Provides an in-depth look into the al-Qusayr offensive , launched in 19 May 2013 by the Syrian Army, to capture the villages around the rebel-held town of al-Qusayr and ultimately the town itself
Despite what some specific channels are claiming, the Syrian army entered this area…
The Syrian army did not wait long after advancing in the rural areas of West Al-Qusayr and recapturing several towns and villages to the South of Orontes River. Its units embarked upon a comprehensive military operation in order to liberate some towns to the East of Orontes River and complete the siege of Al-Qusayr.
The military’s decision was clear: to surround the Eastern towns of Albwaida and Althabaa and prevent the armed groups from pressuring the Syrian army due to Al-Qusayr’s strategic geographical location. The Army also intended to tighten the grip on the city itself and secure the International road from Homs to the Syrian coast and other areas.
When the operation started the Syrian army moved towards the town of Alkmam. Snipers stationed outside the town and its roads considerably slowed down the Army’s progress. Eventually after the unit divided into two it managed to surprise the armed groups with its maneuvering capabilities. Clashes lasted for hours before the Syrian units managed to enter Alkmam. As soon as the Army entered the town, engineering unit started dismantling various bombs planted between the houses by the armed groups in order to impede the army’s advancement.
The Army continued to strengthen its position inside the town prior to its attack on Alsalloumia town situated near Alkmam.
The Army’s surprise tactic and highly trained guerilla fighters were decisive elements in the battle. By lifting the siege from Alghassania town, the goal of the operation was accomplished. For more than a year before the siege was broken, Alghassania residents had not been able to cross Kattina Lake. The Army’s second target was Alshomaria town which was considered the last joint in surrounding Alghassania on Kattina Lake, from where the armed groups travel by boats to deliver arms and logistic supports to their comrades in other villages.
To prevent the arrival of any supplies to the armed groups stationed in Alshomaria town, one unit of the Syrian army advanced towards Alshomaria while the Army engaged with the armed groups in Althabaa, Eastern Albwaida, Arjoon and Alhamidia. At the same time, an engineering unit was busy dismantling bombs planted outside the town and around civilian houses while simultaneously a highly- trained guerilla group entered the town to start combing the entire area.
With the entry of the Syrian army, the siege of Alghassania came to an end. Now the armed groups in the towns of AlHaidaria, Eishalwarwar, Western Aldmaina , Eastern Albwaida and Althabaa had no choice but to surrender to the quick advancement of the Syrian army. The army soon began combing AlHaidaria, Eishalwarwar and Western Aldmaina and severe clashes at the entrance of Eastern Albwaida and Althabaa towns broke out.
To control the three towns of Western Aldmaina, AlHaidaria and Eishalwarwar, is considered as a strategic move by the Syrian army, because it cuts off the road between Homs and Al-Qusayr and prevents any logistic supplies from reaching the armed groups. Inside Al-Qusayr, which has been cut off from its geographical surroundings, surveillance unit’s work continuously. The battle started by the army’s gradual advancement towards Al-Qusayr’s rural areas and by applying the nibble and isolation strategy, village after village and town after town until Al-Qusayr city was separated from its rural areas.
At the dawn of Sunday 19th May 2013, Syria witnessed an entirely different battle. Al-Qusayr battle which could be considered as the most strategic battle raged 15 kilometers North East of the Lebanese borders and 35 kilometers to the South of Homs. The major assault against Al-Qusayr city was launched after the Syrian army managed to infiltrate wireless system networks for the armed groups which enabled the army to pinpoint their locations.
The area was divided into two, while the army in fact divided the battle area into six sections in order to separate the armed groups from each other and weaken their morale.
The first strike at the break of dawn took the armed groups by surprise. The element of shock allowed the Syrian army to advance from three directions: From the East, South and North East to target the armed groups’ headquarters.
Simultaneously some units replaced the troops that had entered from the Southern direction. From the East, Syrian troops moved through Zamroon plains towards Al-Qusayr city, once again they took advantage of the surprise element which enabled them to recapture the school complex and the Eastern quarter in record time.
This area consists of some schools in which the armed groups used to take shelter in. Now they are totally under the control of the Syrian army, as we shall see, while the operation will resume in this direction.
The streets and the main square in the city portray very well the battle that had raged a couple of hours ago.
As we are following the events, we are inside Al-Qusayr city. This is Imam Ali mosque, and this street is full of armed groups, and this barricade has been erected by them. We are now at the centre of Al-Qusayr city which has been the bastion of the armed groups for a long time before the Syrian army combed it thoroughly.
We proceeded towards the front line where clashes are still going on and sniper operations are the most noticeable features.
Hussein Mortada from
As we are here, the Syrian army units are confronting the armed groups in this area.
This is the area where the school complex is located. Armed groups have been removed from this area and other strategic locations in the city.
The Army’s advancement from the South was very smooth; only specific locations were targeted due to their accurate intelligence information. The current state of the streets and alleys here reflect the extent of the clashes. Armed groups fortified inside these houses after they planted dozens of bombs in a bid to impede the Army’s advancement.
From where I’m sending this report, shelling and sniper and artillery attacks are still dominating the atmosphere in the city.
The use of artillery contributed greatly to minimizing casualties among Syrian soldiers. On the other hand heavy deployment of snipers in many areas of Al-Qusayr city prompted the Syrian army in implementing a totally different tactic in which special units encircled the armed groups after the advancement of other units in order to create distraction from the intended operation. The Army clashed with the armed groups from close range and from one street to another.
When the armed groups realized that they had lost the initiative and were being chased by the Syrian Army they resorted to using bombs as the sole weapon at their disposal in order to slow down the advancement of the army.
Those bombs were planted so as to create a domino effect where the explosion of one bomb would lead to the explosion of the rest.
Hussein Mortada :
We are now in the Southern quarter, currently in the Western quarter clashes are still raging while the Syrian army is continuing the deployment of its units.
After the Army managed to take full control of the Southern quarter of the city its units advanced towards the city’s central area. What is clear from the wreckage left behind is the intensity of the battles in this area. The main street of the city, called Homs – Baalbek Street, was combed quickly after the snipers deliberately cut it off. This is the Al-Ahli hospital which was under the control of the armed forces.
Hussein Mortada :
We are currently at the center of Al-Qusayr city. This is the Al-Ahli hospital. This area is well known as a bastion for the armed groups. The place was transformed to a field hospital, and as we proceed, we reach the main road in this area which is Homs – Baalbek.
The aim was to surround the armed groups and cut off all supply routes inside and outside the city. This is what the Syrian army managed to achieve through controlling Alhamidia village. Bombs planted by the armed groups and this tunnel are good examples of trenches erected by them in these quarters. The military uniforms suggest the presence of AlNusra front and the sectarian books are from Qatar. The Syrian army announces that the first phase of the operation is successfully coming to an end according to plan. Now, the armed groups are surrounded in a narrow triangle from the Northern side, where Alhamidia village is located, close to al-Dab'a Air Base in which Syrian army units are present.
The Syrian army briskly launched the second phase of attacks. The target this time is to recapture the towns of Arjoon and Nibrak in Al-Qusayr’s rural areas. The liberation of al-Dab'a Air Base which was considered the armed groups’ back yard in Al-Qusayr, was a real surprise for everybody. In this operation, the Syrian army surrounded the armed groups in the Northern part of the city before it could manage to reach the strategic air base while its other units took over the near-by Alhamidia village.
The Commander of the operation employed a new strategy of tense firing in order to distract the armed groups after he deluded them that the major battle is concentrated in the Northern quarter of Al-Qusayr city. He concentrated his units' fire towards the Northern part of the city which pushed the armed groups to retreat to the Western part of the city which was experiencing fierce close range fighting. As a result the armed groups focused their efforts on the Western part of the city which allowed the Army to advance through the Northern road directly towards the strategic al-Dab'a Air Base.
al-Dab'a Air Base is considered the most strategic location in Homs province, due to its proximity to Al-Qusayr city and its central position among Alhamidia, Arjoon, Althabaa, AlMasoudia and Eastern Albwaida towns.
When the army gained control of al-Dab'a Air Base, the armed groups lost their only life line. Battles were still raging fiercely and the armed groups were shocked by the developments on the ground. Finally the armed groups retreated to Althabaa village in the Western rural area of Al-Qusayr, leaving behind their dead and injured companions.
The Syrian army resumed its military operation from the Southern quarter, the goal was to take control of the Western and South Western quarters in order to reach the center of Al-Qusayr and create a new confrontation line with the armed groups at the heart of the Northern quarter of the city as a prelude operation to combing the Northern quarter.
The Syrian army advanced to the Western and South Western quarters, which resulted in fierce fighting with Al-Nusra front fighters. The army finally reached the center of Al-Qusayr city and took control of the municipality building. By now most parts of the city were at the hands of the Syrian army. The determination and the progress on the ground created an aperture for the soldiers to enter and dominate the center of Al-Qusayr city. Al-Qusayr was the strategic bastion for AlNusra front fighters and the front line in defending the Northern quarter. With their defeat the armed groups' morale started to decline sharply and they became more hysterical while a total collapse could be seen among them after the arrival of the Syrian army to areas which exposed their weakness and vulnerability.
In the evening, the military command decided that it was the proper time to storm the Northern quarter of the city. At night fall the Syrian army entered the Northern quarter from three different directions: from the East, West and North. By dawn, heavy fire forced the AlNusra fighters to flee towards Althabaa which allowed the Syrian units to enter the Northern quarter and begin the combing operation. When the dust settled in Al-Qusayr city, the extent of the destruction caused by the armed groups became visible. Even the sacredness of this historic church did not spare it from the armed groups’ destruction and looting.
Hussein Mortada :
You can see the amount of destruction caused to the church behind me. In these quarters, the armed groups forced all inhabitants to leave
The armed groups' trenches and facilities indicate the nature of the support they have been receiving. This is the field hospital in Al-Qusayr city. It has surgery rooms, modern appliances and a huge quantity of medicine, contrary to the armed groups' allegations of shortages in medicines and medical instruments.
Hussein Mortada :
This is the field hospital that was used by the armed groups to medicate their wounded personnel. Blood stains and military uniforms can still be seen. Here, many surgeries were carried out on those who participated in recent battles prior to the Syrian army’s control of the area.
While the Syrian army was chasing the remaining members of the defeated armed groups out of the city, some residents began to return to their homes. There was a feeling of triumph over the victory achieved by the Syrian army and resolve among the citizens to reconstruct their city.
The Syrian army continued towards AlMasoudia village, and later AlSalhia village which were liberated without any resistance from the armed groups who had fled to Eastern AlBouwaida, leaving behind all their weapons and ammunitions. Here, the Syrian army confiscated arms and various vehicles equipped with heavy machine guns and missile launchers in addition to large quantities of ammunitions and mortar shells.
In a swift maneuver by competent Army units, Eastern AlBouwaida was surrounded. The Syrian army entered the town to comb the area and discovered that the armed groups had deliberately planted bombs inside houses prior to fleeing. Field hospitals can be seen everywhere, and as usual, tunnels are the armed groups’ favorite method of trench. One of the tunnels was dug underneath the field hospital that consists of two rooms used as shelters in order to avoid the army’s strikes. Other tunnels were used as arms depots.
Now, Al-Qusayr city and its rural areas are under total Syrian army control.
Due to the strategic location of Al-Qusayr, situated between the North Lebanese towns of Ersal and Hormel and the Homs – Damascus motorway to the Syrian coastline, the armed groups had put their military weight in this area and recruited fighters from Chechnya, Afghanistan and Arab & foreign countries. And this particular factor became their fatal mistake.
The recent victory in Al-Qusayr and the surprises the Army had for the armed groups are certainly not the last ones. Various military operations on different fronts will further weaken the armed groups and will drive them closer to total collapse.
Despite what some specific channels are claiming, the Syrian army entered this area…