Syria Direct: News Update 6-23-15

Promises end Hama hunger strike

Nearly 700 inmates at the Hama Central Prison broke their week-long hunger strike Monday after receiving promises from the regime to revisit the recent cases of dozens of prisoners sentenced to death or  life in prison, the Hama-based director of the pro-opposition Hama Revolutionaries Union told Syria Direct Tuesday.
 
“Promises made to the prisoners include a visit with the minster of justice after Ramadan, a national reconciliation for those sentenced to jail time and revisiting the death sentences issued by Judge Ridha Musa, the head of the Terrorism Court,” said Jawad al-Hamawi.
 
The Terrorism Court recently handed down sentences to 45 inmates ranging from 12 years in prison to death, prompting the hunger strike. Those sentenced were being held in the “Riots Branch,” which includes opposition activists and rebels, Wael al-Hamawi, a journalist with pro-opposition news outlet Al-Ayam, told Syria Direct Tuesday.
 
During the strike, inmates raised the slogan “death rather than humiliation,” reported al-Ayam on Monday.

Regime negotiates to end water cutoff

Four days after rebels in the Wadi Barada region cut off water to Damascus, the regime released five detainees Monday in a first step towards meeting conditions for reopening the water supply, reported pro-opposition Syria Mubasher.  
 
The rebel-held Wadi Barada area is home to Ein al-Fijeh, a town 15 km northwest of Damascus that houses the main spring providing drinking water both to the capital, including the wealthy districts of Mezzeh and Maliki that count top regime officials and supporters among its population, and the rebel-controlled suburbs.
 
Wadi Barada rebels issued an announcement Saturday declaring a water cutoff until the regime met several of their conditions, including “a total stop to bombing and sniping in all the villages of the area,” the release of all detainees from Wadi Barada and the entrance of food, medicine, fuel and building materials into the region.
 
Negotiations between the regime and rebels are ongoing, the head of the Wadi Barada Media Center was quoted by pro-opposition outlet Ainab Baladi as saying Monday. A truce has been active since November of last year.

Barrel bomb hits mosque in Aleppo

A Syrian regime helicopter dropped a barrel bomb on the Saad al-Ansari mosque in the Hayy al-Ansari village west of Aleppo city, killing 15 worshipers and injuring 20 others on Monday, reported Shahba Press agency.
 
Worshippers had just broken the Ramadan fast and had begun the evening prayer, said the imam of the mosque in a video published by the Aleppo Media Center Tuesday.
 
“Everyone had eaten two dates and drank a little water and we proceeded to pray,” he said.
 
“Before the end of the prayer, we felt something falling on us… people were on the ground," said the imam, covered in dust after the explosion. “The row of worshippers who were in front of me were all killed.”

"The barrel bomb fell through the middle of the mosque, destroying it completely and scattering corpses of those praying,” Najib Abd al-Hayy, a member of the Civil Defense (White Helmets) in Aleppo city, told Alsouria.Net on Monday. Rescuers have removed 12 bodies so far.

It was not immediately clear why the barrel bomb was dropped on the village, currently controlled by several different factions of the Free Syrian Army.

 Aleppo imam talks to Halab Today after a barrel bomb. Photo courtesy of Halab Today.