Regime forces push back in Sheikh Miskeen
Artillery fire struck residential neighborhoods in the embattled city of Sheikh Miskeen Wednesday in Daraa province, reported the pro-opposition Daraa Local Coordination Committee, while a Daraa-based reporter told Syria Direct that the regime is gaining ground in the city.
“The situation now is that the regime controls neighborhoods in the northeast and east of the city on the road to Izraa,” Abu Aws, a reporter with the pro-opposition news agency Syria Mubasher, told Syria Direct from Daraa on Wednesday.
Rebels led by both Jabhat a-Nusra and local battalions captured the majority of Sheikh Miskeen two weeks ago. The city sits on the strategic road to Damascus and has been the center of the rebel offensive in the province.
“The regime is using human shields and there is a fear of killing [the people used for shields] and abusing their bodies,” Abu Aws added.
Iraqi militia and Hezbollah fighters are assisting regime forces, who otherwise suffer from a lack of manpower, in the battle, reported Kurdish news agency Aranews.
“The visible role adopted by IRGC, Lebanese Hezbollah, and Iraqi Shi’a militia fighters in the regime’s offensive against Sheikh Misken in Daraa province signals a deepening reliance by the regime on Iranian support to its military campaign,” the Institute for the Study of War wrote in its most recent Syria briefing.
Regime soldiers advance in Sheikh Miskeen on Tuesday. Photo courtesy of @alalam_news.
Regime reportedly uses vacuum missiles on Zahra/Nubul front
Regime warplanes circled overhead in the northern Aleppo countryside Tuesday night and early Wednesday morning after launching five airstrikes on the rebel-held town of Bayanoon Tuesday, reported pro-opposition Free Media Center.
“The armed forces felled a number of terrorists—killed and wounded—in Bayanoon,” reported Syrian official state agency SANA Wednesday.
The warplanes utilized vacuum missiles in the airstrikes, reported pro-opposition Aleppo News, a claim that could not be independently verified.
Human Rights Watch wrote in February 2000, quoting a 1993 study by the US Defense Intelligence Agency, that the effect of vacuum missiles “against living targets is unique–and unpleasant…. What kills is the pressure wave, and more importantly, the subsequent rarefaction [vacuum], which ruptures the lungs.”
The town of Bayanoon sits nearly adjacent to the Shiite-majority towns of Zahra and Nubul, targets of a concerted rebel offensive since November 23, when rebels captured the southern entrance to Zahra.
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.
Regime responsible for 85% of November deaths
Nearly 300,000 people have died or gone missing in Syria since the first casualty of the war in March 2011, reported the monitoring group Syrian Observatory for Human Rights on Tuesday.
The group has documented 200,000 of those deaths, 100,000 of whom it claims are civilians. In addition, SOHR says that approximately 20,000 are detained in regime prisons, while 80,000 are missing or undocumented.
In related news, almost 1,700 people died in Syria in the month of November, 2014, 1,435 [85 percent] of whom were killed by the regime, said the pro-opposition monitoring group Syrian Network for Human Rights on Monday.
The militant group Islamic State was responsible for 108 deaths in the same month, while opposition groups killed 70.
Reports of IS activity in Daraa
Pro-regime and opposition sources are reporting that the Islamic State (IS) took over a rebel checkpoint in the Bir al-Qasb area near the Suwayda-Outer Damascus border on Tuesday.
Hezbollah news outlet Al-Manar reported that the attack force set out from northern Daraa and then captured the checkpoint, located in the southernmost part of Outer Damascus province. The people of Bir al-Qasb reportedly then pledged allegiance to the Islamic State.
A citizen journalist from the “Syria Correspondent” Facebook page wrote that IS took control of Bir al-Qasb itself, looted a tank and captured 12 rebel fighters.
The reports could not be independently confirmed.
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