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Syria Direct: News Update 3-31-2014

*More than 1,052 pro- and anti-Assad fighters have been killed […]

31 March 2014

*More than 1,052 pro- and anti-Assad fighters have been killed in fighting for Syria’s northeastern Latakia province since March 21, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported Monday. Meanwhile, in a video posted online, the Islamic Front’s Ahrar a-Sham claimed Sunday to have fired four Grad missiles at the Bassel al-Assad International Airport southeast of Latakia targeting government troops as well as “Hezbollah and Iranian combatants.” In a separate video, the group announced Monday it had fired six additional Grad missiles toward shabiha headquarters in Qardaha, the birthplace of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. Pro-regime media reported rebel-launched Grad missiles fell “without causing injury” near the northern Latakia suburb of Zighreen, as well as in farms near al-Qardaha and al-Jableh, causing only “material damage.” Under the rubric of the “Anfal battle,” rebels including the Islamic Front and Jabhat a-Nusra argue the fight for Latakia will “turn the tables” on the Syrian regime by striking at the ancestral homeland of Syria’s Alawite community.

Rebels heavy weapons convoy heading to the coastAnsar Al Sham, Jabhat Al Nusra, and Ahrar Al Sham announced they had sent reinforcements to Latakia province as part of their “Anfal” campaign.

* Government forces clashed Monday with rebel groups affiliated with the Ahl a-Sham operations room as fighting intensifies near the Umayyad Mosque in Aleppo’s Old City. The rebel offensive includes the Islamic Front, Jabhat a-Nusra and Jaish al-Mujahideen, who in a video posted online, touted their destruction of a government tank with an IED near the damaged mosque, two weeks after destroying the nearby ‘Palace of Justice’ courthouse. On Sunday, Ahl a-Sham claimed to have killed “30 members of Nuseiri militias” in the northern neighborhood of Sheikh Najar near Aleppo Central Prison, using a derogatory term for Alawites. Pro-government media remained silent on developments in Aleppo, Syria’s largest city, where government forces have claimed piecemeal advances since late January.

* United Nations aid workers delivered 280 food parcels to some 20,000 Syrian and Palestinian residents of Yarmouk camp in southern Damascus Sunday, bringing the total number of parcels delivered to the area since January 18 to 10,708, according to a public statement by UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) spokesman Chris Gunness. “UNRWA has been informed by the authorities that distribution may not recommence for four days,” Gunness said, but did not specify the reasons for the advisory. UNRWA’s statement came a day after the UN’s successful delivery of humanitarian supplies to civilians in the blockaded Damascus suburb of Eastern Ghouta. It also follows UN Humanitarian Coordinator Valerie Amos’s criticism of pro-Assad forces for continuing to restrict humanitarian access inside Syria in the month following the adoption of Security Council Resolution 2139 demanding unimpeded distribution of aid.

* Fighting in Syria’s northeastern al-Hasakah province killed 39 fighters from Jabhat a-Nusra and other rebel groups over the weekend as they battled forces from the Islamic State of Iraq and a-Sham (ISIS) for a town that lies along an ISIS supply route, reported the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights Sunday. The Observatory counted an additional 13 ISIS fighters killed in the violence, during which ISIS fighters claimed full control of the town of Markada in southern al-Hasakah, which sits along the resupply routes between northeastern Syria and Iraq. The fighting follows ISIS’s announcement last week that its emir in al-Hasakah, Omar al-Farouk al-Turki, had been killed during clashes near the city of al-Qamishli. The open violence between ISIS and other armed opposition groups vying for control of northern Syria’s oil fields has continued nearly three months.


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