Syria's 'moderate rebels' to form a new alliance

Al Jazeera

A new military alliance of rebel groups in northern Syria aims to consolidate military control over Idlib province, the western part of Aleppo province and parts of Latakia province, according to a Free Syrian Army (FSA) commander. Two sources from FSA have confirmed to Al Jazeera that the new military operation room, under discussion, will be supported by the "Friends of Syria" - a coalition of the US, Turkey, Western European and Gulf states - which have supported the Northern Front's operations room, known by its Turkish acronym MOM. The commander said that the rebel forces will fight against the Syrian regime in northern Syria. He denied media reports that their goal would be to attack Hay'et Tahrir al-Sham, a Salafist alliance dominated by Jabhat Fatah al-Sham (JFS, formerly known as al-Nusra Front) which formally renounced its affiliation to al-Qaeda in 2016. The FSA commander confirmed that the funding and logistical support for rebel factions in northern Syria which the CIA froze in February have been restored to a certain extent.

Can the 'de-escalation' plan in Syria work?

Al Jazeera

Iran, Russia and Turkey brokered the deal during talks in the Kazakh capital, Astana. The implementation of the agreement had a shaky start with fighting flaring in some areas. The deal bans weapons in parts of Idlib, Latakia, Aleppo and Hama. There is also hope for aid deliveries to about a million people living there. The Syrian government has not signed the agreement but state media says leaders support the accord.

Emboldened Assad vows to 'liberate' all of Syria, bury hopes, dreams of 'butcher Erdogan'

The Japan Times

DAMASCUS – President Bashar Assad vowed Tuesday his troops would "liberate" every inch of Syria, just like they recaptured the ancient town of Palmyra from the Islamic State group, in a speech that reflected his renewed confidence as the military pressed on toward Raqqa, the extremists' self-styled capital. His remarks in parliament came as his opponents, backed by Turkey and Saudi Arabia, are struggling for survival and his troops have almost encircled rebel-held neighborhoods of Aleppo, Syria's largest city. Saying the military situation was much better than it was months ago, Assad told the lawmakers that Aleppo will be "the graveyard where the hopes and dreams of the butcher Erdogan will be buried." The reference was to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, one of the staunchest supporters of the rebels fighting to topple Assad. Erdogan has allowed safe passage from his country for fighters and weapons over the border into Syria.

Turkish-led assault on Syria's Afrin displaced 10,000 in a day

Al Jazeera

Turkey says it won't hand over Afrin in northern Syria to the government in Damascus after it removes the Kurdish YPG militia, as its military and allied rebel forces prepare to attack the surrounded city. Thousands of people continued to flee Afrin on Thursday to Nubul and Zhara in the northern countryside of Aleppo, which is under control of the Syrian government, amid air raids, artillery shelling, and the threat of an imminent ground invasion, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights war monitor. Twelve people were killed and 60 wounded over the past 24 hours in Afrin city and its outskirts, the UK-based group reported. Kurdish sources said the death toll is likely to increase as many wounded are in critical condition. "Our staff are doing their best, but our rooms are filled with wailing wounded and people in pain, as we lack some medical supplies," Dr Joan Shitika, head of the Afrin city hospital, told dpa news agency.