News in Images

  • EMINENT DOMAIN: Displaced residents of the formerly rebel-held neighborhood of Ghweiran in Al-Hasakah city marched Wednesday in protest of Tuesday’s joint Kurdish PYD and regime takeover of the district, demanding that the regime forces leave the neighborhood and allow them back in.

    After over a month of fighting, Ghweiran rebels, mostly composed of local fighters and former Free Syrian Army commanders, agreed to cede control of the besieged neighborhood Tuesday in exchange for safe passage out of the city. The regime and PYD share joint control over the provincial capital.

    Meanwhile, the hundreds of displaced Ghweiran residents who were forced to evacuate the district when violence escalated have been trapped outside of their homes.

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    BACKTRACKING: Rebels led by Free Syrian Army-associated battalions and Jabhat a-Nusra announced Monday that they captured the east Damascus suburb Dukhaniyeh as part of their larger strategy to retake the town of Mleiha – the east gateway in and out of the capital.

    While much of the media attention around Damascus has been focused on the regime’s vicious aerial campaign against nearby Jobar, ultimately al-Dukhaniyeh may prove to be more crucial in the battle for the capital.

    By taking Dukhaniyeh, the rebels hope to cut off the central road that transports troops and military supplies between central Damascus and Mleiha.

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    BRIDGE TO NOWHERE: The Deir e-Zor Siyasiya Bridge, the last active supply route into the Islamic State-controlled provincial capital, was crippled Monday morning by a blast by an as-yet unknown party, isolating the city from its suburbs.

    “The explosion took place after charges were placed on the sides of the bridge and detonated by remote control,” a spokesperson for the city who asked not be named told Syria Direct Monday.

    In this photograph taking shortly after the explosion, the suspension bridge is severed just before it stretches over the Euphrates River.

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    CARE IN THERE: The Syrian regime has targeted medical and relief workers since the beginning of the war, killing thousands and driving others to leave the country, a fact documented by the UN and international humanitarian organizations.

    Syrians have responded by constructing clinics in obscure, well-protected locales, such as this facility being dug into a rock face—at an undisclosed location in FSA-held territory—which is slated to become a hospital modeled after an underground mine.

    “Since the beginning of Syria's unrest, government forces have strategically assaulted hospitals and medical units to deprive persons perceived to be affiliated with the opposition of medical care,” the United Nations Human Rights Council wrote in an September 2013 report.

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    GOT WATER?: The local council of the West Ghouta rebel-held city of Daraya, which has been encircled and bombarded by Syrian armed forces for more than two years, remains deadlocked in talks with the regime to establish a truce.

    Here, members of the local council's Services Office distribute water to residents.

    “The local council moves water from the wells that farmers dug a long time ago and distributes it to residents, seeing as water has been cut off for two years now,” Aya a-Daraniya, a Daraya resident and member of the Revolution's Coordinators Gathering, told Syria Direct Wednesday.

    Daraya faces an acute food crisis as well. To meet their nutritional needs, residents have taken to repairing agricultural land and planting zucchini, eggplant and tomatoes, while a barter system has taken the place of currency, according to an exposé published Monday by DeutscheWelle.

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    LEAVE OR DIE: Since 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, a wave of attacks against Syrian refugees has broken out across Lebanon.

    Here, an anonymously distributed notice from the Ziqaq al-Balat, one of Beirut’s 12 districts, gives Syrians a choice—either leave within 48 hours, or face “slaughter and torture until death.” The picture on the left, widely circulated on social media over the weekend, purports to show Lebanese nationals beating a Syrian refugee near the airport road in Dahiya, the Shiite southern suburbs of Beirut controlled by Hezbollah.

    Separately, Lebanese journalist Abbas Nasser posted on Facebook Sunday his eyewitness account of a mob attacking a Syrian, writing that after the Lebanese police arrived to break up the crowd, “a soldier slapped the Syrian and said 'enough, get out of here, they'll beat you up.'”

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  • West Ghouta

    FOOD SHORTAGE: A man pushes a cart filled with what appears to be jugs of water in Yelda, a town in the Damascus suburbs of West Ghouta, reportedly telling the photographer, “don't take a picture of my face...everyone sees us but no one takes mercy on us except God.”

    “The regime controls how much, and what types of food enter Yelda,” Mohamad al-Halwani, a Yelda resident and photographer told Syria direct Monday, adding that “water is [still] cut off and only reaches a few residential areas.”

    The Syrian government imposed a siege around rebel-held Yelda from March 2012 until February 2014 and prevented the entry of food into the village, leading to widespread hunger—as documented by videos and photos uploaded to social media websites by local activists during the famine.

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    BIG BANG: The smoke emanating from the Damascus suburb of Jobar is the result of the most intense bombing campaign the regime has waged on the largely pro-opposition town since rebels led by Jaysh al-Islam took over the area a year ago. 

    “Assad’s warplanes continue to hover in the sky over Jobar since the early morning,” reported the pro-opposition Media Office for Jobar Neighborhood on Thursday, “launching a large number of air raids on different parts of the neighborhood.”

    The regime began escalating its attacks against Jobar last week, fixing its attention on the neighborhood after Syrian forces wrested Mleiha, the southeast gateway in and out of Damascus, in mid-August.

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    BACK TO SCHOOL: A group of schoolgirls in A-Raqqa pose in front of the black and white logo of the Islamic State holding a hand-written sign reading: “It has to get worse before it gets better, either the Caliphate will be or we will not.”

    To the right of the picture, one girl clutches a black backpack with “The Islamic State” hand-written on the front of it.  

    “[IS] issued a statement with many changes, cancellations and amendments to the school curriculum,” a Raqqa-based activist told Syria Direct Wednesday, “including the cancellation of school material about [Syrian] nationalism, Christianity and Islam as well as art, music and philosophy.”

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    NEIGHBORS: Jabhat a-Nusra’s capture of the Quneitra border crossing between Syria and Israel last Wednesday led to an unlikely pairing: flags from the Free Syrian Army, which allied with Nusra for the battle, and Israel, side by side.

    In response to the escalated violence, Israel deployed soldiers from its Northern Command army in armored cars to the border Tuesday. On Monday, Israel declared Quneitra a closed military zone after mortar shells landed in its territory on the Golan Heights.

    The Syrian government, meanwhile, has launched an aggressive campaign to regain control of the border crossing using a combination of heavy bombing and artillery fire to pressure the rebels.

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Reports

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Moderate rebel leaders being picked off in ‘new phase’ of battle

September 17, 2014 By Osama Abu Zeid and Dan Wilkofsky AMMAN: A recent string of assassinations against moderate-leaning rebel commanders suggests a regime campaign against groups receiving aid from the United States,... Read more

Infographic: A breakdown of Syrian casualties

September 12, 2014 By Keenan Duffey Last month, the United Nations raised their estimate of the death toll over Syria's three-year civil war to more than 191,000. Navi Pillay, at the time... Read more

Nusra captures strategic Hama checkpoint

September 2, 2014 By Dan Wilkofsky and Osama Abu Zeid AMMAN: Jabhat a-Nusra captured a third checkpoint in as many weeks on Monday in Hama province in a bid to take Christian-majority... Read more

North Homs rebels struggle to hold gains

August 27, 2014 By Brent Eng and Osama Abu Zeid AMMAN: Government forces bombed the opposition-controlled town of Taldou in the northeastern Homs countryside Tuesday, killing at least five as they intensified... Read more

Rebels move closer to Hama airport

August 19, 2014 By Osama Abu Zeid and Brent Eng AMMAN: Rebels in Hama province are continuing their push to capture the military airport, destroying a building inside after shelling it with... Read more

A conversation about jihad

July 3, 2014 Dr. Nelly Lahoud is Associate Professor at the Department of Social Sciences at the US Military Academy at West Point as well as Senior Associate at the Combating... Read more

Interviews

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Enforced disappearance a ‘continuous practice of the Assads’

September 16, 2014 Introduction and interview by Kristen Gillespie. Syria is one of the places in the world where people still disappear off the streets. It has... Read more

Fall of Jobar 'would set us back two years'

September 15, 2014 The regime launched a fierce campaign August 28 to capture the East Damascus neighborhood of Jobar, the closest rebel-held area to Damascus situated... Read more

As airstrikes rain on Jobar, battle moves underground

September 11, 2014 The Assad regime has begun a series of air strikes nearly every day on the rebel-controlled district of Jobar, situated just east of... Read more

Homs activist: ‘Situation is not as before’

September 10, 2014 FSA-affiliated fighters and Islamist battalions north of Homs city continue to battle the Syrian army in the provincial countryside, fighting off regime attempts... Read more

‘Regime, FSA responsible for shelling in Damascus’

September 9, 2014 The regime turned its attention to east Damascus suburb of Jobar after taking the town of Mleiha, the southeast gate to Damascus, from... Read more

FSA, Nusra ally in Quneitra

FSA, Nusra ally in Quneitra September 8, 2014 Rebel forces that took the Quneitra border crossing between Syria and Israel from the Assad regime in late August... Read more

News Roundup

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Syria direct: News Update 9-18-14

IS captures Kurdish towns The Islamic State took control of a series of villages around the city Ain al-Arab in northern Aleppo from Kurdish PYD battalions... Read more

Syria Direct: News Update 9-17-2014

Last rebel neighborhood in Al-Hasakah falls The Kurdish PYD and the regime wrested control of the Ghweiran neighborhood in Al-Hasakah city from rebel sympathizers Tuesday, ending... Read more

Syria Direct: News Update 9-16-14

Islamic State downs regime warplane Fighters with the Islamic State (IS) downed a regime warplane over the city of A-Raqqa Tuesday, resulting in eight civilian casualties... Read more

Syria Direct: News Update 9-15-14

Al-Waer squeezed as truce pressure mounts The regime intensified military operations in the FSA-holdout district of Al-Waer in the city of Homs Sunday by striking the... Read more

Syria Direct: News Update 9-11-14

Rebels, IS battle over Turkish border area Rebels reportedly attacked the IS-controlled town of Dabiq in northern Aleppo near the Turkish border Thursday, igniting fighting in... Read more

Syria Direct: News Update 9-10-14

Regime goes after IS in Deir e-Zor The regime continued to escalate its aerial campaign against the Islamic State (IS) in Deir e-Zor province Wednesday, conducting... Read more