PHOTO: Man looks on burned corpse after regime airstrike on Hallak in Aleppo on Thursday (Photo: Aleppo Media Center)
UPDATE 2000 GMT: The opposition Syrian Coalition has put out details of how the ceasefire in Homs, followed by evacuation of insurgents to north of the city, was arranged — UN and Iranian officials were involved:
Reps from both sides, UN representative, and an Iranian official met earlier in Safir Hotel in Homs to discuss the ceasefire. Terms are:
— Syrian Coalition (@SyrCoalition) May 2, 2014
Islamic Front played a role in the negotiations on behalf of the fighters. Another humanitarian agreement is being discussed. Nothing yet.
— Syrian Coalition (@SyrCoalition) May 2, 2014
The Coalition claims a 72-hour ceasefire — rather than the 48 hours reported earlier — with a prisoner swap during the period. As the insurgents leave, regime forces will enter the Old City, an opposition stronghold since 2012.
An activist in Homs has confirmed reports of a 48-hour ceasefire in the city to allow insurgents to leave.
“This isn’t what we wanted,” Beibars Tilawi told the Associated Press. “But it’s all we could get.”
Tilawi and fellow activist Thaer Khalildiya said the truce will allow hundreds of fighters to evacuate to opposition-held areas north of the city.
Pro-regime media, including Al-Mayadeen and Hezbollah’s Al-Manar TV, have been circulating news of the ceasefire throughout Friday.
The Syrian military has been trying for weeks to clear insurgent-held areas of Homs such as the Old City. They had made slow progress while maintaining a sustained bombardment.
Few civilians are left in the Old City following an evacuation earlier this year, but sections such as al-Waer are still packed, with many Syrians displaced from other parts of the country sheltering there.
Videos: Regime Barrel Bombs Across Daraa Province
The regime has dropped barrel bombs across Daraa Province in southern Syria on Friday, including at least five on Nawa:
Aftermath of one of the Nawa bombs:
Damage in Tsil:
The attacks come as insurgent forces are trying to build on recent advances by taking the Jomou’ hill between Nawa and Tsil. Opposition fighters took other hilltops, notably Ashtara and Jabiyeh — where the Brigade 61 base was located — in the last week.
The Syrian military is also trying to hold onto positions on the southern and eastern edges of Nawa.
If insurgents succeed in taking the hills and positions, they will effectively control all territory from western Quneitra Province to southern Dara’a Province.
Friday Protests: “Assad Killed Students and Destroyed World’s Conscience”
Friday’s protest in Kafranbel in Idlib Province reacts to this week’s killing of schoolchildren in Aleppo by regime airstrikes:
Protest in Bustan al-Qasr, near the dividing line between insurgent- and regime-held areas of Aleppo:
The Damascus suburb of Saqba:
Al Qa’eda Leader Calls on Jabhat al-Nusra to End Fighting With Other Jihadists
In an audiotape posted on-line on Friday, Al-Qaida’s leader Ayman al-Zawahiri has apparently called on the Islamist faction Jabhat al-Nusra to end fighting with other jihadist groups in Syria.
In a message to Jabhat al-Nusra head Abu Mohammed al-Joulani, al-Zawahiri demanded that “all soldiers of the front immediately cease fighting” and urged al-Joulani to “devote himself to combat the enemies of Islam, specifically Baathists, Shiites, and their allies.”
The Islamic State of Iraq and as-Sham, which split with Jabhat al-Nusra in spring 2013, has been in a battle with Syrian insurgents since January across northern and eastern Syria.
Jabhat al-Nusra initially tried to broker a cease-fire, but relations with ISIS were strained by claims that the Iraqi-led group killed Abu Khaled al-Suri, the mediator appointed by al-Zawahiri to end the ISIS-JAN dispute, and JAN’s commander in Idlib Province.
In today’s audio, al-Zawahiri asks ISIS head Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi to pull back from Syria and “devote himself to wounded Iraq, which needs you to redouble your efforts”.
ISIS fell out with al-Zawahiri after it was ordered last spring to let Jabhat al-Nusra lead jihadist activities inside Syria, and it broke with al-Qa’eda early this year.
State Media: 18 Killed by Insurgent Car Bombs in Hama Province
State news agency SANA says 18 civilians, including 11 children, were killed and more than 50 others injured on Friday by two insurgent car bombs in Hama Province.
The site says from “a source” that a suicide bomber blew up a car in Jidreen in the southwest of the province, killing 17 people.
Another person was slain by a car bomb in al-Hmairi in western Hama Province.
23 Candidates Apply to Challenge Assad in June 3 Election
A total of 23 people applied by Thursday’s deadline to stand against President Assad in Syria’s first multi-candidate election on June 3.
Seven more applicants were announced yesterday.
Almost all of the hopefuls are little-known. Each will have to get the support of 35 of Syria’s 250 MPs to be put on the ballot.
Many prospective candidates, including those from major opposition blocs, are excluded from the process because of a new election law mandating 10 years of continuous residency in Syria.
Insurgents Move Near Damascus as Regime Bombs Aleppo
Insurgents made a dramatic double move on Thursday, attacking both northeast and southeast of Damascus, as Syria’s regime maintained its bombardment of opposition-held areas of Aleppo.
Opposition forces attacked Dumayr airport, 38 kilometers (24 miles) northeast of the capital, throughout the day. So far claims of an insurgent capture of the airbase have not been established.
Even more significant could be the insurgent push to the southeast of Damascus, as opposition fighters moved on Jaramana, long held to be a bastion for the regime.
The advance is in effect a counter-attack: the insurgents came from Mleha, the town east of the capital which has been besieged and bombarded for weeks by the Syrian military.
Meanwhile, the Assad regime continued its attack to counter insurgents in Aleppo with aerial attacks. Up to 44 people died in a double-missile strike on the Halak section in the northeast of the city.