Syria Direct: News Update 9-9-14

Syrian army recaptures Hama turf

The Syrian army recaptured the Rahbat Khatab military base in northwest Hama province from FSA-affiliated rebels and Jabhat a-Nusra Tuesday, stemming the opposition’s advance toward the Hama military airport, according to pro-opposition news agency Aksalser. 

The regime captured a string of villages surrounding Rahbat Khatab earlier this week in preparation for storming the rebel launching point for attacks against the airport.

Abu Mohamad, a member of the Military Council for Hama, confirmed the loss of Rahbat Khatab on social media.

“Regime forces backed by fighters from the National Defense took control over Khatab,” he said in a statement

The regime heavily bombed the town prior to taking it over, “launching 22 strikes against [Rahbat Khatab] since this morning,” the Khatab Local Coordination Committee said Wednesday. 

In addition to being a base from where the rebels launched attacks in Hama, Rahbat Khatab was also an important point on the supply line between southern Idlib and armed groups in Hama.

Warplanes pound Jobar

The regime intensified its aerial campaign over the east Damascus neighborhood of Jobar Tuesday, conducting 16 air raids as of publishing and slamming the district with an unspecified number of surface-to-surface missiles, according to the Greater Damascus Local Coordination Committee.

“The conclusion of this battle has drawn near,” said an unnamed Syrian military source quoted by the London-based daily a-Rai al-Youm Monday, adding that the Syrian army has taken control of more than half the town.

“The military and political leadership made a decision—carved in stone—to enter Jobar...and cleanse it entirely of armed groups.”

The regime began its attempt to recapture rebel-held Jobar last week, an offensive which comes on the heels of the regime's capture of Mleiha last month.

Jobar and Mleiha are considered gateways into East Ghouta, the rebel-held suburbs located east of Damascus that serve as the opposition headquarters in the area.

Rebels hold momentum in Quneitra despite barrel bombs

Rebels pressed their advance in Quneitra province Monday and Tuesday morning by capturing four villages as they attempt to open a path northeast into rebel-held West Ghouta, according to pro-opposition Sham News Network.

“Rebels have come to control approximately 80 percent of the outskirts of Quneitra,” Locka al-Zuabi, head of the Ababil Houran Battalions' media office, told Syria Direct Tuesday.

“They are now aiming for Quneitra city.”

Embedded image permalinkRebels capture Naba a-Sakhr in push towards Damascus suburbs. Photo courtesy of @3amaral7arery

The regime responded by dropping barrel bombs on several rebel-held positions, including the town of Naba a-Sakhr, which falls adjacent to the villages the FSA captured Monday, according to the Naba a-Sakhr Local Coordination Committee.

The rebel assault in Quneitra is part of the “Chargers at Dawn” Battle, announced last Thursday, which includes the Ababil Houran Battalions, Fursan al-Ababil Brigade, and other FSA outfits, and aims to capture key regime-held points in Quneitra before advancing into rebel-held West Ghouta.

Lebanon: ‘No room’ for Syrians, says minister

The Lebanese government “will limit the entrance” of Syrians into the country, adding that “Lebanon no longer has room for a single displaced person,” Minister of Social Affairs Rashid Darbas said in an interview Monday with the pro-Assad Lebanese channel Al-Jadeed.

Darbas’s comments come as rebels led by Jabhat a-Nusra, the Islamic State and the FSA continue to fight with the Lebanese army and Hezbollah in the Arsal Mountains on the border between Syria and Lebanon.

The Lebanese government, especially Hezbollah, has been a staunch supporter of Assad during the conflict. On Monday Syrian warplanes reportedly bombed the fighters in the Arsal Mountains, according to the state-run Lebanese National News Agency.

However, Darbas at least, appeared to suggest that the Syrian government had to change its policies towards refugees.

“We will not accept everyone who comes from far places [in Syria]; the [Syrian] state is responsible for taking care of them…not us.”

Fighting between the Syrian opposition groups and the Lebanese Army has increased tensions between the Syrian refugees living in northern Lebanon and local Lebanese, especially after Nusra and IS captured 22 Lebanese soldiers in August.

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