Regime shells rebel-controlled Khan Sheikhoun
Syrian government helicopters attacked the Idlib town of Khan Sheikhoun with barrel bombs Tuesday morning, according to the pro-opposition Syrian Revolution General Council, as the Syrian army escalates an aerial campaign in response to the rebel seizure of the strategic town on Monday. Pro- and anti-Assad fighters have struggled for months to control Khan Sheikhoun, which lies in southern Idlib province along the M5 highway connecting Damascus with central and northern Syria.
“The regime has reacted harshly” to the rebel victory, Abdallah Jadaan, an Idlib-based correspondent for pro-opposition news network Syria Mubasher, told Syria Direct on Tuesday. “MiG warplanes conducted several air raids and helicopters dropped barrel bombs on the town,” he said. Government forces also bombed the rebel-held town of Mourik, 5 km south of Khan Sheikhoun along the M5 on Tuesday, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
State media has, for its part, largely remained silent, with the exception of a report from pro-Assad Lebanese daily al-Mayadeen that Jabhat a-Nusra emir Abu Badr al-Kuwaiti had been killed as rebels stormed a regime base in Khan Sheikhoun.
Aleppo rebels push back near Central Prison
Rebel fighters regained control of the northern Aleppo villages of al-Breij and Hailan on Monday after five days of heavy fighting as government forces attempted to push through the villages en route to Aleppo Central Prison, according to pro-opposition news site Zaman al-Wasl.
The villages sit roughly two kilometers south of the government prison, which rebel fighters had blockaded since early 2013 until last Thursday when regime forces broke the rebel siege.
Jordan, Syria expel ambassadors
The Syrian National Coalition (SNC) will begin working “shortly” on appointing an ambassador to Jordan from the opposition-in-exile after the Syrian regime’s ambassador was kicked out of Amman, SNC member Mohammad Marwa told Syria Direct Tuesday.
The statement follows Jordan’s decision to expel Syrian Ambassador Bahjat Suleiman on Monday, labeling him “persona non grata.” Jordan’s Foreign Ministry accused Suleiman of “using the territory of the kingdom as a platform to level unfounded accusations.”
The Syrian government quickly responded, pro-government newspaper al-Watan reported, expelling the Jordanian ambassador and labeling Jordan’s move an attempt to “disrupt the electoral process in Syria.”
The expulsions came just two days before Syrian’s presidential elections are scheduled to officially begin in Syria’s embassies globally on May 28, when only Syrians who exited the country via legal channels will be permitted to vote. The elections inside Syria, described as a “parody” by numerous Western governments, are scheduled to take place June 3rd.
The Jordanian Foreign Ministry expelled Syrian Ambassador Bahjat Suleiman Monday. Photo courtesy of Twitter user @arif9o0.
For more from Syria Direct, like us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter.
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.