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Syria Direct: News Update 3-31-15

Christians flee Idlib amidst rising death toll Islamist rebels in […]

31 March 2015

Christians flee Idlib amidst rising death toll

Islamist rebels in Idlib city helped 20 Christian families escape the city and flee north towards the Turkish border, an official within the Ahrar a-Sham Islamic Movement’s Media Office told Syria Direct on Tuesday.

“While the regime was attacking the city on Monday, fighters from the Victory Army assisted 20 Christian families who were trying to flee and head towards Turkey,” he said.

“Our role was simply to clear the roads and provide armed protection for them in order for them to leave Idlib and head north towards the village of Ma’arat a-Nauman,” he added.

Thirty-two civilians were killed in regime airstrikes and 17 more by surface-to-surface missiles fired by the regime into Idlib city on Monday, reported the pro-opposition Sham News Network Tuesday.

A national hospital was targeted in the airstrikes, reported the pro-regime Latakia News Network (LNN) on Monday.

On Sunday, prominent Jabhat a-Nusra legal scholar Abdullah al-Mohseini announced on his Twitter account that Christians in Idlib city were not to be attacked or have their monies appropriated or stolen.

Rising anti-Idlibi sentiment as soldiers’ bodies reach the coast

Cities of the regime-controlled Syrian coast began to receive the bodies of soldiers and officers killed in the battle for Idlib city Monday amidst reports of growing anti-Idlibi sentiment among residents in Latakia and Tartous.

The bodies of 27 soldiers—including high-ranking officers Colonel Mohammed Muallem, deputy head of military security in Idlib, and Mohammed a-Shandi, head of the air force’s intelligence branch—arrived in the Assad family hometown of Qardaha in Latakia province Monday, reported pro-opposition news agency El-Dorar.

Thirty injured soldiers, most in critical condition, also arrived in Qardaha Monday.

The arrival of the injured and dead, along with the rapid fall of Idlib city to rebels, has reportedly stirred anti-Idlibi sentiment among the coast’s residents.

Units from the shabiha [pro-regime militia] are stopping fleeing Idlib residents at checkpoints and “insulting them and treating them badly,” Saleem al-Umar, a journalist in Latakia, told Syria Direct Tuesday.

“The pro-regime locals of Latakia, when they learn that someone is from Idlib, they aren’t willing to rent to him,” said al-Umar.

Pro-regime fighters in the city of Jabla in Latakia province destroyed a sweets shop belonging to an Idlibi man in the Alawite-majority neighborhood of al-Amara on Monday, reported pro-opposition All4Syria.

Regime drives back Islamic State near supply route

Government forces re-captured the town of Mab’ouja in east Hama province from the Islamic State with the help of regime airstrikes on Tuesday, according to pro-regime media reports.

On Monday, IS fighters took the town, “which has strategic importance as the weakest flank of the regime stronghold in Sboura, in addition to being a garrison for shabiha [pro-regime militias],” Basil Darwish, a correspondent for the opposition Masar Press, told Syria Direct on Tuesday.

Mab’ouja, a mixed Sunni, Alawite and Ismaili town, is also located near the regime supply route from Hama to Aleppo, and IS territory in east Hama province.

Darwish confirmed that IS retreated after taking Mab’ouja on Monday, adding that IS fighters have recently been employing a strategy of attacking regime positions and then scattering to evade airstrikes.

Pro-opposition newspaper al-Wasat a-Souri reported that IS forces killed or captured up to 50 regime fighters and seized a cache of weapons and ammunition in capturing the town.

Major blast in east Daraa

A car bomb detonated in the opposition-controlled town of al-Jiza in east Daraa province on Monday, killing at least 11 and injuring dozens of others in the explosion, a local media activist told Syria Direct on Tuesday.

The attack took place in front of a gas station, amplifying the blast so that it damaged 12 nearby stores and increased the casualties, said the activist, a Daraa-based member of the Local Coordination Committee of Hawran.

Monday’s explosion comes in the wake of the rebels’ takeover of the former regime stronghold Busra a-Sham, located east of al-Jiza, last week, reported pro-opposition Sham News Network. The activist blamed regime allies for the explosion.

“The regime sought the bombing after a series of losses in Idlib [city] and Busra a-Sham,” said the activist, who asked to remain anonymous.

Syria Direct could not independently confirm the statement, nor has any party claimed responsibility for the attack.

0331Bomber Car bomb in Daraa kills 11. Photo courtesy of @EmanAlhariri1

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