Sunday, 24 May 2015

2015 Qalamoun Offensive

On 4 May, Nusra Front and allied Syrian revolutionaries launched a pre-emptive attack against Syrian army and Hezbollah forces by deployed thousands of fits ighters who took up positions overlooking Hezbollah and Syrian army outposts in the towns of Wadi Barada, Al-Kfeir, Zabadani, Serghaya and Hreira near the Lebanese border and by the next day captured several positions. The Syrian revolutionaries and jihadists crushed Hezbollah held towns and checkpoints with rockets, surface-to-surface missiles and mortar bombs.


Jaysh al-Fateh Qalamoun logo / twitter 


In early May the Army of Conquest expanded into Qalamoun region, forming "Jaysh al-Fateh al-Qalamoun" consisting of Nusra Front, Islamic Front [Ahrar Sham], Gathering of Wa Atasimo Bihablillah, and Free Syrian army brigades. Most of the 3,000 Syrian revolutionaries and Jihadists in Qalamoun Mountains are locals from Qalamoun and Qusayr. Approximately 1,000 Islamic State of Iraq and Syria [ISIS] maintained a position in the region's rough terrain led by Emir Abu al-Walid al-Maqdisi, ISIS has been allied with Nusra Front in Qalamoun since its presence there but not until recently when ISIS started attacking Nusra Front’s bases and checkpoints which resulted in heavy clashes between the two factions.




Nusra Front fighters during training / twitter 

Nusra Front has managed to defeat them successfully and capturing many of their bases including two Emirs [Abu al-Baraa and Abu Balqis al-Iraqi], 47 fighters and killing 90 of them later 27 of them were realsed since they did not participate in the attack according to Jaysh al-Fateh. The reason for the attack is to block opposition’s transport routes and to distract them from the main battle against Hezbollah and Syrian Army.

Jaysh al-Fateh statement declaring war on ISIS / twitter

Jaysh al-Fateh realising 27 ISIS fighters / twitter 



On 9 May, Hezbollah and Syrian army launched attacks against “Jaysh al-Fateh” capturing three villages in the Jour Al-‘Anib area and then later it continued its offensive by capturing Al-Barouh hill on 11th of May.  

On 13 May, Pro Hezbollah TV al-Mannar and Syrian Government Channels claimed that Hezbollah and Syrian Army has captured Tallat Mussa completely after capturing at least nine opposition positions during heavy exchanges of artillery and rocket fire along the ridge between Al-Juba, Ras al-Maara and Assal al-Ward. Earlier in the day, Hezbollah backed by Syrian Army troops, seized half of the outskirts of Ras al-Maara and advanced toward the highlands of Jabal al-Barouh which is linked to Tallat Mussa. Opposition fighters were pushed back towards the outskirts of Arsal. According to SOHR 36 opposition fighters, 18 Hezbollah and 13 NDF fighters were killed during the fighting.

Hezbollah Fighter on Tel Musa / al-Mannar


On 16 May, Hezbollah Secretary-General Nasrallah has claimed to have made significant progress in the ongoing battles in the Qalamoun mountain range on the Syrian-Lebanese border by capturing Tallat Mussa, Jabal al-Barouh & Ras Al-Marra with minimum casualties, but warned that the battles are far from being over.

Nasrallah revealed that 13 Hezbollah fighters and 7 Syrian soldiers were killed in the recent battles, which started approximately weeks ago. He said he was doing so in order to reveal what he called lies being perpetrated by opposition media channels who have claimed up to 120 Hezbollah fighters [including 7 commanders] and 32 Syrian soldiers had been killed. Recently Hezbollah has been recruiting many Lebanese Shiite youths from Beqaa villages in order to fight in Syria or as they claim to defend Lebanon’s east border.

Hassan Nasrallah / AlJazeera


Former Secretary-General of Hezbollah, Subhi al-Tufayli declared that the intervention of Hezbollah in Qalamoun is the fear of collapsing of the Syrian army so they wanted to defend the mountain borders due to its close location to the Shiite Beqaa villages of Lebanon.  Al-Tufayli has also warned the consequences of Hezbollah’s involvement in the Syrian war and its effect that could reflect on Lebanon, he suggested Hezbollah to withdraw from Syria in order to save Lebanon from further problems.

Many analysts say Hezbollah's claim on Qalamoun battle is more of a media campaign than a real battle on the ground. It was an attempt to cover up for the losses caused on the militant group in recent months, not just in Syria, but in Iraq and Yemen as well.

The Battle of Qalamoun is not important for the Syrian government but for Hezbollah since Syrian coast [Latakia and Tartus] and Damascus is considered to be the most important places for Syrian Government. Qalamoun is also considered a strategic area for both Syrian revolutionaries and the Hezbollah/Syrian army alliance, as it links Capital Damascus to Homs and the Syrian coast, as well as it provides key supply routes.

References:

The Daily Star: Hezbollah assault on Qalamoun ruled out (English) – [http://www.dailystar.com.lb/News/Lebanon-News/2015/May-05/296837-hezbollah-assault-on-qalamoun-ruled-out.ashx]

Al Jazeera: Nasrallah declares victory in Syria's Qalamoun (English) – [http://www.aljazeera.com/news/2015/05/nasrallah-declares-victory-syria-qalamoun-150516192033488.html]

SOHR: Hezbollah advances in al- Qalamoun area, while the clashes re- erupt in al- Yarmouk camp (English) – [http://www.syriahr.com/en/2015/05/hezbollah-advances-in-al-qalamoun-area-while-the-clashes-re-erupt-in-al-yarmouk-camp/

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