by Leith Fadel, Al-Masdar News
The Al-Nusra Front (Jabhat Al-Nusra) has launched an offensive in the isolated villages of Al-Zahra and Nubl, with the intention of taking control of this Syrian Government stronghold located in the Aleppo Governorate. Al-Zahra and Nubl are two of Syria’s most densely populated Shi’i Muslim villages that are located in the northern part of the country – they have been under siege by the Islamic Front (Jabhat Al-Islamiyya) and the Al-Nusra Front on numerous occasions since the inception of the armed conflict in Aleppo.
Over 80 mortar shells have been indiscriminately fired by the Al-Nusra Front on the villages of Al-Zahra and Nubl in the last 2 days, creating multiple civilian casualties as a result. Unable to infiltrate into the 2 villages, Jaysh Al-Mujahiddeen – an Al-Nusra Front ally – withdrew their forces from east Al-Zahra after sustaining heavy losses from their attack yesterday. Many of the mortar shells were fired by Jaysh Al-Mujahiddeen; however, since their absence from the battlefield, the number of mortar shells has dissipated.
Yesterday, the Al-Nusra Front and Jaysh Al-Mujahiddeen lost a total of 43 fighters, along with another 14 men who surrendered to Hezbollah, the Syrian Arab Army (SAA), and the National Defense Forces (NDF) in both Al-Zahra and Nubl. Among the dead militants were many foreigners and unidentified men who possessed no documents to confirm their identity. 2 prominent members of the Al-Nusra Front were identified by a military source in Aleppo: Sheikh Mahmoud Al-Khayr and Abu ‘Isma’aeel Al-Hamwi.
Earlier today, a contingent of Hezbollah fighters stormed the plants located in southern Al-Zahra and reestablished control over them, killing scores of Jabhat Al-Nusra militants and destroying their military equipment. Hezbollah destroyed a 23mm Anti-Aircraft Cannon, while also confiscating a large cache of weapons during their onslaught on Al-Nusra Front positions. With southern Al-Zahra under Syrian Government control, the Al-Nusra Front regrouped and launched an attack on east Nubl around 8:30 P.M. Damascus Time – fighting is still ongoing, but the SAA is reporting the area under their full control.