Is this a pre-emptive strike by the Syrian Army around Damascus or is this an attempt to speed up the big battle that is being prepared by the opposition and the Regime?
It is a pre-emptive tactic in anticipation of the FSA attack on Damascus; this is how sources close to the “Free Syrian Army” (FSA) in Paris put it. The battle of yesterday took place on the strategic Damascus Airport road and in the town of Haran Al Awamid and Hujera and Akraba and are clear indications that both parties are convinced that a big battle for Damascus is looming on the horizon.
The theory that the struggle is quickly reaching Damascus has been bolstered with the recent events including the closure of the airport road yesterday, but the authorities soon reopened it declaring it as safe.
The Syrian Ministry of Information announced that the Damascus Airport road is safe after a group of terrorists had attacked some travelling cars and that this had been dealt with by the security forces. This happened a few hours after Egypt and the UAE suspended flights to Damascus for security reasons.
Back to the two sides of the conflict, on the side of the opposition the anti-aircraft missiles have introduced a new element favouring the balance of power towards the opposition. Those missiles allowed the armed opposition to take calculated risks in keeping a significant element of the Air Force away which has been responsible for inflicting upon the opposition heavy losses in the capital and surrounds.
A prominent opposition person, closely associated with the “Free Syrian Army” (FSA), estimates that the number of fighters that have entered the Damascus district is close to 40,000, they have a huge arsenal of weapons and ammunition, and they are battle ready for an extended period as they have secure supply lines despite the aerial bombing, and this will likely allow a different outcome for the second battle of Damascus.
Previously, some units of the “Free Syrian Army” (FSA) have retreated a few months ago as a result of a counter attack done by the regular army, because at that time it did not have secure supply lines and enough ammunition.
According to a well-informed Syrian source, units of the “Free Syrian Army” (FSA) have abandoned their post in Huran and went to join the fight in the Damascus district and he adds that the increase in numbers is another indication that the Syrian opposition is trying to take the battle to Damascus by giving it priority in the attack against the Syrian Army and to drag the Special Units that are barricading around Damascus down to the battlefield.
On the other hand, an internal circular within the “Free Syrian Army” (FSA) ranks looks with great suspicion at the quick progress its units have been able to achieve in the Damascus district and this circular warns of the possibility that the regular Army has deliberately retreated from some areas around the airport and the district in general for the purpose of luring the “Free Syrian Army” (FSA) into a situation that they cannot match, in addition, this will also put at risk other units that will be sent to the area with the attempt of isolating the city and taking control of the Airport road and other strategic roads as well as the Beirut road.
The circular clearly hints to a scenario of a huge ambush that the Syrian Government is possibly preparing for the “Free Syrian Army” (FSA) by pretending that it is has been overwhelmed and is retreating only to turn around later and strike devastatingly.
What bolsters this scenario is the enthusiasm of the Government, which according to some experts in Damascus, is quite similar to the enthusiasm of the opposition for the same battle, and achieving a big military victory in the district and preventing advancements.
There are a lot of indications on the ground that indicates that the regular Syrian army has for months been trying to turn the area of the Damascus District into a trap for the “Free Syrian Army” (FSA). In the last few months the strategy of destroying the infrastructure that aids the FSA has been expanded and it is very clear now that the towns of Eastern Ghouta and its satellite towns that stretch all the way from Deir Al Asafir, all the way to Harasta have turned into virtual ghost towns.
These areas have been turned into strong defence lines by the elite Republican Guards and the Fourth Brigade who are heavily bunkered in and can manoeuvre at liberty as the risk of civilian casualties doesn’t exist.
The free manoeuvrability of a regular army like the Syrian Army is paramount in confronting guerrilla warfare against a guerrilla based army that has a bottomless supply of fighters and has been able to withstand heavy casualties caused by an aerial and artillery attacks.
Resorting to heavy aerial attacks on the part of the Government is another indication that it is going to use all what it has in its arsenal and the emergence of anti-aircraft missiles did not have a significant impact, according to that source.
Sources indicate that the Syrian Arab Army believes that the armed opposition has in its possession a bit over 50 surface-to-air missiles out of which it has used 12 so far, and that most of them are positioned in northern Syria, quite far the capital.
Further, the Syrian Arab Army may resort to maintain its aerial superiority by deploying its MiG–25 and MiG–30 jet fighter aircrafts which can strike from very high altitudes away from the range of the missiles that the Qataris have supplied the opposition with.
The MiG-21 and MiG-23 jet fighter aircrafts have been attacked before by the opposition and some have been shot down by these missiles in the last few months. Qatar has supplied the Syrian opposition with those missiles a few months ago but the decision to use them only recently has been a political decision which points that there is an increasing race with two objectives:
To take full control of Northern Syria as soon as possible and turn it into a safe haven for the opposition in the shadows or under the wings of an interim government, plus putting more pressure on Damascus and its environs.
Sources close to the Syrian Government say that contrary to facts on the ground and the clear evidence of an impending attack on the Damascus region by the “Free Syrian Army” (FSA), the Syrian Arab Army appears calm and ready and does not seem to be concerned about any defections.
As a matter of fact a source from Damascus reveals that in the last few months thousands of Syrian soldiers and officers have returned from Iran and Russia after undertaking intense training on guerrilla warfare. Needless to say, that the defections that took place earlier on have shrunk significantly and the legions that the Command Centre did not deploy into battle earlier on in fear of defections are now more willing than ever to fight (for the Syrian government).
More at the (Arabic) source of the translation:
Translation by Intibah & Ghassan.