The Syrian army and Hezbollah fighters yesterday [July 13] achieved strategic progress in the city of Zabadani as they blocked the main entrance linking the city to neighboring Madaya. Meanwhile, the Syrian army continued to crack down on Islamic State (IS) militants in Palmyra, and this has seemingly pushed IS to expand the engagement circle in a bid to find a way to relieve the existing pressure; it has waged a series of attacks in the vicinity of the T4 military airport in eastern Homs, as well as near the fourth natural gas station.
A military source told the Syrian news agency, SANA, that in cooperation with the Lebanese resistance, “Units of the army and the armed forces have sought control of areas toward the depth of Zabadani town and closed the main crossing point to Madaya after they eliminated large numbers of terrorists.”
This came amid progress made by the Syrian troops on the ground as they entered the electricity roundabout near the Huda mosque and Al-Haql Al-Asfar street and controlled al-Sultani neighborhood.
The Facebook page Harbi Press reported: “The mujahedeen of the resistance and the Syrian army repulsed a violent attack on the part of armed groups on the electricity roundabout in al-Sultani neighborhood, southeast of Zabadani. This followed a state of confusion that plagued the armed groups after the liberation of the neighborhood. The attack failed and the insurgents suffered both material and human losses amid a state of shock. This shock resulted from the fact that several armed groups did not know about the liberation of the neighborhood by the Syrian army and the resistance as a result of poor coordination between the leaders of the factions involved in the battle.”
In addition, the Syrian army is proceeding with its broad military operation launched on the archaeological city of Palmyra, and it has tightened the noose on IS militants. This has seemingly pushed IS to expand its engagement circle in a bid to find a way to relieve the pressure that it is facing. Meanwhile, IS militants have launched a series of attacks in the vicinity of the T4 military airport in the eastern countryside of Homs as well as near the fourth natural gas station.
The IS attacks led to the organization militants’ “temporary” settlement in the Althias village, which lies about 10 kilometers [6 miles] from the military airport. This took place after IS managed to penetrate and control the village following fierce fighting that lasted for more than seven hours, according to a field source.
A military source in the T4 airport denied to As-Safir the rumors about the targeting of the airport with car bombs, and added that the airport and its surroundings are totally safe, except for the breach that took place in the village of Althias that is currently being dealt with. The source stressed that “such a breach never affected the traffic movement at the airport and does not pose any threat to the airport,” which serves as an important starting point for military operations and one of the most prominent air support bases for the Syrian army.
After controlling the Althias village, IS gunmen set Grad missile launchers and targeted the fourth station housing as they tried to target the T4 airport before warplanes launched a series of airstrikes on the airport perimeter. These also targeted rocket launchers then launched a “small” military operation to restore the village and further fortify the airport perimeter.
A field source confirmed that the organization is attacking the airport perimeter to alleviate pressure on Palmyra, although it is well aware it cannot break through to the airport. At the western gate of Palmyra, fierce fighting is taking place while the Syrian army is slowly progressing. Clashes are currently concentrated in the ruins region and the driving school in the west of the city. The organization brought in military reinforcements, hindering the advance of the Syrian regime, which has come a long way in two days only before the clashes raged at the western entrance of Palmyra.
According to the same source, there are two main plans to deal with the developments in the ancient city. The first calls for stationing the army in the vicinity of the city to tighten the blockade, cutting off IS supply routes, in order to alleviate losses. This is especially true since the nature of the battles in Palmyra necessitate direct alliances and heavy weaponry. The Syrian army and its allied factions are likely to break into the city from its western gate, according to the circumstances of the battle.
In Hasakah, eastern Syria, the Syrian army continues its operations to regain control over the rest of al-Nashwa neighborhood, after having managed to restore its western part. Meanwhile, IS brought in large reinforcements in Shaddadi city and tried to launch a swift attack on the army by penetrating into new areas in the southwestern outskirts of the city.
A field source told As-Safir that IS fighters tried to infiltrate into al-Nashwa neighborhood toward the Habbo area, but the Syrian army units deployed on the contact point deterred their advance. The battles escalated until the army succeeded in deterring the attack, which killed many militants, while the rest backed off.
IS mourned Hammoud al-Hardan, one of its top commanders in the eastern region, who was in charge of the organization’s operations in al-Nashwa neighborhood. He was killed in the battle of Hasakah.
In a related context, jihadi websites posted a video showing a US B1 aircraft shelling the organization’s locations in Hasakah, in an unprecedented development since IS entered the city. The Kurdish forces that had air cover still refused to engage in the battles; field sources refrained from confirming the news on bombings.
Field sources also announced that more than 30 fighters affiliated with Jaish al-Fatah, led by Jabhat al-Nusra, were killed in an attempt to control the strategic Khattab hill to the east of Jisr al-Shughur city in the countryside of Idlib.
Sources said that militants launched a violent attack in an attempt to control the hill but were confronted by the forces in charge of protecting in this area. At the same time, warplanes launched airstrikes targeting the militants’ rear lines, killing the commander of the operations. The attack ended without any changes in the control map.
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