As an intense sandstorm swirled through much of Syria last Monday, early reports emerged that Jabhat al- Nusra was on the attack. Syrian Government jets sat grounded and the weather reduced visibility. Opposition forces advanced on Abu al- Duhur airbase under cover of the storm.
After breaching the perimeter with a VBIED, Jabhat al- Nusra and their allies gained positions within the base. Over the course of the next two days, they would defeat the remaining garrison there. The defenders had survived two years under siege.
Jabhat al- Nusra fighters storm Abu al- Duhur airbase.
— Ibn Nabih (@IbnNabih1) September 8, 2015
The rest of the week saw an absolute slew of media produced about the opposition victory. Making a helicopter his backdrop, Jaysh al- Fatah Sharia Council head Shaykh al-Muhaysini discussed the fate of Sunni soldiers fighting in the government ranks.
More prisoners were displayed. At least one man was captured attempting to escape and summarily executed. Word sprang up about a group of government forces that escaped the fall of the base and headed for friendly lines.
— هادي العبد الله (@HadiAlabdallah) September 9, 2015
English language report on rebel capture of the airbase.
'Moderate rebels' execute captured soldier from Abu al-Duhur airbase in cold blood. pic.twitter.com/nNWF4qeXnb
— NDF Syria (@MehShekel) September 13, 2015
With the fall of the airbase, the only government presence in Idlib Governorate is pro-government militiamen in the Fu’ah, Kafraya pocket. The mostly Shiite villages have endured higher opposition attention after several failed ceasefires and a thorough shelling campaign. As SAA and Hezbollah continue their advance in Zabadani, any sort of deal looks unlikely.
— Rook (@2Rook14) September 9, 2015
Ahrar al- Sham column heading to Fu’ah, Kafraya.
— Mark (@markito0171) September 11, 2015
— Wassim Nasr (@SimNasr) September 13, 2015
Images by Jund al-Aqsa on them stationed at the fronts to al-Fou'a which they say they'll storm "in the coming days". pic.twitter.com/fCXyZnI0BA
— Ibn Nabih (@IbnNabih1) September 13, 2015
Early Sunday, FSA and Islamic Front rebels trumpeted heavy fighting in the mountains around Latakia, west of Sahl al- Ghab.
— Sami (@Paradoxy13) September 13, 2015
Ahrar al-Sham shells government near Hashish Hill.
1st Coastal Division achieves direct hit on unconcealed government forces.
Abu Bara reports from rebel assault on Nabi Younis Mountain.
NDF fights at Jubb al- Ghar.
On the coast, Russian aid shipments continued to arrive. Jaysh al- Islam claimed to target Russian personnel at Bassel al- Assad Airport with a rocket attack.
— Ivan Sidorenko (@IvanSidorenko1) September 12, 2015
Business Insider reported that Russian troops would operate SA-22 anti-aircraft systems, soon to be deployed to Syria. These weapons previously had been shipped to the government in 2013. Reuters cited anonymous sources claiming Russian infantry to be deployed to Latakia. The pro-opposition Syrian Observatory for Human Rights wrote that Russia is improving airports near the coast and Damascus.
Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov acknowledged military equipment in the shipments. He also maintained they were in accordance with current contracts with the Syrian government. Camping gear, cooking equipment, food and mattresses are listed among the humanitarian aid.
For background about Jaysh al- Fatah, check out last week’s writeup. (Links from August 31 – September 7)
Start at the beginning with my fall of Idlib post. (Links from 2011 – Summer 2015)