* The Islamic Front seized control of the regime-held village of Burj a-Ruman and the Siritel checkpoint south of Aleppo Thursday, Ahmad al-Ahmad, a citizen journalist in Aleppo, told Syria Direct. The Islamic Front’s Ahrar a-Sham and the independent Fajr a-Sham coordinated Thursday to advance on the two areas following violent clashes with government troops, capturing a large cache of weapons and ammunition in the process. This rebel advance comes amidst the government’s attempted advance into rebel-controlled east Aleppo and a continued Syrian air force barrel bombing campaign that has reportedly forced 500,000 to flee.
Fajr a-Sham and the Islamic Front’s Ahrar a-Sham coordinated in seizing the regime-held southern Aleppo suburb of Burj a-Ruman Thursday. Photo courtesy of @eldorar1.
* The recently dismissed Chief of Staff of the Supreme Military Council’s (SMC) Joint Command of the Free Syrian Army, General Salim Idris, announced his “disengagement” from the SMC, renouncing Defense Minister Asad Mustafa, and called for the formation of a new Free Syrian Army-group under his leadership, independent of SMC oversight. On Sunday, February 16th, the Syrian National Coalition-backed SMC dismissed Idris as the head of the Joint Command, citing “the paralysis within the military structure these past months” and replacing him with an SMC leader in Quneitra, Abdullah al-Bashir. Idris denounced the move as “impromptu, personally, legally and legislatively void.” In the video posted on YouTube, Idris announced the “restructuring of the Chiefs [of Staff]” under a new banner, and “called all the revolutionary military forces to join this structure.”
* The Islamic State in Iraq and a-Sham (ISIS) announced Wednesday they would change the work week in areas under their control to better suit Islamic law. While most of Syria follows a Sunday to Thursday work week, with Fridays and Saturdays off, students and workers in ISIS-controlled cities and towns will attend school or work from Saturday to Wednesday, with Thursdays and Fridays off. In the midst of ongoing conflict between ISIS and other rebel groups across northern Syria, the extremist group currently controls almost all of a-Raqqa province and a handful of towns in northern Aleppo province including al-Bab and Menbij.
* An activist in Qalamoun rejected claims made by the Free Syrian Army’s Military Council in Damascus and its suburbs that rebels had killed Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah’s cousin in the ongoing battle for Yabroud Wednesday, pro-opposition All4Syria reported. A Hezbollah fighter carrying an identification card with the ‘Nasrallah’ family name was killed in Aleppo, the activist told Syria Direct, but rebels had been unable to confirm that the slain man was a relative of the Hezbollah leader. Opposition forces claim they have killed 64 Hezbollah combatants in the past six days, as the Lebanese militia supports Syrian government troops in attempting to seize Yabroud, the largest remaining rebel-held town in the Qalamoun mountain range. Syrian air strikes continue Thursday in Yabroud, 75 kilometers north of Damascus on Syria’s western border with Lebanon.