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Syria Direct: News Update 8-18-2014

Rebels attack Hama airport Fighters affiliated with the Free Syrian […]

18 August 2014

Rebels attack Hama airport

Fighters affiliated with the Free Syrian Army (FSA) allegedly shot down a regime warplane in Hama province and attacked the regime-controlled military airport near the eponymous city with missile fire on Monday, reported pro-opposition news outlets Smart News Agency and Aksalser.

The plane appears to have crashed near the Hama airport shortly after the rebels launched missiles against the regime base, according to pro-opposition news a-Dorar.

The attack on the airport follows the rebels’ capture of two checkpoints along the supply line between the town of Mharda, a center of the regime’s military operations in the area, and Hama city ten days ago. The military airport is located on the road from Mharda to Hama, just outside of the provincial capital.

Regime-affiliated news have not yet commented on the fighting.

Before the attack on the airport, rebels also destroyed regime artillery on the Mharda-Hama route Monday, according to pro-opposition new outlet Sham News Network.

Meanwhile, another regime warplane reportedly crashed in the Hama airport while attempting to land Saturday, reported pro-opposition site Islamic Jabhat Mourek.

The cause for the crash is unclear.

The rebels have been slowly attempting to chip away at the regime’s aerial superiority, capturing a regime pilot last Monday.

The military airport is also close to the regime factories that produce many of the barrel bombs used in the region.

Regime consolidates gains around Mleiha

The Syrian regime conducted six air raids in the predominantly rebel-held Damascus suburbs of East Ghouta Sunday—four in the municipality of Ain Tuma, and two in the town of Jisreen—resulting in three people killed and an unspecified number of wounded.

The raids, reported by the Jisreen Local Coordinating Committee, and confirmed by the pro-regime Lebanese network al-Jadeed, follow the regime’s capture of the gateway town of Mleiha last week, and appear to be part of a larger, overt regime push to rid East Ghouta of rebel fighters.

In the aftermath of Mleiha’s fall, rebel fighters fled to surrounding areas including Jisreen and Ain Tuma, which fall directly northeast and northwest of Mlieha, respectively.

Also on Sunday, Deputy Commanding General Fahd al-Fareed visited Mleiha in order to “check on the soldiers” and tour the area, reported official Syrian news agency SANA. Al-Fareed related “the greetings and love of Mr. President and Supreme Commander al-Assad to our armed forces’ heroes, who returned security and stability to Mleiha.”

Pro-opposition website Syria Press reported that over 70 percent of Mleiha’s residences were destroyed as a result of bombing over the past four months, adding that the area is “abandoned.”

Regime targets IS bases in A-Raqqa

The Syrian air force initiated 15 air raids against the Islamic State (IS) stronghold of A-Raqqa Sunday and 11 more on the IS-held city of A-Tabqa, killing at least 31 of their fighters and eight civilians, according to the monitoring group Syrian Observatory for Human Rights and pro-regime Syrian News.

The regime decision to bomb A-Tabqa comes as “IS advances along the A-Tabqa military airport front, in light of a campaign targeting the airport which began about a week ago,” Mahmoud al-Musa, a humanitarian activist in A-Raqqa city, told Syria Direct Monday.

In A-Raqqa city, the regime dropped bombs on a number of IS headquarters, including the military court and political security buildings, as well as IS’s self-styled “Aleppo Embassy.”

A-Tabqa military airport is the last regime controlled point in A-Raqqa.

Peshmerga advance on Mosul Dam

The Peshmerga, the Kurdish armed forces in Iraq, allegedly won control of much of Mosul Dam from the Islamic State (IS) Sunday night, reported independent news agency Iraq News Network Monday, but it is unclear how much they have captured.

“The Peshmerga forces imposed complete control over Mosul Dam,” an unnamed official in the peshmerga told Iraq News Network Sunday, “and are advancing in the direction of realizing its goals.”

But the source added that there were still “elements of IS currently present inside the Mosul Dam housing compounds.”

Peshmerga fighter looks out over the Mosul Dam. Photo courtesy of @28_muh.

Meanwhile, Kurdish news agency Rudaw said Monday that the peshmerga are still advancing on the dam.

“Contrary to reports circulating online, the Mosul Dam is not under the complete effective control of Peshmerga forces, [but] progress made.”

On Sunday, Abdul-Khaliq Babiri, a senior member of the Kurdish Democratic Party (KDP), said that the Peshmerga controlled “over 80 percent” of the dam, according to Rudaw.

The attack on the dam is part of larger counterattack against IS, seemingly in coordination with an increased number of US airstrikes around the dam over the weekend. When IS captured the dam 10 days ago, concerns arose that the group could use it to flood northern Iraq or to cut off electricity in the region.

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