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Syria Direct: News Update 3-5-2014

* Lebanese armed forces opened fire on Syrian fighter jets […]

5 March 2014

* Lebanese armed forces opened fire on Syrian fighter jets targeting the Lebanese town of Arsal on Wednesday, situated a few kilometers from Lebanon’s eastern border with Syria and 32 kilometers from the contested Syrian town of Yabroud, Saudi Arabia’s al-Arabiya reported Wednesday. On Tuesday, Lebanese forces reinforced the town with sand barriers and landmines, cutting the roads to Arsal to prevent Syrians from continuing to cross the border. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees announced the population of the town had increased to 83,000 Syrian refugees and Lebanese citizens, compared with 35,000 before the war. The Syrian air force struck Arsal on January 28th, which the regime maintains is a hideout for Syrian rebels.

* Syrian air force MiG plans dropped dozens of barrel bombs on the town of Yabroud in the Qalamoun mounts, targeting the Rima farms on the outskirts of the town and the hills surrounding it, the pro-opposition Sham News Network reported Wednesday. Official government news agency SANA said the Syrian army continued operations in Yabroud Tuesday, destroying vehicles carrying rebel weapons caches and killing combatants. Syrian forces supported by Hezbollah militants have been trying to seize control of Yabroud, the last rebel-held town in the Qalamoun mountains on Syria’s western border with Lebanon, since early February. On Monday, Syrian official sources claimed government groups had taken the village of a-Sahel, three kilometers north of Yabroud.

* Regime warplanes struck the nearby neighborhoods of al-Sakhour and Masakin Hanano in Aleppo province as fighting continued Wednesday between regime troops and Islamist battalions for control of eastern Aleppo, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported. Meanwhile, official government agency SANA reported Tuesday the Syrian army had destroyed “terrorist dens” near the rebel-encircled, regime-controlled Aleppo central prison, killing a number of rebel combatants in the opposition-controlled neighborhood of Sheik Najjar, six kilometers from the prison and currently an active battlefield.

* The Syrian government gained control of the town of al-Huweija al-Mariaiye in eastern Deir e-Zor Tuesday, pro-government newspaper al-Watan reported, re-establishing “safety and stability in the town.” Meanwhile, pro-rebel site Zaman al-Wasl and the Deir e-Zor Local Coordination Committee reported that a number of citizens are being treated in a civilian hospital after being wounded by unknown gases after regime shelling on the neighboring town of a-Rashida. Syrian troops pulled out of much of eastern Deir e-Zor province in late 2012, but retained control of the Deir e-Zor military airport, five kilometers from a-Rashida.

Bh6FnavCIAAEzdyA child is covered in an unnamed white dust from what opposition sources claim are regime-launched chemical weapons in the eastern province of Deir e-Zor. Photo courtesy of eldorar1.

* The Facebook page that went viral after suggesting former Syrian National Coalition President Moaz al-Khateeb run in the June 2014 presidential elections announced it would close Tuesday after al-Khateeb said he would not lend the Syrian government legitimacy by competing in a flawed election process. “We thank all who have participated with us in the campaign and all who have provided us with support and help,” the anonymous activists who created the page wrote.

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