PHOTO: Regime bombing of Zabadani, northwest of Damascus, July 2015



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UPDATE 1915 GMT: Local activists tell EA that rebels are now inside two regime enclaves in Idlib Province in northwest Syria.

The sources report street fighting as the rebels advance in al-Fu’ah and Kafraya. They say that the Jaish al-Fateh coalition is also threatening to cut the road between the two villages.

Rebels said they would take over the enclaves, long isolated as the opposition capture almost all of Idlib Province, if ceasefire talks broke down over Zabadani in Damasus Province.

UPDATE 1730 GMT: Pro-opposition local activists say fighting continues in Zabadani, with the Syrian air force dropping 16 barrel bombs on the area on Wednesday:

ORIGINAL ENTRY: After a two-month offensive, Hezbollah and the Syrian military are close to the capture of the town of Zabadani.

Pro-Assad outlets claimed last night that rebels have been pushed back into an 100 square-meter area in the center of the town, 31 km (19 miles) northwest of Damascus.

The outlets initially claimed complete victory, but this a “military source” said that soldiers had prematurely announced the news.

Hezbollah also denied the reports through its outlet Al Manar TV, “There is no truth to the news reported by social networking sites about the Syrian army and the resistance [Hezbollah] forces controlling Zabadani and the withdrawal of gunmen to the town of Madaya [south of Zabadani].”

Hezbollah and Assad forces launched the assault on July 3, hoping for a quick victory after surrounding Zabadani. However, defenders failed to collapse or surrender, despite intense bombardment. The rebel coalition Jaish al-Fateh responded by stepping up the shelling two regime enclaves in Idlib Province in northwest Syria.

Last week, negotiations for a ceasefire — through the rebel faction Ahrar al-Sham and Iranian officials on behalf of the regime — broke down. Attacks on both Zabadani and the enclaves of al-Fu’ah and Kafraya were renewed.

Zabadani was the first town captured by the Free Syrian Army in the Syrian uprising, taken in January 2012.

As rebels have advanced elsewhere in Syria, Hezbollah and the Assad regime have looked to the occupation of Zabadani to consolidate a belt of territory from the Lebanese border to Damascus.

Meanwhile, the Foreign Ministry has shown its concern over the rebel attacks on the enclaves in Idlib Province.

In letters to the UN on Tuesday, the Ministry said it was holding Turkish leaders “fully responsible for any crime committed by armed terrorist organizations in the towns of al-Fu’ah and Kafraya”:

The terrorist organizations, which are backed by the Saudi, Qatari, and Turkish governments, did not stop at besieging the towns and preventing food, drink, medicine, and fuel from entering them in a bid to starve their locals. Rather the terrorist organizations have also been targeting the towns on daily basis with explosive shells, killing and injuring civilians, most of them women, children, and elderly people.

Rebels have threatened to follow up shelling with a ground offensive, taking a village close to the enclaves this week and cutting supply lines.

Refugees Fleeing Islamic State Living in Open Areas in Aleppo Province

Activists say that refugees fleeing the Islamic State in northern Aleppo Province are living in open areas.

The crisis has arisen from the Islamic State’s long-time battle with rebels near the town of Mare’, combined with refugee camps in Turkey filled to capacity, the Syrian-Turkish border closed, and the high cost of local accommodation. The families are shown in photos living in camps on farmland.

“We have started living outside because we can’t afford the villages of the countryside, where the rent is $75 for one room,” a resident from Mare’ who fled with his family told the Syrian Press Center. “We haven’t gotten help from any food organization, not even the Red Crescent, and the border with Turkey is closed to us.”

The Aleppo Media Center said more than 700 families fled Mare’ as the Islamic State took neighboring villages on Thursday. The militants reportedly have attacked Mare’ on two occasions with chemical weapons.

Rebels in Southern Damascus Suburbs Vow to Unite After Islamic State Attack

Rebels in southern suburbs of Damascus vowed to establish a joint operations room on Wednesday after Islamic State incursions into the area.

The Ajnad a-Sham faction promised to fight the “wicked Kharijite [Islamic State]….until we throw them out of our land in the al-Qadam and al-Asaali districts”.

Over the weekend, IS attempted to push west into al-Qadam and al-Asaali from its base in al-Hajjar al-Aswad, taking a number of buildings before being pushed out after fighting with local rebel brigades.

The new operations room consists of Islamic Union of Ajnad a-Sham, Jaish al-Islam, Aknaf Beit al-Maqdas, Jaish al-Ababeel and other brigades, according to a local journalist.

State Media: 10 Killed, 25 Injured in Car Bomb in Latakia

State news agency SANA says 10 people were killed and 25 injured by a car bomb on the outskirts of Latakia city on Wednesday.

The site said a van loaded with explosives was parked outside a school.


The site also said six people were killed and 35 injured in and near Damascus by rockets.

Iran to UN Envoy: Assad Must Be Part of Any Political Solution

Following Russia’s lead, Iran has said that President Assad must be part of any political resolution to the Syrian crisis.

Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Hossein Amir Abdollahian made the remark in a meeting with UN envoy Staffan de Mistura in Beirut on Tuesday.

Amir Abollahian praised Assad’s role in “fighting terrorism”.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Tuesday, “[The Syrian regime’s opponents] are trying like previously for eliminating Saddam Hussein and Muammar Gaddafi to give the top priority on Syria to the resignation of Bashar Assad, saying he is illegitimate. But he is very legitimate.”

Moscow and “Senior Syrian Officer” Deny Expanded Russian Military Intervention

The Russian Defense Ministry has denied that Moscow is expanding its military intervention in Syria.

A Ministry official rejected claims of the delivery of new Russian warplanes for involvement in the conflict, including operations against the Islamic State.

A “military source” told Russian State outlet RT, “There has been no redeployment of Russian combat aircraft to the Syrian Arab Republic. The Russian Air Force is at its permanent bases and carrying out normal troop training and combat duty.”

The statements parallel a claim from a “senior officer” with the Syrian Army denying the arrival of the Russian Air Force in Latakia Province in western Syria.

The site also said “a source from the Syrian Air Force”, stationed in Latakia, also denied the Russian Air Force’s arrival. However, he confirmed the presence of Russian and Iranian military advisors in Latakia city.

Two weeks ago, the leading pro-regime newspaper al-Watan claimed that Russia is building a new military base in Jablah on Latakia’s Mediterranean coast and that “many military advisors have reached Damascus”.

The Oryx Blog, a leading observer of weapons and manpower in the Syrian conflict, has highlighted the presence of an advanced BTR-82A infantry fighting vehicle in video from Latakial A week ago, it posted snippets of Russian-language exchanges — apparent from Moscow’s military advisors — in a Syria State media report.

Opposition media have also said that Russian technical crews have been deployed in Latakia, amid a rebel advance into neighboring Hama Province.

See Syria Feature: Assad’s Media Claim Russian Military Personnel Inside Syria — But Is The Story True?