Rebels in Idlib, Aleppo pledge SDF; loyalists attack in Latakia

NOV 23

Despite success in Hama earlier in November, opposition forces are caught between holding their gains there or defending in southern Aleppo. Government forces keep supply routes open to their holdings in Aleppo, from which they’ve launched a westward offensive that appears to have caught rebels off-balance. Now opposition forces must address government attacks in Aleppo, Hama, Latakia and perhaps soon, Idlib.

Near Ghumam in Latakia, government forces seized control of areas surrounding the town. Both loyalist and opposition forces reported government control of al- Dughmashliyah and Deir Hanna. The government seized Beit Ayyash and al- Dughmashliyah on their way to attack Zuwayk, al- Masdar News wrote.

Elsewhere in Latakia, loyalist troops took control of locations around Raweesat Iskendar in Jabal al- Akrad, according to al- Masdar News.

SOHR reported fighting around Ghumam, al-Dughmashliyah, Deir Hanna and Jub al- Ahmar further east. The Observatory acknowledged loyalist gains in al- Dughmashliyah and Deir Hanna.

1st Coastal Division fires small arms at government forces around Deir Hanna. 

Fighting continued into the next day around al- Dughmashliyah and Deir Hanna, SOHR wrote. Planes reportedly hit targets throughout Jabal al- Turkman. Despite early reports that rebels recaptured Dier Hanna, the town appeared to remain in government hands at the end of the day.

On Wednesday, SANA confirmed the gains al- Masdar reported on Monday. Government forces controlled Deir Hanna, al-Daghmashliyeh, Bait Aiyash and Ghumam. They also captured Rashwan Hill, near Jub al- Ahmar. SOHR reported fighting overnight around Ghumam and shelling of Zuwayk and Berj al- Qasab.

Missiles come down over Jabal al- Akrad. 

Government forces attacked Zuwayk on Thursday morning and seized the town, al- Masdar News reported. Loyalists also attacked Ghanimah. The purpose of the offensive is reportedly to push all the way to the Turkish border. SANA confirmed these and other locations in northeast Latakia to be under government control.

Police seized 8,000 Captagon tablets around Jableh, SANA also wrote. Authorities reportedly arrested two people.

Fighting continued around al- Dughmashliyah and Deir Hanna, according to SOHR. The Observatory reported continued fighting around Jabal Zahi but acknowledged government gains in the area.

Zuwayk saw continued fighting while warplanes and Russian missiles bombarded locations around Jabal al- Turkman, SOHR reported. More than 100 cruise missiles launched for targets in Syria over four days, TASS wrote, citing the Russian Defense Ministry.

Loyalist forces captured Jabal al- Zahi, north of Rabia, al- Masdar News wrote. They reportedly took nearby Burj al- Zahi next. Clashes continued into the following day, according to SOHR.

1st Coastal Division deploys a tank near Jub al- Ahmar. 

On Saturday government forces took control of the al- Ziwayqat Mountains, al- Zuwayk and Zuwayk Hill, according to al- Masdar News. In the city of Latakia, self-protection squads celebrated graduation, SANA reported. They will form a supporting force for the regular army units deployed to the area, Latakia Governor Ibrahim Kheder Salem said.

General Ayyoub inspects positions in Hama and Latakia. 

Fighting continues at Jabal Zahi, Jabal al- Akrad and Jabal al- Turkman through Sunday, SOHR wrote. Airstrikes followed up with word of clashes around Jub al- Ahmar, they reported.

Hadi al- Abdullah reports on release of women from government prisons in exchange for bodies of their dead.

Fifteen factions declared their intention to work with Syrian Democratic Front in Idlib and Aleppo. The SDF is spearheaded by the YPG/YPJ and contains U.S. backed FSA groups.

Opposition leaders offer solidarity for Paris attacks and pledges cooperation with SDF, uploaded by Jaysh al- Thuwar.

The groups include “Jaysh al- Thuwar, the Division 30, of Shohadaa Rif Idlib Brigade, Ayn Jalout Brigade, the Infantry Brigade 99, al- Hamzah Birgade, al- Qa’qa’ Brigade, the Special Forces Brigade 455, al- Salajeqa Brigade, the Regiment 102, Ahrar al- Sham, the Tribe Forces in Aleppo and it countryside, Jabhat al- Akrad, YPG, YPJ, which exist in Aleppo and Idlib,” as translated by SOHR.

Founding members of the broader SDF include Jaysh al- Thuwar, Borkan al- Furqat, Jaysh al- Sanadid, the Brigade Groups of al- Jazira, The Syriac Military Council, the YPG and YPJ. The group brands itself as inclusive and frames its primary narrative around fighting ISIS. They have achieved success in the northeast of Hasakah, but so far the YPG/YPJ made up most of their ranks, Syria Direct wrote. The group claims to have a presence in Idlib, but keeps a low profile due to Jabhat al- Nusra’s dominance in the region, wrote Syria Direct.

The ceasefire around Zabadani freed up Hezbollah forces for other operations, al- Masdar News wrote. Some reportedly found their way into the southern Aleppo offensive, fighting around al- Eiss, Abtayn and al- Hadher. Many Hezbollah factions want to reach the besieged majority-Shiite towns of Fu’ah and Kafraya, which are 17 km away from their nearest positions, al- Masdar News reported. The towns have been under siege since the opposition took Idlib governorate back in spring. Rebel forces shelled Fu’ah and Kafraya to leverage negotiations for their encircled allies in Zabadani.

Tuesday saw Russian cruise missiles hit targets in Idlib, the Associated Press reported. Government forces fought militants in Taman’aa and Ma’arat al- Numan, according to el- Akbar. Airstrikes hit Khan Sheikhoun, Saraqeb and Orm al-Joz, SOHR reported.

Ordinance comes down in Idlib countryside. 

Cruise missiles launched from heavy bombers added to the regular bombardment Idlib receives. A VTSIOM poll found that 53 percent of Russians surveyed supported the Government’s course in Syria, reported Russia Today. Fifteen percent would not object to an increase in participation, while 45 percent supported the general course of government policy, though perhaps not all its components. Thirteen percent responded that Russia should end involvement in Syria.

Bombs inscribed with expression of solidarity for Paris fell upon rebel held areas.

SAA prisoner captured at Jub al- Ahmar. (Translation)

In Hama, SOHR reported bombing in Morek, al- Madiq, Ma’arkabeh, Kafr Zita and Lahaya on Monday. Government troops also reportedly shelled Kafr Zita and al- Lataminah. Fighting continued around Morek, the Observatory wrote. Government forces attacked Jaysh al- Fatah at Atsham and Kafr Zita, FARS News reported.

Pro-government al- Masdar News acknowledged a disappointing result for loyalists in Morek. But elite troops reportedly arrived from recently liberated Kuweires airbase in Aleppo, where a combined effort of Syrian forces and Russian air power broke through ISIS to relieve the besieged garrison. The publication said a response to recent opposition gains should be expected.

Looking for aid to improve Hama’s healthcare, Governor Ghassan Khalaf met with Elizabeth Hoff of the World Health Organization, SANA reported. Public hospitals are overworked and running low on crucial equipment and medicines, according to Khalaf. Hoff applauded the government’s efforts to keep things online and for cooperating with the World Health Organization.

Clashes broke out around Aqarib overnight, SOHR wrote. Bombs hit Kafr Zita and al- Lataminah while government forces shelled Morek, according to the Observatory. Government media reported the destruction of a Jund al- Aqsa base in Taman’aa.

On Thursday SANA reported airstrikes in Kafr Zita and Morek. The strikes destroyed several vehicles and government forces fought Jund al- Aqsa near Soran, according to SANA.

Government shelled targets in al- Salamiyyeh countryside, SOHR reported, while Latminah, Kafr Zita, Ma’arkabeh, Morek or Aqrib shelled or bombed.

NOW relayed social media reports of ISIS activity in the east of Hama, citing pro-government sources. Widely followed local news Facebook reports indicated hostilities in areas east of Salamiyah. ISIS breached loyalist positions along the highway there earlier this month, requiring government forces and Hezbollah to clear the area to reopen the main road to Aleppo.

On Friday, bombs hit al- Lataminah, Kafr Zita and Tal Hawash, SOHR wrote.

Russian cruise missile sails overhead. 

Ahrar al- Sham shells government forces in al- Suqaylabiyah. 

Rebels fought the government at al- Mughayr and al- Sakhr, while Kafr Zita bombed hit, reported SOHR on Sunday. Government forces attacked Ahrar al- Sham in Atshan, el- Akhbar wrote.

For background about Jaysh al- Fatah, check out last week’s writeup. (Links from November 9 – 16)

Start at the beginning with my fall of Idlib post. (Links from 2011 – Summer 2015)

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