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Syria Direct: News Update 11-20-14

Quneitra rebels intensify campaign against Baath city Rebels including Jabhat […]

20 November 2014

Quneitra rebels intensify campaign against Baath city

Rebels including Jabhat a-Nusra assaulted regime positions in and around the city of Baath Wednesday as part of the “Victory from God and an Imminent Conquest” campaign, eliminating the regime’s first line of defense in the city, reported pro-opposition Sheikh Miskeen al-Hadath news.

Rebels also captured three buildings and destroyed the Baath city tower.

Pro-regime newspaper Al-Watan reported Wednesday that “army and national defense units prevented terrorists’ attempts to infiltrate Baath city and Khan Arnaba, and dealt them heavy losses in personnel and equipment.” 

Rebels including the Fajr a-Tawheed and Fath a-Sham operations rooms, Jabhat a-Nusra and other FSA brigades announced the “Victory from God and an Imminent Conquest” campaign in a video uploaded to YouTube on Tuesday. The campaign aims to rid Quneitra of regime forces by taking Baath and Khan Arnaba, and then to open a path northeast towards Damascus.

In related news, regime warplanes struck the towns of Saida, Maarba and al-Hara in the Daraa countryside Wednesday, resulting in at least nine deaths in al-Hara including four children, reported pro-opposition news agency Syria Mubasher.

QunietraNusra fighters attack Baath and Khan Arnaba on Wednesday. Photo courtesy of .

Warplanes target IS capital

Regime warplanes bombed the Islamic State-controlled city of A-Raqqa – the militant organization’s de facto capital in Syria – on Wednesday, killing nine and injuring 16 others, reported the monitoring group Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

“The Syrian regime bombed A-Raqqa city with two airstrikes, the first hitting near a school and the second exploding inside a park in the middle of the city,” said the pro-opposition news campaign A-Raqqa is Being Slaughtered Silently.

Wednesday’s attacks are another sign of the regime’s increased use of air power in the two months since the US-led coalition began bombing IS and other Islamist groups in the country.

Over the past month alone, the regime reportedly conducted 1,592 aerial operations, resulting in at least 396 citizen deaths, according to the Dubai-based news agency Al-Arabiya.

IS takes back Shar gas fields, again

Fighters with the Islamic State (IS) reclaimed the Shar gas fields in eastern Homs Wednesday from regime forces, reported Emirates-based Eremnews.

IS took several officers captive during the assault and killed Muhsin Saeed Al-Hussein, head of the regime’s elite “Desert Falcons” force, reported pro-opposition website All4Syria.

The Shar gas fields have alternated between regime and IS control since the summer. Most recently, IS captured the fields on November 3 only for regime forces to retake them three days later.

For its part, Syrian official state news agency SANA reported Wednesday that Syrian army forces continued to pursue IS “remnants” in the eastern Homs countryside after recapturing the fields on November 6, while failing to mention that IS retook the fields Wednesday.

The Shar gas fields are among the largest in Syria. They took on greater strategic importance to the regime—already struggling to meet energy demands in areas under its control—following IS’s takeover of the majority of oil fields in Deir e-Zor province in July.

On a military level, the Shar oil fields “help the regime secure central Syria against IS attack,” as they are “part of the primary artery connecting eastern and western Syria,” Khaled Atallah wrote for Al-Monitor on November 18, citing retired army officer Col. Hafez Nabil.

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