Offensives in the Damascus Governorate
DAMASCUS GOVERNORATE, SYRIA (February 19, 2018) – Given the recent developments of mortar shells hitting dense population clusters in Damascus City, the Syrian Arab Army and its allies begin preliminary operations to contain threats from the several pockets in the city.
While the Syrian Arab Army’s renowned 4th mechanized division has been fighting along the East Ghouta pocket for long periods of time now, they have not been able to push forward in the past without severe gridlock and casualties. The SAA’s Special Forces (Tiger Forces), who were recently driving the offensive in the larger rebel-held Idlib pocket, are now being redeployed to the Eastern Ghouta front along with what is reported to be the longest convoy of military equipment ever observed (4 km).
The dense urban clusters being under siege have caused significant humanitarian problems in the past. Damascus has agreed to temporarily open trade routes between the two warring factions in order to allow food and aid to flow into the pocket. Although the Tiger Forces have been known to reinforce battles the best in non-urban environments, it is likely that they will deploy to the Harasta front in the pocket, which has seen severe tension between the two factions in the past. Preliminary shelling of military targets has already started.
At the same time, the significantly sized ISIS-led leadership in Yarmouk Camp and Yarmouk District launched an offensive five days ago against the consecutively shared rebel-controlled pocket under the leadership of Hayat Tahrir Al-Sham (HTS). Islamic State fighters have managed to capture small blocks east of their stronghold in an attempt to reach the ‘Falastin Hospital’, which provides logistical advantage for further attacks in the area due to height factors.
One thing is evident from these upcoming offensives: The battleground in Damascus is going to intensify shortly and change more permanently.