Al Qaida’s Nusra Front captures pro-Assad Alawite village

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Al Qaida affiliate Nusra Front and its Sunni Islamist allies seized an Alawite village in central Syria on May 12.

Nusra Front and Ahrar al-Sham, an ultraconservative Sunni Islamic militant group, launched an assault on the village of Zara, killing more than 30 pro-Assad regime fighters, according to the Local Coordination Committees activist group.

Nusra Front jihadists. /Reuters
Nusra Front jihadists. /Reuters

Syrian Prime Minister Wael al-Halqi said “terrorists” were killing townspeople, while Syrian state media said militants had looted and destroyed homes in the village, which was previously controlled by President Bashar Assad’s government.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported that seven jihadists were killed in the battle and clashes between the terror alliance and pro-government forces were ongoing as allied Russian aircraft pounded the rebel alliance’s positions.

Assad and his family are Alawites, an offshoot of Shi’ite Islam, while the majority of Syrians are Sunni Muslims.

Meanwhile, the International Committee for the Red Cross (ICRC) was forced to cancel an aid convoy to the nearby town of al-Houla, citing security concerns. The 24-truck convoy with the Syrian Arab Red Crescent (SARC) was to make the first aid delivery to the town since March, when aid reached 70,000 residents in the area for the first time since May 2015.

The ICRC, in conjunction with the United Nations and the SARC, had also planned to send an aid convoy to Daraya, a suburb of Damascus besieged by pro-government forces. The ICRC said the convoy was refused entry “despite being given prior clearance from all sides.”

It would have been the first aid delivery to the area since November 2012. The U.N. estimates the suburb’s current population is between 4,000 and 8,000 people, down from over 70,000 before the war.

“People in Daraya are in need of everything. It is tragic that even the basics we were bringing today are being delayed unnecessarily,” the ICRC said.

In the country’s north, anti-Assad rebels repelled a government offensive to take the Palestinian Handarat refugee camp near Aleppo. Analysts say a government advance there would threaten the only supply route to the rebel-held portion of Aleppo, Syria’s largest city and former commercial capital.