PHOTO: Syrian Troops in Sheikh Najjar Industrial Area
LATEST: Liwa Dawoud Joins Islamic State
Syrian forces continued their advance east of Aleppo on Sunday, putting further pressure on insurgents in the eastern half of Syria’s largest city.
Having taken the Sheikh Najjar industrial area on Friday, Syrian troops secured the village of Kifr Saghir to the north.
The regime forces advancing towards the Infantry Academy, their next major target, and highways leading to the northeast and northwest.
The Syrian military has tried for months to take the area so it can impose a siege on the insurgents in their section of Aleppo, which they have held since July 2012. The strategy would replicate that used in Homs to force the final evacuation of insurgents from all but one neighborhood earlier this year.
Meeting in Istanbul, the opposition Syrian National Coalition warned of a regime assault on insurgent-held areas of Aleppo.
“The military situation is very difficult, the siege of Aleppo has become a reality,” spokesperson Luay Safi said. “Syrian troops are preparing to invade Aleppo.”
Safi continued, “To this day the United States is preventing the dispatch of sophisticated weapons to the Free Syrian Army to fight Assad’s terrorism and radical organizations.”
Liwa Dawoud Joins Islamic State
Sources confirm that Liwa Dawoud, an insurgent faction in northwest Syria, has pledged allegiance to the Islamic State.
The brigade has separated from Jaish al-Islam and has traveled from Idlib Province to ISIS’ main base in Raqqa in north-central Syria.
Regime Tries to Blame Insurgents for Chemical Attacks by Handing Sarin Cylinders to UN
The Assad regime has tried to pin blame for chemical weapons attacks on insurgents by handing two cylinders which contained sarin to the United Nations.
The revelation came in a June 26 letter from the United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to the UN Security Council, published on Monday.
The Syrian Government initially declared the cylinders as “abandoned chemical weapons” to the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons last October.
Ban’s letter indicated that the regime subsequently said the Syrian military seized the cylinders “in August 2013 in an area reportedly under the control of armed opposition groups”.
On August 21, 2013, the Assad regime carried out chemical weapons attacks near Damascus, killing hundreds of civilians. Soon after the attacks, Russian and Syrian propaganda tried to shift the blame to insurgents with “homemade” weapons.
The OPCW confirmed the presence of sarin in the two cylinders, according to Ban’s letter, dated June 26. It is unclear if they have now been destroyed.
Car Bomb Explodes at Bab al-Hawa Crossing on Turkish Border
A car bomb exploded on Monday at the Bab al-Hawa crossing on the Turkish border.
Sources indicate material damage but no casualties.
Report: Free Syrian Army Factions in Eastern Syria Lay Down Arms, Pledge Allegiance to Islamic State
Zaman al-Wasl, from “sources and eyewitnesses”, reports that Free Syrian Army factions have laid down arms and pledged allegiance to the Islamic State in a public ceremony in Al Bukamal in eastern Syria.
The Islamic State took the town, on the Iraqi border, last week when insurgents withdrew.
A source said fighters pledged allegiance after commanders and other troops retreating into the countryside.
A well-placed EA correspondent confirms, “Fighters in tribal units in the Free Syrian Army cannot just withdraw and leave their families alone.”
Insurgents Destroy 3 Tanks, Inflict Significant Regime Casualties Near Base in Idlib Province
Insurgents have attacked checkpoints near the regime’s al-Hamidiyah base south of Maarat al-Numan in Idlib Province (see map) , claiming the destruction of three tanks and significant regime casualties.
Insurgent outlets said the assault started a large fire inside the base.
Insurgents appear to be putting pressure on the regime’s two large bases in Idlib Province, al-Hamidiyah and Wadi ad-Deif, similar to the isolation of regime bases near Khan Shaykhoun earlier this year.
In offensives since the spring, insurgents have tried to clear regime forces from the area near the highway between Hama Province and Maarat al-Numan.