President Assad’s office said on Saturday that it “welcomes the democratic and free atmosphere” within which candidates are declaring their intention to run for the Presidency on June 3.
The Presidency said the submission of applications to the Supreme Constitutional Court is a “democratic and positive sign and indicates optimal implementation of the constitution and laws”.
So far only two challengers to President Assad have been named: MPs Hassan al-Nuri and Maher al-Hajjar. A new election law excludes many potential opponents, as it requires a candidate to have lived continuously in Syria over the last 10 years and to get the support of 35 of Syria’s 250 legislators.
Still, the Presidency maintained that the process “allows (Syrians) numerous options…when they will be practicing their constitutional right to vote and select their candidate”.
It insisted that President Assad would have no advantage in the campaign, “The Presidency affirms that it stands at the same distance from all candidates so as for the Syrians to elect their candidate and president with full freedom, transparency and responsibility.”
Bashar al-Assad claimed the Presidency in referenda in 2000 and 2007 in which he had no opponents. He received more than 97% of the vote on both occasions.
Claimed Video: Destruction of Chamber of Industry in Aleppo
The opposition Shaam News Network posts claimed video of the demolition of the Chamber of Industry building in Aleppo by an underground explosive:
State TV acknowledged, “Terrorist groups have blown up several buildings…including the Chamber of Industry.”
Footage from distance of the explosion:
State Media: 24 People Killed by Insurgent Mortars and Rockets in Aleppo
State media say 24 people have been killed and 52 injured in Aleppo by insurgent attacks.
State news agency SANA reported that 15 mortar and rocket shells hit Bab al-Faraj, Bustan Kul Aab, Baroun Street, the Municipal Palace, al-Minshiyeh, and Saba’ Bahrat.
Insurgents also blew up an electricity transmission station and several buildings, including the Chamber of Industry.
Limited Aid Reaches Besieged Yarmouk in Damascus After 2-Week Halt
Limited aid has reached the southern Damascus neighborhood of Yarmouk after a two-week halt.
The area has been under Syrian military siege since insurgents occupied it last July. Of the pre-war population of 200,000, most of them Palestinian, about 17,000 people remain. Aid agencies and activists say at least 128 died of starvation or malnutrition during the siege.
“It’s not enough,” said Chris Gunness, a spokesman of the United Nations refugee agency UNRWA. “Demand for food is overwhelming. There are widespread reports of children with malnutrition, of people eating animal feed. It is beyond desperate.”
Since a February 22 UN Security Council resolution demanding unrestricted access for aid, 5,115 food parcels have been delivered —enough to feed the trapped population for about 10 days.
Gunness said, “It is particularly vital that UNRWA is permitted to increase the duration and scale of distributions in Yarmouk on a continuous, daily basis.”
4 More Candidates Join Presidential Race
Four more candidates have put their names forward for the June 3 Presidential contest.
Speaker of Parliament Mohammed al-Lahham named the applicants as Sawsan Haddad, Samir Maala, Mohammed Firas Rajjuh, and Abdel-Salam Salameh.
None of the four is well-known. They join MPs Hassan Abdullah al-Nuri and Maher al-Hajjar as candidates.
Haddad, the only female candidate so far, is a mechanical engineer. Maala is an international law professor.
92% of Chemical Stocks Out of Syria as Deadline Nears
On the eve of a deadline for the removal of chemical stocks, the Assad regime still holds about 8%, according to the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons.
The head of the OPCW-United Nations task force, Sigrid Kaag, said that the 7.8% is “in one particular site”. She said that 6.5% is to be removed and the rest destroyed.
Kaag said there has been “very constructive cooperation”.
Under a deal agreed after its use of chemical weapons last August, the Assad regime agreed to move all stocks out of Syria by the end of April and to destroy all chemical weapons by June 30.
The chemical stocks do not include chlorine, which is not listed as a prohibited chemical because of its common industrial uses.
The Syrian military has been accused of using chlorine gas in a series of attacks over the past month near Damascus and in Hama and Idlib Provinces.
Iraqi Warplanes Strike Inside Syria for 1st Time, Kill 8
Iraqi army helicopters have struck inside Syria for the first time, hitting an Islamic State of Iraq and as-Sham convoy and killing at least eight people.
“The army struck eight tanker trucks in Wadi Suwab inside Syrian territory as they were trying to enter Iraqi territory to provide the Islamic State of Iraq and as-Sham with fuel,” General Saad Maan said.
ISIS has been waging a campaign against the Iraqi Government for years, carrying out bombings and shootings and taking control of parts of Anbar Province in the west.
General Maan said, “Our responsibility now is to protect our border and to protect the border from the other side, because there is no protection from the other side.”
Insurgents Claim Capture of Eastern Tel al-Ahmar in Quneitra Offensive
Insurgents have claimed another success in their Quneitra offensive in southwest Syria, taking the eastern hills of Tel al-Ahmar.
Regime weapons seized in the attack:
Insurgents took the western hills of Tel al-Ahmar. less than 2 kilometers (1.2 miles) from the demilitarized zone with Israel, three weeks ago:
Deadly Regime Airstrikes Continue on Aleppo
Very graphic video has been posted of rescuers retrieving body parts in the Baabden neighborhood after one of the Syrian military’s airstrikes on Aleppo on Sunday.
The Violations Documentation Center has recorded almost 2,000 civilian deaths from regime bombings on Aleppo since the start of the year.
Syrian Envoy to UN: Turkey Trading in Organs of Syria’s Children
Syria’s Ambassador to the UN, Bashar al-Jaafari, claimed on Friday that Turkey has been trading the organs of Syrian children.
Al-Jaafari claims he had documents of 18,000 cases in Turkish hospitals.
The envoy made the allegation during a response to the report of United Nations Special Representative Zainab Bangura, which set out sexual abuse by Syrian forces.
Al-Jaafari said Bangura’s statement, part of a report on Sexual Violence in Conflict, was based on “misleading media sources” and ignored documents presented by the Assad regime of insurgent killing, abduction, and rape of women.
Video: Tour of Captured Regime Base Between Quneitra and Daraa
A six-minute tour of the Brigade 61 base, captured by insurgents this week:
The base at Tal al-Jabiyah was the most significant regime position between Quneitra and Daraa in southern Syria.