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Syria Direct: News Update 3-6-2014

* Two fighters from the Islamic State in Iraq and […]

6 March 2014

* Two fighters from the Islamic State in Iraq and a-Sham (ISIS) detonated twin suicide car bombs near the government’s Division 17 military base outside of a-Raqqa city in a-Raqqa province overnight on Wednesday, announcing they had killed and injured a number of government troops, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported. After the suicide bombings, ISIS launched mortar shelling at the regime base, which has been blockaded by rebel groups since the Syrian government withdrew from most of eastern Syria in late 2012. The Local Coordination Committee in a-Raqqa confirmed heavy clashes at the base. In two months of rebel infighting, ISIS has consolidated control of most of a-Raqqa province.

Screen_Shot_2014-03-06_at_2.40.18_PM.pngAn ISIS supporter tweeted a photo of children memorizing the Quran with ISIS in a-Raqqa Wednesday. Photo Courtesy of @AbuHatemmasry.

* Rebels are contesting regime control of the town of Khan Sheikhoun in Idlib province, which sits on the main artery between government-controlled Hama and rebel-controlled Idlib. Pro-opposition Smart News reported rebels from the Islamic Front, Jaish al-Mujahideen and other battalions had killed 15 government troops Wednesday in the town as they seized control of the a-Nimr checkpoint on the outskirts of the town, capturing a regime tank and destroying ammunition. Rebels currently control the road connecting Idlib to Hama at points north and south of Khan Sheikhoun as well as the eastern, inland towns toward Aleppo province. The regime governs the villages of southwestern Idlib province bordering coastal Latakia province in the west.

* The United Nations announced Wednesday that it had restricted the movement of Syria’s U.N. Ambassador Bashar Ja’afari to a 40km-radius of New York City. This is the last in a series of major diplomatic shifts regarding the Syria crisis, including United Nations Special Envoy to Syria Lakhdar Brahimi threatening to resign Wednesday if the Syrian government does not begin to take the peace talks seriously, Al-Monitor reports. Gulf News cited the Kuwaiti Shaikh Mohammad al-Sabah as a possible successor to Brahimi. This comes a week after diplomatic efforts in the Syria crisis lost further momentum when the US Ambassador to Syria Robert Ford retired on February 28.

* Syrian National Coalition (SNC) President Ahmad Jarba brokered an agreement between recently fired leader of the Free Syrian Army’s (FSA) Supreme Military Council’s (SMC) Joint Command Salim Idris and the SMC leaders who fired him. In a meeting with the five principal leaders of the SMC and regional Free Syrian Army military councils in Daraa province, Jarba accepted SMC Defense Minister Asad Mustafa’s resignation, with the intention to appoint him as the Interior Minister. Idris, who has blamed Jarba and Mustafa in conspiring to oust him from his position leading the Supreme Military Council’s military operations, accepted an appointment as an advisor to the Coalition’s military affairs.

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