23 candidates for Syrian elections
Twenty-three Syrians have announced they will attempt to run for president, the official news agency SANA reported on Thursday, the final deadline for candidate applications. Current President Bashar al-Assad, who announced earlier this week he would run, is one of the 23 candidates. If approved, candidates must collect signatures from 35 of Syria’s 250 parliamentarians before becoming official nominees. The election, scheduled for June 3rd, has been repeatedly labeled a “parody of democracy” by the Syrian opposition and Western nations.
On Wednesday, a spokesperson for Syria’s internal opposition, the National Coordination Committee, which is formally tolerated by the Syrian regime, told a-Safir his group would join in a boycott of the elections, labeling them “theater.”
ISIS, Jabhat a-Nusra vie for control of Deir e-Zor oil fields
The Islamic State in Iraq and a-Sham claimed Wednesday to have seized control over two oil and gas fields in eastern Deir e-Zor province from al-Qaeda affiliated Jabhat a-Nusra. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, meanwhile, reported that ISIS had withdrawn and Jabhat a-Nusra insisted it retained control of the fields. The fields lie outside of the Deir e-Zor town of al-Basira on the Euphrates River, 10 kilometers southeast of the city of Deir e-Zor and 30 kilometers west of the Iraqi border.
ISIS, Jabhat a-Nusra and other rebel groups have leveraged control of Syria’s eastern oil fields to sell crudely refined oil to finance their operations. On Sunday, Iraqi army helicopters struck an ISIS convoy of eight trucks inside Syria, saying the transnational extremist group was ferrying the oil to ISIS vehicles in Iraq’s western Anbar province.
ISIS combatants touted their seizure of two oil and gas fields in Deir e-Zor province Wednesday. Photo courtesy of Tamim al-Garib.
Rebels in Latakia show off US-made TOW missiles
The moderate Liwa al-Aadiyat Brigade uploaded a video Wednesday purporting to show a US-made BGM-71 TOW missile in northern Latakia province, the first time the advanced American weapons have appeared in the province. In the video, the rebel group uses the weapon, which has also appeared in southern Daraa province, to destroy a government tank on Observatory 45, a government installation atop the highest point in Latakia province.
On April 14th, moderate rebel group Harakat Hazm first displayed the U.S.-made system in Idlib province, saying they were supplied by the “Friends of Syria” alliance of Western nations and Gulf states.
In late March, rebels seized both Observatory 45 and Kessab as they announced the “Anfal” campaign to strike at Latakia province, the historic homeland of Bashar al-Assad’s Alawite sect. In recent weeks, Syrian forces have pushed back, retaking Observatory 45 and a-Samara, a village four kilometers west of Kessab.
For more from Syria Direct, like us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter.