Bellingcat

Tuesday, 11 March 2014

Has The Release Of 13 Orthodox Nuns Created A Real Turn In The Battle Of Yabrud?

-       Zilzal, along with Burkan, introduced against Yabrud this week
-       Details of nun’s deal

Special report by Elijah J Magnier

Thirteen Greek Orthodox nuns and their three maids were held for over 3 months against their will by Jabhat al-Nusra (JAN), a Jihadi rebel group presumably affiliated to al-Qaeda operating in Lebanon and Syria. These were freed over the weekend after being abducted from their convent in Maaloula, north of Damascus and one of the rare locations in the World where the ancient language of Jesus Christ is still spoken. Their release marks a real turn in the battle of Al-Qalamoun.

A high ranking officer in the Syrian Army / Hezbollah joint military operation room who seeks anonymity said that ‘the order of the day in al Qalamoun battle is to concentrate all military operation on Yabrud, the city itself, rather than other cities. This move was due to:

1.     Intelligence information
2.     Request of JAN to allow a free passage for fighters as part of nun release deal

The source said: “Our intelligence information refers that, in the last week, several thousands of fighters left Yabrud for southern cities. This information corroborates JAN’s hostage release deal, it requested a free corridor for 1500 fighters to leave Yabrud toward Assal al-Ward and Rankus. We have rejected this request and offered the fighters to give up on their weapons, leave the city and surrender. JAN refused to lay down the arms. Instructions were given to shell Yabrud with modified Burkan and Zilzal. Moreover, Yabrud will be under intensified air raid this week like never before. The ground troops will be ready to break in and re-take the city once the shelling will stop. We are at the door of the city now.”

Burkan (Volcano), a short-range rocket and Zilzal (Earthquake), a long-range missile. The modification introduced by both Hezbollah and the Syria army turned the short-range rocket to a limited range of 300 m, and the long-range missiles to a shorter range but with a modified warhead that can carry explosives from 250kg to 900 kg.

Rebel sources deny the advance of Hezbollah/SAA forces into Rima farms, insisting the battle still ongoing inside the city and has not reach Yabrud yet.

No proof or footage could confirm either claim so far.

According to the source “There are many rebel factions inside Yabrud, mainly guided by Jahbat al-Nusra. JAN is led by Abu Malik al-Talli and his vice Abu Azzam al-Kuwaiti, both are directing the battle in Yabrud. They have offered to leave with their fighters. As far as we are concerned, the number of fighters inside Yabrud is irrelevant. We will deal with them”.

Regarding the nuns and their maids, the source said that “Qatar paid one million dollar for each hostage, with a total of 16 millions delivered by the Qatari envoy. Moreover, the regime agreed to free 155 prisoners out of 950 negotiated as part of the nun’s release”.

Rebel sources denied receiving any ransom.

Sources close to the Lebanese head of the ‘Sureté Generale’ Brigadier General Abbas Ibrahim, present at the negotiation, confirmed that “money was part of the deal”, without disclosing further information.
When asked about Hezbollah losses in the al-Qalamoun battle; the source indicated “Hezbollah has lost 45 so far with 4 reported missing during a reconnaissance mission and around 80 wounded. Hezbollah can accept up to a thousand if necessary to end the entire battle of Qalamoun and secure completely the absence of rebels along the borders with Lebanon and close to Damascus. Yabrud is only the beginning. There are other battles awaiting in al-Qalamoun further south”.

3 comments:

  1. what evidence the nuns were abducted the reports and evidence of there behavior suggest a level of collusion between JAN and the NUNs and considering Assad was bombing both towns trying to wipe it off the map its not like they really cared about them, the
    reason for "prisoner" exchange which includes children held by the regime was tactical propaganda victory for regime releasing a few prisoners out of hundreds of thousands isn't a big deal

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  2. Anyone hear about Alawite and Shite loyalists being pissed about Assad not trying to get some of their prisoners held by rebels freed?

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