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Syria Direct: News Update 11-11-14

Demonstrations against rebel control in Douma Residents of the opposition-controlled […]

11 November 2014

Demonstrations against rebel control in Douma

Residents of the opposition-controlled town of Douma, the rebel base in the east Damascus suburbs, held a peaceful protest against the rebels in control of the area on Monday and Tuesday, calling for an end to arbitrary arrests and secrets prisons, reported pro-opposition news agency Al-Ghouta Al-Aan.

The demonstrations were prompted by the recent disappearance of Sheikh Abu Mahmoud al-Roz, a well-known activist and opponent to the regime since the beginning of the revolution.

The protestors also called for an end to corruption in the ranks of the local opposition forces, according to a Facebook post Tuesday by a media activist based in Douma.

A number of rebel groups control Douma and the larger East Ghouta area, the most prominent of them Jaysh al-Islam.

The demonstrations also come in the wake of the regime’s renewed efforts to storm Douma after closing the last supply route into the city last week.

Regime barrel bombs Handarat refugee camp

Regime helicopters dropped barrel bombs on the rebel-controlled Handarat refugee camp for Palestinians just north of Aleppo city Monday, causing widespread property damage and an unknown number of casualties, reported the Palestinian news site al-Watan Voice.

Most residents had fled the camp after regime forces stormed the nearby town of Handarat in early October in an attempt to cut off the main rebel supply route that runs from the northern Aleppo countryside through Handarat and into the city itself through its northern gate.

As of publishing, rebels are battling to repel regime forces near Aleppo’s northern entrance.

Syrian official news agency SANA reported that “the army targeted terrorist gatherings and destroyed their dens in…Handarat,” among other locations across Aleppo, “killing dozens and wounding others.”

In related news, 14 rebel military councils in Aleppo city announced the formation of the joint “Aleppo Rebels’ Council” Monday in a video circulated on YouTube in order to combat the “immediate dangers” that Aleppo city is facing.

FSA demands Lebanon release officer

The Free Syrian Army’s Qalamoun branch demanded Monday that the Lebanese government release officer Abdullah a-Rifai, captured Sunday by the Lebanese army as he was leaving Arsal on a family visit.

“The security of Lebanon is a red line that must not be crossed…we affirm that the Lebanese army is not our enemy,” as opposed to “sectarian” Hezbullah, the FSA’s Western Qalamoun Gathering said in an announcement widely circulated on social media websites.

We therefore demand that the Lebanese government immediately release Abdullah a-Rifai…to prevent a security collapse along the Lebanese border.”

A Hezbullah-affiliated former MP said that a-Rifai is “an extremely important negotiating card, which might influence, or be enough to secure the release of the [Lebanese army] prisoners,” Hassan Yaqub was quoted by Hizbullah news outlet Al-Manar as saying on Monday.

Yaqub did not specify whether he was talking about 17 Lebanese soldiers captured during the battle for Arsal in August and are currently being held by Jabhat a-Nusra, or Imad Ayad, a Hezbullah fighter captured by a-Rifai’s Western Qalamoun Gathering more than a month ago.

Assad, UN envoy discuss ‘freeze’ on fighting

President Bashar Assad received the UN envoy for Syria, Staffan de Mistura, on Monday in Damascus as part of de Mistura’s three-day visit to the country, stressing to the UN diplomat that the Syrian government is “concerned with the safety of citizens in every part of Syria,” reported state news agency SANA.

Assad and de Mistura discussed the possibility of a “freeze” of the fighting in areas around the country, especially Aleppo, which de Mistura noted had “symbolic power,” according to Lebanese pro-regime news agency Al Mayadeen.

The leader of the Free Syrian Army in Aleppo, Zaher a-Sakat, rejected the possibility of negotiations with the regime in a statement made over social media on Monday, unless the regime meets the rebels’ conditions.

“We refuse to listen to the UN about a freeze in fighting in Aleppo,” a-Saket said.

UNconvoyHoms UN envoy to Syria Staffan de Mistura tours Homs city on Monday. Photo courtesy of Homs News.

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