Syria Daily: Regime Renews Siege of Damascus Suburb of Moadamiya

 By Scott Lucas March 3, 2014 07:05 Updated – LATEST: Islamic State of Iraq Denies It Killed “Al Qa’eda Mediator” Abu Khaled al-Suri</strong>

Even as it is proclaiming a political strategy of “reconciliation” through local truces and aid to civilians, the Assad regime has renewed its long-standing siege on the Damascus suburb of Moadamiya. Activists said that the Syrian military is demanding that Free Syrian Army fighters hand over weapons.

See Video & Photos From Moadamiyya As Regime Shuts Down Damascus Suburb Again – The closure of the only entrance to the town:

Qusai Zakarya, a prominent local activist who is now in exile in Beirut, said some workers and students have been allowed past the regime checkpoints. However, he said the Syrian forces were not only cutting off aid but also shelling Moadamiya and trying to sneak into the suburb.

State news agency SANA claimed “citizens…rejected the UN aid that the western countries attempt to politicize under several humanitarian names”, while insisting that “all foodstuff and consumer materials are available in the city” and expressing “satisfaction over the local reconciliation”.

Before and after last month’s Geneva “peace” conference ended in stalemate, the Assad regime — supported by its ally Russia — has proclaimed that the resolution of the conflict lies in local ceasefires, followed by renewal of aid to the besieged areas.

Some agreements have been reached in Damascus suburbs; however, the opposition claims they are the outcome of a “surrender or starve” policy.

Moadamiya endured a 15-month siege before a local truce was announced in January. Activists said that even then the Syrian military only permitted limited amounts of assistance.

Clashes Between Jabhat al-Nusra and Syrian Army in Yarmouk in Damascus

The Islamist faction Jabhat al-Nusra clashed with Syrian forces in Yarmouk in southern Damascus on Sunday, days after the Assad regime declared a “truce” in the besieged neighborhood.

State media blamed “terrorists” who “infiltrated” the area.

Jabhat al-Nusra said in a statement that it entered Yarmouk after Syrian forces refused to retreat to agreed locations, instead setting up checkpoints with armed personnel in supposed “safe zones”. It also claimed that dozens of civilians were detained during distribution of aid, which was still restricted by the regime, and that pro-Assad militia had moved into the neighborhood.

More than 15,000 residents — most of them Palestinian — remain in Yarmouk, besieged by the Syrian military since July. More than 80 have died from lack of food, according to activists.

The regime claims that it is trying to remove insurgents from the area.

Palestinian groups have brought limited amounts of aid into Yarmouk over the past month, but photographs testify to thousands of people still needing aid.

Islamic State of Iraq Denies It Killed “Al Qa’eda Mediator” Abu Khaled al-Suri

The Islamic State of Iraq and as-Sham has denied that it killed “Al Qa’eda mediator” Abu Khaled al-Suri in an attack on an insurgent headquarters last week.

“We did not order Abu Khaled’s killing nor were we ordered to. We were completely cut off from the area he was in,” ISIS said.

Al-Suri, a senior figure in Ahrar al-Sham, had tried unsuccessfully to reconcile ISIS and the Islamist faction Jabhat al-Nusra after the two groups split last year. He was mandated to do so by Al Qa’eda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri, who ruled in favor of Jabhat al-Nusra on the issue of who should represent jihadists in Syria.

See Video Analysis: Islamic State of Iraq vs. Everybody

On February 23, attackers stormed an Ahrar al-Sham headquarters in Aleppo. Al-Suri was mortally wounded by gunfire before one of the assailants set off a suicide bomb.

Two days after the attack, Jabhat al-Nusra gave ISIS a 5-day ultimatum to ceasefire or face expulsion from Syria and Iraq. The deadline passed last weekend with no apparent action.

More than 3,000 people have been killed this year in fighting between rebel factions controlling northern and eastern Syria, an internal conflict which has seriously hampered their military campaign against Assad’s forces.

Abu Khaled, a native of Syria’s Aleppo who had spent time in Iraq and Afghanistan, was sent to Syria to try to end the internecine war, rebels say.