EAST GHOUTA, Syria – Syrian government troops continue their offensive in East Ghouta, as reported earlier today by FRN. This full sit-rep is a detailed version of the update from earlier today. This was the update map given earlier. Note differences from the current, above.
Overview: The main striking force was part of the Republican Guard and the forces of the “Tiger Division.” The greatest success was achieved in the east and southeast of the territories held by militants of “Jaysh al-Islam”, but they could not withstand the onslaught of the attackers and left a number of settlements, including Utay and Beyet Nayem. This area represents numerous agricultural fields (because it is a fertile valley) – in such conditions it is difficult for militants to organize defenses because of large open spaces. Nevertheless, they equip firing points in any building and resist the advancement of Syrian troops.
Background: To give an idea of the advancements of Syrian forces over the last few days, here is an image representing the theatre on or about March 3rd. We can quickly note the protrusion into the terrorist held area. Recall that Jaysh al-Islam is a rebranding of Al-Nusrah, and before that in turn Al-Qaeda of Iraq and Syria – prior to the splinter turned major ‘rebrand’ force of ‘ISIS’. In simple terms, they are all units of what we call Daesh. It is important to keep this in mind in light of the American administration attempting to consider Jaysh al-Islam as ‘legitimate rebels’, despite the fact that prior UN brokered talks with the last administration, between Kerry and Lavrov, already established the reality and genealogy of the terrorist group. They are officially anti-FSA despite having also been known to fly the green-white-black tricolor flag of the French mandate, though other analysts have contended that these represent captured FSA flags. They are now the main force of the Islamic Front, and as such are chiefly sponsored by Saudi Arabia
Overview of the western front: The results of the Syrian forces in the areas located in the western part are much more modest, including Harasta. There was only a small increase in the number of controlled quarters located near the military equipment base. Directly adjacent to Damascus areas that are separated from the capital of the highway M-5 “Dara – Damascus – Aleppo” represent a dense urban development. After 6 years of fighting, a significant part of the residential buildings were destroyed and the militants were forced to go underground. In fact, there are formed “areas under the area” – underground passages stretched for many hundreds of meters and allow you to get from one area to another. Such movements are invisible and allow the transfer of reinforcements, ammunition and medicines to virtually any part of the front of the western part of the monitored territories. On the surface of the advance obstructed by obstructions, as specially organized by the militants, and formed from the destroyed buildings. Therefore, the use of heavy armored vehicles in such conditions is difficult.
Military hardware: Aviation is helping the Syrian government forces that use the T-72, BMP-1 and ZSU-23-4 Shilka, especially effective in these conditions, and the ZU-23-2. In the first days of the operation, the bombers of the Russian Air Force Su-24M and Su-34 were used. However, in the last days of the Su-34 no longer appeared on photos or video, but an Su-22 appeared.
This aircraft is a “workhorse” in the Air Force of the UAR and is used on all fronts of the war in Syria. Also, the use of Su-24M2, the contract for the supply of which was concluded before the war began. Departures are carried out from the air base Dumeir, located 40 km northeast of Damascus. Yesterday, the fighters “Jaysh al-Islam” fired at the base. According to them, one helicopter was destroyed.
Tactics in play: Syrian government troops have chosen the only correct direction for the attack and were able to occupy almost half of the territory controlled by the militants. “Jaysh al-Islam,” which make up the backbone of the defenders, are forced to retreat to the west. There was also a threat of dismemberment of East Ghouta to the southern and northern parts.
Retreating to the west of the territories under their control, the militants want to concentrate their forces in the areas where residential areas with dense buildings and those very underground tunnels are located. At the same time, a line of defense is being created, stretching from the city of Dum in the north to Kafr Batna in the south.
The storming of these strongholds of militants will result in large losses for government troops, which both sides understand. The plan for the advancing units is reduced to the encirclement of the militant territories in the construction and bombing of aviation. Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov has already stated that in East Ghouta they will follow the same plan as in Aleppo – the withdrawal of civilians, the blockade of militants and, ultimately, the evacuation of the latter on green buses to somewhere in the province of Idlib (where “Jaysh al -Islam “are unlikely to be very happy). However, in this case, East Ghouta, which is under siege for 6 years, it will become a much tougher nut to crack than Aleppo.
The following graphic represents the percentage of control the SAA has in East Ghouta, after advances of the Syrian army including more blocks in Harasta orchards.
Full area of the East Ghouta sector before the start of March 4th operations = 106 km².
Area Controlled by the Syrian army after March 4th = 34 km².
The remaining area of East Ghouta controlled by terrorist militants = 72 km²