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Syria Direct: News Update 10-21-2013

*Armed opposition group Ahrar a-Sham and the Islamic Syrian Front […]

21 October 2013

NewsUpdateOct2013*Armed opposition group Ahrar a-Sham and the Islamic Syrian Front rejected accusations on Monday that they committed massacres against civilians on the Syrian coast, as a report by Human Rights Watch charged last week. “We categorically deny that any members have executed any Syrian civilians. All who have been killed have fallen during clashes with regime forces,” the statement, posted on Ahrar a-Sham’s website, said. “In the event of any abuse, they remain individual actions, and do not represent the movement,” it added.

*The exiled Syrian National Coalition called for assistance for the blockaded Damascus suburb of Moadimiyet e-Sham in a statement on Monday. “Ninety percent of residential buildings and neighborhoods are completely destroyed in Moadimiyet, and nearly 12,000 people, most of whom are women, children and the elderly, have taken to eating leaves and plants unfit as human food,” the Coalition said, also noting the lack of doctors and medical equipment to treat 1,800 wounded. The town has been blockaded by regime forces for nearly a year.

*Free Syrian Army forces have captured two government positions in the southwestern town of Hieran near Quneitra on Sunday, opposition activists said on Monday. Meanwhile, regime forces, supported by Hezbollah fighters, are preparing to launch an attack on rebel held Jebel al-Qalmoun in northern Damascus, according to Aleppo-based opposition website Aks al-Sir.

*The Syrian government approved its budget for 2014 of 1.39 trillion Syrian pounds ($8.18 billion), the official news agency SANA reported on Monday. The budget is a slight increase from last year. SANA did not disclose detailed data on spending, but quoted Syrian Prime Minister Wael al-Halqi as saying that the slight budget increase will go toward the education, health and agriculture sectors.

*The World Health Organization detected the first suspected cases of polio in 14 years. The WHO announced on Sunday several positive test results for polio in the eastern Syrian province of Deir e-Zor in early October.

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