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Battle of Qalamoun
Part of the Syrian civil war
Date15 November 2013 – ongoing
(8 years, 7 months, 2 weeks and 4 days)
LocationQalamoun Mountains, Al-Nabk District, Syria
Result

Ongoing

  • Syrian Army captures Qara[1] and An-Nabk[2]
  • Rebels temporarily capture most of Deir Attiyeh,[3] with the Army recapturing it six days later[4]
  • Rebels capture Maaloula[5]
Belligerents

Syria Syrian Arab Republic

File:Leb.tif Hezbollah

Al-Nusra Front Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant

Syria-flag 1932-58 1961-63.svg Free Syrian Army
Commanders and leaders
Unknown Syria-flag 1932-58 1961-63.svg Salim Barakat [6]
Strength
Unknown number of Army troops
15,000 Hezbollah fighters (opposition claim)[7]
25,000–30,000 rebels[8]
Casualties and losses
Unknown Unknown


The Battle of Qalamoun started on 15 November 2013, with air strikes on the town of Qara, in the strategic Qalamoun region, in an attempt by the Syrian Army to cut rebel supply lines to Damascus from Lebanon.[9] The strategic region had been used by rebel forces as a rear base for its operations around the capital Damascus. For its part, government forces had been using the nearby highway to link Damascus with the central Homs province and had multiple weapons depots in the area.[10]

Capture of Qara

Between 15 and 17 November, 1,200–1,700 families, 90 percent of Qara, evacuated from the town over the border into the Lebanese town of Arsal, after the Syrian Army issued a warning that they were going to attack rebel forces in the area.[11][12] In preparation for the offensive, thousands of Hezbollah fighters positioned themselves opposition the Qalamoun region on the Lebanese side of the border.[13]

On 15 November, the military launched its offensive against Qara[14] and the next day multiple air strikes hit the rebel-held town.[15] Fighting was also raging near the towns of An-Nabk and Rima.[16][17] The clashes led to the closure of the Damascus-Homs highway.[13] Rebel forces in the area mobilised to counter the Army offensive.[18]

On 17 November, government forces moved into the hills around Qara[19] and were attempting to storm the town itself[9] as more air strikes were conducted.[20] Artillery was also used to hit the town.[21][22] By the afternoon, government forces were not able to advance in the city despite repeated attempts and the constant bombardment.[23]

On 18 November, government troops continued the offensive, capturing key positions in Qara, according to the pro-government al-Watan daily newspaper.[24] The Air Force carried out several raids on al-Qalamoun and Yabroud mountains, as pro-government press sources claimed that the Army controlled large parts of Qara.[25] A man who fled Qara into Lebanon described the attack on the town and stated "Qara is finished".[26] Middle East security officials stated there were few signs yet of a massive Syrian armour build-up needed for an all-out assault on Qalamoun. They speculated that the government may conclude that dwindling rebel supplies from Lebanon would mean an all-out assault is not worth the cost.[27]

On 19 November, government forces took full control of Qara.[1][28][29] Rebels retreated from the town towards An-Nabk and Deir Attiyeh.[30]

Rebel attack on Deir Attiyeh

On 20 November, a series of suicide attacks occurred against government forces in An-Nabk and Deir Attiyeh. A suicide car bomber targeted a military checkpoint while another blew up near a security headquarters, both on the outskirts of An-Nabk. In another incident, two Saudis tried to blow up the hospital in Deir Attiyeh but were stopped by government soldiers.[31] In the attack on the checkpoint seven soldiers were killed and five wounded, while several soldiers died in the attack on the hospital. After the Saudi bombers exploded, five rebel fighters entered the hospital in an attempt to destroy medical equipment and kidnap a wounded Army officer and the Ikhbariya al-Suriya television crew. However, they were beaten back by the Army and the officer and crew were saved. Meanwhile, eight rebels were killed in fighting in the countryside around Deir Attiyeh.[32][33]

On 22 November, rebel forces, led by jihadists from ISIL and Al-Nusra Front, mostly seized the largely Christian town of Deir Attiyeh. Only the Bassel hospital and a small hill remained under Army control.[3]

On 25 November, the Army started deploying troops in Deir Attiyeh, in preparation to recapture the town,[34] and soon after launched a counter-attack.[35] The next day, the Air Forces hit Al-Nabk, killing seven people, including three children. Meanwhile, the Syrian Health Minister, Saad al-Nayef, accused the rebels of committing a "massacre" in Deir Attiyeh, killing "five doctors, five nurses and two ambulance drivers."[36] Opposition activists confirmed five doctors and four nurses were killed in the clashes at the main hospital.[37]

On 27 November, four Hezbollah fighters were killed in fighting in the Qalamoun region, one of them the nephew of the Lebanese Caretaker Agriculture Minister Hussein Hajj Hassan, a top Hezbollah official.[38] At this time, fighting started in the area of the government-held town of Maaloula.[5]

On 28 November, the Army recaptured Deir Attiyeh,[39] with fighting continuing in the surrounding countryside.[4]

Army push into An-Nabk, fighting in Maaloula

The same day the Army recaptured Deir Attiyeh, government forces entered An-Nabk[40] and fighting raged around the town.[41] A military source stated that if the town would to be captured, the Army would be left with only Yabroud and some other villages to take in order to completely block off the border with Lebanon.[40]

On 29 November, the Army was shelling rebel positions in the town that had halted its advance.[42] Government forces detained dozens of people in the western part of An-Nabk that they had captured.[43]

On the night of 29 November,[44] rebel forces started an attack on Maaloula, in an attempt to capture it[45] and cut Army supply lines from Damascus to An-Nabk,[44] after their previous attack on the town was repelled in September.[45] In the early hours of the next day, the rebels broke into the town and captured the Mar Takla convent in the western part of Maaloula.[44] Meanwhile, fighting was still continuing in An-Nabk, which was hit with several air strikes. The Air Force also attacked Yabroud.[45]

On 1 December, fighting in Maaloula was concentrated in the old quarter of the town.[46] Meanwhile, a suicide bomber attacked a police checkpoint on the Damascus-Homs highway, near An-Nabk, killing five government fighters. By this point, according to a Syrian security source, the military had captured 60 percent of An-Nabk.[47]

On 2 December, the rebels moved into the center of Maaloula, after sending explosive-filled tires hurtling down from positions in the cliffs above the town on security forces deployed there.[48] By this point, rebel forces captured the old quarter of Maaloula.[49][50] The Army and pro-government militias fought during the day in an attempt to retake the district. Several nuns from the monastery were being held by jihadist fighters[51] and, according to a Vatican spokesperson, the 12 Syrian and Lebanese Orthodox nuns were forcibly taken north in the direction of Yabroud. During the evening, rebels had taken full control of Maaloula,[5] with fighting continuing against government forces in the town's outskirts.[52] After the town's capture, three Christians in Maaloula were executed by rebels after refusing to convert to Islam.[53] At the same time, the Army captured most of An-Nabk and continued to advance through the town the next day.[54] Due to the advances, the Army reopened the Damascus-Homs highway.[55]

On 3 December, the Army sent reinforcements to Maaloula to link up with government forces still on the outskirts of the town and attempt to retake it.[56]

On 6 December, government forces reportedly killed at least 18 people, including children, in an underground shelter in the government-held Al-Fattah district of An-Nabk. The opposition claimed that government troops torched the bodies after the killings "in a bid to conceal their crime".[57] The next day, the number of those killed was updated to 40.[58][59]

On 7 December, according to Iranian Press TV, the Army cleared the outskirts of An-Nabk, but fighting was still ongoing inside the town itself.[60]

On 8 December, the Army advanced further, capturing new sectors of An-Nabk.[61]

On 9 December, the Army reopened the Damascus-Homs highway, after securing it for the most part. However, according to SOHR, the highway was still not fully secured due to continuing rebel attacks.[62]

On 10 December, the Army took full control of An-Nabk,[2] with fighting continuing in its outskirts[63] as a pocket of rebel resistance in a small area east of the town remained.[2] State TV aired a live report from An-Nabk's main square[63] in the center of the town.[64] According to a pro-government newspaper, 100 rebels were killed or captured during the battle for the town.[65]

On 11 December, government forces shelled the outskirts of Yabroud and the Rima area, as well as the outskirts of An-Nabk.[66] Several air strikes were also conducted against Yabroud.[67]

Army advance into Yabroud

Fresh from victory in the nearby town of Nabek, the Army began an assault against the last rebel stronghold in the Qalamoun mountains.

On 11 December, The Army shelled the town with heavy artillery as the Air force carried out airstrikes against the town.[68][69][70]

References

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