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Update: Al Zabadani Battle

The following article by Ali Diab on Al-Modon articulates the following information:

During the last two days, Al-Zabadani city witnessed military escalation, where the Regime spread its intention to storm the city. This coincided with persistent reports about the presence of musters in Dimas area, and the monitoring of queues of Hezbollah brought to the vicinity of Zabadani town. These events took place in conjunction with an increased pace in the shelling the city.

Signs of the battle started last Thursday with the deportation of displaced families near Regime checkpoints in Al Inshaat area and Hezbollah militiamen were stationed in these houses. Additionally, there are obvious signs of Hezbollah’s deployment in the checkpoints of Bloudan town, which is controlled by the Regime and the “National Defense” militias. This matter sparked resentment even among the Regime’s supporters.

The army forces, backed by members of Hezbollah and the National Defense, attacked from the axis of Al-Baqoni Hospital, located in the northwestern sector, to storm the city. However, this attempt was repulsed by inflicting casualties among attacking forces, forcing them to return to their sites.  Meanwhile the helicopters threw leaflets calling for the rebels to surrender and avoid further destruction in the destroyed city.

For its part, the rebel groups launched an operation called the “Rebel Volcano” in Zabadani to stop the progress of the Regime forces and Hezbollah. The starting point target was the “Blue Hotel”, located on the road to Bloudan, and was an operation room for the Regime forces.  The opposition forces targeted the hotel with tank shells, followed by a surprise attack with tanks and BMB vehicles against ”Al Shallah” checkpoint, and took control of its sites. Al-Shallah is one of the largest and most important checkpoints in the region and is located in the north-eastern sector of the city. These sites include the Snack Al-Tanour block, the Ice Plant, Al-Qanater checkpoint and Al Villa. The Regime forces responded by a counter attack and were able to regain control of Al-Qanater checkpoint and Al Villa, where the clashes occurred between adjacent buildings. Clashes continued until Saturday morning, and resulted in opposition factions’ control of the all the buildings at the checkpoint. Additionally, they seized a tank and some medium and light-weapons and ammunition. The storming operation coincided with skirmishes with the nearby checkpoints: “Al-Hersh, Al-Sindiyan, Al-Hurat, Palace of Sheikh Zayed, and the Hospital checkpoint.”

The Regime forces, backed by the “National Defense”  and Hezbollah militia, continued their military campaign on Saturday morning, launching a new offensive against  Zahra Castle district, in the northern sector of the city. Until now, clashes have been ongoing. The death toll from Hezbollah amounted to three people, known to be Ali Aldahi from the Bekaa town of Sahmar, as well as a member from the “National Defense.” Their bodies were recovered by the rebels, who were also able to target an “operations room” officer’s car with a thermal guided missile in Al-Maslakh point. The factions targeted, as well, the checkpoints of Mozah and Al-Hurat in the eastern sector.

The death toll from the clashes between Hezbollah and the rebels from last Thursday through Saturday amounted to 18 dead. Sources said to Al-Modon that they were from the villages of Nabi Sheet, Sahmar, Mashghara and Ain Alteenah. About 30 members of the Regime’s forces were killed, two known to be Captain Talaat Zahreddine from Al Suwaydaa  and Lieutenant Haidar Ismail from Homs. The opposition’s death toll reached eight fatalities.

Massive air strikes accompanied these battles. Warplanes and helicopters  reportedly threw 86 explosive barrels on the city of Al Zabadani in addition to 28 missiles launched by warplanes, and more than 100 “Grad” rockets. Constant bombardment by heavy artillery from all checkpoints and points surrounding the city led to the burning of vast areas of agricultural land in the plain of Al Zabadani, where people were not able put out the fires.

Amer Burhan, director of the field hospital in Al Zabadani, said for Al-Modon that, “the military operation comes under the direct orders of Hezbollah, in order to insure the borderline adjacent to its regions on the Lebanese side. Realizing the great probability of the sudden fall of Assad, Hezbollah became so concerned about ensuring the borderline for fear of reprisals due to the involvement of the party in shedding the blood of Syrians.”

Burhan considered that Al Zabadani represents “the most important strategic region in this borderline for Hezbollah due to being close to Al Masnaa crossing (the border between Lebanon and Syria), and its proximity to the party’s supply lines and to its human depth in the western Bekaa.” Furthermore, he stated that “the Regime knows that the human cost of storming will be very high, as it had tried that before and failed.” Burhan added, pointing out that the Regime shifted to the policy of siege and shelling of the city in order to force it “to surrender under the slogan of settlement and national reconciliation without any real intention of truce or cease-fire.”

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