In late July, the Jaysh al Fateh (“Army of Conquest”) coalition launched a new offensive in northwest Syria aimed at pushing into the strategically important Al Ghab plain. Seeking to capitalize on their victories in Idlib province, the jihadists took the fight to the Syrian regime’s forces in villages and towns bordering Al Ghab, pressing their way into the northern part of the plain.
More than one week has passed since the battle began, with the two sides trading blows. The jihadist-led alliance has purportedly made some gains in the past two days, capturing small villages and towns. However, the ebb and flow of the battle make it difficult to assess both sides’ current positions.
If the campaign is successful, then it will likely have ramifications for the Syrian government’s positions in both the Latakia and Hama provinces. Latakia, a stronghold for the Assad family, lies to the West of the Al Ghab plain on Syria’s coast. Hama lies to the south.
Jaysh al Fateh includes a number of organizations, including the Al Nusrah Front, al Qaeda’s official branch in the Levant. Ahrar al Sham, an al Qaeda-linked group, is also a leading member of the alliance.
Jund al Aqsa, an al Qaeda front organization, claims the coalition has recaptured the Zeyzoun power station and its surrounding area. Zeyzoun fell to the opposition early on the battle. The regime fought back, however, launching airstrikes on the facility in support of its ground forces.
But according to a post published on Jund al Aqsa’s official Twitter feed on August 5, the power station is back in the coalition’s hands. A photo of Zeyzoun published by Jund al Aqsa can be seen on the right.
Some the jihadists’ recent advances are being advertised on the Al Nusrah Front’s official Twitter feeds. Sometime on August 3 or 4, Twitter suspended Al Nusrah’s so-called correspondents network of social media sites, which disseminate propaganda from throughout much of Syria. But the sites were quickly back online, with only slight modifications to their Twitter handles, on August 5.
Since being brought back online, al Qaeda’s arm in the Levant has posted maps, videos, and pictures from the fighting in Al Ghab. One short video, just over four and a half minutes long, shows Al Nusrah’s role in the “liberation” of the village of Al Bahsa. The video is fairly typical, with images of a jihadist-controlled tank making its way through the village and other scenes from the fighting. Al Nusrah also claims to have captured the nearby village of Al Safafa.
Separately, Ahrar al Sham, which fights side-by-side with Al Nusrah throughout Syria, is posting its own propaganda from the fighting. Ahrar al Sham says its graphics, seen at the end of this article, summarize the regime’s significant losses.
Faylaq al Sham (the “Sham legion”) is also part of the Jaysh al Fateh alliance. Its forces have concentrated their efforts in the village of Qarqur, which it claims to have “liberated.” Jund al Aqsa and Ajnad al Sham, yet another organization belonging to Jaysh al Fateh, also claim to have taken part in the fighting in Qarqur.
Faylaq al Sham’s Twitter feed has highlighted the casualties that Assad’s “gangs” (or militias) have admitted incurring in Al Ghab. The group has posted screen shots of casualty lists first published on regime-affiliated sites, adding that these are just the fighters the Syrian government and its allies have admitted losing. In addition, Faylaq al Sham has claimed credit for the killing of two prominent regime commanders.
Still other villages have allegedly fallen to the jihadists, including Tal Wasit and Al Msheek. A video posted online shows Katibat al Tawhid wal Jihad, an Uzbek group in Jaysh al Fateh, storming Tal Wasit.
Images taken from the various social media accounts operated by the Jaysh al Fateh coalition’s various member groups can be seen below. As was the case in Jaysh al Fateh’s previous battles, the propaganda is branded with Jaysh al Fateh’s watermark, as well as the logos for each individual organization.
The Al Nusrah Front posted this map showing the “liberation” of Al Bahsa and Al Safafa, two villages in the Al Ghab plain:
Al Nusrah has posted several photos showing its tanks firing on the regime’s positions in the two villages. This is one of the photos:
The two images below are from Ahrar al Sham and show an updated map of the fighting, jihadists walking toward the Zeyzoun power station, and graphics that supposedly summarize the regime’s losses:
Faylaq al Sham tweeted this map, which has been updated to show the “liberation” of the village of Qarqur:
Faylaq al Sham claims that the Syrian regime and its allies have not fully disclosed the extent of their losses. But the group also says that screen captures such as this one (from a pro-regime site) list some of the pro-Assad fighters killed or captured in the conflict:
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