MESOP Special Report On The Yabrud Offensive From Elijah J Magnier / THE SYRIAN TORA BORA

A special report by Elijah J Magnier on the ongoing Yabrud Offensive.  His earlier report on the opening stages of the Offensive can be found here.

  • Al-Qalamoun, the Syrian Tora-Bora  – Al Jarajeer and Al Sahel in the hands of attacking forces – 207 rebels were killed in the first week by over 45 air raids, Kornet missiles, tanks and artillery – A full description of the battle map

It is not the battle of Yabroud but the battle of Al-Qalamoun.  Regular Syrian Army Forces, along side with Hezbollah Special Forces, initiated this week a ground attack against Al Qalamoun occupying strategic position and attacking cities around Yabrud. None of the forces engaged consider it is going to be an easy walk. The attacking forces describe the topography of al-Qalamoun, with its mountains and hills, as the ‘Syrian Tora-Bora’, referring to the infamous Afghan mountains.

Over 45 air raids were carried against the rebel’s position in the area so far. More than 207 rebel fighters were killed. All three arms (ground, air, artillery) are fully engaged on the front line.
Hezbollah claim that all car bombs are prepared in Yabroud, driven to Arsal and into its stronghold in the Bekaa and the suburb of Beirut.

A few days prior the beginning of the attack, Shaikh Naim Qassem, vice Secretary general of Hezbollah, explained that ‘it was necessary to put an end to the car bombs coming from Yabrud’. Sayed Hasan Nusrallah, Hezbollah Leader, will be tomorrow evening on Al Manar TV to talk about the newly formed government; the Takfirees operation in Lebanon following the arrest of Naim Abbas, a commander of the Al-Qaeda affiliated Abdullah Azzam terrorist group; to prepare the Shia community for the lost of lives Hezbollah will suffer in Al-Qalamoun battle as he did prior the battle of Quseyr and during Hezbollah full engagement in Syria since May 2013.

A high-ranking source in the joint military operational room said “Al Jarajeer and Al-sahel are fully under the control of the attacking forces, advancing at the moment toward other objectives close to Yabrud and engaged on different fronts. So far, we have counted 207 rebels killed even if the close contacts has been limited so far, allowing the fire power to pound all rebels positions in the area”. The source explained the course of the battle as following:

East: Syrian troops and artillery are deployed East of Yabrud on all strategic positions and hills overlooking Yabroud, from Al Nabak to al-Qastal where Rima farms, Yabrud and Ras al A’yn are under artillery fire control. This is essential to avoid any tactical withdrawal of the rebels toward rif-Dimashq.

North: The front attack has started from the North of Yabrud where the main attacking forces moved from Nabak toward Rima Farms. Strong firepower was used to bombard rebel’s position. The advance forces are also supported by the artillery positioned East of Rima Farms contributing in pounding the farms. Until today, half of Rima farms have been re-taken. No civilians inside Rima farms. Thousands left the area toward the Syrian position prior the battle. These are neutral families. Others, the families of the rebels, were divided between those who left to Arsal (Lebanon) and others toward Yabrud.

West: The main battle is in the West to support the Northern-front attack toward Yabrud. This is where the main military operation is engaged. On the West side, troops were deployed on the mountains and roads between Lebanon and Syria. Four of the six official roads are today fully under control. The remaining two roads are today under fire control and will be soon closed. No vehicle can cross between the two borders. There are ten unofficial roads between Lebanon and Syria, leading to the Lebanese city of Arsal. All these roads are today fully under control. The attacking forces are using smugglers of the area to identify all possible existing paths and caves. On the other hand, ground troops managed to enter both Al-Jarajeer and Al-Sahel. The battle is ongoing now in the surrounded city of Falita, under heavy bombardment.

Nonetheless, notorious inhabitants of Falita asked to negotiate an exit for rebels. The city of Falita is completely surrounded. Inhabitants were asked to gather all weapons in one accessible place for the attacking forces and to raise the Syrian flag is they agreed to surrender. The attacking forces will not enter the city unless the road is completely cleared. We have spotted 6 vehicles with armed rebels going from Falitah toward Yabrud. Anti-tank 9M133 Kornet missiles destroyed these. Hezbollah has effectively used the laser guided missiles Kornet in 2006 war causing heavy loss among the best Israeli tanks, the Merkava.
Always on the West, the attacking forces are advancing on the easier landscape between Falita and Rima Farms, closing the wing on both Rima farms and Yabrud. There is no close contact with the rebels in this area, allowing the artillery to open the road ahead of the ground forces.

South West: On the South West of Yabroud, there is the city of Ras Ma’ara. Forces are advancing North toward Ras Ma’ara to close the road to Yabrud. West of ras Ma’ara there are the Lebanese Shia area of Nahle, Baalbeck, Nabi-Sheet and others, preventing any infiltration into Lebanon.

According to the source, “the city of Yabrud has not been completely surrounded. A passage south of Yabrud maybe left open for a possible withdrawal.”

When asked about the same experience Hezbollah faced in Quseyr allowing some of the rebels to withdraw to fight these later in other places, the source explained: “We’re constantly revising our plans according to the battle field necessities. If all the rebels decide to stay, we shall face these. This is what we came to al-Qalamoun for. The style of attack has changed. First we use air force, artillery and tanks power. Ground troops come last. Rebels will be completely trapped inside if we decide to close the passage later. Ground troops will enter when little resistance remains. If the rebels decide to leave, we occupy more land (Yabroud/Qalamoun) with less loss and we shall face these some other time in the battle field if they still have the will to continue fighting”.

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