FIGHT CLUB: Combatants from the Tahrir a-Sham Brigade remained confined in the eastern districts of Yabroud Saturday as the battle for the last rebel-held town in the Qalamoun mountain range moved to the outskirts of the city. The battle began more than a month ago in the desert area [around Yabroud], then moved into civilian neighborhoods as word spread that the city, previously rebel controlled, fell into regime and Hezbollah hands.
The video from March 14th depicts a number of combatants, one of whom says, “Guys, go one way or another, the whole world is deployed in front of us.”
“They want to turn from the circle, over there. We have a group over there.”
The scene shows how tight the frontlines are between the rebels and the regime in Yabroud as a war of attrition takes wears down the city, a citizen journalist from pro-opposition told Syria Direct Sunday. “The regime is advancing toward the heart of the Yabroud, gaining control of wide swaths,” he said. The Free Syrian Army and Islamic battalions are currently present only in the south of the city.
The battle for Yabroud has been ongoing for 33 days, between the unified military leadership in Qalamoun which includes the Islamic Front, Liwa Tahrir a-Sham, Jabhat a-Nusra and a number of others battalions against the regime and Hezbollah and National Defense Force Militias. Yabroud is considered the last rebel stronghold in Qalamoun.
The pro-opposition Syria Press reported Sunday that as battles continue, Syrian forces are advancing on the Aqba hill that sit just near the northern entrance to Yabroud. Syrian forces advanced briefly, but rebels staged a counter-attack and regained the area, still clinging to a few of the outskirts of Yabroud. The rebel-held areas south and west of the city are still being heavily shelled by regime forces. “Some rebels are still inside the city at the moment, as the fighting shifts to guerrilla warfare on the city’s limits.”
The Islamic Front’s Army of Islam, which participated in the battle, said on Twitter that “the battle is push-and-pull since the morning hours, with dozens of dead from halish forces,” using a derogatory term equating the Lebanese Shiite militant group Hezbollah as the Shiite versio of the radical Sunni group Islamic State in Iraq and a-Sham.
Official government news agency SANA cited on Sunday a government source in reporting that “brave Syrian army units had restored safety and security to Yabroud…a new accomplishment in the important security ring in the border areas with Lebanon, tightening the noose on terrorist centers remaining in the Damascus suburbs.”