Syria Direct: News Update 4-15-15

Ajnad a-Sham attacks Islamic State south of Yarmouk

A coalition of local rebel groups attacked Islamic State positions just south of Yarmouk to divert the jihadist group’s attention from the camp, an activist based on the edges of Yarmouk told Syria Direct Wednesday.

The rebel group Ajnad a-Sham “took a large part of al-Hajjar al-Aswad [on Tuesday] and stationed snipers in the area but IS was able to circumvent the snipers’ positions because they know the region better, forcing Ajnad to withdraw,” said the activist Matar Ismail.

Ajnad a-Sham killed eight IS members in the fighting, according to pro-opposition news outlet Sari al-Gaya.

The attack on the Islamic State’s stronghold in south Damascus comes in wake of Ajnad a-Sham’s capture of the Alaaf neighborhood, located directly east of al-Hajjar al-Aswad, from IS earlier on Tuesday, reported the pro-opposition Smart News Agency.

IS has had a presence in al-Hajjar al-Aswad for nearly a year and launched its attack on Yarmouk camp after coming from the district earlier this month.

In related news, a Syrian government spokesman said on Tuesday that only 6,000 civilians remain in Yarmouk camp—once home to more than 100,000 Syrians and Palestinians before the war— after the most recent fighting.

Rebels announce new battle to break Zabadani siege

Rebels in the Qalamoun mountains announced a new battle to break the siege around the opposition-held town of Zabadani on the Lebanese border Wednesday, reported pro-opposition Qalamoun News.

“The rebels have began to take the initiative in attacking, after morale was raised by retaking control of the Qalaat a-Tel and al-Madi checkpoints, just west of Zabadani,” Abu al-Fida al-Qalamouni, the alias of a media activist in the western Qalamoun mountains, told Syria Direct Wednesday.

Regime forces retreated from the al-Khazan checkpoint, located near Zabadani, on Wednesday as rebels captured two soldiers in the context of the new battle, called “Break the Cordon,” reported Qalamoun News.

Two Idlib towns fall to regime

Regime forces captured two towns in southern Idlib province, a local opposition activist told Syria Direct on Wednesday.

The regime captured the town of Kafr Najd—10 kilometers south of Idlib city—and then moved three kilometers north to capture Nahlaya on Wednesday, said Abdullah al-Idlibi, the alias of a local activist who writes for opposition news outlets.

Currently the only other regime-controlled territory in southern Idlib province are the towns of Jisr a-Shughour and Ariha.

The advance comes as government warplanes carried out 25 air raids throughout rebel-controlled areas in southern Idlib province also on Wednesday, reported the pro-opposition Idlib Media Center.

Air raids on Tuesday killed more than 25 people in the city of Saraqib, where barrel bombs landed on a shelter and open-air market, said al-Idlibi.

The regime has bombed Idlib city and countryside almost daily since rebel forces captured the provincial capital at the end of March.

0415IdlibDefenseGovernment warplanes barrel bomb south Idlib.. Photo courtesy of Civil Defense Idlib.

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