Syria Direct: News Update 5-19-15

JAI launches new East Ghouta battle

Jaish al-Islam began a new operation Monday to destroy theregime’s first line of  defense in East Ghouta, a brigade responsible for bombing towns across the Damascus suburbs and providing medical services to regime soldiers in the area, JAI spokesman Islam Aloush told Syria Direct Tuesday.
 
On Monday, rebels captured four of the eight military installations listed as targets in JAI's announcement of the new battle, said Aloush. Captured targets include the al-Adm Mosque, which looks out over the rebel-controlled village of Hosh al-Fara.
 
The Syrian Revolutionary Command Council in the Damascus Countryside confirmed the launch of the battle to break open the regime’s line as well as the capture of the al-Adm Mosque, reported pro-opposition news website All4Syria. The council coordinates media and humanitarian aid activity in the Damascus suburbs.
 
Liwa 39, the regime’s defense line, stretches from Medaa to the east to Tel Kurdi to the west. 

Islamic State attacks Druze village in Suwayda province

Islamic State fighters attacked a village in the north of the Druze majority Suwayda province on Tuesday before regime forces drove them out, reported the regime-affiliated National Defense Forces (NDF), in an incursion into what has been a largely neutral region.
 
IS fighters “encircled the village and threatened the residents to surrender over loudspeakers,” the director of the Suwayda News Network told ARA News Agency on Tuesday.
 
Druze NDF units were able to repel the pre-dawn attack on al-Haqf Tuesday, with two killed and two others injured, reportedthe Suwayda Timely News Network.
 
“Al-Haqf is a small village without a presence of government forces,” Noura al-Basha, a member of the Organizers of the Syrian Revolution in Suwayda province told Syria Direct on Tuesday, adding that “the reason for the attack was to frighten residents with acts of sectarian killing.”
 
This was the second attack on al-Haqf village, which rebuffed an IS attack early last December. It is the closest village in the province to areas under IS control, and lies 12 kilometers away from the regime-controlled Khalkhalah military airport, and 10 kilometers from the strategically important Suwayda-Damascus road.
 
IS media said on Tuesday that they had targeted the Khalkhalah airport.
 
Most Druze in Suwayda have preferred neutrality in the current conflict, a position the opposition often interprets as pro-regime, Suwayda citizen journalist Ziad al-Asmar told Syria Direct in an interview last month.

YPG forces encircle IS villages with regime support

The YPG encircled at least a dozen Islamic State-controlled villages outside Tal Tamer in the northwest countryside of Al-Hasakah on Monday reported ROJ News.
 
“The Syrian regime assisted the YPG with warplanes on the western front of Tal Tamer,” Musab Al-Hamidi, the spokesperson for the pro-opposition Youth Union of Al-Hasakah told Syria Direct on Tuesday. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights also reported regime support for the YPG on Monday.
 
Tal Tamer and its surrounding villages sit on an international highway near the Ras Al-Ayn border crossing with Turkey that connects Aleppo to the governorate of Al-Hasakah.
 
“IS still controls a lot of the roads that connect to the area of Tal Tamer,” said Al-Hamidi.
 
The YPG’s latest advancements are part of its “Shahid Robar Qamishlu” campaign launched on May 6 to clear the western Al-Hasakah countryside of Islamic State forces.
 
It was not clear whether the international coalition is directly participating in the campaign, though it has previously provided air cover for recent YPG campaigns in Al-Hasakah province. 

YPG battles the Islamic State in the southern Hasakah countryside. Photo courtesy of Ali Hassan.