Report

Syrian Rebels Seize Strategic City Near Coast

A coalition of Syrian Islamist fighters, including al-Qaeda affiliate Jabhat al-Nusra, have seized the strategic town of Jisr al-Shughour, which is located between Idlib and the port city of Latakia. Today they expanded their control in the area, taking the Qarmeed military base, which had been used by the Assad regime to shell rebel positions. ...

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A coalition of Syrian Islamist fighters, including al-Qaeda affiliate Jabhat al-Nusra, have seized the strategic town of Jisr al-Shughour, which is located between Idlib and the port city of Latakia. Today they expanded their control in the area, taking the Qarmeed military base, which had been used by the Assad regime to shell rebel positions. Civilians have been caught between the rebels and the government. According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, 73 people were killed in retaliatory raids in rebel-held towns over the past day. Syrian government jets have pounded Jisr al-Shughour with approximately 20 airstrikes since Saturday night, killing at least 34 people, and 53 civilians were killed in an airstrike at a marketplace in Darkoush that has become a camp for internally displaced people.

The recent successes are the result of a new coalition of rebels formed last month. The collective is called the “Army of Conquest,” and its gains have been at least partially attributed to better cooperation between the rebels’ foreign patrons, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, and Qatar. The U.S. training program for Syrian rebels is set to begin soon at locations in Turkey and Jordan, with additional locations in Saudi Arabia and Qatar to open later. The recent expansion by hardline Islamist groups have raised concerns that the U.S. training effort will create discord between the rebels that have recently taken positions in Idlib and U.S.-supported forces.

Ousted Yemeni President Endorses Ceasefire

Former President of Yemen Ali Abdullah Saleh, whose support for the Houthis was instrumental in their seizure of power, has called for all parties to accept the U.N.-supported ceasefire. His statement comes as local resistance to the Houthis has increased in Aden and Taiz; Saudi airstrikes have continued across the country, including attacks on a military base and the presidential palace in Sanaa. Saudi Arabia is also trying to cut off foreign support to the Houthis. The Iranian Foreign Ministry summoned the Saudi charge d’affaires after Saudi jets intercepted two Iranian planes heading from Oman to Yemen late last week; Iranian officials say the planes were carrying humanitarian aid and had been coordinated with the International Committee of the Red Cross.

Headlines

  • A series of bombings on Sunday, including several in Baghdad, left at least 22 Iraqis dead; fighting in the vicinity of Ramadi also killed 30 police officers last week.

 

  • Mustafa Akinci, an independent reform candidate, was elected president of the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus on a platform that included promoting negotiations to reunify with the rest of the island nation.

 

  • Israeli jets struck militants along the Syria-Israel border that were believed to be placing a bomb to target Israeli troops.

 

  • U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif are expected to meet this week at a U.N. nonproliferation summit in New York for the first ministerial-level talks since the announcement of a nuclear framework deal last month.

 

  • The head judge of Turkey’s highest court endorsed Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu’s calls for a new constitution.

-J. Dana Stuster

GHAITH OMRAN/AFP/Getty Images

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