LATEST: Major General in Assad Army Killed in Deir Ez Zor Province
SUMMARY: Amid the regime offensive to clear insurgents from the Damascus suburbs — the miitary claimed it had re-taken the town of al-Buwaida on Wednesday — the crisis continues in the West Ghouta town of Moadamiyyat Ash Sham.
A siege by the Syrian Army has brought civiians to the point of malnutrition or even starvation, with the regime blocking aid — and reportedly stealing some food — by the Red Crescent. More than 3000 people, many of them women and children, were evacuated last weekend from the town by Syrian authorities, but their whereabouts are unknown.
On Wednesday, citizen journalists claimed that regime forces used women and children as human shields as they tried again to invade Moadamiyyat from the west. We are waiting for more information about the claims. There is footage of fighters from the Free Syrian Army escorting civilians, including older people, out of an area on the outskirts of the town.
Latest Updates, Most Recent First
Major General in Assad Army Killed in Deir Ez Zor Province
State news agency SANA reports that Major General “Jame’ Jame'” has been killed “defending Syria and its people and hunting terrorists in Deir Ez Zor [Province]”.
Activists are claiming that the General was head of military intelligence in the province.
Regime Hits As-Safira, Aleppo With Barrel Bombs As FSA Target Defense Factory
The regime continues on Thursday to target the town of As Safira in Aleppo Province with barrel bombs and air strikes, as citizen journalists report that Free Syrian Army fighters target a regime-held ammunition factory with home-made rockets and mortars.
The regime has launched a fierce campaign of air strikes against As Safira over the past week, as insurgents attempt to control a vital road leading to ammunition stocks and to the Kwaires airbase.
OPCW Says Inspectors Turned Back From Chemical Weapons Site Because of Safety Concerns
The BBC reports that chemical weapons inspectors in Syria “have been unable to access one of the designated sites because of safety concerns”.
Details of the location of the site were not provided.EA has asked the OPCW for clarification.
Reports Of Further Clashes Between Northern Storm, ISIS Near Azaz, Aleppo
Jihadist sources are reporting more clashes between the Islamic State of Iraq and Ash Sham and the FSA’s Northern Storm Brigades on Mount Barsa, overlooking the town of Azaz on the Syria-Turkey border region (click for map).
— UmmaNews (@UmmaNews_com) October 17, 2013
On Wednesday, Turkish media reported that the Turkish Army had fired on ISIS from across the border, following one clash between the Islamist faction and Kurdish fighters, in a sign that Ankara is becoming increasingly concerned about the fighting and the ISIS presence along its border.
Today’s Zaman writes, “The General Staff said in a statement posted on its website that troops fired four rounds from self-propelled artillery guns at positions held by ISIS near the Syrian border town of Azaz after a mortar shell fired from the Syrian side landed near a Turkish border outpost. It said the attack occurred Tuesday.”
Reports Of Continued Clashes At Aleppo Central Prison
There are varying reports of an offensive led by Islamist faction Jabhat Al Nusra with assistance by other groups including the Islamic State of Iraq and Ash Sham against the Aleppo Central Prison.
— Jad Bantha (@JadBantha) October 17, 2013
On Thursday morning, Zaman Alwsl quoted activists as saying that insurgents were “close to take over the central prison of Aleppo after two suicide bombs and ongoing clashes”, which killed 50 regime soldiers.
A very short video of the clashes:
The Aleppo Media Center reports that regime forces have taken up positions in the upper floors of the cell block, and that fighting is ongoing.
Reports Of FSA, Islamist Joint Operations To Take As Sukhna, Homs
Citizen journalists from the Shaam News Network report that Free Syrian Army and Islamist brigades are taking part in a joint operation to take the town of As Sukhna in Homs Province.
As Sukhna, located near Tadmur and the historic Palmyra ruins, is on a major highway linking Homs (via Palmyra) with Deir Az Zor (click for map).
There are reports — though no video footage as yet — of the insurgent capture of two regime checkpoints at the entrance to the city.
THe Local Coordination Committees claim 78 people were killed on Wednesday, including martyrs, including 27 in Daraa Province, 15 in Aleppo Province, and 15 in Damascus and its suburbs.
The Violations Documentation Center records that 76,018 people have been killed since March 2011, a rise of 52 from Wednesday. Of the dead, 56,670 are civilians, an increase of 31 since yesterday.