The Al Nusrah Front, which is al Qaeda’s Syrian affiliate, and allied rebel groups overran a military base and several checkpoints in southern Syria. The victories put the Al Nusrah Front in control of an area that borders both Israel’s Golan Heights and Jordan.
A group of fighters led by the Al Nusrah Front overran “air defense Base 38 near the town of Saida, on the road linking Damascus to Amman,” after laying siege to the base for 16 days, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported yesterday. A senior Syrian officer was among several soldiers killed during the raid. A graphic video of the officer, who was shot in the face, was shown on YouTube.
Earlier in the week, “fighters loyal to Al Nusrah Front, Al Yarmuk Brigade, Al Mutaz Billah Brigade and others took control of Al Rai military checkpoint,” east of the town of Sahem al Golan in Dara’a province,” the Observatory reported.
“The fighters seized the site after regime forces retreated. The 25-kilometer area located between the towns of Muzrib (near the Jordanian border) and Abdin (in the Golan) is now out of regime control.”
The Al Nusrah Front and the Al Yarmuk Brigade also took control of military checkpoints in Jelin and al-Elan in Dara’a “after violent clashes and siege that lasted several days,” the Observatory reported. “Many regular soldiers were killed, the rebels have taken over several pieces of military equipment, weapons and ammunition.”
The Al Nusrah Front, which is estimated to have more than 10,000 fighters and often serves as the vanguard for rebel military operations throughout the country, has overrun several major military bases throughout Syria. Additionally, the Al Nusrah Front controls much of eastern Syria, including the provincial capital of Raqqah and a major dam on the Euphrates River.
In Dara’a, Al Nusrah is commanded by Iyad al Tubasi and Mustafa Abd al Latif Salih. Al Tubasi, who is also known as Abu Julaybib, is the brother-in-law of Abu Musab al Zarqawi, the former leader of al Qaeda in Iraq who was killed in 2006. Salih, who is also known as Abu Anas al Sahhaba, also accompanied Zarqawi in Iraq and served as a recruiter for the terror group. Both commanders were reported to have been killed earlier this year, but Al Nusrah released a statement denying the reports of their deaths.
The Nusrah Front has been active in Daraa, and has claimed five suicide attacks in the town since the end of June.