Syrian army prepares for an attack from its southern border

A tank confiscated by rebel fighters fires at a pro-government position near the Syrian city of Hama, on February 19, 2014. (Photo: AFP- Abu Hadi al-Hamwi)

Published Wednesday, February 19, 2014

As news about preparations by opposition fighters for a major offensive from the south of Damascus on the Syrian capital emerge, Al-Akhbar learned that the Syrian army is getting ready to confront any surprise attack after “monitoring, for some time, movements along the Jordanian border.”

As the battle in the city of Yabroud in the Qalamoun region continues, resulting in the death of large numbers of opposition fighters, the Syrian army is preparing for “a possible major offensive by insurgents from south of Damascus against the capital after the failure of the Geneva II negotiations.”

A source in the Syrian army told Al-Akhbar that “the army is ready for any surprise attack,” pointing out that “opposition fighters are amassing in Daraa and if they attack it will be from there.” He added: “There are serious preparations along the Jordanian border and activities have been closely watched that indicate a large number of fighters are preparing for a major offensive.”

Yesterday, fighters from al-Nusra Front and Jund al-Sham attacked from the city of Busra al-Harir in the eastern Daraa countryside a large Syrian army post known as the Kimyaa Battalion, northwest of the city of Suwaida. The fighters managed to seize control of the site after heavy fighting that resulted in the death and injury of 22 army soldiers and dozens of opposition fighters.

Sources on the ground in Suwaida told Al-Akhbar that “the villages in the Suwaida governorate along the western border with the Daraa governorate are on high alert. The village of Thaara is less than one kilometer from the military post.” The Popular Committees, the National Defense Forces and fighters from the Syrian Social Nationalist Party (SSNP), “fearing that opposition fighters might attack houses near the military post, set ambushes in the vicinity of the towns.”

In conjunction with the attack on the Kimyaa Battalion, fighters from al-Nusra Front attacked the city of Busra al-Sham in the southwest of the Suwaida governorate. However, the army, along with the Popular Committees in the city, were able to repulse the attack which led to injuries among government forces defending the city and many casualties among opposition fighters.

For its part, the Syrian army led a surprise offensive yesterday morning using tanks and air strikes against the villages of al-Hajjeh, al-Dawayeh al-Kubra, al-Sughra, Bir Ajam and al-Buraika in the central and south sectors of al-Quneitra in order to exhaust opposition fighters and diminish their strength, as Al-Akhbar learned.

The Syrian army also stepped up its military operations in Yabroud in the Qalamoun region located in the Damascus countryside. A military source confirmed to Al-Akhbar the death of more than 50 opposition fighters in Yabroud since the start of the battle including leading figures. The military source stressed that: “the Yabroud battle can not be compared to the battle in the Qusair countryside. It is hard to predict when it will be over,” adding: “What’s important is that the situation is moving in a positive direction and we are making progress, although it may be slow.”

Online sites close to al-Nusra Front announced the death of Abu Alaa al-Urduni, leader of the southern region in Damascus’s eastern Ghouta region.

The Syrian army continues its operations in Aleppo to the north where it made remarkable progress on the industrial city's front by seizing control of strategic points and storming the sprawling city from different directions. Army units managed to control two strategic hills that overlook the eastern neighborhoods of Aleppo in an attempt to tighten the circle around the fighters there. An official military source told Al-Akhbar that “al-Ghalia and Syriatel hills were liberated in a swift operation in which dozens of terrorist fighters from various nationalities died.” The source added that: “the battles are currently raging inside the industrial city, to the southeast of the central prison and in the farms and facilities located on the outskirts of eastern Aleppo.”

Opposition sources admitted that the Syrian army entered the city and a large number of fighters from the Free Syrian Army and al-Tawhid Brigade fled, while al-Nusra Front fighters continued to fight. Insurgent attacks have been restricted to the Quweiris Airport - 35 kilometers or 21 miles to the east of Aleppo - and army units have reinforced their posts in the vicinity of the airport where several planes landed.

Coincidentally, fighting continued between the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and the rest of the armed groups in north Azaz on one hand, and between ISIS and the Kurdish People’s Protection Units on the other side of the Azaz-Qastal Jendo front and the adjacent areas where more than ten Kurdish fighters were injured or killed.

In the meantime, the battle continues in the town of al-Zara in the Homs countryside and the Syrian Arab News Agency reported the death of dozens of fighters. The United Nation’s children’s organization, UNICEF, has called on Syria to work for the quick release of 56 children still held at a government center in Homs for interrogation. The organization’s speaker, Marixie Mercado, said at a news conference: “The majority of of the children are less than 15 years of age and the girls are at the government center with their families because their fathers’ or brothers’ files are still being studied by the authorities.”

In Idlib, several groups announced their unification under the name of Jaish al-Sham thus distancing themselves from the Islamic Front and ISIS. Some of the prominent groups included are Liwaa Daoud, Suyuf al-Haq, Ansar Allah Brigade and Suqour al-Sham brigade. A taped statement said that the goal is to “unify the mujahideen and focus on the main goal, namely overthrowing the regime.” The statement added that “Jaish al-Sham does not follow any faction or movement in or outside the country. It also does not differentiate between the other jihadi factions that follow a sound approach and appreciates their jihad.”

Al-Akhbar

This article is an edited translation from the Arabic Edition.

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