December 9, 2014

The battle for Darayya, located near the regime-controlled Mezze military airport and one of the last opposition-controlled areas in the southern Damascus area, has resulted in almost total destruction throughout.

For rebels encircled by the Syrian army in Darayya, the war has moved to tunnels dug underground by both sides.

“Rebels spend months digging tunnels to reach their targets using primitive tools,” says an opposition-affiliated Syrian Revolution Media Office report on the subject.

“Digging tunnels is the only solution while the rebels cannot compete with the regime’s arsenal and equipment.”

Just over a week ago, rebels destroyed two regime tunnels attempting to burrow into the city. Residents call the battle the “tunnel wars,” as both sides use tunnels not only to target each other, but to capture a building, a city block – any turf to claim as their own.

The regime in particular is trying to capture high buildings, Mustafa al-Dairani, the pseudonym of a Darayya-based member of the pro-opposition Syrian Media Council tells Syria Direct’s Majdolina al-Jajeh.

“The regime digs tunnels in order to access tall buildings so their snipers can target rebel positions.”

Q: How does the FSA find the regime tunnels?

At first, FSA fighters used to hear the noise of the machines the regime used to dig the tunnels. Then, the regime stopped using the machines to dig because they don’t want rebels to know where the tunnels are.

Now FSA fighters are discovering the tunnels through the regime’s use of wireless devices and through cameras set up to monitor [suspected] areas.

The regime uses civilians and children to dig tunnels. We know that because a child’s body was found in a regime-made tunnel in Damascus last month.

The regime forces civilians and children to use primitive equipment to dig the tunnels. In some cases, we discover the tunnels after civilians and detainees flee. Five people escaped through tunnels and they told us about them. 

TunnelsDarayya Rebels in Darayya blow up regime tunnels in early December. Photo courtesy of @kitabatpedia.

Q: How many regime tunnels in Darayya has the FSA destroyed?

In October and November, 14 tunnels were destroyed by both the regime and the rebels. We call this time the “Tunnel Wars.”

Forty regime tunnels and 27 rebel tunnels have been destroyed since the beginning of the war in Darayya in April 2013.

Q: How have the tunnels affected the battle between the regime and the rebels?

Last week, the regime forces managed to capture four tall buildings after sneaking in from a tunnel. Rebels regained control of two of them.

Q: What is the regime’s goal in digging the tunnels in Darayya?

Despite the regime’s weapons and power on the ground, it couldn’t gain control of Darayya city. The regime now is using the tunnels as a way to penetrate the city.

The regime digs tunnels in order to access tall buildings so their snipers can target rebel positions and weaken their power in Darayya. The first tunnel the regime forces dug in Darayya was on the northern front and they blew up a tower that separates the regime and rebels from each other. These are the buildings that the regime is targeting in order to protect its soldiers during the clashes.

The FSA proved its worth by digging tunnels better than the regime. The FSA has managed to dig tunnels and sneak behind regime forces as it did in a battle in this past January.

Q: Where does the regime dig its tunnels?

The regime digs tunnels near the front lines of the fighting, like Saida Sukaina [Prophet Granddaughter], the Old Cornish street and Abbas Mosque.

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