PHOTO: Fighters from the rebel faction Jaish al-Islam face regime troops in Jobar in Damascus on Monday



Op-Ed: How A Revolution of Self-Government Offers Hope

A day after President Assad admitted, “We are forced to give up areas to move those forces to the areas that we want to hold onto”, Syria’s military has failed to advance in a rebel-held area of northeast Damascus.

Regime troops, including units of the elite Republican Guard, attacked the district of Jobar on several fronts early Monday. The ground operations were accompanied by artillery shelling, rockets, and missiles.

State news agency SANA maintains that the offensive took several buildings in the east of Jobar, most of which has been held by rebels since February 2013.

The leading faction Jaish al-Islam and opposition activists tell a far different story. They say rebels pushed back the offensive, killing some of the attackers — including a commander — and downing a warplane. Footage, later removed by YouTube, showed slain Syrian fighters with some carrying the insignia of the Republican Guard.

Activists say that the regime bombardment included the use of chlorine gas, with dozens of civilians treated for suffocation. The externally-based opposition Syrian National Coalition said about 50 people were injured, eight critically, and called for international action against the chemical warfare.

However, in the nearby Damascus suburb of Douma, civilians were killed by retaliatory bombing. Graphic video showed some people fleeing while others rushed to save wounded, only to face more bombs.

Video: Rebels on Move in Offensive in Daraa City

Rebels moving inside Daraa as they seek to take control of the city in southern Syria near the Jordanian border:

The rebel coalition Southern Front renewed last month’s offensive, which was checked by the regime in its half of Daraa, over the weekend.

Rebels Claim Capture of Key Town of Frikka, One of Last Regime Positions in Idlib Province

The renewed rebel offensive in the Idlib-Hama corridor is now claiming the capture of the town of Frikka, one of the last regime positions in Idlib Province in northwest Syria.

A report from the battlefield, with journalist Hadi al-Abdallah interviewing a commander of the Jaish al-Fateh rebel coalition:

Al-Abdallah and fighters celebrate in Frikka:

Regime troops had retreated to fortified positions in Frikka amid the fall of almost all of Idlib Province in the spring. Initial rebel moves on the town and nearby hills were repelled by the Syrian military, but resistance appears to have collapsed quickly in the face of Monday’s renewed attacks by Jaish al-Fateh. The retreating soldiers left behind stocks of aid from the Red Cross and the Red Crescent, according to photos posted by opposition activists.

Ahrar al-Sham, the largest faction in the coalition, has confirmed the advances.

A rebel faction mocks the retreating Assad forces:

Videos of the fleeing regime militia:

Rebels are also claiming the capture of the Zayzoun dam and thermal power station, one of the largest in Syria, and other villages and hills in southern Idlib Province.

Rebels moving into villages near Frikka:

Frikka sits on the M4 highway between Aleppo and Latakia and the Mediterrean coast. Its fall comes as rebels advance in the nearby al-Ghab Plain into Hama Province (see entry below).

Jabhat al-Nusra footage of operations in the al-Ghab Plain:

Meanwhile, the Syrian air force has retaliated by bombing parts of Idlib Province:

Big Gains for Rebels in New Offensive in Idlib-Hama Corridor

Rebels have made significant gains in a new offensive in the Idlib-Hama corridor, south of cities and towns that they took in Idlib Province this spring.

The rebel coalition Jaish al-Fateh moved across the northeastern al-Ghab Plain, which extends into Hama Province during the night. Rebel and activist sources said villages such as Tal Wasit and Tal ‘Awar were captured.

Pro-Assad outlets admit that the areas were briefly lost, but claim that the Syrian military reoccupied them on Monday night.

However, a local activist confirms the rebel gains and predicts further victories:

The idlib battle started yesterday with massive shelling. Thousands of Jaish al-Fateh soldiers stormed weakened regime positions. Today’s news of widespread regime retreats are the result of yesterday’s massive attacks that continued through the night.

I wouldn’t be surprised if Jaish al-Fateh and Hama rebels have most of al-Ghab plain by [Tuesday] night. Idlib has next to no regime occupation any more.

A Jabhat al-Nusra fighter in Tal Wasit:

Al-Nusra video of fighters moving into the village:

Fighters in Tal ‘Awar:

The area is south of Jisr al-Shughour, the city near the Turkish border which was claimed by the opposition at the end of April. It is near an important highway running from the divided city of Aleppo to Latakia on the Mediterranean coast.

A rebel account claims that about 500 Syrian troops and 10 military vehicles have fled Frikka, the key town on the M4 highway and one of the last regime positions in Idlib Province.

Explosion at Regime’s Defense Factory Near Aleppo — But Who Caused It?

Video from late Monday night of an explosion at the regime’s defense factory in as-Safira, southeast of Aleppo:

The factory is a leading manufacturer of barrel bombs and other large and small munitions.

There is no confirmation of the cause. Speculation includes a Turkish airstrike, an attack by the Islamic State, and a helicopter crash close to an ammunition depot.

Some social media accounts are claiming a Jabhat al-Nusra suicide bomb.

Video: Kurds and Free Syrian Army in Northern Town of Sarrin, Captured from Islamic State

Footage of Kurdish militia and Free Syrian Army troops in Sarrin, the town in northern Syria taken from the Islamic State on Monday:

Sarrin is south of the Kurdish center of Kobane on the Turkish border and northwest of the Islamic State’s main Syrian position in the city of Raqqa. Its capture, after months of Kurdish-FSA attacks, cuts an IS supply route between Raqqa and Aleppo Province and opens the possibility of a further advance on Raqqa.

Initial reports said that the Islamic State had destroyed Sarrin’s grain silos as the Kurdish-FSA force closed on the town; however, a photograph on Monday showed only one silo was demolished.