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Syria Direct: News Update 01-27-2014

* During the second day of face-to-face talks in Geneva […]

27 January 2014

NewsUpdateJan2014* During the second day of face-to-face talks in Geneva on Sunday, the Syrian government agreed to a deal that would allow women and children safe passage out of the besieged old city of Homs, reports NOW Lebanon. The impact of the deal—which would also allow for an aid convoy to enter the city—remains to be seen. The talks Sunday also broached the subject of potential prisoner exchanges, with the opposition Syrian National Coalition delegation stating that it had a preliminary list of some 47,000 prisoners in government custody and agreeing to give the government a list of detainees held by armed groups over which the SNC holds some sway. The talks appear likely to become more difficult Monday, with SNC spokesman Louay Safi insisting that the time has come to “to start talking about transition from dictatorship to democracy.”

* Following Sunday’s announcement that women and children would be allowed safe exit from besieged areas of Homs, activists in the city released a statement demanding guarantees “that the regime not detain women and wounded who are being evacuated.” One activist insisted: “We don’t trust the regime, and want guarantees from the United Nations or from the International Committee of the Red Cross.” The agreement comes three months after the evacuation of the besieged Damascus suburb of Moaddimiyet a-Sham, during which the regime was accused of arresting evacuated civilians.

* Fighting in Syria’s northeastern al-Hasaka province continued Sunday night between the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (PPG) on one side and the Islamic State of Iraq and a-Sham (ISIS), Jabhat a-Nusra and other Islamist battalions on the other, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. Both sides are seeking to control territory near the Hasaka town of Ras al-Ayn as Syria’s Kurds seek to carve out an autonomous zone. The fighting has brought ISIS and opposition Islamist groups together, even as they fight each other elsewhere in northern Syria.

* The Rif Aleppo Mujahideen militia announced Sunday night that it had killed Hajji Bakr, a native of Iraq and ISIS’ second-in-command, in the Aleppo town of Azzaz as he attempted to flee across the border with Turkey. “His hands were stained with the blood of hundreds of Muslims in the Levant,” said the statement. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights added that Hajji Bakr was a former officer in the Iraqi army under Saddam Hussein, and that ISIS has vowed revenge for his killing.

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