ISIS poised to take Deir e-Zor
The Syrian army shelled the opposition-held neighborhood in Deir e-Zor city on Thursday, as the three-front battle between Jabhat a-Nusra-led rebels, the Syrian regime and the Islamic State of Iraq and a-Sham (ISIS) for the eastern, oil-rich province drags into its third month.
Pro-opposition news site Zaman al-Wasl cited rebel fears the group would be empowered inside Syria amidst the Islamic State in Iraq and a-Sham’s (ISIS) Tuesday capture of the Iraqi city of Mosul.
“There is fear Deir e-Zor could be the second [Syrian] city to fall under the control of the Islamic State in Iraq and a-Sham, which is gathering its ranks in the city,” the newspaper reported, while the opposition Syrian National Coalition recognized “ISIS is strengthening its grip on eastern Syria.”
Earlier this week, opposition activists launched a campaign titled “Deir e-Zor Needs Your Help,” citing a “crippling siege” on the city by ISIS and regime forces.
Assad: Geneva process ‘finished’
In his first statements since winning the presidential election last week, Bashar Assad said that the Geneva Convention was “finished” and that the West has changed its position on Syria.
“We already are in dialogue with the worst of the fighters [in Syria],” Assad told the pro-Hezbollah Lebanese newspaper Al Akhbar in an interview published Wednesday, “but what will come of discussions with the opposition abroad? Nothing, simply because they have no control over anything and do not have any connection to the people or the land.”
The Syrian National Coalition, which represented the Syrian opposition in the Geneva II Convention this January, has faced increasing scrutiny as the rebels in Syria have fractured into a number of autonomous groups. Many of the most prominent opposition groups are now jihadist.
“The West is belatedly adopting what I first said after the crisis,” Assad said. “It is America and the West that are beginning to show signs of change…because terrorism is happening in their homes.”
Rebels regain Mleiha supply road
Rebel troops were able regain control over the supply road into Mleiha Wednesday, Abu Odai, a spokesperson for the rebel battalion Feiliq a-Rahman told Syria Direct Thursday, four days after government media reported Syrian troops had been able to encircle rebels in the Damascus suburb.
“In three days of heavy fighting, we retook the road between Jisreen and Mleiha,” Abu Odai said, even as Syrian regime forces conducted four airstrikes and launched 12 surface-to-air missiles Wednesday on the town between Damascus and regime-controlled Damascus Airport.
Rebels have clung to Mleiha, which overlooks both the principal road to Damascus Airport and most of the rebel-held East Ghouta Damascus suburbs, since Syrian troops intensified fire on the suburb in late April.
Car bomb strikes regime-controlled Homs
A car bomb killed at least seven and injured dozens of others in the pro-regime Homs neighborhood of Wadi a-Dahab on Thursday, the pro-regime National Defense Forces militia reported, detonating near a regime checkpoint at the Mosakin a-Shorta Circle. No group has yet claimed responsibility.
In late April, Jabhat a-Nusra claimed responsibility for a series of car bombs in pro-regime neighborhoods of Homs, weeks before rebel groups blockaded inside the city’s 13 central neighborhoods surrendered to regime forces following two years of siege.
In other Homs province news, rebels announced Wednesday they had consolidated control over the northern village of Um Sharshouh in a statement posted online by the “Nusra al-Mustadifeen” Operations Room, which includes Jabhat a-Nusra, the Islamic Front and Brigade 313.
Rebels first stormed the village on June 3rd, gaining full control on Wednesday by detonating a “huge car bomb in the center of the regime’s remaining checkpoints,” opposition activist Yaref Abu al-Ez told Syria Direct Thursday.
The village, 10 kilometers north of the city of Homs, lies two kilometers west of the M5 National Highway, Syria’s main north-south highway.
A car bomb in regime-held Homs reportedly killed seven on Thursday. Photo courtesy of National Defense.