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Syria Direct: News update 01-29-2013

* Local media activists in the Idlib town of Kafr […]

29 January 2014

* Local media activists in the Idlib town of Kafr Nabl reported Wednesday on Facebook that Raed Fares, a prominent opposition activist, had been shot twice on Tuesday night and was in stable condition after undergoing surgery on his chest. Other activists condemned “the terrorist attempt to murder” Fares, who is credited as the architect of Kafr Nabl’s campaign using English-language banners to communicate with the international community. The identity of his shooter remains unknown.
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Raed Fares is credited as the architect of Kafr Nabel’s famous banner campaign. Photo courtesy of لافتات كفرنبل

* Clashes continued Wednesday between the Islamic State of Iraq and a-Sham (ISIS) and other armed factions fighting to control northern Syria, with ISIS seeking to control the area around the Aleppo town of al-Bab after claiming wide swathes of territory north of Aleppo, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

Meanwhile, the Observatory also reported Tuesday that ISIS continued to impose its harsh brand of Islam in the city of a-Raqqa, publicly flogging bakery workers for praying inside their workplace rather than attending a mosque. ISIS recently regained full control of a-Raqqa from other rebel groups and has placed heavy restrictions on the cities’ residents, including banning smoking and requiring that all women wear the niqab.

* A United Nations aid convoy is in position and waiting to deliver food and medical aid to some 500 families who have been trapped in the Old City of Homs for almost two years, the UN News Center reported Tuesday.

Special Envoy to Syria Lakhdar Ibrahimi on Sunday announced a verbal agreement between the regime and opposition delegations that would allow women and children to leave the city while leaving open a window to discuss the entry of humanitarian aid, but the Syrian government has yet to permit the aid to enter.

The UN World Food Program (WFP) is now standing by with 500 family rations and 500 bags of wheat flour, while the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) is prepared to deliver supplies including polio vaccines and medical kits.

* The Geneva II peace talks continued to falter Tuesday over the question of President Bashar al-Assad’s role in Syria’s future. Hadi al-Bahra, the head negotiator for the opposition Syrian National Coalition, told the Saudi newspaper a-Sharq al-Awsat that the SNC would continue to pursue progress in the talks despite the view that “the Syrian regime has not shown any seriousness in addressing humanitarian issues” and that the government had neglected to implement “confidence-building measures.”

Meanwhile, Syrian Information Minister Omran a-Zoubi insisted that a political solution was being undermined by the US decision to “arm terrorist groups,” following revelations that the US has been providing limited weapons shipments to moderate rebel factions inside Syria.

* US President Barack Obama mentioned Syria only briefly in his 2014 State of the Union address Tuesday, citing the removal of Syria’s chemical weapons as evidence of the need for American leadership. “American diplomacy, backed by the threat of force, is why Syria’s chemical weapons are being eliminated,” he said.

Also on Tuesday, however, UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon warned that the removal of Syria’s most dangerous chemical materials—originally due to be completed by December 31—had been “needlessly delayed,” insisting that the situation in Syria should allow for the government to “ensure the expeditious removal of chemical weapons material.”

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