Syrian Rebel Attack Backfires

In a botched attempt to stop drinking water reaching government-held districts of Aleppo, rebels managed to cut off water supplies to large parts of the city in northern Syria including their own strongholds. Women and children are being forced to queue up with cooking pots, kettles and plastic bottles to get water from the fountains of mosques and wells that may be contaminated.

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Battles Escalate, Spanning Borders at Syria-Lebanon Frontier

Rebels, Hezbollah Fighters Pour Across Border for Yabroud Fight

The fighting continues to pick up around the Syrian border town of Yabroud, the last rebel-held town on the border with Lebanon. The fighting is escalating all the time, as both sides get reinforcements from across the increasingly meaningless border.

yabrudThe Sunni town of Arsal, in Lebanon, has become a rebel haven, as they smuggle weapons into Syria regularly through that town. Hezbollah, meanwhile, continues to send more fighters for the Assad government’s side across the border.

The value of Lebanon as a smuggling route for the rebels is the primary target of the recent military offensive, and if the Syrian Army manages to retake Yabroud it will effectively shut the border to the rebels, weakening their hold in the region.

Rebels have treated border crossings across the country as particularly important, often fighting with one another over the control of crossings into Turkey, where they can demand a cut of any arms smuggled in by other factions.

by Jason Ditz

Geneva Talks in Jeopardy Over US Arms for Syria Rebels

Afternoon Talks Scrapped After Reports on US Arms Shipments

Yesterday’s report confirming the US Congress has secretly funded sending arms to Syrian rebels through the rest of this fiscal year are having a major, deleterious impact on peace talks in Geneva, and may be threatening the viability of those talks.

syriaThe revelation dramatically undercut US claims that Geneva II was supposed to settle the conflict with a peaceful transition of power, and officials say there was concern that the US is overtly trying to undermine the deal.

The afternoon was supposed to center around talks about the “transition,” with the Syrian National Coalition (SNC) to present their proposal. Instead, afternoon talks were cancelled outright as all the focus was on the US arms shipments.

The State Department downplayed the problem, insisting they support the “moderate opposition,” but in a rebellion dominated by al-Qaeda, it isn’t even clear who that is anymore, and the specter of the US throwing more arms into the conflict is not welcome, no matter the excuse.

by Jason Ditz

Syrian Rebels Bomb Checkpoint in Hama, Kill 37

Most of Slain Were Civilians

Syrian rebels attacked a military checkpoint on the outskirts of the central city of Hama today, killing at least 37 people, including 26 civilians. 10 others are listed as “seriously wounded,” so the toll could rise further.

syriaThe checkpoint was near a busy road on the outskirts of the city, and the 1.5 tons of explosives the bomber was estimated to have used damaged many vehicles and houses across the area.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a pro-rebel mouthpiece, says that the attacker was a member of Jabhat al-Nusra, one of the top al-Qaeda affiliates in Syria.

Jabhat al-Nusra has favored the use of suicide bombings in the civil war. The attacks commonly target security checkpoints or police stations, but the nature of such bombings means that civilian bystanders often find themselves in the line of fire at a moment’s notice.

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