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Syria Direct: News Update 8-11-2014

Deir e-Zor tribe fights IS The head of the a-Shiatat […]

11 August 2014

Deir e-Zor tribe fights IS

The head of the a-Shiatat tribe in oil-rich Deir e-Zor province, Rafia Akla a-Raju, urged Syrian tribes to stand side-by-side in their fight against the Islamic State (IS) in a telephone call Sunday to UAE-based pro-opposition satellite station Al-An.

A-Raju said that the a-Shewait tribe had already joined forces with a-Shiatat, and stressed the “urgent need” for others to do so, adding that “if a-Shiatat tribe is wiped out, then the [neighboring Syrian tribes] will [be wiped out] next.”

This, while fighters from the IS regained control of three villages populated by the a-Shiatat tribe on Saturday night and Sunday, after besieging the towns for 10 days, according to pro-opposition al-Arabiya news.

The a-Shiatat tribe, a former ally of IS, broke ranks with the al-Qaida offshoot after IS reportedly kidnapped up to three members of the tribe and executed them on July 30th.

Syrian refugees flee Arsal

Hundreds of displaced Syrian families, fleeing violence in the Lebanese border town of Arsal, arrived Sunday in the city of Qudsiya on the outskirts of Damascus after Lebanon’s armed forces consolidated control of Arsal from militant Sunni Islamists the same day.

The Syrian ambassador to Lebanon, Ali Abdulkareem, said that “appropriate residences were found for [the displaced] inside Syria,” and thanked the Lebanese authorities for their cooperation in dealing with the refugees, according to Lebanese daily al-Bina.

The Sunni-majority town of Arsal became a destination for Syrian refugees displaced by fighting between the Syrian regime and opposition in the al-Qalamoun mountain range months ago. The municipality of Arsal announced, in November 2013, that the number of refugees present in the town possibly outnumbered Arsal’s 35,000 residents.

On August 2nd Lebanese forces in Arsal arrested Amad Ahmed Juma, variously referred to as an a-Nusra leader and a leader of the Fajr al-Islam Brigade who had sworn allegiance to IS in recent months. The arrest ignited hostilities between IS and a-Nusra on one side, and the Lebanese army on the other.

Syrian refugees in Arsal were caught up in the battle — the nearby al-Qariya refugee camp, for example, was struck by 15 tank shells and burned to the ground during the fighting.

Combatants began their withdrawal from the village last Tuesday night, and the village was virtually empty of combatants as of Thursday night, according to a statement by the Council of Muslim Scholars, who had overseen negotiations between the Lebanese army and militants. Jean Kahwaji, chief of the Lebanese Armed Forces, confirmed the militants’ withdrawal on Thursday in a meeting with the Lebanese parliament.

SyrianRefugeesQudsayaSyrians leaving Arsal for temporary housing outside Damascus wait at the Lebanese border over the weekend. Photo courtesy of SANA.

Kurds recapture two towns near Irbil

The Kurdish military, known as the Peshmerga, recaptured two towns in the Kurdish region of Iraq from the Islamic State (IS) on Sunday with help of American airstrikes carried out two days before, reported the Iraq News Network.

The two towns, Makhmour and Gwer, are located within 30 minutes of Irbil.

Peshmerga officials told the Kurdish news agency Rudaw on Sunday that they had taken Gwer in an “all-out assault” on the town, while a Rudaw correspondent reported that Kurdish forces also reclaimed Makhmour. 

The news comes in the wake of three US airstrikes over the weekend in northern Iraq against IS mortars and convoys near Irbil, including the strikes against Makhmour and Gwer. The United States also dropped emergency water and food supplies to the Yazidis surrounded by IS fighters in Sinjar. On Saturday, the US also struck IS positions in Sinjar, helping clear a path for fleeing Yazidis into Hasakah, Syria.

In a display of unprecedented cooperation between the Iraqi and Kurdish governments, Iraq sent a planeload of ammunition to the Kurdish capital of Irbil on Friday to aid the undersupplied Peshmerga. The IS is currently fighting with US weapons, including bullet-proof Humvees and heavy artillery, captured from the Iraqi army.

IS’s superior firepower has helped them gain control of strategic positions in northern Iraq over the past several days, including the Mosul Dam on Friday.

Iraqi forces block access to Green Zone

Elite Iraqi forces blocked access to the Green Zone in Baghdad on Monday, preventing some members of the Iraqi parliament from convening at the parliament building, reported the independent news agency Iraqi Press.

“Iraqi forces have increased their presence in the Green Zone, preventing a third of the parliament from entering,” a correspondent told Iraqi Press.

The news comes after incumbent Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki gave a surprise speech at midnight on Sunday accusing new Iraqi President Fouad Massoum of violating the constitution by refusing to nominate a candidate for prime minister.

Meanwhile, the Baghdad Operations Room, the headquarters of security forces in Baghdad, confirmed the presence of “checkpoints” in the Green Zone to Iraqi news agency Al-Sumaria Monday, citing the “protection of constitutionally guaranteed demonstrations.”

The military checkpoints led to the cancellation of a parliament session that was supposed to have convened today to discuss possible replacements for Nouri al-Maliki.

Al-Maliki is seeking a third term, despite significant domestic and international opposition against him.

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