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Syria Direct: News Update 3-3-2014

* A fresh wave of Syrian air raids struck the […]

3 March 2014

* A fresh wave of Syrian air raids struck the hills between the villages of a-Sahel and al-Falita on the outskirts of the town of Yabroud in the Qalamoun mountains Monday, with the Qalamoun Media Center reporting that Syrian warplanes had deployed cluster bombs over the area. Pro-government media said Syrian snipers had destroyed two rebel supply trucks and killed a number of “terrorists” in the Rima farms area, northeast of the town. Monday marked the twentieth day of a fresh regime-Hezbollah campaign to seize Yabroud, the largest-remaining rebel held town in the Qalamoun mountains, which contain a key stretch of the M5 highway connecting the Syrian capital with the central city of Homs.

* At least 12 government troops and members of the pro-Assad National Defense Force (NDF) militias were killed or injured Sunday in clashes with Jabhat a-Nusra and other rebel brigades south of the town of Mourik in eastern Hama province, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported. Pro-government newspaper al-Watan, meanwhile, reported that government and NDF troops have established a “security perimeter” around the city of Mourik, preparing to storm the town and clear it of Jabhat a-Nusra “terrorists.” Mourik has been control by rebel groups, including Jabhat a-Nusra, since the beginning of February.

* The Islamic State in Iraq and a-Sham (ISIS) seized the three Kurdish villages of Shudud, Na’aman and Tel al-Bital near the town of al-Bab in northern Aleppo province Sunday, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported. Pro-government newspaper al-Watan said regime troops had repelled a “terrorist” attempt to “attack the people of Aziza” in eastern Aleppo province, “destroying a number of their dens and gathering places.” Meanwhile, clashes between ISIS and Jabhat a-Nusra continue in the eastern provinces of al-Hasakeh and Deir e-Zor, east of ISIS’ strongholds in a-Raqqa province. On Sunday, Jabhat a-Nusra seized the town of al-Markadeh, the largest remaining ISIS-controlled village in al-Hasakeh province, pro-opposition Zaman al-Wasl reported.

* Four rebel fighters were killed and dozens injured in Syrian government shelling on the Damascus suburb of Adra on Sunday, pro-oppositon Smart News reported. Opposition groups including the Adra Local Coordination Committee (LCC) are claiming that the Syrian government used weapons containing poisonous gasses in the attack, though independent groups have yet to confirm the allegations and no video has surfaced depicting regime weapons. The regime “used chemicals in Adra,” the Adra LCC reported, “and there are a number of cases of asphyxiation.” Official government news agency SANA reported “dozens” of rebels had been killed. The Islamic Front’s Jaish al-Islam has controlled Adra since December 2013.

* Clashes renewed pitting Jabhat a-Nusra, Ajnad a-Sham and the FSA against government troops in the Yarmouk camp in Damascus on Sunday, breaking an unsteady, 19-day ceasefire that had allowed humanitarian organizations to deliver food and medical aid to starving citizens in the camp. Jabhat a-Nusra cited a list of five grievances as reasons to re-enter the camp, including the government’s failure to follow the guidelines of the truce in detaining dozens of civilians, allowing shabiha militants access to the camp, and showing reluctance to allow the delivery of aid. After months of government blockade, dozens of residents of the camp were reported to have starved to death in late January.

Residents of Yarmouk camp gathered to receive humanitarian aidResidents of Yarmouk camp gathered to receive humanitarian aid in a widely circulated image shared by UNRWA. Photo courtesy of @UNRWA

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