EAST GHOUTA, Syria – SAA forces have repelled a terrorist counterattack on Muhammadiyah and captured the town of Beit Sawa. There now remains just 1.5 kilometers left to split the East Ghouta pocket (see map below, click to enlarge).
It will be critical then to connect the gains made today at Beit Sawa, to the military base south of Harasta. Over the coming days, the fighting in the Harasta district, located to the north-east of Damascus (and north-west of the main push in Beit Sawa), will attract considerable attention. Until now, we still have only seen significant progress to the south of Harasta, from the liberated area of Harboun, pushing east towards the Erbeen district. But operations in Harasta itself will escalate towards success as soon as the terrorist enclaves are entirely split, due to the significant fortifications built by the terrorist groups, who have ‘turtled’ themselves in there.
Strategic Significance: The Harasta area is a well-fortified stronghold of the terrorists occupying East Ghouta. The Syrian military repeatedly made attempts to establish control over Harasta, but could occupy only a small part of the district. The terrorists of the Ahrar al-Sham and Failak Ar-Rahman factions operating in the area have been trying to knock out the Syrian military from their quarters since the start of the conflict.
As you can see, the forming split will link the SAA and allied forces fighting on the east side of East Ghouta to the Syrian military base in between Erbeen and Harasta, opening critical support lines, and cutting off terrorist forces from each other.
The main base of the SAA in Harasta is an operational base for armored vehicles. Jihadist groups have repeatedly tried to knock the SAA out of there.
History: One of the last major attempts to take out the SAA base was made last November, but the Salafists did not achieve any real success and were forced to retreat. After the withdrawal and subsequent reforming of forces, they managed to cut off the base from the the area at large, by pushing out SAA forces in the area directly to the west of the base, which was the situation going into December.
The Syrian military found itself in a difficult situation towards the end of 2017 – supply-lines via land were interrupted, although according to reports of pro-Syrian activists, the network of underground passages in Harasta, through which communication is conducted with the main grouping of troops.
The siege of the base and the continuous attacks by terrorists had already resulted in large losses of the Syrian military. According to the pro-Syrian activists, the death toll reached 100 people, including several generals and colonels, who fight along with the rest of the soldiers. The terrorists claimed 400 dead. Terrorists of Ahrar al-Sham and Failak Ar-Rahman attacked the army base.
Obviously concerned by the situation, the Syrian command then prepared an operation to release the army base. The Syrian Air Force regularly bombarded the positions of Saudi backed terrorists in Harasta, but this was proven to be insufficient, so then the Russian Air Force joined in, and with the coordination of both armies, the siege was broken. As we entered the restart of publicly known operations to clean up all of East Ghouta, the stage had already been set by having freed up the armored car base, which we see on all maps going back to February 24th, and are visible in the map above – the army base shaded in red and acting as an inlet in the terrorist occupied areas of Harasta and Erbeen.
Today’s Liberation of Beit Sawa: This is a major positive development. The renowned Tiger Forces reinforced by regulars of the Syrian Arab Army made significant gains later on Wednesday March 7th, in liberating Beit Sawa and towards shortening the distance between the eastern SAA front in East Ghouta, to the above mentioned SAA armored vehicle base. As stated, this distance is just 1.5 km wide.
This developed into a total SAA assault upon Saudi backed terrorist forces who remain bunkered in this narrow 1.5 km strip, softening the enemy positions, and causing demoralization in their ranks. It is clear to all parties concerned now that, barring some unforeseen and unlikely scenario, the terrorist occupation of East Ghouta will be split in two, signaling the next critical phase in their overall demise, as their general Damascus campaign is undeniably on its last legs.
This October 2012 map, below (click on it to enlarge), shows the tremendous progress made in the last five years, and gives us a sense of the history of the battle over East Ghouta, which was once entirely under the control of invading terrorist forces, and connected this critical suburb of Damascus to the ISIS occupation in the Syrian countryside and desert to the east.
Tactics: The terrorist forces see clearly that the SAA intends to secure this 1.5 km area, and rejoin the two SAA fronts on either side of East Ghouta. Therefore, we should expect them to focus artillery fire as well as push armed groups to harass and even trap SAA forces creating this protrusion, if a SAA attempt to connect the two fronts is hastily made. Hence, the terrorist forces would attempt to turn this connecting protrusion into a difficult to hold cauldron, causing significant loss of life on the part of the SAA.
Predicting this, we might instead see the SAA pause its operations west of Beit Sawa , leaving this 1.5km area temporarily occupied, and begin instead the opening of a third front either to the north or south of East Ghouta, drawing critical terrorist resources and manpower away from the then eastern, now center, front. A SAA offensive from Hatita Al-Jarsh in the south of East Ghouta would be one obvious place to start an attack from.
At the same time, there is a second, unseen part of the battle, which involves mining and digging for terrorist network tunnels under this part of the city, as well as in the sewer system. Once the two areas of terrorist occupation are finally cleaved in two, it will be critical to ensure that the tunnel networks are also rooted out.
As final victory over the Damascus suburb looms, we should expect the US to make a series of histrionic gestures at all levels of diplomacy, its own media and global proxies, and at the UN Security Council.
As of March 8th, 2018, we already have confirmed that terrorist occupiers are refusing any transfer out of the area, even under the condition of non-surrender. This means, in effect, they will use any remaining residents as hostages, and attempt to paint the standard military operation to liberate this sector from terrorists as an intentional assault on innocent civilians.