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Syria Direct: News Update 9-25-14

Lebanese army detains Syrians in Arsal The Lebanese army stormed […]

25 September 2014

Lebanese army detains Syrians in Arsal

The Lebanese army stormed Syrian refugee camps in the village of Arsal and the Abi Samra area near Tripoli Thursday morning and rounded up dozens of young men accused of involvement in attacks on the Lebanese army in early August, reported Lebanon’s official National News Agency.

Four members of Jabhat a-Nusra were among those detained, according to the Lebanese daily a-Nahar, and gunshots were heard as soldiers entered the camps.

Meanwhile, Syrian activists posted pictures on social media websites Thursday reportedly showing refugees surrounded by Lebanese soldiers, lying facedown on the ground with many of them shirtless, in what one pro-opposition activist group termed an act of “humiliation.”

Tensions rose between Lebanese and Syrians in early August after Syrian extremist rebel factions in the border village of Arsal—including Jabhat a-Nusra and the Islamic State—began fighting the Lebanese army and Hezbollah before departing for Syrian territory in mid-August.

The situation further escalated after the Islamic State (IS) announced the execution of captured Lebanese soldier Abbas Medlej September 6, and proceeded to publish pictures of his headless corpse on social media platforms, prompting a wave of attacks against Syrian refugees across Lebanon.

Arsal-burning-tents Syrian refugee tents burn in Arsal. Photo courtesy of @saraTomaihi.

Kurdish forces on Turkish border hold firm against IS

Kurdish forces pushed back an Islamic State offensive against the city of Ain al-Arab near the Turkish border Wednesday night, temporarily halting the rapid IS advance on the besieged area, reported Reuters.

IS soldiers who fled the US-led airstrikes Monday against the de facto IS capital in A-Raqqa have bolstered the attack against Ain al-Arab, known in Kurdish as Kobani, with their numbers and heavy weaponry, pushing the Kurdish fighters to the brink Wednesday.

However, Kurdish forces managed to repel IS to around ten kilometers south of the city, killing 12 IS fighters in the process, said the monitoring group Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

The city is still surrounded by IS, and Kurdish fighters are waging battles in the east, south and west of Ain al-Arab.

In addition, SOHR reported airstrikes against IS positions west of Ain al-Arab, although they have not been confirmed.

The US has not commented on airstrikes against Ain al-Arab.

US-led alliance aims to destroy IS oil trade

The US-led international coalition struck a number of Islamic State positions related to oil production in eastern Syria Wednesday night in an apparent attempt to cripple the organization’s capacity to fund itself, reported pro-opposition Smart News Agency.

US fighter jets were joined by warplanes from Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates in the international coalition’s efforts to prevent the jihadist organization from profiting from its oil trade, which is suspected to raise up to a million dollars a day.

The attacks hit a combination of oil refineries and military bases, including in the city of Mayadin in the oil-rich Deir e-Zor province and Al-Huol area near the Iraqi border in southeast Al-Hasakah province, said the monitoring group Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

The strikes killed at least 14 IS fighters, the Observatory added, but the attack on Al-Huol also killed 5 citizens.

Thus far, the Syrian government appears to be receptive to the US-led strikes against IS and other Islamist organizations, even though the US explicitly never asked for the regime’s formal consent.

The American strikes “are going in the right direction,” said Ali Haidar, the Minister of State for National Reconciliation Affairs, Wednesday.

State Department adds rebel groups to terror list

The US State Department classified two new Syrian rebel organizations, Jaish al-Muhajireen wal-Ansar and Harakat Sham al-Islam, as terrorist groups in a press release Wednesday, freezing their assets and prohibiting US citizens from dealing with them.

Both organizations are made up primarily of non-Syrian fighters.

Jaish al-Muhajireen wal-Ansar is a Chechen-led group formed in Syria in February 2013 that has cooperated with al-Qaeda affiliate Jabhat a-Nusra and the Islamic State to launch “deadly assaults against civilian communities,” and kidnap “civilians and other foreigners in Syria,” according to the press release.

Harakat Sham al-Islam, a Moroccan-led group, was formed in August 2013 and has “carried out terrorist attacks and engaged in kidnappings against civilians with other violent extremist organizations in Syria, including al-Nusrah Front [Jabhat a-Nusra].”

In related news, the UN Security Council unanimously passed decision 2178 Wednesday, which aims to “remove weapons from all foreign terrorists [in Syria].” The resolution seeks to accelerate and expand intelligence sharing as well as limit the movement of terrorists across borders.

The council emphasized the need for the decision as it concerns fighters connected with the Islamic State, Jabhat a-Nusra and other groups connected with or derived from al-Qaeda.

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