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Syria Direct: News Update 2-16-2014

* More than 6,000 Syrians have been killed since the […]

16 February 2014

NewsUpdateFeb2014* More than 6,000 Syrians have been killed since the Geneva II conference convened on January 22nd in Montreux, Switzerland, or a rate of 242 killed per day, making it the bloodiest period of this length in three years of the Syrian conflict, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported. Violence continues to center in Aleppo province, where rebel groups are simultaneously attempting to repel a government advance while combatting the Islamic State in Iraq and a-Sham (ISIS). On Sunday, ISIS killed Free Syrian Army explosives expert Jamal al-Qudour in the Aleppo village of Haritan, Aleppo Today reported, one day after rebel-regime clashes killed 48 and rebel-ISIS clashes killed 25.

GenevaIIThe Geneva II peace talks ended Saturday with little progress. No date has been set to reconvene. Photo courtesy of Syrian Organization for Human Rights. 

* Clashes between government troops and a coalition of rebel battalions continued near the town of Mourik in northern Hama province Saturday, a week after rebels seized the town in a battle they titled “Qadimoun.” Five citizens were killed and others injured Saturday in government artillery shelling on the town of al-Latamina near Mourik, Smart News reported. The FSA’s Joint Chiefs of Staff, Fateh Hassoun, the Civilians Protection Commission, Jabhat a-Nusra and Ahrar a-Sham combatants, coordinating in an attempted advance toward Hama and Homs, fought at the al-Ghorbal checkpoint in Souran, south of Mourik, destroying a regime tank.

*  After the failure of the Geneva II talks Saturday, Ahmed Jarba announced he had visited combatants from the Syrian Revolutionaries Front in Idlib province last week; the Syrian National Coalition and its president have been criticized by rebels inside Syria for being out of touch with events on the ground from their exiled base in Istanbul. “Quality weapons will flow to you in the near future to liberate the entire territory of Syria,” Jarba told the rebels during his visit. On Friday, the Wall Street Journal reported Saudi Arabia would begin to arm Syrian rebels with anti-aircraft missiles, while the United States would increase its financial support, paying combatants’ salaries.

* United Nations Special Envoy Lakhdar Brahimi apologized to the Syrian people after the second phase of the Geneva II peace talks came to a close Saturday with no scheduled date to resume negotiations between the Syrian government and the Syrian National Coalition, and no progress made toward a political solution.  The Syrian government delegation continued to insist negotiations be based on countering terrorism, and blamed “the looming USA military escalation” for encouraging Coalition “intransigence.” At the close of talks Saturday, the Joint Command of the Free Syrian Army, an armed opposition group critical of the Coalition, called the UN and the Arab League to reconvene in Cairo for discussions between “actors in the Syrian issue”: Russia, France, Britain, the United States, Germany, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Turkey and Iran, as well as “regime military and political figures whose hands are not stained with blood.”

* Members of the Syrian National Coalition delegation to Geneva II discovered Friday they had been included in a list of 1,500 Syrian government-designated “terrorists,” even as they sat across from the government delegation in face-to-face negotiations over the past three weeks. Opposition delegates learned their assets and homes had been seized only after pro-opposition website All4Syria leaked a copy of a September 2012 Ministry of Justice decision. 

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