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Syria Direct: News update 2-5-2014

* Syrian air force barrel bombs continue to fall on […]

5 February 2014

* Syrian air force barrel bombs continue to fall on Aleppo for a fifth day Wednesday, a citizen journalist in Aleppo told Syria Direct. On Tuesday, barrel bombs killed 33 civilians in the city, the Aleppo Media Center reported, in what United States Secretary of State John Kerry described as the “latest barbaric act of the Syrian regime.” At least five of the 33 dead were children killed when a barrel bomb hit a mosque where they were attending school.

1013214 831355343548572 1974551340 nDamage in Aleppo Wednesday after a barrel bomb landed on the principal water pipeline in the neighborhood of al-Marja. Photo courtesy of Halab Today.

* Islamist rebel brigade Suqour al-Sham signed a ceasefire agreement with the Islamic State in Iraq and a-Sham (ISIS) in Hama province Tuesday. The deal comes after more than a month of heavy violence between ISIS and other rebel groups including Jabhat a-Nusra, Jaysh al-Mujahideen, Free Syrian Army battalions and the Islamic Front, the powerful Islamist coalition of which Suqour al-Sham is a member. The two sides clashed as recently as February 1st, when ISIS combatants ambushed and killed six fighters from Suqour al-Sham. ISIS continues to combat Suqour al-Sham’s allies in the Islamic Front, targeting Ahrar al-Sham’s headquarters in the Deir e-Zor town of al-Mayadeen with a car bomb Tuesday. 

* Syrian National Coalition head Ahmad Jarba met with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in Moscow Tuesday in an apparent bid to strengthen the Syrian opposition’s ties with Russia, one of the Syrian regime’s staunchest international backers. “I think we have entered a new stage of relations with Russia,” Jarba said, noting that Lavrov had been “understanding” with regards to the opposition’s stance vis-à-vis Assad. “We now have good relations… that I hope will continue to develop further.” Meanwhile, Russia’s Deputy Foreign Minister Gennady Gatilov told Russian state news that Syria is prepared to complete the destruction of its chemical arsenal by March 1, responding to Western accusations that Damascus has deliberately failed to meet the timeline for removing its chemical stockpiles.

* The United Nations World Food Program (WFP) announced Tuesday that it had begun airlifting enough food to feed nearly 30,000 displaced people for one month in northern Syria. In the second operation of its type in three months, WFP will deliver more than 400 metric tons of food and other items—including clothing and hygiene products—to areas that have been inaccessible to overland aid convoys since May 2013. Also on Tuesday, Syrian, Iranian and Swiss officials met in Tehran to discuss improving humanitarian access to displaced persons inside Syria, as a UN aid convoy continues to await access to besieged areas in Homs as part of an agreement struck by regime and opposition delegations during the first round of the Geneva II talks.

* The Turkish government has prevented 2,000 refugees from entering Turkey through a-Raqqa province for more than 18 days, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported Tuesday. Most of the refugees have been waiting near the barbed wire border fence between Turkey and the a-Raqqa province town of Tel Abyad. Turkey is currently hosting 594,000 United Nations-registered Syrian refugees, half of whom are under the age of 18. Turkey maintains an open border with Syria, but is cracking down on the flow of foreign fighters and is tightening border security.

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