Syria Direct: News update 3-18-15


March 18, 2015

Regime claims capture of gateway into Aleppo

Pro-regime media is reporting that the Syrian army reportedly won control of Handarat from the opposition after launching an attack Wednesday, inching closer to completing its encirclement of Aleppo city.

“Syrian army forces regained control [of Handarat] in cooperation with the Syrian air force which launched several airstrikes, killing a number of terrorists,” Ridha al-Basha, an Aleppo-based correspondent with the Lebanese pro-regime channel Al-Mayadeen, told Syria Direct on Wednesday.

“The Syrian army managed to take a tank and SUVs from the rebel fighters [in the fighting],” al-Basha added.

Syria’s official news agency SANA reported the capture of Handarat, saying that the Syrian army “completely” controlled the town.

An Aleppo-based pro-opposition media activist also confirmed the regime attack on Handarat, but refuted the claim that the Syrian army had won the town.

“The regime began the attack at 7am, but without capturing it,” said Raed Abu Yassin.

“The fighting is ongoing and the rebels are standing up to them,” Yassin said.

Syria Direct could not verify who has control over the town as of publication.

The loss of Handarat, which sits along the last remaining rebel supply line into Aleppo, would be a devastating blow for rebels inside the city.

Aleppo-Handarat Syrian rebels battle regime in Handarat on Wednesday. Photo courtesy of @sayed_ridha. 

Shiite militia reportedly cut throats of defected FSA

Pro-regime Shiite militiaman reportedly cut the throats of four Free Syrian Army [FSA] fighters who had defected back to the regime on Tuesday in Sayeda Zaynab to avenge FSA operations against Shiite militias south of Damascus, reported pro-opposition Radio Hara FM.

“The murders were far from random–the brother of one of the four dead fighters is one of the most anti-Shiite commanders in the FSA, known for leading countless operations against Shiite militias,” said Abu Miram al-Jolani, a journalist with the Syrian Media Center in south Damascus told Syria Direct on Wednesday.

The four executed fighters were part of Liwa al-Anfal, an FSA-affiliated battalion that switched sides last week.

The unnamed Shiite militia tracked the four men down to al-Hussainiya, a town 2.5km southeast of Sayeda Zaynab, where the regime was temporarily housing defecting Liwa al-Anfal fighters prior to their re-deployment as National Defense Force militiamen.

The four were abducted and brought back to Sayeda Zaynab for the killing at the foot of the Sayeda Zaynab shrine, added al-Jolani. The prophet Mohammed’s granddaughter Zaynab, daughter of the founder of Shiite Islam, is reportedly buried at the site.

Pro-militia media denies the operation. “We, the sons of Sayeda Zaynab, do not kill prisoners, nor do we cut off heads,” wrote the Sayyidah Zaynab News Network on its Facebook page Tuesday. 

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