Syrian rebels strike back with revenge campaign in Aleppo

Published February 17th, 2015 - 07:29 GMT
Conflicting reports continue to emerge about ongoing clashes in Syria's south, where pockets of what is largely considered as the last ample force of the Western-backed FSA are battling Syrian regime forces reinforced by Iranian and Hezbollah fighters. (AFP/File)
Conflicting reports continue to emerge about ongoing clashes in Syria's south, where pockets of what is largely considered as the last ample force of the Western-backed FSA are battling Syrian regime forces reinforced by Iranian and Hezbollah fighters. (AFP/File)

Rebel fire on a government-held neighborhood in Aleppo killed nine people Monday, including three children, Syria’s state news agency SANA reported. It said they were killed in Hay al-Sirian, in government-controlled west Aleppo, but gave no additional details.

Rebel groups have declared that they are stepping up their attacks on regime-held areas of the country in response to government airstrikes on Douma, a suburb of Damascus.

In the south, where an Iranian-Syrian-Hezbollah campaign is in full swing against rebel-held positions, Hezbollah fighters were repulsed as they attacked the Deraa province village of Mashara, close to the border with Qunaitra province, pro-opposition sources said.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a monitoring group based in Britain, said there were confirmed casualties on both sides of the clashes.

Pro-regime social media said clashes also broke out in the city of Deraa, where the regime holds a pocket of territory, and claimed a number of rebel fighters were killed.

Issam Rayyes, spokesman for the Southern Front alliance, aligned with the rebel Free Syrian Army, said that Iranian and Hezbollah losses during the campaign, which began last week, were “much greater” than the two were declaring in public.

However, the spokesman told the Italian news agency AKI that contrary to reports circulating, the rebels were not holding several dozen captured Iranian fighters.

“There are huge losses for Hezbollah, the Iranian Revolutionary Guard and the regime, and what they’ve acknowledged is a small portion of their dead,” he said.

“There are no Iranian prisoners, just the corpses of two Iranian officers” in the possession of the rebels, he added.

Rayyes said one rebel had been killed and two others wounded in the clashes in the city of Deraa.

In the rebel bombing of Aleppo, the Observatory reported nine deaths, but said that four children had been killed and that another 20 people wounded.

Fierce clashes in and around the city were also reported, while a pro-regime newspaper predicted government forces would soon declare “zero hour” for their latest offensive against rebel groups in the divided city.

The newspaper Al-Watan, citing sources in the National Defense paramilitary forces, said the regime had rushed reinforcements to the Aleppo theater to prepare for the push.

It added that the regime would also rely on “cooperation with our Kurdish brothers” in the new campaign, without elaborating on which Kurdish groups were involved.

“It is helping us to have coordination with our Kurdish brothers in the confrontation with our mutual enemy, takfiri groups, while some personnel have been planted in the ranks of the [rebels] and they have played an important role in giving us precise information about the concentration of gunmen and they’ve carried out successful assassinations of the leaders of the gunmen,” the newspaper said, citing a paramilitary source.

However, observers have cited increased coordination between Kurdish groups and the rebel Free Syrian Army in recent weeks, particularly with the withdrawal of ISIS militants from the border town of Ain al-Arab.

The city of Aleppo saw a joint Kurdish-FSA demonstration after Ain al-Arab was seized from ISIS, while the Shamiah Front, active in Aleppo, and the Kurdish YPG militia have stepped up their own coordination by concluding a “security agreement.”

Regime helicopters dropped barrel bombs on at least two neighborhoods in Aleppo Monday, according to the Observatory, but no casualties were reported.

Also, the Ahrar al-Sham militia targeted the coastal city of Latakia with Grad rockets for the second day running, as part of heightened attacks to “avenge” regime airstrikes on Douma.

Opposition media outlets said eight rockets slammed into areas around the city but no casualties were reported.

Rebel groups also said they were acting in the wake of Sunday’s regime airstrikes against the village of Najiya in Idlib province, which killed around 20 civilians.

The airstrike on Najiya hit a market, wiping out a number of homes, as pro-opposition sources said there was no rebel presence in the area.

 

 

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