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Syria Direct: News Update 4-15-2014

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

15 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.

Day after car-bombing, regime claims advance in Old Homs

Syrian forces have intensified shelling on the encircled rebel-held Old Homs neighborhood of Joura a-Shiakh Tuesday, reportedly seizing control of a number of buildings in the neighborhood, one of thirteen encircled by Syrian government forces for more than 670 days. On Monday, a car bomb killed two on al-Ashaq Street in the regime-controlled, densely populated al-Akrame neighborhood. The bombing was the third of its type in less than a week: last Wednesday, Jabhat a-Nusra claimed responsibility for twin car-bombings in the heavily Alawite regime-controlled neighborhood of Karam al-Loz that killed 25 and injured 107. On Monday, pan-Arab newspaper al-Quds reported rebel leadership in Old Homs would hold negotiations with government representatives to surrender themselves in exchange for safe passage to the Homs suburbs. Government media has reported hundreds of rebels surrendering themselves since February.

 Snipers kill 3 al-Manar journalists covering Maaloula

Hezbollah’s official news network Al-Manar reported Monday that rebel sniper fire had killed three of its crew members—a correspondent, a photographer and a technician—during their coverage of Hezbollah and the Syrian government’s takeover of the ancient Christian village of Maaloula in Syria’s Qalamoun mountain range. Al-Manar stated that rebel fighters opened fire on their convoy, which was “clearly bearing journalistic insignia.” The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights added that four regular soldiers were killed while trying to pull back the al-Manar staff.  Syrian Information Minister Omran al-Zoubi issued a statement condemning the incident, calling it “a crime adding to the takfiri terrorists’ record in Syria,” who have previously attacked Syrian state news. 

al-Manar_2.jpgOfficial Syrian news agency SANA blamed “takfiri terrorism” for the deaths of three al-Manar journalists in Qalamoun Monday. Photo courtesy of SANA.

UN report details torture in regime, rebel prisons 

The United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) released a six-page report Monday detailing the prevalence of torture and other mistreatment of prisoners at the hands of Syrian government forces and some opposition groups. The report depicts government prisons where 120 detainees were crammed together in six-by-eight meter cells “infested with insects.” “At night, as one after the other started to fall asleep, the bodies became like a spider net of body parts,” said one interviewee. Another remarked that “the best thing is when you pass out, because then the pain stops.” The report adds that some opposition groups—specifically the Islamic State of Iraq and a-Sham, Jabhat a-Nusra, Ahrar a-Sham, Northern Storm and Liwa a-Tawheed—have established makeshift detention facilities where “men, women and children are at risk of torture and ill-treatment.”

 European Union warns of democratic “parody” in June elections

“Any elections, presidential or other,” organized outside of the framework of the June 2012 Geneva Communiqué “would be a parody of democracy” with no credibility whatsoever, the European Union’s Foreign Affairs Council concluded in a meeting in Luxembourg Monday. The elections, the Council wrote, “conducted in the midst of conflict, only in regime-controlled areas and with millions of Syrians displaced from their homes,” would “undermine efforts to reach a political solution.” On Saturday, Syrian Deputy Foreign Minister Feisal Meqdad announced that Syria would “open the door to nominations for presidential elections” scheduled for June 2014. President Bashar al-Assad won two seven-year terms in unopposed electoral campaigns in 2000 and 2007, garnering 99.7 and 97.6 percent of the vote, respectively. 

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