Syria Direct: News Update 1-5-15


January 5, 2015

JAI eliminates rival in Douma

Jaish al-Islam, Douma’s main rebel faction, defeated rival group Jaish al-Umma after a series of mass arrests led to the latter group surrendering its arms on Sunday.

The arrest campaign took place under the rubric “Cleansing the Country from the Filth of Corruption,” wrote JAI spokeman Abdul Rahman a-Shami on his Facebook page.

Jaish al-Umma’s General Command confirmed the news of their group’s demise in the East Ghouta town Sunday, leaving Jaish al-Islam primarily in control of the East Ghouta city.  

“An estimated 200-300 brothers turned themselves and their weapons in,” Jaish al-Umma wrote on the page on Sunday.

A source close to East Ghouta’s rebel Judiciary Council told Syria Direct Monday that “there were in fact wanted individuals, and corrupt [people]” in Jaish al-Umma, wanted on charges of theft, rape and assault, and that the group had refused to hand them over to the judiciary for prosecution.

JAI and Jaish al-Umma have been at often violent odds since the latter’s formation last September. At that time, JAI leader Zahran Aloush said that “two heads will not be allowed for one body,” referring to rebel factions in the area.

Rebels protect Aleppo supply road

Rebels in Aleppo captured a number of government checkpoints northeast of the city Sunday night in the hopes of preventing the regime from cutting off the main opposition supply route into the provincial capital, an Aleppo-based photojournalist told Syria Direct Monday.

“The checkpoints are important because they are located on a high area that overlooks the Handarat and al-Castello [supply] road,” said Hussein al-Khatab.

The newly captured points are also situated near the industrial city of Sheikh Najjar, which the regime seized from the rebels in July 2014.   

Sunday’s attack was led by local rebel groups from the city, said al-Khatab.

A number of different opposition groups, most notably the jihadist groups Jaysh al-Islam and Jaysh al-Mujahideen, have recently joined the northern Aleppo front, fearing that the regime will sever the opposition’s supply road.

The rebels killed at least 20 regime soldiers in the fighting and also claim to have captured a tank, reported pro-opposition news Shahba Press Agency.

al-MajbalAleppo rebels advance northeast of the city on Sunday. Photo courtesy of @3awatel.

Lebanon tightens Syria border

The Lebanese government tightened restrictions on Syrians attempting to enter the country as of Sunday, reported pro-regime Lebanese news agency Al-Mayadeen.

Syrians wishing to enter must do so as workers, students, tourists, or those seeking medical treatment, according to the new regulations of the Lebanese General Directorate of General Security.

Previously, Syrians arriving to Lebanon had only to present their identification cards to be allowed entry.

Last October, Rashid Darbas, the minister of social affairs, said that “Lebanon will not receive refugees after today and this is will be announced as a policy adopted by the Lebanese government,” quoted by the media wing of the Christian Lebanese Forces party.

As of last October, more than 1.1 million Syrians had registered with the UN as refugees in Lebanon, a country of 4.3 million, since the beginning of the conflict. The actual number of Syrians in Lebanon could be even higher.

Jobar rebels drive back regime

Rebels and the regime exchanged a series of deadly attacks in the rebel-controlled Damascus neighborhood Jobar on Sunday, in some of the fiercest fighting in the area in recent months, according to Abu Dhabi-based news agency Sky News.

The attacks occurred just days after Bashar Assad reportedly visited the embattled rebel-neighborhood, an event that opposition activists say was fabricated by state news and took place in a nearby regime-controlled area instead, in a rare public appearance.

The regime hit the strategic neighborhood, located just east of the capital, with surface-to-surface missiles and heavy artillery after rebels destroyed four Syrian army tanks on Sunday in what they said was an attempt to conquer the area, reported pro-opposition news channel Al-Aan TV. 

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