Syria: updates from events around the country (Jan 5 – Jan 11)

Dimashq: The Syrian Arab Army (SAA) and rebel elements in the Wadi Barada area skirmished constantly, with minor gains by the SAA in battles between the 5th and 7th. On the 7th, civilian pressure on local rebel groups forced them to withdraw and allow government technicians into the town to repair the damaged water pumps, previously hit by unknown explosives during fighting. However, several JFS battalions refused to withdraw, prompting a renewed government offensive on the surrounding countryside that ended up putting the town under siege.

Smoke rises over besieged Wadi Barada after a government airstrike, January 8th.

Daraa: Rebel soldiers from the Ahmad Abdo Martyrs Brigade continued to clash with IS elements in the arid badlands east of Sweida, capturing Zelaf Dam and Kite town and knocking out one IS supply vehicle.

Homs: On the 8th, IS forces targeted and destroyed the Hayyan Gas Company transfer plant east of Tiyas, knocking out the gas pipeline to Damascus city. Beginning on the 8th, JFS and local FSA regiments in the Rastan pocket north of Homs began a new offensive towards Salmiyah, but failed to achieve notable gains.

Hayyan CS Gas Plant burns after being destroyed by IS personnel, January 8th.

Deir-ez-Zor: SAA and IS continued to clash on the southern and eastern fronts of the city, with fighting becoming notably fierce in al-Rashidiyah and near the airbase. On the 8th, US Special Forces performed an unprecedented operation in IS territory west of the city, seizing several IS members alive and extracting without casualties. Reportedly, the operation resulted in the death of the Islamic State’s top finance minister, Abu Anas al-Iraqi.

North Aleppo: Turkish military forces secured four villages east of Qabasin after fighting IS elements, but were unable to cut Qabasin off from reinforcements. TFSA units attempted to advance on Suflaniyah on the 7th, 8th, and 9th but were repulsed in all attacks. Suflaniyah is crucial to the operations to surround and besiege the well-defended town of Qabasin, as it lies directly south of the town on the road leading to al-Bab. Although there have been attempts to storm the town in the past, all have failed. Heavy fighting was also registered on multiple days in the countryside west of al-Bab, as Turkish army and TFSA forces attempted to regain previously lost ground.

YPG fighters advance on the rural town of Mahmudli, January 8th, in skirmishes with IS fighters north of ar-Raqqa.

Ar-Raqqa: Following fierce fighting with IS fighters, SDF soldiers recaptured the Qalat Jabr (Jaber Castle) and the high ground around it, and seized another 22 rural villages. The crucial town of Mahmudli was also taken in a renewed two-prong offensive, yielding access to Tabqa Dam on the 8th.

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