BEIRUT

Middle East

Fighting rages on as Assad declares victory in Damascus ceremony

  • A Syrian woman makes her way through debris following a air strike by government forces in the northern city of Aleppo on July 15, 2014. AFP PHOTO / KARAM AL-MASRI

BEIRUT: President Bashar Assad’s inauguration speech heralding victory against Syrian rebels and their backers Wednesday was belied by fierce fighting and violence on half a dozen fronts in the country’s raging, multifront war. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, an anti-regime group based in Britain, said that over 3,000 people had been killed or wounded since the “farcical” presidential election took place on June 4. It said 743 civilians had been killed, among them 197 minors and 108 women, in the 43 days since Assad’s easy election victory over two little-known contenders.

Just under half of the fatalities were recorded in Aleppo province, which continues to be subjected to daily airstrikes and other attacks by regime troops and paramilitary allies, the Observatory said.

Regime warplanes Wednesday targeted ISIS militants at a training camp near the city of Raqqa, the Observatory said, in one of the deadliest such actions of the war. At least 15 ISIS militants were killed or wounded in the strike, which struck a facility referred to as the “Osama bin Laden training camp,” it added.

Warplanes have struck ISIS locations in Syria’s eastern provinces over the past few weeks, but have appeared to cause more civilian than militant casualties, according to pro-opposition media reports. State media outlets do not mention operations by regime warplanes.

Meanwhile, more than two dozen airstrikes targeted rebels in the village of Morek in Hama province, the Observatory said. The village lies on the highway connecting Aleppo and Hama and rebels there have withstood regime attacks for several months. Both sides suffered casualties, the Observatory said, as the rebels appeared to be holed up in a series of buildings and could soon lose the strategic location.

Airstrikes and barrel bomb attacks in the city of Aleppo and several rural locations in the province continued, leaving behind an unknown number of wounded.

ISIS militants are fighting rebel groups and Kurdish militia in separate conflicts in Aleppo province. The Observatory said that a convoy of 14 vehicles reached the town of Al-Bab, currently held by ISIS, from the group’s supporters to the east, while ISIS fighters continued to shell rebel-held villages near the Turkish border.

In the Damascus suburb of Mliha, regime forces and paramilitary allies lost three vehicles as rebel groups fought back against a blockade imposed on them over the last three days, the Observatory said.

A suicide truck bomb by a North African fighter with Nusra caused an unspecified number of casualties, while six surface-to-surface missiles fired by regime forces at Mliha apparently failed to dislodge the rebel fighters, who have also suffered 14 casualties in the last few days of fighting with regime forces and their Hezbollah allies, the Observatory said.

Further south, in the province of Deraa, an airstrike killed two men, three women and three children, the Observatory said.

Activists posted grisly footage of the aftermath of the strike, which took place in the “camp” neighborhood, located in the city.

In the eastern part of the country, pro-opposition sources said that ISIS continued to consolidate its position, as it reached an agreement with its rival the Nusra Front and its allies in rural Deir al-Zor province.

Pro-opposition media outlets said ISIS and Nusra leaders met in the village of Qurieh and endorsed a multipoint agreement that represents a clear victory for ISIS, as Nusra Front fighters and members of allied militias will be allowed to turn over their weapons and possibly join the ranks of the hard-line group.

Some of the weapons will be used to defend the village and the rest will be sent to other fronts, the agreement stipulated.

The agreement comes two days after ISIS fighters entered rebel-held neighborhoods of the provincial capital Deir al-Zor, and reportedly executed the leader of the Nusra Front in the city.

However, the Observatory said that regime forces Wednesday continued to shell Deir al-Zor neighborhoods and clash with Islamist rebels who are not affiliated with ISIS.

The latest high-profile assassination, it added, came as ISIS fighters summarily executed a Tunisian national, both a member of the Nusra Front and a member of the city’s Shariah Committee, or insurgent group responsible for administering local affairs.

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on July 17, 2014, on page 8.
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Summary

Just under half of the fatalities were recorded in Aleppo province, which continues to be subjected to daily airstrikes and other attacks by regime troops and paramilitary allies, the Observatory said.

Regime warplanes Wednesday targeted ISIS militants at a training camp near the city of Raqqa, the Observatory said, in one of the deadliest such actions of the war. At least 15 ISIS militants were killed or wounded in the strike, which struck a facility referred to as the "Osama bin Laden training camp," it added.

A suicide truck bomb by a North African fighter with Nusra caused an unspecified number of casualties, while six surface-to-surface missiles fired by regime forces at Mliha apparently failed to dislodge the rebel fighters, who have also suffered 14 casualties in the last few days of fighting with regime forces and their Hezbollah allies, the Observatory said.

However, the Observatory said that regime forces Wednesday continued to shell Deir al-Zor neighborhoods and clash with Islamist rebels who are not affiliated with ISIS.


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