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Syria Direct: News Update 4-14-2014

In our News Roundup, we summarize the day’s most important […]

14 April 2014

In our News Roundup, we summarize the day’s most important events from local sources inside Syria. Subscribe here to have it delivered to your inbox.

Regime consolidates grip on Qalamoun

Syrian state news reported Monday that government forces had “restored security and stability” to the ancient Christian village of Maaloula and the town of a-Sarakha in Syria’s Qalamoun mountain range. Pro-Assad forces appear to be consolidating their control of the region after a major victory last month in the rebel stronghold of Yabroud, roughly 20 km northwest of the ancient Christian village of Maaloula. Meanwhile, pro-Assad Syrian daily al-Watan reported Sunday that the Syrian army had claimed control of hills overlooking the town of Rankous, some 20 km southwest of Maaloula. Pro-opposition Qalamoun Media Center reported that a regime warplane had launched three air raids and dropped six barrel bombs on the farmland around Rankous while bombarding a number of other towns and villages in Qalamoun. The battle for the Qalamoun mountain range began in November of last year to extend control over the strategic area, which lies along Syria’s western border with Lebanon and contains a key stretch of the M5 highway connecting Damascus with central and northern Syria.

OPCW: 65.1% of Syrian chemicals removed

The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) announced Monday that the Syrian government had completed the delivery of its 13th shipment of chemical weapons to the port city of Latakia, from which the chemical materials were removed on cargo ships. This consignment, which follows another on April 10, brings the total portion of Syria’s chemical stockpiles that have been removed from the country to 65.1 percent. OPCW Director-General Ahmet Üzümcü described the process thus far as a “necessary and encouraging development.” The announcement comes three days after Syrian activists released video purporting to show a chlorine gas attack on the Hama town of Kafr Zeita, with pro- and anti-Assad sources trading accusations over the incident.

Rebels close in on Aleppo Air Force Intelligence HQ

The rebel Ahl a-Sham Joint Operations Room continued its encirclement of the government’s Air Force Intelligence branch in the western Aleppo neighborhood of a-Rashideen Monday, one week after the rebels announced the “I’tassam” campaign attacking regime military installations in southwestern Aleppo. Meanwhile, pro-government newspaper al-Watan reported the Syrian army had regained power over swaths of western Aleppo that rebel fighters had captured in the first week of “I’tassam,” including the neighborhood of Souq al-Jebes, roughly one kilometer southwest of the Assad Military Academy. Over the past week, the I’tassam campaign has swung the epicenter of fighting in Aleppo to the Syrian government’s supply road into regime-held west Aleppo, whereas fighting had previously centered around slow regime advances toward the city’s rebel-held eastern neighborhoods.

$11.5 billion lost in Syria’s oil sector

The Syrian economy has lost 1.7 trillion Syrian pounds ($11.5 billion) in the oil sector alone since the Syrian conflict began three years ago, pro-government newspaper al-Watan reported Sunday, citing the Syrian Ba’ath Party’s economic office. A total of 11 million barrels of oil and 143 million cubic meters of natural gas have been squandered or stolen in 2,457 attacks on oil fields and wells, 62 bombings of gas pipelines and the 300 “acts of sabotage” on various oil companies, the report claimed. One of those attacks occurred Sunday, when rebels launched mortar fire on the oil refinery in Homs, Syria’s second largest oil refinery, pro-government news site al-Akhbaria reported. Syria’s deposits of oil and natural gas are concentrated in the largely rebel-held eastern Syrian provinces of al-Hasakeh, Deir e-Zor and a-Raqqa, where rebel groups finance themselves by crudely extracting the resources and selling them back to Syria’s government, or to local citizens, through middlemen.

Embedded image permalinkSmoke rises from the oil refinery in Homs after an attack on November 23, 2013. Syria’s oil sector has lost $11.5 billion since Syria’s conflict began three years ago. Photo courtesy of @LatakiaBird.

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