July 1, 2014
A coalition of rebels including Jabhat a-Nusra and Ahrar a-Sham, stormed the town of Um Sharshouh in early June, located 10km to the north of the city of Homs. On June 11, they announced they had “completely liberated” the town from regime forces.
Pro-regime media claimed that the Syrian army retook Um Sharshouh on June 15th, a claim corroborated by the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, though battles between rebel and regime forces for the village and the nearby hill of Tel a-Sanabel are ongoing.
Um Sharshouh is a strategic town overlooking the M5 Damascus-Aleppo highway. It is located along the dividing line between the northern Homs countryside and the rebel-held town of al-Houla, currently held by rebels as the regime has encircled it.
Syrian army soldiers in the outskirts of northern Homs. Photo couresy of al-alam channel.
Fighting for Um Sharshouh comes as rebels try to consolidate control over a sliver of northern Homs after surrendering Old Homs in early May of this year. The Nusrat al-Mustadafeen (“Backing of the Oppressed”) operations room is a central player in the campaign, which conducted the June assault on Um Sharshouh. Its priority, operations room member Abu Abdullah explains to Osama Abu Zaid, is“regaining control of [the city of] Homs.”
What are the factions which make up the Nusrat al-Mustadafeen operations room? And why was it named Nusrat al-Mustadafeen [aid for the vulnerable]?
The participating factions are the Islamic Front, Jabhat a-Nusra and the 313 Brigade. The Islamic front includes Harakat Ahrar A-Sham, and Al-Ansar Brigades.
About the name—the operations room was formed before the [rebels’] departure from Homs. Our goal was to break the siege, so we called the operations room Nusrat al-Mustadafeen for the sake of supporting the people of Homs.
What is the goal of this operation? It is connected with the attempt to regain [rebel] control of Homs?
Of course, regaining control of Homs is the operation room’s primary goal. It’s a given that the operation will pave the way to liberate large areas of Homs.
What is the importance of the town of Um Sharshouh militarily?
Um Sharshouh is a point far up in the Homs northern outskirts line. Militarily, it protects Geboren and Kfarnan, which separate the northern outskirts from al-Houla. They are the last headquarters of the armed opposition in Homs.
What are the most important successes up until now in the battle called “Now We Attack,” i.e., the battle for Um Sharhsouh?
Up until now I can tell you that progress is good. The battles we are fighting are very close to the Um Sharshouh citadel, which means progress. Perseverance in this battle, that’s an accomplishment and precedent in the battles which have been fought in the area. We announced that 35 of them [regime soldiers] were killed…there are wounded and killed on our side too.
Can we say that “al-Mustadafeen” operations room is the center of the largest united force in the outskirts of Homs, or is there another?
It’s an operations room; we’re going to improve, and raise the amount of cooperation between different participating factions to the highest level possible.
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