Syria Direct: News Update 4-13-15

Regime intensifies bombing of opposition Aleppo neighborhoods

The regime continued its bombing of rebel-controlled areas in Aleppo city and the countryside for the third day in a row Monday, targeting civilian installations against the backdrop of Syria's Grand Mufti reportedly calling for the “total extermination” of any area used to launch attacks against Aleppo.

Helicopters dropped barrel bombs on the Al-Maadi neighborhood Monday with the number of casualties still unknown, reported pro-opposition Halab Today. At least seven people from a single family died in the same neighborhood Sunday from the bombs, which fell indiscriminately, reported pro-opposition Sham News Network.

The regime targeted a school in the al-Ansari neighborhood Sunday, killing 10 students and three female teachers, Samir Dhduh, a reporter with pro-opposition Itihad Press, told Syria Direct Monday.

“The area where the school is located is a heavily populated, liberated area, and no FSA or other headquarters is located there,” Nabih Uthman, head of the Free Syrian Engineers Union, told Syria Direct Monday.

In an audio clip widely circulated on pro-opposition news outlets Sunday, Syria's Grand Mufti calls for the “total extermination” of areas used to launch attacks on regime positions in Aleppo city. The authenticity of the clip could not be verified.

0413Aleppo Regime helicopters barrel bomb Aleppo city. Photo courtesy of Aleppo Today.

Rebels strike IS in southern Damascus

A coalition of opposition groups led by Jaish al-Islam attacked an Islamic State-controlled neighborhood in southern Damascus on Sunday as rebels attempt to counter the jihadist group’s recent gains in Yarmouk camp, a local media activist told Syria Direct on Monday.

"Jaish al-Islam infiltrated the neighborhood of Zain…which has several IS checkpoints," said Abu Marem al-Jolani, an activist who moves around southern Damascus and supports extremist Islamist groups.  

The news was confirmed by Jaish al-Islam spokesman Islam Aloush on Sunday.

“A raid on al-Hajjar al-Aswad, complete control of Zain neighborhood and the killing of many [IS members],” said Aloush over his Twitter account.

“Members of Jaish al-Islam are stationed in buildings in the Zain district, and there are still snipers from both IS and Jaish al-Islam in the area,” said Matar Ismael, a Yarmouk-based activist who confirmed the attack but refuted Aloush’s claim that Jaish al-Islam controlled the entire neighborhood.

The neighborhood of Zain is located between the rebel-controlled town of Yelda and al-Hajjar al-Aswad, where IS has had a presence for nearly a year.

Sunday’s attack on IS territory comes in the wake of IS’s takeover of Yarmouk camp—located directly north of al-Hajjar al-Aswad—from Palestinian militia groups earlier this month.

Regime shells Homs rebel district after truce terms rejected

Regime forces pounded Al-Waer—the last opposition-held district in Homs city—with dozens of barrel bombs and heavy artillery fire on Sunday after the local negotiating committee refused two of the regime’s truce terms on Sunday, a local opposition activist told Syria Direct on Monday.

“The regime in this way is sending a message: Either agree to its terms or face shelling and increasing violence,” Jalal al-Talawai told Syria Direct.

The two terms the opposition negotiating council refused were that fighters give up their weapons and completely vacate the area, said al-Talawi.

The Homs Media Center also reported rebels fighting regime forces around the district on Sunday and denied the regime’s claims that it had captured two rebel “terrorists.”

Al-Waer has been the last rebel-controlled district in Homs since the UN brokered a truce in mid-2014 and escorted the last rebel fighters out of the rest of the city.

YPG, FSA move into A-Raqqa

Kurdish People’s Protection Units [YPG] won control of a group of villages from the Islamic State in A-Raqqa province on Sunday in preparation for attacking an IS-controlled city on the Turkish border, a member of the pro-opposition media campaign Raqqa is Being Slaughtered Silently told Syria Direct Monday.

The operation is “the beginning of the battle to free [the city of] Tel Abyad,” said Hamoud Abu Mousa, the alias of the activist.

The villages are located 45 kilometers south of Tel Abyad along the international highway to Raqqa city, the de facto IS capital in Syria, reported the London-based news agency Arabi 21.

YPG forces killed at least 30 IS members in the fighting, reported the monitoring group Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

In addition to the villages, the YPG, fighting alongside local FSA-affiliated battalions, managed to take a cement plant and a weapons warehouse from IS with the help of US airstrikes, said Abu Mousa.

The YPG and FSA have repeatedly coordinated with each other to combat IS’s control in the region.

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