Nusra drives out SRF allies in Jabal al-Zawiya
Jabhat a-Nusra captured a town in Jabal al-Zawiya from FSA-affiliated battalions in southern Idlib Wednesday, in a renewed attempt to purge the region of fighters affiliated with the Syrian Revolutionaries Front, reported pro-opposition news Smart News Agency.
“After the [FSA battalions] assaulted and killed Nusra fighters, they became a legitimate target for us,” Abu Azzam al-Ansari, a member of Nusra’s media office in Idlib, told Syria Direct Thursday.
“The people of Marzeita [the southern Idlib town] greeted the mujahidin [Nusra fighters] with great joy and praise to God.”
Nusra attacked the town under the pretext of “searching for wanted people,” said Smart News, referring to supporters of the US-backed Syrian Revolutionaries Front leader Jamal Maruf.
Nusra drove Maruf and the SRF out of southern Idlib in the beginning of November.
“We withdrew from Marzeita to prevent bloodshed,” one of the FSA-leaders in the town told Smart News, echoing similar statements Maruf made when he left Idlib.
Stakes rise in Zahra, Nubul as regime pushes back
Regime forces backed by local fighters blocked a Nusra-led rebel assault on the Shiite villages of Zahra and Nubul’s southeastern front Wednesday, reported pro-regime Nubul and Zahra News Network.
Rebel fighters appear to be deadlocked along fronts south and east of Zahra and Nubul after capturing the southern entrance to Zahra on Sunday.
The two towns are among the regime’s last footholds in the Sunni-majority northern Aleppo countryside, but have been encircled by rebels for two years.
In related news, the general command of the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) issued a statement denying reports that YPG units had aided regime forces in the battle for Nubul and Zahra, reported Kurdish news agency Aranews Wednesday.
YPD fighters reportedly helped move helicopter-borne military aid into Zahra and Nubul Monday, and sent in reinforcements and supplies from nearby locations to aid the regime forces within the towns, reported pan-Arab daily al-Hayat.
“We, the People’s Protection Units, did not participate in these battles and did not help or attack any party.”
Nusra fighters rest outside of Zahra and Nabul. Photo courtesy of @MousaAlomar.
Syrian army, Hezbollah lay deadly ambush in Ghouta
Syrian army and Hezbollah fighters ambushed a caravan on Wednesday in East Ghouta that was attempting to exit the encircled Damascus suburbs, killing up to 50 people.
Pro-regime and pro-opposition media offered varying accounts of the identity of those killed near the town of al-Atiba, one of the few remaining exits out of East Ghouta.
Pro-opposition Syria Revolution Coordinators reported that the caravan contained a mix of rebel fighters, civilians and wounded individuals, while the pro-opposition Damascus Suburbs LCC wrote that the targeted caravan was transporting civilians, without mentioning rebel fighters or any wounded.
Syrian official News Agency SANA reported that “armed forces units took out 50 terrorists as they tried to flee from Maida towards a-Dameir in the Damascus outskirts.”
Pro-opposition al-Hadath news wrote that those killed were from Jaish al-Islam, adding that “rebels as usual did not acknowledge the truth of what happened…they claimed that the caravan was transporting civilians.”
Putin vows to strengthen Syrian ties
Russian President Vladimir Putin reaffirmed his commitment to help Syria defeat terrorism and deepen the strategic relationship between the two countries in a meeting with Syrian Deputy Prime Minister Walid al-Moallem in Sochi, Russia on Wednesday, reported state-affiliated news agency SANA.
The talks centered around “the situation in the region and the conspiracy against Syria by Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Turkey, that has become well-known to all,” al-Moallem told SANA.
The meeting was part of al-Moallem’s two-day visit to Sochi at the invitation of his Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov.
The situation in Syria “is still very tense, and marked by the increase of terror threats posed by extremist groups, including ISIL [the Islamic State] and Jabhat al-Nusra,” said the Russian Ministry on the eve of the visit.
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