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    REMEMBERING AUGUST 21: On August 21, 2013, a chemical weapons attack killed an estimated 1,400 Syrians in the Damascus suburbs of East Ghouta, sparking outrage from the international community as both the regime and rebels accused each other of being behind the attacks.

    One year later, while much of the world has turned its attention to the chaos in Iraq and the rise of the Islamic State, Syrians on Thursday marked the anniversary by holding vigils and posting online memorials.

    In this picture, circulated widely on social media on Thursday, a man in the Damascus suburb of Moadimiyat a-Sham commemorates the one-year anniversary by arranging a collage of photographs of the victims. The town, then under rebel control, has since held to a truce with the regime that returned it to government control.

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  • BvjIAyPCQAEi38P

    REMEMBERING AUGUST 21: On August 21, 2013, a chemical weapons attack killed an estimated 1,400 Syrians in the Damascus suburbs of East Ghouta, sparking outrage from the international community as both the regime and rebels accused each other of being behind the attacks.

    One year later, while much of the world has turned its attention to the chaos in Iraq and the rise of the Islamic State, Syrians on Thursday marked the anniversary by holding vigils and posting online memorials.

    In this picture, circulated widely on social media on Thursday, a man in the Damascus suburb of Moadimiyat a-Sham commemorates the one-year anniversary by arranging a collage of photographs of the victims. The town, then under rebel control, has since held to a truce with the regime that returned it to government control.

    Elsewhere, in the southern province of Daraa, Syrians gathered in the eponymous capital in a demonstration as part of the #BreathingDeath movement, a campaign launched this week to remember the anniversary of the attack. Children and adults wore gas masks, wielding signs that said in Arabic, “I don’t want chemicals, I don’t want death.”

    Other demonstrators wanted to ensure that the chemical weapons attack on Ghouta is not lost in the history of the war.

    “My name is Ghouta,” campaign posters declared. “What if you were in my place a year ago?”

    -August 21, 2014

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  • IS WANTS YOU: While the Islamic State (IS) sparked outrage in the international community Wednesday after releasing a video purportedly showing the execution of American journalist James Foley in retaliation for airstrikes in Iraq, a new report finds the group’s appeal in Syria higher than ever.

    IS has reportedly recruited an estimated 6,300 fighters in Raqqa and Aleppo since July 2014, the highest number since they established their headquarters in A-Raqqa in late 2013, according to a report released Wednesday by monitoring group The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

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    EYE OF THE STORM: Water is a major concern for residents of the rebel-held Damascus suburbs of East Ghouta as the area comes under heavy fire following the regime’s capture of Mleiha last week.

    “There is no electricity to operate the pumps to supply houses with water,” Hassan Taqi al-Din, a Ghouta-based correspondent for the pro-opposition news agency Sham Network for Syria.

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    GROUND ZERO: Opposition forces caught between the regime and the rapidly advancing Islamic State (IS) in northern Aleppo appear to be realizing that they may be driven out from the region that has served as their stronghold throughout the war.

    “Great efforts are being made now in order to activate the [military] operations rooms between the rebel factions,” Abdul Karim Abu Firas, a media spokesperson for the Islamic Front, told Syria Direct Monday, “in addition to a high level of coordination between the Islamic Front, Noor al-Din Zanki, Haraka Hazam and other opposition groups in northern Aleppo.”

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    THE PIANIST: Palestinians besieged in Yarmouk Camp may not have regular access to food, water and medical supplies, but thanks to Ayham al-Ahmad, they have music.

    In the picture above, widely circulated on social media this week, al-Ahmad plays the piano while shattered buildings, the results of months of bombing and intense fighting, loom behind him.

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    GO WEST, IS: While much of the credit of the Islamic State’s (IS) recent successes on the battlefield in Syria and northern Iraq have been attributed to its superior weaponry, the IS is pushing out images of its strategy sessions.

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    CHAIR V. COFFIN: More than three years into the Syrian conflict, President Bashir Assad is facing pressure from an unlikely new source: the Alawites.

    This flier is part of a social-media campaign called #Speak Up Against Assad, launched on Tuesday by Alawite activists in Syria. The group opposes the Assad regime and seeks to raise awareness of the high casualty figures within the Alawite community for defending Assad for the past three years.

    The caption reads: “The chair for you [Assad], the coffins for our children,” referring to the disproportionate number of Alawites who have died in the war thus far. The “chair” is a symbolic reference to the presidency.

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    ON THE RUN: A woman and her baby are two of thousands of Yazidis, a Kurdish-speaking religious minority spread across northern Syria and Iraq, who are fleeing their homes in Sinjar, some barefoot and with just the clothes on their backs, to escape the Islamic State (IS).

    Iraqis living in Kurdish autonomous areas including Sinjar who have lost faith in the ability of the Peshmerga to defend them are now fighting to get into the majority-Kurdish Syrian province of Hasaka in order to escape even greater violence in Iraq.

    The crisis began on August 3 when the IS unexpectedly overran the Kurdish Peshmerga protecting Sinjar, a mountainous region bordering northern Syria and Iraq. While thousands of Yazidis managed to escape, thousands more were trapped in the Sinjar mountains without access to food or water, where they remain without safe passage out.

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    ISLAMIC LECTURE: During a moment of publicized clemency, a member of the Islamic State(IS) delivers a sermon to prisoners released from an IS detention facility in the city of al-Bab, located 38 km northeast of the city of Aleppo.

    IS supporters circulated this photo Wednesday with the caption: “One of the brothers gives a speech to the released prisoners and preaches to them before they're let go.” IS has specified that the to-be-released are those who committed crimes that do not warrant hudud punishments (which include theft, adultery, murder, among others).

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Reports

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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

The making of a refugee

June 19, 2014 Photographs by Syria Direct's Amjad Tadros HADALAT, JORDAN: They lined up on the other side of the border, exhausted, carrying what was left of their possessions in small plastic... Read more

Editorial: On the unchecked ascent of ISIS

June 12, 2014 The fall this week of Mosul to the Islamic State of Iraq and a-Sham, a transmutation of Al-Qaeda, is not where the story of the modern Islamic caliphate... Read more

Rebels: Waer truce talks suspended

June 9, 2014 By Osama Abu Zeid and Elizabeth Parker-Magyar Negotiations between rebels and the regime in the encircled Homs district of al-Waer, the last remaining opposition-held neighborhood of Homs, have been... Read more

As elections underway, campaign ads reflect a nation divided

June 3, 2014  By Alex Simon AMMAN: Tuesday’s presidential elections were held amidst a raging civil war and deep nationwide polarization, with Damascus touting the poll as a major step for Syrian... Read more

Interviews

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Alawite activist: Assad ‘exploits his sect’

August 20, 2014 Alawite activists in the coastal city of Tartus began an anti-Assad campaign on August 12 titled Sarkhat Watn, or “Scream of the Nation,”... Read more

‘Loss of Mleiha as important as the loss of Qalamoun’

August 19, 2014 On August 14, regime forces recaptured the town of Mleiha, in the eastern Damascus suburbs, from various FSA battalions—namely Jaish Al-Islam, Ahrar A-Sham,... Read more

Fall of A-Tabqa airport means ‘total IS control over A-Raqqa’

August 18, 2014 Since taking over regime brigades 17 and 93 northwest of A-Raqqa city this summer, the Islamic State has virtually eliminated the regime’s military... Read more

‘Situation in Hasakah is moving toward IS control’

August 14, 2014 Regime forces and the Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD) bombarded the holdout district of Ghweiran—where many residents are former FSA fighters and sympathetic... Read more

‘IS controls 90% of Deir e-Zor’

August 13, 2014 The Islamic State (IS) faced little resistance in Deir e-Zor, co-opting tribes through bribes or violence until late July. On July 30th, the IS... Read more

Hama heats up as rebels capture checkpoints

August 12, 2014 A coalition of rebel groups operating under the umbrella of the Badr Sham al-Kubra operations room —including Jabhat a-Nusra, Ajnad a-Sham, and Soqour... Read more

News Roundup

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Syria Direct: News Update 8-21-2014

Rebels attack Hama town next to airport Rebels lead by Jabhat a-Nusra shelled the town of Sheiha with missiles Thursday as they intensify their efforts to... Read more

Syria Direct: News Update 8-20-2014

Rebels advance towards Hama airport Opposition forces in Hama continued to push closer to regime-controlled Hama military airport by capturing the nearby town of Um Khareeza... Read more

SYRIA DIRECT: NEWS UPDATE 8-19-2014

Deir e-Zor tribe faces ‘genocide’ by IS The head of the Syrian National Coalition's press office, Khalid a-Salih, warned Monday that the a-Shaitat tribe in Syria's... Read more

Syria Direct: News Update 8-18-2014

Rebels attack Hama airport Fighters affiliated with the Free Syrian Army (FSA) allegedly shot down a regime warplane in Hama province and attacked the regime-controlled military... Read more

Syria Direct: News Update 8-14-2014

Regime takes Mleiha Regime forces recaptured the majority of the strategic East Damascus town of Mleiha from rebels after managing to break through their defenses on... Read more

Syria Direct: News Update 8-13-2014

IS advances in northern Aleppo The Islamic State (IS) seized control of a series of villages, including the strategic town Akhterin in northern Aleppo province after... Read more