Special report from Elijah J. Magnier – @EjmAlrai
The battle of Yabrud is over but not the battle of Qalamoun. As written in previous reports (see reports), it took the attacking forces over a month to end the battle of Yabrud. Moreover, the nuns ‘exchange marked a turn in the battle when Jabhat al-Nusra (JAN) asked a free passage to 1500 fighters. The request was refused but perfectly corroborated with intelligence information regarding the number of rebels left in the city. Today JAN accuses other rebel groups for the fall of Yabrud, claiming these did not fight. Similar claim by rebels was also formulated when the faith of Qusseyr battle was marked. JAN was the leading force – but not the only one – in Yabrud. Obviously, the rebels do not fight under one command, neither as one man like the attacking forces do.
The city of Yabrud was under heavy shelling by air and by artillery, The ground troops used all sorts of weapons (see previous report) to cover their advance.
According to a reliable source within the attacking forces, “the Syrian Army offered logistic and fire support to Hezbollah fighters who launched a frontal simulated attack from Rima Farms and from the west of Yabrud as a diversion. The real penetration of ground troops took place from the East, breaking the rebels defense lines. By nightfall, the attacking forces opened another breach from the West into the national hospital to meet the forces from the East in the city Centre were heavy fighting took place. Once the defense line was broken, the rebels lost their will to continue fighting”.
“The attacking forces decided to launch repetitive attacks at night to limit the damage and the casualties but also due to the rebels’ lack of night vision equipment and rebels anti-tank missile (Kornet, Konkors and others). Rebels relied on naturally existing caves, hills and on the difficult topography of the area to slow down the attacking forces. The rebels were prepared for the battle since 4 months gathering men and military supplies. Re-taking the hills first took most of the month and was not an easy task but a necessary move and an essential military tactic to ensure the protection of the attacking ground troops on the city. Hezbollah has lost most of his casualties in the mountains battle”, said the source.
The source explained “many rebels fled Yabrud by night, leaving behind military hardware, as well as hundreds of bodies from different nationalities. These are Saudi, Kuwaiti, Tunisian, Egyptian, Moroccan, Iraqi, Lebanese and others. A small number of rebels have surrender”.
But this is not the end of the Qalamoun battle. Falita (West of Yabrud), Ras al-Ain (South of Yabrud) and Ras al-Maarra (South-West of Yabrud) all are on the main list of the next attack from the Qalamoun area. Rankus, around 80 km from Yabrud, maybe better attacked from Lebanon rather than Al-Qalamoun for its vicinity to the Lebanese-Syrian borders.
Many unconfirmed claims from cities in Qalamoun claiming a will to negotiate with the regime forces to spear the numerous cities south of Yabrud, including Maalula. It is clear that Hezbollah will not stop to celebrate its victory over Yabrud and will not take a break. The military operation will continue, taking advantage of the low moral of the rebels and their scattered men.
Moreover, the Qalamoun Mountains represent undoubtedly a future “military zone” for Hezbollah for its war against Israel. It is clear that Hezbollah, today, is no longer standing on 10452 sqm2 (the surface of Lebanon) but will be on additional 8000 sqm2, starting from Tal Kalakh, north of Quseyr to Zabadani, once the battle of Qalamoun is over.