Pro-Assad forces attack key point of Bir Qassab, 45 miles from Damascus


Pro-Assad forces have pressed their advance in eastern Syria, attacking the Free Syrian Army on Tuesday in the sparsely-populated desert southeast of Damascus.

FSA commanders said they were facing hundreds of troops and dozen of armored vehicle in the Bir Qassab area in the Badi region. The pro-Assad forces includes Iranian-supported foreign militias, and commanders also claim that Russian warplanes were involved.

“The regime and militia ground attack started this dawn and our forces are holding on to their positions,” Saad al Haj, a spokesman for the rebel faction Osoud al Sharqiya, said. “With intensive Russian bombing, they are trying to advance but we are repelling them.”

The FSA took Bir Qassab this spring from a weakening Islamic State, amid the claim of more than 2,500 square km of territory. In the past two months, the pro-Assad forces have made their own push into the area, setting up a confrontation.

Bir Qassab, 75 km (45 miles) southeast of Damascus, is on an important rebel supply line and the route to the eastern suburbs of the capital, where opposition areas are under ongoing siege and bombardment.

Further to the east, the pro-Assad advance has faced the obstacle of US airstrikes — the first against ground units of the regime and its allies in the 75-month conflict — as it threatened to move inside a 55-km (34-mile) exclusion zone around the FSA’s base of Tanf, where US special forces are also deployed.

See Syria Daily, June 16: Russia Steps Up Criticism of US Presence in East

At Least 17 Children Paralyzed in Polio Outbreak

At least 17 children in eastern Syria have been paralyzed in a polio outbreak, the World Health Organization said Tuesday.

The outbreak is the second since the Syrian conflict began in March 2011.

Tarik Jasarevic, a WHO spokesman, said more than 400,000 children under the age of 5 urgently need vaccination in the Deir ez-Zour are,, where the outbreak on June 8.

Sixteen of the paralyzed children are from ISIS-controlled Mayadin, south of Deir ez-Zor city. Another is from the Islamic State’s central position in northern Syria, the city of Raqqa.

Report: Turkish-Supported Rebels Shell Near Kurdish City of Kobani

Kurdish outlets say Turkish-backed rebel groups shelled a village near the Kurdish center of Kobani on Tuesday.

ARA News, citing a local activist, said “dozens” of mortar shells hit the village on the Turkish-Syrian border. It claimed “a number of injuries among civilians”.

The Kurdish militia YPG and the Turkish-supported rebels have clashed across northern Syria over the past week, including near Azaz and close to Mare’. Each side has accused the other of shelling civilians.

Video: Free Syria Army Regains Territory in Daraa Province

Turkey-backed rebel groups in Syria launched on Tuesday an offensive on a Kurdish village in Kobane district, in northern Syria.

The Islamist rebels based in northern Aleppo shelled the Shuyukh village in Kobane with mortar fire.

“The village was hit by dozens of mortar shells, fired by Turkey-backed Islamists that are based in the vicinity of Jarablus city,” a local media activist told ARA News in Kobane.

The bombardment caused a number of injuries among civilians and led to the destruction of several houses in the village.

“Today’s attack was another attempt by pro-Erdogan terrorists to hit the security in Kobane district and target the Kurds who have liberated the area from ISIS,” Bave Zana, a villager from Shuyukh, told ARA News.

The city of Kobane and hundreds of villages in its countryside have been under the control of the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) for more than two years.

Kobane was liberated by the YPG in January 2015, after more than four months of military operations against ISIS jihadists. The YPG received air cover and materiel support from the US-led coalition and was reinforced by Iraqi Kurdistan’s Peshmerga forces.

Video: Free Syria Army Regains Territory in Daraa Province

Footage of Free Syrian Army units recapturing an air defense base in Daraa Province in southern Syria:

Local sources said the FSA inflicted a series of defeats on pro-Assad forces — “they got a good beating” — across the province on Tuesday.

The rebel advance came as weeks of pro-Assad bombardment continue on Daraa city, in an attempt — unsuccessful so far — to retake a key district occupied by rebels this spring.