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Syria Direct: News Update 1-14-15

Virus targets newborns in northern Syria Four children have died […]

14 January 2015

Virus targets newborns in northern Syria

Four children have died of a potentially new viral infection in opposition territory in northwest Aleppo province, as one of the doctors handling the cases calls it “highly infectious” and spreading because of cold temperatures.

“This is a new sickness that is a highly infectious virus spreading because of severe cold,” Abdul Rahman Obid, a doctor and the director of the Atareb Hospital where many of the cases have appeared thus far, told Syria Direct on Wednesday.

“It especially targets children six months old and younger, and infects the respiratory system.”

The hospital is receiving more than 100 children each day since the virus appeared two weeks ago, he added.

Residents, meanwhile, are worrying about the possibility of an outbreak, reported pro-opposition news agency All4Syria.

A severe storm swept through northern Syria last week, compounding what were already poor living conditions for many internally displaced Syrians who live in makeshift camps.

Assad: ‘What we said was right’

Syrian President Bashar Assad condemned the killing of journalists and other civilians in Paris last week, calling the attacks acts of “terrorism” and warning the West of a similar threat in Syria, state news agency SANA reported on Wednesday.

“We, more than any other country in the world, understand this issue because we have suffered from this type of terrorism for more than four years, and have lost thousands of innocent lives [due to terrorism] in Syria,” he told the Czech newspaper Literarni Noviny in an interview to be published Thursday.

The Syrian government has repeatedly cautioned Western diplomats about the dangers of allowing terrorism to spread, Assad added. 

“What happened in France several days ago proves that what we said was right.”

“When it comes to killing civilians…this is terrorism,” Assad said, seemingly without irony. “We are against the killing of innocent people anywhere in the world.”

Nusra tightens grip around airport

Jabhat a-Nusra captured an Idlib village from regime forces Tuesday that overlooks the regime-controlled Abu a-Thuhur military airport encircled for two years by rebels, reported pro-opposition Enabbaladi news.

The village of Tel Salmu is also the main source of drinking water for regime soldiers stationed in the airport.

Nusra pounded Tel Salmu with missiles and artillery before storming the village, reported pro-opposition Sham News Network. Regime soldiers reportedly fled Tel Salmu to the Abu a-Thuhur airport before Nusra forces entered.

Following their capture of Tel Salmu, Nusra fighters began firing on the Abu a-Thuhur airport, according to photos published by Nusra’s official Idlib Correspondent Twitter handle.

Abu Thuhur is the second largest regime airport in northern Syria. Although military planes no longer take off from there after rebels destroyed essential flight infrastructure, it remains a fixed regime stronghold in southeast Idlib, reported Sham News Network.

IdlibJabhatNusraNusra fighters capture Tel Salmu in Idlib on Tuesday. Photo courtesy of @Idlib_JN.

Reports of regime, IS prisoner exchange

UK-based al-Araby al-Jadeed published a report Wednesday exposing a prisoner exchange between the Islamic State (IS) and the Syrian regime that occurred earlier this month.

“Syrian politicians close to the regime in Baghdad confirmed to Iraqi officials that a prisoner exchange occurred in a small village [south of al-Qalamoun city] controlled by armed cells loyal to IS,” an anonymous high-ranking security official with Iraqi intelligence told al-Arabi al-Jadeed.

Dozens of high-profile prisoners were reportedly involved in the exchange. IS captives included the former Deputy Commander of Brigade 155, Fuad al-Jamal, and a leader in Hezbollah nicknamed “Sheikh Hassan.”

Meanwhile, a group of 20 regime soldiers captured by rebel brigades in Al-Hasakah and held for two years appeared in a video shot January 9 pleading with the regime to negotiate for their release.

“If we were officers they would have exchanged for us. If we were from Assad’s house they would have exchanged for us,” says Staff Sgt. Suhail al-Ali Ibrahim, one of the captives. 

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