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Syria Direct: News Update 5-12-2014

Regime tries to take al-Waer, last rebel-held district of Homs […]

12 May 2014

Regime tries to take al-Waer, last rebel-held district of Homs

Rebels forces battled government troops in part of the al-Waer district of Homs Monday, pro-opposition activists Hassan Abu al-Zain told Syria Direct Tuesday, as “government forces attempted to seize the area, resulting in two martyrs and a number of wounded peoples.”

The fighting took place in the al-Jazeera al-Sabaa neighborhood of the rebel-held, government-encircled al-Waer. The pro-opposition Youth Coalition of the Revolution confirmed the battle, adding government troops had targeted al-Waer with heavy machine guns in addition to mortar shelling. Meanwhile, pro-government newspaper al-Watan reported that regime forces had “destroyed terrorist positions” in northern Homs province.

Last week, rebels inside the 13 neighborhoods of Old Homs surrendered themselves after nearly 700 days of government siege in exchange for safe passage to northern Homs province and the release of dozens of rebel-held prisoners; their surrender leaves al-Waer district, home to hundreds of thousands of displaced Syrians, the only remaining rebel-held district in Syria’s third largest city.

Fears of poisoned water in Aleppo

The al-Jama’a Hospital in Aleppo received a number of cases of poisoning Sunday, Aleppo News Network reported, “evidently as a result of groundwater pollution” exacerbating the humanitarian crisis in Syria’s largest city. Conflicting reports have since emerged about the cause of the toxic water.

Pro-government Lebanese channel al-Mayadeen and the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights accused rebels from al-Qaeda-affiliated Jabhat a-Nusra of cutting the water supply after seizing a transfer station west of the city eight days ago.

Pro-opposition Shahba Press quoted a city administrator saying the city’s water had been contaminated after a barrel bomb struck the pumping station, one of two in the city. “The reason for the water interruption goes back to regime shelling of the a-Sakhour Transfer Station with barrel bombs,” said engineer Amr Mohammed. On Monday, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported water was gradually returning to the city, where in recent months hundreds of thousands of citizens have fled a brutal, block-by-block battle. 

AleppoThurstChildren fill pails of water in Aleppo Tuesday as fears spread that the water supply in Syria’s largest city had been contaminated. Photo courtesy of Twitter user @Yathalema.

Paris closes embassy over ‘parody’ elections

The Syrian Foreign Ministry announced Sunday that the French government had officially closed Syria’s embassy in Paris in protest over Damascus’s plans to hold presidential elections on June 3 despite widespread international condemnation and the country’s ongoing civil war.

The move will prevent Syrian citizens in Paris from casting votes in the poll. “The Foreign Ministry regrets that Syrians in France will not be able to participate in the presidential elections due to the French government’s objection,” wrote state-run SANA news agency. SANA also reported a “major protest [in Paris] condemning the French government’s unjust decision to forbid Syrians…from exercising their constitutional right to vote,” and published photographs showing several dozen citizens waving Syrian flags in a public square.

The news came Sunday as Damascus announced the start of the official campaigning period for Syria’s upcoming presidential elections, which the French government has described as a “parody of democracy.”

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