Israel attacks Syria in response to Israeli death
Israel launched nine airstrikes against Syria early Monday morning, said Avichay Adraee, the official Arabic-language spokesperson for the Israeli military.
The airstrikes were in response to a missile originating in Syria that struck a truck carrying maintenance workers on the Israeli side of the border fence in the Golan Heights. The attack killed one of the workers, marking the first Israeli killed as a result of the civil war.
It is unclear who fired the missile into Israel, but Tel Aviv responded by attacking Syrian military positions.
“The targets [in Syria] included a command headquarters and the positions of army regulars,” Adraee said, adding that “the IDF will move in a manner and time that is suitable for the protection of Israeli citizens.”
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights confirmed the Israeli airstrikes against regime battalions on the Syrian side of the Golan Heights, but did not include casualty figures.
Meanwhile, on Monday the Syrian Deputy Foreign Minister Faisal Miqdad expressed his government’s concern to United Nations over alleged Israeli attacks on Syrian soil on March 18 and 19 of this year, reported state news agency SANA.
The Israeli airstrikes mark the country’s largest direct involvement in the Syrian conflict since it began in 2011.
Israeli airstrikes reportedly hit inside Syria Monday morning. photo courtesy of Capital Pulsation.
ISIS reportedly using American military vehicles in Aleppo
The Islamic State of Iraq and Sham (ISIS) captured two towns in the north of Aleppo near the Syrian-Turkish border after defeating rebels, an Aleppo-based citizen journalist told Syria Direct on Monday. In the clashes, an independent activist who asked to be identified only by his first name, said that ISIS reportedly used captured American military vehicles for first time in Aleppo province.
Pro-regime newspaper al-Watan appeared to confirm the account, reporting on Monday that ISIS used American Humvees captured from the Iraqi army for the first time in region. The newspaper added that the goal of ISIS in the area is to control the crossing point with Turkey
“ISIS is trying to take over Aleppo after receiving military supplies acquired from Mosul [in Iraq] that were transported to Hasaka, then to Raqqa,” the activist, Ahmed, told Syria Direct. “The supplies finally arrived in the city of Al-Bab in east Aleppo province in order to aid ISIS’s advance in Aleppo.”
ISIS now controls the towns of Kesar and Thalana, which overlook a dam and the strategic town of Ghouz, Ahmed said. “ISIS has been trying to take it without success because of rebel efforts.”
Kerry arrives in Baghdad
US Secretary of State John Kerry arrived in Baghdad Monday on a surprise visit to Iraq, following his visit to Cairo on Sunday.
Kerry will hold talks with the Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Malaki to discuss the threat of the Islamic State of Iraq and Sham (ISIS), the extremist group that has taken over parts of northern Iraq and western Anbar province, reported pro-opposition Iraqi television Sharqiya.
Kerry’s visit comes in the wake of ISIS capturing four additional towns in western Iraq over the weekend.
On Saturday, ISIS captured the Syria-Iraq border crossing of al-Qaim and Sunday Sunni forces took control of Turaibil, the border crossing between Jordan and Iraq, Reuters reported.
The capture of the border crossings allows ISIS even more border access to move freely Syria and Iraq, and now presents a threat to Jordan. On Sunday, Jordanian officials said that they will reinforce the Jordanian side of the Iraq-Jordan border, reported American-government-funded Alhurra news.
Combatants reach new truce in Yarmouk
Combatant factions in southern Damascus’s Yarmouk Camp signed a peace agreement on Saturday aimed at bringing calm and order to the camp after more than a year of heavy fighting and allowing displaced residents to return.
The agreement stipulates the placement of checkpoints around the camp’s perimeter to prevent the entry of combatants or arms, and guarantees that Yarmouk, a sprawling mini-city south of Damascus that was home to 160,000 Syrians and Palestinians in 2011, will no longer be targeted by military operations. The truce also allows the return of any fighter provided he lays down his arms.
Warring parties agreed to remove barriers around the camp’s turf they controlled and allow the entry of repair teams in preparation for the return of displaced residents. However, extremist Sunni militias including Jabhat a-Nusra still control some parts of the camp and have not yet commented on the truce. It was not immediately clear whether they had signed on to it.
Pictures posted online Sunday show young men clearing the ground in advance of the teams’ arrival, and a bulldozer moving through the camp’s streets.
Regime forces surrounded Yarmouk Camp in December 2012, and tightened the siege in July 2013, preventing the entry of all people, food and medicines.
UNRWA teams were unable to distribute aid for nearly two weeks before the agreement was signed over the weekend.
Violence first broke out in the camp between anti-regime residents and the pro-regime Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command in June 2011, when 14 residents were shot dead by PFLP-GC militants. Rebels then took control of the camp in December 2012.
A similar agreement between combatant factions was reached in December 2013 and lasted only weeks before deteriorating.