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Syria Direct: News Update 2-9-15

Uncertainty around Islamic State’s lower profile in Al-Bokamel Islamic State […]

9 February 2015

Uncertainty around Islamic State’s lower profile in Al-Bokamel

Islamic State forces appearing to retreat from their bases in the Deir e-Zor border town of Al-Bokamel may be regrouping in new headquarters to avoid the US-led coalition’s airstrikes, a media activist in Al-Bokamel told Syria Direct on Monday.

“IS may be changing its bases as a result of the coalition targeting them and because of the events in the area,” said the activist, who asked to remain anonymous.

“It may not be a withdrawal.”

The Al-Bokamel activist’s account complicated a report that IS had retreated from its bases near the Iraqi border on Sunday night, fleeing in cars without their headlights on to avoid attention, according to the pro-opposition media campaign Deir e-Zor is Being Slaughtered Silently.

In addition, the activist said that while there has been an uptick in defections from IS in the area, almost all of the defectors were Syrians who had joined the jihadist organization for personal gain.

The move comes in the wake of coalition airstrikes on oil-producing areas around Al-Bokamel Sunday night, a tactic the coalition has repeatedly used throughout its campaign, reported the monitoring group Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

Jaish al-Islam, Ahrar target Shiite town

The Islamist militias Jaish al-Islam and Ahrar a-Sham targeted the Shiite-majority town of Fuwaa in northern Idlib on Monday with missiles, one of the last regime-held areas in the province, according to Jaish al-Islam’s Twitter account. 

The rebels pummeled the area around the town. “In coordination with Ahrar a-Sham, so begins the first stage of the battle to liberate Fuwaa,” said the account on Monday.

Water and electricity had been cut off to Fuwaa for three weeks prior to Monday’s attack, reported regime-affiliated newspaper Al-Watan, without elaborating further.

Fuwaa, located just northeast of the regime-controlled provincial capital, is a Shiite-majority town.

The Islamist groups may be targeting the town for propaganda purposes. In addition, Jaish al-Islam–currently locked in a cycle of deadly attacks between Damascus and its headquarters in Douma–may be trying to relieve pressure from its forces in the Damascus suburbs.

FowaIslamist rebels target Idlib Shiites on Monday . Photo courtesy of @islamic_front.

Pro-regime news channel enters Al-Waer

Rebel brigades controlling the Al-Waer district in Homs city allowed a regime-affiliated Syrian news channel into the embattled neighborhood on Sunday for the first time since the war began, an activist in Al-Waer told Syria Direct on Monday.

“A photographer and correspondent for a pro-regime satellite channel entered Al-Waer on Sunday without a security escort. They worked around the neighborhood for two and a half hours, interviewing civilians about the rebels,” said Mohammed al-Homsi, the alias of the media activist in Al-Waer.  

By allowing the news channel into Al-Waer, rebels hope to shed light on the deteriorating living conditions of the neighborhood, which has been completely encircled by regime forces for a year and a half, according to the pro-opposition Homs Media Center.

With the exception of Al-Waer, the regime has completely controlled the provincial capital since mid-2014, when a UN-brokered truce escorted the last of the holdout rebels in Old Homs from the city.

Regime forces bombed Al-Waer with explosive cylinders Sunday night after the correspondents exited the area, said the Homs Media Center.

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