It was the fastest operation by units from the Syrian Arab Army Commandos and allies since the beginning of the Syrian war. It led to the full control over Al-Naamat barren mountains within four hours leaving Al-Nusra Front and the groups of armed Takfiris in Qalamoun and Arsal in a state of shock, only days after the battles on the outskirts of Al-Atefiah.
Syrian ArmyAl-Naamat region lies on the versant of the Eastern Lebanon Mountain Range inside the Syrian territories; but a part of it is inside Lebanon, and hunters in the area call the whole mountain range extended from Homs to Arsal Al-Naamat.
The significance of these mountains lies in its rugged terrains, large number of caves and natural hideouts, as well as the high hills and valleys covering the area, which makes it a naturally and militarily protected habitat. Syrian opposition militants have taken advantage of that since the Syrian war erupted, as armed battalions heading through Al-Qusair to Damascus took these mountains as shelters for them.
This mountain has formed a safe passageway for militants of different nationalities heading from Lebanon to Syria, specifically those present in Arsal, and it was used for transferring weapons from Lebanon to Al-Qusair and the Central City. Also through it, militants escaped from Al-Qusair on the fifth of June, 2012, after they were given a safe passageway through Al-Hamra village to Al-Naamat, following their decision to withdraw from Al-Qusair. This withdrawal took place without any internal coordination and under complete chaos.
The armed phalanges preserved their strong presence in Al-Naamat, specifically in the area facing Al-Qaa region where one of the valleys was used for firing rocket barrages at Hermel, and in infiltration attempts to Al-Qusair through the town of Jousieh bordering Lebanon.
What happened on the night of February 1?
On the 16th of January, and in concurrence with the first suicide attack in Hermel, opposition groups (in Lebanon and Syria) waged a wide attack on Jousieh through Al-Naamat mountains. After facing an ambush seven kilometers away from Al-Qusair and on the outskirts of
Al-Atefiah village, militants withdrew from the mountainous region in Al-Naamat heading east into Syria through the Bedouin region. This followed the losses they have suffered on the outskirts of Al-Atefiah village and the failure of their wide attack in attempt to reach Al-Qusair countryside, which turned out to be arranged weeks earlier, yet the withdrawal was full of defeat and led to the killing of a large number of Kamikaze.
The withdrawal was essential for them to close ranks and organize them before returning to the hills of Al-Naamat. Moreover, the militants’ leadership, which gets military advice and cooperation from local and regional apparatuses, wagered on the inability of the Syrian Army and its allies to enter and locate in the barren Al-Naamat mountains because of their terrains and cold weather, especially as the region was expecting an ice storm at that time. Additionally, any operation of this kind needed equipment, elements, supplies for soldiers, as well as building tough and long roads. This allayed the opposition’s worries about the situation in the region, however, Al-Nusra Front’s calculations did not match the other part’s fighting experience and boldness in tough and far places.
On the night of the 28th of January, it was time to enter the region into a depth of 27 kilometers and a height of seven kilometers, so that the militants’ locations would be practically in the desert, while the Army and its allies would reach a spot in the barren mountains very close to Arsal.
The plan was set to have control over the strategic hills in the mountain which could be connected to each other and to the outside with covering fire. The most dangerous task was to be able to stay firm after the Takfiri militants recognize that the mountain is no longer empty but is rather occupied by their enemy, hence, they’d have to initiate in an attack so that the Army and its allies wouldn’t settle in the locations they established in the hills they entered. This is what happened, just as the Army and its allies expected.
In concurrence with the second suicide attack in Hermel in the beginning of February, and which took place after sunset, hundreds of militants waged an attack at Al-Naamat mountain to prevent the Syrian Army and its allies from settling in their locations in the region which they entered in one night and without any fighting.
Militants advanced into the region where several ambushes were already prepared leaving dozens of casualties in their ranks. Unlike Al-Atefiah attack, the battle lasted only for five hours and resulted in the retreat of militants into the desert. By that, militants lost control over Al-Naamat mountains, so it became hard for them to fire rockets at Hermel, and their capability to reach the outskirts of Jousieh diminished… hence, Al-Qusair became out of reach.