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Syria Direct: News Update 2-26-15

Islamic State captures hill overlooking East Ghouta The Islamic State […]

26 February 2015

Islamic State captures hill overlooking East Ghouta

The Islamic State (IS) captured a hill overlooking the Damascus countryside 17km east of Ghouta after a bloody battle with Jaish al-Islam, reported the pro-IS Depths Agency on Wednesday.

“IS dodged the Syrian army, and instead attacked the Jaish al-Islam at Tel Dakwa, killing our boys and taking their weapons,” Mohammed al-Shami, the alias of a Jaish al-Islam fighter told Syria Direct on Thursday.

“IS forces are still far from Ghouta, and there are dozens of regime checkpoints and barracks in the region” for them to get through in order to get through, al-Shami said.

IS launched a surprise attack against Jaish al-Islam forces stationed outside Tel Dakwa at dawn on Wednesday, capturing several tanks and a number of light weapons and ammunition crates, reported the Depths Agency.

“Around 20 of our soldiers are missing … some were killed and the rest were taken prisoner by IS,” al-Shami said.

IS considers the Tel Dakwa heights overlooking the eastern Damascus countryside the “gateway” to East Ghouta, having gained control of the Bir Qasb region 14km  southwest of Tel Dakwa several months ago.

Kurds, FSA add to gains in Western Kobani countryside

Kurdish forces allied with FSA battalions captured Wednesday two villages on the edge of the eastern bank of the Euphrates River under heavy air cover from the US-led coalition, reported pro-Kurdish ARA News.

In capturing the villages, Kurdish and allied FSA forces aim to put pressure on the neighboring IS-controlled down of a-Sheikhoun, reported Kurdish-owned BAS News Wednesday.

The coalition reportedly carried out a series of strikes in and around a-Sheikhoun Wednesday, destroying four IS-owned vehicles carrying heavy machine guns.

In related news, residents from the Syrian-Turkish border town of Jarabalus, on the western side of the Eurphrates River, are trying to flee the area as Peshmerga forces and the coalition target the city, Jarabalus citizen journalists were quoted by ARA News as saying on Wednesday.

IS is preventing civilians from exiting the border town.

French seek Syrian aid on jihadi phenom

A French delegation headed by Senator Jean-Pierre Vial, chairman of the French-Syrian Friendship Committee, visited Damascus on Wednesday to meet with President Bashar Assad and other senior officials, reported state-run agency SANA on Thursday.

The delegation discussed the need for both countries to cooperate in combating terrorism, which has also begun to threaten Europe.

President Assad stated during the meeting that fighting terrorism would be mutually beneficial, adding with no apparent irony that Syria has always encouraged cooperation between nations as the only means of combating terrorism.

The French delegation further requested that the two countries engage in intelligence cooperation and exchange information regarding the movement of jihadist groups, and of French citizens who have entered Syria to fight. The government responded saying that security cooperation should be tied to political cooperation and the re-opening of the French embassy in Damascus.

Bashar-DelegationFrench delegation courts Assad in Damascus. Photo courtesy of SANA.

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