Kurd-rebel coalition at 'entrance' of Tel Abyad

The joint Kurdish-rebel Euphrates Volcano operations room captured several villages sitting at the “entrance” to the border city of Tel Abyad in A-Raqqa province Tuesday, a member of the media collective Raqqa is Being Slaughtered Silently told Syria Direct Wednesday.
 
“These villages are important because they are the main entrance into Tel Abyad and their capture opens a path for the joint forces to reach A-Raqqa city,” said Hamud al-Hamza.
 
Tel Abyad has witnessed a large-scale exodus of residents as the rebel and Kurdish forces approach, an aid worker in the city was quoted by pro-opposition London-based al-Araby al-Jadeed as saying Tuesday.
 
IS has reportedly threatened to confiscate the houses of Arab residents who flee, in an attempt to keep the city full of civilians and prevent international coalition airstrikes, the same source was quoted as saying.

Driving out the Islamic State from eastern Daraa

Rebel factions drove back an attack by an Islamic State-affiliated group in Daraa on Tuesday, retaking three villages in the province’s eastern al-Laja region that IS had seized earlier in the day, reported the social media accounts of rebel groups involved in the battle.
 
“Pro-IS fighters advanced at dawn yesterday on the town of Sayah and a Nusra checkpoint, which caused Nusra to request support,” Ahmad Masalaima, a local activist, was quoted by UK-based al-Araby al-Jadeed as saying, noting that a number of Islamist and FSA brigades responded to the request.

Pro-IS social media accounts also acknowledged the Yarmouk Martyrs Brigades withdrawal from the area.
 
The attacks from IS affiliated-forces come less than a week after rebel forces announced a campaign to take the regime-controlled city of Izraa in order to cut off regime territory farther south from supplies coming from Damascus and knock out the city’s garrison. 
 
The timing and location of the attack have caused some observers to hypothesize that the attack mimics IS advances in the northern Aleppo countryside, which have distracted rebel forces from their campaign to capture Aleppo city.

Regime helicopters drop unconventional ordnance on Idlib villages

Regime helicopters unleashed a mix of reportedly unconventional payloads–barrel bombs, exploding gas canisters and naval mines–on the rebel-held villages of Kefr Sajna and Maarat a-Numan in Idlib province, killing 11 civilians and wounding dozens more, reported pro-opposition journalists and news networks on Tuesday and Wednesday. 

“One of the barrel bombs that fell on Kefr Sajna, about 45km southwest of Idlib, decimated an entire family, killing nine,” Hussein a-Zaidi, an Idlib-based journalist, told Syria Direct on Wednesday.
 
“They were sleeping on their roof, trying to escape the oppressive heat inside their home, when the barrel bombs fell just after midnight,” he added.
 
While barrel bombs struck Kefr Sajna, more than 14 naval mines reportedly fell Tuesday on the city of Maarat a-Numan, 31km southeast of Idlib, according to Al-Arabiya.
 
Open Syria, Syria Direct’s open-source partner, notes photographs of unexploded ordinance found in the aftermath of the Maarat a-Numan bombing resemble gas-canister IED’s, rather than naval mines.


 An unexploded unconventional munition in Maarat a-Numan. Photo courtesy of AlMarra Today.