Quneitra offensive (June 2017)

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Quneitra offensive (June 2017)
Part of the Syrian Civil War and Israeli–Syrian military incidents during the Syrian Civil War
Date24 June – 1 July 2017
(1 week)
LocationMadinat al-Baath, Quneitra Governorate, Syria
Result Syrian Army victory
Belligerents

Army of Muhammad operations room[1][2][3]



 Israel

Syrian Arab Republic

Commanders and leaders
Abu Osamah Al-Karar [8]
(HTS assault commander)
Duraid al-Shuneibli [9]
(HTS military commander)
Unknown
Units involved

Syrian opposition Free Syrian Army

Syrian Army[3]
National Defence Forces[3]

Syrian Air Force
Casualties and losses
75+ killed, 150+ wounded (per SAA)[15][8][16] ~12 killed (per SAA)[17]
120+ killed (per the rebels)[18]
31–35 combatants killed on both sides
(per SOHR & The Inside Source; by 26 June)[19][20]

The Quneitra offensive (June 2017), code-named "Road to Damascus",[2][8][21] was a military operation launched by rebel forces against the Syrian Arab Army at the town of Madinat al-Baath, in the Quneitra Governorate, during the Syrian Civil War.

The offensive[edit]

The offensive, by rebels organised in the Jaish al-Mohammed (Army of Mohammed) operations room, including the Salafist jihadist rebel group Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) as well as Free Syrian Army (FSA) fighters, was launched on 24 June, against Madinat al-Baath, also known as Baath City.[4][5][1] HTS was reportedly the leading group in the offensive.[4] As the attack was underway, Israeli warplanes bombed Syrian military positions at the entrance to the town, destroying a tank and a Shilka SPAAG according to the Syrian military.[22] Israel stated the strikes were in retaliation for errant rocket fire that hit the Israeli-controlled part of the Golan Heights[23] and that it destroyed two tanks, one as it was preparing to fire.[24] Israeli journalist Ron Ben-Yishai reported the errant fire as notable for including an unusual number of "10 mortar shells and tank projectiles" landing in an open area in Israeli territory.[4] As a result of the air-strikes, the rebels captured several positions near Baath City.[25]

By the next day, government forces managed to recapture all lost positions.[26][27] However, later in the day, Israel once again conducted air-strikes against government positions,[28] hitting two artillery positions and an ammunition truck.[29][30] The strikes, which killed two Syrian army soldiers,[5] were again in retaliation for reported rocket strikes hitting the Israeli part of the Golan Heights.[30][31] Following the strikes, the Syrian government said rebels launched a new attack on Baath City[32] and a pro-opposition activist claimed the rebels managed to break through the government's first line of defence.[5]

Israel conducted a third round of air-strikes on 26 June. According to Israeli sources, a shell from fighting in Syria landed on Israeli-occupied territory as Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was touring the area, although there were no injuries or damage.[33][34][1] Syrian military sources reported the Israeli strikes hit the Mafrazeh Al-Jisr checkpoint, killing two soldiers.[35] Subsequently, according to Syrian military sources, rebels unsuccessfully attacked the "key" hilltop of Tal Ahmar, clashing with Syrian military and National Defense Forces and "allied paramilitaries".[35][3] The Syrian Observatory on Human Rights reported at least four Syrian or allied soldiers killed in the three days of Israeli air-strikes.[36]

28 June saw a fourth round of Israeli air-strikes[37] and further ground clashes erupted in the early hours, accompanied by air-strikes by the Syrian Air Force as well.[38] Later in the day, shelling between both sides took place[39][1] and in the evening a major government counter-attack retook all remaining territory that the rebel forces had captured during the offensive.[8] The Syrian Army and its allies then attempted to advance westwards into rebel-held areas, but reported that they abandoned their advance when the Israeli Air Force raided their positions at Al-Samdaniyah Al-Sharqiyah.[40] According to Israel, the attack was in retaliation for a stray mortar shell hitting their territory - the 16th time stray fire from Syria struck Israeli territory in the week - and that they were firing back at the source of the fire.[33][41][37] The next morning, the rebels hit Madinat al-Baath with a barrage of TOW anti-tank missiles in an attempt to restart their offensive.[42]

On 1 July, the Syrian Army, supported by the National Defence Forces, continued their counter-attack, reporting they had recaptured the quarries area west of Baath City and thus reversing all rebel gains during the offensive.[16] During the fighting, two stray artillery rounds hit the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights, prompting Israeli forces to target the Syrian government positions for the fifth time, targeting an artillery position they said was the source of the firing.[34][43][44]

A four-day unilateral ceasefire was announced by the Syrian Army to take place between midday 2 July and midnight on 6 July.[45] Although exchange of fire between Israel and Syria largely ceased,[46] clashes renewed near Baath City on 3 July, with Israeli helicopters attacking Syrian Army positions according to Syrian military sources.[47]

Aftermath[edit]

On 8 July, the Syrian Army reported that, along with its allies, it had captured several points near Al-Samdaniyah Al-Gharbiyah.[48]

As a precursor to Astana 5 peace talks, on 9 July 2017, at 0900 GMT, an American-Russian-Jordanian brokered ceasefire commenced.[49] Besides minor violations from all sides involved, including machine gun fire on an Irish base on the Golan Heights,[12] the ceasefire held though mid-July.[50] The Southern Front boycotted the Astana 5 talks.[51]

On 14 July, according to pro-government media, opposition groups in the "Death over Humiliation" operations room, including HTS and FSA groups participating in the Quneitra, offensive rejected the ceasefire, with clashes resuming across Southern Syria.[52]

In early August, rebel sources reported that Russian forces were replacing government troops in Daraa and Quneitra, while pro-government sources reported that Russian military policemen had been deployed in the region and were now stationed in positions shared by the Syrian army and only the 4th Division was withdrawing. Both reported a new Russian base in the area, acting as a buffer between government/Hezbollah troops and Israeli occupied land and to enforce the ceasefire.[53][54]

On 8 September, Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) fighters launched an offensive in the direction of the town of Hader, reportedly showering the town with missiles before launching a ground assault resulting in the capture of Tal al-Hira hilltop.[55] However, later in the day the Syrian Army, alongside National Defense Forces, reported it had recaptured the high-point.[56]

Despite the truce, government shelling was reported by the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights in late September 2017.[57]

In mid-October 2017, the Syrian Army launched an operation in the nearby region known as Western Ghouta, capturing Tal Bard’ayyah hill and thus securing fire control over the town of Beit Jinn, held by HTS.[58] However, the rebels recaptured all positions they had lost two days later.[59] During this time, Israel conducted several strikes against Syrian Army artillery positions due to errant rocket fire hitting Israeli-held parts of the Golan Heights.[60][61]

In mid-2018, the Syrian military was preparing to launch an offensive against rebel forces in the Quneitra Governorate, as part of a greater campaign in Southern Syria. As preparations were underway, the rebels burned farms near the frontline.[62] The potential offensive was the subject of controversy with Israel due to the presence of Iranian backed groups in the region, with the Israeli government pressuring Russia to force Iranian backed groups out of the region.[63][64][65]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d e f Israel strikes Syrian regime forces as Netanyahu visits illegally occupied Golan Heights, Al-Araby, 29 June 2017
  2. ^ a b Weekly Conflict Summary June 22-28, 2017, Carter Center
  3. ^ a b c d e "VIDEO: Syrian Army repels another horde of Israeli-backed jihadists in Quneitra countryside". Al-Masdar News. 26 June 2017. 
  4. ^ a b c d "In state of panic, Syrian army tosses rules of caution aside". YNet. 25 June 2017. Retrieved 25 June 2017 – via Ynetnews. 
  5. ^ a b c d Fighting intensifies in Syrian Golan Heights, Al-Jazeera 26 June 2017
  6. ^ a b c d "5 rebel factions launch attack on regime army in Quneitra province". Zaman al-Wasl. 25 June 2017. Retrieved 29 June 2017. 
  7. ^ Ellen Francis U.S.-Russian ceasefire deal holding in southwest Syria, Reuters 9 July 2017
  8. ^ a b c d Chris tomson (29 June 2017). "Syrian Army retakes all lost points in the Golan Heights as jihadist offensive grinds to a halt". al-Masdar News. Retrieved 29 June 2017. 
  9. ^ "Top jihadi commander killed in southwestern Syria". 2 July 2017. 
  10. ^ Tsurkov, Elizabeth (25 June 2017). "Among the factions participating in the battle in Quneitra: Hayat Tahrir a-Sham (Nusra), Liwaa' al-Izz, Liwaa al-Furqan, Liwaa a-Sabetin". 
  11. ^ Aymenn Jawad Al-Tamimi (3 July 2017). Jonathan Spyer, ed. "Arab Media: Israeli Bombardment Killed, Wounded Targets inside Syria". Rubin Center. Retrieved 4 July 2017. 
  12. ^ a b Heavy machine gun fire lands on Irish Golan base, Irish Times, 10 July 2017
  13. ^ "Opposition fighters announce new formation of "Jaysh al-Tawhid"". Orient News. 25 February 2017. Retrieved 2 July 2017. 
  14. ^ a b Leith Fadel (25 June 2017). "Syrian Army beats back jihadist forces in Golan Heights despite Israeli aggression". al-Masdar News. Retrieved 26 June 2017. 
  15. ^ "Jihadist rebels suffer 50+ casualties during failed Golan Heights offensive". Al-Masdar News. 28 June 2017. 
  16. ^ a b "Rebel Israeli-backed offensive ultimately fails as Syrian Army recaptures all territory". Al-Masdar. 2 July 2017. 
  17. ^ "VIDEO: Islamist rebels launch large-scale assault on Syrian Army stronghold near Israel". Al-Masdar News. 27 June 2017. 
  18. ^ Illingworth, Andrew (4 July 2017). "Map update: Israel-backed Golan militants to continue offensive operations". Al-Masdar News. 
  19. ^ "More than 31 members and fighters of regime forces and factions were killed in 48 hours of battles in the mid-sector countryside of Al-Quneitra". 
  20. ^ Source, The Inside (25 June 2017). "#Syria // #Qunetria // Casualties as a result of heavy clashes around Baath city are inflated. Combined toll is no more than 35". 
  21. ^ To Help Daraa... The Syrian Opposition Launches A New Battle South Of Syria
  22. ^ "Update: Israeli warplanes bomb Syrian forces while Al-Qaeda blitzes their positions". Al-Masdar News. 24 June 2017. 
  23. ^ CNN, Andrew Carey. "Israel strikes Syrian military near Golan Heights". CNN. 
  24. ^ Syria says Israel strike kills civilians, Reuters, 24 June 2017
  25. ^ "Israeli military claims projectiles from Syria landed in occupied Golan Heights". Al-Masdar News. 25 June 2017. 
  26. ^ "In Photos (Graphic, 18+): Syrian Army officially defeats jihadist offensive in Quneitra". Al-Masdar News. 25 June 2017. 
  27. ^ "The regime forces spare no effort to regain control over the positions they lost to the factions in the latter's attack on Al-Ba'ath city in Al-Quneitra countryside". Syrian Observatory on Human Rights (SOHR). 
  28. ^ "Israeli missile strikes target regime forces in the countryside of Quneitra for the second time in 24 hours". SOHR. 
  29. ^ "Israel targets Syria for second day after stray fire hits Golan". Middle East Eye. 
  30. ^ a b Israel Strikes Syrian Targets After Second Day of Stray Fire VOA June 25, 2017
  31. ^ "Breaking: Israeli military attacks Syrian Army in Golan Heights again". Al-Masdar. 25 June 2017. 
  32. ^ "Jihadist rebels launch fresh assault after Israeli warplanes target Syrian Army in Golan Heights". Al-Masdar. 25 June 2017. 
  33. ^ a b Syrian shell lands on Israeli Golan in 16th spillover incident in a week, Times of Israel, 30 June 2017
  34. ^ a b Anna Ahronheim "IDF strikes Syrian targets after two projectiles hit Israel within an hour" Jerusalem Post 1 July 2017
  35. ^ a b "Israel launches more airstrikes against Syrian Army troops in Golan Heights, 2 soldiers killed". Al-Masdar. 26 June 2017. 
  36. ^ "3 rounds of Israeli shelling leave 4 members of the regime forces and their allied militiamen dead and others injured in Al-Quneitra countryside". SOHR. 
  37. ^ a b Anna Ahronheim "IDF strikes target in Syria in retaliation for spillover" Jerusalem Post 30 June 2017
  38. ^ "Clashes in areas near Harasta town and the warplanes shell areas in a town in Al-Quneitra central countryside". SOHR. 
  39. ^ "Exchange of shelling between the regime forces and the factions in the countryside of Quneitra and at least 6 persons were killed in a booby-trapped explosion in the countryside of Idlib". SOHR. 
  40. ^ Leith Fadel (2017-06-29). "Israeli Air Force helps jihadist rebels beat back Syrian Army offensive". AMN - Al-Masdar News | المصدر نيوز. Retrieved 2017-06-29. 
  41. ^ "Israel attacks Syrian position after mortar lands in Golan Heights". Reuters. 28 June 2017. 
  42. ^ "VIDEO: Jihadist rebels pound Syrian Army stronghold in the Golan Heights with guided missiles". Al-Masdar. 29 June 2017. 
  43. ^ "Israel retaliates after stray Syrian fire in Golan". The Malay Mail. 2 July 2017. 
  44. ^ Israel issues Syria warning after rockets hit occupied Golan, Al-Araby, 1 July 2017. Al-Araby reports this as the fourth round of Israeli fire, but other sources describe it as the fifth.
  45. ^ "Syrian army declares unilateral fighting freeze in south". Al-Monitor. 3 July 2017. Retrieved 21 July 2017. 
  46. ^ Michael Lipin Israelis in Golan Seek Normal Life on Edge of Syrian Conflict, VOA July 05, 2017
  47. ^ "VIDEO: Battles erupt near Golan Heights as Israeli helicopters strike government forces". Al-Masdar. 3 July 2017. Retrieved 21 July 2017. 
  48. ^ "Syrian Army scores big advance in Golan Heights". AMN - Al-Masdar News | المصدر نيوز. 2017-07-09. Retrieved 2017-07-09. 
  49. ^ "U.S.-Russian ceasefire deal holding in southwest Syria". Reuters. 9 July 2017. Retrieved 21 July 2017. 
  50. ^ "'Precarious calm' in southwest Syria amid cease-fire". Al-Monitor. 14 July 2017. Retrieved 21 July 2017. 
  51. ^ http://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2017/07/jordan-south-syria-front-ceasefire-astana-talks.html
  52. ^ "Rebel factions in southern Syria reject ceasefire deal". Al-Masdar. 14 July 2017. Retrieved 21 July 2017. 
  53. ^ Russia deploys troops in southern Syria, YNet News, 2 August 2017
  54. ^ Russia Deploys Troops to Syria-Israel Border, Prepares to Build New Base, The Tower, 3 August 2017
  55. ^ "Jihadists launch new offensive in Golan Heights". AMN - Al-Masdar News | المصدر نيوز. 2017-09-08. Retrieved 2017-09-09. 
  56. ^ "Syrian Army, allies fully reverse Al-Qaeda offensive in Golan Heights". AMN - Al-Masdar News | المصدر نيوز. 2017-09-08. Retrieved 2017-09-09. 
  57. ^ Shelling on the countryside of Quneitra continues to violate the Russian – American – Jordanian truce south of Syria, SOHR, 26/09/2017
  58. ^ "Breaking: Major Al-Nusra stronghold near Israeli border almost captured by Syrian Army". AMN - Al-Masdar News | المصدر نيوز. 2017-10-18. Retrieved 2017-10-19. 
  59. ^ Israeli-backed terrorists reverse all Syrian Army advances in West Ghouta, Al-Masdar
  60. ^ Israel targets Syrian army post in retaliatory strike, Times of Israel
  61. ^ Israel says it will intensify response to Syrian fire, Reuters
  62. ^ Rebels set fire farms in Al-Quneitra as Syrian Army prepares to launch offensive
  63. ^ Israel’s National Security Advisor presses Russia to force Iran to leave Syria
  64. ^ National security adviser in Russia for talks on Iran troops in Syria — report
  65. ^ How Russia-Israel engagement is benefiting Iran