Syria Direct: News Update 6-25-15

Southern Front opens battle for Daraa provincial capital

Southern Front forces began a new campaign to take the regime-held areas of the divided provincial capital of Daraa on Thursday, declaring the Daraa-Damascus highway just east of the city a “closed military area where civilians are forbidden from entering.”

“The sky of Daraa has been lit up since the battle began in the city and its periphery early this morning,” Fursan al-Hourani, a correspondent with the Umayya Media Center in Daraa, told Syria Direct Thursday.

“Information from the ground suggests the campaign will soon reach Khirbet al-Ghazalah [in the Daraa countryside], one of the most prominent regime fortifications,” said al-Hourani.

Tens of regime forces have allegedly been killed after regime intelligence offices were targeted inside the city, including a brigadier general, according to a post on the Southern Front’s Facebook page on Thursday.

State media has not acknowledged fighting inside the city, with pro-regime Damascus Now reporting that  “terrorists had not advanced one meter around the city” and that the situation now was “secure and under control.”

Daraa city is split between regime and opposition forces, with the regime controlling roughly 30 percent of the city.

Wadi Barada rebels re-open Damascus water supply

Rebels in Wadi Barada reopened the water supply to Damascus and its vicinity on Wednesday after the regime met at least one of their conditions to end the cutoff, reported pro-opposition news site El-Dorar.

Rebels issued an announcement last weekend declaring a water cutoff to parts of the capital until the regime fulfilled several 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.

The regime responded to the announcement by releasing five detainees requested by the rebels, including women, reported ADN kronos Wednesday. “The regime has begun to acquiesce to the rebels' demands,” local activists were quoted by the international news agency as saying.

In a breach of at least one of the announcement's terms, a regime sniper shot a man riding a motorbike Wednesday in the Wadi Barada region, reported pro-opposition Wadi Barada Media Center.

The rebel-held Wadi Barada area is home to Ein al-Fijeh, a town 15km 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.

Regime drives back IS attack on strategic east Homs villages

Syrian army and National Defense Forces (shabiha) fended off an Islamic State attack on three villages in the eastern Homs countryside that are home to shabiha training camps and a military headquarters coordinating activity against nearby IS targets, a local citizen journalist told Syria Direct Thursday.

“The village of al-Masaudiya [one of the three targeted] is also the birthplace of Buthaina Shabaan, advisor to Bashar al-Assad,” said Mohammed Khalaf, who is on the ground in rural east Homs.

IS launched mortars at two of the villages, resulting in five civilian casualties, reported pro-regime Damascus News Network.

“The IS attack was extremely strong, with large numbers of fighters who entered from three fronts,” said Khalaf.

The villages are located northwest of Palmyra city, which IS captured in May, and approximately 50km east of Homs city.