* Syrian war planes continued to strike Yabroud Thursday, the Qalamoun Media Center reported, as official government news agency SANA said the Syrian army had advanced from the Rima farms toward Yabroud, destroying “terrorist dens full of weapons and munitions, and killing a number of them.” Syrian troops gained control of the farms, northeast of Yabroud, on Tuesday. Regime troops supported by Hezbollah have been attempting to seize Yabroud, the largest remaining rebel-held stronghold in the Qalamoun mountains near Syria’s border with Lebanon, for more than a month, using both air and ground forces.
* Syrian president Bashar Assad has issued a law requiring visas for Arab and foreigners to enter Syria. Pro-regime Syrian daily al-Watan published the full text of the law on Wednesday, adding that it will go into effect in three months and exclude neighboring countries and those who have prior agreements with Syria facilitating entry. Before the decree, any Arab citizen was allowed to enter Syria without first obtaining a visa. Since the war began, the Syrian government has lost control of some border checkpoints in the north and east parts of the country.
* Secretary-General of the United Nations Ban Ki-Moon demanded on Wednesday that both Moscow and Washington relaunch the Geneva negotiations between the Syrian regime and the opposition in commemoration of the third year for the Syrian conflict. He also asked the Syrian regime and the opposition “to show responsibility, vision and flexibility to face this challenge.” Ban said that “only a political solution will end the nightmare of the Syrian people.” The Geneva II conference was held in Switzerland on January 21, but the conference failed after two unfruitful negotiation rounds between regime and opposition delegations.
* On Wednesday, a Syrian Arab Red Crescent team managed to pass cooked meals, bread and other materials to the Aleppo Central Prison blockaded by Jabhat a-Nusra and the Islamic Front’s Ahrar a-Sham. The Syrian Observatory reported ISIS fighters are confiscating rebel fighters’ homes in al-Bab neighborhood and using them for their own purposes. Elsewhere in Aleppo, the pro-regime Sama channel reported that “Syrian army units killed terrorists in Aleppo’s Sheikh Najjar neighborhood.
Regime forces shelled Aleppo’s rebel-controlled al-Sakhour neighborhood in an effort to drive fighters out. photo courtesy of Aleppo Media Center.
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