Fu’ah, Kafraya struggle escalates; Russia sails south

DW September 7

After two failed ceasefires and no walkout deal, Jaysh al- Fatah forces conducted operations around the government-held Fu’ah, Kafraya pocket. The attacks were reportedly met with airstrikes in support of the defenders. Early Monday morning, Jaysh al- Fatah released photos of their capture of Suwaghiyah. The Syrian Observatory for Human rights noted a government air attack over the rebel base of Binnish.

Sham Legion video of assault on al- Fu’ah. 

Fighting continued around Ghab plain. From mountains to the northwest Jaysh al- Fatah groups pushed further south. Taking the vantage point of Qabr al- Hashish (Hashish Hill), gave them a vantage point overlooking the plain.

Mujahideen Army at the peak of Hashish Hill. 

First Coastal Division assault on Hashish Hill. 

The First Coastal Division retook several positions in the mountains of Latakia. Reports of government shelling accompanied these gains. Government air power harassed opposition fighters around Fu’ah and Abu al- Dohur airbase. Nearby on al- Ghab plain, Iraqi paramilitary group Harakat al-Nujaba participated in government operations.

Harakat al-Nujaba fighting in Sahl al- Ghab, Syria.

Fighting and shelling around the besieged pocket continued, as did government bombings. Rebel positions in Jabal al- Akrad,Jabal al- Turkman, Taftanaz and Mastomeh were reported hit. Jabhat al- Nusra, Jund al- Aqsa, Ahrar al- Sham and other Islamist and FSA factions raided the besieged loyalists throughout the week.

Rocket launched at Fu’ah, Kafraya. 

Opposition attempts to break into encircled area.

On Saturday, rebel sources reported a government airdrop into the encircled towns. This was accompanied by reports that Chechen, Uzbeck and Turkmen rebels arrived to reinforce the opposition. The FSA 101st infantry brigade also promoted their involvement. Fighting went on around Abu al- Dohur airbase as did government bombing.

Meanwhile in Latakia,  a Russian air traffic control tower and pre-fab housing for around 1,000 soldiers reportedly sat in a coastal airbase. The move also came with Russia filing military overflight requests with nearby countries. Russian President Vladimir Putin maintained that Russia’s role will remain in training and logistics. He also conceded that members of the initiative could conceivably find themselves in combat. Along with this, he voiced interest in forming a coalition to fight Islamic terrorism.

Over the weekend, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry voiced concerns that Russian involvement would exacerbate tensions and the refugee crisis. Foreign Minister of Russia Sergey Lavrov and Kerry agreed to discuss Russian involvement later this month in New York. Moscow maintained that Russia has never made a secret of it’s support for the Assad government.

Russia Today scoffed at the “hysterical” western media reports, iterating that any ongoing Russian military activity in the area remains routine. This morning, AFP reported “snap” readiness drills. Greece revealed that the United States requested it deny airspace to Russian planes. RT wrote that Greece was considering the request.

On Monday, a thick sandstorm overtook parts of Syria. The yellow cloud obscured the ground from aircraft overhead.

For background about the battles around al- Ghab plain, check out last week’s writeup. (Links from August 24 – 31)

Likewise, read my writeup about the first failed Fu’ah, Kafraya, Zabidani ceasefire here. (Links from July 28 – August 16)

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