On January 5, both Syrian government forces and militant groups (mostly Jabhat Fatah al-Sham and Ahrar al-Sham) continued active military operations against each other in the area of Wadi Barada, located northwest of Damascus.
The Syrian army and the National Defense Forces, supported by warplanes and artillery units, advanced on positions belonging to militant groups in Ayn Fijah, Ayn Khadra and Baseema. About 55 terrorists were killed (mostly as result of artillery strikes) as result of intense clashes in the area.
Ayn Khadra and Baseema are de-facto contested villages between pro-government forces and Jabhat Fatah al-Sham-led militant groups. Earlier in January, the Syrian army also entered Ayn Fijah, but failed to take a full control over the area.
The rebels don’t have a chance here, yet refuse to give up or take amnesty. It’s too odd to just be explained by overly-fanatical jihadis. Most of the ‘rebels’ are not even from Wadi Barada and are not even Syrian, and it seems that only a small number of al Nusra are actually calling the shots there. Some of the rebels in the villages are trying to negotiate amnesty – I’ll bet they are locals unhappy with their al Nusra ‘management’.
This is starting to remind me of East Aleppo when the U.S. and western intel agencies were falling over backwards to negotiate some kind of escape for their spooks. I wonder if they have some kind of command post in Wadi Barada stuffed with U.S., U.K., Saudi and Israeli intel? That would explain a lot about the unusual western MSM blackout about the water for two weeks and the intense MSM effort to demonize Syrian – and especially Hezbollah forces for some reason – trying to secure the Damascus water supply.
The head-choppers extorting their safety from attack in exchange for keeping Damascus water flowing (at least up until now) seems like a strange strategy for foreign jihadis if that was the only reason they were there. The ‘rebel controlled’ mountain range north of the valley is interesting, though. Why are the head-choppers so interested in a barren mountain range?
They would actually make the perfect listening/observation post for Damascus and also overlook one of the old smuggler back-roads to Lebanon through Wadi Barada. I can see Israel being particularly keen on having all kinds of electronic surveillance and observation posts on that mountain range to keep an eye on anything Hezbollah is doing around the border. Several previous Israeli airstrikes around Damascus were carried out by crossing into Syrian airspace from Lebanon almost right over Wadi Barada. 100,000 Wadi Barada hostage civilians might not have anything to do with the water, but might be unfortunate victims of an act of desperation to hold on to Israeli listening posts on the northern mountain ranges. Israelis are freaks about intel – they would probably kill everyone in Damascus if they had to in order to hold their spy bases in the mountains.
Water supply being so critical to a city of 5 million (?) , has another big problem , just yesterday the electric generators or transmission towers were disabled that fed the city. So as if the logistical problems of Aleppo were not enough , now Damascus . The powers that lost in Aleppo , Al Nusra , CIA etc. are taking this to a new level of depravity. Openly waging war on the civilian population via destruction of infrastructure in the middle of winter .
The English language MSM continues its deliberate propaganda campaign, first by omission then commission (deja vu Aleppo). Typical unsigned prop piece by the notorious jihadi cheerleader Sophie MacNeil at link :http://www.abc.net.au/news/2017-01-04/damascus-residents-limit-water-use-after-attack-on-river/8160306 for her typical blame-shift demonization of the victims
We’ve seen it before. USAF took out electricity and water in Iraq during both the 1991 war and the 2003 invasion. It’s ‘critical infrastructure’ ‘necessary to the war effort’ because troops need electricity and water too. They are just following basic US operational policy. We did in Serbia and North Vietnam too, and of course in WWII all over the place. We’ve always openly waged war on the civilian population. We’ve just learned to hide it behind more jargon over the years.
Good appreciation, certainly understand Israelis mounting covert ops to gather up line-of-sight SIGINT/ELINT , but don”t think even they would risk having their own personnel on the ground, use remote sensors/local agents etc.. ? Too vulnerable so close to Damascus.
OK, what THE FUCK is happening there??? excuse my french, but i’m legitimatelly pissed at a million or so people being denied water while the army still not making any gains! damn it, does TOS-1 ring a bell? it should. as would 155mm. not to mention Mi-24 gunship!! and that magical word “reinforcements”? and “constant pressure”? I have a plan: advance, and when you see resistance, fire a MANPAD, tank round, or similar thing and blow that location up! i mean come on it’s been lasting for what, 10+ days? Isn’t it time to stop playing around??? i mean, come down hard and crack through the line and you’ll net all the spoooks in there (ofc watch your back against “mistaken” israeli strikes), lock em up as bargaining chip later, and find a nice streetlight for jihadis that do survive (not for pole dancing, mind you).
If the water supply system is already destroyed (Nusra supposedly blew the tunnels) and I were in the SAA, then I would probably be a little hesitant to level an entire village of my fellow Syrian’s homes in order to free them and chase the foreign terrorists out. It may come to that, but damn… I don’t think 10+ days is dragging your feet when you have that choice to make. I damn sure wouldn’t want to be in their shoes. According to the map, the head-choppers still hold the north valley face and the high ground behind it. I don’t think it’s as much of a turkey shoot as people think. You’re just as much a target on the valley floor from the north slopes as your enemy.
The head-choppers have no supply lines and are probably running out of food, water and ammo. It sucks for Damascus, but I would feel a bigger sense of urgency to free the civilian hostages in Wadi Barada. Their life has sucked for a few years, now.
Why don’t the Syrians invade the jihadis by coming over the mountains from the north?
The easiest ways up to that area are all from Wadi Barada (which obviously is out). The terrain approaching from the north a few miles away is brutal. Too steep in most places, only a handful of twisty single-lane dirt roads and all of the likely approaches – the passes or areas that are not too steep to move – are all owned by the rebels. The satellite imagery on Google maps is deceptive and makes the area look like a series of low, smooth hills. It’s really mountain-goat territory.
I’m sure the area is covered in snow or muddy. It’s not impossible and the SAA have been chipping away, but it would just take too many men too long to get through from the north, especially this time of year. Rebels on the big hump to the north were not much of a threat because they have a hard time going anywhere except south to Wadi Barada. It’s just an easy place to defend because of the terrain. The surrounding mountains make it a difficult place to bomb from the air and a good place to fire off MANPADs (if the U.S. gave you some) at anything threatening Wadi Barada.
Looks like the SAA 4th AD made a hole through the head-chopper lines from the northwest. Truce was negotiated within 24 hours of them claiming that high ground. https://southfront.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/01/23.jpg
For what it is worth, from the operational analysis data I have on hand, assuming the typical sparse low-quality roads in a mountainous region, and the mountains themselves, you can expect their advance to be moving at about 1/4 to 1/5 the rate they were getting in Aleppo, assuming similar force ratios. (I have no idea what the terrorists have deployed here.)
What in the world Syria and Russia are waiting to destroy these terrorist groups ? Are you syrian army afraid to die for your country and the future of your children and people ? Just mount and non stop offensive in this city, and that is ! Do not wait for another ceasefire Lavrov-Kerry.
It’s very difficult. The situation is very tough there. I am from Damascus, and we go up to the mounts of Al-Fijah to get water in loads. The mountain isn’t walking straight shot up. These mountains are big and curvy and difficult to drive (without getting ambushed so easily). Roads are very curvy.
Plus, destroying the area around will cause more damage for the people in Damascus. So far my friends in Sham have been saying they have been buying lots of water bottles and generators. They are holding fine but they can’t stand this situation anymore.
I assume the Syrian army is waiting for the Tiger forces because they are very good in offensive tactics or waiting for generals order. Conquering Al-Fijah is not as easy as the Army has been liberating towns left and right. This is an upscale battle (literally). The Army refused to bomb the area due to many civilians and the destroying the water supply would be pointless of their mission. They are trying to reconquer the area to de-pollute their water supply from the diesel and chemicals Fateh Al Sham put in it.
Advancing in this area takes a lot of tactics because the Syrian Army is open to fire anytime. When I was at Al-Fijah, you can look down so easily and see thee city easily. They are open to bombs dropping on them and also snipers. This battle is Syrian Army Men vs the terrorists. Using airstrikes would have to be so so precise to not allow any destruction on the water supply or that will be more work for the men to fix. That is one reason why the terrorists don’t want to have a peace agreement cause they want to use it to their advantage.
Notice how not one ant-government media posted on thing about this “civilian situation.”
A reporter that just returned from Damascus reported that al Nusra has already blown up the spring’s underground tunnels to the Damascus pipelines, so the entire water supply system is gone now and will have to be repaired. Is this your understanding of the situation, too?
I believe so, someone posted a foto on twitter (can’t recall a/c) of a usual suspect grinning jihadi standing inside a wrecked pumphouse . In any case the city water engineers have already shut valves further downstream until further notice.
Thank you Moe for your excellent information. I too am tired of armchair Rambos complaining about slow progress by SAA/NDF when they know almost nothing about the operational situation on the ground regarding : terrain, weather, forces and weaponery to hand, enemy dispositions & defenses , restrictions to protect civilians and infrastructure etc.. I add just two points – the plant at Ayn al-Fijar controls the flow downstream from where it emerges from underground but the entire Wadi Barada is the catchment area for the upstream surface inflow and must be secured as well to prevent further contamination. Secondly the Afghani mujahideen used the tactic of luring Soviet Mi-24 towards high ground and firing from well-concealed positions in conditions of low visibility, at short ranges even RPG-18 can be effective, God help us if the terrorists in this area have MANPADS. Meanwhile at least it is winter so the demand for water in the city and surrounding orchards and food gardens is reduced. Can’t shower, but won’t die of thirst.