Roads to Damascus

ROADS TO DAMASCUS | archicivilians

What’s coming up in the summer?

President Assad once said that the Rebellion would end within 2014.  Nonetheless; it’s been really noticeable to see 2015 starting with Rebels (Syrian Opposition Forces) advancing from the south all the way to Damascus and taking-over major cities like Sheikh Maskin and Bosra, along with Nassib border crossing (which is considered the most important border crossing in Syria), and ending up controlling around 70% of Daraa province and half of the provincial capital.

A similar situation is also ongoing in the North of Syria, where Rebels ended 2014 by taking-over Wadi al-Dayf military camps and were able to launch offensives during March & April of 2015, taking control of the provincial capital of Idlib province and Jisr ash-Shughur city, forcing Assad forces to flee to Hama and the coastal areas, mainly to Assad strongholds.

However, the situation in Damascus is different, since it is the capital of Syria. Rebels stormed Damascus in 2012 and took-over half of the city and the surrounding areas, mainly through random offensives by many independent Rebel groups. Rebels made a lot of strategic mistakes in their offensive on Damascus in 2012, by controlling the populated areas before securing the supply lines. Assad Regime campaign in 2013 had started in Damascus, by retaking many areas they lost and forced Rebels to sign truce and ceasefire agreements after besieging them all the areas they took inside the city.

Today, fighting abilities and military capacities of these groups have drastically improved; bearing in mind their on-going engagements in well-organized and managed intensive training camps, mingling with other rebel groups, and having been involved in plenty of battles and clashes since 2011; it’s fair to say that their overall military abilities and experience have been progressing day after day.

Some example of these groups:

It’s becoming apparent that Assad is giving up on efforts to maintain the so called local followers and supporters to continue to be on his side and fight to his favor.  The situation is pretty much thought to be so as the field on Assad’s side today is filled with Iranian and Afghan mercenaries along with Hezbollah from Lebanon who have been overly so far the most powerful amongst Assad troops.  Furthermore, majority of battles and attacks these days are being led by IRGC (Islamic Republican Guard Corps – Iran) and Hezbollah.

So the question that stands out now, why is Assad losing?

Assad Regime campaign which started in 2013 by re-taking over the areas gained by Rebels in 2012 has just ended. Assad army reached a new stage in this war; lack of fighters with large amounts of arms and ammunition ending up with Rebel’s possession.

The situation in southern Syria is worsening for Assad fighters (the Syrian Arab Army and the National defense forces), since Hezbollah and the IRGC are leading Assad troops and mostly have been fighting instead of them (Afghan fighters from Fatimiyun Brigade which is linked to the IRGC). Recent reports and documentations by the Syrian Opposition indicate hundreds of foreign fighters (linked to Assad) have been killed in Southern Syria front lines since the beginning of 2015. The latest offensives launched by Assad Regime have all failed; Rebels changed the situation of Assad from an offensive to defensive strategy.

Rebels proved their ability to advance and achieve significant wins while fighting with no air-cover unlike Assad army and troops. The small and independent Rebel groups have recently been joining the larger Rebel groups, which played an important role in the Rebel groups new strategic movements and offensives.

Rebels just did a huge military parade near Damascus city in Eastern Ghouta; less than 5 Km from Assad palace, signaling for a huge offensive to be launched soon on Damascus city. An indication that the summer of 2015 will unfold some surprises.  This somewhat goes in line with what the Southern Syria Rebels are also promising the Revolution followers for new offensives to take place to advance further until they reach the western and southern sides of the capital.

Worth noting that Southern Syria Rebels have the much more advanced military equipment and weapons compared to Rebels in the surrounding areas of Damascus. This was based on their clear success seizing  large amounts of military weapons and ammunition in 2014 and early 2015 during  their huge campaign after they took the most important army bases in the South, including Tall al-Harrah, Brigade 61 base, Brigade 82 base, Brigade 112 base and dozens of hills including air-defense bases. Furthermore, Southern Syria Rebels own dozens of the US-made TOW missiles (anti-tank).

“Major changes regarding the situation in and around Damascus will take place in the summer of 2015”, pro-Rebel activists says.

Recommended article: Overview on Military Situation in Damascus City – The Capital of Syria

Overview on Military Situation in Damascus City – The Capital of Syria

The Military Situation in Damascus City – The Capital of Syria | archicivilians

Damascus City, the most important spot in Syria since it is the capital of the country. At the beginning of the armed revolution, Rebels started the military operation around the city and were able to take many areas in Eastern Ghouta, Western Ghouta and Wadi Barada Area in the north western outskirts of the city. In 2012, Rebels managed to take control of Barzeh, Tishreen, Qaboun and parts of Jobar in the eastern side of the city, and Darayya, Muddamiyat al-Sham and parts of Kafr Souseh in the western side of the city. After they secured their position in Qalamoun Mounts between Damascus and the Lebanese borders, Rebels advanced toward the city and took many areas in the northern outskirts of the city, including Wadi Barada area, al-Tall, Maneen and Ma’raba, getting closer to Qassion Mount and the presidential palace. In the summer of 2012, Rebels advanced rapidly to the southern districts of the city, controlling Hajar al-Aswad, al-Qadam, Yarmouk Camp, al-Tadamon, Babbila, Yalda, Beit Sahem, Daff al-Shouk and parts of Midan, Zahera and Sayyidah Zaynab.

Rebels realized that it is very important to focus on the military areas instead of the populated areas only, and the Regime troops may reach the besieged military bases at any moment and push Rebels backwards to resist any siege attempt on the Rebel-held populated areas. In the mid and late 2012, Rebels managed to besiege Damascus International Airport, the Armored Vehicle Base in Harasta and Brigade 39 in Adra area, and took control of Marj al-Sultan Airbase, Sayyidah Zaynab Airbase, Brigade 22, Regiment 81, Regiment 246 and Regiment 274 which was known as one of the largest Regiments in Syria. Rebels gained Russian 9K33 Osa (Surface-to-air missile) after controlling the Air-Defense Base in Eastern Ghouta.

During the Rebellion offensives on the city in 2012 and early 2013, the Regime was able to maintain the control of the supply lines. The Regime launched a strong offensive in the early of 2013, and was able to cut the Rebel supply lines to Western Damascus districts (Darayya and Muddamiyat al-Sham) by taking Judaydat al-Fadl, Judaydat Artouz and Artouz area in Western Ghouta. Another Regime offensive was launched in the early of 2013 on the areas around Damascus International Airport, the Regime broke the siege on the Airport and took control of Harran al-Awamid and Otaybah, and besieging al-Ghizlaniyah village near the Airport. It was a strategic advancement by the Regime after taking Otaybah area and the villages around it (Jarba, Bahariyah and Qasimiyah); Rebels lost their supply lines to Eastern Ghouta after they withdrew from the strategic areas of Otaybah and Adra (which were used by Rebels to connect Eastern Ghouta with Eastern RifDimashq Province.

The largest Regime offensive was led by Hezbollah and Iraqi militias Zul Faqqar Brigade and Abul Fadl al-Abbas Brigade, launched on Southern Damascus in the mid of 2013. The Regime was able to besiege Rebels in Southern Damascus districts after taking Sbeneh, Hussayniyah, Buwayda, Hujjeira, Aqrabah areas, and breaking the siege on Sayyidah Zaynab. After retaking many areas in and around the city, the Regime preferred to sign truce agreements with some Rebellion groups in the besieged areas in order to focus on the important front-lines like Jobar, Mleha, Darayya and Eastern Ghouta. Truce agreements were signed in Barzeh, Southern Damascus and in Wadi Barada area (mainly in al-Haameh and Qudsayya). Some truce agreements have ended after the Regime’s failed attempts to storm the areas, like Beit Sahem, Hajar al-Aswad, Qaboun and Harasta.

In late 2013 and early 2014, Rebels in Eastern Ghouta launched strong offensive in order to break the siege on the area. Two to three months of the ongoing battles; Rebels were able to retake Jarba, Qasimiyah, Bilaliyah, Bahariyah, Adra, and parts of Abbadeh, Qaysa and Deir Salman. The Regime launched an offensive on Mleha area near Jaramana, which is known as the western gate of Eastern Ghouta. After 135 days of the ongoing battle and heavy losses from both sides, the Regime was able to take Mleha, Hatitat al-Jarash and advance to the outskirts of Zabdin village. After they lost Mleha, Rebels launched a new military operation around Jaramana and they were able to control Dukhaniyah area for several weeks only, and retreated toward Ein Tarma Valley.

In the late of 2014, the Regime launched new military operations in Adra area, ended up by taking Adra Omaliya, Adra town, Tall Kurdi, Tall al-Sawwan and breaking the siege on Brigade 39. Nowadays, the most active front-lines in the city taking place in Darayya, Jobar, Harasta, Wafidin Camp near Douma and Tall Kurdi near Adra. Few clashes taking place in Southern Damascus (mainly in Yarmuk Camp and al-Tadamon) and in Wadi Barada area (mainly in Baseema).