Islamic State fighters reportedly took over the town of Jafra on Thursday, moving closer to capturing the regime-controlled Deir e-Zor military airport, reported IS-affiliated Euphrates News Agency.
“Jafra is a town that sits opposite the airport on the other side of a main road connecting Deir e-Zor city to its eastern countryside,” a citizen journalist from Deir e-Zor city told Syria Direct Thursday, confirming the fall of the town from regime control to the Islamic State.
IS had captured several points adjacent to the Deir e-Zor military airport Wednesday as they advanced towards the town of Jafrah, reported the pro-opposition Syrian Revolution Coordinators’ Union (SRCU).
The Islamic State reached the edges of Jafrah on Wednesday with the aid of a suicide car bomb, according to the Euphrates News Agency. They also took over points in al-Mariyah, a village east of the airport, and struck the airport itself with missiles and artillery shells.
During IS’s advance, fighters captured and promptly decapitated 24 regime soldiers.
Fires could be seen within the airport on Wednesday, said unnamed activists quoted by the SRCU.
The regime responded by launching artillery shells on areas adjacent to the airport.
“Armed forces units caused the terrorist organization the Islamic State great losses in soldiers and equipment in the city of Deir e-Zor,” reported official state news agency SANA.
A Syrian soldier captured by IS Wednesday near Deir e-Zor airport. Photo courtesy of @azdDson1.
Al-Waer between bombs and a truce
The Syrian army and National Defense Forces (shabiha) reportedly killed four rebel fighters in the Al-Waer district of Homs city Wednesday amidst attempts to reach a negotiated truce in the embattled neighborhood, reported the National Defence—Homs and its Outskirts Facebook page.
The rebels were killed as they attempted to infiltrate a building near regime-controlled territory on the outskirts of Al-Waer.
Also on Wednesday, regime tanks and snipers operating from the “Death Towers” targeted the district and wounded “several” civilians, reported the pro-opposition Homs Media Center.
Wednesday’s escalation comes three days after a regime delegation led by Major General Mohammed Deeb Zeitun met with the rebel security council in Al-Waer to discuss possible conditions for a truce, reported pro-opposition daily Zaman al-Wasl Tuesday.
An unnamed source said to be familiar with the rebel negotiating team told Zaman al-Wasl that “an agreement is close.”
Germany donates to save WFP food aid
The German government announced that it would increase its aid to Syrian refugees by 40 million euros ($49 million) Wednesday in response to the World Food Program’s suspension of food assistance earlier this week to nearly 1.7 million Syrians in Lebanon, Jordan, Turkey and Egypt due to a lack of funding, reported the official German Media Center.
“There are millions of people who were forced to flee from the bloody Syrian war and depend on aid for their survival,” said the government in its statement.
Meanwhile, the WFP called on the international community for emergency funding, launching a social-media fundraising campaign Wednesday to raise $64 million to reinstate the food program for this month.
“Even one dollar can make a difference. We’re saying to people: ‘For you it’s a dollar, for them it’s lifeline,’” said WFP Executive Director Ertharin Cousin.
Assad says coalition strikes ‘do not help us’
President Bashar Assad said that the US-led coalition airstrikes do not help the Syrian government, and accused Turkey of supporting the Islamic State in an interview with the French magazine Paris Match on Wednesday.
“The coalition strikes against [IS] are ineffective and do not help us. If the strikes were useful and effective I would say that we benefited certainly, but we are fighting battles on the ground with IS and do not feel any changes.”
“Turkey still supports [IS] directly in the region,” he added.
Assad also denied accusations that his government intentionally targets civilians.
“In reality, the largest number of victims in Syria are those that support the government and not the opposite…a large number of them die because of terrorist explosions.”
“But it is impossible for the government to target the citizens.”