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Syria Direct: News update 3-09-2014

* Syrian National Coalition chief Ahmad Jarba spoke Sunday at […]

9 March 2014

* Syrian National Coalition chief Ahmad Jarba spoke Sunday at a meeting of the Arab League in Cairo, insisting that “there is no space for a political solution after the setbacks at Geneva II” and demanding that the international community accelerate the transfer of advanced weaponry to Syria’s armed opposition. Haithem al-Maleh, the head of the opposition Syrian National Coalition’s Legal Committee, said Saturday that he expects the Arab League to vote on granting the Coalition the vacant seat representing Syria in the Arab League during its meeting Sunday in Cairo. The Arab League recognized the Coalition as the legitimate representative of the Syrian people in November 2012, but has not yet given it voting power in the assembly, despite stripping President Bashar al-Assad’s government of its seat in late 2011.

* Regime and Hezbollah forces seized the rebel-held town of a-Zara in northeastern Homs province Saturday, with the town’s Local Coordination Committee claiming that regime and Hezbollah fighters had killed more than 20 civilians. Syrian state media reported that the army had fully captured a-Zara and killed “large numbers of terrorists.” A-Zara lies some 20 km east of Syria’s border with Lebanon, and rebels have relied on the town as a base where they can receive supplies from pro-opposition areas on the Lebanese side of the border. The Istanbul-based Syrian National Coalition condemned what it called a “massacre” in a-Zara, and released a statement condemning the “international community’s inability to protect civilians.”

FSA1Assad’s forces in al-Zara village, northern east Homs. Courtesy of Bashar al-Assad’s Facebook page.

* The Islamic Front’s Jaish al-Islam expelled Fatah a-Sham battalion from the Islamic Front Saturday, denouncing the group for negotiating a ceasefire with the Syrian government in the Damascus suburbs, pro-opposition website Aks al-Sir reported.  “The decision to wholly and completely separate from Liwa Fatah al-Sham came when it was announced that many of them are in negotiations for a truce with the Assad regime, which shows their lack of legal and military,” wrote Moaz a-Shami, the head of Jaish al-Islam’s Leadership Council. Jaish al-Islam, an Islamic Front member-group with a strong presence in the Damascus suburbs, has rejected the recent string of ceasefires negotiated by civilian leaders or moderate rebel groups with the Syrian government in various parts of Syria. Fatah a-Sham’s presence is concentrated in the Damascus suburb of Harasta, five kilometers northeast of Damascus.

* Rebels have reportedly advanced into the southern portion of the Deir e-Zor Military Airport on Saturday following violent clashes with regime, which has been encircled by rebel troops since the Syrian government withdrew from wide swaths of eastern Syria in late 2012. A citizen journalist in Deir e-Zor told Syria Direct Sunday that killed 20 regime fighters and taken more prisoner, while also capturing two tanks and a cache of government weapons. A number of rebel groups are coordinating the siege of the airport, including Free Syrian Army factions and, recently, Jabhat a-Nusra.  Syrian troops have used the Deir e-Zor Military Airport, ten kilometers east of the city of Deir e-Zor, to shell the city, towns and villages surrounding the airport with artillery fire.

* Syrian forces seized control of a number of buildings in the rebel-held neighborhood of al-Wa’er in Homs on Saturday, according to pro-opposition Smart News. The regime advance follows a series of violent clashes and shelling on the outskirts of the area, which is encircled by regime troops, and comes as rebels in al-Wa’er, as well as the 13 besieged rebel-held neighborhoods of Old Homs, are expected to sign a ceasefire with the regime. Al-Wa’er, which has been under rebel control since 2012, lies adjacent to the regime-controlled “War College,” and is among Homs’ most densely populated neighborhoods at some 600,000 residents  

and the adjacent Syrian army base in a “War College,” are considered the most densely populated neighborhoods of the city; the area is home to more than 600,000 residents, of whom as many as 400,000 are believed to have been displaced from nearby areas.

* The Syrian Network for Human Rights published a 52-page report Saturday detailing the most prominent human rights violations carried out by the Islamic State in Iraq and a-Sham (ISIS). The report documents the names of 191 civilians killed by ISIS during the six month period from June 2013 to January 2014, including 21 children, women and 7 citizen journalists. The report confirms that the pace of the killings and executions rose dramatically after the eruption of fighting between ISIS and other armed opposition groups in northern Syria in early January.  Meanwhile, ISIS spokesman Abi Mohamed al-Adnani a-Shami released a voice recording on Friday in which he attacks Jabhat a-Nusra and the Islamic Front, accusing them of subservience to elements of the western-backed Free Syrian Army and Syrian National Coalition.

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