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Syria Direct: News Update 4-3-2014

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

3 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 refugees in Lebanon hit 1 million, two commit suicide

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) announced Thursday that the number of Syrian refugees in Lebanon has exceeded one million, nearly a quarter of Lebanon’s total population. “The influx of a million refugees would be massive in any country. For Lebanon, a small nation beset by internal difficulties, the impact is staggering,” said High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres. UNHCR added that more than 400,000 of those refugees are school-aged Syrian children, surpassing the number of Lebanese children in public schools. The UNHCR report follows the suicides of two refugees in Lebanon Wednesday, a 27-year-old Syrian man and a 50-year-old woman of Palestinian descent who fled Syria’s Yarmouk refugee camp, both of whom jumped to their deaths.

Screen_Shot_2014-04-03_at_3.07.45_PM.pngSyrian refugees await registration in Lebanon.

Government launches assault on Mleiha, 10km from Damascus

Syrian government forces appeared to prepare for a major assault on the heavily contested town of al-Mleiha, 10 kilometers East of Damascus, on Thursday morning, with pro-Assad news site Damascus Al-Aan reporting that the Syrian army had shelled more than 200 targets in the town while “preparing to liberate it from armed groups.” Meanwhile, opposition sources reporting that government warplanes had launched four air raids Thursday morning and 22 on Wednesday targeting the town roughly 10 kilometers east of Damascus. The Islamic Union for Soldiers of the Levant, a rebel group, claimed on its official site that opposition forces had managed to repel the government campaign, destroying a regime tank and killing at least 13 pro-Assad fighters. Al-Mleiha, which lies between the Syrian capital and rebel-held areas of outer Damascus, has been the site of heavy fighting for nearly 18 months, with rebels gains over the past week eliciting a regime counteroffensive.

Violence explodes in a-Suweideh 

Syrian government forces are combatting rebels on the road connecting Damascus and the southeastern, Druze-majority city of Suweideh on Thursday, as rebel groups destroyed sections of the road with explosives planted in sewage drains. The clashes centered in the towns of Buraq and Sura, 53 kilometers northwest of a-Suweideh, and come a day after rebel shelling killed two and injured 17 travelling in a convoy near the village of a-Dama, 20 kilometers further southeast on the a-Suweideh-Damascus artery. Pro-government television channel Sama reported that the attack was “the work of terrorists aimed at resulting in the largest number of dead and wounded from civilians.” Through three years of conflict, the majority-Druze province of a-Suweideh on Syria’s southern border with Jordan has witnessed very little violence, despite rebels’ ongoing struggle to consolidate control of Daraa province to the west.

Opposition sources report new Iraqi militia in Outer Damascus

Pro-opposition news site All4Syria reported Wednesday on the emergence of a new Iraqi militia entitled the Assad Allah al-Ghalib Brigade fighting alongside regime forces in the Damascus suburb of Eastern Ghouta. Rebel faction Failaq al-Rahman released a video Wednesday of a slain fighter allegedly belonging to the new Iraqi Shiite faction, which recently entered Outer Damascus with the stated goal of protecting the area’s Shia holy sites, chief among them the Sayidda Zeinab shrine 10 kilometers south of Damascus. The Assad Allah al-Ghalib Brigade adds to a growing list of foreign Shia fighters supporting Syrian government forces, chief among them the Lebanese Hezbollah, Iraq’s Abu al-Fadl al-Abbas Brigade, and elements of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard.

Assad says Russia creates ‘multi-polar world’ 

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad praised what he called Russia’s role in establishing “a multi-polar world” in the interests “of the sovereignty and independence of nations, peoples and their decisions” Wednesday when he met with a delegation from the Imperial Orthodox Palestine Society, affiliated with the Eastern Orthodox Church in Russia. The head of the delegation delivered a message from his counterpart in Russia, “confirming the intentions of his country to continue its support for the steadfast Syrian people in all fields in the war they are embarking on against international terrorism.”

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