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Syria Direct: News Update 8-26-2014

Nusra hangs on to Hama checkpoint Jabhat a-Nusra fought off […]

26 August 2014

Nusra hangs on to Hama checkpoint

Jabhat a-Nusra fought off regime attempts to take a key checkpoint in northern Hama, killing at least five regime soldiers Tuesday, according to pro-opposition news agencies Ikhwan Syria and Sham News.

The Bateesh checkpoint is located just outside east Mherda in the northern Hama countryside, where Jabhat a-Nusra has been fighting the regime for the past week. A-Nusra reportedly took control of the eastern district of Mherda Monday.

Mherda sits along the supply road from Hama city to the pro-regime coast and other pro-regime towns in the area. The town is also the site of a military base that the regime uses to launch attacks in the area.

Meanwhile, rebels led by Jabhat a-Nusra have also made serious gains over the past month in their push towards regime-controlled Hama city and the nearby Hama Military Airport.

Rebels form alliance to fight IS in Aleppo

Several rebel groups in northern Aleppo formed an alliance and launched a new military campaign to combat the growing threat of the Islamic State in the province Monday, reported pro-opposition news agency Halab News.

“In defense of our people in the north and east of Aleppo and in response to the aggression of [IS] we will repel them…and protect the revolution,” the group said in a statement released Monday announcing its intentions.

The new campaign, called Nahwahran a-Sham in reference to a battle in Islamic history, includes Haraka Hazam, Jeish al-Mujahideen, Liwa Fijir al-Huriya, Filaq a-Sham and Haraka Noor al-Zanki.

The group reportedly has already fought IS along the Turkish border, killing 43 IS fighters – two of whom it claims were American citizens – and taking three captive, according to its social media pages Monday.

Rebels in Aleppo fear that if IS captures the Turkish border crossing of Bab a-Salama in northern Aleppo, they will be effectively cut off from their supply lines.

Meanwhile, at least one source is reporting that IS has sent a large convoy of troops from A-Raqqa to reinforce the IS-controlled city of Akhterin in northern Aleppo following its capture of the Tabqa Military Airport in A-Raqqa Sunday.

نهروان Rebel alliance intends to fight IS.

Nusra to Hezbollah: ‘Don’t provoke us’

A top commander in Jabhat a-Nusra said Monday that Hezbollah is planning a “large attack” against it in the Qalamoun Mountains, while warning of the possibility of a new rebel offensive in Lebanon, according to remarks made to Turkish official news agency Anadolu.

The commander, who refused to disclose his name, noted that such a Hezbollah offensive would spell “death” for the Lebanese army prisoners under Nusra’s control, who were captured during the battle for the Lebanese town of Arsal in early August and transported to Syria days later.

“If we wanted to begin a [new] battle [in Lebanon] we could begin it…but we don’t plan on it currently, so don’t provoke us,” the commander was quoted as saying.

Also in Qalamoun Monday, 22 rebel factions announced the formation of the “East Qalamoun Gathering” to combat regime forces and Hezbollah “following the painful strikes which rebels have been exposed to” in the area, according to an announcement reported by pro-opposition website All4Syria.

Regime forces struck the town of Zabadani Monday, the last remaining rebel stronghold in Qalamoun, just 11km from the Lebanese border, with barrel bombs and heavy artillery, reported pro-opposition sources Smartnews and the Qalamoun Media Center.

An estimated 4,000 FSA fighters regrouped in Zabadani after fleeing regime and Hezbollah attacks in the Qalamoun mountain range, according to pro-opposition JBCnews.

Rebels aim for Idlib

Rebels attacked the regime-controlled Qiyasat checkpoint next to the town of Ariha in Idlib province Monday, destroying a regime tank in their attempt to disrupt the regime’s supply line from Idlib to Latakia, according to pro-opposition news source Siraj Press.

“The rebels are trying to capture Ariha so they can move closer to [Idlib],” Ines Qadur, an independent journalist in the south of Idlib, told Syria Direct Tuesday, “where they will be able to make Idlib city the next battle front.”

Meanwhile, Alalam, an Iranian pro-government news channel, appeared to confirm rebel attacks around Ariha Monday, saying, “[Syrian] army units ambushed groups of terrorists that tried to infiltrate Ariha from the direction of Nahlah and Urum al-Joz.”

Nahlah and Urum al-Joz are small towns located on the outskirts of Ariha.

The city of Idlib is completely under regime control, as is the coastal city of Latakia where Syria’s main seaport is located.

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