For the past few days since the Liberation of Mhardeh operation started, Jabhat al-Nusra’s shells have made the city hell. However, it continued to shell at a distance since the Islamic forces were not able to carry out a deep incursion. The battle was mainly between the militants and the national defense forces in al-Turabi hill, Bteish — where the militants control an important checkpoint — and in the north.
The head of the national defense forces in Mhardeh, Abu Fahd, who was injured during the clashes yesterday, told An-Nahar: “The defense forces were able to reach Bteish checkpoint, controlled by the militants, and were able to take control of it. However, for tactical reasons and due to the amount of shelling over the city, we cleared out of the site. We are able to regain control at any given time. It is a major strategic point for us.” He added, “The militants are trying to move in from one direction — from the east at Halfaya — which is the only way for them to succeed in penetrating the defense forces.”
According to Abu Fahd, the clashes are occurring nearby. “The clashes from the eastern side are taking place on two main battlefields. The first is at 600 meters away from us and the second is at 3 km. The situation is tough, especially since around a hundred shells hit the city yesterday, injuring 67 people and killing one soldier from the army and two defense soldiers (one from Mhardeh and the second from Al-Suqaylabiyah).” He also explained, “Halfaya, which has already made peace with the Syrian government, turned into a gathering point for displaced people. The population of the town reached 60,000; however, two days ago they were all displaced by Jabhat al-Nusra and only around 3,000 militants remained to fight us.”
Jabhat al-Nusra militants are attacking the city on the northern side from the villages of Kfar Yazeed, Tal Melh and Tamale.
Abu Fahd said, “The battle for the northern side is not as dangerous as the eastern and southern ones, since the militants are failing to move in. They are, however, constantly trying to penetrate the defense forces through individually moving in from the woods of Ziwar al-Assi.”
He confirmed that the militants have established a tight siege around the city and managed to cut off the electricity. On Aug. 23, they tried to enter the power station in Mahrada from the Helfaya side, leading to violent clashes with the defense forces. However, the militants failed and withdrew after damaging the station.
Abu Fahd added, “The situation on the field is undeniably tough, but our morale is high and we have only one thing to say to the Jabhat al-Nusra militants and the international community: We will never leave and we will die in this land.”
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