Jaish al-Islam ‘trying to end IS presence in Qalamoun’
A coalition of rebel fighters pushed Islamic State forces out of their positions on a mountain in east Qalamoun in a battle that aims to “open up the supply route from the north” and assist rebels in their campaign eliminate IS from the Qalamoun region a rebel spokesperson told Syria Direct on Wednesday.
“Our targeted area of operations has an important strategic aspect—to open the supply route from Syria’s north, and to be a staging ground for military operations against both the Islamic State and the regime,” said Jaish al-Islam spokesman Islam Aloush.
“Jaish al-Islam is trying to end the IS presence in Qalamoun, but this is a very difficult mission,” Aloush added.
Assorted rebel forces brought up reinforcements from East Ghouta, southern Damascus and Daraa to assist in the offensive against IS in the eastern Qalamoun mountains, which overlook the road between Damascus and Homs.
“The battle in Qalamoun will have a positive effect on East Ghouta if its goals are accomplished and [rebels] capture the targeted areas,” Amar al-Hassan, a member of the Revolutionary Command Council in East Ghouta told Syria Direct on Wednesday.
Rebel reinforcements in eastern Qalamoun. Photo courtesy of Ali Abdulbaqi.
Islamic State captures Palmyra oil field
The Islamic State (IS) captured the Jazal oil field 25km northwest of Palmyra on Wednesday, reportedly prompting a deployment of regime reinforcements to regain the lost field, reported pro-regime Al-Mayadeen news channel on Wednesday.
Jazal is the most important oil field in east Homs after the Shaar fields, Amar Abu Yusif, a Homs-based journalist, told Syria Direct on Wednesday. “Its loss means the regime will be particularly hard-pressed to produce a steady electricity supply for Homs province,” said Abu Yusif.
The fight for Jazal began Tuesday afternoon, “but IS forced the regime out inch by inch, first from its positions in Jazal village, then from the oil field itself,” the journalist said.
IS boasted of its capture of the Jazal oil field on Twitter on Tuesday, claiming the capture of tanks, heavy machine guns and Russian-make Kornet anti-tank guided missiles, arguably the most capable tank-killers in Syria, even compared to the American TOW system.
Druze spiritual leader calls for enlistment in regime army
Shortly after the Syrian army lost a crucial base in Daraa on Tuesday, a leading Druze spiritual authority in neighboring Suwayda province released an announcement calling upon all able-bodied young men to join the regime’s ranks.
“We direct a national and religious message to all the honorable young men who are able to carry weapons…to head to the recruitment centers,” Hikmat al-Hijri, one of the three leaders of the Sheikhs of Reason, whom Suwayda Druze consider a spiritual authority, wrote in the announcement circulated Tuesday. He assured potential recruits that they would only serve inside the province.
Al-Hijri warned of the “the terrorism staring down” Suwayda province in the call for enlistment, referring to recent IS activity on the province’s borders.
Thousands of young Druze men are wanted for mandatory military service. The Druze of Suwayda did not send reinforcements to aid the regime in its fight to protect Busra a-Sham in nearby Daraa in March.
Most Suwayda residents do not want to serve in the army, a defected Druze officer now living in Jordan says.
A-Hijri’s appeal “is at odds with popular sentiment towards refusing to serve in the regime’s army,” Hafez Faraj told Syria Direct on Wednesday.
Euphrates Volcano forces 10km from Tel Abyad
Kurdish and rebel forces cooperating under the Euphrates Volcano joint operations room engaged Islamic State fighters on Wednesday after advancing to within 10km of the IS-controlled border city of Tel Abyad in A-Raqqa province the day before.
The joint Kurdish-rebel fighters, aided by ongoing airstrikes by the US-led international coalition, are moving in from the both the west and the east. They captured a dozen villages as they advanced, reported pro-opposition news outlets.
In a related context, IS forces in Tel Abyad are reinforcing their defensive positions and building a three-meter-deep trench around the city in anticipation of an imminent battle for the city, reported the local news website Tel Abyad News Tuesday.