PHOTO: Supporters and Syrian Revolution flag greet arrivals in Lebanon from opposition-held Zabadani
- Regime Claims Advance South of Damascus, Capture of Military Base
- Islamic Scholars: Mandatory for Muslims to Join Syrian Uprising
- Russia — We are Supporting “Patriotic Opposition” Offensive on Raqqa
- Rebels in North Aleppo Cancel Ceasefire with Kurds and Dissident Faction
- Video: Children Wounded by Russian Airstrike North of Aleppo City
Evacuations of hundreds of fighters and their families began in three towns in Syria on Monday, as part of a September deal between the Assad regime and rebels.
Buses and ambulances took men, their families, and wounded from the opposition-held Zabadani, northwest of Damascus, and the regime enclaves of al-Fu’ah and Kafraya in Idlib Province in northwest Syria.
Under Red Cross supervision, the Zabadani rebels and families were taken to Beirut Airport in Lebanon and then to Turkey. Meanwhile, about 300 regime fighters and their families in al-Fu’ah and Kafraya traveled by land to the Turkish border and then flew to Beirut.
The transport was the second stage of the autumn deal which brought ceasefires in both areas. Regime ally Iran and rebel supporter Turkey brokered the UN-backed negotiations, led on the rebel side by the faction Ahrar al-Sham.
A Hezbollah-led offensive tried for almost three months to take over Zabadani, but was unable to break rebel resistance. In the northwest, the rebel coalition Jaish al-Fateh retaliated with the threat to overrun the long-surrounded enclaves.
Zabadani, before and after. pic.twitter.com/3esD0HFqgD
— Omar (@omarsyria) December 28, 2015
A convoy of ambulances leave regime-held al-Fu’ah:
Regime Claims Advance South of Damascus, Capture of Military Base
The Syrian military claims that, supported by heavy aerial bombardment, it has advanced on a strategic town south of Damascus and captured a nearby military base.
The Syrian army said it retook the Brigade 82 base, north of the town of Sheikh Maskin, and the al-Hesh hills in western Daraa Province.
Sheikh Maskin, captured by rebels earlier this year, lies on one of the main supply routes from the capital Damascus to the city of Daraa on the Jordanian border.
The pro-rebel site Eldorar denied that the base had fallen, although Hezbollah units were in the northwest section.
Rebels fighting on the base:
Islamic Scholars: Mandatory for Muslims to Join Syrian Uprising
The League of Scholars in Syria has declared that it is mandatory for Muslims to join “jihad” in the country.
The 40 signatories include The forty signatories include Abdullah al-Moheisini, a Saudi cleric with the Jaish al-Fateh rebel coalition, and officials from Ahrar al-Sham and Jabhat al-Nusra.
Russia — We are Supporting “Patriotic Opposition” Offensive on Raqqa
The Russian military has declared that it is supporting an offensive by the “patriotically-minded opposition” against the Islamic State’s center of Raqqa in northern Syria.
Lieutenant-General Sergei Rudskoy said on Monday, “With the support of Russian aviation, units of the Syrian democratic army under the command of Ayman Al-Ghanim conduct an offensive on the IS capital — the city of Raqqa.”
Rudskoy gave no further details of the “patriotically-minded” force, but said it had taken “approximately 20 residential areas…from extremists” and established “strategic control was established over the important dam on the river Euphrates at al-Ahmar”.
The Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces have received US assistance as they advanced against the Islamic State in northern Syria. However, Kurdish political and military leaders have rejected American calls for an advance in Raqqa, preferring to extend their gains in Syrian Kurdistan (Rojava).
Last weekend, the SDF captured the Tishreen Dam in eastern Aleppo Province from ISIS, moving to the west bank of the Euphrates River for the first time.
Rebels in North Aleppo Cancel Ceasefire with Kurds and Dissident Faction
A rebel operations room in northern Aleppo Province has cancelled a ceasefire agreement with the Kurdish militia YPG and the dissident faction Jaish al-Thuwar, following clashes on Monday.
The operations room based in Mare’, near the frontline of battles with the Islamic State, said the YPG and Jaish al-Thuwar broke the deal reached earlier this month, occupying the village of Malkiya. Local sources said the Kurds and dissidents were threatening to move on the crossing of Bab al-Salama on the Turkish border and the nearby town of Azaz.
The rebel group Kataib al-Safwah issued a statement saying that the YPG and Jaish al-Thuwar killed four of its fighters and then declared that they belonged to the Islamist faction Jabhat al-Nusra.
Local sources assert that the Kurds may be seeking to connect their canton of Afrin, northwest of Aleppo city, with the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces who are advancing from northeast Syria in an offensive against the Islamic State.
Video: Children Wounded by Russian Airstrike North of Aleppo City
Injured children being treated after a Russian airstrike on Tal Rifaat, north of Aleppo city, on Monday: