Syria Direct: News Update 6-16-2014

Assad strikes ISIS in east Syria

Syrian air force warplanes launched air strikes against Islamic State in Iraq and a-Sham (ISIS) headquarters in the eastern provinces of a-Raqqa and Hasaka Sunday, pro-government newspaper al-Watan reported, as the al-Qaeda splinter group continues its offensive against the government of Shiite Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki in Iraq.

The Syrian air strikes reportedly hit and damaged ISIS’s chief provincial headquarters in a-Raqqa city, as well as the ISIS-controlled western a-Raqqa town of Tabaqa and the Hasaka town of Shadadi, killing two Tunisian ISIS leaders, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported.

Meanwhile, in Iraq, ISIS reportedly captured the northwestern Iraqi town of Tel Afar on the highway between Mosul and Syria on Monday. On Sunday, they claim to have massacred 1,700 Shiite Iraqi soldiers while consolidating control of the city of Tikrit, the birthplace of Saddam Hussein.

American President Barack Obama has ordered “unmanned surveillance flights” over Iraq, while an American aircraft carrier has moved into the Persian Gulf, The New York Times reported Sunday.

West Daraa base falls to rebels, overlooks Israel

Rebels seized the Tel al-Jumua hill in western Daraa Saturday, capturing the largest-remaining government outposts in western Daraa province.

“Tel al-Jumua overlooks all of southwestern Daraa province and Quneitra province all the way to the western villages” near the border with the Israeli-occupied Golan heights, pro-opposition activist Mohammed al-Hourani told Syria Direct Monday.

Embedded image permalinkRebels are reportedly holding dozens of Syrian soldiers after seizing a Daraa base. Photo courtesy of @aimanaibrahem.

Rebels, led by the Syrian Revolutionaries Front, the Yarmouk Martyrs Brigade and Liwa Homs al-Walid, captured 54 regime soldiers in the advance, pro-opposition website All4Syria reported Sunday.

Rebels seized nearby Tel al-Jabiya and Division 61 in late April.

Regime regains Kessab

The Syrian government seized control of Kessab Sunday, ejecting rebels led by Jabhat a-Nusra from the Armenian village located on the Turkish border, according to opposition and state media. The regime also took over the nearby border entrance to Turkey.

The attack, in the northwest province Latakia, was spearheaded by a joint effort between Syrian Special Forces, Lebanese Hezbollah and Iranian fighters, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

“The Syrian Army and the National Defense Forces regained control over the Kessab border entrance to Turkey,” reported the state news agency SANA Sunday. Regime soldiers found heavy weaponry the rebels had left behind, SANA reported, including mines, missiles and improvised explosive devices.

In March, a coalition of rebels captured Kessab, the coastal town Samara and a regime military base called Observatory 45 in an effort to penetrate the province of Latakia, the historical homeland of Assad’s Alawite sect. With the fall of Kessab, the rebels have now lost all of those gains.

Rebels dispute loss of Um Sharshouh

Rebels in Homs dispute claims made by official state news agency SANA Sunday that regime forces won control of the Homs village Um Sharshouh.

“Regime forces regained control over the village of Um Sharshouh and the surrounding area,” according to SANA, “and restored stability to it after eliminating the terrorists.” The news agency, citing an unnamed source in the Syrian army, said that the military had targeted “terrorists” in the villages to the north of the city Homs.

However, Abu Abdullah, a media spokesperson for the rebels in Homs, told Syria Direct that “that there is no truth in the claims made by the regime.”

“The regime seized a strategic point in the area,” he added, “but it is more than a kilometer from Um Sharshouh.”

The rebels have controlled Um Sharshouh since a coalition of opposition groups led by Jabhat a-Nusra, the Islamic Front’s Ahrar a-Sham and a number of localized battalions stormed the village earlier this month.

The battle for the village is part of a wider rebel campaign for northern Homs. The village is considered strategic because it is located on a hill that looks over the M5 highway, the highway connecting Damascus to the north.

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