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Syria Direct: News Update 4-8-2014

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

8 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.

Rebels claim gains in southwestern Aleppo

Opposition activists reported rebel gains in regime-controlled southwestern Aleppo on Tuesday, the site of five regime military installations. Rebel fighters led by Jabhat a-Nusra and the Islamic Front reportedly destroyed two government tanks near a Syrian army artillery base in the neighborhood of a-Ramousa as part of the “I’tassam Campaign” launched on Monday specifically targeting the regime’s military sites in the area.

The report comes after pro-opposition Halab News Network reported Monday that rebel fighters had advanced toward regime positions in southwestern Aleppo city, claiming control of the villages of Aqrab and Madrasat al-Hikma, which lie near a-Ramousa. Halab News added that these advances allow rebel forces to cut off the Syrian army’s resupply routes between a-Ramousa and the Aleppo military academy. Meanwhile, pro-Assad Sama News reported that a rebel “terrorist attack” had killed 11 and injured more than 50 with artillery and missile bombardment in the southwestern neighborhoods of al-Hamadani and Saad Allah al-Jabri.

DestroyedTank Rebel forces claimed to destroy two government tanks in southwestern Aleppo Monday morning. Photo courtesy of ‎The Syrian Revolution 2011.

Dutch priest killed in Old Homs

Dutch Priest Frans Van der Lugt, known inside Old Homs as Father Francis, was killed Monday in the Jesuit House of Bustan a-Diwan, one of the 13 besieged neighborhoods of Old Homs. “A masked man assassinated Father Francis with a bullet into his head at dawn on Monday. It is not yet known who killed him, as a murder investigation has just begun,” citizen journalist Firas Abu a-Rim told Syria Direct, accusing the gunman of having been paid by the Syrian government. Pro-government newspaper al-Watan reported that “masked terrorists assassinated” the 75-year-old Father Francis, citing Homs governor Talal a-Bazari’s statement that “takfiri extremists had forcibly entered the Monastery of the Jesuit Fathers in Bustan a-Diwan and opened fire on Father Francis.” The priest had spent 50 years in Syria, refusing to leave Old Homs after nearly two years of government encirclement.

Jabhat a-Nusra, 30 other groups announce Quneitra push

Almost 30 rebel formations including Jabhat a-Nusra in Syria’s southwestern Quneitra province announced Monday the start of what they are calling the “Fajar a-Tawhid,” or “Dawn of Unity” campaign in support of the opposition’s ongoing push to control parts of Syria’s northwestern Latakia province, according to pro-opposition news site All4Syria. Opposition fighters are pushing to uproot regime forces from the al-Hamar hills in eastern Quneitra, the site reported, where rebels have laid siege to government fighters for roughly two months. The developments follow an announcement by other rebel groups last week of another opposition campaign in Quneitra, this one called “The Echo of Anfal,” a reference to the rebels’ “Anfal” campaign in Latakia.

UN’s World Food Program forced to scale back efforts

The United Nations World Food Program (WFP) will be forced to reduce its food distribution efforts in response to the Syrian crisis by one-fifth due to a lack of funding, WFP Deputy Executive Director Emir Abdullah said Monday, according to Reuters. Despite the funding shortfall, “the program managed to deliver food to 4.1 million people inside Syria last month, slightly less than the goal of 4.2 million,” said Abdullah. As of Tuesday, 2.6 million Syrians have fled to neighboring nations, while approximately 6.5 million are internally displaced. At a January conference in Kuwait, donor countries pledged $1.1 billion, but the United Nations has of yet received only $1.1 billion.

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