-Ain, Kurdish authorities are implementing a mandatory recruitment campaign, said Al-Harith. 

IS’s march on Ras al-Ain follows its capture of the villages of Tel Khanzir and Manajir in Al-Hasakah province to the west and south earlier this week.

More FSA fighters reportedly defect to regime

Several dozen rebel Free Syrian Army [FSA] fighters based in southern Damascus defected and joined the pro-regime National Defense Forces Thursday morning, Walid Agha, a civilian activist and member of the grassroots news campaign “Revolution Spring” told Syria Direct on Thursday.

Four groups of FSA fighters defected to the Syrian Army and National Defense Forces Wednesday night and Thursday morning in groups of 10 to 30 fighters, reported the pro-regime Yarmouk News Agency media outlet Thursday morning.

A video showing defected FSA fighters joining the National Defense Forces along with a pro-regime media personality confirming their defection was posted on the agency’s official Facebook page Thursday.

On Wednesday, 20 members of the Hatin Brigade, another FSA unit operating in southern Damascus, defected to the pro-regime National Defense Forces, reported the pro-regime Lebanese Al-Hadath News.

Last week, 60 FSA fighters from the Al-Anfal brigades based in southern Damascus defected to the Syrian army after withdrawing from their positions. 

The defections come amidst renewed clashes Wednesday night between FSA units and Jabhat a-Nusra (JN) in the south Damascus town of Beit Saham, reported the pro-opposition Al-Hal al-Souri news outlet on Thursday.

FSADefection Former FSA fighters defect to the regime on Wednesday. Photo courtesy of Yarmouk Camp News.

*CORRECTION NOTICE: The previous version of today's roundup indicated that the Islamic State was planning a new assault on Kobani. This is incorrect. They are in fact planning an assault on Ras al-Ain in Al-Hasakah province. Syria Direct regrets the error. 

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