Amidst talk of ‘safe zone,’ Nusra hands over Aleppo territory
Jabhat a-Nusra handed over several regions in the northern Aleppo countryside to Ahrar a-Sham al-Islamiya and other rebel brigades ahead of the proposed establishment of a US-Turkish safe zone in the area, a citizen journalist from the area told Syria Direct Thursday.
Nusra’s “quiet withdrawal” from Hour Kilis, Ghazal and other regions on Wednesday “points to the fact that the [establishment of the] safe zone has drawn near,” said Wael Adil.
Jabhat a-Nusra agreed with opposition brigades in a meeting Wednesday to hand over its military posts in Aleppo province along the front with the Islamic State, as well as the city of Azaz, 6km away from the Bab a-Salama border crossing with Turkey, reported pro-opposition Masar Press Wednesday.
Turkish and American officials revealed a plan late last month to create an approximately 97km “safe zone” along the Turkish border, free of the Islamic State and controlled by moderate Syrian rebels backed by American air support. Exact details of the plan, including how far the safe zone would extend into Syria, have yet to be disclosed.
Turkey will allow neither Jabhat a-Nusra nor Ahrar a-Sham to be present in the safe zone, an unnamed Turkish official was quoted by pan-Arab daily a-Sharq al-Awsat as saying Monday.
Contaminated water causing illness in Aleppo neighborhoods
Rebel-controlled areas in Aleppo are witnessing the spread of illnesses such as acute intestinal infections due to contaminated water, with one contributing factor likely the mixing of drinking water and sewage in the city, a resident told Syria Direct Thursday.
“Because of the continued barrel bombings on the city, water and sewage pipes explode and that might be the reason the two are mixing,” said Hussein Maydani, a resident of the Salah a-Din district.
Medical personnel “were unable to count the number of cases because there are so many, and because they are distributed across all hospitals in rebel-controlled areas in Aleppo,” Dr. Ziyad al-Waaidh, who practices at the al-Bayan hospital, was quoted by pro-opposition Smart News as saying Wednesday.
Doctors are afraid that diseases such as typhoid fever and cholera will now spread through the city.
Residents use wells, which contain large amounts of bacteria, to meet their water needs and are sometimes contaminated by virtue of nearby explosions or by exposure to sewage water, al-Waaidh was quoted by Smart News as saying.
Mezzeh military airport up for grabs in Darayya offensive
Liwa Shuhada al-Islam’s [LSI] rebel leadership announced that they had taken control of several strategic buildings in an areaoverlooking the Mezzeh military airport on Wednesday after three days of fighting in an ongoing campaign to oust regime forces from the nearby West Ghouta town of Darayya.
The largely rebel-held city of Darayya lies eight kilometers southwest of central Damascus and borders the regime’s Mezzeh military airport, a major launching point for air raids.
The current offensive comes after seven months of preparations and tunnel-digging by rebel forces, pro-opposition Unified Media Office in West Ghouta reported on Thursday, with 23 rebel fighters already dead in the fighting.
“Seventy regime forces from the Revolutionary Guard and Fourth Division elite forces” had been killed during the ongoing operations, LSI captain Abu Jamal tweeted on his official account on Wednesday.
Pro-regime media acknowledged the ongoing clashes in Darayya on Thursday, with Damascus Now reporting the “continuation of heavier rocket fire towards the militants’ positions” and posting pictures on Facebook of several army soldiers killed earlier in the week.
Liwa Shuhada al-Islam soldiers during the “Flames of Darayya” offensive. Photo courtesy of .
RBSS: ‘30 coalition airstrikes’ against IS in A-Raqqa
More than 30 air raids by US-led international coalition warplanes targeted Islamic State (IS) positions near Tabqa city in western A-Raqqa province on Wednesday, media campaign Raqqa is Being Slaughtered Silently (RBSS) reported.
Wednesday’s raids “were only targeting military positions and arms depots” outside Tabqa city itself, Raqqa activist Abu Sham al-Raqqa told Syria Direct on Thursday.
The media campaign reported that 50 IS fighters were killed by the strikes on eight sites, including the Revolution oil field, the Tabqa military airbase and the Karin camp.
Strikes also targeted the “Lion Cubs” children’s camp near the Euphrates Dam, one of three IS camps in the province for indoctrinating children under the age of 16.
“Eight ‘caliphate lion cubs’ [children] were also killed, with many others wounded” on Wednesday, Hamoud al-Musa, another member of RBSS told Syria Direct on Thursday.
Following the air raids, IS called for blood donations via mosques in A-Raqqa and Tabqa, RBSS said.