Renewed activity near Suwayda and Mount Hermon

This article from As-Safir presents the latest reports on the activity on Syria’s southernmost front and Jabhat al-Nusra involvement in leading the Hermon army toward control over Mount Hermon.

al-monitor An Israeli soldier speaks on his mobile phone at a military outpost on Mount Hermon in the Golan Heights overlooking the Israel-Syria border, Feb. 4, 2015.  Photo by REUTERS/Baz Ratner.

Topics covered

syrian war, south syria, opposition, jabhat al-nusra, golan heights

Jun 17, 2015

A series of developments have occurred during the past few hours along the southern front, from Suwayda, where armed factions have admitted lately to ending their attack on al-Thula military airport, all the way to Mount Hermon, where the recently formed Hermon army, composed of many factions, including Jabhat al-Nusra, launched a new attack in an attempt to take control of two villages that would allow them to link the Hauran countryside with Shebaa.

Battles have been raging between the Syrian army and Popular Committees against troops from the recently formed Hermon army within the perimeter of Hodr village on the base of Mount Hermon. All the while, mortar shells have been landing in the occupied Golan, where occupation sources have announced their intention to establish field hospitals in neighboring Majdal Shams.

In that context, militants launched the battle, bearing the name of “in defense of our free folk,” led by the Hermon army composed of Jabhat al-Nusra, Ahrar ash-Sham, the Osama bin Zeid Brigade, the Jesus Christ Brigade and the Ajnad al-Sham, with the aim of overrunning areas that remained under the control of the Syrian state in Quneitra province. Statements to that effect were published by the Seif al-Sham Brigade, which announced the formation of the “Storm of Righteousness Coalition” with the participation of the First Army and Ghorfat Ansar al-Islam.

An opposition battlefield source told As-Safir that the main objective was to break the siege on the towns of Jubata al-Khashab and Beit Jann, which form a corridor linking the foot of Mount Hermon with the town of Shebaa in Lebanon. This objective required taking control of the Red Hills situated between Hodr and Beit Jann, as well as another hill east of Jubata al-Khashab, in effect linking the Hauran countryside in the Golan with Mount Hermon and Jordan to the south.

The Hermon army’s manifesto included a warning to the inhabitants of neighboring Druze villages not to “involve their children in this battle,” or hinder the advance of the armed faction. It further demanded that the villages and their inhabitants not meddle in the conflict “lest they would suffer the same fate as the regime.”

Another noteworthy point was that the battle was initiated in this area of the Golan just one day after the commander of the Yarmouk army, Bashar al-Zohbi, announced the end of the offensive on the al-Thula military airport in Suwayda Province, after a series of attacks that failed to achieve their desired objective. In his statement, Zohbi mentioned those “who let down and betrayed the blood of our martyrs,” and described those who retreated as weak laggards. In that regard, opposition sources claimed that the aim of Zohbi’s operation was to put pressure on the Military Operations Command in Jordan to reinstate him to its ranks — a claim bolstered by the fact that relatively few factions took part in the attack: only seven, compared to the 50 military factions that participated in last week’s “Brigade 52” battle. Opposition sources further added that the Military Operations Command insisted on keeping Zohbi and the Yarmouk army away from battles on the southern front.

In a telephone interview with As-Safir, military analyst Maj. Gen. Thabet Mohammed described the geography of the area, where the eastern and western Red Hills were under the control of armed factions and situated directly on the border. While Baath City, located east of Quneitra, served as a stepping stone that linked the northern countryside with the towns of Hodr and Beit Jann at the foot of Mount Hermon, as well as al-Samadaniya in the east, from whence access can be gained to hills such as Tell al-Mal, Tell Musahara and Tell al-Shaar, which remained under Syrian army control.

Regarding the importance of Beit Jann, Mohammed thought that it would lead to a separate battle, because it opens a supply corridor for armed factions toward Lebanon, and is surrounded by Syrian army forces, which explains why the battle was launched in its direction.

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