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Syria Direct: News Update 8-14-2014


August 14, 2014

Regime takes Mleiha

Regime forces recaptured the majority of the strategic East Damascus town of Mleiha from rebels after managing to break through their defenses on Wednesday, Syrian opposition media and Hezbullah’s agency al-Manar reported on Thursday.

The capture of Mleiha after more than four months of combat was confirmed by opposition media, including the pro-opposition Sham News Network, which reported that the rebels withdrew after being exposed to “extremely violent bombing that continued day and night…with all types of weapons, including warplanes, helicopters, surface-to-surface missiles, artillery, and rockets,” adding that rebels “are now reordering their ranks in order to repulse Assad’s forces.”

https://pbs.twimg.com/media/Bu_xzdrCIAEHnkL.jpg:largeMleiha August 14, 2014.

Regime units are pursuing remaining rebel forces in the farms located north of Mleiha.

Rebels had broken the regime-imposed siege around Mleiha last week. On Monday of this week, government forces pushed back, launching a series of airstrikes against Mleiha and surrounding the town again.

As of June 2014, more than 5,000 families had fled Mleiha, nearly emptying the town of its inhabitants, while remaining residents staunchly supported the opposition even in the face of starvation and constant attacks.

“Legendary resistance,” and “the battle for Mleiha…heroism and sacrifice” were some of the slogans residents wrote on signs to raise fighters’ morale during a regime assault this past April.

Mleiha is considered strategic because it is the gateway into rebel-held East Ghouta and is located on the road to the Damascus International Airport.

Qalamoun still in play as rebels seek to advance

Syrian military forces supported by Hizbullah fighters attempted to stem a rebel advance Thursday in the Qalamoun mountains, engaging in firefights with rebels around the Shiite-majority town of Nahla and dropping barrel bombs and artillery in the vicinity of Ras al-Maara.

The fighting follows an apparent takeover by rebels—including the Islamic Front and Jabhat a-Nusra—of two regime checkpoints and four barracks in Ras al-Maara Tuesday, according to the opposition Qalamon Media Center, and supported by a video posted online by anti-regime Orient News.

By contrast, regime-affiliated newspaper al-Wahda said Wednesday that “Syrian army units killed terrorists during their attempt to penetrate…Ras al-Maara.”

The rebel takeover of checkpoints in Ras al-Maara, if proven correct, could pave the way for an advance eastwards towards the strategic city of Yabrud.

Yabrud looks over the M5 highway, which connects Damascus with central and northern Syria and is critical to regime supply lines and operations. A joint regime-Hezbullah 33-day offensive succeeded in routing rebel forces from Yabrud on March 16.

IS captures symbolic town in Aleppo

The Islamic State (IS) reportedly captured the town of Dabiq in northern Aleppo from rebels Wednesday night, according to the local pro-opposition news agency Akhtarin City.

Dabiq is symbolically important because it is associated in Islam with the Armageddon. The name of the new IS magazine which releases information about its victories and spreads its ideology is called “Dabiq” and the town’s capture may be used to attract new fighters.

An IS-affiliated Twitter account first announced the IS victory in Dabiq Wednesday afternoon, but the news was not independently verified until later.

“IS soldiers control the village of Dabiq in the northern countryside,” account said. Twitter suspended the account later that day.

In total, IS killed an estimated 40 fighters and took nearly 50 other rebels prisoner on Wednesday, reported the monitoring group Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

Also on Wednesday, the IS captured the nearby town of Akhtarin from non-IS Islamist rebels after clashes in the morning.

IS attacks last regime post in A-Raqqa

Clashes broke out between IS and regime forces around the government-controlled Tabqa Military Airport in A-Raqqa province Wednesday night, according to the monitoring group Syrian Observatory for Human Rights on Thursday.

Tabqa is the last regime-held outpost in A-Raqqa after IS captured the regime military base known as Brigade 93 last week and Division 17 in late July. The eponymous provincial capital has been the center of IS power since it captured the city in late 2013.

Pro-regime media acknowledged the battle for the airport on Wednesday, with pro-government Syrian newspaper al-Watan reporting the fighting as ongoing.

IS has slowly been consolidating its control over the north-central Syrian province since it began capturing heavy weaponry from Iraq in June and transporting it back to A-Raqqa.

Meanwhile, the regime launched air raids around the airport on Wednesday targeting IS fighters, reported pro-opposition news network a-Dorar that night.

The Tabqa airport is located approximately 60 kilometers west of A-Raqqa city on the Euphrates River.

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