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Syria Today: Will Regime Advance Break the Stalemate?

Qusayr After the BattleA day after the regime capture of Qusayr, the town near the Lebanese border serving as a strategic buffer for Homs, we begin with a straightforward question in an analysis, "What Next?", and offer this answer:

The regime success in Qusayr does not touch the control of territory across much of northern and eastern Syria by insurgents. Nor does it resolve the situation in Aleppo, the country's largest city, divided for 10 months. It does not even offer much for the continuing deadlock around the capital, with insurgents still holding suburbs.

So rather than portending "victory", the development reinforces stalemate.

UN Peacekeepers Injured in Shelling in Golan Heights

Two United Nations peacekeepers suffered injuries in shelling on Thursday in the Golan Heights demilitarised zone between Israel and Syria, according to UN peacekeeping spokesman Kieran Dwyer.

The Philippine government said earlier that one of its troops in the UN Disengagement Observer Force had been wounded by shrapnel.

Dwyer was not able to say whether the shelling was linked to fighting between regime forces and insurgents over the Quneitra border crossing this morning.

Austria, which contributes 380 of the 900 peacekeepers in the Golan force, has said that it will withdraw its troops.

"We no longer have freedom of movement," Chancellor Werner Faymann and Foreign Minister Michael Spindelegger wrote in a joint statement. "The uncontrolled and imminent danger to Austrian soldiers has reached an unacceptable level."

Zawahiri Calls To Prevent "Pro-US Regime" In Syria

An audio recording purportedly from Ayman al-Zawahiri, the leader of al-Qaeda, calls on jihadi groups in Syria to prevent the establishment of a pro-US regime in the country.

In the message, published on the internet on Thursday, urges the "Lions of Islam in ash-Sham [the Levant] to gather and unite" above sectarian issues, saying that "America and its agents" want you to shed your blood… to bring down the criminal Baathist regime and then to set up a regime loyal to them that will guarantee Israel's security".

The message goes on to say that jihad in Syria aims to establish an Islamic caliphate in the country, and then condemns Iran for desiring "Safavid expansion". The Mujahadeen of as-Sham have "exposed the ugly face of Iran…and its heinous crimes", al-Zawahiri says.

Syrian Military Regains Crossing on Border With Golan Heights

The Israeli Defense Forces has said that the Syrian military has regained control of the Quneitra crossing on the border with the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights.

The crossing was briefly seized by insurgents during an offensive early this morning.

Palestinians From Syria Reject Food Aid From Hezbollah

Palestinian refugees from Syria on Wednesday burned around 1,500 food aid packages donated by Hezbollah, Lebanon's Daily Star reports.

The incident was the second in a week.

The Star spoke to the head of the Saadnayel Youth League, Omar Halabi, who said that when refugees and local residents in the Bekaa saw that the food aid had come from Hezbollah, "the same party which is killing their people in Qusayr and other places", they burned the boxes.

The food aid was delivered to the offices of the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine, a group affiliated with the Syrian government, according to The Star.

Rights Group Slams Attacks On Schools

Human rights NGO Human Rights Watch (HRW) sharply criticized on Thursday what it said were deliberate military attacks by the Syrian government on schools.

In a 33-page report, HRW said that forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad's government have interrogated and beaten schoolchildren for alleged anti-government activities, and have used schools as military bases, barracks, detention centers and sniper posts.

Activists Post Pictures of "Qusayr Martyrs"

A pro-insurgency Facebook page set up to monitor the situation in al-Qusayr has posted photographs of Free Syrian Army fighters killed in the battles before the city was captured by regime forces on Wednesday.

Among the images posted is the above photograph of a man named as Alaa Jalal Al-Zohaily, who according to the description was injured several times during the fighting and was finally killed on Wednesday.

Insurgents Take Border Crossing in Golan Heights

The Israel Defense Force have confirmed that Syrian insurgents have seized the Quneitra crossing on the border with the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights.

Discussions Over International "Peace" Conference Drag On

A meeting between US, Russian, and United Nations officials in Moscow on Wednesday offered little hope for a proposed international conference to resolve the Syrian conflict.

The conference had been proposed for Geneva in June; however, it has been blocked by division between the regime and opposition over the pre-condition that President Assad step aside during a transition.

After Wednesday's meeting, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Gennady Gatilov re-confirmed that stalemate, saying that the conference will not be held before July, with another "consultative" meeting later this month.

Gatilov also indicated that the US and Russia continue to disagree over the involvement of Iran in the conference: "The issue of the participants...remains the most intricate sticking point."


The Local Coordination Committees claim 73 people were killed on Wednesday, including 18 in Damascus and its suburbs, 16 in Deir Ez Zor Province, and 12 in Homs Province.

The Violations Documentation Center reports that 62,774 people have been killed in the Syrian conflict since March 2011, an increase of 62 from Wednesday. Of the deaths, 48,526 were civilians, a rise of 28 from yesterday.

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