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Syria Direct: News Update 2-9-2014

* A Syrian Arab Red Crescent (SARC) volunteer was wounded […]

9 February 2014

NewsUpdateFeb2014* A Syrian Arab Red Crescent (SARC) volunteer was wounded Saturday when mortar shells broke a cease-fire in Old Homs, where the United Nations had negotiated a temporary cease-fire to evacuate sick and wounded citizens and allow humanitarian aid into the city, according to the SARC. The regime and opposition have traded accusations over the shelling, with the Wall Street Journal reporting that one United Nations official and Syrian activists inside Old Homs had blamed the attack on the National Defense Forces, the Syrian government’s semi-official, largely Shiite militias. Before the shelling, SARC convoys succeeded in evacuating 83 sick and wounded citizens and delivering 250 parcels of food and 190 hygiene kits to the 13 neighborhoods. Aid delivery continued on Sunday despite Saturday’s attack, according to journalists on site.

UN convoy A UN aid convoy prepares to enter Old Homs Sunday, despite having been targeted by shelling Saturday. Photo courtesy of Sam Dagher.

* The Syrian government continued to bombard Aleppo with barrel bombs on Sunday in a campaign that has now entered its third week. Opposition Local Coordination Committees (LCCs) reported on Facebook Sunday that “thousands of Syrians, have fled the barrel bombings in Aleppo over the past two days, and they are now stuck in the city of Kilis [on the Turkish side of the Turkish-Syrian border]. Most of the displaced are women and children with no food or shelter but the clothes on their backs.” The LCCs went on to call for all civil society and humanitarian organizations in Turkey to assist those fleeing from Aleppo. They added that 197 people were killed Saturday throughout Syria, of which 105 were in Aleppo.

* Jaish al-Mujahideen and the Islamic Union for Soldiers of the Levant issued a joint statement Sunday in anticipation of the second round of the Geneva II peace talks, which is set to begin Monday. The groups declared that the Syrian regime is not prepared to seriously negotiate, and describes the government’s ramped-up use of barrel bombs in Aleppo and other parts of the country as “an open challenge to the international community.” The statement went on to say that “the mujahideen are fighting a two-front war against the regime on one side, and the terrorism that the regime created on the other, which the government uses as a pretext at Geneva.” The statement calls on fighters, politicians and civilians to join together to overcome “the major challenges confronting the revolution.”

* Two Islamic State of Iraq and a-Sham (ISIS) leaders were killed Saturday in Syria’s eastern Deir e-Zor province as fighting continues between ISIS on one side and Jabhat a-Nusra and Ahrar a-Sham on the other, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. Al-Arabiya reported that one of the dead was Abu Dajana, a Libyan national and ISIS’ chief in Deir e-Zor. Intra-rebel fighting has entered its second month, as a loose coalition of rebel groups including the Islamic Front and Jabhat a-Nusra seeks to evict ISIS from its territory in northern Syria.

* Syrian National Coalition (SNC) chief Ahmad Jarba led a delegation to Cairo on Friday to meet with Hassan abd al-Azim, head of the National Coordination Committee, Syria’s main “internal opposition” group, reported the Egyptian daily al-Masry al-Youm Sunday. The two met to discuss diversifying the opposition’s representation at the second round of the Geneva II peace talks, set to begin Monday. Jarba’s delegation also met with Egyptian Foreign Minister Nabil Fahmy and Arab League head Nabil al-Arabi to coordinate ahead of Geneva II’s second round. The details and results of Jarba’s various meetings have not been made public.

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