Syria Direct: News Update 9-14-15

Systematic Islamic State car bombings wreak destruction in north Aleppo

Six Islamic State (IS) car-bomb engineers were accidentally blown apart while fitting a car with explosives to strike the rebel-held town of Marea in north Aleppo, the latest in a month-long campaign to break the Marea resistance using multiple car-bombings, reported opposition news site Zaman al-Wasl on Monday.

“IS struck Marea with more than 23 car bombs in less than a month,” Madar Najjar, a commander in al-Jabha a-Shamiya, one of the factions ruling Marea, told reporters during a press conference on the plight of Aleppo’s civilians, held by the Syrian National Coalition in the north Aleppo countryside last week.

The phrase “car bomb”  belies the variety of vehicles IS rigs in specialized factories with several tons of conventional and improvised explosives–trucks, armored personnel carriers, tanks and bulldozers. IS vehicle-borne IEDs are launched in kamikaze attacks against enemy positions, or left as booby traps inside rebel-held cities and towns. They therefore serve a dual purpose: to pulverize their adversary’s defensive lines, and to terrorize civilians.

Marea has witnessed both devices. This past August, IS detonated a suicide car bomb against Marea in a failed attempt to storm the city, having days earlier snuck a car bomb inside to blow up the town’s rebel headquarters. 

 Marea rebels disassemble an IS car bomb. Photo courtesy of Shahba Press

Syria’s plains, the gateway into Latakia, about to fall to rebels

Rebels have the regime’s last military base in Syria’s northern plains region “nearly encircled” after advancing from the northwest, capturing a series of regime outposts on hills overlooking the base, a correspondent with the pro-opposition Syria Post told Syria Direct on Monday.
 
“With the rebel capture of the hills, the fall of the base at Jourin to rebels is as close as it has ever been,” said Mustafa Qantar, a correspondent reporting from Sahl al-Ghab, as the plains are known in Arabic.
 
“Jourin is now under rebel fire from three directions,” said Qantar, adding that “the regime has nothing left but the southern front.”
 
Rebel forces have been attempting to push the regime out of Jourin, considered the gateway to Latakia from rebel-controlled Idlib province, since the regime forces from the rest of Sahl al-Ghab retreated there last month. 

New benefits for regime reservists

The Syrian government announced the extension of benefits to state employees previously called up to reserve service in a decree issued on Sunday, highlighting the regime’s difficulty in bolstering its military ranks.

The new law grants employees who completed reserve service between 2011 and 2014 to receive their full back pay for the time they served, and guarantees that employees in both the private and public sectors can return to their jobs upon completion. 

The regime has resorted to firing state employees who did not fulfill their mandated reserve service. In Syria, reservists are picked from those who have completed their original 21-month term of compulsory military service based on their specialization and the army's needs.

The decision comes amidst regime difficulties in maintaining its military forces, with Bashar al-Assad admitting to a “manpower shortage” in a June speech.