Qaboun offensive (2017)
The Qaboun offensive (2017) was a military operation of the Syrian Arab Army in the suburbs of Damascus against rebel forces during the Syrian Civil War. Its intended goal was to capture the Damascus suburbs of Qaboun and Barzeh from rebels led by Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham (HTS).
In 2014, the rebel-held neighborhoods of Qaboun, Barzeh and Tishreen reached official or semi-official truces with government forces, including some government provision of some amenities (electricity and water) and rebel forces granting access to a strategic road through Barzeh and to the Tishreen Military Hospital. After the government's victory in Eastern Aleppo in late 2016, however, its forces turned their attention to the Damascus suburbs, for instance targeting Wadi Barada, and in particular seeking to move into the eastern Ghouta. It was in this context that government forces launched their offensive on Qaboun and the other eastern suburbs.
Initial artillery shelling and negotiations
Starting on 18 February, the Syrian Arab Army launched rockets and heavy artillery fire on rebel positions in the area. Almost immediately, negotiations started between the government and the area's representatives for a rebel surrender. A ground attack had not begun yet. Following the rebels' refusal to surrender, Army shelling of rebel positions resumed on 24 February.
Following the artillery bombardment, on 5 March, two brigades advanced from two flanks and swept through the entire groves area between the Harasta and Qaboun areas, reaching the first residential areas of Qaboun. The same day, the rebels shelled the surrounding government-held districts. The next day, according to the Army, a new surrender offer was put forward to the rebels, which was once again refused and military operations continued.
On 10 March, the Army attacked Qaboun from the west and advanced 700 meters. They reported the capture of numerous building blocks and a weapons depot, as well as reaching the downtown of the suburb. Two days later, government troops reportedly captured a Free Syrian Army (FSA) prison in the outskirts of Qaboun, as they also seized the road between Qaboun and Barzeh, bringing them close to cutting the connection between the two districts.
On 13 March, government forces reportedly captured three mosques in the northeast of Qaboun and most of an area around a fourth mosque in the southeast of the neighborhood. Four days later, the Army assaulted a dairy factory in Qaboun and after several hours of fighting secured it as well as some other points in the suburb. On 18 March, the Syrian Army reported that it had infiltrated the rebel's defenses in Qaboun and seized an FSA brigade headquarters.
Rebel attack from Jobar
On 19 March, rebel forces from outside the Qaboun and Barzeh pocket launched an attack to relieve pressure on the besieged rebels by linking the Jobar district with Qaboun and Barzeh. The rebel offensive included HTS, FSA and FSA-affiliated Failaq al Rahman fighters. Rebels from inside Jobar launched the attack on Army positions close to the Qaboun front, with fighting concentrated on the Karash-Jobar axis. The specific area targeted by the rebels was the Abbasiyin district. Over the course of the day, rebel fighters seized several buildings before advancing into the Abbasid Square area - the first time in two years that the opposition had advanced so close to the capital's centre. HTS fighters sent two suicide car-bombers (VBIEDs), after which they reportedly detonated a tunnel bomb. The rebels also infiltrated the Army positions through tunnels in the middle of the night. Central Damascus was shelled by the rebels during the assault. The siege of Qaboun was temporarily broken after the Syrian army withdrew from a few points in order to avoid being overwhelmed by the rebels. The rebels managed to capture several industrial sites and buildings. However, soon after, the military launched a counter-attack, which involved 37 air-strikes. During the counter-attack, the military recaptured an electrical facility and marched on towards the Mercedes workshop. Intense clashes continued to rage through the night at the strategic Abbasiya Garage, which was eventually recaptured by the Army. Over the course of the day, SOHR recorded the deaths of 26 soldiers and 21 rebels and jihadists.
By early on 20 March, the Syrian Army had reversed all, or at least most, of the rebels' gains after 16 hours of fierce fighting. The rebels reportedly continued to hold several points in an industrial zone. According to the military, 72 soldiers and 80–100 rebel fighters were killed, the former mostly due to the suicide bombings. The pro-opposition activist group the SOHR reported 38 soldiers and 34 rebels were killed. Overall, government forces launched more than 400 artillery shells and rockets, as well as more than 80 air-strikes during the heavy fighting.
On 21 March, the rebels started a new assault, launching a suicide VBIED attack. The suicide attack was foiled before it reached its target, but still the rebels managed to fracture Army defenses and once again capture the Fabric Factory after two hours of clashes. Subsequently, the Syrian Army with support from the NDF started a new counter-attack which was initially repelled. However, a later Army assault, which involved a tunnel bombing of rebel positions, led to the military's recapture of the Fabric Factory along with several buildings as the rebels were forced to retreat eastward. The army declared that all rebel gains were fully reversed by 24 March.
Restart of Army operations in Qaboun and Barzeh
At the end of March, the 105th Brigade of the Republican Guard seized some 10 buildings in the north-western part of Jobar. At the start of April, Army operations in Qaboun were renewed and government troops reportedly seized five buildings blocks in the southeastern part of the district in one day. They had also discovered three rebel tunnels, with one being wide enough to fit in vehicles.
On 3 April, government forces made significant progress in both Qaboun and Barzeh, capturing a substantial section of Al-Tahrib Souq Street in Qaboun, as well as most of Barzeh. However, a subsequent rebel counter-attack regained all lost ground in Barzeh. Still, the Army managed to capture the Hafez road, a strategic artery between Qaboun and Barzeh, and thus besieging Barzeh. In the following days, fighting continued in the Tishreen area of Qaboun, as well as along the Al-Tahrib Souq Street.
One week later, the military made advances in the outskirts of Qaboun in the al-Baalah Farms. In addition, on 12 April, the Army seized a strategic rebel tunnel in Qaboun that was used for resupplying. Further advances took place on 17 April, when the military captured at least 15 building blocks in Qaboun. On 18 April, the Syrian Army reportedly captured a rebel prison in Qaboun and freed 34 prisoners held by the rebels. Five days later, more advances saw the military seize the Qaboun Power Company facilities and the Al-Hussein Mosque.
Rebel split and infighting; Surrender of Qaboun and Barzeh
On 28 April, intense inter-factional fighting erupted in the Eastern Ghouta, with Jaysh al-Islam fighters assaulting HTS and Faylaq Al-Rahman forces. Jaysh al-Islam claimed that this happened due to these rebel groups preventing their convoys from reinforcing the Qaboun suburb. Concurrently, the Army once again advanced in Qaboun.
As the inter-rebel conflict continued into May, government forces reportedly broke through the rebel's last line of defense in the southeastern section of Qaboun, capturing a large number of building blocks. On 7 May, the Army was still advancing in Qaboun when the military suspended its operations after the rebels agreed to surrender and start negotiating to evacuate the district. At the same time, a deal was also announced to transport the rebels from Barzeh. On 8 May, the evacuation of Barzeh started with 1,500 rebels and their family members set to leave during the day. More were expected to be transported in the coming days.
However, on 10 May, some HTS fighters refused to evacuate, calling it "forced displacement" and instead showered Syrian Army positions in Damascus with missiles. In retaliation, the Army launched an assault on areas of Qaboun held by the rebel group, resulting in the capture of 27 buildings near Al-Taqwa mosque. Meanwhile, negotiations continued over Qaboun, while, the Barzeh evacuations were suspended after the government did not release 300 detainees as per the evacuation agreement. Still, on 12 May, after the government promised to release the detainees, preparations were underway for the second batch of rebels to be transferred out of Barzeh that morning. A new agreement was also reached to evacuate rebels and their family members from the Tishreen neighborhood. By the end of the day, about 700 rebels and family members were evacuated from Barzeh, while several buses also evacuated people from Tishreen.
On 13 May, the Army stated it had fully captured Qaboun, while SOHR reported parts of the district were still rebel-held. Later in the day, military operations were again halted as an evacuation deal was announced. The following day, between 1,500 and 2,400 rebels and their family members were transferred out of Qaboun. As the rebels retreated, the Army destroyed a number of large tunnels that had connected Qaboun with other nearby rebel-held areas. One of them was 10 meters deep, while another was "the width of two cars", according to a soldier. Overall, the military discovered more than 10 tunnels during the offensive and expected to locate more. On 15 May, the remaining 1,300 rebels and family members left Qaboun, leaving the area under government control. According to relief agencies, the majority of residents in Qaboun (a total of 3,000-3,500 people) left in May, with those remaining facing a desperate humanitarian situation without access to water or medical support.
On 29 May, the last group of militants and their family members were transported from the Barzeh suburb of east Damascus to the Idlib Governorate, per the agreement put in place between the government and rebels.
- Leith Fadel. "Syrian Army's elite forces begin important offensive in east Damascus". Al-Masdar News. Retrieved 25 February 2017.
- McDowell, Angus (29 May 2017). "Evacuation of rebels from Damascus district complete, city governor says". Reuters.
- "'Intense' strikes pound east Damascus after rebel assault". 20 March 2017. Retrieved 14 June 2017.
- "US-backed forces prepare for final push on IS-held Raqa".
- "Rebels leave Qaboun as army advances in Damascus". www.aljazeera.com.
- Leith Fadel (3 April 2017). "Syrian Army advances inside strategic town east of Damascus". Al Masdar News. Retrieved 4 April 2017.
- Amir Toumaj (23 March 2017). "IRGC-controlled Iraqi militia deploys to eastern Damascus battle". Long War Journal. Retrieved 24 March 2017.
- Fadel, Leith (12 March 2017). "Syrian Army captures infamous FSA Prison amid new advance in east Damascus". Al-Masdar News. Retrieved 13 March 2017.
- Fadel, Leith (18 March 2017). "Syrian Army captures rebel HQ in east Damascus amid latest advance". Al-Masdar News. Retrieved 25 March 2017.
- "Clashes in Damascus after rebels tunnel into government-held areas". The Guardian. 19 March 2017. Retrieved 19 March 2017.
- Tomson, Chris (5 March 2017). "Syrian Army initiates infantry invasion of rebel-held eastern Damascus suburbs". Al-Masdar News. Retrieved 13 March 2017.
- "Farsnews". Retrieved 13 April 2017.
- @FSAPlatform (21 March 2017). "Captain Ward from inside #Qaboun this evening: "Morale is high & there is more to come in the coming days"" (Tweet) – via Twitter.
- "Islam Army joins Failaq al-Rahman in Damascus attack: commander". Zaman al-Wasl. 22 March 2017. Retrieved 25 March 2017.
- Antonopoulos, Paul (17 April 2017). "Syrian Army exterminates prominent Jaish al-Islam commander". Al Masdar News.
- Tomson, Chris (13 March 2017). "Syrian Army liberates large sections of the Al-Qaboun district in eastern Damascus". Al-Masdar News.
- Nour Samaha (3 April 2017). "How these Syrians went from opposition fighters to pro-regime militiamen". Al-Monitor. Archived from the original on 17 August 2017. Retrieved 5 April 2017.
- "Rebel Infighting in East Ghouta: Map and Analysis". Skylight Syria blog. Retrieved 1 May 2017.
- "Factions of Damascus battle withdraw from the outskirts of Damascus and more than 200 were killed of both parties - #SOHR". Retrieved 25 March 2017.
- Waters, Gregory (3 October 2018). "Fifteen Months of Death: Pro-Government Casualties of the Syrian Civil War". bellingcat. Retrieved 29 October 2018.
- "Syrian Army Makes Fresh Advances in Eastern Damascus, Kills Hundreds of Terrorists". 28 March 2017. Retrieved 28 March 2017.
- "FSA News on Twitter".
- Hiba Dlewati "Years-Long Truces End As Government Tightens Control on Damascus" Syria Deeply, 18 May 2017
- "Regime shelling of encircled rebel neighborhoods in east Damascus sparks fear among residents of impending offensive". Syria Direct. 19 February 2017. Retrieved 25 February 2017.
- "No ground operation has been launched at this moment in Qaboun as was previously reported, only more rockets and missiles, Damascus, Syria. - Map of Syrian Civil war/ Global conflict in Syria - Syria news". syria.liveuamap.com. Retrieved 25 February 2017.
- Leith Fadel. "Syrian Army resumes offensive in east Damascus after jihadists refuse to surrender". Al-Masdar News. Retrieved 25 February 2017.
- Tomson, Chris (26 February 2017). "Video: Syrian Army advances in eastern Damascus, unleashes missile hell on rebels". Al-Masdar News. Retrieved 13 March 2017.
- Tomson, Chris (5 March 2017). "Syrian Army initiates infantry invasion of rebel-held eastern Damascus suburbs". Al-Masdar News. Retrieved 6 March 2017.
- Adra, Zen (5 March 2017). "Rebel rocket attacks kill 6 civilians in rural Damascus". Al-Masdar News. Retrieved 5 March 2017.
- Fadel, Leith (7 March 2017). "Syrian Army resumes east Damascus offensive after jihadists refuse to surrender". Al-Masdar News. Retrieved 7 March 2017.
- Fadel, Leith (10 March 2017). "Heavy fighting breaks out in east Damascus as Syrian Army units attempt to advance at Qaboun". Al-Masdar News. Retrieved 10 March 2017.
- Tomson, Chris (10 March 2017). "Syrian Army advances deep inside Al-Qabun suburb in eastern Damascus (Video)". Al-Masdar News. Retrieved 10 March 2017.
- "After their advancement in the outskirts Barza… the regime forces continue their quest to isolate Barza neighborhood from the rest of the eastern neighborhoods of the capital". SOHR.
- "Syrian army advances in district east of Damascus-monitor". 13 March 2017 – via Reuters.
- Fadel, Leith (17 March 2017). "Syrian Army seizes several points inside key east Damascus suburb". Al-Masdar News. Retrieved 17 March 2017.
- "Syrian forces and rebels fight fierce clashes in northeast Damascus". Reuters. 19 March 2017. Retrieved 19 March 2017.
- "Hay'at Tahrir al-Sham Launched Major Advance In Damascus, Reportedly Broke Siege From Qabun Area". SouthFront. 19 March 2017. Retrieved 19 March 2017.
- Fadel, Leith (19 March 2017). "Jihadist rebels launch massive assault in east Damascus". AMN - Al-Masdar News | المصدر نيوز. Retrieved 19 March 2017.
- Fadel, Leith (19 March 2017). "Jihadist rebels make significant gains amid powerful offensive in east Damascus". Al-Masdar News. Retrieved 25 March 2017.
- "Syria war: Damascus sees fierce clashes after rebel attack". 19 March 2017. Retrieved 25 March 2017 – via www.bbc.com.
- Illingworth, Andrew (19 March 2017). "Syrian Arab Army launches counterattack in Damascus' Jobar district". AMN - Al-Masdar News | المصدر نيوز. Retrieved 19 March 2017.
- "The regime forces carry out a counter attack in the capital Damascus and intense air and artillery strikes target its outskirts - #SOHR". Retrieved 25 March 2017.
- معارك دمشق تواصل احتدامها وقوات النظام تبدأ هجماتها لاستعادة ما خسرته وتقصف أطراف العاصمة بمئات القذائف والصواريخ
- Fadel, Leith (20 March 2017). "Syrian Army's decisive counter-offensive pays off in east Damascus as jihadists retreat". Al-Masdar News. Retrieved 25 March 2017.
- "Syrian army regains ground in Damascus as rebels retreat - Top News - Reuters". Retrieved 25 March 2017.
- Fadel, Leith (20 March 2017). "Syrian Army retakes all lost points in east Damascus". Al-Masdar News. Retrieved 25 March 2017.
- "The capital Damascus enter its third day of violent clashes on its walls and factions resume a new phase of attack with mad shelling and bombing by the regime and its warplanes - #SOHR". Retrieved 25 March 2017.
- "The regime forces in the capital re-advance and restore sites they lost on first day of Damascus battle - #SOHR". Retrieved 25 March 2017.
- Fadel, Leith (21 March 2017). "Jihadist rebels advance in Jobar after launching new assault". Al-Masdar News. Retrieved 25 March 2017.
- Mulhem, Suliman (21 March 2017). "Video: Syrian Army counter-attacks in Al Qaboun, Damascus". Al-Masdar News. Retrieved 25 March 2017.
- بالرغم من الكثافة النارية الجوية والمدفعية.. قوات النظام تفشل في استعادة النقاط والمواقع التي خسرتها صباح اليوم بأطراف دمشق
- Fadel, Leith (22 March 2017). "Syrian Army kills scores of jihadists amid their latest counter-offensive in Jobar". Al-Masdar News. Retrieved 25 March 2017.
- Fadel, Leith (22 March 2017). "Syrian Army captures several sites in Jobar as jihadists retreat: map". Al-Masdar News. Retrieved 25 March 2017.
- Adra, Zen (22 March 2017). "In Video: Syrian Army regains the lead in Jobar". Retrieved 25 March 2017.
- Adra, Zen (24 March 2017). "Map Update: Syrian Army completely reverses rebel gains in east Damascus". Al-Masdar News. Retrieved 25 March 2017.
- Tomson, Chris (29 March 2017). "Republican Guard troops swarm through Jobar, Damascus (video, pictures)". AMN - Al-Masdar News | المصدر نيوز. Retrieved 29 March 2017.
- Tomson, Chris (1 April 2017). "Islamist rebels days from capitulation in Damascus amid new Syrian Army gains". Al-Masdar News.
- Adra, Zen (2 April 2017). "Syrian Army discovers, destroys rebel tunnels in northeast Damascus [Video + Photos]". Al-Masdar News.
- Fadel, Leith (3 April 2017). "Syrian Army advances inside strategic town east of Damascus". AMN - Al-Masdar News | المصدر نيوز. Retrieved 3 April 2017.
- "After 2 weeks of the battle of Damascus, regime forces advance in Barza neighborhood and take complete control on it". Retrieved 13 April 2017.
- Tomson, Chris (3 April 2017). "VIDEO: Islamist rebels foil Syrian Army assault on besieged suburb in east Damascus". Al-Masdar News.
- News, ABC. "ABC News". ABC News.
- Fadel, Leith (4 April 2017). "Syrian Army progresses inside jihadist stronghold east of Damascus". AMN - Al-Masdar News | المصدر نيوز. Retrieved 4 April 2017.
- "The regime advance in the outskirts of Qaboun neighborhood after heavy shelling". Retrieved 13 April 2017.
- Fadel, Leith (12 April 2017). "Syrian Army captures strategic tunnel in east Damascus". Al-Masdar News. Retrieved 13 April 2017.
- "The Inside Source on Twitter".
- Fadel, Leith (18 April 2017). "Syrian Army captures rebel prison in east Damascus, frees 34 prisoners". AMN - Al-Masdar News | المصدر نيوز. Retrieved 18 April 2017.
- Fadel, Leith (23 April 2017). "Syrian Army captures strategic site inside east Damascus". AMN - Al-Masdar News | المصدر نيوز. Retrieved 23 April 2017.
- Adra, Zen (28 April 2017). "Rebel infighting tears apart Eastern Ghouta as Syrian Army advances". AMN - Al-Masdar News | المصدر نيوز. Retrieved 28 April 2017.
- "Syrian rebel groups clash in besieged Damascus enclave". Reuters.
- "The Inside Source on Twitter".
- Tomson, Chris (4 May 2017). "Al-Qaboun victory imminent as Syrian Army secures major advance in east Damascus". Al-Masdar News.
- "Syrian rebels start leaving Damascus district under evacuation deal". Reuters.
- Adra, Zen (7 May 2017). "BREAKING: Battles suspended outside Damascus as evacuation deal underway". Al-Masdar News.
- "Negotiations take place in al-Qaboun neighborhood and calm prevails the east of Damascus and await for implementation of an agreement with those who in charges of Barzeh neighborhood to carry out the first displacement operation in the capital".
- "Syria war: Rebels start leaving Damascus district of Barzeh". BBC.com. 8 May 2017.
- "Evacuation of Syrian rebels starts in Barzeh". www.aljazeera.com.
- Tomson, Chris (11 May 2017). "Renewed Damascus offensive yields big gains for the Syrian Army after Al-Qaeda breaks truce". AMN - Al-Masdar News | المصدر نيوز. Retrieved 11 May 2017.
- "Regime forces advance in Qaboun neighborhood and negotiations continue over the fate of the neighborhood".
- "Rebels suspend Barzeh evacuation deal after regime reportedly fails to release 300 detainees". Syria Direct.
- "The four eastern neighborhoods of Damascus (Barzeh, Teshreen, Qaboun and Jobar) from displacing towards the north to misty fate to cautious calmness…".
- Fadel, Leith (12 May 2017). "Second batch of militants to leave Barzeh District in southeast Damascus". AMN - Al-Masdar News | المصدر نيوز. Retrieved 12 May 2017.
- "Preparations for departing the 2nd batch of displaced people of Barzah neighborhood within the agreement between the regime authorities and those who in charges of the neighborhood".
- Yakovlev, Ivan (12 May 2017). "Syrian government and militant groups reach a new agreement in eastern Damascus".
- "The end of the 2nd stage of displacement from Barzeh neighborhood and displacing fighters of Tishreen neighborhood and their families".
- The Associated Press (13 May 2017). "The Latest: Syria Military Says It Seized Damascus Suburb" – via NYTimes.com.
- "Deal reached to evacuate rebel-held Damascus district".
- "Over 2,000 rebels, families evacuate Damascus district: state media". 14 May 2017 – via Reuters.
- Syria war: Rebels evacuated from Damascus stronghold, BBC.com, 15 May 2017
- "Syria government one step closer to clearing opposition out of Damascus - The National".
- Davison, John (15 May 2017). "Last 1,000 rebels leave Damascus district under evacuation deal". Reuters. Retrieved 14 June 2017.
- "REACH Initiative Syria Community Profile Update: Situation Overview, May 2017 - Syrian Arab Republic". ReliefWeb. 31 May 2017. Retrieved 29 October 2018.