Regime drops barrel bombs near Aleppo Central Prison
The battle for Aleppo developed on two fronts Wednesday, one in the Old City at the Seba’a Bahrat neighborhood and in northern Aleppo’s Sheikh Najar, five kilometers east of the rebel-encircled, government-held Aleppo Central Prison, citizen journalist Ahmed al-Ahmed told Syria Direct Wednesday. Pro-opposition Haleb Today reported Wednesday that Syrian warplanes have dropped 14 barrel bombs on Sheikh Najar, a day after Haleb News Network reported Syrian government forces positioned atop Sheikh Yusuf hill, seven kilometers east of Aleppo Central Prison, had shelled Sheikh Najar’s industrial area. Sheikh Najar is the largest remaining rebel-held neighborhood impeding regime efforts to resupply pro-Assad militias defending the prison. Meanwhile, pro-government Sama news channel reported Tuesday that five civilians were killed and 26 others injured in “terrorist” mortar shelling in regime-held western Aleppo, as rebels uploaded videos of themselves firing RPG missiles at government headquarters in Aleppo’s Old City and further west.
Jarba visits Latakia as Coalition offers $500k for “Anfal” campaign
Syrian National Coalition head Ahmed al-Jarba visited newly-captured rebel-held areas of Syria’s northwestern Latakia province Tuesday, including the town of Kasab on Syria’s northern border with Turkey and Tower 45, the highest point in northern Latakia. The Coalition announced that al-Jarba had met with rebels in Latakia a day after another Coalition representative undertook a “field visit” to Kasab and offered US$500,000 to the leader of the Islamic Front’s Ansar a-Sham. Since rebels launched what they are calling the “Anfal” offensive along Syria’s western coast on March 20, numerous combatants have cited fears by opposition politicians that a campaign in Latakia, the historic homeland of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s Alawite sect, would make the opposition vulnerable to accusations of sectarianism.
Coalition president Ahmed al-Jarba visited rebel groups in northern Latakia province Tuesday.
Syrian Observatory tallies over 150,000 dead
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights announced Tuesday that it has tallied more than 150,000 confirmed deaths since the start of Syria’s uprising in March 2011, but adds that it expects the real toll is closer to 220,000, attributing the disparity to the difficulty of communicating with sources inside Syria and to the various armed groups’ “discretion” in reporting their human losses. A total of 51,212 of the Observatory’s 150,344 confirmed deaths were civilians, including 7,985 children and 5,266 women, and the organization noted that the figure did not include some 18,000 detainees in regime prisons and another 8,000 held by opposition groups.
UNRWA: Syria’s ‘economic catastrophe’ sets country back 30 years
The Syrian civil war has created an “economic catastrophe” from which the country will need 30 years to recover, according to a study released Wednesday by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA). The study explored the conflict’s impact on UNRWA’s microfinance program in Syria, using a sample of 8,000 Palestinian and Syrian users. The organization found that “displacement, physical destruction and looting have taken place on such a massive scale that only 13 per cent of businesses supported by UNRWA were able to survive,” with 40 percent of enterprises having been subjected to looting and 55 percent having had their homes damaged.
Starvation continues as Yarmouk aid on hold
UNRWA spokesman Chris Gunness released a public statement Tuesday explaining that humanitarian aid into southern Damascus’s Yarmouk refugee camp remained stalled after Syrian officials told the organization on March 30 that assistance would be suspended until Friday, April 4. Meanwhile, pro-opposition Masar Media Center reported that two Yarmouk residents had died of starvation, adding to a total estimated at over 130 since July. For its part, pro-regime Syrian daily al-Watan reported that three Palestinian families had returned to Yarmouk following a meeting Tuesday between a local council of Palestinian leaders and the various pro- and anti-Assad Palestinian factions inside the camp.
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