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Syrian Opposition Launches Attack on Regime Forces

JOSEPH EID / AFP
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Fighters are allied with Islamist militants

Opposition fighters in southern Syria launched a counter-offensive yesterday on Regime forces on in rural western Qunaytirah Province. Their objective is to reach western al-Ghoutah on the outskirts of Damascus and to cut the supply lines of government forces to Qunaytirah. Meanwhile, it appeared that the attack was an “attempt to outflank the Lebanese Hezbollah guerillas to the west, who in February advanced towards Dar’a, Qunaytirah and rural Damascus. The director of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR); Rami ‘Abd-al-Rahman, mentioned that “the opposition was also advancing towards Hezbollah strongholds in Beit Jinn on the Lebanese border.”

Meanwhile, opposition fighters affiliated with Jaysh al-Haramoun were able to continue their advance towards the two regions of al-Hamar and Tal Buzaq, which links northern rural Qunaytirah with western al-Ghoutah. ‘Abd-al-Rahman noted in comments to al-Sharq al-Awsat that opposition fighters “are besieging the Druze town of Hadar, which lies directly southwest of the Syrian town of Majdal Shams (also a Druze town). It is worth noting that Israel occupies this town in the Golan Heights.” He indicated that if the opposition gains control of this town they will then be able to advance towards the regions where Hezbollah guerillas are deployed in Beit Jinn, which is located at the base of Mount Hermon. They will also be able to advance on the region that borders southeastern Lebanon.

Yesterday, Jaysh al-Haramoun leadership sent a message to the Druze villages on the eastern slopes and foothills of Mount Hermon. In the message they told “the local inhabitants of the Druze villages to avoid pushing their children into a confrontation with Jaysh al-Haramoun because the Regime wants to put them on the front lines in order to create the perception of fighting among brothers.” This coincided with the confirmation of the military commander for the Islamic Union of the Soldiers of the Levant (IUSL), who is allied with Jaysh al-Haramoun. The message went on to say that “Jaysh al-Haramoun is determined to cleanse the land of the abomination that is the Syrian Regime and its cohorts. So do not allow your children to join with them.”  

The attack came from north of the Qunaytirah Province four months after the Syrian government forces, reinforced by Hezbollah guerillas, advanced upon western rural Damascus, Qunaytirah and Dara’a. They were attempting to alleviate the danger to Damascus from the rural area southwest of Qunaytirah and prevent the opposition from advancing towards the capital unrestrained from the south. The attack was repelled at strategic Tal al-Harah last February.

The Qunaytirah Province, which is formed partially from land in the occupied Golan Heights, is a sensitive region located approximately 70 kilometers southwest of Damascus and has witnessed numerous clashes between various opposition groups and the army of the Syrian Regime and Muslims allied with it. An IUSL spokesman confirmed for al-Sharq al-Awsat that the attack was “large and sudden and would be a decisive factor in the fate of al-Ghoutah west of Damascus.”

Meanwhile, activists mentioned that the factions within Jaysh al-Haramoun controlled the two military strategic hills of Buzaq and Gharin in rural eastern Qunaytirah. This occurred after they infiltrated nearby locations and clashed for several hours with the Regime’s forces stationed there. The breakthrough occurred hours after they gained control of the al-Hamar highlands, which is where the Syrian President Bashar al-Assad established military bases. Activists are saying that the Syrian Regime is bombing the opposition-controlled areas. They added that these bases are located on the border shared with Israel, and in light of the Syrian revolution, became one of the most important points for the Syrian Regime because it overlooks most of the towns in Qunaytirah and the rural areas west of the Dar’a Province. The Regime forces used it to watch the movements of the opposition fighters and to bomb the towns where they were located. The most important of these areas are rural western Dar’a and the towns located in the Qunaytirah Province.

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