The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reports that ISIS abducted 230 civilians, including at least 60 Christians, in Al-Qaryatain hours after the group captured the town. Many of the Christians had fled from Aleppo province, in Syria’s north, to seek refuge in Al-Qaryatain. SOHR says those abducted were wanted by ISIS for ‘collaborating with the regime’ and their names were on a list used by the jihadists as they swept through the town. Families who tried to flee or hide were tracked down and taken by the jihadists. Al-Qaryatain lies at the crossroads between ISIS territory in the eastern countryside of Homs and areas further west in the Qalamun area.
A cousin of Syria’s president shoots dead a senior air force officer in a road rage incident according to a monitoring group. Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says the incident happened when the cousin followed the officer because he overtook him at a crossroads, then swerved the car around, got out and shot him dead. The cousin has not been arrested.
Syrian government forces, backed by members of Lebanon’s Shiite Hezbollah group, advance from different directions in the mountain resort of Zabadani near the border with Lebanon. The fighting comes as Ahrar al-Sham insurgent group say that it has stopped communicating with Iranian mediators after they insisted that fighters and residents leave the resort. Ahrar al-Sham says the government aims to clear out the area’s Sunni Muslim population. Syrian opposition groups accuse the government and Hezbollah of displacing thousands of Sunnis from areas along the border with Lebanon and preventing them from returning to their homes.
Coalition warplanes target areas held by the Islamic State group near the town of Tabqa in the northern province of Raqqa, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights and Raqqa is Being Silently Slaughtered, a local activist group. The Observatory says the airstrikes killed at least five IS fighters and wounded 23, including teenage fighters of the so-called ‘Cubs of the Caliphate.’
Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reports that Syria’s Al-Qaeda affiliate, Nusra Front, abducts five rebels believed to have been trained by the United States after raiding areas along the Turkish border. The militant group is now holding a total of 13 men from ‘Division 30.’ It is not immediately clear whether the five men abducted overnight had been on the new U.S. military training programme or on an existing, separate CIA-led program. Pentagon spokesperson says the United States remains committed to defending the Syrian fighters, including against the threat from Nusra Front. There is no official reaction from the Syrian government, but a source says:
[The U.S.] relayed a message to Damascus not to worry about these statements. It’s about hitting Al-Nusra hard, not the Syrian army.
SOHR says that since June last year ISIS has executed over 2,150 people in Syria alone. This number includes over 1,300 civilians and nearly 530 Syrian government troops.
We believe that the real number of people that have been killed by IS is higher than the number documented by SOHR because there are hundreds of missing and detainees inside IS jails, and because there are dozens of Kurds who are still been missing since the beginning of IS attack on the countryside of Kobani in September 16.
Charges have ranged from insulting God (blasphemy), spying for the benefit of the Nusayri [Alawite] regime, sodomy and dealing and supporting YPG [Kurdish forces].
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says regime forces had taken the villages of Bashkawi and Sefat and are battling to block the key highway leading from rebel-held east Aleppo to the Turkish border. The fighting stops traffic on the road, which passes through the town of Tal Rifat and up to the border. They also says fierce clashes are also raging between rebel forces and government troops in the nearby villages of Ratyan and Hardtaneen. It says regime fighters are shelling the town of Hayan, which lies on the road to two government-held villages that rebels have besieged for more than 18 months. Observatory director:
The regime troops have two goals in the area: to cut the road leading from Aleppo to the Turkish border, which is the key supply road for the rebels and to open the way to (besieged) Nubol and Zahraa,