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Syria Direct: News Update 1-20-15

Shishani escapes assassination Regime helicopters dropped barrel bombs on four […]

20 January 2015

Shishani escapes assassination

Regime helicopters dropped barrel bombs on four separate rebel-held neighborhoods in north Aleppo city Tuesday, reported pro-opposition Halab News Network late Tuesday afternoon.

The two barrel bombs on the Masakin Hanano neighborhood caused only material damage, whereas the attack on al-Halak killed at least one and injured three civilians, according to Halab News Network. Casualty figures for the other two attacks as-yet unavailable.

The regime attack follows a failed rebel attempt to recapture points along the nearby Breij front.

Also in Aleppo, Jaish al-Muhajirin wa al-Ansar (JMA) leader Salah a-Din a-Shishani escaped a car bomb intended for him on Monday in northern Aleppo province that killed five JMA members, reported pro-opposition Syria Mubasher.

A JMA-affiliated Twitter account confirmed Monday that a-Shishani was alive and not in the car when the bomb, planted by unknown assailants, went off. The account wrote that “one of the brothers” died in the attack, not five, as reported by Syria Mubasher.

Warplanes with the US-led international coalition targeted a military car belonging to Jabhat a-Nusra Monday in the western Aleppo countryside, killing two Nusra members including one in a leadership position, reported pro-opposition Masar Press Agency.

Arbin citizens gather for truce, then are bombed

A mortar landed on a group of civilians in Arbin Monday who were gathering in support of a negotiating committee set to open a humanitarian and commercial corridor into the encircled East Ghouta town, killing five and wounding 35, reported the Arbin LCC.

An unknown party plastered pamphlets on mosques in Arbin Sunday night encouraging residents to come out in support of the negotiating committee on Monday, Ahmed al-Arbini, alias of the spokesman for the Arbin LCC, told Syria Direct.

“When people came out [on Monday] they were bombed by the regime,” he added.

“The residents who agreed [with the humanitarian corridor proposal] did so because of hunger and the blockade and a lack of medicine; those who opposed did so because they expected regime treachery.”

For its part, pro-Assad Syrian daily Al-Watan reported Monday on a ceasefire proposal in Arbin between rebels and the Syrian army, along with the pamphlets and humanitarian corridor proposal, without mentioning the mortar that landed on the town.

Arbeen Arbin negotiations sabotaged by bombing on Monday. Photo courtesy of Arbin LCC.

 Kurds capture hill south of Kobani

Kurdish People’s Protection Units [YPG] captured a strategic hill south of the embattled city of Kobani from the Islamic State on Monday, opening up the possibility of severing IS supply roads to the city, reported the monitoring group Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

“The Mishtenur hill overlooks all of the neighborhoods in the city, but especially those in the eastern part that are controlled by the Islamic State,” Mustafa Abdi, a Kurdish journalist based near Kobani, told Syria Direct on Tuesday.

“The hill is considered the link between all the roads leading to the city.”

Kurdish forces now reportedly controls 85 percent of the city, located in Aleppo province, although that assertion could not be independently confirmed.

The YPG confirmed the hill’s capture on its official Twitter account.

“Forty-one [IS] fighters were killed in the operation to free the Mishtenur hill and the seizure of a large supply of weapons from the terrorists.”

IS and YPG forces have been battling for control of the city, located on the border with Turkey, since September 2014. The US-led coalition has heavily bombed IS positions in and around the city since it began attacking the jihadist group in Syria, helping reverse the momentum of the battle.

Assad: Syria committed to dialogue

The Syrian government is committed to finding a solution to its country’s conflict by way of dialogue, but its success depends on pressuring countries supporting terrorism inside Syria, President Bashar Assad told a delegation from an international parliamentary organization on Monday.

The regime has previously accused countries such as Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Qatar of supporting Syrian jihadists.

For its part, the delegation from the Inter-Parliamentary Union, a collection of parliament members from countries across the world with ties to the UN, stressed its support of Syria in its fight against terrorism, reported official state news agency SANA.   

Assad has kept a low public profile throughout most of conflict, occasionally interviewing with international publications.

This month alone, however, he has made a public appearance in an embattled Damascus neighborhood, granted an interview to a Czech newspaper and met with the Inter-Parliamentary Union.

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