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Syria Direct: News Update: 12-16-2013

* Istanbul-based daily Al-Hurriyet published data from the United Nations […]

16 December 2013

NewsUpdateDec2013* Istanbul-based daily Al-Hurriyet published data from the United Nations on Monday confirming that Turkey has been arming Syrian rebels with light weaponry since June. The documents claim Ankara has exploited a loophole in economic sanctions imposed on Syria by classifying the weapons as “guns without military use. Turkey has repeatedly denied arming rebel groups inside Syria.

* The Syrian parliament approved the government’s general budget for 2014 at 1.390 billion Syrian pounds ($9.9 billion), state agency SANA reported Monday. Head of the Budget and Accounts Committee Hussein Hassoun “called for establishing a modern tax system that achieves social justice and prevents tax evasion,” the official agency reported, adding that the budget takes “urgent steps to deal with economic sanctions, beginning reconstruction, and caring for children of martyrs and wounded army personnel.”

* The Islamic State in Iraq and a-Sham released General Ahmad Barai of the Free Syrian Army’s Military Council in Hama Monday, one day after arresting him in the town of Siraqib in Idlib province, Zaman al-Wasl reported.

* The families of two Spanish journalists kidnapped 11 weeks ago in Raqqa province appealed for their release on Sunday. El Mundo newspaper correspondent Ricardo Garcia-Vilanova and freelance photographer Javier Espinosa were kidnapped on September 16th in Tel Abyad, where the Al-Qaida-affiliated Islamic State in Iraq and a-Sham and the Kurdish Democratic Union Party have been dueling for dominance. The Free Syrian Army’s Supreme Military Council, led by general Salim Idris, issued a statement saying it would do its best to protect journalists inside Syria after 13 international news organizations called for action against rebel groups targeting journalists.

* The Islamic Front and the Free Syrian Army-affiliated Douma Martyrs’ brigade in the Damascus suburbs appealed to the Red Cross and Red Crescent to send food and medicine into the blockaded area of East Ghouta on Sunday. “We pledge to protect [the caravans] from when they enter East Ghouta to when they leave it, and we guarantee the freedom of movement inside East Ghouta,” the statement posted on the Douma Martyr’s Brigade website said. While declaring that the year-long regime blockade had been tightened, the statement also acknowledged widespread fears of kidnapping by extremist groups, who have targeted activists, aid workers and journalists. 

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