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The Battle of Qalamoon Syria Has Started, the Next Qusayr
 Part of channel(s): Syria (current event)

Video from tonight 10/19/2013. This is a decisive battle that will break the back of FSA in half, separating North from South, and cutting all routes from Lebanon to Syria. It will also affect Lebanon especially Tripoli were there is 50,000 FSA hiding.

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Weapons, fighters flow to Syria's next battlefront as offensive looms

The Assad regime appears poised to attack the strategic
rebel-held Qalamoun region, which separates regime strongholds of
Damascus and Syria's coast. Rebel forces have swelled in preparation.


Nicholas Blanford, Correspondent /
October 18, 2013

Opposing sides in Syria’s grueling civil war are girding for the
opening of a key battlefront in the coming weeks, with expectations that
the fighting will spill over into Lebanon.
The Syrian Army, backed by militants from Lebanon's Hezbollah, is
poised to launch an offensive to dislodge rebel groups from the Qalamoun
region, a strategic area of arid mountains lying between Damascus and
Homs, adjacent to Lebanon’s eastern border. The rebels are aware and are
preparing to defend their ground, which has been an essential staging
ground for attacks. “We are getting ready to be attacked in
Qalamoun. All the factions have set aside their differences and are
prepared for the attack. We know it’s coming soon,” says Khaled, a
stocky Lebanese Sunni from Lebanon’s northern Bekaa Valley who has
fought with Syrian rebel groups since the early stages of the uprising
against the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.Khaled and
other Syrian and Lebanese fighters interviewed say they believe the
attack will begin before the onset of the winter rains, which suggests
within the next month. Sources close to Hezbollah, which is expected to
play a major role in an attack on Qalamoun, say it will begin soon after
the three-day Eid al-Adha Muslim holiday, which ended Thursday.

Both the Assad regime and rebel forces have a vested interest in
controlling the Qalamoun area. For the regime, it represents a vital
lifeline connecting Damascus to Homs and to the Mediterranean port of
Tartous, the gateway to the coastal mountains running north to Latakia.
That is the heartland of Syria’s Alawite community, a Shiite splinter
sect to which the Assad family belongs. Regime dominance of Qalamoun
would also effectively seal off the eastern border with Lebanon,
severing rebel forces in Syria from Arsal, a Lebanese Sunni-populated
border town that is a bedrock of support for the Syrian opposition.For
the rebels, holding Qalamoun complicates the regime's goal of
establishing a corridor between the capital and the coast and serves as a
useful launchpad for the battles around the northern and eastern edges
of Damascus. The handful of stony trails that head west from Qalamoun
across the Lebanon-Syria border allow fighters to reach Arsal, where
they can rest and recuperate from wounds, or visit their families who
have sought refuge in the Lebanese town, doubling its pre-war population
of 40,000.Waiting period overA
regime assault on Qalamoun was expected in early summer after the fall
of Qusayr, a rebel-held town five miles north of Lebanon's border that
was overrun in a 17-day offensive spearheaded by Hezbollah. Most of the
survivors from Qusayr fled to the Qalamoun area. Hezbollah fighters said
in early July that they had carried out reconnaissance missions in the
Qalamoun area and were drawing up plans to drive out rebel forces.The
offensive was postponed, however, possibly due to the bitter fighting
in recent months in the northern and eastern neighborhoods of Damascus,
where regime troops backed by Hezbollah and Iraqi Shiite auxiliaries
have struggled to break the tenacious hold of rebel forces.However, in the past three weeks, the long-awaited Qalamoun offensive has seemed increasingly imminent.

Lebanese politicians allied with the Assad regime have discussed the upcoming
attack in public, and some have warned against Hezbollah's
involvement. On Monday, Rifaat Eid, the head of the Arab Democratic
Party, an Alawite political body, warned that Saudi Arabia, a key backer
of some Syrian rebel factions, was planning to “burn Lebanon” in
retaliation if Hezbollah joined the battle in Qalamoun.“Saudi
Arabia is running the battle in Qalamoun and we have information that it
warned Hezbollah against participating in the battle, [or else] it will
cost [the Shiite party] a lot in the Bekaa and even in north Lebanon,”
he said in a news conference.Rebel buildupThe
rebels have used the summer months to build up their forces in the
Qalamoun area, particularly with well-armed, well-trained jihadist
groups. The leading rebel forces there are the Al Qaeda-affiliated
Jabhat al-Nusra, the hardline Salafist Ahrar al-Sham, Liwa al-Tawhid,
and Liwa al-Islam, according to rebel sources. According to a diplomatic
report prepared by a European embassy in Beirut, the rebels had around
5,000 fighters in the Qalamoun area a few months ago, including 200 from
Jabhat al-Nusra and 300 to 400 from Ahrar al-Sham.“Now, the
rebels have in excess of 40,000 fighters in Qalamoun,” the report says,
adding that most are affiliated with hardline Islamist factions.The
rebels even have a weapons and munitions production line with mortar
tubes, base plates, and rounds being manufactured in foundries in the
town of Yabroud. A diplomatic source in Beirut with access to
intelligence information said that the rebels are producing up to 40
mortars a day and have even begun manufacturing their own ammunition for
AK-47 rifles.Furthermore, they successfully stormed Syrian Army
ammunition depots in the Qalamoun area and seized large quantities of
weapons and ammunition. On Aug. 2, rebel groups overran three Syrian
Army ammunition storage sites in the Qalamoun area, which yielded large
quantities of advanced anti-tank missiles.Still, the regime has
not been routed from the region. The Syrian Army holds a string of bases
across Qalamoun, including large missile facilities with bunkers dug
into the sides of mountains at Adra and Nasiriyah. The bases, like
regime islands in a rebel sea, allow the Army to shell opposition-held
areas and have prevented the rebels from completely severing the
Damascus-Homs highway, especially the section between Yabroud and Deir
Atiyah.“The Army is strong there,” says Abu Omar, a resident of
Arsal who provides logistical support for Syrian rebel factions. “If we
fire one shell at them, they fire 400 back at us.”Even the
population of the area is not entirely supportive of the rebel cause.
Towns with Christian populations like Maaloula, Sednaya, and Yabroud
tend to be more tolerant of the regime and wary of the increasingly
Islamist leanings of the rebel groups.“Seventy percent of Yabroud
is with the regime, even though rebels are in the town. The Christians
there don’t interfere with us. Flita is with the regime. That’s why all
the villages around Flita are shelled but Flita is left alone,” says
Khaled, the Lebanese fighter, whose wife is a Sunni from Yabroud.No borders in this warSources
close to both Hezbollah and Syrian rebel factions believe that Arsal’s
strong logistical connection to the Qalamoun area means that once the
offensive begins, the fighting will spill into Lebanon. The cross-border
tracks connecting Arsal to Qalamoun are tenuous lifelines for the
Lebanese town which is otherwise surrounded to the north, west, and
south by Shiite-populated villages with a strong Hezbollah presence. If
Hezbollah is able to cut the tracks between Arsal and the border, the
Sunni town will become isolated.Further inflaming tensions
between Arsal and nearby Hezbollah-supporting villages are the
allegations that residents of the Sunni town have been responsible for a
string of attacks against Shiite areas, including rocket barrages and
roadside bombs.Omar al-Attrash from Arsal was named as the
alleged organizer of a car-bomb attack in Beirut’s mainly Shiite
southern suburbs in August that left 22 people dead. Mr. Attrash was
killed in uncertain circumstances on Oct. 11, when his vehicle was hit
by a missile while driving along a track between Arsal and the Syrian
border.The residents in Arsal say they have been stocking up on
medical supplies and bringing in more fighters from Syria in readiness
for expected fighting with Hezbollah in the barren rugged mountains
between Arsal and the border.“Qalamoun is not Qusayr,” says Abu
Omar, referring to the Syrian town seized by Hezbollah in June. “The
mountains are rugged and we are reinforcing and rearming. We know this
battle is coming and we will fight to the last man.”

Added: Oct-19-2013 Occurred On: Oct-19-2013
By: nutsflipped
Tags: Syria, qalamoon, Qalamoun, battle, FSA, destruction, tripoli, lebanon
Location: Syria (load item map)
Views: 5460 | Comments: 70 | Votes: 4 | Favorites: 1 | Shared: 0 | Updates: 0 | Times used in channels: 2
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