Syria Daily: Rebels Advance in Damascus, Open Hama Front

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Anti-Assad forces test regime by opening two-front war — is a third front on the way?


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Podcast: A “Sideshow” in Washington about the Islamic State


UPDATE 1855 GMT: Pro-opposition activists says Russian warplanes have attacked Ariha in Idlib Province, even though there are no rebels in the town. They are accusing the Russians of using internationally-banned white phosphorus munitions.

Videos have been posted of the fires:


UPDATE 1745: The rebel Hama operations room has announced that Saqalibiya and Mahrada, both Christian-majority villages, will not be targets in the offensive as long as residents do not allow the regime to attack anti-Assad forces.


UPDATE 1230 GMT: Rebels have made further gains south of Khattab, taking a significant part of the regime defense line in the village of Arzeh and the nearby al-Shayha hill (see map), 5 km (3 miles) from Hama city.

Rebels are now close enough to attack Hama airport to attack it with anti-tank guided missiles. The airport, which is key position for Iranian and Russian forces, has the the largest ammunition dumps in the area and hosts an important barrel bomb factory.

The offensive has also continued its movement to the west — having moved from Khattab to al-Sheer, it now controls Majdal (see map), capturing a tank during the operations.

Claims are circulating that the regime may move the high-profile militia “Tiger Forces” to the Hama front from east Aleppo, where the unit has been trying to deal with the Islamic State. However, the shift could expose the regime to further pressure — ISIS has succeeded in recent days in cutting the supply road from Hama to Aleppo city.

The Aleppo route is essential given the lack of other routes for regime reinforcements. Rebels in the Rastan pocket in northern Homs Province have reportedly cut the road to Hama (see map), while Highway 56 from Latakia is also blocked.


UPDATE 0730 GMT: Local sources say rebels have captured the village of Khattab, and nearby ammunition dumps, in northern Hama Province.

The sources say rebels have pressed farther to the west and have taken the village of al-Sheer (see map). Part of the road between Hama city and Mahardeh to the northwest is under rebel control.

The Free Syrian Army said another two tanks were captured when a checkpoint was seized.

Rebels in Khattab:

REBELS KHATTAB


ORIGINAL ENTRY: Syria’s rebels advanced in their offensive inside Damascus and opened another front in northern Hama Province on Tuesday.

A coalition of rebel forces, led by Faylaq al-Rahman and Ahrar al-Sham, took more territory in Jobar in the northeast of the capital on the third day of their attacks. They reached and held Abbassiyeen Square, the Fares Khoury road leading to it, and the bus garage.

The advance knocked back the Assad regime’s attempts on Monday to reclaim territory after the initial gains by the rebels.

See Syria’s Rebels Renew Offensives in Damascus and Hama Province

Meanwhile, the anti-Assad forces tested the stretched regime army and its allies further by launching an offensive in northern Hama in western Syria, making dramatic gains within hours.

The forces, including the Free Syrian Army’s Jaish al-Nasr and the Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham bloc, launched the assault with a suicide vehicle bomb in Souran. They quickly took the town and advanced south, reportedly capturing the village of Ma’ardas. Other villages such as Khattab are under threat.

Pro-opposition journalists in Souran:

SOURAN JOURNALISTS

Rebels had claimed a series of towns and villages, including Souran and Ma’ardas, in their last successes in Syria between August and October 2016. However, they lost much of the territory in the next month, as the pro-Assad forces — with Iranian and Iranian-led forces, Hezbollah fighters, and Russian airstrikes — advanced in northwest Syria, including the occupation of all of Aleppo city.

Last autumn’s rebel offensive advanced to within 6 km (3.5 miles) of Hama, Syria’s fourth-largest city, and some local observers said on Tuesday that the city might be under threat unless Iranian forces blocked the assault.

Syrian State media does not acknowledge the rebel advances in either area and instead insists, “The army clashed with terrorist groups which had infiltrated on Tuesday in the factories area on the northern outskirts of Jobar neighborhood, leaving many of their members dead and injured and destroying large amounts of their weapons and equipment.”

State news agency SANA declares that the regime’s military “foiled an attack by Jabhat al-Nusra terrorist organization and groups affiliated to it in the direction of Souran and Khattab in the northern countryside of Hama Province…inflicting heavy losses upon terrorists”.

TOP PHOTO: Fighters of Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham at the start of the offensive in northern Hama Province on Tuesday


Reports: US Airstrikes Kills 30+ in School Near Raqqa

Pro-opposition activists say more than 30 people were killed when a US airstrike hit a school near the ISIS-held city of Raqqa in northern Syria.

The activists of Raqqa Is Being Slaughtered Silently said the school in al-Mansoura, west of Raqqa, is being used as a shelter for displaced civilians. State news agency SANA also reported the attack.

The US-led coalition said it had “no indication that an airstrike struck civilians near Raqqa.” It assured, “We will provide this information to our civilian casualty team for further investigation.”

Last week US manned and unmanned warplanes killed about 56 people in a mosque annex in western Aleppo Province.

40+ Killed in US Airstrikes on Mosque in NW Syria


Israel Army Chief: Hezbollah Commander Bahreddine Killed by His Own Men

The head of the Israeli army said on Tuesday that Hezbollah’s commander in Syria, Mustafa Badreddine, was killed by his own men.

Lt. Gen. Gadi Eisenkot said reports that Mustafa Amine Badreddine was killed by Hezbollah officers match “intelligence we have”. He claimed the incident “indicates the depth of the internal crisis within Hezbollah…[and] the extent of the cruelty, complexity and tension between Hezbollah and its patron Iran”.

Claims at the time of Badreddine’s death in May 2016 near Damascus ranged from an Israeli strike to shelling by Syrian rebels.

But Eisenkot maintained yesterday that the commander died in “an internal crisis over what they are fighting for, an economic crisis and a leadership crisis”.


Report: Russian Losses 3x Higher Than Acknowledged

Reuters reports that Russia has suffered 18 combat fatalities in Syria since January 29, more than three times higher than the official toll.

The Russian Defense Ministry has publicly reported only five servicemen’s deaths, with no mention of significant Russian ground operations in the fight to regain Palmyra from the Islamic State.

Russia’s Conflict Intelligence Team gathered the toll from interviews with relatives and friends of the dead men, cemetery workers, and local media reports of funerals. Reuters independently verified each of the cases by speaking to someone who knows the deceased.

Most of the dead were Russian civilians working as private military contractors under the orders of Russian commanders.

A Russian general, Petr Milyukhin, lost both legs and an eye from an ISIS mine in late February near Palmyra. The serious injuries were acknowledged days later by Russian media.

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40 COMMENTS

  1. #National: “US dollar rises against Syrian pound among Damascus currency traders amid Jobar fighting” – JohnArterbury
    .
    What did I say yesterday? Economic warfare is as important as guerrilla warfare, rebels should utilise this fact by targeting regime infrastructure.
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    #Hama: This is why I say rebels should target regime infrastructure in Hama “Power line from the Mhardah electric plant runs next to Khattab, whose electricity is pretty important to the grid.” – @Jacm212
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    Rebels should combine mobile guerrilla warfare operations with the permanent capture/destruction of important regime infrastructure (e.g. oil/gas fields, oil/gas/water pipelines, power plants etc) in Alawite areas of the country such as the area east of Suqaylabiyah and along the Orontes river in Hama province as well as the area around Salamiyah because by doing (during decoy/diversionary offensives) so rebels will not only earn extra income from pro-regime businessmen of that area (because they’re desperate to use that service) which rebels can use to buy equipment like jammers from the black-market but which rebels can also as an economic-warfare weapon against the regime whenever regime fighters besiege rebel areas. And because these areas are predominantly Alawite the regime will be forced to defend such areas because Assad neither want Alawite businessmen to lose money or want his Republican Guards to get angry by having the properties of their clan being controlled by rebels and in doing so FORCE regime to divert troops away from Aleppo and Damascus in order to help defend the economic interests of Assad’s Alawite backers.
    .
    In Hama another target comes to mind, to the south-east direction of that place is (see link below) the Al-Sarout dam, destroyed that before the regime uses it as a weapon against rebels like they did in Mhardah last year.
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    http://wikimapia.org/#lang=en&lat=35.217435&lon=36.649361&z=14&m=b
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    Good progress, let’s hope rebels take a crack at Al-Judaydah soon so they can isolate the Shalyut check-point and Mahardeh too.

  2. These offensives in Damascus/Hama would be made even more perfect if the following happened:
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    #Deraa: Not only the Manshiyaa front is escalated but rebels in Deraa launch a simultanious offensive on Khirbet Al-Ghazzalah so as to cut Manshiyaa’s supply route to the north.
    .
    #Damascus: Rebels in Qaboun not only infiltrate Al-Tijarah neighbourhood but also push further westwards towards the Al-Mazzerah (sp?) neighbourhood where the Russian embassy is based so it can be mortar-shelled.
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    #Hama: Rebels also launch an offensive on Suqaylabiyah and Al-Joudaydah.
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    #Homs: Rebels there launch an offensive either towards Masyuf or Salamiyah,
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    #Aleppo: Rebels open up a mini-offensive in southern Aleppo to capture Mount Arbaeen and Haider.
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    #Latakia: Rebels launch an offensive to capture Salma.
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    And what’s wonderful about all these above offensives is that rebels wouldn’t need the help of an external power though Israel’s daily air-raids are much appreciated! :)
    .
    If rebels do all of the above and sustain such offensives successfully for 10 continuous days then I can seriously see not one but two currently regime-controlled major cities (including Damascus) falling to rebels.

    • I’ve should have added the condition that all of the above offensives should be launched at the same time and in conjunction/together with the current offensives in Hama/Damascus.

      • You ask for a full and coordinated mobilization on 4 different fronts and in a lightning tempo.. That would be hard even for the best military nation on earth.

        • Cali: Worth/admirable ambition to attempt no? Especially if say the offensive begins to feed (ie from the mega arms/ammo depots of Hama/Damascus province) itself?

          • Its pretty sure that soon another very big rebel offensive will be launched. This time by Ahrar. From the latest movements on the ground it seems it will be Latakia. There is a lot of guessing around. But its sure soon we will witness another big battle.

  3. #Hama: 1) “Groups of loyalist fighters from the al-Ghab plain starting to head to Mharda. Below an initial group of Al-Suqaylabiyah NDF going to Mharda” – Jacm212
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    This is why I said (see above post) that rebels need to launch an offensive on Suqaylabiyah because until Suhail Hassan arrives from Aleppo all the regime fighters in Hama will be in Suqaylabiyah, tie-down regime units down in Suqaylabiyah with a rebel offensive and the regime will end up having no troops to defend the rest of Hama including the city of Hama.
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    2) Yesterday the following was said “Power line from the Mhardah electric plant runs next to Khattab, whose electricity is pretty important to the grid.” – Jacm212
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    Today he now says “At least 1 feeder line cut in the fighting today, cutting power in parts of W #Hama province.” – Jacm212
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    Don’t do just cut 1 feeder line, cut ALL feeder lines, this is how you do economic warfare. Zero electricity in Hama makes assaulting cities more easier just like it did in the first day of Damascus assault by rebels. And whilst rebels are at it (ie economic warfare) try to find regime-held gas/water-pipelines to destroy also.

    • For a nation which lost around 10% of its population (!!!) during a war to defeat Fascism, it is a very small sacrifice. Also, it is much wiser and economic in human-lives to destroy fascist movements while they’re still young and small. WWII proved that and Russia is very wise

      • It also lost millions to starvation and gulags for letting in a tyranical form of goverment….ghat wadnt too wise was it?
        Nor was backing communism…..again not wise

      • Why are the Russians now fighting to support Fascism ?
        .
        It is too late now to suppress Baathism while it is young, but still something can be done against it. Putin is hindering this.

      • Amir from St. Peterburg would be apropiate

        at least the germans had at least 4 very serious attempts to kill Hitler, how many attempts did the brave ruskies have on Staling ?

      • If it’s such a small price to the sociopathic Russkies, who have long used their people as little more than cannon fodder for the elites, then why are they even bothering to call family members and friends of the deceased to tell them to not talk to the press?
        BTW the analogy to WWII is so historically tone deaf I got a nice chuckle from that one. Not to mention the claim that WWII somehow showed the “wisdom” of the Russkies considering they made a pact with Hitler and were perfectly fine with him until he invaded. Which the Russkies were ill prepared for due to Stalin’s massive purges of his own military. Guys like Stalin and Mao were even more murderous than Hitler. It pains me to see you become such a kremlinbot. You used to make sense.

        • Has nothing to do with the Kremlin. 20% of Israel’s population is Russian (Jews and non Jews), so I happen to know many, and in person. Wonderful people, I like them alot and adore their qualities. You, I’m sure, only read about them in your hysterical media.

          • Pretty presumptuous and your laughable condescending tone is noted. Might want to guess again. I don’t really buy that. You have a few Russkie friends so you start supporting the kremlin line? Hmm, ok. Much of what you say sounds like it was pulled directly off a Russian propaganda video. LOL.

  4. Its time to kick Erdogan’s Turkey out of NATO. Not what most EU snowflakes want, but I believe it would be better for both parties. Unless a real coup removes him, after Aprils referendum Turkey will become an Islamic Republic ruled by a strong man, bad for some(educated, secular, female, liberal, etc,) good for others (poorly educated, intolerant, abusive, self righteous, etc). Kind if like Venezuela but wrapped in realigous zeal.

    • 1. NATO exercises cancelled as intra-‘alliance’ shooting war teed up instead:
      http://www.ekathimerini.com/217020/article/ekathimerini/news/natos-ramstein-guard-called-off-after-complaint
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      2. After tasting the Karma of being denied free speech to electioneer in EU and having had his Panzer spares blockaded by Mutti Merkel, who for some weird reason objects to being branded a Nazi by something of a bona fide fascist himself, Tayyip proves her point by openly threatening to sic his Grey Wolves on Europeónes in general:
      http://www.reuters.com/article/us-turkey-referendum-europe-idUSKBN16T13E
      http://www.reuters.com/article/us-turkey-referendum-germany-idUSKBN16S0X7
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      [Not sure he cleared this one with the Turkish Ministry of Culture and Tourism first? Also, he seems to be imply that after [winning] his April referendum, he will immediately withdraw from the EU-accession process and Merkel’s ‘migrant deal’, thus reopening the floodgates for refugees moving westward. While the former gesture will be widely welcomed with relief, the latter threat, if realised, should be sufficient grist to the mill of Madame Le Pen’s campaign to see her sweep into the Office of President of France by the summer, just as it will definitely sink Merkel’s CDU, which is facing federal elections in September.]
      .
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      3. After 9,000 PKK-supporters staged a march in Frankfurt on Saturday carrying Apo-posters and flags, defying Berlin’s prohibition on PKK symbols, German State TV ARD comes out in their support, condemning Tayyip as ‘the real terrorist’:
      https://twitter.com/PollaGarmiany/status/844211102523310080/video/1
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      4. O NATO-Brother, Where Art Thou? — Kraut Spionen-Chef unconvinced by lurid Turkish tales of Gülen-FETÖ dasdardry, further proving Kapo Merkel helped organise the failed Putsch:
      https://www.dailysabah.com/eu-affairs/2017/03/20/german-intel-chiefs-gulen-remarks-show-hostile-attitude-towards-turkey-deputy-pm-kurtulmus-says

      • “After 9,000 PKK-supporters staged a march in Frankfurt on Saturday carrying Apo-posters and flags…”

        Lol “Apo”, el tío Ocalán!:

        Los anarquistas y el imperialismo kurdo

        “Publicamos un artículo redactado por dos compañeros simpatizantes de la CCI. Se trata de una denuncia muy documentada tanto de la fracción imperialista kurda alrededor del “Tío Ocalan” como de los grupos anarquistas que apoyan con entusiasmo su participación en la sanguinaria barbarie que tiene lugar en Oriente Medio, alucinando para ello con una pretendida “revolución social” en Rojava (Kurdistán Sirio).”

        https://es.internationalism.org/en/node/4160

        —————-

        ROJAVA y el CAPITALISMO:

        ““Rojava y el Capitalismo”, tal y como señala el subtítulo que acompaña al texto que presentamos, es un «informe de una reunión organizada por compañeros internacionalistas originarios del Kurdistan», realizada en París en mayo de 2016. En este documento, a total contracorriente del bombardeo publicitario y espectacular de “la revolución de Rojava”, los compañeros realizan una clara denuncia de esa “revolución” identificándola claramente como la contrarrevolución. ”

        http://www.es.proletariosinternacionalistas.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/08/ROJAVAyelCAPITALISMO.pdf

    • Actually Erdogan is as popular amongst Turkish ultra-nationalists as he is with Turkish Islamists and as for NATO Turkey’s in it because control the Bospherous straits, if Turkey is booted out of NATO then it’ll be NATO that loses more (NATO has 5 command centres within Turkey and Turkey has the 2nd largest army in NATO) then Turkey furthermore a sizeable number of Turks who describe their views as ‘anti-Erdogan and secular’ wouldn’t mind leaving Turkey either as they view the organisation as a strait jackets whose members are crypto-PKK supporters. As for the supporters of Erdogan the people who vote for Erdogan coming from a growing conservative middle class in the eastern half of Turkey so your description of the typical AKP voters is a rather inaccurate caricature.

  5. Homs: “Salamiyah-Homs road (road to Aleppo) is cut by the rebels since hours.” – fuadhud
    .
    Excellent now all that is needed is to not only have that road (ie Salamiyah-Homs highway) kept closed but to also have (see link below) the Masyuf-Hama road cut by rebels. If both these two roads are kept closed by rebels continuously for the next 10 days then Hama city will fall. Why? Because regime would no longer be able to provide re-enforcement to the city which means once the city does fall not only will the rebels get a giant windfall in arms/ammo from the mega-storage centres around Hama the Homs pocket will no longer be isolated also.
    .
    #Observation: I have a feeling we might see a limited offensive in southern Aleppo area soon because usually whenever there’s an up-tick in attacks by rebels in Hama province there’s also a similar outbreak of offensives in Aleppo area also. I suspect the rebels in Aleppo province are just waiting for enough regime troops to leave Aleppo before they consider launching their offensive.

  6. #Observation: 1) “If rebels would open an eastern front now Maan and NE-Hama would fall like dominos.” – Interbrigades
    .
    To the south-east of Samrah (which is exactly inside that eastern front) there’s a giant regime arms/ammo-depot which if captured would provide enough arms/ammo to launch a serious offensive on Salamiyah.
    .
    2) Rebels should not forget that Hama province, being as much a economic hub as Aleppo province, has a large number of electrical/thermal power-stations and power-lines running through as well as dams. These important regime infrastructure should be targeted as they now only provide heating and electricity to Hama province but to the rest of Latakia province also. My suggestion? Rebels should combine small-unit (company size: 100+ men) mobile guerrilla warfare operations with the permanent capture/destruction of important regime infrastructure in Alawite areas of the country such as the area east of Suqaylabiyah and along the Orontes river in Hama province as well as the area around Salamiyah because by doing so (during decoy/diversionary offensives) rebels will not only earn extra income from pro-regime businessmen of that area (because they’re desperate to use that service) which rebels can use to buy equipment like jammers from the black-market but which rebels can also as an economic-warfare weapon against the regime whenever regime fighters besiege rebel areas. And because these areas are predominantly Alawite the regime will be forced to defend such areas because Assad neither want Alawite businessmen to lose money or want his Republican Guards to get angry by having the properties of their clan being controlled by rebels and in doing so FORCE regime to divert troops away from Aleppo and Damascus in order to help defend the economic interests of Assad’s Alawite backers.

  7. #Aleppo: Well that escalated quickly “Clashes between rebels and pro-#Assad forces at #Zahraa District in Western #Aleppo..Clashes between #EuphratesShield forces and #YPG south of #Azaz.” – worldonalert
    .
    Now there’s only Ahrar left to kick-off an offensive in Maan as well as rebels in Latakia to attempt to capture Salma (along with a possible extra push in Manshiya?) and we might see some interesting results in two weeks time if such assaults are sustained continuously for the next 10 days.
    .
    #Question: If Hama falls and rebels do link up with the Homs pocket won’t that leave the regime in Aleppo in a dangerous position (ie completely reliant upon Nayrab airbase to shuttle out regime troops from the north to the capital) especially if after linking up with the Homs pocket (in 3 weeks time?) rebels decide to push south towards the Qalamoun pocket (but not a difficult assault on Homs city) and link up with the rebels there? After all the very long-term project of the Hama offensive has to be create a Idlib-Hama-Damascus land-bridge to assist the rebels in the capital no?

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