Seven months after the breakdown of the process for a political resolution of Syria’s crisis, President Assad has welcomed the UN envoy Staffan de Mistura in Damascus.
In February, the Geneva talks seeking a settlement between the regime and the opposition ended with failure even to agree on an agenda. The opposition insisted that Assad step aside for a transitional government, while the regime said fighting “terrorism” — their word for the insurgency — must be the priority.
Assad repeated the message on Thursday, telling de Mistura of “the Syrian government’s readiness to continue work with him and provide the necessary support and cooperation to…reach a solution that ensures the elimination of terrorism and the various terrorist organizations”.
Syrian State media said de Mistura got the message, telling journalists afterwards that the fight against terrorism “is a priority for us”.
De Mistura replaced Lakhdar Brahimi as the UN-Arab League envoy in July.
Sources Say Attack on Syrian Revolutionary Front in Idlib Province — Leader Maarouf Possibly Injured
Following the deadly bombing of the leadership of the insurgent faction Ahrar as-Sham, sources indicate attackers have hit the Syrian Revolutionary Front tonight in Idlib Province.
Most of those killed are civilians; however, one of the sons of SRF leader Jamal Maarouf has been wounded. Maarouf may also be injured.
Report: Syrian Revolutionary Front & Islamic State Agree Truce in South Damascus
The opposition Orient News is reporting that the Syrian Revolutionary Front, which has been allied with the insurgency, and three smaller brigades have signed a truce with the Islamic State in Hajar al-Aswad, south of Damascus.
Syrian Military Claims Full Control of Halfaya, Northwest of Hama
The Syrian military is now claiming full control of Halfaya, northwest of Hama, in a counter-offensive pushing insurgents away from the city and Hama Military Airport (see earlier entry).
A military spokesman said security and stability had been restored to the town and surrounding villages, “killing large numbers of terrorists — most of them were non-Syrians — and destroying their equipment and vehicles”.
Video: Insurgents Disarm 5-Ton Explosive Device in Idlib Province
Insurgents dismantle five tons of explosives in a truck in Idlib Province in northwest Syria:
The insurgent who spotted the device was shot by attackers who managed to escape.
It is unclear if the assailants were regime forces or Islamic State jihadists.
Islamic Front Leader Alloush: Regime Pilots Will Be Executed Because of Civilian Deaths
Earlier today, Zahran Alloush, the military head of the Islamic Front bloc, put out the Twitter message ordering the execution of all regime pilots.
The tweet appears to have been deleted, but Alloush indicated that the order was because of continued airstrikes killing hundreds of civilians.
On Thursday regime airstrikes killed almost 100 people in Douma, northeast of Damascus, and injured hundreds.
Aftermath of one of the airstrikes (Warning — Graphic Images):
Casualties in a field hospital:
Video: Pro-Opposition Rally in Damascus Suburb of Saqba on Friday
Regime Claims Continued Fightback Near Hama, With Entry into Halfaya
State media is claiming the entry of Syrian forces into Halfaya, in a further counter-offensive against insurgents who had closed on Hama Military Airport and Hama city.
SANA said Syrian units were “sweeping the town” of Halfaya, northwest of Hama, for “terrorists”. It also claimed successful operations against opposition fighters in the insurgent-held towns of Morek and Kafrzita.
Insurgents had moved within 2-3 kilometers of Hama Military Airport this summer, restricting its operations by up to 80%, and threatened to cut regime movement from Hama to the northwest provinces of Idlib and Aleppo.
Earlier this week, Syrian forces — alongside Hezbollah, Iranian units, and pro-regime militias — hit back with the capture of Khattab, also northwest of Hama, after sustained bombardment by warplanes and artillery.