March 17, 2014
The rebel-held town of Yabroud fell to regime and Hezbollah fighters over the weekend, with only a small contingent of Jabhat a-Nusra and other fighters vying for control of southwestern portions of the city. “Pray, pray for those who remain in Yabroud—esteem and dignity,” wrote Yabroud’s Local Coordination Committee in a Facebook post Sunday.
Most rebels withdrew over the weekend to nearby towns and villages such as Rankous and Fleita, prompting Jabhat a-Nusra and other hardline groups to accuse fighters from the Free Syrian Army and the Islamic Front of having betrayed the rebel cause in Yabroud.
A small contingent of rebel fighters led by Jabhat a-Nusra continued to fight for control of areas in southern Yabroud Sunday. Photo courtesy of the Qalamoun Observation Unit.
“Alloush’s army betrayed and surrendered Yabroud to the Alawites,” tweeted one Islamic State in Iraq and a-Sham supporter on Sunday, referring to Islamic Front leader Zahran Alloush. “Just like they handed over al-Qusayr before,” he added, alluding to the regime-Hezbollah victory in the town of al-Qusayr last summer, after which rebels exchanged similar recriminations. Rebel activists have refuted these allegations, circulating an Arabic hashtag on Twitter Monday that roughly translates to “do not deny the revolutionaries their due credit.”
As pro-Assad forces moved Sunday to consolidate their control of Yabroud, Jabhat a-Nusra spokesman in Qalamoun Abdallah Azzam a-Shami published a series of tweets purporting to outline rebel groups’ retreat from Yabroud and hinting that they may have done so after a hidden agreement with the regime.
“The biggest disgrace,” a-Shami tweeted, “is that these groups showed no shame in abandoning the front lines.”
Translation by Syria Direct’s Alex Simon.
A collection of tweets from brother Abdallah Azzam a-Shami, Jabhat a-Nusra spokesman in Qalamoun, regarding the handover of Yabroud.
Yabroud did not fall, Yabroud was handed to the regime and Hezbollah. I will speak on what has transpired in recent days in Yabroud.
1. Jabhat a-Nusra in Qalamoun was eager to shore up all different rebel factions in Yabroud, and we consistently took responsibility for the most violent fronts and flashpoints in order to spare other factions their evil.
2. When the Aqaba hills adjacent to Yabroud fell, all but a blessed few factions present in the town fled, leaving and abandoning us on the frontlines.
3. When these groups fled, they began circulating a rumor that Yabroud had fallen in order to justify their having fled to the media and to financiers. Sheikh Abu Mali remained in the town, urging fighters to return.
4. Some factions returned and we began to regroup; we sent one of the stronger factions in Yabroud to protect the strategically important Marmaroun hillsides [to Yabroud’s east].
5. We were shocked when the Syrian army took control of Marmaroun, with no resistance to speak of. At that point they had taken control of an important strategic location in Yabroud, but still only one part.
6. Saturday night, Yabroud’s military leaders met and decided to withdraw from Yabroud with no resistance! Was Yabroud surrendered to the Syrian army and Hezbollah, or was it sold??
7. Jabhat a-Nusra remained in the town with another faction or two until midday Sunday, attempting to bring other fighters back to the front lines and pick up the slack, but to no avail.
8. The biggest disgrace is that these groups showed no shame in abandoning the front lines, but were quick to say that Yabroud had fallen even though we were still there, sealing the fate of the mujahideen in the town.
9. Was Yabroud given away for free? Or was it purchased?
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