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Syria Direct: News Update 4-16-2014

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

16 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.

Syrian government begins final push for Old Homs

A pro-opposition activist denied reports the Syrian government had seized 15 buildings in the Old Homs neighborhoods of al-Hamidiyeh and Jourat a-Shiah Wednesday, amidst heavy airstrikes and violent clashes on the edges of the 13 rebel-held neighborhoods that have been encircled by government forces for 673 days.

“The National Defense Force and Syrian army’s campaign on besieged Old Homs is ongoing,” activist Mohammed Abu Maarouf told Syria Direct Wednesday, adding that Syrian forces “are trying to seize the besieged area.” On Tuesday, Syrian MiG planes conducted two air raids while ground forces fired Grad rockets into the neighborhoods. Dozens of rebels inside Homs have surrendered themselves to the Syrian government in recent weeks as videos and photos from inside the city depict remaining rebels subsisting on leaves. More than 1,400 Old Homs citizens were evacuated from the starving neighborhoods in a temporary, United Nations-negotiated truce in early February.

Damascus thanks Russia for 15-ton aid shipment to Latakia

Syrian state media announced Wednesday that a Russian plane had delivered 15 tons of food and medical aid to the Bassel al-Assad airport in Syria’s northwestern Latakia province, noting that the aid was “presented by the Russian people to the Syrian people” who had been affected by “terroristm.” Opposition media has shown little interest in the shipment. “I imagine this isn’t the first time this has happened,” said a Damascus-based citizen journalist who goes by Abu Munzer in comments to Syria Direct Wednesday.

20140415-185131.jpgRussian-donated food aid lands at Latakia’s Bassel al-Assad airport on Tuesday.

“The aid will be distributed to the families of those killed from regime forces and armed groups, and a portion of it will be stolen and sold, as usual,” Munzer added. He explained that the shipment had likely arrived in Latakia rather than Damascus because of the high proportion of pro-Assad fighters hailing from Syria’s Mediterranean coast, the ancestral home of Assad’s Alawite sect.

Regime: Qalamoun battle “on the brink of ending”

Pro-Assad Syrian daily al-Watan reported Tuesday that the battle for Syria’s Qalamoun mountains was “on the brink of ending” after government forces seized control of the villages of Assal al-Ward and Jabadeen and almost full control of the village of Housh Arab as regime and Hezbollah forces seek to consolidate their control of the strategic mountain range. All three villages lie along Syria’s western border with Lebanon within 12 kilometers of the ancient Christian village of Maaloula, of which pro-Assad fighters gained control Monday. Al-Watan added that the villages’ capture allowed Syrian forces to close 30 illegal border crossings. Meanwhile, the pro-opposition Qalamoun Media Center reported Tuesday that regime warplanes had dropped six barrel bombs on the town of a-Zabadani, which remains under rebel control in southwestern Qalamoun.

Oil prices rise as production 4% of pre-conflict levels

Syrian oil production has declined to 4% of pre-conflict levels, the Syrian Oil and Resource Minister Suleiman Abbas said Tuesday as he announced that oil prices would rise, despite a state subsidy, to 120 Syrian pounds per liter ($.82 US). The new price is nearly triple the pre-conflict price of SYP45 per liter ($0.31. The Syrian state continues to subsidize each liter by 85 SYP due to the declining global value of the Syrian pound, al-Abbas announced, adding that the Syrian government imports oil using an Iranian credit line. Syria’s oil fields, concentrated in the largely rebel-held eastern provinces of a-Raqqa, Deir e-Zor and Hasakeh, produce 12,000 barrels per day of oil, down from 380,000 per day before the Syrian conflict began in 2011.

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