PHOTO: Islamic State fighter with a captured regime T-72 tank, southeast of Aleppo city
- “Rubble Art” in Opposition-Held Binnish: “We Will Remain Here”
- Regime Delegation Again Rejects Transition After Meeting with UN Envoy
- Video: Friday Protest in Maarat al-Num’an
After a string of defeats this year, the Islamic State has hit back at pro-Assad forces near Aleppo in northwest Syria.
ISIS advanced southeast of Aleppo, Syria’s largest city, on Friday with the capture of a series of villages including Burj Al-‘Atshanah in the Khanasser Plains. It posted a series of photos of captured weapons, artillery, rocket shells, ammunition, Iranian Army clothing, vehicles, and a T-72 tank.
The Islamic State is now less than 15 km (9 miles) from the Khanasser-to-Aleppo road, the main supply line for regime-held areas of Aleppo. The city has been divided since July 2012 between Assad force and rebels.
ISIS briefly held the highway last October before it was retaken by the Syrian military.
Since then, pro-Assad forces — including Iranian units, Hezbollah, and Iraqi and Afghan militia, enabled by Russian airstrikes — have taken Islamic State territory in Aleppo and Homs Provinces, including the Roman-era city of Palmyra last month. ISIS has also been pushed back by a Kurdish-led advance in northeast Syria, and it is battling rebel forces in northern Aleppo Province.
The Islamic State push on Friday adds to difficulties for the Assad regime near Aleppo. To the south of the city, rebels and Jabhat al-Nusra have reclaimed areas in the last two weeks, including the town of al-Eis on the Aleppo-to-Damascus highway, that had been taken by the regime-Russian-Iranian-Hezbollah offensive last autumn.
Iranian-led attacks have been unable to retake the territory, with scores of troops killed.
“Rubble Art” in Opposition-Held Binnish: “We Will Remain Here”
Defiant street art amid the rubble from airstrikes on opposition-held Binnish in Idlib Province — “We Will Remain Here”:
Regime Delegation Again Rejects Transition After Meeting with UN Envoy
The Assad regime’s delegation has again rejected arrangements for a political transition, following a meeting with UN envoy Staffan de Mistura.
The meeting was the first with de Mistura following Wednesday’s renewal of political talks in Geneva.
The head of the delegation, Syria’s UN Ambassador Bashar al-Jaafari, said that his focus is to submit amendments to a framework document for the talks: “”We will once again discuss our proposal the next time we will meet on Monday.”
De Mistura cancelled his scheduled press briefing.
Meanwhile in Damascus, Syrian Information Minister Omran al-Zoubi reiterated that there will be no discussion of President Assad’s future at the talks, convened by de Mistura in January.
Assad said last month that he will not consider a transitional governing authority, the centerpiece of international proposals since June 2012.
The lead negotiator of the opposition-rebel High Negotiation Committee, Asaad al-Zoubi, said of Jaafari’s statement, “Today, as usual, the regime…is sending a strong message that it doesn’t want a political solution, but a military solution that will bring destruction to the whole country.”
A “senior Western diplomat close to the talks” echoed, “The regime is doing everything it can to kill the negotiations.”
Video: Friday Protest in Maarat al-Num’an
Friday’s anti-regime protest in Maarat al-Num’an in Idlib Province:
With the slogan “The Revolution Continues”, rallies have been held every Friday since a partial cessation of hostilities on February 27.