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Syria Direct: News Update 4-9-2014

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

9 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.

Qalamoun fighting centers on Rankous

Syrian government forces intensified their bombardment of the town of Rankous along the western border with Lebanon Wednesday as pro-Assad forces seek to consolidate their control of the Qalamoun mountain range, reported the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. Pro-Assad Syrian daily al-Watan reported Tuesday that the Syrian army had begun a “major operation in and around Rankous, achieving noticeable gains” in the town, which lies roughly 35 kilometers southwest of the town of Yabroud, where regime and Hezbollah fighters won a major victory over rebel fighters last month.

Meanwhile, Jabhat a-Nusra spokesman in Qalamoun Abdallah Azzam a-Shami tweeted that “the news from Qalamoun is extremely promising,” two days after stating that opposition fighters had launched a suicide bombing and ground operation against Hezbollah fighters in the village of Ras al-Ain, just two kilometers southwest of Yabroud. Since capturing Yabroud from rebel fighters last month, Hezbollah and regime forces have pushed west in an effort to solidify their control of the Qalamoun mountain range, which contains rebel supply routes into Lebanon and a vital stretch of highway connecting Damascus with central and northern Syria.

Temporary truce allows aid into Aleppo

Rebel groups and regime forces held a temporary truce in the heavily contested east Aleppo neighborhood of Bustan al-Qasr Tuesday to allow the entry of humanitarian aid for the first time since June 2013, the Syrian Arab Red Crescent (SARC) announced. “Following agreement with the Syrian government and opposition, UNHCR carried out a rare and risky operation to deliver humanitarian assistance to the besieged neighborhood,” UNHCR said in a statement, adding that the contents of two trucks were transferred to a SARC warehouse via 54 pull-carts. Bustan al-Qasr is home to the so-called ‘Checkpoint of Death,’ where Syrian citizens seeking to cross between regime- and rebel-held areas sprint across a sniper-filled street to avoid fire. Just hours before the ceasefire, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported that Syrian warplanes had bombed the neighborhood.

BkuoOZIIAAAqOBq.jpgUNHCR and Syrian Arab Red Crescent workers entered Aleppo’s Bustan al-Qasr Tuesday
as part of a temporary truce.

Syria to produce record low wheat output in 2014

Syria will produce between 1.7 million and 2 million metric tons of wheat in 2014, a record low, as the nation’s northwest faces a “looming drought,” the World Food Program announced Tuesday. The northern provinces of Aleppo, Idlib and Hama received very little rain in the winter months, which a WFP spokeswoman said “could endanger the lives of millions.” The announcement coincided with the WFP’s announcement that it would be forced to scale back its response to the Syrian crisis by one-fifth due to a funding shortfall, despite its having reached a record 4.1 million Syrians with food aid last month. “The humanitarian community has received just 19% of the money it needs this year” to respond to the Syrian crisis, the United Nations posted on Twitter Wednesday.

Al-Jaafari calls UN rights chief “lunatic”

Syria’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations Bashar al-Jaafari on Tuesday accused UN human rights chief Navi Pillay of “behaving irresponsibly” and having become “lunatic in her actions,” responding to Pillay’s prior comment that the Syrian government’s human rights violations “far outweigh” those committed by rebel forces. Al-Jaafari specifically charged that Pillay had ignored “crimes committed by takfiris in Syria, including what has happened in the town of Kessab on the Turkish border.” For its part, Syrian state news accused Pillay of being “part of this orchestra conducted by the permanent members of the Security Council peddling accusations against the Syrian government,” adding that Syria is currently being victimized by a coalition of the Saudi, Qatari and Turkish governments, who are jointly “sending takfiri terrorists to Syria and slaughtering civilians.”

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