LATEST: Videos — Insurgents Advance in Layramoun and az-Zahraa in Northwest Aleppo


For the first time, Syrian State media has acknowledged the use of chemical weapons within hours of an attack.

State outlets said there had been use of cholorine in Kafrzita in Hama Province, but blamed the Islamist faction Jabhat al-Nusra Front.

The outlets said two people were killed and more than 100 injured.

They claimed Jabhat al-Nusra was planning chemical attacks against the Wadi Deif area in Idlib Province in northwest Syria, as well as another area in Hama.

Hama-based citizen journalist Mamoun Abu Zeid said a Friday attack was followed by two on Saturday. He said, “Three have been killed by the poison gas, among them two children, in addition to almost 200 serious injuries.”

See “Poison Gas” Attacks Near Damascus & in Hama Province

The Assad regime has also claimed that insurgents also were responsible for a March 2013 attack in Khan al-Asal in Aleppo Province and for the August 21 assaults that killed hundreds near Damascus; however, in both cases, the regime initially denied there had been any use of chemical toxins.

Videos on Friday showed claimed victims in Kafrzita after a “yellow-tinged cloud” from an airstrike. The aerial attack, probably by a barrel bomb, points to regime responsibility.

Citizen journalist Abu Zeid suggested the regime was trying to hit back after insurgent successes nearby, repelling the Syrian military’s assaults on the town of Morek, 9 kilometers (5.5 miles) from Kafrzita: “The regime wants to strike rebels’ popular base, because it wasn’t able to defeat them militarily.”

Workers searching for chemical residue at the bomb site:

The incidents comes as the Assad regime has moved more than half of its chemical weapons stocks out of Syria. Damascus has missed a series of deadlines to hand over almost all of its stocks, with a June 30 deadline for the final transfers.

Videos: Insurgents Advance in Layramoun and az-Zahraa in Northwest Aleppo

Insurgents have posted more footage summarizing their recent gains in the Layramoun and az-Zahraa areas of northwest Aleppo:

During April, Factions such as the Islamic Front’s Ahrar al-Sham, the Islamist faction Jabhat al-Nusra, and the foreign fighters of the Chechen-led Jaish al-Muhajireen wal Ansar have moved closed to the regime-held western section of Syria’s largest city. They have surrounded an Air Force intelligence headquarters, a command-and-control center for the Syrian military.

A tour of areas in az-Zahraa “liberated” from the regime:

(h/t Joanna Paraszczuk)

Washington: Claim of Chemical Weapons Attack on Kafrzita “Unsubstantiated”

Samantha Power, the US Ambassador to the United Nations, told a Sunday talk show that the Obama Administration has not confirmed claims of a chemical weapons attack on Kafrzita in Hama Province on Friday:

We are trying to run this down. So far it’s unsubstantiated, but we’ve shown, I think, in the past that we will do everything in our power to establish what has happened and then consider possible steps in response.

Report: Head of National Reconnaissance Office Assassinated

A pro-regime Facebook page is reporting the assassination of Brigadier General Samir al-Shaikh, the head of the National Reconnaissance Office.

Video: Insurgents With US-Made TOW Anti-Tank Missiles in Southern Syria

A member of the Syrian Revolutionary Front with a US-made BGM-71 anti-tank missile system in Daraa Province in southern Syria:

At least three insurgent factions have been seen on footage this month with the TOWs, raising questions as to whether the US is now supporting the provision of anti-tank missiles to “moderate” insurgents — or whether the opposition fighters are getting them despite Washington’s reticence over military assistance.

Video: Heavy Fighting Continues in Jobar in Northeast Damascus

Intense clashes continue in the Jobar section of northeast Damascus amid an ongoing regime offensive to clear insurgents from the area:

Insurgent Commander Killed in Fighting Mleha, Near Damascus

A founder of the command of the insurgent faction Ahrar al-Sham in the East Ghouta area, near Damascus, has been killed:

The regime has been pursuing aerial bombardment and a ground offensive on Mleha, east of the capital, in an effort to clear insurgents who have held the area for months.

See Syria Video: The Regime’s Offensive Against Mleha Near Damascus

Senior Hezbollah Officer, 3 Other Members Killed in Aleppo Ambush

The head of Hezbollah’s Signal Corps, Hussein Hassan Hamadeh and three other Hezbollah members have been killed in an ambush in Aleppo.

Hamadeh’s funeral was held Friday night in Nabatiyeh in southern Lebanon.

Video: Explaining Jabhat al-Nusra’s Conflict with Islamic State of Iraq and as-Sham

In a 45-minute interview, Sheikh Abu Sulayman Al-Muhajir explains the Islamist faction Jabhat al-Nusra’s differences and break with the Islamic State of Iraq and as-Sham.

The two groups clashed publicly last spring when ISIS tried to claim leadership of the opposition to President Assad. Jabhat al-Nusra claimed it was the legitimate jihadist movement because of its links to Syrian groups and people.

Al Qa’eda head Ayman al-Zawahiri ruled in favor of Jabhat al-Nusra. ISIS rejected the decision and separated from Al Qa’eda, as it battled insurgents inside Syria.

Independent of London’s Cockburn and Fisk Recycle Hersh “Insurgents Carried Out Chemical Weapons Attacks” Theory

Patrick Cockburn of The Independent of London is the latest journalist to recycle Seymour Hersh’s theory that insurgents, working with Turkey, carried out last August’s chemical weapons attacks near Damascus that killed hundreds.

Cockburn repeats sections of Hersh’s article in the London Review of Books with little enquiry, and adds Saudi Arabia, the CIA and Britain’s MI6 as accessories to the crimes of the insurgency.

See Syria Special: Identifying the Sources for Hersh’s “Insurgents’ Chemical Weapons Attacks”
Syria Special: Dissecting Hersh’s “Insurgents Did Chemical Weapons Attacks” — A Sequel
Syria Special: There is No Chemical Weapons Conspiracy — Dissecting Hersh’s “Exclusive” on Insurgents Once More

On Thursday, The Independent’s Robert Fisk promoted Hersh’s claims, focusing his blame and anger on Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.

Death Toll from Starvation & Lack of Medicine Reaches 142 in Yarmouk

The Syria-based Workforce for Palestinians in Syria said Saturday that the death toll from starvation and lack of medical care has reached 142 in the southern Damascus area of Yarmouk.

The neighborhood, which is mainly populated by Palestinians, has been cut off by the Syrian military since insurgents moved into the area in June 2013. There have been limited deliveries of aid for the remaining population of about 17,000 since February.

The Workforce identified the most recent victim as Rushdi al-Madani, who died Friday of “hunger and dehydration”.

The pre-war population of Yarmouk was 250,000.

Nerves in Latakia While Hezbollah and Pro-Assad Iraqi Militia Appear for First Time

A Reuters correspondent reports rising tension in Latakia, one of Syria’s main cities on the Mediterranean, as insurgents claim territory to the north in a three-week offensive.

Local people say they have begun to see Iraqi Shi’ite militiamen along the coast, apparently boosting the ranks of the Syrian military. Iraqis, who speak a distinctive dialect, have joined those from Lebanon’s Hezbollah as well as advisers and commanders from Shi’ite regional power Iran in aiding Assad.

This correspondent saw unarmed men wearing military fatigues with Shi’ite insignia strolling around several Syrian coastal towns and speaking with Lebanese accents.

Opposition fighters have taken villages and hills close to the Turkish border and have shelled Latakia and other cities in the province, disrupting an area which has been relatively quiet during the three-year Syrian conflict.

State Media Denies Insurgent Control of Air Force Headquarters in Northwest Aleppo

State media, citing “a military source”, has denied claims that insurgents have captured an Air Force Intelligence headquarters in northwest Aleppo that armed terrorist groups seized control of the Air Force Intelligence building in northwest Aleppo city.

State TV claimed to show a correspondent broadcasting in front of the building, with no sign of fighting:

Insurgents surrounded the headquarters, which is a command-and-control center for regime forces in Syria’s largest city, on Thursday, They claim it holds many hundreds of detainees.

Opposition fighters have won a series of victories in the suburbs of northwestern Aleppo over the last month, and they are also threatening to take military positions and cut off vital roads from the airport south of the city.

See Syria Daily, April 11: Insurgents Close on Air Force HQ Near Aleppo

Video on Saturday showed insurgents taking control of a building and a bakery in Ramouseh, near the key highway: