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.
Old Homs rebels advance for first time since June 2012
Rebels encircled in the 13 neighborhoods of Old Homs have advanced, moving into Jeb al-Jandali neighborhood after detonating a car-bomb east of the pro-government National Defense Force militia stronghold of a-Zahra’a, activist Ahmed Yasseen told Syria Direct Monday from inside one of the encircled neighborhoods.
The rebels’ progress is the first tangible advance since the regime began its stranglehold on Old Homs 679 days ago. “Jabhat a-Nusra executed the advance after the [car] bomb” on Sunday, Yasseen said, adding that “11 combatants from a-Nusra liberated a large part of Jeb al-Jandali on Sunday.” Rebels also advanced in Wadi al-Sayeh, the pro-opposition al-Khalidiyeh Coordination Committee reported. Meanwhile, pro-government newspaper al-Watan announced Sunday that government troops had “advanced from all fronts.” Last week, the Syrian government intensified shelling on the neighborhoods in a final push to recapture what rebels once considered the heart of peaceful protests that began the Syrian conflict in March 2011.
Long-besieged rebels in Old Homs celebrated seizing regime provisions over the weekend. Photo courtesy of Abdallh Nhili.
Assad pays Easter visit to Christian village of Maaloula
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad marked the Easter holiday Sunday with a visit to the ancient Christian village of Maaloula, where Syrian government and Hezbollah forces seized control from rebel fighters last week. Syrian state media trumpeted the visit as a testament to the Syrian government’s strength, declaring that Maaloula “will remain as a steadfast human symbol in the face of the brutality and oppression of all those who target the Syrian homeland.” Pro-Assad Syrian daily al-Watan noted that Assad met with representatives from the Syrian army and the semi-official National Defense Forces, “praising the efforts of those confronting terrorism and defending Syria.” Over the course of Syria’s civil war, Damascus has sought to position itself as the defender of the country’s minorities in the face of a predominantly Sunni Muslim insurgency with an increasingly conservative bent.
Rebels claim to destroy regime base in al-Mleiha
Islamist rebel brigade Feilaq a-Rahman claimed Monday it destroyed a regime base and killed a number of officers from the Syrian army and loyalist militias in the heavily contested Outer Damascus town of al-Mleiha, roughly 10 km east of Damascus.
“A group of our mujahideen infiltrated the building and booby-trapped it,” Feilaq spokesman Abu Odai told Syria Direct Monday, one day after the militia released a dramatic video purporting to show the destruction of the building during a meeting of pro-Assad military leaders. Pro-Damascus daily al-Watan refuted the rebel claims, citing “media sources” who acknowledged the building’s collapse but denying the presence of any military figures. Al-Mleiha, which lies between the regime-controlled Syrian capital and rebel-held areas in Eastern Ghouta, has been the site of heavy fighting between pro- and anti-Assad fighters since regime forces launched a major assault at the start of this month.
France accuses Assad of chemical weapons use
France has “credible evidence” that the Syrian government has been using chlorine gas in recent attacks in Syria, French President Francois Hollande said Sunday in a radio interview, one day after four French journalists were freed after 10 months in rebel captivity in Syria. The gas attacks, reported in Hama province’s Kafr Zeita, “were much less significant than those in Damascus a few months ago,” French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said, according to al-Arabiya, referencing the August 22 chemical attacks in the Damascus suburb of East Ghouta last year that the United States says killed 1,400 people. The Syrian government “used bombs carrying chlorine gas, developed by Iranian experts in Damascus, in seven locations,” Syrian National Coalition Defense Minister Assad Mustafa announced last week.
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