The Syrian Arab Army’s 63rd Brigade of the prestigious 4th Mechanized Division and Hezbollah have gained significant ground in the resort-city of Al-Zabadani over the last 25 days; however, the war has extended to a new front – a battlefront that cannot be identified on any ordinary map of Syria or Al-Zabadani for that matter.
For the Islamist rebel forces – specifically, Jaysh Al-Islam (Army of Islam) – tunnels have proven to be their godsend against the superior weapons of the Syrian Arab Army and the vicious airstrikes from the Syrian Arab Air Force (SAAF).
These vast networks of tunnels have not just allowed for the Islamist rebels to evade the Syrian Armed Forces, they have given them a hidden storage facility for their large quantity of supplies, along with a hidden path to surprise the latter’s soldiers in condensed suburbs (e.g. Jobar).
Encircled and isolated, the Syrian Al-Qaeda group “Jabhat Al-Nusra” refused to surrender to the Syrian Armed Forces and Hezbollah; instead, they relied on their large network of tunnels inside Al-Zabadani to wage their own war underground.
As a result of Jabhat Al-Nusra’s network of tunnels, the Syrian Air Force has increased the prevalence of their airstrikes and the type of bombs they use; in fact, almost all of the SAAF’s bombs have been heavily weighted in order to penetrate the ground and obstruct Nusra’s movements.
Hezbollah and the SAA’s 63rd Brigade have responded to this style of warfare by sending in special forces to strike Jabhat Al-Nusra and their allies underground.
Recently, a military source reported of a fierce firefight between Hezbollah and Jabhat Al-Nusra at a tunnel under Jamal ‘Abdel-Nasser Street inside Al-Zabadani; the tunnel was only 70 meters long and 2 meters high.
With the battle for Al-Zabadani reaching its conclusion, look for Jabhat Al-Nusra and their allies to rely heavily on their network of tunnels; if the Syrian Armed Forces and Hezbollah can unearth and capture these tunnels, they will be victorious.