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Syria Direct: News Update 2-17-15

Islamic State in hit-and-run attack on desert checkpoint The Islamic […]

17 February 2015

Islamic State in hit-and-run attack on desert checkpoint

The Islamic State captured a regime checkpoint along the Homs-Palmyra highway after a suicide attack in the desert countryside on Tuesday, but quickly withdrew amidst regime air strikes, Mohammed Al-Homsi, an activist and member of the Homs News Center, told Syria Direct on Tuesday.

IS killed two regime soldiers as the remainder of the checkpoint garrison fled, abandoning an assortment of weapons and ammunition: Three RPG rockets, two 14.5mm cannons, “DShK” and PK machineguns, hand grenades and boxes of ammunition are all visible in a post-op photograph released by the IS Wilayat Homs Twitter account.

The checkpoint, near the city of Sukhna northeast of Palmyra, is important because of its location on the Homs-Palmyra highway, Yusuf Abu Bilal, a former opposition activist and IS reporter in the eastern Homs countryside, told Syria Direct on Tuesday.

“IS aims to control all of Palmyra and Sukhna,” added Abu Bilal.  

IS fighters precipitated the attack on Sunday by setting fire to the Arak gas-transformation plant, located in Hafna northeast of Palmyra. After reportedly killing and injuring a number of regime and pro-regime militia soldiers in the attack, IS forces withdrew.

IS-Homs2121 IS raids regime checkpoint in Homs on Tuesday. Photo courtesy of Wilayat Homs.

Heavy weapons in Daraa city as northern front ‘quiet’

The Syrian regime intensified its attack of the contested city of Daraa Tuesday, reportedly utilizing cluster bombs on a rebel-controlled southern district and artillery shells around the al-Hamza wal-Abbas mosque, among several other targets, reported the pro-opposition Nabaa Media Foundation.

Meanwhile, farther north in the province on the Deir al-Adas front, “an uneasy quiet” has reigned since Monday morning, the spokesman for the Daraa Media Office told Syria Direct Tuesday.

Muhammed al-Mudhib, a citizen journalist near the Deir al-Adas front, told Syria Direct Tuesday that the ongoing battles in Daraa city are not related to the active front in the northern countryside, where regime forces backed by Hezbollah and Iranian fighters are attempting to push rebels away from Damascus.

“The two operations rooms are separated from one another,” he said.

State media agency SANA acknowledged its forces are fighting in rebel-controlled Daraa city.

“An army unit carried out a precise operation on terrorist groups’ centers in Daraa al-Balad [southern section of Daraa city and location of a-Rowda and the mosque] that lead to a number of dead terrorists,” reported state-owned news agency SANA on Monday.

In related news, the military spokesman for the Southern Front operations room said that the presence of Iranian General Qassem Suleimani on the battlefield is unlikely, in an interview with pro-opposition Siraj Press Monday.

Rebels fire rockets on Damascus airport

A rebel group based in East Ghouta launched six Katyusha-107 rockets on the Damascus International Airport on Monday, reported pro-opposition Aksalser.

The attack is the first since regime forces took over the Mleiha, Ahmed al-Nablisi from the pro-opposition Marasal Suri news agency in Outer Damascus province told Syria Direct on Tuesday. Mleiha is located between East Ghouta and the Damascus international airport. 

A video posted on A-Lawiat Kata’ib Tahrir a-Sham’s official Facebook page shows six Katyusha rockets being fired. A fighter narrating the video claimed the attack was directed at the airport in response to massacres committed by the regime in the cities of Daraa and Douma last week.

Most commercial airlines are no longer flying into the airport.

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