4 min read  | Homs, Politics

Syria Direct: News Update 3-4-15


March 4, 2015

IS reportedly drives regime forces off Shaer mountain

The Islamic State (IS) reversed regime momentum in one of the regime’s most important gas fields Tuesday night, forcing army units to retreat back to the distribution station at the bottom of the Jabal a-Shaer mountain, according to a statement released by the group Tuesday.

IS then proceeded to pound the station with rockets.

The Shaer gas fields refer to a mountainous region, Jabal a-Shaer, which contain a number of oil wells, in addition to the main station located at the foot of the mountain, which distributes gas to the Hayan Gas Company and the Homs refinery.   

“The regime is trying to control the wells and mountain peaks of Jabal a-Shaer, and restore pumping of the wells located in the Jabal that feed the station,” Mohammed al-Homsi, a member of the pro-opposition Homs Media Center who confirmed the IS statement, told Syria Direct Wednesday.

Battles are continuous, but for now the Islamic State controls most, if not all of the oil wells, while the regime controls the station.

The Syrian army had taken several positions in the Jabal a-Shaer region earlier in the week as part of a campaign launched over the weekend, reported pro-regime channel al-Mayadeen Tuesday.

YPG deny setting Arab homes on fire

Kurdish People’s Protection Units [YPG] denied reports that it set fire to Arab villages in Al-Hasakah province on Tuesday, said pro-opposition news agency Orient News.

“This information is far from the truth and is a form of propaganda against the YPG,” a YPG commander told Orient News in response to the news organization’s report on the burnings.  

Allegations that the YPG had burned the houses of Arab villages in Al-Hasakah first emerged Saturday after it won control of the town of Tel Hamees from the Islamic State on Friday, a report confirmed by a second activist from one of the Hasakah villages who is documenting YPG violations in the area.

“The families in the homes that were burned were Arab and that’s the only reason [the villages were targeted],” Ali al-Harith, a journalist based near the villages, told Syria Direct on Wednesday.

Meanwhile, pro-opposition Sham News Network reported that YPG forces set fire to homes in three villages Tuesday, raising the number of villages that the YPG have been accused of burning in the province to 15.

Elsewhere in the province, the YPG wrested control of a number of villages between the town of Tel Brak, which it won from IS on Saturday, and Tel Hamees on Tuesday, reported pro-Kurdish news agency ARA News.

Roundup Photo YPG fighters win control of Al-Hasakah villages on Tuesday. Photo courtesy of YPG.

Hazm releases prominent Nusra leader

Harakat Hazm released a prominent member of Jabhat a-Nusra in Aleppo province on Tuesday after more than two weeks in the former’s custody, according to a statement made on Nusra’s official Twitter page.

The release of Abu Anas al-Jarzawi, along with three other Nusra fighters of Turkmen descent, was part of a prisoner exchange between Nusra and Harakat Hazm, with the former releasing 23 of the latter’s fighters as part of the exchange, reported the pro-opposition Syria Mubashar news outlet.

The exchange comes five days after Nusra captured Harakat Hazm’s local headquarters, Fauj 46, along the Idlib-Aleppo road on Friday, resulting in the deaths of more than 100 fighters on both sides.

A statement released in Harakat Hazm’s name on Sunday announced the group’s dissolution and claimed its fighters would be integrated into Jabha Shamiya, an umbrella rebel coalition in northern Syria.

Some Harakat Hazm units have since reportedly joined other FSA brigades, including the Al-Ansar Brigades and Nur al-Din al-Zinki Movement, reported the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) on Wednesday.

SNHR: 80 dead from torture in February

The Syrian Network for Human Rights has documented 80 cases of death by torture in February at the hands of both regime and various opposition forces.

The majority of the deaths happened in regime detention centers, said the SNHR. The report lists 76 killed by regime torture, three by Jabhat a-Nusra, one by Kurdish forces, and the rest by various armed opposition groups.

The monitoring group says it uses a three-step verification process to confirm casualties. The report noted difficulties in verifying torture, as corpses are usually not returned to family members. They may also be afraid to recover them. 

In his January interview with Foreign Affairs magazine, President Bashar al-Assad denied that the Syrian government engages in torture, dismissing all such accusations as “allegations.”

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