Syria Direct: News Update 9-8-14


September 8, 2014

Rebels down Idlib chopper

Rebel forces in Idlib shot down a helicopter with missile fire as it was landing in the regime-controlled Abu al-Duhur military airport on Monday, according to pro-opposition source Siraj Press.

The airport is a key base in Idlib that the regime uses to launch many of its aerial attacks in the province and farther east in Aleppo.

It is unclear which rebel groups managed to shoot down the helicopter, according to the Dubai-based Al-Arabiya News Channel.

The attack comes on the heels of increased fighting in Idlib as rebels in the province announced a campaign last week to open its stretch of the Aleppo-Damascus highway, now controlled by the regime, which runs between the Idlib and Hama provincial capitals.

Army breaks momentum in Hama

Syrian forces broke the advance of rebels on Sunday after capturing a village along their route towards the rebel-held military base of Rahbat Khatab in the northwest outskirts of Hama, pro-regime Al-Hadath News reported.

Rahbat Khatab is used by rebels as a launching point for attacks against the Hama military airport, located roughly 11km to the southeast, and contains large stores of ammunition and military equipment.

Syrian army units recently captured another village and several farms around Rahbat Khatab, which have “secured the safety of our forces who are preparing to take over” the base, said an unnamed military source quoted by Al-Hadath News.

Rebels captured Rahbat Khatab August 25, as part of the greater Badr a-Sham campaign that aims to take control of Hama military airport and wide swathes of territory in the northern and western Hama outskirts.

BxAlF2nIcAAn-PW Syrian army gains ground in west Hama province. Photo courtesy of @IslamicMoqawama.

Part of Jobar falls to regime

The Syrian army captured three buildings around a strategic mosque in Jobar on Sunday, continuing its recent efforts to gain control of the East Ghouta town, according to Hezbollah news agency Al-Manar.

The regime began intensifying its attempt to subdue Jobar, a long-standing holdout against regime attempts to recapture it, a week ago. The offensive comes after the regime’s success in capturing Mleiha, the southeast gateway to Damascus, last month. Jobar and Mleiha are considered the doors into East Ghouta, the rebel-held suburbs located east of Damascus that serve as the opposition headquarters in the area.

“Control over the area around the [strategic mosque] will lead [regime forces] to the middle of Jobar,” reported pro-regime Lebanese news agency Al-Hadath on Monday.  

At least one pro-regime social media account claimed that as of Monday, the regime controlled “75 percent of Jobar.” That figure could not be independently verified.

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