Bellingcat

Sunday, 16 March 2014

Elijah J Magnier On The Latest Developments In The Yabrud Offensive

Is Qalamoun battle over? Hezbollah will be standing on over 18000 sqm2.

Special report from Elijah J. Magnier – @EjmAlrai

The battle of Yabrud is over but not the battle of Qalamoun. As written in previous reports (see here), it took the attacking forces over a month to end the battle of Yabrud. Moreover, the nuns‘ exchange marked a turn in the battle when Jabhat al-Nusra  (JAN) asked a free passage to 1500 fighters. The request was refused but corroborated intelligence information to attacking forces regarding the number of rebels left in the city. Today, JAN accuses other rebel groups for the fall of Yabrud, claiming these did not fight. Similar claim by rebels was also formulated when the fate of Qusseyr battle was marked. JAN was the leading force – but not the only one – in Yabrud. Obviously, the rebels do not fight under one command, neither as one man like the attacking forces.

The city of Yabrud was under heavy shelling by air, artillery and ground troops who used all sorts of weapons (see previous report).

According to a reliable source within the attacking forces, “the Syrian Army offered logistic and fire support to Hezbollah fighters who launched a frontal simulated attack from Rima Farms and the west of Yabrud as a diversion. The real penetration of ground troops took place from the East, breaking the rebels defensive lines. By night fall, another penetration of forces advanced from West into the national hospital to meet the forces from the East in the city Centre were heavy fighting took place. Once the defensive line was broken, the rebels lost their will to continue fighting”.

“The attacking forces decided to launch repetitive attacks at night to limit the damage and casualties but also due to rebels’ lack of night vision equipment and rebels anti-tank missile (Kornet and others). Rebels relied on caves, hills and on the difficult topography of the area to slow down the attacking forces. The rebels were prepared for the battle since 4 months bringing in men and military supplies. Re-taking the hills first took most of the month and was not an easy task but a necessary move and an essential military tactic to ensure the protection of the attacking ground troops on the city. Hezbollah has lost most of his casualties in the mountains battle”, said the source.

The source explained “most of what was left from the remaining of the rebels fled Yabrud by night, leaving behind military hardware, as well as hundreds of bodies from different nationalities. These are Saudi, Kuwaiti, Tunisian, Egyptian, Moroccan, Iraqi, Lebanese and others. A small number of rebels have surrender”.

But this is not the end of the Qalamoun battle. Falita (West of Yabrud), Ras al-Ain (South of Yabrud) and Ras al-Maarra (South-West of Yabrud) all are on the main list of the next attack from the Qalamoun area. Rankus, around 80 km from Yabrud, maybe better attacked from Lebanon rather than Al-Qalamoun for its vicinity to the Lebanese-Syrian borders.

Many unconfirmed claims from cities in Qalamoun claiming a will to negotiate with the regime forces to spear the numerous cities south of Yabrud, including Maalula. It is clear that Hezbollah will not stop to celebrate its victory over Yabrud and will not take a break. The military operation will continue, taking advantage of the low moral of the rebels and their scattered men.

Moreover, the Qalamoun Mountains represent undoubtedly a future “military zone” for Hezbollah for its war against Israel. It is clear that Hezbollah, today, is no longer standing on 10452 sqm2 (the surface of Lebanon) but will be on additional 8000 sqm2, starting from Tal Kalakh, north of Quseyr to Zabadani, once the battle of Qalamoun is over.

3 comments:

  1. It's very unlikely that Rankus would be attacked from Lebanon. It's only close to the small, remote finger of Lebanese territory containing the tiny Sunni hamlet of Tfail. There are still no roads from the rest of Lebanon into Tfail despite several promises from the government to construct them, and the village is only accessible through Syria. In fact, the main currency used in Tfail is the Syrian pound. Hizbullah would have to trek on foot over some of the tallest mountains in the country in order to reach this area—Tfail sits at 1660m above sea level, one of the highest villages in all of Lebanon.

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  2. Signifigant gain by SAA and hezbollah as predictedI expect we will see collapse of the pockets of rebels in some areas of damascus where there is still fighting now their supply route has been cut expect those areas to fall.

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  3. Very interesting read, but surely square km is meant, not square meters. 10000 m2 is the size of a rugby field..

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