Syrian Army is 3.5km from Palmyra: How did they do it?

Syrian Army at Mazra'a Al-Qadri

 BY LEITH FADEL ON JULY 11, 2015

It took the Syrian Armed Forces three months to regroup and refocus after the loss of Palmyra and its surroundings to the Islamic State of Iraq and Al-Sham(ISIS) in April of this year; however, the devastating territorial losses to the aforementioned terrorist group has allowed for the Syrian Arab Army to reshuffle their brigade assignments in order to switch from the defensive to the offensive.

Part of this readjustment of brigade assignments was to move the Tiger Forces from the Idlib Governorate to the Al-Sha’ar and Jazal Mountains in northeast Homs; this not only alleviated the overstretched 550th Brigade, but also, brought in a group of soldiers (i.e. Tiger Forces) that possessed extensive experience in this desert terrain.

One month after their arrival to Jabal Al-Sha’ar (Poet Mountains), the Tiger Forces – alongside Liwaa Suqour Al-Sahra (Desert Hawks Brigade) – secured these mountains and all of their gas wells, while also advancing south to the town of Jazal and the nearby government gas fields to the west.

Meanwhile, the Tiger Forces’ mobilization to Jabal Al-Sha’ar paid dividends for the Syrian Arab Army’s 67th Brigade of the 18th Tank Division, as this forced ISIS to transfer fighters from the Jubb Al-Jarrah front to the northeast mountains in order to combat the encroaching Tiger Forces and Desert Hawks from capturing the strategic town of Jazal.

For ISIS, this reshuffling of SAA brigade assignments became a thorn in their side, as the latter’s superior equipment and combat formations played an integral role in the capture of Jazal and the Jazal Gas Fields some ten days after the Tiger Forces and Desert Hawks took control of Jabal Al-Sha’ar.

ISIS attempted to counter at Jazal; however, this required them to transfer even more fighters from Jubb Al-Jarrah to the aforementioned town.

As a result of ISIS’ commitment to recapture Jazal, the SAA’s 67th Brigade split up: half the soldiers moved east to the town of Jubb Al-Ahmad and the other began their march to Palmyra alongside the National Defense Forces (NDF).

Two weeks later, the SAA’s 67th Brigade linked up with a unit from the Tiger Forces in order to recapture the eastern groves of Al-Bayarat and its surrounding hills.

Following the capture of Al-Bayarat, the Tiger Forces and the 67th Brigade split-up; this time, the Tiger Forces would lead the charge to capture the Abu Al-Farawees Farms, while the 67th Brigade lead the charge to capture the Al-Qadri Farms – both attacks were successful.

Currently, the Tiger Forces sit less than 5 kilometers from the Qassoun Mountains of Palmyra; meanwhile, to the south, the 67th Brigade sits less than 3.5 km from the last army checkpoint that leads into Palmyra.

In the coming days, the Syrian Armed Forces should advance to the outskirts of Palmyra, but the fear of ISIS destroying historical sites creates a moral dilemma for the SAA’s Central Command – if they attack, this could spell the destruction of Syria’s hidden gem in the desert of Homs.

 

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