Pro-government Palestinian militia fights in Aleppo

Logo of the Palestinian paramilitary Quds Brigade. It is the Syrian flag bearing the inscription "Liwa al Quds," or Jerusalem Brigade.

Palestinian paramilitary Quds Brigade 

The Quds Brigade, also known as Liwa al Quds, is a predominantly Palestinian paramilitary unit participating in ongoing pro-Syrian regime operations in Aleppo. Also calling themselves the Syrian Arab Army Fedayeen, the militia is led by Mohammad al Said. The group is drawn primarily from the al Nayrab and Handarat Palestinian camps in Aleppo, according to a commander.

The Quds Brigade has operated as an auxiliary to the pro-regime coalition in Aleppo since its formation in 2013. This past month, the Quds Brigade has fought alongside the Syrian Arab Army (SAA) and the Iranian-led Shiite expeditionary forces.

The leader of the Quds Brigade Mohammad Ahmad, middle, with combatants.

The leader of the Quds Brigade Mohammad al Said, middle, with combatants.

For the past several months, pro-regime forces have been attempting to wrestle control of the Handarat Camp, a Palestinian refugee camp north of Aleppo city, away from the Islamist-led Fatah Halab coalition. An unnamed Syrian source told Iran’s Fars News Agency on Sept. 24 that capturing Handarat Heights would expand control in the area next to Castello Road, the artery to the rebel-held eastern Aleppo city that was cut off by pro-regime forces in late July. Taking Handarat would consolidate the pro-regime forces’ siege in the north and position forces next to the neighborhood blocks of eastern Aleppo, according to the source.

Fars News Agency's map of Aleppo. The circled areas are Handarat Camp, left, and the adjacent Shaqif Industrial City.

Fars News Agency’s map of Aleppo battlefield. The circled areas are Handarat Camp, left, and the adjacent Shaqif Industrial Area.

On Sept. 20, the Quds Brigade and SAA launched an offensive to take Handarat, according to Al Masdar News. Iranian media claim that Lebanese Hezbollah also participated and that the offensive was backed by Syrian and Russian airstrikes, though this claim could not be substantiated. Arab media reported that SAA artillery and airstrikes provided support.

Handarat Camp has changed hands several times in the past week. The pro-regime coalition took the camp on the day of Sept. 23, and the Quds Brigade planted its flag, but they lost the area in a night-time counterattack by Fatah Halab. Pro-regime forces regrouped and launched another offensive on Sept. 24, capturing the camp for a few hours before after which the opposition retook the camp in a counterattack.

On Sept. 27, pro-regime forces attacked Handarat again in a simultaneous, ongoing offensive in the north, center, and south of Aleppo.

Quds Brigade flag risen at Handarat Camp on Friday, September 23, 2016.

Quds Brigade flag risen at Handarat Camp on Friday, Sept. 23, 2016.

Combat footage of Syrian Arab Army strikes against positions in Handarat camp prior to briefly taking the area on Sept. 24, 2016, posted by Lebanese Hezbollah’s media wing Al Alam.

Russian ANNA News’ footage of Quds Brigade forces entering Handarat Camp on September 23, 2016. (Al Masdar post here)

Amir Toumaj is a independent analyst and contributor to FDD's Long War Journal.

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