LATEST: Three Journalists for Hezbollah’s Al-Manar TV Killed in Maaloula


UPDATE 2030 GMT: Insurgents have announced the closure of the Karaj al-Hafez crossing in Bustan al-Qasr between the western and eastern parts of Aleppo.

The insurgents said the crossing, used to move food and supplies between areas held by the regime and by the opposition, was being shut because of pro-Assad snipers and the “abuses and humiliations” suffered by civilians at the hands of Syrian forces.

UPDATE 1830 GMT: Sources report that insurgents have taken about 3 kilometers (1.9 miles) of the vital highway between Aleppo International Airport and regime positions in Aleppo and to the east of the city.

The opposition fighters have claimed Ramouseh after intense clashes (see videos below).

Insurgents are now moving on a cement plant in the area:

Activists warn that the regime will try to turn military defeat into propaganda advantage — while Syrian forces in west Aleppo have supplies “for months”, Damascus will claim that the cut-off of the highway will claim starvation of civilians in the areas they hold in Syria’s biggest city.

Insurgents are advancing on two fronts near Aleppo, threatening key positions of the Syrian military and raising questions about the regime’s ability to hold its areas of Syria’s largest city.

Opposition fighters are pursuing offensives on at least two fronts: in Layramoun and az-Zahraa northwest of Aleppo and to the south, along the highway between the airport and Syrian military bases.

In Layramoun, the insurgents have closed on the Air Force Intelligence headquarters, taking nearby buildings and threatening an assault on the command-and-control center. South of Aleppo, opposition fighters have claimed parts of Ramouseh along the vital highway between the airport, military targets, and regime bases to the east of the city.

The Electricity Ministry said Sunday that an attack on a high-voltage tower had cut power in Aleppo. The Aleppo Media Center, citing the general management of Aleppo services, says the cause was a regime barrel bomb between Al Zurba and Aleppo.

Intense fighting Between insurgents and regime forces in Ramouseh, south of Aleppo:

Footage of opposition attacks in northwest Aleppo:

Aleppo, with a pre-war population of 2 million, was considered a position of regime strength in the early stages of the Syrian conflict. However, protests surged in early 2012, and the city has been divided since insurgents entered in July 2012, taking many areas in the eastern half.

The Syrian military has tried to check the insurgents and seize territory within Aleppo through devastating airstrikes in and near Aleppo, killing hundreds of people since December.

Regime forces took some areas east of Aleppo early this year, trying to besiege insurgents in the city while easing pressure on their forces, but opposition fighters have checked the advance in the last month.

The Free Syrian Army claimed on Sunday that it repulsed “a vicious attack” on the Sheikh Najjar industrial area, inflicting heavy losses on Assad forces and forcing them to withdraw. The FSA said four of its fighters were killed and eight wounded.

Sources say the regime’s defeat was compounded by numerous deaths from the “friendly fire” of a barrel bomb which missed insurgents and hit Syrian troops.

Amid the insurgent pressure on Aleppo, as well as offensives in Latakia Province on the Mediterranean and near Quneitra in the southwest, the regime is trying to claim that its own Qalamoun campaign — taking towns and cities between Damascus and the Lebanese border — has opened the door to its final victory.

President Assad said on Sunday
, “This is a turning point in the crisis, both militarily in terms of the army’s achievements in the war against terror, and socially in terms of national reconciliation processes and growing awareness of the truth behind the [attacks] targeting the country.”

Three Journalists for Hezbollah’s Al-Manar TV Killed in Maaloula

Three journalists working for Hezbollah’s Al-Manar TV — Mohammad Mantash, Hamza Haj Hasan, and Halim Allaw — have been killed as regime forces retook the town of Maaloula, northeast of Damascus.

Al Manar said insurgents hit the crew’s vehicle.

Iranian journalist Hosein Mortada reporting from Maaloula:

Insurgents Inside Air Force HQ in Northwest Aleppo?

Claimed footage of insurgents inside the Air Force Intelligence headquarters in Layramoun in northwest Aleppo — we are treating with caution:

Video: Destruction in Al-Wa’er Section of Homs After Monday’s Regime Airstrike

UN Human RIghts Commissioner Condemns Torture by Regime

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay on Monday has repeated her condemnation of torture in detention facilities by regime forces.

A report drawn from interviews with former prisoners details the abuses by Syrian authorities:

Upon arrival at a detention facility, detainees are routinely beaten and humiliated for several hours by the guards in what has come to be known as the “reception party”.

Men, women, and children have been routinely picked up from the street, their homes and workplaces, or arrested at Government-manned checkpoints. Many are activists — often students –– as well as lawyers, medical personnel and humanitarian workers, and some just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.

One interviewee who spent three months in three different facilities told the UN, “Cellmates were taken for 30 or 45 minutes of interrogation and came back with their faces bleeding, barely able to walk, and with open wounds that remained untreated and became infected.”

The report also documents deaths in detention and asserts, “Occasionally, families are asked to sign papers stating that their relative was killed by armed opposition groups, and to immediately and discreetly bury the body.”

The document also cites the risk of abuse in detention facilities by Islamic State in Iraq and Sham, Jabhat al-Nusra, Ahrar al-
Sham, ‘Asifat al-Shamal, and Liwa al-Tawhid, although the only detail given is from two interviewees about ISIS prisons.

Regime Admits $11.5 Billion in Lost Oil Revenue

The Ba’ath Party’s economic office has declared the loss of 1.7 trillion Syrian pounds ($11.5 billion) in the oil sector since the beginning of the Syrian conflict in March 2011.

Pro-regime newspaper al-Watan reported, using the office’s figures, that 11 million barrels of oil and 143 million cubic meters of natural gas have been wasted or stolen in 2,457 attacks on oi fields and wells, 62 bombings of gas pipelines and 300 “acts of sabotage”.

Al-Akhbaria reported that insurgents attacked the oil refinery in Homs, Syria’s second-largest, with mortars on Sunday.

State Media: Regime Retakes Maaloula, Northeast of Damascus

State news agency SANA claims that the Syrian military has “restored security and stability to Maaloula“, the ancient Christian town northeast of Damascus.

“The army has taken full control of Maaloula and restored security and stability. Terrorism has been defeated in Qalamun,” a Syrian official said.

Insurgents have periodically moved into Maaloula, including in December.

SANA declared that regime forces were “pursuing terrorists in the area surrounding the town, eliminating a number of them, and dismantling the mines and explosives” planted by the insurgents.

OPCW: Regime Handed Over 65% of Chemical Weapons But May Miss Deadline

The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons said Monday that Syria has destroyed or handed over 65.1% of its 1,300 metric tons of chemical weapons.

However, OPCW head Ahmet Uzumcu, said the regime must increase the pace of transfer if it is to meet the June 30 deadline for handover of all stocks: “Both the frequency and volumes of deliveries have to increase significantly to restore alignment of actual movements against the projected timeframe.”

A 13th shipment of chemical weapons was loaded onto cargo ships in the port town of Latakia on Monday.

The process continues amid claims that the Syrian regime used chlorine gas in attacks on Kafrzita in Hama Province last weekend.

Video: Making Fun of the Islamic State of Iraq

A video supporting Syria’s opposition and insurgency pokes fun at the manufacture of fighters for the Islamic State of Iraq and as-Sham:

ISIS, which entered the Syrian conflict in early 2013, has been accused of unlawful detentions, abuses, and killings in areas under its control in northern and eastern Syria. Since January, it has battled insurgents in those areas.

The Iraqi-led movement has imposed its version of Sharia law in Raqqa, the largest city outside regime control, and holds other towns in Raqqa, Aleppo, and Deir Ez Zor Provinces. However, it has been forced out of other towns and positions, especially in northwestern Syria.