Syria Consolidates into Three Cantons as the Opposition Pushes Back, Taking Mengh Airbase and other Strategic Points
Posted by Joshua on Tuesday, August 6th, 2013
Posted by Joshua Landis
I’m not sure the fall of Mengh represents momentum nationally either way – the conflict is so localized. Rebels have been making slow progress up north, despite the Quseir and Ghouta setbacks. It see-saws a bit back and forth, but I think these past months are more indicative of a (quite strong) consolidation in Assad’s core areas (liberally defined to include Homs). Assad is not making national gains only consolidating his core areas.
Syrian opposition forces reportedly overtook the government’s Mingh air base in Aleppo province early Tuesday, after repeated attacks over nearly a year working to seize control. The final push is believed to have come from nine rebel groups, including Islamist factions and Chechens, and was led by two foreign men, one believed to be Saudi Arabian, who carried out a suicide attack in an armored vehicle. Opposition fighters have made other recent gains in the Latakia province, overtaking several Alawite villages, pushing deeper into the government stronghold. However, the Syrian regime celebrated its own victor with the defense minister touring the recently seized Khalidiyeh district of Homs.
Pro-government sources are saying that troops inside the airport were aided by the PPK, a Kurdish group, to escape to Afri, a Kurdish region north of Aleppo, here’s a map of two areas. Sana’s article reports that all the airport security forces are safe, that the airport was empty and the terrorists (opposition forces) have suffered a lot of losses.
It seems likely that the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria along with the Jaish Muhajerin forces and lots of al-Qaida style foreign fighters spearheaded the airport attack. They could now move on to Nubul and Zahra, the two Shi`a holdouts in the north. They are next door. One does not even want to think about how that could end.
… The base was first besieged by a Free Syrian Army brigade called North Storm, and joined by fighters from the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham and a group calling itself Jaish al-Muhajireen wal Ansar. Muhajireen means emigrants, and the group, which carried out several suicide attacks at the base, is led by Russian speakers from Chechnya and other parts of the Caucasus.
Mr. Farzat said Chechen Islamist fighters near the airport had refused to let the defecting government soldiers flee, so he helped them escape by another route. “I give the Islamic fighters credit for the liberation,” he said.The seizure of the base could have an impact on the stalemated fight for Aleppo, Syria’s largest city, by freeing up rebel fighters and antiaircraft weapons to put pressure on Aleppo’s airport, which rebels have been unable to take despite months of trying. It could also dampen the morale of government troops in other remote outposts.
Abu al-Haytham, a rebel fighter who fought for months to seize Minakh and is now in Turkey, called the capture of the base a morale booster and “a strike against the regime.” But, he added, “it won’t change anything on the ground — we just got some vehicles and ammunition.”
In Latakia, the rebel offensive, involving more than 1,500 fighters led by the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham, accelerated what had been a gradual rebel push into a province whose government-held central city has been a relatively secure haven for displaced Syrians from war-torn areas.
Government forces withdrew Monday from a number of villages in the coastal mountains, said Ammar Hassan, an opposition activist in close touch with rebels.
He said rebels had seized four mountaintop military posts that had been shelling villages below, and were trying to advance farther toward the coast and toward Qardaha, the ancestral mountain village of President Bashar al-Assad’s family.
The advance brought fighting deeper into the heartland of the Alawite sect, an offshoot of Shiite Islam to which the Assad family belongs, heightening fears of sectarian conflict. Alawites here have long feared they would face revenge killings by the mostly Sunni insurgents, and pro-government Alawite militias have been accused of killing Sunni civilians in the area.
Some Alawites remained in their villages as rebels advanced, and a few wounded Alawites were treated in makeshift rebel hospitals, said Mr. Hassan, who added, “Of course the majority of the residents fled to the city.”
Also, has there been any real evidence that Hezbollah or any non-Syrian Shi`a are fighting alongside the Syrian Army outside of Qusayr, Sayda Zaynab and Nubul and Zahraa? Opposition people are claiming that Hezbollah is fighting on all fronts. When Hezbollah was really involved and sending troops we were seeing the funerals of the fighters being sent back, that stopped after Qusayr but the Syrian Opposition remains determined to place Hezbollah on every front they’re fighting. They’ve been accusing the Hezb of being involved since the beginning but the only real and substantiated evidence that we have of hezbollah fighting there is limited to Qusayr and Sayda Zainab as far as i know, am i missing something?
Following the fall of the airport, Col. Akidi visited the site and thanked the Islamic State, Jaish Muhajerin forces (lots of AQ-style foreign fighters) and the FSA groups that helped accomplish this mission. This video shows Akidi alongside Abu Jandal Al-Masry, a member of Jaish Muhajerin forces who in the video seems to be speaking in the name of the ISIS
FSA groups decided to rename the airport after the founder of the North Storm brigade Amar Dadikhi(Abu Ibrahim) who died of a bullet wound that struck him near one of the airport walls at one point during the +10 months siege. Amar Dadikhi became popular after the kidnapping of Lebanese Shiaa pilgrims in the early days of the Syrian uprising,
10 9 of which remain in the custody of his group till today.