Sunday, August 24, 2014

The Assault on Mhardeh Intensifies

Arabic original here.

What did the Leader of National Defense in Mhardeh Say to an-Nahar about al-Nusra's Assault?

by Faraj Obagi

After declaring the battle to "liberate" Mhardeh, Jabhat al-Nusra has been raining mortars on the city over the past two days and today. However, this assault has remained within the framework of shelling from afar and the Islamist forces have not been able to advance further into the city. Clashes between the militants and the National Defense forces have focused on Tarabi' Hill or Bteich, where the miiltants control an important checkpoint, and the north.

The leader of National Defense in Mhardeh, Simon called "Abu Fahd" who was wounded yesterday in the clashes, has confirmed to an-Nahar that "defense forces have been able to advance toward the Bteich checkpoint that is controlled by the militants. They gained control of it, but due to tactical concerns and the large number of mortars being fired on the city, they abandoned the location. However, we are able to regain it at any time. It is a strategic location for us."

He added that "the militants are trying to advance along a single line, from the east, which is the only outlet through which they can penetrate, that is the Halfaya line." According to Abu Fahd, the clashes are taking place at a very close distance. He stated that, "The clashes from the east are focused on two points. The first point is at a distance of 600 meters and the second at the distance of 3 kilometers. The situation is difficult, especially after the city was targeted by around 100 rockets yesterday. This led to 67 wounded and the death of one soldier in the army and two members of National Defense, one from Mhardeh and the second from the village of Shaqliyya." It is clear that "Halfaya, which has made a truce with the Syrian government, had become a center for refugees. However, two days ago Nusra expelled its population and those who had fled there. There only remain there around 3000 militants who are waging war against us."

Al-Nusra militants are attacking the city from the north, from the villages of Kfar Zeit, Tel Milh, and al-Tamili. Abu Fahd explains that "the battle along the northern front is not as dangerous as the eastern and southern fronts, where they are consistently failing to make an advance. They are attempting to advance by crossing the Orontes individually at night, in order to acheive any penetration, and they are failing."

He stated that the militants are imposing a tight siege on the city. Yesterday they cut off electricity after they attempted to enter the Mhardeh power station from Halfaya, which led to fierce battles between the two sides. The militants were unsuccessful and withdrew, however they caused damage to the station. He added, "the situation on the ground is difficult. We cannot deny this. However, morale is high and we want to say to the Nusra militants and to the international community: We will not depart from here. We will all die in this land."

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