PHOTO: Sarrin in northeast Aleppo Province in northern Syria



Analysis: Assad’s Latest Problem — A Lack of Foreign Fighters in Northwest Amid Rebel Victories

Activists claims that bombing by the US-led coalition of a town in Aleppo Province in northern Syria killed more than 90 people on Friday.

The Local Coordination Committees report verification of the deaths of 93 people in Sarrin, near frontline fighting between Islamic State and a Kurdish-Free Syrian Army force.

The Islamic State captured Sarrin, north of the militant-held city of Raqqa and south of the Kurdish center of Kobane, in March 2014. After the Islamic State’s failure in a four-month offensive to take Kobane early this year, Kurds began to retake nearby territory, supported on the ground by Free Syrian Army units and in the air by US-led strikes.

In late March, the Kurdish militia YPG took a hill overlooking Sarrin. However, the Islamic State counter-attacked, leading to back-and-forth fighting, especially around grain silos near the town.

Last week, the YPG-Free Syrian Army launched another offensive to move into the center of Sarrin.

Rebels Continue “Cleansing” of Islamic State from Quneitra in Southwest

The Levantine Group reports that rebels are continuing their “cleansing campaign” against the Islamic State in Quneitra Province in southwest Syria, near the demilitarized zone with Israel.

Activists claimed today that rebels — including Ahrar al-Sham and Free Syrian Army groups, killed several Islamic State fighters in a raid on the village of al-Qahtaniyah, about 3 km (2 miles) east of the Quneitra border crossing.

The campaign began on Tuesday after the Islamic State-affiliated Jaish al-Jihad attacked rebel fighters. Rebels claim that scores of militants have been killed in the last four days.

Turkish Foreign Minister: US-Funded Train-and-Equip Program for Rebels to Begin on May 9

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu said on Saturday that a delayed program to train and equip Syrian rebel fighters will begin on May 9.

The program, supported by $500 million from the US, intends to train 3,000 men by the end of the year in Turkey and Qatar. It was supposed to be launched in late March, but has been hindered by bureaucratic issues and disputes over the objective.

The US says the fighters are being prepared to face the Islamic State. Syrian rebel factions — and the Turks — are looking for more pressure on the Assad regime.

Forty US soldiers arrived earlier this week for the training. A group of 300 rebels will go through the program in the first phase, to be followed by a second batch of 300 fighters, Çavuşoğlu said.

The Foreign Minister lowered the total to be battle-ready by the end of 2015 to 2,000.

Çavuşoğlu also called on Saturday for the establishment of a secure zone inside Syria as a necessity for the trained rebels.

Video: Fighting in al-Ghab Plain in Rebel Idlib-Hama Offensive

Footage of rebels fighting regime forces in the al-Ghab Plain, south of Jisr al-Shughour, in the 11-day offensive across southern Idlib and northern Hama Provinces.

Rebels took a series of villages, especially along the eastern side of the plain, in the initial days of the offensive. Syrian forces have been counter-attacking and trying to regain territory, assuring a route between southern Idlib Province and Latakia in western Syria on the Mediterranean coast.

Claims of New Regime Chemical Weapons Attacks in Idlib Province

Claims are circulating of renewed chemical weapons attacks by the Syrian air force near Idlib in northwest Syria.

Chlorine canisters were allegedly dropped inside barrel bombs on the town of Saraqeb and the village of Nayrab. A member of Syrian Civil Defense says a child died and 10 suffered from breathing problems in Nayrab, while 75 were treated for suffocation in Saraqeb.

The Assad regime used chlorine in March, killing at least six people and wounding more than 100, in a failed attempt to stop rebels from advancing upon and capturing the provincial capital of Idlib.

See Syria Feature: “Strong Evidence” of Assad’s Chemical Weapons Use in Idlib in March — Human Rights Watch

The attack on Saraqeb and treatment of victims:

Children and infants suffering from effects:

Treatment in Nayrab of a Syrian Civil Defense volunteer:

Claimed remains of chlorine canisters in Nairab

Assad Regime Admits Loss of Idlib and Jisr al-Shughour….Sort Of

A month after the capture of the provincial capital of Idlib by rebels, the Assad regime has edged towards admission of the loss, as well as last week’s defeat in Jisr al-Shughour near the Turkish border.

Information Minister Omran al-Zoubi said on State TV:

Thousands of terrorists…entered the two cities across the Turkish border equipped with advanced weapons and backed by Turkish fire coverage….The army, in its response to the assault, has preferred to put the civilians’ safety above every other consideration and not destroy the two cities and turn them into a battlefield.

Zoubi repeated that Syrians should “not be influenced by whatever misinformation and lies that spread on media outlets”.