In our News Roundup, we summarize the day's most important events from local sources inside Syria. Subscribe here to have it delivered to your inbox.
Old Homs rebels to withdraw “in a number of hours”
Pro-opposition activist Hassan Abu al-Zein told Syria Direct that rebels and civilians would surrender Old Homs and begin withdrawing “in a number of hours” Sunday as they implement an agreement reached Friday with government forces who have encircled the area since June 2012. Full ceasefires in the 13 neighborhoods of Old Homs, as well as the nearby al-Waer took effect Friday. Fighters agreed to leave only carrying “light weapons and half of their ammunition” to rebel-controlled northern Homs province. A United Nations delegation and teams from the Syrian Arab Red Crescent will oversee the pullout, which was delayed 24-hours on Saturday. Rebels from the Islamic Front led negotiations, Abu Al-Zein told Syria Direct, reportedly agreeing to free a number of Iranian and Hezbollah combatants and allow the entry of humanitarian aid into the rebel-encircled Aleppo province towns of a-Zahra and Nabl. If the agreement is upheld, Syrian government forces will retain almost complete control of Homs, Syria’s third largest city, where a violent crackdown on fervent anti-regime protests marked a turning point towards armed conflict in early 2011.
Jabhat a-Nusra detains former rebel coordinator in Daraa
Jabhat a-Nasra arrested Ahmed Fahed Naumeh, the former head of the Joint Command of the Free Syrian Army’s military council in Daraa province and a defected general from the Syrian army, the pro-opposition Local Coordination Committees (LCC) reported Sunday. Naumeh, “who lived mostly in Jordan,” the moderate LCC reported, “had been entrusted by the Jordanian government to develop a military plan to stop the advance of Islamic battalions in the Houran, and had put at his disposal huge military capabilities,” referencing the Houran region of northeastern Jordan and southwestern Syria. Pro-opposition Sham News Network reported Jabhat a-Nusra had delivered Naumeh to Daraa province’s Sharia Council, adding that Joint Command’s Military Council announced Naumeh was “formally wanted in revolutionary court” for “sowing discord among combatants.” On Friday, Jabhat a-Nusra warned rebels against “coordination” with Naumeh, a “traitor to his prophet, the believers and the martyrs.” Moderate and Islamist rebels in southern Syria have thus far avoided the disunity hampering rebel operations in northern Syria.
Government troops advance on Aleppo Central Prison
Regime forces inched forward in northern Aleppo Sunday, gaining control of al-Barij Circle southwest of rebel-controlled Sheikh Najar and three kilometers south of rebel-encircled Aleppo Central Prison, pro-government newspaper al-Watan reported. The advance brings government troops as close as they have been since early 2013 to breaking the rebel siege on the prison in northwestern Aleppo, cutting the al-Maslamiyeh road, which rebels have used to supply Sheikh Najar and fighters encircling the prison. In early 2014, government troops advanced to Sheikh Yusef, seven kilometers southwest of the facility. Meanwhile, Syrian air force helicopters have dropped barrel bombs on a number of neighborhoods across Alepp Sunday, including al-Haideriyeh, pro-opposition Shuhaba Press reported.
Gov’t, opposition health agencies announce polio vaccination campaigns
The Syrian government and World Health Organization launched their sixth round of polio vaccinations Sunday, official government news agency SANA reported. At the same time, the opposition Syrian National Coalition’s Assistance Coordination Unit began its fifth round of polio vaccination efforts in rebel-held areas of northern Syria, including parts of Deir e-Zor, a-Raqqa, Hasakeh, Aleppo, Idlib, Hama and Latakia provinces. In October and November 2013, the World Health Organization announced the first 23 recorded cases of polio in Syria since 1999 in eastern Deir e-Zor province, and later in Aleppo and the Damascus suburbs. The Coalition’s Assistance Coordination Unit has identified 72 cases. Last week, the International Bar Association published an open letter to the United Nations urging humanitarian agencies to defy restrictions placed upon them by the Syrian government and move into rebel-held territory. UNICEF said last week their polio campaign had “yet to reach especially vulnerable groups,” including those “living in the midst of active conflict.”
The Coalition-led Assistance Coordination Unit announced polio vaccination campaigns in rebel-held parts of northern Syria Sunday. Photo courtesy of the ACU.