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Syria Direct: News Update 2-24-2014

* Regime forces on Monday continued their assault on Yabroud, […]

24 February 2014

* Regime forces on Monday continued their assault on Yabroud, the last rebel stronghold in the Qalamoun mountain range, with rebel groups clashing with regime, Hezbollah and pro-Assad National Defense Forces on Yabroud’s outskirts. Amer, a Yabroud-based spokesman for the Qalamoun Media Center who asked that only his first name be used, told Syria Direct Monday that violence had broken out in the farmland surrounding Yabroud and that FSA fighters had succeeded in repelling the regime’s push from Yabroud’s northern entrance. Opposition fighters reportedly killed 100 Hezbollah troops, including local commanders, a claim that could not be independently verified. Meanwhile, Islamic Front member-group Jaysh al-Islam published a video on Twitter claiming that rebel fighters had reclaimed control of the town of a-Sahel to Yabroud’s north.

* Ahrar a-Sham, the most powerful faction in the Islamic Front, announced Sunday that two suicide bombers had killed Abu Khaled a-Souri, a senior al-Qaeda figure and Ahrar a-Sham leader in Aleppo. In comments to al-Jazeera Sunday, Islamic Front political chief and Ahrar a-Sham founder Hassan Abboud accused the Islamic State of Iraq and a-Sham of responsibility for the attack, while ISIS fighters took to Twitter to deny responsibility. A-Souri was reportedly serving as Ayman al-Zawahri’s representative in Syria, having been appointed by the al-Qaeda leader last year to mediate the dispute between al-Qaeda offshoots Jabhat a-Nusra and ISIS in Syria.

BhL5GwtCMAAp6VI.jpgSenior al-Qaeda figure and Ahrar a-Sham leader Abu Khaled a-Souri was killed in Aleppo Sunday. Photo courtesy of @Ahraralsham.

* Clashes continued Monday morning in Syria’s eastern Deir e-Zor province between rebel formations and ISIS, with the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reporting that ISIS fighters had shelled the village of Jazra and that Jabhat a-Nusra and allied groups had called for reinforcements to the area. The fighting comes two weeks after rebel groups largely ousted ISIS from Deir e-Zor, and coincides with fighting between opposition and regime forces around Deir e-Zor’s military airport.

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