IS cuts off key rebel supply route from Jordan to the Damascus countryside

AMMAN: Islamic State fighters in a convoy of roughly 100 cars captured the village of al-Mahsa in the eastern Qalamoun Mountains from a coalition of rebel groups Tuesday, reportedly cutting off a key desert supply line running from Jordan into the Damascus countryside, a local citizen journalist affiliated with participating rebel brigades told Syria Direct Wednesday.

“The battle resulted in nearly a hundred dead and missing among the rebel forces,” which included fighters from Jaish Usud a-Sharqia, Jaish al-Islam and other brigades, said the source, who goes by Abu Mujahid a-Shami.

A spokesman for one of the participating rebel brigades, who talked with Syria Direct Wednesday on the condition of anonymity, confirmed that IS had captured al-Mahsa.

 Jaish al-Islam fighter killed in al-Mahsa. Photo courtesy of Jaish al-Islam in Qalamoun.

IS's takeover of al-Mahsa means the “FSA's loss of the only supply line that begins in Jordan and ends in areas of Damascus and its countryside,” reported pro-Islamic State Amaq News Tuesday.

Abu Mujahid a-Shami confirmed that information: “it is indeed the only [rebel] supply route because the rest are under regime control.”

The rebel spokesman who preferred anonymity said that other routes were still operational, but that IS's capture of al-Mahsa “will make things more difficult” as far as moving supplies.

Rebel brigade Jaish Tahrir a-Sham reportedly facilitated IS's entry into the mountainous region, according to pro-opposition Rasd Souria. Jaish Tahrir a-Sham had previously denied rumors that its leader, Firas al-Baitar, had pledged allegiance to the Islamic State.

The rebel spokesman confirmed that Jaish Tahrir a-Sham had facilitated IS's attack on al-Mahsa.

IS's takeover of al-Mahsa comes on the heels of a series of victories in Syria's eastern desert region, including Aada Mountain in eastern Homs last week, and Tel Dakwa in eastern Qalamoun in February.

Ammar Hamou

Ammar Hammou is from Douma city in outer Damascus. He studied journalism at Damascus University and left Syria in 2011. Follow Ammar on Twitter: @Ammar_Hamou.

Dan Wilkofsky

Dan Wilkofsky was a 2013-2014 fellow at the Center for Arabic Study Abroad (CASA) in Amman, Jordan, where he worked with Talal Abu Ghazaleh Translation and the Ministry of Social Development. He has a BA in Classics (Latin) and Middle East Studies from Brown University.