March 12, 2015
By Batool Hajjar, Noura al-Hourani, and Dan Wilkofsky
AMMAN: Several opposition brigades reportedly drove regime forces out of the village of Durein and its neighboring hill in the northern Latakia countryside Wednesday, reversing gains from a recent Syrian army campaign aimed at penetrating into the local opposition’s stronghold of Jabal al-Akrad.
The rebels quickly withdrew from the village after “killing a large number of National Defense Forces and foreign mercenaries,” Ali al-Hafawi, an Ahrar a-Sham spokesman on the coast told Syria Direct Thursday.
The spokesman did not explain why the rebels left but London-based al-Arabi al-Jadeed reported it was to avoid losses from expected regime retaliation in the form of airstrikes.
Hours later, Jabhat a-Nusra and other brigades took control of the nearby Duerin Hill, reported Nusra-affiliated Murasel Latakia.
Durein is considered the first line of defense for rebel-controlled areas in the Jabal al-Akrad area of the northern Latakia countryside, just as neighboring Durein hill is the highest point in the region, Captain Khalid Rahhal of the FSA’s Kateebat al-Hijra Ila Allah told Syria Direct Thursday.
Additionally, Durein is located next to the village of Selma, the armed opposition’s main stronghold in the northern Latakia countryside, reported pro-opposition Enab Baladi.
Regime control of Durein would “gradually lead to the fall of Jabal al-Akrad,” a local citizen journalist was quoted by Enab Baladi as saying.
Last week, regime forces were able to take the village and nearby hill by utilizing heavy air support and adopting a “scorched earth” policy, said Rahhal. The attack was part of the “We’re Coming to Your Aid O Syria” campaign launched March 7, which focused on defeating rebels along the Durein front.
Iranian and Lebanese Hezbollah fighters participated in the battle for Durein, Ahrar a-Sham’s al-Hafawi told Syria Direct. Opposition fighters in the area say they heard communication in Farsi on their wireless walkie-talkies.
“The army is only 1km away from the edges of the terrorist stronghold in the northern Latakia countryside, Selma,” reported pro-regime al-Bahluliya News Network on March 7.
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