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Syria Direct: News Update 3-27-2014

* Pro-regime Syrian daily al-Watan reported that the Syrian army […]

27 March 2014

* Pro-regime Syrian daily al-Watan reported that the Syrian army has wrested control of the strategic “Tower 45” base on Turkmen Mountain, adjacent to the heavily contested town of Kasab along Syria’s northern border with Turkey, from the rebels who captured it a few days earlier. Al-Watan added that Syrian forces had killed more than 200 “terrorists,” bringing the total number killed since fighting erupted Friday to 700, and that the Syrian army had fortified its positions along the Turkish border. Meanwhile, pro-opposition Latakia al-Hadath reported Thursday that rebel forces had taken control of the village of a-Naba’in, adjacent to Kasab, after regime forces withdrew from the village. Latakia al-Hadath also published the names of eight regime officers they say were killed by rebels during the fighting in Latakia, which began last Friday under the rubric of the “Anfal” campaign to seize territory along Syria’s Mediterranean coast, the ancestral homeland of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s Alawite sect.

1560680 251228501723029 486122195 n The disputed Tower 45, a government listening post, sits at the top of Jebal al-Turkman in Latakia. Both rebels and the regime claim they are holding it. Photo courtesy of Latakia LCC.

* The Syrian army and Hezbollah combatants are targeting rebel-held Rankous and the farms surrounding a-Sarkha in the Qalamoun mountains north of Damascus, pro-regime Iranian television channel al-Alam reported Thursday, as Syrian forces continue their efforts to “chase down remaining terrorists” who fled Yabroud when it fell into governments hands on March 16th. Pro-rebel Qalamoun Media Center reported Thursday that General Raed Ahmed Daraa of the rebels’ Military Council had been killed in the town of Jiroud in Qalamoun, but added that rebels had  “inflicted huge losses” on government troops on the outskirts of nearby al-Falita. As the battles continue, a pro-Hezbollah group released a sequel to last month’s “Seal your victory in Yabroud” music video, which exhorted Hezbollah to victory in Qalamoun. The latest iteration is entitled, “Seal your victory in Rankous.” The government campaign in Rankous, a-Sarkha, Jiroud, a-Falita and nearby villages between Yabroud and the Lebanese border comes after the Syrian government gained control of Yabroud, 70 kilometers north of Damascus, following 33 days of heavy fighting on March 16th.

* The Syrian government and groups of civilians referred to as “Reconciliation Committees” agreed Thursday to temporarily allow the entry and exit of civilians from the southern Damascus suburbs of Babila, Beit Sahim and Yalda, pro-opposition Babila al-Thowra reported, the latest in a series of temporary truces with humanitarian aims. Pro-government newspaper al-Watan confirmed the news, reporting that a delegation from the National Reconciliation Commission had met with prominent civilians from Babila and agreed to temporarily open an entry and exit point. On February 26th, combatants from Jabhat a-Nusra broke a temporary truce by re-entering the rebel-held, government-encircled town of Babila that had been agreed to on February 18th, citing the government’s failure to uphold the terms of the truce, which had included allowing food and medical supplies to enter the town.

* The Syrian National Coalition on Wednesday dismissed an Arab League statement calling for a political solution to the Syrian crisis, calling the discussion a “waste of time” in the absence of concrete measures placing pressure on the Syrian government. The comments came in response to the concluding statement from the Arab League summit that convened in Kuwait this week. Meanwhile, the Coalition said Wednesday on its Facebook page that, if offered, it would accept Syria’s seat in the Arab League. Syrian state news, for its part, derided the summit as an empty gesture, saying that the summit took place “without any surprises, and under American pressure, with statements carrying the same repeated words and contents that have constantly failed to find an effective solution.”

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