Clashes have flared in the city of Zabadani, located in Rif Dimashq, as Jabhat al-Nusra and other affiliated factions made progress in the region. Meanwhile, the Islamic State (IS) began mobilizing its troops to attack the airport of the northeastern city of Deir ez-Zor, and Jabhat al-Nusra is gearing up to target Mhardeh, a Christian-majority town in the countryside of Hama.
The escalation of shelling and air raids on Zabadani followed a series of confrontations and battles over the past two days. According to a local source, “Fierce battles are taking place in the eastern mountains near the Barada Valley and the Shallah region, as fighters managed to take control of the army checkpoints.”
“There was an agreement to try to reach a truce, [but it] was breached within three hours as gunmen refused to stop the clashes,” he said.
A source close to the militants said, “The military operation is led by the united army of Zabadani to break the siege on the city, as all efforts for a settlement have been curbed at the last minute.”
Militants have controlled Zabadani for more than two years. Most of the city’s residents live in the nearby towns of Madaya and Bloudan, which are linked to the Barada Valley down to Qudsayya and al-Hamah, until the Qalamoun Mountains.
In Aleppo, a source in the field said that the bodies of five militants were found in the Masaken Hanano neighborhood, which is under the control of rebel groups. He said that a piece of paper was found near the bodies, reading, “The Syrian Arab Army passed through here.” The note suggests that this was a security operation carried out in the heart of an opposition-controlled area, bringing to mind how some opposition factions have claimed security cells exist in their regions.
In Deir ez-Zor, seven people were killed in air raids on IS headquarters in the area of Tel Tabus near Shamitiya, in the east of the governorate. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said in a statement, “IS is gearing up to launch a military operation on Deir ez-Zor airport after a short hiatus in clashes earlier, as the organization was focusing on Tabaqa airport in Raqqa and the northern countryside of Aleppo, not to mention clashes with members of al-Shaitat clan.”
In the Deir ez-Zor countryside, a mass grave was found in the town of Abu Hamam containing the bodies of 17 people who had been executed by IS.
In the Hama countryside, it seems that Jahbat al-Nusra is getting ready to launch a new attack on the town of Mhardeh in the northwest countryside. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said that more than 1,500 Jabhat al-Nusra militants were preparing an attack from Halfaya and the surrounding areas. The group has been targeting sites with BM-21 Grad missiles.
Only fighters affiliated with Jabhat al-Nusra are fighting. Many factions linked with the Free Syrian Army have been absent from the battlefield. They fear the consequences of storming a Christian-majority town and [a replay] of the Maaloula battles.
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