HEAD FOR THE HILLS: Rebel fighters published video Sunday declaring their takeover of government positions on the Eastern Tel Ahmar Hills in Syria’s southwestern Quneitra province, with FSA-linked sources claiming that the victory gives them “almost complete control” over the southern belt of the province.
“The Eastern Tel Ahmar Hills are the last regime stronghold in southern Quneitra after the liberation of the Western Hills [earlier this month], which are larger than the Eastern Hills and roughly one kilometer away,” Quneitra-based activist Abu Safyan told Syria Direct Sunday.
The Tel Ahmar Hills run across southern Quneitra province, with Western Tel Ahmar lying within 2 km of IDF positions in the Israeli-controlled Golan Heights and Eastern Tel Ahmar lying along Quneitra’s eastern border with Daraa province.
“The hills are important because they look out over all the roads in southern Quneitra, so Syrian forces can constantly target the Free Syrian Army’s resupply routes—to say nothing of the shelling on surrounding villages,” said Quneitra-based activist Jamal al-Joulani Abu al-Abbas in comments to Syria Direct.
“This tank is what has been shelling civilians!” shouts one of the rebels in the video.
The video shows rebels from Liwa a-Subtayn, a moderate Free Syrian Army-affiliated formation, climbing on government tanks on Eastern Tel Ahmar after claiming control from regime forces. Hardline Islamist groups such as Jabhat a-Nusra and Ahrar a-Sham have been active in the fight for Quneitra and neighboring Daraa, but with a less preeminent role than in much of the fighting for northern Syria.
The victory on Tel Ahmar comes just three days after opposition fighters claimed to have seized the Tel al-Jabia military base in western Daraa province, less than 25 km southeast of the al-Ahmar hills, raising the possibility that rebels could consolidate their control over a contiguous strip of militarily valuable territory less than 100 km southwest of Damascus.
Video courtesy of Liwa a-Subtayn.
-April 27, 2014